Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Motorcycle diary

Back in March when I wrote about getting a motorcycle, Phil commented about the exhilaration of riding a bike, the freedom you feel, the wind whistling through your helmet and other Easy Rider-type folklore I suspected could be a bunch of hoo-hah.

Now that I have been riding the bike for awhile, I'm starting to agree with Phil even if  I'm not ready to take off on a cross-Mexico jaunt. On our Suzuki 200cc trail bike any such trek would take a hell of a long time and a jumbo bottle of backache pills afterward.

But I've been taking off in the morning regularly, for one- or two-hour rides to nowhere in particular  and finding it a relaxing though noisy, gasoline-scented form of meditation.

The geography around our ranch is ideal for meandering. There is a main paved road toward the town of Jalpa that dissolves into dirt roads and then into trails. Sometimes these side trips lead to tiny, one-donkey towns with names like The Tiger, The Small Palm Tree, The Bell, Barrel Cactus, The Small Corral or The Gully.

Other times the dirt trail leads to someone's front gate, or the foot of a hill where the trail becomes a foot path. Or maybe nowhere: someone's idea of a joke played on strangers. I've been on a stone road that a first seems to lead you to a town called San José of Something-or-Other, but in fact comes around full-circle to exactly where you started. What happened to San José of Something-or-Other?

But who cares, really. This time of the year, the spring season in San Miguel, erratic rains tease green grass and tiny wildflowers out of the arid soil and the views are so beautiful it doesn't make any difference where you go.

No matter how insignificant, every hamlet has a church, sometimes hundred or more years old. I pity the itinerant priest who has to schlep around celebrating mass for ten people here, listen to five confessions there or marry a couple ten miles down the road.

Occasionally you spot some employment activity nearby, like a cactus or broccoli field, but most often the towns just exist in an apparent economic void, its residents solemnly wandering around at midday, rounding up some chickens, chasing a stray burro, or going to a tiendita, a tiny storefront, to buy some tortillas.

Of those people who work full-time, I imagine most commute by bus to San Miguel for jobs as housekeepers or to sell their farm's products, or to Querétaro, a thriving city about an hour away with a burgeoning manufacturing sector.

Or maybe not. Among the dozens of family members of Félix, our gardener, he is the only one who seems to have steady employment. How these folks pay for food and clothes remains a mystery, one of many of Mexico.

Yesterday my road trip took me to La Palmita, of The Little Palm, about forty-five minutes from here, off a road that should be a shortcut to Querétaro but doesn't quite make it.

There's indeed an excellent paved highway coming from Querétaro, but pfft, it vanishes as it crosses the state line into Guanajuato, and for a motorcycle rider turns into a first- or second-gear rocky and dusty mess. Guess Querétaro has more money for roads than Guanajuato.

There's an ancient church in La Palmita, with a mangled TV antenna perched atop the bell tower where one would expect a cross. Some old people shuffled around and three young horses paced nervously inside a round corral.

The only noise came from a giggly group of kids in front of the primary school, waiting for it to open. When it does, I bet you it will be totally quiet again in La Palmita. 








Why did the chicken cross the road in La Palmita? Probably because
there wasn't anything else to do.

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4 comments:

  1. There is no better experience in life than riding a motorcycle. OK. There are lots. But I have had a love affair with motorcycles since I owned my first one in high school. I have seriously thought about buying a large one and testing out my theory that health insurance is for sissies.

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  2. We have a Chinese scooter (150cc). We like the fact we can haul a LOT of groceries with it and of course easy to find parking (even in Xalapa). We have made some 140 mile round trip day trips; a little hard on the butt; but lots of fun!

    Highly recommend a scooter. We have a BIG 650cc Suzuki Burgman in the U,S, we are working on getting down here in Mexico - Oh Boy!

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  3. Al, I've heard the state of Guanajuato builds the cobblestone secondary roads in the state to maintain its colonial connection to the past.

    As for scooters, I've got a Burgman Suzuki 400 in storage in Florida. It could be a valuable form of transportation here. Could have a problem with Topes. But I can't get a U-Haul motorcycle trailer into Mexico. I could bring a $2000 trailer in with the motorcycle, but that's a lot to spend for a 5-year-old scooter.

    Bill

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  4. Bill: I see a lot of people here riding scooters, including some pretty hefty folks lugging children, groceries and whatever. So I think it's doable. Longer trips would be hard on your butt, as Calypso points out. $2000US to bring a scooter down doesn't make a lot of sense though. You can get a pretty decent motorbike or scooter for that.

    al

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