Seattle, April 24

We got back home to Seattle last night. 184 days, 16,742.2 miles, 8 countries, 13 border crossings later. It’s going to take a while to absorb this whole trip!

We had good ride in the USA. Our first stop was Los Angeles for a visit with Dan and Will. We did some maintenance on the bikes and Dan made us some great Asian food meals, which were wonderful on their own but especially welcome as flavors we haven’t had in a while. We also spent a morning as extras on the set of Will’s new project. I’ve never seen that business before, so it was fascinating for me. It was also nice to be able to leave after only five hours instead of having to stay the 14 hours or so that Will was working. If you haven’t yet, go see Will’s feature film directing debut, Blades of Glory.

From there, we went all the way to Santa Barbara (90 miles) to visit a motorcycle friend, who took us on a great ride in the Santa Barbara mountains, just out his backdoor.

Laura and Bob high above Santa Barbara.

We wandered up the California coast, mostly on highway 1 with some dirt road detours that took us up on ridges high above the Pacific. Great weather, although a bit cold for us now that our blood has thinned after all that heat down south. We knew we were going run right into some wet weather, so we opted to explore lots while the sun was shining. We made it all the way to Coos Bay, Oregon, before the rain really hit. By then, we were heading inland to visit in the foothills east of Eugene. We holed up with Rick and Lin for the worst of the rain, then took advantage of a one day respite to blast home yesterday.

Here’s pictures from the California Coast:

Classic California coast

Morro Bay

Surfer in Cayucos

If only more people lived here…

Beach along Highway 1

Side trip up into the hills

Ridgetop road

Pinecones as big as my head!

Heading back to the main road

Tom is not in a helicopter taking this photo, but it is a steep hill!

Highway 1 in all its glory.

A bit of mud on the Usal Road

Winding through the foggy woods to Shelter Cove.

Side trip high above the Pacific.

Along the Lost Coast

So that’s it for our Central America trip. Thanks for reading. Who knows what the next adventure will bring??

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Back in Baja

(written in Los Angeles, April 13)

We’ve spent a lot of time on the Baja California peninsula, so it was really nice to be back on familiar territory. And camping, in some of our favorite secluded beaches. Sorry for the gap in blog posts, but I was busy relaxing out of range of the internet.

Semana Santa is the week before Easter, and it is an incredibly busy time in Baja. It seems than every family takes off and heads to the beach. We were a little concerned about working around this, but all it takes for seclusion is about five miles of rough dirt road. Or just head into the desert, away from the coast.

We visited some friends, ate lots of shrimp tacos, and just relaxed on some beaches, far from traffic, noise, exhaust fumes, and, unfortunately, cold beer.

Here are some pictures:

Not a bad beach bungalow!

Working our way to camp. The mudflats still held our tire tracks from November.

Still life with tiny shells

This was our home for only one night, despite the beautiful sandy beach.

It’s a harsh land for ranching…

… and for broken down vehicle.

Riding on the beach was on nice firm sand, but getting off the beach was a bit tricky.

The road across salt flats on the Pacific side

Rather than get soaked with the Pacific fog, we camped inland a few miles

A shell beach on the Pacific

Sand road across the desert

Tiny jelly jewels

Relaxing on one of our “secret” beaches

Exploring the mud flat

More shell collection

Tom avoided running over the snake, and it stayed around long enough to be photographed.

Big sky

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(Written April 8, Bahia de los Angeles)

After the “Lost Week” in Patzcuaro, we headed for Mazatlan for the ferry back to Baja California.

On the way, we stopped for a night in Tequila, famous for, well, you know…. It is in fact a nice little town. It seems that groups come through during the day for distillery tours, but in the evening, things quiet down. Considerably. We did manage to find a place for supper and got chatting with two fellows travelling around the world by motorcycle, three months at a time.

Entering Tequila

The Cuervo raven

Tequila street scene

Tequila park bench

Tequila central square

We were mostly taking toll roads at this point (which are expensive!) but between Tepic and Matzatlan, that road is under construction. We alternated between being the only traffic on blissfully smoothly paved divided highway with being in the line with trucks and buses on a ratty old narrow road.

We took a little detour and explored the coast south of Mazatlan, which is undeveloped except for a couple of beachside restaurants. The coast north of Mazatlan is hyper-developed.

We stayed in old Mazatlan, which charmed both of us. Hotel Belmar has seen better days, but the rooms were large, the views spectacular, the prices reasonable, and we could park our motorcycles in the lobby. Old Mazatlan is undergoing a revival now, it seems. But it is filled with old buildings from past days of glory, classic neo-tropical architecture, I was told. Some of these are being renovated, some are still showing signs of wear. It was fun to wander down side streets and see what treasures we could find. One day, we took a ride up to the Zona Dorado (the Golden Zone) filled with fancy hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, and anything the northern sunseeker could want. Not for us! Character, a little rough around the edges, is more to our liking.

Old Mazatlan

Old Mazatlan

Lots of renovation opportunities in old Mazatlan

A corner awaiting some TLC

Another corner after renovation

Tom with a statue of Pedro Infante

The sunset view from our room

I was proud of myself for making it up and DOWN these stairs. The next guy dove off the top!

We were planning on taking the ferry on Friday, but when we went to inquire, it seems that service would resume on Monday. But there is another company that runs ferries to La Paz, Baja California Sur, every day. But it is a cargo ferry, with minimal facilities for passengers. So much for our plans of a cabin for the 16 hour, overnight crossing. Instead, we were with the truck drivers and one other travelling couple. But they had a camper van, so we were the only ones stretched out on deck on our Thermarests. Not the best night’s sleep, but sunrise was beautiful.

Loading onto the ferry elevator

Securing the bike for the crossing

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The Lost Week

March 19, Patzcuaro, Mexico

We left Oaxaca and took two days to get to Taxco. On the way, we saw the world’s largest church in the the smallest town. Well maybe not literally, but it is a hugh church and a very, very small town.

Taxco is an old silver town built on the side of a mountain. Once the mines were played out, Taxco became known for its silver artisanship. We were fasciniated by the roads — narrow, steep, winding, cobblestoned, and sometimes two-way! The locals know how to manage them. Everyone else, keep clear!

From there, we headed the back way, through some fascinating canyons then up over some mountains. We arrived in Patzcuaro, intending to stay for just one night. But I felt lousy in the morning, running a fever with sore throat. After a few days of this, I finally went to a doctor. The antibiotic he prescribed knocked the fever and sore throat, but it made me so dizzy and lightheaded that I could barely cross the street by myself, let alone ride my motorcycle. So, we’ve stayed until this is all cleared up. I’m hoping to ride tomorrow. This is a delightful town, but it’s the longest we’ve stayed anywhere, and I missed most of it!

The biggest church in the smallest town, Yanhuitlan

Our “street” in Taxco

Two way road in Taxco

Two-way road in Taxco in action

The main church in Taxco

Another view of the main church, Taxco

Market time, Taxco

Market time, Taxco

The zocalo (main square) at night, Taxco

More street scenes, Taxco

Canyon country leaving Taxco

Huge thistles in the mountains

Two toned walls omnipresent in Patzcuaro

The “Old Man Dance” in Patzcuaro

(“After I finish my orange juice, can I crawl back in bed?”


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Windy, Winding Roads to Oaxaca

March 7, Oaxaca

Our fastest ever border crossing happened leaving Honduras and entering Guatemala. We were through in about 35 minutes. It’s never clear quite where all the time goes at the borders. Sometimes, it’s the glacial pace of the officials. Some borders, it’s just several different offices. Only rarely is it because there is a line. We have seen very few other private vehicles crossing anywhere. And somehow, the truckers have a different procedure. Another part of the process is the money changing. I am armed with current exchange rates between bordering currencies and the US dollar. Interestingly, on our way north, I haven’t really had to do any negotiating. The rate the moneychangers have offered seemed fair to me. It’s all part of the process. They are usually disappointed that I don’t want to change dollars, though. We’re usually just moving currencies along.

That’s me at the immigration window.

Changing lempiras for quetzales.

Once in Guatemala, we were heading for Coban, a town with some elevation. But first, we had to travel a section of lowland. And it was hot!!! As we headed west, we could see the mountains to the north, but it took a while for our road to appear. Then we wound our way up, gaining elevation as quickly as we could, given the heavy, slow bus and truck traffic. Between the heat and breathing the nasty exhaust fumes, I was not feeling so well when we got to Coban. But we found a nice place to rest and a great place for dinner. I was ready to go the next day.

Our pleasant hotel in Coban

And what a day it was! According to our guidebook, the 150 km between Huehuetenango and Coban takes three days by bus. It took us most of the day, but those numbers will be changing as they are working hard at improving the road. This is a serious mountain road, between 7000 and 1800 feet elevation, changing back and forth several times. The Coban end is a one lane, dirt road, heavily potholed road, with serious switchbacks and drop-offs. I really don’t understand what happens when a truck meets a bus. Luckily, most of the traffic was opposed to us, as it is much easier to just pull over for a minute to let a truck by than to try to pass it from behind. We got into the construction zone, where they are somehow widening the road. And then, pavement! New and smooth, twisty, no traffic, beautiful views. Spectacular riding. I think we are very lucky to have enjoyed this road now. Once it is finished, the bus and truck traffic will undoubtedly increase, and with all the ups and downs, it won’t be very much fun to share the road with them.

The narrow part

Under construction

One of the river valleys

Twisty pavement

Winding through the market at La Mesilla, the Mexican/Guatemalan border

San Cristobal

In Huehue, we returned to “our” hotel, where we stayed Christmas eve. It was nice to enter a town and now where we were going. And the next day, we retraced our steps back to Mexico and San Cristobal to “our” other hotel. San Cristobal had a very different feeling without all of the overwhelming Christmas effects we had seen in December.

San Cristobal

San Cristobal graffiti

From San Cristobal, we took the toll road to Tuxtla Gutierrez. It was a steady drop of 6000 feet over 40 km along a mountain ridge. If it had been clear, we may have even seen the Pacific. At least, it felt like that. As we headed on to the coast, we got another lovely mountain road to play on. It was fun.

All the fun ended when we got to the coast. We were crossing the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, where Mexico is skinny and low. And very, very, very windy. We were heading west and the wind was coming from the north, we guess at speeds around 70 mph. For most of it, the road was wide with good shoulders, so we had lots of room in case we got blown around, which was happening. Most of the trucks and buses were also crawling along, but there were the regular cars that zoomed along as usual. We passed a wind farm and two towns named after wind, so obviously this was not strange weather. The road narrowed and we came over a rise into a rain storm. The clouds raining must have been miles away. We pulled off into a gravel pit/dump to take a break and hope the wind would too. It wasn’t easy to even rest there. Tom suggested we go a bit up a dirt road to try to shelter by a bluff. However, as I headed that way, the wind blew me off the hardpack dirt into loose gravel and, with no traction for the tires, it blew me down. Tom came down to help, and while he was helping me, the wind blew his bike over the sidestand. We got both bikes up, tried to find more shelter, and decided to push on. This was actually easier than trying to rest. But the game wasn’t up yet. We got to an intersection and stopped to check the map. And the wind blew me over again! And Tom’s bike again when he was helping me. Enough of this! We were through the worst of it. We scooted on a bit further to town and found a place for a proper rest (aka, a hotel).

All purpose vehicle

The next day was still windy but much less. As we headed along the coast, we were protected by more and bigger mountains, so the wind just served to keep the heat down. We checked out the uber-resort of Huatulco and then continued on to the small town of Puerto Angel, built around a charming little harbor.

The bay of Puerto Angel

Evening in Puerto Angel

Yesterday, it was up over the Sierra Madre Sur to Oaxaca. It took us about three and a half hours to go the first 95 km, not because of traffic or towns but because of twists and turns. Another amazing mountain road. No shortage of these, especially once we’ve made the decision to keep our elevation as high as possible.

Climbing the Sierra Madre Sur

View towards Oaxaca city, once we’ve cleared the mountains

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Feb 28, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Feb 28, 2007

We’ve crossed two borders since the last blog update, so things are certainly moving right along. We didn’t get much out of our visit to Monteverde. We happened on some pretty fierce weather so decided to head for the beach. We scooted back to the Nicoya Peninsula for a visit with some friends and to pick up the care package they brought us from home. (Thanks, KK and Chris!) Then it was time to leave Vacationland, as I have come to think of Costa Rica.

Sunday soccer game before the rains started.

Running from the bad weather to the beach. Not too muddy.

We headed through the highlands of Nicaragua. But first, we spent two nights at Laguna de Apoya, a crater lake near Grenada. It was very pretty there, and the water was clean enough to swim in.

Laguna de Apoya from the top

A view of our lodge

Not a bad way to relax

Heading through the highlands made for some very enjoyable riding. We were on small roads, sometimes paved, sometimes not. We got lots of smiles from the people and waves from the kids.

Crossing into Honduras, I was first surprised by all the pine forests. It was delightful riding. We skirted the edge of the capital, Tegucigalpa. That was enough to remind us why we avoid the big cities. But for a while, we were on the busiest road in the country, connecting the two biggest cities. When we stopped for the night, we revised our plan for the next day, and headed off into the hills on smaller roads. This was perfect dual-sport riding – twisty mountains roads, some paved well, some paved badly, some not paved, some just being created.

Some of the “under construction” part of the ride

How to find the camera shop.

We arrived yesterday in Copan Ruinas, one of Honduras key tourist sites. We spent today touring the Mayan ruins. These are known for their sculptures, and we both enjoyed wandering around the ruins and the museum until it got too hot. Yesterday, the thermometer (the first one I have seen on the trip) said 96 degrees around 11 a.m. Today, it was an even 100 when we returned from our sightseeing.

A view of the ruins at Copan

Close up of some of the sculpture

More views

Tom taking a rest

A reproduction in the museum of one of the temples. It was interesting to see it “in color”

Arriving in a tourist destination is a bit of a mixed bag. Prices are higher, and when we arrived yesterday, we were immediately accosted by touts from two different hotels, trying to convince us that we would be happy only if we stayed in their fine establishment. But once we shook them off, we found a quiet B&B a few blocks away, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner last night with flavors (chicken curry) we haven’t experienced in quite a while.

Yet another of Tom’s beer commercial series. This one accompanied a wonderful chicken curry.

The heat is difficult. We had thought about heading to some areas in Honduras and Guatemala with lower elevations, but after dealing with this heat at 2000 feet elevation, I think we will stick to higher ground. We could ride like the locals, in t-shirts and flip-flops, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. One thing about travelling in the land of little motorcycles is that other drivers do not see us as full-fledged vehicles, so they roar up behind us, passing us just because we are motorcycles (and should, therefore, be putting along the shoulder) only to realize that we can easily maintain their speed, and on the steep uphills, easily exceed it. Besides, in the mountains, many of these underpowered vehicles try to maintain all the momentum they can and thus, swing wide on corners. Definitely makes me glad I’m on a motorcycle; I’m not sure what they would do if we were a bus!

Tree at the ruins at Copan

Scarlet Macaws hanging out

We are certainly heading north faster than we headed south. It’s not that we’ve seen all there is to see, not by a long shot, but we visited most of our “must see’s” on the way south. We are still open to exploring neat places as we head towards home, but home does have some appeal as well. My Spanish is coming along, but I still feel a great communication gap. As Tom has been working on photos for you to enjoy while I have been studying Spanish, I think he is feeling the communication gap even more. Central America is far more crowded than Mexico and points north, so we haven’t been camping. Everywhere seems to be in some farmer’s field. I think we both miss our nights out in the boonies with nothing but us, the stars, and some coyotes in the distance. We are still having a wonderful time and expect that to continue, but it is true, we are a bit tired. I’m sure touring Mayan ruins today in 100 degree has contributed to that!

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Carribean and Volcanos

February 18, 2007
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

We headed north over the mountains to the Caribbean coast of Panama. I don’t know what the history of the forests here is, but it seems to be the most undisturbed that we’ve seen in Panama. It was neat to cross over the divide and see the Caribbean Sea off in the distance to the north. Just a few miles before, we could see the Pacific off in the distance to the south. We didn’t visit the islands of Bocas del Toro. By all accounts, they are beautiful, but we weren’t sure of leaving our motorcycles and much of our gear. So we headed for the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Looking to the Caribbean

But first, we had to cross the border. The border formalities here were very easy. The interesting part was the bridge across the Sixaola River, which is the border between Panama and Costa Rica here. It is an old railroad bridge. Although there are no longer any railroad tracks leading to or from the bridge, the rails are still on the bridge. It hasn’t been resurfaced for the road traffic it receives. After clearing out of Panama, we headed across. It was full of pedestrians, which meant we had to constantly start and stop. Stopping wasn’t so comfortable, as it wasn’t quite wide enough to put both feet down. I made the mistake once of looking down to see if I could put my right foot down, and all I saw was river. Hmmmm….. This isn’t the best time for mild vertigo! So it took some concentration to cross the bridge. I didn’t actually realize how much adrenaline I had going until I was filling out the Costa Rica immigration forms. Trying to write passport numbers in little boxes was tricky because my hands were trembly.

The border bridge

We found a small lodge right on the beach and stayed a few nights. A few miles away is a national park, and we had fun hiking through the jungle and along the beaches there one day.

Looking for a place to stay

In the national park

Lots of these spiders in the jungle

More from our hike

The beach by our hotel

Looking out from Puerto Limon to Columbus’ landing spot

From there, we headed inland, into the mountains. We stayed in a mountain lodge that night, enjoying the cool air and fabulous views.

Getting shown the sites when we checked in

Walking to the restaurant for breakfast

Our room on the mountain top

Then came the volcanoes! We got up at sunrise one morning to head to Volcan Poas, trying to get to the top before the usual cloud cover rolled in. It was wonderfully clear when we got to the top. (We drove most of the way – only had to walk about 1 km.) The ride north from there was great fun, twisty roads, waterfalls, etc. That night, we got a cabin just north of Volcan Arenal, the most active volcano around. And we saw its show!! During the day, we could hear lots of rumblings, see puffs of smoke, and with binoculars, see boulders rolling down the side. But once it was dark, the real show began! The boulders were all glowing red hot, and they would disintegrate as they bounced down the mountain. Fireworks!


Volcan Poas

Fun riding between volcanos

View from our lodge of Volcan Arenal

The view at night

The view in the morning

Yesterday, we decided to ride around Lake Arenal. Unbeknownst to us, we picked the weekend of the annual bike around Lake Arenal. This was only a problem when the road narrowed to a rough single lane because there was a line of some 50 vehicles accompanying their bicycling friends. By the time we realized what was going on, it was too late to turn back, and we became part of the slow parade. I suppose the upside was that without the crowds there, we never would have attempted the river crossing. This was by far the biggest river crossing my bike has ever been through. Tom took both bikes through, and the water was mid-thigh on me as I tried to assist. Other than wet feet, he got both bikes across without incident.

Stuck in traffic

An early creek crossing

The big river

We cleared out of the madness of the bicycle event as soon as we could and found a small lodge run by a man from Seattle! Fresh cinnamon buns for breakfast this morning. Yummy!

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