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.