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His (Terry & Jack) BMW R1200GS Advenuture
Hers (Sandy) BMW F800GS Adventure
Big Angens Q Core bedroll
Sierra Designs bed bags
Nemo camp Pillows
I’m sitting this morning, sipping Guatemalan coffee on the couch of a friend’s house, just me and the cat wondering what the day will bring. I know what we HAVE to accomplish this lovely Saturday, but there are too many things yet to do; finding Jack a new pair of shoes is one of them. This is one of the first mornings I have been upright before 8AM. It’s not because I’m lazy or on “vacation”. The truth? This family motorcycle travel thing is soooo much more than we ever expected. It’s not just the time together, the lure of the road or showing Jack how to bargain for a fixed-blade knife. No, there’s a whole other level of survival and exhaustion that comes with this kind of family travel. It’s been an education in itself, taking several months to find a groove that translates from border to border. Now that we have our groove, let’s just see how and why we had to relearn and readjust everything we thought we knew up until September 13th. And here we were, thinking that we’re some kind of experts or something…..
(Our hostess Esmerelda prepares another fabulous meal in her modest Mayan kitchen)
(After many hours spent meticulously picking coffee beans they are hauled to the organic processor)
(Some are able to be more efficient with the help of livestock)
Okay, we all know that basics of survival. Food, water, shelter, warmth, we get it. In Guatemala and many other poorer countries around the globe, daily survival is daily life. Having spent a week with a traditional Mayan family, we were up close to the action and learned what it takes to raise a family during a traditional Mayan day. Let me see if I can paint a better picture of the day in the life of a Mayan woman – wake up at sunrise, start breakfast, spouse off to work in the coffee fields/construction/forest, get kids dressed, clean up breakfast dishes, start laundry, head to the market for fresh ingredients, feed the animals, start lunch, feed kiddos again, hang laundry, clean lunch dishes, gather eggs, start dinner, fold laundry, spouse home from day of carrying bags of coffee/swinging a hammer/hauling bails of wood, feed family, bathe kiddos, get animals fed again, get ready for bed, fall into bed. Aside from the daily search for water that occurs in most countries, this is a rough sketch of their every day. It’s an arduous life though no one complains. Everyone smiles throughout the day, and they even find time to take care of sick guests who can’t even get out of bed let alone help with the laundry. Yes, yours truly. Interestingly enough, we have found that this outline (aside from the chickens and other barnyard friends) has become more or less our daily life. Crazy true. Proper shelter, whether it be tent or a room PLUS secure parking for two BMW’s is the first constant. As any rider knows, even if it’s the best of rooms or apartments, if there is no secure parking for the bikes, you move on. Why? These are our “homes”, our only mode of hauling our wears and getting all of us safely from country to country. Fortunately for this family, we’ve been quite blessed with most of our accommodations. Remind me later to tell you the story about our German host and his attempt to back his vehicle in the lake. That was one of the more odd experiences.
(The contents of both bikes tend to explode once we hit the room)
(Secure parking is priority)
(Camping with a view at Lake Atitlan)
Food. Glorious food! Solo travel means you can carry a can of tuna and a box of crackers and be somewhat satisfied most of the day. Two-person travel gets you an extra can, spare crackers, and someone to unpack the gear while the other prepares the meal. Two riders plus a teenager? That gets you an argument as to why they have to unpack now, where’s lunch, a mom feeling guilty she hasn’t fed her family as of yet, and a dad that mediates all the madness. Okay, this is not every day, but doesn’t it make the situation seem more ‘normal’? I do what I can to provide lively entertainment. Unlike Terry and I who can survive on a few granola bars and a lime, Jack requires more of a meal than a snack. Jack’s least favorite days? When we have to make up the miles with only a bag of chips and a Coke for lunch. This kid wants a meal. And, you know what? Keeping the pillion happy means another 50 miles in our day. What’s stopping at the roadside cart going to cost us really in the end? Having mentioned that, there are many choices for street food in every country. Guatemala seems to be big on pollo y papas (aka ‘fried chicken and fries’). This smell emanates from most every town you roll through. If you find yourself closer to the ocean, roadside ceviche is an excellent choice. With so many culinary roadside options, we’ve narrowed down our list of “What it must have before we’ll stop” list. One – Tablecloths. Not joking. This little added touch lets us know that they’ve taken the time to class up the joint thus attracting more hungry bellies. Two – There must already be people sitting down eating. No people equals no Borden’s. A crowd does psyche one into thinking it must be good. Three – No drunk customers, garbage lying around or pack of dogs. Nuff said. Four – If you try and flag me into your establishment, I’m moving on. MAN! That gets very annoying very quickly. You may have one or two of your own to add, but this formula has worked out pretty well so far.
(Some of our best and most interesting meals are roadside stands)
(Typical Mayan meal prepared by our host)
(The mother of our host was fascinated with the camp chairs. This is where we found her each time we returned from town)
Finding a balance between riding, writing and enjoying our surroundings has plagued us this entire journey. You go into this thinking, “I’m going get so many pictures and have so much time to get the blog done!” Wrong. “I’m going to just hit the road every day and get to South America before Christmas!” Wrong, again. There is no right way to travel, but you do need to find YOUR right way to travel. Charging headfirst and thinking we were going to accomplish all this work is just not happening as we had first thought. We are now at the point that we’re setting aside work hours, WIFI pending (WIFI is a mere suggestion in Central America, not a guarantee). We’ve claimed the mornings as our work time, watching the clock carefully as it’s very easy to let time slip away. Jack does his online work as well as some reading and writing, Terry does trip planning and research, I sit at the computer and attempt to come up with something witty. There’s also the chore of getting footage off of 4 different devices. Because that never causes a squabble over cords and computers… This, too, was a groove we had to allow to come into its own, letting it take shape with time and patience.
(Packing a few days worth of groceries to feed our crew)
Now, finding time alone has become a tricky little goal to attain. Traveling within the confines of a very tight budget means a lot of time spent in a small hotel room with two double beds and just enough floor space to line our luggage, making nighttime trips to the bathroom just that much more exciting. (Note: Don’t get too excited when the ad says ‘king size bed’. You’re going to open the door and find a full size bed. Just deal with it.) Terry and I are getting accustomed to sharing bed space whilst Jack gets his own to flail and kick as he pleases. Trust me, it’s better to let the boy have his own space instead of becoming his Size 13’s newest kickball buddy. We have the camping thing down with the whole two tents action, but sometimes you just need some time away to sit, read and let the farts fly without the threat of snickers from the Testosterone Twosome. Brutal honesty here, folks! We are adjusting to our room situations, absolutely enjoying any outdoor space that provides a little extra room to spread out.
(A quick Tuk Tuk selfie while bouncing down the cobblestone streets of Antigua Guatemala)
It’s amazing what you learn about yourself once you’re forced out of your comfort zone. We chose this path, so we know we must ‘own’ any repercussions. Knowing this trip could mean total Trio inhalation or love fest, we went for it anyway. Many have claimed to be on a soul-searching journey, trying to “find themselves”. Hell, I know where I’ve been for 40+ years. I just want to have control over where I spend the next 40+. This is part of what this journey is about, trying to figure out the next chapter of our life. We’re still learning more about what makes each of us tick, but I must be frank when it comes to a couple of things. Jack has by far been the easiest personality when it comes to change and just rolling with it. Terry has learned to leave behind the 80-hour workweeks, and quite well I might add. Myself? I didn’t realize I was such a miserable coot most days. I was so accustomed to GO! GO! GO! all the time that I was a bit hard to live with the first couple of months. I can admit it now that I’ve owned up to this new realization, finding myself apologizing to my boys more than once for making their lives a tad hellish. It’s tough pulling a Type A personality from a controlled world into a realm that cannot be put into a time slot on a calendar. “Hi. My name is Sandy, and I’m a control freak.” All three of us will continue this change with each border crossing.
(Jack grabbing a quick shot while trying not to rock the boat)
(Police in San Juan ready to escort us around Volcan San Pedro where robberies are known to occur)
Okay, one more thing… Sometimes, being the only female on this adventure can be, well, lonely. As much as I claim to LOVE being with my boys, sporting a dirt mask and bragging about doing my own pedicures, a girl once in a while does need a little ‘girl time’. Roll your eyes all you want, but this is a real fact when it comes to being a female in a male-dominated sport. A while back our friends Simon and Lisa Thomas (http://www.2ridetheworld.com) spent a fair amount of time with us at our home in Northern California. They’ve been on their global tour around the globe for over 11 years. You’d think they were in need of nothing. But, what was Lisa’s biggest request once she landed at Chez Borden? Getting out for some girl time. Seriously, do Simon and Terry look like the luncheon and shopping type? It takes a girlfriend to understand your need and fill it. So, Lisa and I walked slowly through our little town, stopping at various shops, enjoying some time away from our constant companions. As much as we love our boys, we still need our girls. Along this journey, I’m finding myself craving this same girl time. Fortunately, I’m discovering that much needed time away as we make our way south. Trust me, it’s good for all parties involved if this member of the Trio gets out to play once in a while.
(Some girl time with our new friend Mishka)
So, there it is. Out in the open for all to read and judge. I’m not joking when I say this is much harder than it looks. Yes, we have many years of family motorcycle travel in the books. But, long-term family travel is a learned art form especially when rolling on two wheels. We know it’s not for everyone nor should it be. But it’s us, it’s different, and it’s the way we like it. Cheers.
Many have written asking us to share photos and stories from our experiences with the celebration in Mexico known as Dia de Los Muertos, known to many Americans as Day of The Dead. What I previously thought as only a 1-2 day event celebrating the lives of those who had passed is actually a 4-5 day celebration of food, music, Halloween and personal memorials throughout the cemeteries and towns of Mexico. My original intent was to capture these events on camera, thinking it was the best way to tell the story. I came out with a much different feeling, one that made me take a step back, take off my tourist hat, and not be that stranger who only values the festivities for its photo opportunities. Yes, there was tremendous beauty, but it was much more than that. It was about respect for the living as well as those who had passed. Unbeknownst to me, I was to share in the festivities with my own bit of history.
It wasn’t until about a week ago that I let Terry in on a little something. During our travels, I carry a small picture of my mom and dad from their wedding day from too many years ago. With it safely tucked away in my riding jacket, I was waiting for the proper moment to share its meaning with my family. Having had a kiddo in a Spanish-immersion elementary school, our family had learned about Dia de los Muertos and the value the Mexican culture has placed on this holiday. While most of America considers death a tragic sentence, this culture celebrates the dead, bringing their memories back to life in food, stories and song. Somehow, I wanted to be a part of this celebration of life.
Terry, Jack and I have spent many weeks riding past many beautiful cemeteries, all the shrines adorned in pictures and wreaths of flowers. This wasn’t just a day; it was a life event. All I could think while rolling was, “I have to capture this on camera. What a brilliant pictorial!” My thoughts would change as the end of October drew closer and the crowds grew larger. Through even the smallest of towns, the streets outside the cemetery walls were lined with cars, families carrying trays of food to the family site, children trailing along holding flowers and trinkets. Even the dogs were in on this as they followed along in procession. “This is like a grand party,” I thought. “When we land, I’m going to grab the camera and follow along to capture these moments.” It was after this fleeting thought that I witnessed a single moment that changed my mind. As we passed the rows of cars and locals directing traffic, I saw to my left two young girls, sitting alone beside a headstone. They weren’t celebrating. They weren’t laughing. They were having a moment alone, heads bowed. Though I didn’t know what they were saying, I could read what their body clearly. They were mourning. This is the moment that changed my course.
Even though I was told by a few that it was okay to walk the cemeteries and photograph the event, I felt otherwise. I didn’t want to be an observer. I wanted to be a participant.
It was the afternoon of November 2nd when on a short walk, a flower caught my eye. A glowing crimson hibiscus bloomed over my shoulder, perfect in color and design. It was time to celebrate my mom. Some of you may know my mom passed when I was 19, too young really at any age. I took out the wedding photo from my pocket and lay it next to the flower, silent in my private moment. The memory of those two girls remained close by. That night, we cooked a grand feast with friends, our dessert consisting of looking at maps and Google searches. This was my celebration.
Have I brought the room down too much? Sorry. I need to stop doing that! I will tell you that we walked around Sayulita with our friends, Mike and Shannon, one night during this time, stopping at many of the private memorials setup along the sidewalks. Okay, I took pictures of those. Why? They were such amazing displays of life for all to view with no one around to show us otherwise. It was another lesson for this Trio – never let the memories of those who have passed fade into a headstone. Keep them close and allow them to guide us through these tricky lives we lead. Cheers.
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