Border Shenanigans

Borders are funny things… One might assume everything would happen right there… but, really it doesn’t. At some. Like this one in Mexico. When I entered Mexico from Nogales, I had to give the bank (21km’s past the border) $300 US as a hold on my moto entering the country. Along with my tourist, and vehicle permits.

I left my hotel early to cross the border by lunchtime but stopped at the bank and arrived at the Guatemala border looking for the Banjercito that should be there. I was exactly in the right place at the right time…

A bunch of “helpers” came running at me. These are savvy kids that are incredibly pushy so they can “walk you through the process” but honestly, in their fervor, they seemed to make the process more confusing… I knew the first thing I had to do was get the money back from the bank… I was told when I entered the country to go to Banjercito and get it back… thinking any Banjercito would do.

After cries of “Copia, Copia” and Money changer guys, I finally figured out I had to go back. Two different banks later, a security guard drew me a map of where I had to go… 49 Kilometers back up the road. The Banjercito was at the customs office. Not even close.

Hours later, I got my papers, my money and was back on my way towards the border, but now it was getting late in the day and I was emotionally drained from the ordeal… I decide to get a hotel in Tapachula. I’ll cross at Talisman early tomorrow.

I found one almost right away at the end of town. It was quite expensive.. about $40/night

I could have stayed at an Auto Hotel.. They are hotels in Latin America that people go to have sex. Each room has a garage downstairs so you can park your car in secret…

They are pretty cheap but they don’t come with anything.. not Wi-fi.. not cable.. there is a TV you can play some DVD’s on.. They also have a cooler downstairs you can order cheap beers and gatorade from… and condoms. You are not allowed to go outside and wander around… it’s all very secretive.

The one I stayed in two nights ago was super nice, tiled from top to bottom.. it had a see-through shower… meaning you could watch your friend shower from the bedroom… the glass is frosted, with an organic design. The tub is a deep jacuzzi… And a BIG mirror in front of the bed, where a dresser should be.. With hearts on it. Bow-chicka-wow-wow!

But instead, I wanted to have some internet, and be able to come and go as I pleased.

And not be totally freaked about touching anything. At all.

There is a great open-air restaurant around the corner you can get some splendid quesadillas and beans for not too much money either. Actually, you’d probably be happy with just the beans and some rice.. They are better than any beans I’ve ever had.. well cooked and seasoned pinto beans with big chunks of bacon and bone resting in a thick, meaty, salty gravy. The quesadillas were a couple different cheeses with fried squash blossoms wrapped in homemade tortillas. Deeeeelicious!! It is called Papablitas. Or something like that. It’s awesome and a nice reprieve from all the street food I’ve been chowing down… not that there is a thing wrong with street food… it’s actually pretty darn good.

In the morning, I pack and head for the border. Again, the Helpers swarm me. They are incessant. There is one young man that will not be dissuaded, he follows me from post to post. I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll figure it out eventually and I did do a little research the bight before.

I have no idea how much the Helper costs but I know that if I don’t do this by myself, I’ll never figure out what I need to do and if I’m being scammed.

It only takes about 45 minutes. The weather is still good, I don’t mess up too many times and I am the ONLY person running around. Not a single other person. It’s actually easier than the Mexico border. (except for getting my dinero back from Banjercito) Fumigate bike, stamp out of Mexico migration, Stamp into Guatemala, immigration, go to customs, have them inspect the bike, make copies of everything.. (Don’t think you’re going to be smart and get it all done beforehand like I did.) You need copies of the stamps they put in your passport and copies of the motorcycle papers.. there’s no help for it. You’re going to be making copies at the border. Everyone wants your money, so they’re nice. Being nice back goes a loooong way.

I earnestly try to speak Spanish and they appreciate the effort I’m making, when I get frustrated and run out of words, they sometimes break into some English. I never try to be pushy about speaking English because it seems like I should at least make the effort to speak their language… I am visiting their country after all.IMG_0424 IMG_0427 IMG_0452

The moment I roll into Guatemala, I can tell things are different. It is on the same scale as leaving the US for Mexico. I can tell it’s poorer. But not ugly poor. The people here seem happy. Generally. Also, Guatemalans LOVE color. They haven’t spared a dime with the paint. There are murals, flowers, bananas and jungle and color everywhere. They sell gasoline on the side of the street in plastic jugs. The price is right on it. The roads are steep, windey, temperate delights.. I find my self high in the mountains quite often. I was worried about the heat when I set out this morning, but am happy now that I am covered up so well. I am comfortable and focused on the mountain-jungle scenery.

IMG_0437 IMG_6937 IMG_0442 IMG_6904 As I roll towards Panajachel, I am constantly pulling over to take pictures.. each road has a new, delightful scene.. The people are fascinating.. they wear certain patterns.. there is some kind of rhyme to it that I cannot discern… the men carry enormous bundles of sticks on their backs and the women carry things on their heads usually. Big tubs of… whatever. Laundry, fish, cleaning supplies, maize… anything that can be wrapped up or put in a bin… on the head it goes.

Getting to Pana is a real challenge. I don’t have paper maps. I’m using my iPhone. The main problem with this is, Guatemala has a one-way road system in the cities and iPhone doesn’t know about it yet… It keeps sending me the wrong way down one way streets… every once in a while, someone sees me going the wrong way and tries to head me off… wildly waving and whistling, pointing the other direction. I go around and around in the cities… sometimes making three or four laps to find the right street.IMG_0464 IMG_0463

Yes. I get some strange looks.

As I wind into the town, I am caught behind a funeral procession. At the front, there is a casket being carried by a few fellows, and behind there is a large procession of mourners dressed in somber colors.. maybe about 75 or a hundred people walking behind the casket, taking the entire right lane… and some of the left. There is music playing from a boom box… It doesn’t sound unhappy.

Finally, amongst whistling and waving, the funeral, the color, the churches, the sticks, dogs, cattle and the panoramic vistas, I make it to Panajachel. It is a happy throng of bicycles, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and people walking… people from everywhere. You’ll hear different languages and accents as you walk down the street. There are dozens and dozens of little shops selling knick knacks, leather goods, crafts, souvenirs and food. IMG_6933 IMG_0449Smack in the center of the buzzing central street is Real World Paragliding. Stephanie and Christian are a beautiful, bright and energetic team that are delighted to meet you and get you in the air! They fly Tandems all the time when the weather is good, so book early if you want to get a birds eye view of the city and remarkable landscape!!

I get some good info on a hospadeje.. from a lovely English couple that is currently doing tandems for Real World.. The room a little more than $5 US a night. A Hospadeje is usually someones house that they rent out the rooms. Bathrooms are normally communal and not much else should be expected. This one has safe parking for the bike at night. In Latin America, especially in these undeveloped countries, the poverty is extreme.. so is the crime. You should not be expecting to see your moto again if you leave it on the street overnight.IMG_6924

I want to fly but the wind isn’t from the right direction.. It’s not going to be right for a couple days… It is so beautiful here though, I am committed to making a flight. I can NOT miss this.

Besides, it will give me a bit of a break with my rumbling guts. Something has been amiss for the last two weeks and I need to figure out a solution for my unhappy GI tract.

Oaxaca

I am beginning to understand the error of my timeline. Mexico is giant. Why did I think I could blow through this country so quickly?  Perhaps I was influenced by the fears of others.. not to mention my own that had begun growing among all the talk of dangerous Mexican gangs, Federales, and outlaws.. To be sure they are here, all the locals have stories.

I haven’t experienced even a moment of trouble… as a matter of fact, nearly everyone has been delightful… I also feel like I’ve been dismissive of the culture and beauty of this nearby landscape.

IMG_6810IMG_6809IMG_6811 IMG_6812 I’m visiting a friend who retired here in Oaxaca…a City/State of extroadinary culture, wealth and vistas.

You pronounce it, Wa-ha-ka. Emphasis on the middle syllable.

There are amazing flying sites, you can soar over ancient ruins, experience colorful and bustling markets, indulge in the best of Mexican cuisine.. and tour hundreds of large and tiny local, artesinal Mezcal distilleries… among a bazillion other things I totally missed.. except for the Mezcal. I stayed with my friend only one day due to my compressed timeline and headed south on what I’m now calling the Mezcal road.IMG_6794

Shortly after I rolled out of Oaxaca, I sped through a little town with a dozen or more colorful storefronts… I passed it by a quarter of a mile and turned around.. I saw a few signs that said Mezcal in painted letters and went to take a look at the nicest of them.

Alvaro greets me at what is clearly a tasting bar. There are hundreds of bottles lined up on shelves behind him.. I work out my best Spanish to try to understand the tasting, but ten minutes later, I discover that Alvaro speaks perfect English! HA! We laugh a little bit at my crappy Spanish and he offers me a tour of the operation.

There are three men out back chopping up the Pinas… which are the de-leafed core of the agave plant.. different agaves for different Mezcal flavors… whichever one, they chop it and hrow the pile into a hot bed of coals.. they cook them for a while, pull them out, then tie their horse to a giant stone wheel and let him drag it to crush the smoky pinas to a pulp.

IMG_6813IMG_6759 IMG_6758IMG_6814 IMG_6760The mash goes into a bin where it is washed first then fermented.. then it goes to be distilled.

It’s done this way almost everywhere. There are no big Mezcal operations on this road.. they all seem to be family owned businesses. The biggest one I saw was the small place I toured… not much bigger than a Denny’s. Some of them just little open palapas with two or three fermenting barrels underneath.

The fields surrounding it are covered in various stages of cultivated agave plants.

Of course, I had to get a bottle of the local fire water.. I chose a delightful one that I am saving for the exact right group of friends to share it with.IMG_6816

Route 190 (Mezcal road) was a steep, windey, twisty delight… If you are a motorcyclist and enjoy carving tight and speedy turns hour after hour, this road should be on your bucket list. Tiny colorful towns, magnificent mountain vistas and smooth roads are the signature here… until you get to the last 10 or 20 miles into Tehuantepec.. It starts getting windy.

Really, really windy. I pulled into a gas station and asked the attendant if it is windy here often..

“Bastante.” He says. (quite a bit)

If you don’t encounter the wind, consider yourself a very fortunate person. It just so happens to be one of the windiest places on Earth. The isthmus beetween the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific generates a constant wind that is strong enough to have world-wide climactic influence.

IMG_6884This hasn’t been lost on the wind power companies. They have turned Tehuantepec and the next town over into booming miniature cities.. big busy markets, thick, jostling, beeping traffic, hoardes of motorcycles and Tuk-Tuks. There was some push-back from the local culture against building up the landscape but as of this moment, it appears that the energy companies have won some large tracts of land. Hundreds of windmills churn away in the fierce wind.

IMG_0402 I left Tehuantepec midmorning the next day but the wind was terrifying. Gusty and powerful, I felt as though it were punching me in the helmet.. jabs of wind would hit my head and send the bottom of the motorcycle swinging quickly to the right. I don’t ever care for riding in strong winds, but the blasts of air beating at me and my bike were more challenge than I cared to meet for the rest of the day… besides, I feared the afternoon gusts getting even stronger, eventually pushing me off the road. I have no idea how far this windy patch might stretch. I wobbled 17 miles before I made it to the next town.. Juchitan. Immensely relieved, I checked into the first hotel I found with safe parking for the bike and headed into the town square. On foot.IMG_6835

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The market is a cacophony of color and food and I am delighted to take some pictures of the abundance.. The women look at me disapprovingly.. a couple make jokes, laugh and say things I can’t understand, a couple things I did. It is unfamiliar behavior to me. I have always been treated well as a traveler. It was oddly this and not the wind that caused me to research the history of the region. It is not a common behavior… in Central or South America.

I have a fine time anyhow and am pleased with my tour of the city and my score at the market.. a couple fantastic tangerines, two ripe avacados and some cheese. IMG_6844

and then…. (More Valle)

I met some amazing people here..

The first fellow I want to tell you about is Charlie.. He’s a native Mexican, grew up in the same house he’s living in now. Its a two minute walk from the paragliding launch. Three stories. I think. Wife, Mother and he all live there.  Aunt next door (I can’t remember her name) does dinner on Sunday nights. She swings open her doors and makes Posole, enchiladas, bombassos, quesadillas and tacos. It’s super cheap and for less than $4US, there’s more on the plate than you could possibly eat… Even if you were starving.. like I was.

A lot of folks do this. Sometimes they do it full time. The call them Cafe Economicas. They will make you food right out of their very own kitchen.IMG_6721

I like to get a little sandwich at one place to go… I really don’t know everything she puts in there, but it’s a fantastic pulled chicken sandwich.. grilled onions, chopped carrots, mayo, peas, lettuce, tomato. She wraps it in a napkin and then puts a plastic baggie on it. It is piping hot in the fresh bread that holds it… a kind of white roll. I really want to eat the thing when its hot, but I just had a chicken quesadilla for breakfast! So, I just stuff it in my bag with a bottle of water and look forward to it at lunch. 20 pesos. The exchange rate is 13 to 1.

Back to Charlie.

He hosted a raft of friends that love to stay with him every year… the same ones I was to meet around Christmas. He lets rooms for a low fare nightly, and is booked solid for months during the winter when the flying is good in Valle… actually, conditions are flyable all year but they are exceptionally good during December and January… If you like doing cross country flights.IMG_6701

My friends told me I might want to ask Charlie for a room. We exchanged some emails and finally settled on my hanging a hammock on his patio. I stayed for three days and expected a fee of some sort. But the day I had to leave, I met his wife and discovered they were going to be in Peru at the same time I would be!! Same city, same launch! He wouldn’t accept money and we are to keep in touch for Peru. He says the food is excellent and can’t wait to show me around.

The whole family wishes me well with hugs and kisses.

Valle De Bravo is beautiful in so many ways.. the people, the land…  the lady pilots!! There were a raft of gals flying at the mountain.. and no shrinking violets either.. these are fierce personalities with drive and ability.. each gal has her own crispy wing and knows how to use it.

I am super sad I didn’t have time to meet and fly with more of the ladies but time was short and I’ve got to get down the road. These gals were staying at the house with me and all had banner XC flights while I was there.IMG_0396

There were a LOT of women in Valle for flying.. Austrians, Asians, Americans, Germans, I didn’t get a chance to meet them all. Some of them amazing pilots… I think there was a large amount of talent hanging out at launch. One girl also rides motos.. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of Lindsey down the road!

I was able to meet one.

I can’t remember how we met, but I remember seeing Asti beforehand. She’s gorgeous and here with her fantastic pilot boyfriend. It’s a joy to watch him fly.. launch.. land. One of those guys that make the sport seem easy.IMG_0317

Asti is from Austria with a thick accent. I’ve never seen her in a foul mood, always delightful and sweet… especially to the children when we come in to land. She always packs her own wing but there is a huge crowd of children around her to greet her when she touches down. She hands out candy and smiles… they eat up every bit of it.IMG_0354

She’s as bright as she is gregarious. She knows three languages and ALWAYS flies safely, every time launching and landing in excellent conditions. It’s not luck, its a choice… a smart one if you’re not a competitive pilot and wish to have a long career in the air.

We are to meet again in Colombia. I could not be more excited to spend time with this delightful pair!

Check out this short video of a couple gals launching… and one of my very favorite flights ever… in magic air.

Valley of the Brave

Josh and I rode the last couple hours to Guadalajara the next day and warmly parted ways.

I rode hard and fast for the next four hours and made it to Morelia with a lot of daylight… I went to several likely motels and finally found the right one close to sunset. The pact with myself for not riding at night is so far unbroken.

The next day, I took a winding road that had me whooping and grinning inside my helmet. It is now my most favorite motorcycle ride. There were hundreds of turns.. a little patch with loose gravel… I got some video, but it doesn’t really get it.. every hairpin turn was a new treat. Little shops, palapas with piles of fruits and vegetables for sale, children in school-clothes clogging the shoulder of the road… eating ice cream, laughing, two young boys wagged a peace sign… churches, concrete homes and incredible mountain vistas.. all in a riot of color and pine. Some of the tiny towns had open restaurants.. four plastic tables, waiting for their first customers of the day.. the smell of grilling meats breezed in through my helmet making my stomach rumble.. even having had breakfast a couple short hours before.

I made one mistake. There was a construction crew waving orange flags around. I couldn’t figure what signal they were giving me so I went right past…. until a long line of cars came careening towards me.. it was a one lane block..

I had to ride off into the tiny patch of dirt inches before a steep drop into the forest below.

So.. to clarify, if a man is standing anywhere on the road holding an orange piece of cloth over his head, it means Stop.

Valle De Bravo.

This is one of my new most favoritest of places. It is a Mexican oasis.

IMG_0377 IMG_0378Narrow cobbled srteets lined with white painted homes and terracotta roofs. There is a festive vibe in the air, the streets are clogged with dogs, pedestrians, cars, trucks, dirtbikes and 150cc motorcycles. There are food vendors, bouganvilla, bright potted plants on every window sill. The center is a throbbing bonanza of food, shopping, street performers, and people walking, laughing, texting.. it feels like love is thick there. (no pic of the center, sadly)IMG_6729 IMG_6723 IMG_6730IMG_0393

It is a paragliding haven. There are a couple launches and one very notable landing zone.. a big patch of grass right next to the lake… complete with a three-seat bar where you can grab a cold one after your spectacular flight.IMG_0386

If you are a hang/paraglider pilot, you’ve probably already heard about this place…. if you haven’t already flown it.

If you’re not, or are a pilot and been hiding under a rock, let me tell you this.. 
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Theres not a person with a beating heart that can help but feel awed by its panoramic rolling mountain vistas.. The Piñon is a massive eruption of rock shooting thousands of feet into the air. Its enormous weathered face is framed by a pine covered mesa, her shoulders sloping down into corn fields and grazing pastures. IMG_0360

It is a scene that can only be made better by soaring above the entire thing…. scraping the clouds with the colorful little scarf that is buoying your tiny body above this green and blue miracle.

IMG_0334Nearly any skill level can launch here, but choose your moments wisely, because it goes from sleeping lamb to raging bull in a hurry.

Josue

I left Mazatlan Tuesday afternoon. It’s a crowded jostle to get out of the city.

A leathered dude on a blue cruiser motorcycle yells With a big smile… “Donde eres?”

IMG_6677I reply.. “Chile”

Oops!! I realized my mistake immediately, but he had pulled ahead of me in the very next moment. I jockeyed next to him again..

“No! I’m from the states! I’m going to Chile! Where are you going?”

“Guadalajara” he yells.

I know my next destination takes me right past Guadalajara and I mean to team up with this rider… He has Oregon plates.

We take the toll road “Cuota” out of town. He pays for my first toll and we cruise for another hour before he pulls over…

Josh seems super nice. I ask him if he minds me tagging along and he tells me that I should in fact.. Also that we need to get fuel at a stop he knows because it is farther than one tank of gas to the next fuel on the highway.. (He’s run out here before)

When we stop for fuel, we also have dinner and talk.. I get a great feeling from him and invite him to split a room.. It’s going to be dark for hours before we make Guadalajara. I have no intention of deliberately riding in the dark.

We blast down the highway until near dusk but the only thing we find easily is a Best Western. Its in an industrial town called Tepic ..

Josh and I become quick friends over some excellent tequila given to me by Steve back in Mazatlan and some tacos downstairs at the bar. He’s a musician and a gentleman. We talk non-stop all night..’till we fall asleep in our beds like we’re twelve years old at a slumber party.

 

You can hear him on Itunes.. (I haven’t figured out how to add music yet)

Alacrán y Pistolero (Version Acústica) – Single by Josue Santiago de Leon
itunes.apple.com

 

Mazatlan

I left Guyamas early the next morning.

As I rolled out of town, there was a bridge and all along the sides there were palapa-shacks selling Clams.. big, beautiful clams in great piles… I reached to get my camera, but it wasn’t in my pocket where I’d put it… I panicked, turned and rode back into town. The traffic was terrible and I couldn’t find my way back to where I came from… I have no paper maps and once off my route, my GPS doesn’t work very well… i’m just using my Iphone, because I haven’t figured out the handheld GPS yet.. its not really for driving anyway.

So, I missed a good pic of the clammers. Dang.. anyway, I was hoping to make it to Mazatlan, but I thought it might be pretty far to go for the night.

Just before sundown, I made it only to Las Mochis. Its just a little town I drove around in circles for a while and I got a quick hotel for the night. I also got some amazing tacos… there was no street food anywhere that I saw.IMG_6645 IMG_6648 IMG_6649

I planned to be prepared for the next day. I got an address for a biker friendly hostel in Mazatlan and planned to drive straight there and find a bike repair place. The fan on KLaRa wasn’t coming on and she would overheat at each stop.

It only took three or so hours to reach Mazatlan. The traffic was incredible and wanted to drive straight to the Hostel so I dutifuly followed my directions… through town. Up the hill. Up steep streets.. with amazing views.. WOW! This place is really at the top of everything!

I finally got to the very top, but no Hostel. I was stopped at a dead end street and looked around.

There was a lovely home with two scooters and a motorcycle in the street and a gal about my age sitting at a table.IMG_0267

I looked up and asked her it she knew where the Funkey Monkey was…

“Fonkay Monkay?”

uh oh. I’m in the wrong place.. and I have no internet. Or address other than this one.

I press on.. and ask if she knows a hostel nearby, but my Spanish and her English are roughly as horrible as the others.

She picks up a phone and calls someone… a lady that speaks English! A sturdy white haired fellow rolls up in a minivan at that same time. He grabs something out of his car and the lady says on the phone “My husband Steve will be home in a couple minutes, he speaks English”

I turn and look at the fellow… “You Steve?”

The lady laughs and we hang up.

I ask Steve about a hostel for motorcyclists.. but he replies

“Why don’t you just stay with us? You can stay as long as you want”

With that, he tells me to park across the street and begins helping me with my bags.IMG_0271 IMG_0272 IMG_0278

Steve is a rider… he’s got an old time BMW that he’s fixed up and made perfect for riding around Mexico… and he’s been everywhere.. anywhere you point on a map, he has great information about the roads, what to see and where to stay. He was an Alaskan fisherman and loves the pace of Mexico… not that he’s slowed down a bit… he smokes fish, fixes up the house, canns meat, fruit and beans… among dozens of other things… Steve has a LOT of energy. And he loves motorcycles.IMG_0292

He also knows a good mechanic that has poor KLaRa fixed in just a couple minutes!!

The fan connection had corroded and created an intermittent connection. He cleaned it up and we were on our way.

Mazatlan from above is stunning.. the streets are colorful and lively.. near the water. There is a poorer side of town closer to the highway, but it is bustling and doesn’t feel glum either.IMG_0288 IMG_0285 IMG_0279 IMG_0258 IMG_0259

I stay with Steve for only one night (I found the camera in my bag… I’d stashed it worried that I’d lose it)

and get to meet his lovely wife for a moment.. I also get to try the amazing beans Steve has made!!

I know beans don’t seem exciting, but I always love to try them when I’m abroad… especially in Latin America…

His are lightly salty with a thin broth, but he serves them with a thick slice of Queso fresco and some home made salsa. They are a culinary delight… the salty cheese and the less salty beans with spicy fresh finely chopped salsa.. oh. my. I didn’t miss a thing skipping a restaurant..

It is exactly what I need to get to my next stop.

Steve gives me his number and address.. He has three places he wants to rent out.. longer term or for motorcyclists to stay and visit Mazatlan.. AND he does low priced (very) laid back fishing tours on his boat. I told him to get on Air B&B.. also that I would share this info with You!

Give him a call or stop by! The apartment is cheap, easy to get around from and he’d love to swap some excellent motorbiking stories with you.

I’ll see if I can post up an email for him.

Talpita 18 Cerro De la Cruz

669-9-82-30-13

Across the border

I finally fixed the Water pump myself at Davis Monthan AFB. It wasn’t hard, but it took about four hours and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t be hard pressed..IMG_6595 My last night in the states, I camped  at Peña lake near NogalesIMG_0198 IMG_0180and crossed through the Mariposa gate January 4th. Customs was a breeze, there was no line and everyone was friendly and helpful. Passport stamped, Tourist visa done, but I have to go 21 more kilometers to do the rest. There, I get my Motorcycle pass and insurance for the same.. for two weeks. I also change money for a horrible rate…. close to half of what you’d get at an ATM. ( I didn’t know at the time) Do NOT use these folks for significant money exchange.. just enough to give you some toll money if you are taking the Cuota (Toll) road I arranged a place to stay in Hermosillo with a couchsurfing guy but with the bike trouble, I couldn’t make it. My phone won’t work until I have the new sim card in it but I don’t want to slow down too long until I find a place to stay. I’m rabid about getting in the air. There was a lot of daylight left, so I blew by Hermosillo and landed in Guaymas… by the time I made it there, I was exhausted. I looked for a likely hotel and passing by only one pink on next to the airport that looked a slightly abandoned, I decided to get close to the water. I went through an unguarded gate and rode a half mile to the end of the drive. The paint on the Hotel sign was almost gone, you could just make out “Leon” I parked the bike and took off my helmet. I couldn’t see where the office migh tbe, but half a dozen locals hanging out nearby encouraged me to go into a tiny entrance. As I clopped up a windey ramp, a tall greasy fellow opened a door. We had some awkward discussion about a room and he finally agreed to rent me one for 500 pesos. Egads!! I thought I was going to be spending less than half as much on lodging! I agreed because I was sore and tired. The next task was to get my bike into safety. This, being my first night in Mexico, I thought I needed some better security and finding that we couldn’t get the bike inside anywhere and I’d have to leave my now-perfect ride in an empty dirt lot, I balked… and ran out to find a good spot for my chariot. Legs shaking, I rolled the bike back out the lot and down to the end of the street. I turned right for a half a mile. There was a wide cobbled drive with open heavy doors… as if to a fortress. I laughed and went inside… just because it was so ridiculous. I parked the bike in front of the expansive courtyard and went in. There was a couple in Tuxedo and Wedding gown. Clearly, this was an event location. I went to the front desk and inquired about pricing. It was expesive. 1,100 pesos for a single room. I laughed and said thank you… but the guy halted me and said he could give me a special price.. 900 Pesos. I hadn’t done any homework, actually so I asked about the exchange rate… about 12 to 1. I thought it was a bit high and said again I would leave. He once more gave me a new price, and with that he wore me down.IMG_6642 IMG_6640IMG_0244 I decided to stay at the castle. Mexico 1, Wendy 0. A servant walked me to my bike and indicated that I should follow him. I fired her up and he led me to the sidewalk where we motored around winding pathways, past cactus gardens and Bouganvilla until we came to my room. I parked it right there in front of my door.IMG_6641 I eased off the bike and walked around the grounds in awe. It was a place that smacked of old money and elegance. The view is of the harbor. The entire front of the castle was designed with this one thing in mind. I spent the last ten minutes of daylight gaping at the view. Exhausted and starving, I didn’t have the energy to get dressed for dinner, so I went back to the bike for some crackers and sardines. I had them on a low concrete wall where I watched the mountains surrounding the harbor until the only thing seperating them from the water was a thin strip of twinkling lights.IMG_6637IMG_6632