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Bogdan's Mexican Adventure

Adventure Touring or Adventure Torture?

What is "Technical" Anyway?

By Bogdan Swider

O.K. I should have known better; you don't trust Mexican maps even if they are put out by AAA. Also I know locals tell you what they think you want to hear when asked about road conditions. But I've always wanted to take that road from Sabinas to Boquillas del Carmen in Coahuila. It even had a number, Federal Highway 53. The first 200kms were paved; only the last 90 were not. Maps, Mexican & American said "MAINTAINED gravel road". So what if it was raining, this was the desert it couldn't last. By the time I reached the gravel section my boots were already full of water from blasting through the vados. I was just happy to get through; those suckers were deep! I was a little worried due to the fact that the pueblos noted on the maps didn't actually exist, but the boys at what passes in those parts for a restaurant ( the only business of any sort for over a 100miles) said the gravel section was "muy pasable" when it rains. I soon learned that the noun "gravel" like sex or is can be subject to various interpretations. The gravel consisted of rocks of various sizes from basketball diameter on down. The road has never seen a grader; someone dumps this stuff on the surface and vehicles burrow ruts in it. Now the klr is my first "dirt bike". I got it to travel on less than perfect surfaces; I don't go out of my way for "technical" challenges. I'm not exactly sure what the word means. The tire grooves in the road were full of water which meant that I was regularly surprised by hitting large rocks I had no way of seeing. This would almost knock the handlebars from my hands. Was this technical? Ridding on the higher bands of loose rock was not an option. To make things interesting this surface was interrupted by sections of slippery clay and holes where the road fell off in chunks. Also this was not the flatlands but mountain country with ascents, descents & switchbacks. Despite the rain I couldn't use my goggles or faceshield; when clarity of vision was compromised it got really scary. Was that technical? My klr was fully loaded: Givis, tank panniers and a fully expanded (13" high) Chase Harper tankbag. (How about an award for most loaded dualsport at Moab next year?) but I remember thinking that no motorcycle, no vehicle was made for this. Maybe a Humvee. I did 30 miles like this and had 50km to go according to a sign when finally I got stuck in a section of clay. I was questioning my sanity when luckily a rattle trap bus arrived on its biweekly trip. Some men hopped out and pushed me out but warned there was more ahead. A few miles ahead I encountered a clearly impassable long section of mud/clay. I was contemplating the situation when the bus caught up to me; he didn't stop he was going for it. He didn't make 20yds when he got stuck; he couldn't back out either. The next two hours I spent helping get the bus out. A rancher came by and told us that if we could back the bus out he'd show us a way around the mud. The men and I carried rocks, brush, and even yuccas to put under the wheels. The woman didn't budge from the bus. During this time I packed it in, literally. I arranged to have the cycle put on the bus when it was out. There was some comic relief. There was of course a drunk guy. His fat companion who spoke some English approached me and said. " My friend he ees a leetle crude. Do you have a dreenk for heem?" Addressed in English you think in English. I remember saying (to myself) "Yeah, I've noticed his manners could use some work but I can't see how yet another drink down his snout would improve matters any." Then I realized what gordo was trying to say. The Mexican word for hangover is "la cruda". He wanted a hair of the dog for his buddy and probably for himself. Being that I'm insensitive to varying cultural norms, they didn't get it. The bike bounced around for a time on the bus but eventually wedged itself in. I have the lack of paint on two places on my tank to prove it. We had to get out and repair the road a few times but in time Boquillas was in sight! Then the bus broke down. I realized latter it was a strategic breakdown. A mile or so from town there's a major arroyo. The bridge over the arroyo has been down for ten years; the driver didn't want to do the running arroyo. The driver and I unloaded the bike + all my luggage. He asked for $3; I gave him $10. I was told I had to cross the arroyo find a smaller one and take it into town; some pickup trucks had made it. Now I know a lot of you guys live for moments like this, but it was getting dark, still raining and I was tired. I looked at the loaded bike, the running water and the steep muddy banks and let out an expletive. After a mind focusing session I barreled/slide into the water and crossed a series of islands. Now up to this point, during this entire nightmare, amazingly as anyone who has ridden with me will testify, I hadn't once fallen. When I emerged from a deep section and fell at the TOP of the slimy bank on the other side of the arroyo I was happy. I easily could have fallen back down into the water. Was that technical? After that I learned I could get through sections of clay by walking alongside the scooter and giving throttle. Trials no, but technical? I got to the hotel which never has had electricity & running water. I bathed out of a bucket. There was no food to be had but they did make me a hot tea, It worked well with some beef jerky, an old tortilla and a large cup of kindness. I sat there shacking my head and planing to buy a Goldwing, get me and the Mrs. matching windbreakers and sticking to interstates. Better yet a Harley! Then I could trade ridding for washing & polishing and never leave my yard. I hung out for 10 days drawing. You guys will consider me a woose but I didn't take that road back; I paid a Mexican $40, put the bike on a boat they had welded together out of sections of old propane cylinders, crossed the Rio Grande and landed in Texas. Illegal? Who cares? I'll tell you who. As we pushed the bike up the muddy bank (it had rained again) we were met by a Texan in uniform with a canon on his hip. "Might as well give me that motorcycle" he drawled, "I'll end up with it anyway." He was kidding! He was into klr's. We talked motorcycles for half an hour; he let me slide. End of story. It was so long I'm sure nobody read it but I had to get it off my chest. Bogdan