Slowing it all down. The start of the actual trip.


Guadalajara, Mex to Leon, Mex

241.2 kilometers ridden.

I slept in a bit and spent the morning trying to get some work done. The spotty internet at the hotel was only moderately better during the morning. I wasn't able to get much done but I at least got all my photos and videos onto my computer.

I tried to coordinate with both Roller Derby Leon and Porto Viarta to see where I was headed next. Porto Viarta wasn't ready to practice and Leon was practicing tonight and had games the next two nights, plus the games were at Moto Fiesta Leon which is the largest motorcycle gathering in Mexico.  So I opted to head for Leon.

Learning from my last few days of scrambling, I got the address where I was going to be staying, and my host even sent me a photo of the gate which made it much easier to find.

Enroute I stopped for fuel and was finally able to use my card by being insistent and the attendant had to take me into an office and use a different card reader and then it worked. I will be asking about cards first and being insistent from now on with Pemex.

Just after paying at my last toll booth I stopped for lunch finally at a convenience store. My default liquid yogurt was a solid choice but I also had a monster and some tasty Mexican shortbread cookies with a jam filling. The station itself was packed with bikes all headed to Moto Fiesta and I sat and chatted for a good bit with "Gato" who was on a nicely done up Harley and waiting for his friend who had run out of fuel. I enjoyed my lunch and Monster while Gato drank a beer and we talked bikes. While Gato was on a Harley, he said he preferred Honda's and Yamaha's, but a lot of the clubs would only accept Harleys. As he was a three patcher it was clearly important to him. As we chatted and shared the cookies and some jerky from my bag, he ended up going for a second beer while I grabbed another yogurt drink. As I finished and joked with him about his friend taking too long and the beers adding up a federal police car showed up and his jokes about it being fine turned to me chiding him that the policia might not think so. We laughed, but he tossed what was left of his second beer as I geared up to leave. After saying good byes I headed for Leon.

With the google maps off-line directions working great (My GPS wouldn't pull up the address) navigation was easy. I finally found a bank and withdrew some Pesos to help make it through when I couldn't use the card. I then went to the Auto Parts store in the same complex so I could buy a small thing of slime to redo my original fix since my rush job on the extreme seal tape hadn't held like I hoped it would. The clerk took my card but typed the number in the computer prior to running it. I got pissed and asked why and he was doing so and our lack of respective languages didn't get me very far. A manager came up and told me it was just for the system but I am not real happy about it. I will be watching my credit card real closely till I get back and swap it so any skimming will be defeated.

Rather than do another parking lot repair job, I opted to ride for the address in my GPS. It was so much simpler to find the place then my last several days of getting into town and driving around looking for Wi-Fi to connect with my hosts and find out details. The house was tucked off some side streets and the photo of the gate she has sent me was a real lifesaver in getting to the right place.

I was just getting into my phone to confirm that I was at the right place when I heard the clicking of the key into the outer wrought iron gate to the antechamber set in the wall. I looked up to see a tall and beautiful woman with beautiful tan skin and jet black hair smiling softly at me.

“Bueno, are you Zach-a-ri?” she asked.

I chuckled a bit at the pronunciation of my full name but responded that I was.  She then took my hand and kissed beside my cheek in the way I had become used to from the derby skaters here in Mexico and told me she was Montserrat. She asked me to pull my “Moto” inside and opened the larger set of swinging metal doors in the wall. It squeezed in on both of my soft rear panniers to fit between the corner of her small Nissan sedan and the concrete doorway,

In the tiled courtyard I parked the bike and asked if I should take things in or leave them on the bike.  She looked aghast as she told me they should come in.  I unloaded the bike but left the GPS locked in the mount since I felt it was safe inside the locked courtyard. 

Montserrat showed me into the house and up a narrow set of steps that doubled back on themselves without a landing and led to the upper floor of the home.  I was shown to a room with a tall bed in it and many nick knacks decorating the walls and the small table that was the only other furniture in the room.

I laid down my helmet, gloves, and riding jacket in the corner near the desk before returning to the bike for my bags.
After unpacking into the room, Montserrat came in to talk to me. She wanted to apologize for the fact that my room was in use as her closet and so there wasn’t anywhere else to put my things.  I was wasn’t bothered at all and took a moment to ask her about the beautiful red platform high heel shoes on a display shelf above the bed. It turns out that she had made them for a contest and that she was a shoe designer by trade.

While she showed me the shoes, her head turned enough for her dark hair to slide back so that I could see the short trimmed sides above long trails of hair from just in front of her ears.  Her hair was a spectacular Mohawk to match the array of exquisite tattoos visible on her tanned arms.

While we talked I saw an industrial sewing machine in the room across from mine and asked if it was a Juki, the brand of machine I used in my fabrications shop.  It wasn’t but she excitedly showed me into her sewing room that had a collection of older, but functional, equipment not unlike my own setup at home. 

In her slow but excited English she told me about her Roller Derby uniform business and showed me several of her pieces that were around the room.

I began to be acutely aware that she wasn’t just beautiful, she was breath taking.  It was like looking at the woman I had dreamed off meeting in my mid 20’s and coming to find she was real, and shared many of the same passions in life that I did.  For the second time this trip I found myself not just appreciating the beauty of someone other than Cat, but feeling attracted to them.

We talked some more about derby, shoes, and sewing before I asked if I could rest a bit and use the internet. While we talked I found myself becoming more and more aware of my mind trying to find things wrong with her to break the spell.  Try as I might all I could come up with was the lingering smell of cigarette ash that hung about the house.  While I hadn’t yet seen her smoking it made me aware she might be and I clung to that as an attempt to halt the march of attraction. 

She did excuse herself to write down the Wi-Fi information for me and to get to taking care of something in her room, the master bedroom that occupied most of the second story. 

I followed my usual ritual of checking in with Cat, posting that I was safe where I needed to go, and checking for more messages about coaching opportunities. With only a short time before leaving for practice, I didn’t get a whole lot accomplished besides unpacking my computer and cold weather riding gear from my top bag so that I wouldn’t be carrying so much to derby.

The practice group was great and the outdoor space was of very grippy, but not too rough, concrete. After warm-ups I realized that the crew would benefit most from some edging work and then working as a team and staying calm.  The time flew by fast and at the end I was happy to give out Yolo Stickers to everyone and my set of ABEC Yolo bearings to Montserrat as a thank you for hosting me, since during the practice I had agreed to stay for two more days to ref the games at Moto Fiesta Leon.

Following practice we went downtown to a bar with food that had the music absolutely blaring.  We took a table near the door and started to look at the menu for food and drinks. Other members of the team slowly poured in until we had to slide a second table over to make enough room for everyone.  It was then that my suspicions were confirmed, Montserrat was a smoker. She quickly saw that the smoke bothered me though and did her best to blow it away from me, it was a nice gesture that hasn’t always been done her in Mexico.

With everyone there we ordered food and drinks.  I ordered what I thought was a cheeseburger with mushrooms, but it turned out to be nothing but mushrooms and cheese in a bun. I just had to laugh and eat what I had, though it wasn’t that bad.  I ended up having two beers and sharing some of the others food.  It was becoming clear that I ate way more than the average Mexican, even when I was trying to eat smaller portions. 

Once back at Montserrat’s home I got settled in for bed in the small side room and realized that there was a small taco stand across the street playing music and talking loudly into the wee hours of the night.  I still slept well on the small bed though and was glad for the comforts of a private guestroom. 

Moto Fiesta Leon

Friday started off early and we went out to the site of the event.  Even during this early portion of the event the grounds were packed.  There were motorcycles of every type as far as the eye could see.  Making it through the tightly packed rows of bikes was a challenge made worse by us all carrying out bags of derby gear.

The track was set up on some alternating panels of concrete with different textures that worked outward in a sunburst pattern.  From my first look I knew the track wasn’t just small but also not shaped correctly.  I talked with the coach and ended up helping them scale the track correctly and get it laid down in the proper shape. There was concerns about some uneven spots from the lights but a bit of tape solved that easily. The rest of the day was spent on site and waiting for San Luis Potasi to arrive.  They never made it and we adjusted to a green and red scrimmage between the women of Leon Roller Derby.  I was the head ref and found a bit of difficulty in trying to call the game in as much Spanish as I could manage.  

Saurday was the first time I had gone into a crowded market like those in Iraq since returning home almost ten years ago.  The heat, lack of language comprehension, and the crush of people among the stands selling trinkets and treats for the day of the dead celebration could have been ripped out of my time in Iraq. It raised my anxiety level but I knew that I was with friends and in a safe place.  This would be my first stress inoculation of markets on the journey and it would mean that I had diluted the negative stress experiences by a factor of one.  It isn't being healed, but it is a start to tipping the balance in my favor. Being accompanied by Montserrat and the friends I had made from San Luis Potasi helped make it a positive first experience.

The second scrimmage went smoothly and the refs were great to work with. I am really happy I stuck around and worked with everyone.

The nights after derby were spent drinking and eating with the group on site at Moto Fiesta, but I found myself spending most every free moment with Montserrat.  I was talking with Cat the whole time about my growing feelings but knowing that I was leaving mid-week meant I didn’t have to worry since I would soon be gone from Montserrat's intoxicating presence. 


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