Motorcycling Mainland Mexico and Baja Peninsula
Motorcling Trip #4
10 days, 1,800 miles, Feb 2012
Ray & Jenny Jardine
Navojoa to La PazThe weather forecast for today was for chubascos and tormentas, so we started riding at 9:00 am even though we had less than 100 miles to ride to the ferry terminal. What we were going to do the rest of the day in stormy weather, we hadn't a clue. The rain squalls ("tormentas y chubascos") of the previous afternoon had dispersed overnight, and we rode off into a beautiful, clear, clean, and fresh day. We liked the ambiance of Navojoa, it was much cleaner and quieter than the larger towns to the north. We pulled off the road for some cold drinks and snacks at a Oxxo store (Mexico's version of a Circle k or a 7-11). I backed into a parking spot next to the building and here I did something that I would never even dream of doing 40 years ago. I backed into the parking space right next to a policeman who was carrying an assault rifle. But today I felt no fear from the police, in fact, quite a bit safer. No one would dare take anything off the bike in front of a policeman with an assault rifle. Stepping off the bike I nodded a greeting to the officer and proceeded into the store.
Back outside, Jenny and I were eating our snacks and I got the feeling the officer was friendly, so I struck up a conversation in my crude Spanish and lo and behold the officer was very friendly. We talked for 15 minutes. Forty years ago, everybody feared the police because they were much more likely to be corrupt, and likely to pin a bogus charge on anyone, whether Mexican or foreign. But times have changed for the better. We continued on south westward toward the sea. The road had been cut dramatically through the coastal mountains, and from the highest point we could see the flat coastal agricultural area. Fields after fields of corn, sorghum, sugar cane, potatoes, and possible tomatoes and other produce.
We rolled in to Los Mochis and a scene much like that of Ciudad Obregon, with chaotic traffic. After a few miles of this we left the city behind and enjoyed the riding once again to the port of Topolobampo, and the ferry terminal. We were there half a day early and wondering what to do, so first we stopped at a marina and sat down by water at a boat docks. We talked to a fellow who turned out to be the bartender at the yacht club. He invited us in, but we were just leaving. Jenny had her helmet on and I was talking to him for a couple minutes; he suddenly realized that Jenny was a woman, and he did a double-take. All along the way we've had several compliments that we're riding together, two bikes, a husband and wife team; somewhat unusual. We spent the next several hours doing what we enjoy the best, riding the bikes. This time north east toward the mountains. We thought we would start up toward Copper Canyon, but the mountains were too distant for a comfortable afternoon ride, so eventually we turned back.
Back at the ferry terminal we got our tickets, although we had previously paid for them online. Darkness came, and more trucks and autos and passengers arrived. They put us and our two motos at the start of the short passenger line, directly in front of a family from La Paz. The family wanted to pose the three children in front of our motorcycles for a picture on their camera, so Jenny draped our riding jackets over the youngsters and they were so pleased. Then the army started arriving, each soldier dressed in fatigues and carrying an assault rifle. Initially they were quite aloof, they wouldn't even look at anyone. But again, we were not worried about them. More and more arrived, until there were a few hundred troops. They were all boarding the same ferry. By and by,one fellow strolled by and struck up a conversation with us. Lo and behold, this fellow was quite friendly without letting up his professional guard. He was from Vera Cruz, and he said it was very safe there. He has been in the army for 7 years, and I asked him about the dangers surrounding the drug problems, and he said very dangerous, the danger is real. He said there are only 3 areas in Mexico that are safe: Baja, Vera Cruz, and somewhere else I can't recall. Jenny was feeling a little ill from what she had eaten a short while ago, so I left her sitting on the curb by the motos, and wandered around the short vicinity while waiting for the ferry to arrive. I got to talking with a husband and wife who lived in Hermosillo. Like most Mexicans we have met so far, they were extremely friendly. They are retired teachers, the husband taught mathematics and the wife taught English and they were going to visit Santa Rosalia, in Baja. The trip was gift from her father, who used to live in Santa Rosalia, and wanted them to see it. As time went on, the ferry terminal got busier and more busier. Jenny was feeling better, so we were both talking to a fellow who parked his car right next to the bikes. He is a Mexican from Cabo San Lucas who spoke flawless English. He said he's only been in the States 4 times, but he spent his whole life in Cabo San Lucas, working in the hotel and tourist industry, and now real estate, so he learned his English from his customers and clients. The ferry arrived, and to our complete surprise, disgorged about a hundred 18-wheeler semi trucks. I didn't count them, but that number couldn't be too far off. That ferry is a big boat. The fresh batch of trucks started loading, then we were directed to drive aboard and go to a certain place on Level 2 and park. It was a bit disturbing because there were no tie-downs, nothing to support the bikes at all. The attendant said there was no problems, the bikes are not going to tip over, the boat is very steady.
We locked our panniers and climbed the stairs up to the lounging decks with what we would be needing for the next 6 hours because you were not allowed to return to the vehicles during the voyage. Initially we set about exploring the boat, mainly the open walkways outside. The night was somewhat chilly and windy so we didn't linger very long. It was amazing how high above the water we were, looking over the guardrail.
Jenny picked out a couch in the bar area where we could lay down. There was a lot of loud music and commotion in the bar, but she was tired and soon was fast asleep. For me, the night was just beginning in this unusual place with all kinds of people, so I strolled around and went outside onto the foredeck and enjoyed the night air. Eventually I started to get hungry. Included in the price of the ticket, each passenger is allotted a dinner. There were about 400 passengers, and I was among the last to be served because I didn't want to wait in line, especially with long lines of soldiers. I was eating alone at a table when the guy from Cabo San Lucas joined me with his plate of food. So we sat talking for quite some while, and of course I was just full of questions for him, because he was a local and also spoke such good English, and obviously very intelligent. He introduced himself as Rudy. We finished our meal, then I went back to where Jenny was sleeping and she seemed to be doing fine so I went back outside to enjoy the night, and who did I meet but Rudy sitting on a bench on the afterdeck. We spent most of the night talking, and those conversations were among the highlights of my journey thus far, because for the first time in Mexico I had a like-minded local to talk with that also spoke such good English. We talked about Life in Mexico and his life in Baja. We talked about the drug problem between Mexico and the U.S, and the immigration problem. We even discussed politics which is a subject I rarely breach. But it turns out that from our two perspectives, we discovered surprising similarities. He wanted to make clear a good point: with the problem with immigration is because, he felt, that his government was letting the people down because they are not educating the children properly, at least on par with the developed world. Then he said, as for himself, he's college-educated and he has a successful real estate company with 10 employees. He made a point: don't stereotype Mexicans. He also kept stressing the rich Mexican heritage of friendliness. I've been experiencing that for 45 years, and each time I go down to Mexico I find it remarkable. He told me a story about a profound lesson he learned from a simple bellboy in France. Rudy was at the front desk of an expensive hotel, and some Englishman was creating a scene of unhappiness, criticizing the hotel and its employees. Nevertheless, the bellhop picked up this guy's bags and carried them with a smile. The bellhop returned to the front desk and Rudy asked him how in the world was he putting up with that. Rudy said he would have liked to wring that guy's neck. The bellhop explained that it didn't bother him because that was that guy's problem, and the bellhop has a philosophy of not corrupting his day with other people's problems. He says he likes to return home happy. We finished talking at 4:00 am, and I retuned inside to join Jenny for a few hours of sleep myself.
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