Finding Iraq in Mexico


Nuevo Laredo, Mex to Las Los Lunas hotel and bar near La Leona, Mex

460.5 kilometers ridden.

Was a slow start to the day for me but not terrible. The same couple that had been going at it so loudly last night decided to start their morning the same way.

Breakfast was much better than most continental affairs and I ate scrambled eggs and fresh fruit with a glass of orange juice that I ate in the room. I got a shower and realized just how bad my hair has become without conditioner, I think I would have pulled half my hair out if I had been in a hurry. Before leaving I got to Skype with Cat for a bit this morning while I packed and we talked about her game against Rage City Orange Crush the night before.

With my bags packed I got the bike loaded and answered some questions from a local who wanted to know about the bike and then about my trip. I gave him some details asI set my GPS for Monterrey and rode out.

I spent most of the morning locked in my own head and on edge. My guts were in a tight knot of tension and anxiety. The way the center median was set up, the colors of the run down buildings on each side of the road, signs I couldn't read, it all reminded me of Iraq and specifically Baghdad.

Once I started to reign it all in I found myself humming and singing in my helmet without any music on. It took me a few moments to realize it was the same two songs I had listened to before every mission in Iraq. I hadn't heard either of them in at least a year and likely longer yet there I was belting them out. When I realized what it was the tension was back, though with a giggle. I fought to relax again but as I cleared the city the scent of burning garbage dragged me right back to Iraq.

I rode smoothly until a bit low on fuel when I stopped for gas and had my first point and mime contest with the attendant at the Pemex station. 163 pesos later I had a full tank again and set off for Monterrey.

My GPS only had the city center marked as best I could tell so I followed it most of the way looking for a roadside food stand that I could watch the bike from. I went through outskirts where the stands had been and right on into a bustling down town. The press of traffic was everywhere and traffic rules appeared to be more like suggestions by the way drivers were acting.

I could feel myself getting angry and realized I needed food and caffeine or it was only going to get worse. I began to circle the city center trying to find a food stand but it just seemed like a shopping district and it was all fast food chains and no parking where I could watch the bike.

I finally pulled over and tried to connect to Wi-Fi to see if I could find any help or contact the Monterrey Rollergirls. I had no luck and was only getting more angry for no reason. I gave up and just programmed the GPS for San Lois Pottasi and decided that I should push as far south as possible.

On the way out of town I stopped at a 7/11 with a federal police car out front and had a Lipton mango iced tea, a sandwich that I think was ham, and a bag of sour cream and cheddar potato chips. A quick bathroom stop and I was back on the road.

I was still feeling angry, but much less so. I had gotten so spoiled by voice navigation with Google Maps that my silent GPS and the strange and cramped traffic made me yell in my helmet many times as I missed turns or simply couldn't understand where it wanted me to go. I ended up on a route through what looked to be a more affluent residential area on the hill overlooking town. It reminded me a bit of the hills above Santa Barbara.

It took me a bit to get onto the highway and heading south but once I was it was a pretty smooth shot.  I ended up stopping for some tacos, a monster and some sort of chocolate swiss-roll thing with pineapple I tried on a whim. After I ate I was working on my journal when a man came in and sat at the table with me. His name was Frank and he introduced himself as a motorcyclist who rides a Harley. We chatted and it turned out he was in Mexico, but driving his Cadillac, because he needed his knee replaced. Frank said he lives in South Carolina where his bike was and that I was living his his dream. He wanted to hide his motorcycle from his home to Ushuaia someday.

While we were talking I got asked by the staff if the couldy take a picture with me and I said yes and stepped up. When they got one with their phone I asked if we could take another. I grabbed my phone and took my first pictures with Mexican citizens. It was a replica of the one the two had asked for and then I took a selfie with the third woman working the shop.

When I sat back down with frank we swapped some stories and he gave me some info on riding in Mexico before I finished and excused myself to the bathroom. Frank came out to see me off as I was packing up to leave.

The rest of the ride was just slab but I did have to stop and put on my rain gear after a bit.
 As it started to get dark I began to look for a hotel, I had no luck initially and ended up following a smaller side road to where my GPS showed a town. I rode in and felt very much like I was back in a small Iraqi village. My hackles were up and kidnapping and robbery warnings were fresh in my mind.

I chose a small shop to stop in and use my phrase book to try and ask about a hotel. I guess my pronunciation was terrible because the proprietor looked very puzzled. I managed to get hotel stated but when he gave me directions he felt like I wasn't understanding. He called a friend to come translate for him and asked me to wait a moment.

I asked him for a bathroom and when he worked out that I only needed to pee he just directed me around behind the building to a corner. When I looked confused he shook his head yes, mimed peeing, and pointed to the wall.

Relived, I returned to the front and found a nice man had come down in his white flat bed Nissan pickup and asked me what was up. He was able to give me directions to the hotel and told me it was nice, secure, and cheap. When I thanked him he told me he used to live in North Carolina.

I followed his directions back to the hotel while purple lightning lit up the mountains as I rode back north. 

I got to the hotel and again someone had to come speak with me because I simply couldn't accurately communicate quickly in Spanish. The guy came over from the kitchen and spoke good English. He told me the room would be 500 pesos. I suspect it was the gringo price and while I stood there thinking he quickly offered that it was $41 US.  I agreed to the price and paid with a single 500 peso note. I asked about internet and included meals and was told no internet was available and that no food was included.

I asked where I could park the bike and when they showed me the entryway I was perfectly happy. Apparently I didn't look happy as they promptly said I could park it inside the lobby.

I went up to the room and the desk clerk followed me and showed me the room as if I were unhappy and needed reassured. The room was basic but nice and had a private bathroom.

I dropped some of my gear and and walked down to bring the bike in. I rode it slowly up onto the stairs as they were at a 45 degree angle to how I could approach them and with the rain I knew the marble would be slick. I got it up and to the door but we had to open the second half of the glass door to get the bike in. The marble was incredibly slick and having to make a 90 degree left immediately inside the door, which included a single step down, was a bit nerve-wracking. I got it in alright and proceeded to unpack and carry gear to my room. the stairs went up through a semi landing and then through a semicircular cutout in the floor above. Due to my height I had to duck to get across the landing going up or down.

After unloading I changed out of moto gear and went down to the restaurant. Just a moment after sitting, the power went out to the whole building and I was forced to use my phone for light. I ordered a full arrachara steak dinner at the recommendation of the waiter, who was the one who spoke English and had helped me at the front desk. The food was great and included tortillas, guacamole, fried potato wedges, refried beans with cojito cheese and some sort of sausage in addition to the steak. I ended up making it all into yummy tacos which I washed down with a Corona.

After dinner I retreated to my room where I proceeded to catch up on file transfers from cameras and finish writing my journal.


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