Over the Christmas Holidays I took a month long motorcycle trip through the United States into Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. I left my bike at the Government Customs House in Belize. This trip is to get it back.
The trip went well. Quick, but well. I SCUBA dived for one week with Irene then picked up my bike and took six days to get home with my bike.
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2004-04-19 - Driving Home from Belize
-On the road again! If you were on my original list, you know that on my last trip I had left my bike in Belize City, Belize, Central America. I now have to get my bike out of Belize.
-Originally I was going to ride the bike to Costa Rica and leave it there until next winter. I changed my mind. To stay flexible I decided to bring it home. I will go to the rest of Central America another day, maybe next year, possibly shipping my bike to Panama and riding home.
-My current plan is for Irene and I to go down to Belize with the Diver's Den Dive Shop for one week of diving. We will stay at the Blue Marlin Lodge on South Water Caye in Belize. Irene will fly home on Saturday and I will get my bike and fly home.
- The only glitch is that due to the Easter Holiday I can not pick up my bike until Tuesday morning. That means I only have one week to get home. I want to stop at Chichen-Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. To do that and still get home by the following Tuesday will be tough. Eight days including the visit to Chichen-Itza, which is out of the way, out near Cancun.
-I am trying a few new things on this trip. First, I am not stopping at internet cafe's to write my articles. I bought something called a Pocketmail device. It is a large PDA - sort of a Palm Pilot type of device but it has a small keyboard to type on it. It is not very powerful and typing is slow, but it will allow me to type in my hotel rooms if I have the time. There is usually a lot of down time on these trips. I don't know if there will be much on this trip though. The unique thing about this device is that I can send mail from any phone. I just call a number, hold the device up to the phone and hit the send button. It is slow and only does text, but it is exactly what I need, I think.
-The second new thing I am trying is a BLOG. It comes free with the Pocketmail device. They have not perfected it yet and I can not go in and edit it once I send to it yet, so my "test" messages are still there. A BLOG is a web site where the owner (me) sends e-mail to it and it lists it in order (oldest first or newest first) with the date it was sent. This will allow everyone to look at what I send out from the web. Not much real use except as a way to give people I meet a way to see what I wrote without having to include them in my e-mail list. Having more than 24 people om my e-mail list slows down sending my e-mail a lot.
-What I plan to do is keep some on my main list, recieving the actual e-mail and others will just receive a note saying there is a new entry in my Blog.
-As before, my reports will just be the journal I keep on my trips.
-The E-Mail device did not work. For some reason it did not like my list of names and would not send the e-mail. It would send other mail, just not the one thing I really wanted to send. This is being sent from my Juno address. Damn I hate technology.
-Irene and I flew down to Belize. Uneventful but flying always sucks. Had to leave the house at 3:30am in a van to Boston Airport, flew to Newark, flew to Belize City, took a ten seat plane to Dangriga, took a Passenger van to the Dock, took a boat to the island. There were about 22 of us at the resort, the Blue Marlin Lodge on South Water Caye. Not much of anyone else on the island.
-Well what can I say? A week of perfect weather, good diving, food, company etc. I finally had to put on shoes today, first time in a week. OK, they were flip flops but still....
-I left Irene at the airport to fly home. I can't pick up my bike 'til tuesday so I took the water taxi out to Caye Caulker. The last time I was here there were few tourists but due to it being a holiday it is crowded. Well, crowded for this place any way.
-Found a hotel, Mara's Place not far from the Split (north end) $26 US. Cheap for a holiday. Most hotels up their price for this weekend. There were few rooms left on the island. They even have hot water (a little salty, but hot).
-This is the first cool day I have had on this trip, it was very hot but it got cloudy and the wind picked up. I am actually cool sitting in the hammock outside, but inside with no wind it is humid and warm.
-I had planned to be super frugal and do little here, but decided I had to do something so I will go diving the next couple of days.
-went diving yesterday and today. Nice diving. Went with Paradise Down Dive Shop. It's for sale if anyone wants a business here.
-The days have been perfect. Last night was tough to sleep due to humidity and lots of partying. It was Easter and everyone was having fun.
-Tonight the town is dead. Everyone went home. It is also overcast with lightning and thunder. Not much wind but lots of humidity, it never really rained.
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2004-04-21 - Home - For now!!!
Well, the trip is over. I got home safe and sound. Basically after I left the dive resort and Irene flew home, I went out to Caye Caulker, a small Island off the coast, near Belize City, Belize. I stayed there from Saturday through Easter Monday and went back to Belize City on Tuesday to get my bike. While in Caye Caulker, I did two days of diving. Once I had my bike, I rode, a lot. Made good time. Stopped at the Chichen Itza Ruins in the Yucatan of Mexico. Then headed for the border and home. From the time I picked up the bike to the time I got home was about 5.5 days and 4,422 miles.
A mostly uneventful but interesting trip. Travelling in Mexico was mostly on what in the US we would call secondary roads. As in the US they go through the center of every little town and village. Rather than traffic lights they have speed bumps, but the effect is the same. It is an interesting view of an interesting country. I really like travelling in Mexico, although if you are in a hurry it can be very frustrating.
I don't plan on going back soon. Funds are depleted and leave is used up. I am thinking that next time I will ship my bike to Panama and drive it back. Probably in two years or so.
I got the PM to work. Operator error, but it would have been nice if the device would tell me what was wrong. In the future I may not use the device. If I do, I will not be able to send out long e-mail from it to a lot of people. When I do that and there is a glitch with another's e-mail, teh other's e-mail server replies to me with my entire message. Instead of being on the phone for 1.5 minutes, I could be on the phone for 10 or more. What I will probably do is send mail to my BLOG and then inform everyone that there is a new entry there. When I get back from my trip, or if I get to an internet cafe, I will take what I sent and send the full text version to everyone.
My Mileage ran around 40 MPG
What follows is my journal of my trip.
Start - 22,282
End - 22,561
Day - 279
Trip - 279
-I was up and out early, I took the 6:30 water taxi. Got to Belize city and waited until customs opened. I was at Customs as they opened at 8am, was done with paperwork @8:10 except having the boss stamp it. While waiting I loaded the bike. When done I paid my $45 US storage fee. It all went smooth and fast. They were very helpful and knew what to do. The bike had been kept inside, not even moved, and was in good shape except a little rust on the brake disks and that the entire bike was covered in a fine powdered sand.
-The bike would not start. The battery was dead. I got a push, which did not work, then a jump. This bike does not start well if it has been sitting for more than a few weeks. I was out of there after all the bike hassles by 10am.
-Got to the Belize border by 12:10 am. The only slow up was getting my money back on my insurance. There were a lot of customers in the office. I got $75 US back, some in Pesos, some in Belize $. Through the border in no time. I even got a big lunch for $3.25 US. It cost me $15 for the paperwork. At the Mexican side by 1:15 PM.
-The Mexican side was also fairly smooth, but took a lot longer than it should have. Getting me stamped in took less than 5 minutes. The bike was another matter. I had to go to a different building (foolish Mexican thing #1). The people who do the temporary vehicle permit both went to lunch at the same time (foolish Mexican thing #2). There was no sign saying they were closed or for how long (foolish Mexican thing #3). Their hour lunch was more like 1:45 (foolish Mexican thing #4). I had to make copies at a private store down the street rather than their being a copy machine in the office (that's #5). Then it takes 20 minutes for the information to be entered into the computer (that's #6). Now that I am in I have to pay 210 Pesos (about $20 US) at a bank, not at the border. No banks nearby that are open. If I don't pay this I can not leave the country. (#7) Last time I forgot about it and it cost me a gallon of gas plus over an hour to scramble to get to a bank before it closed. Had I missed the bank I would have had to stay a few extra days in Mexico. The bike import fee was $35 (that you can pay at the border!).
-All this and I was on the road again by 3PM. Please explain to me why at a border of an English speaking country there is no one that speaks English? In the US and Belize sides there are bilingual workers. At the Mexican side of the US border they put the English speaking workers in the Mexican resident line.
-Near dusk I went through a small, very rural town. Coming out of houses and walking down the streets towards the center of town were young girls in nice dresses. A lot of them. Every one of them was knock down, drop dead gorgeous. I mean, Victoria Secret's gorgeous. (well maybe not) I don't know what they put in the water there, but damn. Then again, I had been on the road a lot of hours at the time. It did look like some sort of pageant was going on though.
-Got to Vallodalid by 7pm and found a hotel for ~$14. Nice and had a safe place for the bike. The hotel was much better than the one in Caye Caulker, bigger, the water is not salty, and you don't have to put your used toilet paper in the trash can. Had a $1.60 meal with Pepsi and bought a liter of beer and 1.5 liters water for about $1.80. It's good to be back in the third world.
-Vallodalid is a nice town with little outstanding tourist draw. Due to this it has stayed a good town and is more attractive than a normal tourist town. It is not too far from Chichen Itza.
End - 22,970
Day - 409
Trip - 688
-I got to Chichen Itza at 8:50 thinking it was 7:50, damned time zones. Chichen Itza was pretty good. Having seen a lot of Mayan and Aztec Ruins I can say it is far from the best and one of the most crowded, but also one of the most accessible, being near Cancun. It is also easy to walk around as it is basically flat. It really did not start getting crowded until about 11am, just before I left.
-I just rode. I took all free roads. The toll roads in Mexico are ridiculously expensive. I did hit two toll bridges for a total of about $10. Some things are very expensive in Mexico and some things are very cheap.
-The roads I took today were either high speed two laners or fairly high speed twisty roads through hilly country or along the ocean. I went for many miles along the coast seeing few towns or buildings.
-For a change the roads did not, for the most part, run right through the center of the towns and cities. There were also very good signs. I did not get lost even once. Now that IS unusual.
-I stopped at a roadside booth for lunch. Cost was $2.30 US for a coke and more food than I could eat. Really good food too.
-Since I had such a big lunch I decided to have a light dinner. The street vendors had corn on the cob. Sounded like a light healthy dinner so I got one, at about $.30. By the time they finished slathering it with ?mayonaise?, salt, and ten pounds of a great, sharp grated cheese it became a Corn Coronary. I washed it down with a nice healthy beer.
-My original plan, such as it was, was to stop in Villa Hermosa. The Lonely Planet Guide had lots of bad things to say about it and said it was a bear to navigate. It also said hotels that were worth getting were expensive, I would guess $25 US. I decided to stop in Frontera about 7:30. I found the hotels quick and easy but they were expensive at $23 US for a crappy little place. Safe parking though. It seems like the more I spend the worse the place is. Easy town to get in and out so I will save a ton of time.
-Frontera has nothing special, just a town. As with all towns there is a central square were people gather. This one was different in that it had ball courts, swings, big slides etc. There was a girls highschool basketball game going on.
-One interesting thing I saw today that I was unable to get a photo of was a trike. The front was like most trikes, a single front wheel with a motorcycle like frame and seat. This one did not have the engine under or behind the rider though. On one side there was the frame, engine, suspension and wheel of a 125 cc motorcycle. Not sure what was on the other side, maybe another 125 cc bike. An old guy was riding it but by the time I spun around he was out of site.
End - 23,668
Day - 698
Trip - 1,386
-On the road by 5:30am, before light. Took some as many toll roads as possible to save time. They are much like our interstates, complete with occasional potholes. They bypass all the small towns and save a ton of time, but cost 2-3 pesos per mile, or about 20 - 30 cents per mile. Tolls today came to 466Pesos ~$42 US. Ouch.
-At one point I saw a cloud of something appear behind a truck. It turned out to be bees, lots of bees. It was like riding into a squishy hail storm. After I went through, I felt something in my sleeve. I slapped it, wrong move, and got stung. I pulled off the road and VERY gently pulled off my jacket. There were five bewildered honey bees clinging to my shirt sleeve. The sting was minor and only itched a little. The bees, I am sorry to say, did not survive their flight off my sleeve.
-End at 9:15pm @ 23,668 @ Manuel. This was the same town I stopped at last time I rode this way. There was a very cheap crappy hotel. I found it again, but it was not super cheap and was even crappier than before. 200 pesos, worth about 75 pesos. Problem was there was really nowhere else. The last two hotels I checked were $75 US, due to being in an oil business city.
End - 24,423
Day - 755
Trip - 2,141
Enter US - 23,947
Miles in US - 476
-Entered Texas at McAllen/Reynosa border. I wanted to go through at Pharr but I had to get some paperwork on the bike and was not sure if I could do this at Pharr. It took me 1.5 hours to get through the border, including stopping for a meal, running around looking for a bank, getting lost and waiting in a long line to get into the US side.
-Crossed the border @ 12:45 @ 23,947
-I tried to send mail with my Pocketmail Device. It did not work. The first time I need it, it did not work. Later I found I just had an improper e-mail address that was making it not send the mail.
-Riding across Texas I was fighting a strong, diagonal wind. Tiring day. I stopped in Orange, TX near the eastern border. Brand new, and nice Motel 6 with the Weather Channel. Nice place. $35, well worth it after the last two shitholes.
-Ended at 9:30pm local at 24,423 at Texas exit 877. I-10 runs across Texas for about 900 miles. I say we petition congress to split up Texas into six or so states. 900 miles of I-10 is just too much for one state.
End - 25,440
Day - 1,017
Trip - 3,634
Miles in US - 1,493
-Left at 7:20am. I even stopped for a sit down breakfast at the Omelet House. Omelets are not there specialty considering what mine was like.
-I stopped for gas in Alabama. Some guy comes up to me and mumbles out a full sentence. I just stare at him. He says something to his friend in the car. I still just stare at him. I never got a word of what he said. I just came out of a country where few spoke English. Not only was this guys "English" harder to understand than the Mexicans who spoke some English, he was harder to understand than the Mexicans that only spoke Spanish! Welcome to America.
-I got to the Roanoke area of Virginia at 11:10 and had to stop. A couple hotels were booked. I was directed to a brand new one for $55.
End - 26,228
Day - 788
Trip - 4,422
Miles in US - 2,281
-My sinuses have been stuffed on and off since the Texas border. Allergies. It did not help that it was a VERY HOT ride today.
-Perfect weather for bikes, except for a little too hot. In Pennsylvania I hit a thunderstorm. Fortunately I was at a gas station talking with another rider when it hit.
-In Pennsylvania I hit traffic. I forgot that I had a road atlas and my USA map was not detailed enough to tell me if there was a way around it. It was walking speed. After 45 minutes, I saw a sign saying the construction started in 1.5 miles. There was also a sign for a detour, that no one was taking. I figured getting lost in PA was better than sitting on some interstate and melting. The signs were good and the roads were excellent. Rolling hills, farm country, perfect Motorcycle country. The signs tried to get me back on the highway about 15 miles farther north, but traffic was still at an almost standstill. I found my atlas and picked a road that went another 15 miles up. If I had time I would have taken these roads all the way home.
-This was a poorly designed construction area. Definitely designed to cause as much hassle to the driving public as possible. PA is always working on the roads. I was thinking that with all this road repair that they would have gotten pretty good at it by now. Now I realize that if you do something badly often enough, you will get really good at doing it badly.
-I hit some very cold rain in Vermont, but other than that it was perfect weather. I never put on my heated gear, even though I had been toting it everywhere for the past two weeks.
-I got home at 10pm at 26,228