Fleeing The Burbs: Our 2-Wheel Education Chapter 2 “Mainland Mexico: Learning the rules of the road and the way of the people”11
By Sandy Borden
When crossing any border, you are immediately met with a whole new set of challenges. Where do I go? Where do I stay? Where do I eat? Why does it appear that there are no rules to passing or turning or even going straight?!? Your education begins now, class. Seasoned travelers know that when entering many countries, especially Mexico, you want to get over the border early, get your paperwork in order, and start heading south. You need to have AT LEAST your first night’s lodging planned as you’re going to be plain exhausted once you put down that kickstand. It’s a long day, but worth the mental gymnastics. So, having never been to mainland Mexico, we were expecting something like Baja with a splash of what we’ve been shown across every news and social media out there. “You’re going to Mexico? Why?” is the question we were asked most often. The best question? “Are you bringing a gun?” Ah, hell no! That’s one we still chuckle about. It was a conscious choice to go through this unknown piece of property. It was time to come to our own conclusions, and, as always, we made sure every member of the Trio was on board. All were accounted for. It was time to venture south and learn about this country for ourselves. You may be surprised by what you read or it may just bring up more questions for later. If nothing else, I do hope you come out on the other end a wee bit wiser about our friends to the south. Enjoy.
Everyone goes fast, but you don’t get anywhere fast.
Speed limits are merely suggestions on most every stretch of road. If you don’t plan on going at least 20 MPH faster than the posted speed limit, prepare to be passed. Don’t fret when that large truck puts on his blinker to go around; he’s done this plenty of times and will probably wave as he passes.
Left turn signals have a whole new role
Mexican drivers have it down! I have a new found appreciation for driving in Mexico. Most of the roads are only one lane each way and there really aren’t enough roads that take you from place to place. Well, at least safe roads. The rule for passing or being passed is turning on that left signal. Want to pass? The trucker or vehicle will turn on the left signal when it is safe for you to pass, and they will leave it on for the duration of the pass. Yes, it’s a wee bit scary on those narrow highways, but it’s the only way to get anywhere. Get used to it.
You’re always “ON” while riding
As a rider, your senses are naturally on high alert. Now, take that spidey sense and multiply it by 100. That’s how much you will need when it comes to making it safely to your destination. Why, you ask? Let me just give you a brief explanation of why – rocks, dogs, squished dogs, people, burros, slow trucks, stopped trucks, potholes, random road construction, chickens, horses, goats, cement topes, metal topes, dips, locked gates, water crossings, mud crossings, sand, gravel. You get the picture.
120 miles is a looooong day on the road
Your senses are heightened
I’m not talking just about the need to pay attention to the road. I’m talking about the smell of mesquite burning, the ever-changing landscape, the aroma of fresh roadside tortillas, the pine forests and the always-present diesel exhaust. There so much to take in, no wonder you can’t move once you put the kickstand down!
You’re exhausted after a day of riding
Again, see above.
Lots and lots of buzzards
Never have we seen so many of these huge birds flapping about! Granted, there’s always something for them to dine upon on the side of the road, but WOW! And, here’s a little story you might enjoy. Terry and Jack were rolling in front of me on the ride to Hidalgo del Parral one fine morning when out of nowhere, a very large buzzard comes flying out of the right corner and swoops down on them, ready to carry them off for their next meal. Just as I started to freak out, buzzard No. 2 comes swooping over MY right shoulder, talons out and next to my helmet. NO JOKE! I rolled on the throttle as fast as I could, sca-reeming into the com as Jack’s head jerked around to see his mother almost get swept away. Seriously, talons…
And, butterflies…and, bees.
As I write this, I’m about an hour in from my first bee sting of the trip. Seems the little bugger got into my coat somewhere along the way to Durango and decided to nest near my left armpit. Can’t wait to swell with that one! I’ll have ‘fat old lady’ arm here in about 24 hours. Awesome. And, the butterflies are not afraid to fly right into your helmet. Visors closed, people!
Leave your ego and “It’s all about me attitude” at the border!
Those two things have no place in this country. Nobody cares about the new iWhatever you’re always staring at; no one cares what happened on the last episode of “The Real Honey Boo Boo Kardashians”. Whenever you cross the border, you immediately become an ambassador for your country. Remember that and act accordingly.
Is that bus coming right for me?!?
Yes, it is. But, not to worry as it will pull back into its own lane before you become a mark on the grill. Most all of the roads are very narrow, making it a bit hard at times for larger vehicles. Just stay calm and press on.
The people are very proud of their country
Mexicans are a very proud culture. Everyone claims to have the best homemade tortillas or salsa, that we will not find anything better in the next state or country. The cities are full of life and music and art. You have to be willing to settle into the culture and take it all in. Locals will tell you what you need to see or experience before you move onto the next town.
They are so excited to have Americans visiting!
They love us here! No, I’m not kidding. We’ve already experienced so many tales of how excited the locals are to have Americans visit their country. They want to know where you’re from, why you’re here and where you will be visiting next.
You will eventually find yourself eating a meal in someone’s personal kitchen
This is something you will come to enjoy once you get over the initial weird feeling of eating in a stranger’s house. Those little buildings may look closed, but, most likely, there are not. If the sign says “Abierto”, they are open for business. Also, you may run across a home with a small list next to the front screen announcing the meals offered for the day. You will see items like tacos, tortas and hamberguesas, all items carefully made right in the kitchen by what you are sure is your Mexican grandmother. It’s cheap, it’s good, and leaves you wanting more of those authentic moments.
Smile and wave when you pass by locals
A genuine smile and a hearty wave go far in this country. This is especially true, as you must remember, they don’t see too many Americans rolling through some of these parts. It’s up to you to be an ambassador of your country and lead by example.
If they don’t smile and wave back, you don’t stop!
Other travelers told us early in the trip that if people don’t smile or wave back, DO NOT stop in that town. That is considered a place not to be trusted, therefore, continue on your journey to the next town.
Unless you plan to take toll roads the entire time, you’re guaranteed to be riding off-road at some point in your journey
If you’re dirt adverse, it’s time to get out there and prepare for a few dusty, muddy trails before you head south. Most every bike can easily handle the roads, but these shortcuts may last for up to 6 miles, and you need to be comfortable having rather large trucks and buses passing you by. It’s just the rules of the road. Scary at times? I’d be lying if I said no. But, with proper training and time off the road, you’ll be just fine. Also, I highly recommend investing in a heavy-duty skid plate like the ones we run from Black Dog Cycle Works. It will save your under carriage!
The terrain can change almost immediately
Now is the time to erase your memories of the dry, desert dust bowl that has been represented in far too many movies. Our first couple of days found us climbing thousands of feet into the wonder that is the Sierra Madres. The twists and turns of this constant climb shows you not only the mandarin colored flowers that dotted the mountainsides, but you eventually found yourself at 8,000 feet, praying you’ll acclimate as soon as possible. At that elevation those first few days, if something had chased me, I’d be buzzard fodder.
Many people we talk to have lived in the states at one time or another
Oh, SO excited to share their American stories! Between our broken Spanish and their broken English, it’s just plain awesome. Many are former farm workers who now run their own ranch back home. We even had one woman follow us for several blocks until she stopped us and asked, “Do you speak English?” We chatted for several minutes about her years in Houston, how she loved her time in Texas, and now she was back to raise her family. She was lovely.
They love that Jack is fluent in Spanish
When this little (HUGE!) gringo opens his mouth and speaks perfect Spanish, there are jaws agape and questions as to why Terry and I are not also fluent. We’re getting there, I promise. They ask him about his immersion school, where we’re going, and why his parents’ had him learn Spanish. Well, it was important to us that Jack be fluent in at least one other language, Spanish being the first choice. The locals like that answer.
You swear you’re in Northern California
Yes, we were just as surprised. When we neared the ridge of the Sierra Madres, we were surrounded by pines, manzanita, and quaking aspens. It was fall in the Sierra’s, and we were getting to experience the season we thought we had left behind. The aspens were just beginning to turn to their golden hue, dancing in the breeze as if only for us. The smells, the sights…we were home once again. When we rolled into a small town for the night, Terry and I were on the com’s trying to pinpoint just what part of California this new area reminded us of. For those of you who know Fall River Mills, we’ve found its Mexican counterpart. Now, if the trout fishing is just as good…
Anything can fit into the back of a ’64 Chevy truck
I mean, ANYTHING! This includes boulders, hay bales 5 deep and 5 high, grandma, grandma’s wheelchair, every member of the family including the neighbor’s kids, roosters, goats, water tanks, you name it. You swear any number of the trucks you see creep by are about to give up and split in two. But nope, I’m sure they still have a good 50,000 miles left on them. They sure use them like they do!
Mexico is amazing!
The people. The landscape. The architecture. The food. And, back to the people. I‘ve lost count of how many Mexican grandmothers we have found over the course of only a few weeks. It’s a beautiful land of music and art, friendships and families. If we had left it up to the scare tactics of the media, we would’ve never left the country. Drugs! War! Disease! They’re out to get you! AHHHH!!! Terry admitted today that not once has he felt like he was threatened in any way. Of course, we know we stand out. We’d be silly to think we didn’t. Sometimes that makes others want to approach you even more, and not just for a peso. Just like in the states, you don’t go to certain places at night. That’s common sense. You don’t hang around border towns, you trust your gut, and you ultimately start to settle in. If you know Terry, you know that this is a major 180-degree from the usual.
So, class, have we learned anything today? I do hope we have. Our family certainly has, and isn’t that why we’re here? Each day brings a new sensation, a new lesson and a new appreciation for Mexico. I’ll be honest, some days we just want to lay and bed with a movie and room service, as the exhaustion can sometimes take over. Riding a motorcycle for a 9-hour stretch is a physical and mental challenge, especially in this country. But, that’s okay. It was our choice, and we wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe the choice to not bring a blow dryer… Cheers.