Johnny5

Johnny5


John was on a motorcycle trip of a lifetime, from his home in Canada to South America. He had made it as far as Cancun, Mexico when an unexpected business matter at home popped up. It was insignificant compared to the journey he was on, but unfortunately it had to be dealt with in person. Around that same time he was also experiencing some little dizzy spells. Here and there, sometimes first thing in the morning, or even while riding, they would come and go randomly and were starting to be a bit of a concern. So he thought it wise to maybe have a checkup done while in Calgary, to see if it was an inner ear infection, or earwax thing.

I met John a couple years ago through other riding buddies and we immediately became good friends. We'd ride here and there together and went to bike events, meeting up and hanging out with all of our mutual friends. I introduced him to two wonderful friends of mine, who were 2 months into their own trip to South America, Claudia and Mirko Nagler (www.2AR.eu). John rode with them for over a month in the U.S. and then down through Mexico to join them on their journey to Central and South America. That's where the funny dizzy spins first started.

So after coming back to Canada and dealing with the legal bits and doctor checkups, and popping over to spend a few hangout days at my place, Johnny was planning to head back down and continue his journey. He had reorganized some gear for the bike and was set to launch on the second phase of his trip, when he was given some devastating news. The doctor diagnosed our Johnny with a brain aneurysm. He called and the news was stifling. It scared the shit out of me, and I could tell, him too. The doctor told him no riding, no flying, no biking, no big trips, no small trips, no nothing... And that the surgery would be scheduled ASAP. Devastating news to have been given, and a scary next few months to look forward to for the poor guy. But there was also another stressful predicament to have to deal with. His bike couldn't stay in Mexico to wait for him.

The temporary vehicle import permit in Mexico, or "Banjercito" as it's known, is essentially a traveller's visa for your motorcycle. It has a fee that you pay, and a specified period for which you're allowed to have the vehicle in the country. The document has to be processed at a Banjercito office in person, upon entering and exiting Mexico. If you miss the deadline or forget to return it or process the paperwork, you'll lose your deposit (in this case about $600), and the freedom to ever bring a vehicle back into Mexico. This deadline was quickly closing and John's motorcycle needed to leave the country. We also learned that it may be very difficult to have another person close out the paperwork on his behalf. But I wasn't swayed.
I had to do what any good friend would do. I had to take care of my brother. I told him I'd get his bike out of Mexico, and make sure the Banjercito was handed in on time.

So with John researching the rules and having a lawyer draw up a permission/consent form for me to present at the Banjercito office at the border. And me juggling shows and fill-in technicians to book the time off work, (I'm a professional sound engineer for touring bands and concerts) we quickly came up with a plan, and within a day or so, I was set to fly to Cancun.

I had been doing some research on shipping options early on, and had managed to get ahold of an old friend who used to work for WestJet Airlines. I was curious to know if they (or anyone flying out of Cancun for that matter) had any kind of air cargo big enough for a motorcycle, my friend wasn't sure but when she found out why I was curious she, on behalf of Westjet, offered to cover the air fair for the entire mission. I was speechless. Turns out she isn't just a flight attendant any more! Thanks Lennie! :)

And off I went. Landing in Cancun, I was quickly reacquainted with that mind numbing heat that is so common for that time of year. I made my way to Puerto Aventuras where John's bike was parked at his friend's place. A very cool guy, with a very hot home! Jim's A/C was out and it was about 35°C (95°F) that night.
Working well past midnight and into the wee hours, wearing nothing more than my underwear, I unloaded the bike, sorted all John's gear, packed it up in duffle bags and road cases and readied it for cargo shipping. Jim offered to take it by car, back to WestJet Cargo in Cancun for me, essentially saving me multiple gruelling trips by bike and a whole day of precious travel time. Thanks again Jim!!




By 7am the following morning, it was already 37°C (99°F) and as I departed Jim's, I began the 4200km trip across Mexico and up to Phoenix USA, planning to maintain at least 600km per day.

The first couple days were murderously hot and took some serious getting used to. I fell in love with the bike instantly, and I think it might have fallen in love with me a little too! Or maybe we were both just happy to be traveling again, because I distinctly remember us both grinning a lot those first few days. It sure does like wheelies!! ;)

My route took me south from Cancun through the gorgeous rugged Chetumal area before heading west to Escácega for the night. I was on a pretty tight timeline but couldn't resist a couple stops and a few off-road excursions to check out some Mayan ruins and ancient pyramids. Beautiful interesting places to stop for a break.

I pushed on through the heat, beginning day 2 with an early start. First through the state of Tabasco then Veracruz, arriving at the beautiful beachfront city of Coatzacoalcos, on the Gulf of Mexico.
The temps were in the low 40°s Celsius,  about 105° to 113° Fahrenheit. Man that's hot! Especially in full riding gear. I was drinking about 6 or 7 litres of water per day.

 


The next day was a bit of an adventure. I had planned to make it to Mexico City, but was held up in what turned out to be a 200km traffic jam on the main highway. It was mid afternoon and the trucks and traffic were at a complete standstill on this lovely double lane highway. The shoulders had a very sharp concrete gutter and it became tricky to maneuver around cars and trucks using the shoulder. In Mexico any thing you need to do to pass someone in front of you, or get to where you're going is completely fair game. Motorcycles weave through traffic, ride shoulders and split lanes with delicious efficiency, and I was all for that! However when it became challenging to keep moving, especially with the heat wave temperatures we were having, and all the gear that I had on, stopping for any amount of time started to become a serious concern for my own health and a dangerous situation.

I weaved, split, and shouldered, until the trucks became 3-wide on the 2-lane highway. Then I took to the ditch! It is a GS after all isn't it? That lasted another 10 kilometres until I came to a river. The bridge was jam packed with tractor traillers so I turned around and headed back. I needed to get off of that goddamn highway, and find a smaller secondary road. If not, it was likely I would have to spend the night out there with all those trucks.

I had backtracked about 20 km, and was able to find a spot a while back to make it across that deep sharp gutter out of the ditch, but the trucks had moved in tighter now and I was stuck on the road again. This time with my only option being a 3 foot gap and a good foot or so drop-off to the ditch below. No way to get past the trucks, forward or back. To add insult to injury, a trucker had told me that just a few km back there was an overpass that could get me to a secondary road that would bypass the traffic jam. That sounds great! But I'm stuck here! Shit!

So I did what any self respecting GS'er would do. I jumped the bike!
With the help of my newfound trucker friend and to the interest of a few dozen onlookers, I built a jump. Filling the gutter with rocks, logs, and chunks of concrete that were in the ditch I built up a jump to clear the 3 foot gap to freedom.
It worked! And with the cheering section of a dozen or so truckers, pointing me on in the direction of the overpass I was freakin' outa' there!

It took me until almost dark to find my way up over and around the worst part of the traffic on the highway. Over 100 km of zigzagging through rural back roads and villages just to skirt around the City of Córdoba and find the highway still packed. The police said it would be shut down for most of the night. I had to admit defeat. I wasn't going anywhere fast and there was a storm on the way. I found a super sweet hotel in the neighbouring town Fortín de las Flores, and spent the night.

The hotel was absolutely gorgeous! With a beautiful massive fountain in the lobby, huge marble walls and polished floors. It had swimming pools inside and out, activity rooms, promenades, and galleries all over the place. The restaurant lounge was welcoming, classy and very romantic. This place was really nice! So it was only appropriate that I should park my giant motorcycle in the lobby. Adjacent that beautiful fountain.  -amazing what 300 Pesos gets you in some places.

Glad I did because just as I got to the room it began pouring rain, and it continued for the rest of the night. All I could think about was how glad I was to not be stuck out on that highway.

The next morning was cool and humid with beautiful blue skies. The highway was wide open and the ride to Mexico City was breathtaking. No really, I actually had to put an extra sweater on. It was lush green, cool and felt like a dream riding through those mountains.
I met a friend for an early lunch in Mexico City and toured around the city for a few hours before traffic got nuts. Mexico City is known for having the most epicly psychotic traffic in the world, and today being Friday, it was getting crazy fast! I blasted out of there and headed for Guadalajara.

Amazed with how easy it was to crank out the miles when it wasn't 40°C, that day ended with beers, good food and good friends at a biker bar in beautiful Guadalajara. 860km and one fantastic day in Mexico!















And so the trip continued.

To Mazatlan the next day, and the groovy, bad-ass city of Los Mochis the next. Each day brought a new adventure and it was almost becoming normal to not speak English any more. Pushing the miles to keep to the schedule was difficult and I became very aware of how much I'm looking forward to coming back and spending lots of time traveling with no schedule or deadlines. I was also falling in love again with the people. This is a topic for a whole other blog, but I'll say this: It's a very different thing to experience cultures and people and geography from the inside; adapting, integrating and living within the society. Eating, sleeping and breathing day to day life, as part of the world you're in. Rather than viewing and exploiting the contrasts, and consuming the novelty of the experience from the closed observant or vacationer's perspective. It's something that fuels my desire for travel, and it's an enlightening and humbling experience.

The following days brought fast hot highways along the coast. Stunning countryside, wow! Then through Hermosillo, and on to Nogales, Tucson and finally to Phoenix.

The border crossing was a blip in time. I had researched and discovered a drive-through lane a few miles south of the border that had a Banjercito office. I had punched it into the GPS and before I knew it I was there. Unzipping the tank bag and opening my passport/lisence/documents pouch, the girl nearly snatched the grey Banjercito paperwork right out of my wallet! I was all ready with my rehearsed explanation of who I am and why I have this bike and why I'm bringing back the paperwork for somebody else... and here's my permission slip... She had already disappeared into the little tollbooth style office. I didn't even have a chance to get off the bike, let alone open the pannier and get the important lawyer's documents ready. She emerged again with a camera and went straight for the serial number on the headstock of the bike. I practiced my Spanish in my head again with my explanations of who, what, when, where... When she disappeared again into the office.
It was hot and I couldn't stop drinking the last of my warm camelback water. I thought about stopping to refill maybe before the U.S. Border lineup, it might be busy and I don't want to get caught in a lineup without water. Hmm.
"Gracias..."
I must have been daydreaming because I snapped back to her handing me a receipt and "gracias, la devolución está en su tarjeta." Or basically, -thank you, the refund was put back on your visa.
And that was that! Done! She even gave me a candy.

The U.S. Border a couple miles later was just as quick, with the guard more interested in the bike, and where in Canada I'm from, and how badly he wants to get posted to the Sweetgrass border crossing...

It was an easy day and the paperwork in the pannier didn't move.

I rolled into a cute little historical heritage themed town a couple miles later, and got a coffee and a piece of apple pie, (how American) and messaged John that all was well. Actually I told him that I had been arrested at the border, and the bike was impounded and they were accusing me of theft and forging the documents. The poor guy nearly had a heart attack! But that's what friends are for right?

It was a lazy fast highway up to Phoenix and a very nice dinner that night with great friends Tom and Mel. That's where I dropped the bike off. I had to fly out the next morning first thing to get back, to work a show the following night. John's friend Sharon would fly in a few days later and pick up the bike to zip it the rest of the way up to Calgary. I had hoped to be able to drive it the whole way home but John had arranged for a Sharon to do a tour on it and come for a visit in Calgary.

All in all, it was a hot fast Mexican whirlwind of a trip. The goal was to get the bike out of Mexico and hand in the import documents. I did my best to enjoy the ride along the way but with so many miles in such a short time, the purpose of the mission took priority.
Johnny is well on his way to continuing his trip south some day soon. With his surgery scheduled for a couple days from now, and the recovery looking smooth and brief. He should be back on the bike in as little as a few weeks and ready to hit the road for longer trips in a couple months. Godspeed. He's a sweet soul and a dear friend and deserves to be out there spreading his kindness to people he meets on the road. We're all lucky to have him, especially when he's at his best, on a motorcycle.




-Dave Coe
Category: 6 comments

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Crazy awesome adventure Daver C.
Keep blogging. Exceptional stories that you should wrap into a book some day.
Cheers
Daver B
RCAF

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