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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 5 Nautla - Heroíca Cárdenas (739 kilometers)

Pretty nice view to wake up to, but no one to share it with.

We got on the road early and as most of out time was spent on one of the main highways we were soon to a point where Paul and I would split off.  We split right before Minatitlan where he went south to get as close to the Guatemalan border before night fall as he could, and I went north towards Coatzacoalcos where I could start working my way up the coast towards Mérida.  
For the tequila fans out there, aguve for miles.

Thus the adventure really begins.  Alone in a foreign country with an ok grasp of the language and no real idea where I was going.  This is pretty fun!

The Mexican road sign system can be a little confusing but I was getting a hang of it.  Intermeidary cities are not usually indicated and the highways (tarifa and libre) tend to only give you an indication of the next major city you are heading towards.

I made it to Coatzacoalcos fine and felt pretty good about myself.  My goal was to work along the coast to spend the night at either Ciudad del Carmen or Campeche.  I found a road on my map that looked like it hugged the coast the whole way so I thought that would be fun.  

The map has a road that goes from Agua Dulce to La Venta, I decided to opt for that route as to avoid the highway as the smaller roads were more fun, had more people to meet, and tended to have better food along them.

Turns out that road doesn't exist and I was lost in Agua Dulce.  I ended up stopping to question a few people standing in front of a carnicería.  I seemed to immediately draw a crowd, Fricka more than I.  Everyone was really suprised that I had driven down from Arizona and one woman thought that Fricka was "muy bonita".  Through my garbled Spanish I was able to figure out that the bridge the road had to go over no longer existed so I had to backtrack and take the highway.

Back on track I finally found the road to turn north towards Sánchez Magallanes to get to the coast road I was looking for.  On the way I ran into a bit of a traffic jam.  Most so far Paul and I had just been able to weave our way though.  This was a different situation though as the traffic jam was do to them actually building the road in front of us.

Eventually I pass though and make may way to the coast, 

a couple of glamorshots of Fricka

Seeing as we made it to the coast the rest I assumed would be easy.  Just follow the road and make sure the Carribean Sea is on  your left and you can't get lost.  For the time being getting lost ended up being the least of my problems. 

There was a soda bottle warning marker so I thought it wouldn't be a problem.  Plenty of road for a motorcycle still.  I spoke to soon.  Turns out erosion had worked its magic a bit more effectively down the road.

Now the sensible option, considering the factors above (alone, language issues, not sure exactly where I am going), would be to turn back lose an hour or two and take the highway around this.  But I would miss out on the coast!  And apparently I have read too much Robert Frost as I decided to take the road less taken.

Believe it or not but this is a "good" section of this road.

It was mostly just all sand (these taken before it got worse and I didn't even think about taking pictures)

Another sensible option would be not to take a 243.0 kg motorcycle with street tires on a road that is basically a sand dune with a couple of wheel ruts in it.  As I said, I was apperently not in a very sensible mood.  I was kind of high on adrenaline and adventure and thought to myself "How far can it really be like this?  There was an issue with a small section of road but I can get by in an be back on the asphalt quickly.  I want adventure right?".  It turns out the road does not have to come back for some time, roughly 20-30 kms.  Now that does not sound that far but it is very far when you are ride a bike that is designed for everything but and had my lugguage plus my own extra weight.

But though the first part I was feeling pretty good, even stopped by a tienda to grab some water.  Bought an extra liter because it was so cheap, I didn't know it at the time but it would come in very handy.

I don't have many pics of the rest of this part of the route as when it is 33-36C and you are in full gear trugging a heavy bike though and that could get deep enough to bury my back weel to the swingarm, pictures are the last thing you are thinking about.  You just want to get though it.  I had a half dozen or so spills, nothing serious but I was not enjoying picking up the bike too much.  Luckily one time there was a man, who had taken his family out to the beach, there to help me when my wheel got dug in.  

I started getting quite frustrated, the adventure feeling was starting to fade.  Additionally, I was losing a lot of time, remember I don't know excatly were a good or secure hotel is when I get to a city.  I wanted to get their with as much time and light to spare as possible.  Next thing I run it to are chains strung across the "road" at hip height, I was able to avoid the first one but got stuck at the second.  The people around there decided to set up chains aross the only route through the area so they could enforce their own toll system.  Luckily,  they only wanted 5 pesos (less than 50 cents), but I didn't have a lot of coins left and was fairly confident they couldn't break a larger bill and didn't want to get stuck over paying.  I ran into 4 of these and thankfully, I had just the right amount of coins to get though. 

(explaination of the coins:  Pesos are broken into coin and paper forms like in the US but instead of the coins being cents, they are .50, 1, 2, 5, and 10 pesos with the bills going 20, 50, 100, 200, 500.  This is kind of nice as everything just gets rounded to an even number.  I started noticing this at gas stations, greatfully they seem to round down there)

By the time I got to the last one I was pretty tired, frustrated, and pissed off (one reason being that I was really overworking  Fricka's engine, having to slip the clutch quite a bit as I could never pick up speed in the sand, and since it is aircooled any stopping gave me more and more of a chance to overheat and then really be in a desperate situation).  I screamed some curses in Engish which the old man who ran out to collect the toll responded to by giving me a quizical look and a defensive "¿estas bein?".  I calmed  down and asked him if this was the last "toll booth" and how much more sand there was.  He answered that this was the last and the road returned soon.  That gave me a bit of inspriation and hope as no map or gps could have prepared me for or warned me about what I just got though.  

The joy was double edged though.  I relaxed a little too much and going though one of the last sand banks.  I got the rear end loose then the front end hit a bump went in the air and landed right in line for a "tank slapper". I didn´t have much of a chance with no steering damper and this huge bike on sand with the wrong tires.  It was over pretty quick and ended in a high side crash.  That might have been best as it kept me from getting any body parts caught under the bike, something that would have been painful even if I was in full gear.  Landing is sand was nice.  I check for movement in the extremities and all was good except that I landed on my left and the thumb of that hand was throbbing feircely.  I ran back to Fricka, hitting the kill switch and making sure she was intact.  Everything was good.  I was ready to get out of there and picked her up quickly to get out of this sand.

And soon I was, it was so releaving.  About 8 kms down the road I reach for my GPS, which for some reason I was currently keeping in my right lower jacket pocket, and felt a sickeningly soft empty feeling.  It was gone.  I turned around quickly returning to the scene of the accident and could not find it, a few people passed and I asked them but no one had seen anything.  I could have lost it in any number of the falls I made and if someone came behind me it was surely gone. I dishearteningly chalked it up as a loss and turned to continue my journey.

Without the GPS I had no city street views, only my map that covered routes between cities.  I had already mentioned the sign problem before but now this was even worse.  A bigger problem was that is was getting dark quickly and I had to find somewhere to say.  

I just started driving from what I could decifer from the map.  I made it to Paraiso but could not find a hotel there.  I made the decision to head south as there seemed to be a few larger and closer cities as compared to trying to make it to Ciudad del Carmen, which was not too far to make before sundown.  It turned out anywhere was too far to make by sundown.  Soon I was alone, had language issues, not sure exactly where I was going, and driving in the dark.  I made it to Comalcalco and stopped by an Oxxo (think 7/11 or Circle K) and asked for directions to a hotel in the area.  The girl did not know of one and the guy was not sure either.  Great, no where to sleep.  The next big city on the map was  Heroíca Cárdenas so I asked for directions there.  I was really tired, frustrated, and worried so my Spanish suffered, speaking and comprehending.  I thought I got the direction right but wasn't sure.  I was about to leave than ran back in really quick to ask were a gas station was.  Thankfully I had filled up right before I broke off toward Sánchez Magallanes, the kind of riding I had to do was a killer on gas milage and I did not want to run out.  I had yet to see a gas station since I got out of the sand and back on the road.  

It turned out the gas station was along the same route as Cárdenas, two birds with one stone, if I found one I was on track for the other.  I guessed at the direction he gave me and ended up finding the gas station.  Regardless if I could find a place to sleep it was very comforting having a full tank of gas.  After filling up I stopped to asked someone if I was headed in the right direction and he said yes and gave some hand gestures of where I should be going.  

By the way, to give directions in Mexico you have to be able to make a high pitch wistle with just your mouth, the phewwwit kind that you could see a cowboy in a western making when directing a cattle herd.  That is the onemonopia for "then you go straight ahead"  

I found the road to Cárdenas and it was now very dark, no street lights.  I did not know what I was doing and everything bad that could happen was flowing through my head.  I just knew I had to keep driving.  After a while I came across a break off that said Villahermosa, for some reason I decided not to turn their and kept going.  It ended up being a great (read lucky) decision as a ways down the road I saw a sign that had the universal roadside images for food, drink, bed and pulled in with out a second thought.

It turned out to be an auto hotel.  If you don't know what they are google it, I will give you a hint, you have the option to pay hourly.  I did not care at this point and has happy to have some place safe to stay for the night.  It was actually the best room I had stayed in the whole trip.

Yes it is light outside, these pics are from the morning after.

Mentally and physically I was beat, that was one way to start this adventure.... 

I was so proud of Fricka, what an amazing partner, she wouldn't give up and wouldn't let me give up.  The trip though that sand was brutal we fell, got stuck, and had to push ourselves to the limit in extreme conditions (heat and sand).  Though all of this Fricka was as reliable of a partner as one could ask for and I thank her very much for helping me get though, physically and mentally.  She even has a battle scar to remember it by, it came from the big crash.

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