Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6/15/11: Home. George West TX - Austin - Houston - Dallas, Nacogdoches - Tuscaloosa - Chattanooga - La Plata, MD. 1700 miles, several days.

Back in NYC, a month now since I crossed the border back into the U.S. Still loving the conveniences of the 1st world. Hoping to ride this feeling out as long as I can. Visited good friends in Austin, Houston and Dallas. A 2 day stop in Nacogdoches. Headed east across Louisiana, started seeing all the Harley guys riding to D.C. for Memorial Day. Making fast time in great weather. Smooth roads. Peaceful nighttime riding. Across Louisiana, such a cool state. I start running onto people asking if I rode all the way down here from Maryland, which inevitably turns into a much longer explanation/conversation. Cross the Mississippi River into Mississippi. I realize those aren't riverboat casinos down there, they are waterfront buildings submerged by all the recent flooding. Ride the Natchez Trace Parkway for a couple of hours till dark. Stop for pictures, bugs start tearing me up. A night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The motel has only one room left because of the devastation of a tornado which decimated a good chunk of the city. A visit to the Barber Motorsports Museum, (probably the best motorcycle museum in the world) located outside of Birmingham. Cross into the NW corner of Georgia for 20 minutes before crossing into Tennessee. Stay the night at my friend Amlan's in Chattanooga, his grandma visiting from South Africa makes some kickass and really spicy Indian food. Leave the next day determined to make it to my folks in MD. Its 7-800 miles, since Ive opted to take the scenic route. Im looking at my longest day of riding on the trip. After what I've been through south of the border, it should be a breeze (relatively). Head east through the Great Smoky Mountains and dip into North Carolina, riding some scenic parkways. I ride the Tail of the Dragon before dipping back into Tennessee, a motorcycling mecca which I have been meaning to do for years. The views and the roads in this part of the country are as stunning as anything I've seen on this trip. Sun going down, no time to ride the Blur Ridge Parkway. Hit the Virginia border at nighttime. Virginia is deceptively huge, and I know I have several hours of riding ahead of me. Nighttime on the interstate, Im in the zone. 400 miles till home. Hit the back highways. Have a great chat at a gas station in Fredericksburg with a woman working at the station and a guy in a pickup truck. Where have I been (?), all that stuff. Cross the Harry Nice bridge into Maryland as the sun is rising. At my folks house 30 minute later. a 17 hour/750 mile day. So good to be home. I don't live here, but its home.

Right back in the thick of things here in NYC. Maintaining a chilled out vibe is of utmost priority right now for me, especially here. Slowly going through all of my photos with my Mom who is visiting me up here and reliving the past several months which seem like a lifetime ago already. Ill be processing this for a while I think. I feel good.

Mileage: 16,000 (approx.)

Time: 8 months

Countries: 7

Borders Crossed: 13

Costs: 15-20k

Crashes: 5-6

Stitches: 4 (in lip)

Flat tires: 2

Breakdowns: 7-8

Welding repairs: 12 (approx.)

Tires: 1 rear replaced (!) The front tire is shot though.

Ran out of Gas: 4-5 times.

Easiest Border Crossing: Tecate, Mexico. Just rode over. Paid for that one later though.

Worst Border Crossing: Honduras

Worst Police: Honduras, Mexico (tie).

Best Capital City: Panama City, PA.

Worst Capital City: Tegucigalpa,
Honduras. By far.

Most Memorable Scenery: Baja California, Mexico.

Best Food: Charcoal grilled chicken, Nicaragua.

Most Impressive Sights: Panama Canal, mountains of Guatemala, Islas de Ometepe in Nicaragua, etc. etc.

Best beach: Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

Toughest Riding: (Baja desert, Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica).

Nicest People: Everywhere (including the U.S.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

5/12/11: Monterrey MX - George West, TX. 260 miles, 8 hours.

Its a sweltering hot and uncomfortable night and I get up relatively early. I've been having some harsh coughing fits in the middle of the night which don't seem to be getting better. Although I know a lot of it is stress-induced, I head to a pharmacy. They have a doctor on site who prescribes me a ton of stuff. Then to the dentist. Pretty sketchy place, but for 20 bucks I get a quick and decent teeth-cleaning. A quick workout at a local gym and back to the hostel where I get myself together and all of my shit down all those flights of stairs and onto my bike. I head out of town and after about 30 minutes of city driving, Im on a long straight highway through the desert to the border at Laredo.

Its pretty uneventful as I cross into the state of Tamaulipas. Its just damn hot. A SERIOUS backup of tractor-trailers as I near the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo. Glad once again to be on a bike, I thread in and out of the stopped traffic for several miles before coming to a serous police/military checkpoint, complete with a tank. Guess they are taking this drug-war shit pretty seriously around these parts. I head into the city and manage after a while to find my way to the customs office. Nobody here, and Im stamped out in a few seconds. Head to an inspection station to turn in my bike permit. 10 minutes later Im done. That easy. Head to the International Bridge Number-Whatever. There is a 2 dollar toll. I just dumped the last of my pesos into my gas tank and I have no dollars. Shit. But..they take credit cards. Yay. Im over the bridge and in line for about 20 minutes. The border patrol guy is cool, makes some light conversation and asks if I have any alcohol. I have a few souvenir bottles and tell him so. He says I need to pass through and go and pay import tax at a booth a few hundred meters away and get some stickers on the bottles of alcohol, which will be checked at a checkpoint outside of town. I go through and almost just keep going, but I dont want to fuck things up at this late stage of the game. I pull up to the station. I need to pay 10 bucks. I have no dollars. I run across the street to an ATM and get charged out the ass for $. I return and pay the tax. And then I roll away and properly enter the United States for the first time in 7 months.

I cant decide where I want to stay the night. I just keep riding northeast towards Austin. Just like I thought, no customs checkpoint, and even if there was one (there is on the main highway I think) I could have just said I didn't have anything, right? Anyway, the temperature is perfect and the sun is slowly setting. The road is smooth and well paved. I am relaxed, letting the luxury of being back in the States wash over me. There is tons of space out here. The bathrooms and gas stations are clean. I keep heading down the long straight highway, pulling over at times to let the occasional truck pass. I end up in the little town of George West. Its kind of cool being here, I have a friend who grew up here and its cool to see the place. I get a motel room for the night, not much by U.S. standards but pretty luxurious to me considering ho Ive been living for the past several months. I turn on the AC even though I dont really need it. Everything is closed in this town, so I have a gas-station mini-mart dinner. Talking to people and watching television in English never felt so good. So after 9 days straight of riding all day, every day from Leon, Nicaragua, I'll be in Austin tomorrow at my Buddy John's house a few hours away, where I stayed at for a night on the way down. Looking forwards to it. Good to be home (almost). Damn, I guess its effectively the end of this trip. I need a bit of time to let all this reflection mess soak in.