In late September, I made a trip to the REI outdoors supplies store in San Francisco to procure some final provisions for the ride. I met a salesman named Arthur. He was a sinewy fellow in his mid-50s and had spotted La Cabra, conspicuously geared up with its aluminum panniers and top luggage box and its many fortifications.
Arthur had in mind the same sort of motorbike adventure through Latin America. He knew about the gear needed and the routes south. We talked in the parking lot for nearly a half-hour, and he bid me feliz viaje with this bit of wisdom:
“Once you start, don’t take the trip … let the trip take you.”
I recalled his advice as we motored through the horrifyingly beautiful landscapes of Honduras – emerald green mountains and low cloud forests and undulant, bucolic terrain and shabby little shacks and clusters of cattle and, towards the end of the day, sunlight of an otherworldly golden hue.
Equally arresting was the sight of these men and their motorcycles, my compadres for a few days or weeks or months on the road – however it shook out. These are tough, smart hombres, bound for places unknown and sights unseen.
When I was last of the four, I would watch these three riders tear across the tarmac, stand on pegs over rugged earthen roads, lean into corners with Olympic grace, and negotiate Third World urban streets crowded with smoke-belching vehicles. It felt as if I was in a movie. I felt proud to know them.
I delighted in the camaraderie and laughter and high humor that marked each rest stop and meal, and the inevitable misadventures of securing of an acceptable hotel. It was good to ride in a group. And this group was good. I liked these men.
Exactly, Arthur. I wasn’t taking the trip. The trip was taking me.
The bike felt strong, thanks in particular to an overdue cleaning of the K&N air filter at Patty’s, the serviceable hotel we’d taken in Copan Ruinas. My fresh Pirelli MT 60 on the rear proved more than capable on pavement or on earth.
I felt strong, too. I had barely touched the large stash of ibuprofen I’d packed for the ride. Certain physical ailments – a testy left Achilles tendon, and a right hip given to frequent complaint – had manifested not the least bit of pain.
I found it odd. On a cross-country ride several years ago, I was swallowing a dozen-plus ibuprofen a day to dull the ache in the hip. The pain was constant and acute, awakening me at 4 a.m. in my tent more times than I care to recall. I figured the pain was aggravated by straddling the motorbike saddle. Now, nothing.
We’d departed Antigua around 10 a.m. on the morning of Friday, November 12. The ride to Honduras wasn’t much more than 100 miles, but we managed to make it exciting by pulling up to the sleepy border crossing at El Florido, Guatemala, at 5:40 p.m. The border would close at 6.
By the time our paperwork was processed – multiple carbon-copy triplicate forms filled out with a manual typewriter – it was 6:30 p.m., and well after dark. We would ride the six miles to Copan Ruinas at nite.
It appeared that we overpaid for the crossing, roughly $35 or so, though it was difficult to tell exactly. The clerk had moaned and dropped his head when I told him we had four motorcyclists to cross. Then he asked for a propina.
I told him I didn’t understand what he meant, though I knew the word meant tip. If we did overpay, it was because the clerk was building his tip into our bill. The guy was working late on our behalf, and probably missing his supper. What the hell. That’s what you call the tourist tax.
We’d found much to divert us. A brief stop for refreshments turned into an amusing hour-long marathon at a roadside market in little El Progreso, Guatemala. I had a corn on the cob and a tamale, filled with pulverized corn. I seasoned it with the shaker of salt that I carry in my tank bag for just such as occasion. You can’t count on finding salt or pepper or condiments or even adequate napkins at any restaurant.
I had a plastic baggie full of juice, too. Bill Shockley turned up his nose in exaggerated disdain, and later belittled my choice of beverage as “a bag of goo.” A richly turned phrase, I thought. The others had some fried concoction they’d figured to be chicken or fish, but which turned out to be corn, as well.
Shockley is a hoot. The man is irrepressible. As he tells it, he’s lived in about a dozen states, and has worked more than 75 different jobs, the last 15 years as a nurse. He’s crashed his motorcycle more times than he can recall, busting his collarbone three times.
His most recent mishap was in El Paso, Texas, only in mid-October. Some horse’s ass in an SUV slammed into him, and though he escaped major injury, his panniers and supporting rack (from Al Jesse) took a beating. Laid up for more than a week, Bill was forced to miss the Horizons Unlimited gathering in Creel, Mexico.
Shockley’s an inveterate liberal with Socialist stripes, in an idealistic sort of way that’s heavy on intellectual theory and light on real-world success. He managed to dodge service in Vietnam as a conscientious objector, and has made an avocation of impassioned political and environmental activism.
It was easy to imagine me as the newspaper reporter and Shockley, the activist to whom I would turn for a colorful quote. He loves to talk, and does it well. He doesn’t drink, not anymore, having burned thru his lifetime allotment of alcohol in younger days.
You can’t help but love the guy. His almost childlike enthusiasm is infectious, and belies his 58 years. With Shockley, you laugh – never at him, but with him. And he laughs right along with it. He’d spent days in a Spanish school in Antigua, trying to get a grasp of a new language, and joked that he’d learned one phrase – yo tengo, or I “have.”
We sat on rickety picnic tables in the sun at El Progreso, bantering among ourselves and with ladies and girls peddling cashews and corn and dubious animal parts, ostensibly cooked. Shockley asked, “How do you say I have?” I just about cried from the laughter, and the others did, too.
And he’d claimed, in his disingenuous fashion, “No one is better at numbers than me.” After he miscalculated the Honduran currency versus the U.S. dollar in Copan Ruinas, and paid a $3 ATM fee to withdraw from his account a whole $6 – not $60 he’d intended – we never let him forget it.
Bill knows his bikes, and how to fix them. He’s a man you can trust on the road. Somewhere on the road to Copan Ruinas, my headlight bulb had burned out, as I discovered once as we left the Guatemalan border under the cover of darkness. Bill helped me diagnose the problem. He taught me a little about multimeters and electrics, which have always mystified me.
And he had a spare bulb, which he graciously loaned. I do have my own spare bulb, of course. Squirreled away in a cardboard box in my garage in San Francisco.
* * *
Riding as four seemed only to multiply our misadventures. Our route through Guatemala required a detour to the BMW shop in Guatemala City, a misadventure in itself. Shockley had ordered some parts for his R80, and they were waiting for him, supposedly.
Now, if you had an address and a map for Dallas or Minneapolis or Miami, it would not be terribly difficult to find your destination. In Guatemala City, a sprawling megapolis of more than 2 million, it’s virtually impossible. Street signs may or may not exist. Traffic circles abounded, and confounded our sense of direction. Streets are laid out with all the logic of pick-up sticks.
Worst of all, the city is divided into 15 zones. Each zone is comprised of streets and avenues of the same name. In other words, Zone 4 has a 2a Calle and 4a Avenida – and so does Zone 1, and Zone 7, and every other damn zone in the damn city. The fiends who devised this system had obviously made a study of Dante’s Inferno and the Seven Circles of Hell.
We roared around semi-aimlessly for nearly an hour, riding aggressively in the dense urban traffic and stopping often to check our maps. Navigating as a group of four in a major urban center is not easy. If you’re in the lead, and Jon had said it’s just straight ahead and take a left, well, this left? That left? The group is consumed by collective indecision.
My Garmin GPS was of no help, incidentally, and neither was Bill Shockley’s. They don’t include street-detail maps of Latin American cities.
Finally, Dan Pettersson and I had the same idea. Let’s hire a cab to lead us. For about 15 minutes and $5, the driver led us on an impossibly tortuous course until, at last, we turned a corner and there it was -- the big, bright, shining BMW dealership of Guatemala City.
Bill’s parts were indeed in stock, though it took the staff more than two tedious hours to locate them and execute the transaction. Jon Huber hopped in a cab himself to get to a post office, where a shipment of Acerbis bark busters awaited him. (They would come in handy a day later, when Jon suffered the second spill of his ride).
Dan and I hung around the BMW parking lot. Always, always, always, we have to keep an eye on the bikes. A man and a woman and a teen-aged girl approached us, putatively admiring Huber’s ride. The woman leaned towards the left side mirror and inspected her makeup. How cute! I thought. I took a picture.
Meanwhile, the sharp-eyed Swede watched as the man began to unzip a pocket on a piece of Jon’s luggage. Pickpockets! Hey buddy, WTF?! The trio scooted away.
When it was finally time to leave, we once again hired a cab to lead us to CA 9, which would take us to the border of Honduras and what would prove to be a shockingly lovely and welcoming country.
* * *
Riding CA 9 from Guatemala City to the Honduran border was every bit as competitive as my ride from Mexico to Antigua. The road was mountainous and damp with sporadic rain, and heavy with trucks and cars and little motorbikes. There are no laws, at least that are enforced.
We ripped over solid yellow center lines and passed lumbering trucks on the shoulder. In towns, we pulled the throttle to slip thru snots of traffic, and to avoid the noxious exhaust. It was no relax-and-enjoy-the-scenery ride. It was downright stressful.
On our final nite in tiny Copan Ruinas, Dan Pettersson and I settled into the little outdoor bar across the street from our hotel and drank Victoria beer and studied our maps and my Lonely Planet guidebook and a tourist magazine called Honduras Tips.
Dan and I had the same idea. Let’s run some dirt roads out to tiny habitations that probably haven’t seen overland motorbike riders in many months or years, or perhaps never. The names of these little ethnic burgs alone were enticing – La Campa and San Manuel de Colohete and Belen Guacho. The books made note of indigenous peoples and Indian markets. It sounded terrific.
If we spent the entire day on dirt, we probably would not find a hotel. We would locate el jefe – the boss – of whichever town we found ourselves in, and arrange for lodging with a family. They would welcome our money. We would welcome the opportunity for insights into their way of life, so fascinatingly alien to ours.
The next morning, however, we were greeted by a drizzle. An overcast sky threatened regular rain. We ride in rain, of course, but rain turns dirt roads to mud. Mud sucks on a bike. Big time. A dirt road shown on my IMTB map, we were told by a local, did not exist. Jon set off up a hill on a reconnaissance mission, and took a spill. Chances are his new Acerbis bark busters spared his clutch lever from snapping in two.
We would have to stay on the pavement to the extent possible. The road to the southeast was in decent shape, and the scenery stunning and varied and singularly unique in my experience. The people we met -- men and women and children -- were welcoming and curious. Their hospitality, ephemeral though it was, was gratifying. We would later agree it had been among the most fascinating and rewarding courses we had chosen.
Around lunchtime, we found ourselves outside a town called Santa Rosa de Copan, pop. 25,000. It should be no problem to swing in for a hot meal, and to warm our damp selves after a morning of cool drizzle. It turned out to be a major problem. Downtown was a mile or two off the road, arranged in a taut grid of one-way streets.
We rode thru for 15 maddening minutes, back and forth and left and right, and spotted not a single suitable eatery. We asked locals and the police for a good restaurant. Spanish, at least for me, is more easily spoken than understood. Izquierda y derecha y dos cuadras y recto y arriba y adelante – it spills out of their mouth like a linguistic gumbo.
Which way again? We point in the general direction. Si, si, si! We aim in the general direction, and hope for the best. The place we finally located was probably the finest in Santa Rosa de Copan, which wasn’t saying much. My hamburger patty was the thickness of a slice of ham. Still, the meal was good.
An improbable musical mélange of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Happy Birthday and a Spanish version of Frank Sinatra’s Luck Be a Lady blared on the stereo. An adjoined bar broadcast a soccer game. It was Sunday … would it be possible to tune in American football? Indeed it was.
In a small Honduran city, on a rainy Sunday, we watched the Indianapolis Colts get the best of the Houston Texans, until setting off for the evening’s destination, a town called La Esperanza, reachable only by 40 or so miles of rugged dirt road, and the only southeasterly route available.
I ride in workmanlike fashion. I take chances, sure – motorcycling itself is an inherently risky endeavor – but they are calculated risks. If I can’t see what’s around the bend, I ease the throttle and feather the brake. Prepare for the worst – a patch of gravel or a flock of turkey vultures or a horse's ass, be it the real thing or one behind the wheel.
(I experienced an interesting encounter with a turkey vulture in Honduras. A flock was at the side of the road, having lunch, when I rode by. The sound of the bike startled the birds into flight, and one fluttered its foul wings only a few feet in front of me. I narrowly missed the bastard.
Shockley had told a tale, perhaps apocryphal, about a rider who had struck a vulture. His clothes smelled so bad they had to be burned, or so it was said. I was thankful not to have had to find out for myself).
Push the bike and push yourself, but be wary. Be alert. Be smart. That’s my philosophy south of the border. The ride to Tierra del Fuego and back is long, some 30,000 miles. I mean to ride it all.
I have certain rules that I follow. I always look over my left shoulder before passing, for instance. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the Nevada desert and haven’t seen another vehicle for 20 minutes. When it’s time to pass, I check my left mirror, and snap my head to the left. After a while, the practice becomes embedded in muscle memory.
Maybe one time in 10,000, it pays off. It’s that one time, of course, that counts. It’s not unlike an insurance policy that you probably won’t need, but prudently purchase nonetheless.
The others ride faster. Pettersson is as graceful as a gazelle on his big black Africa Twin, cornering with his feet propped up Harley-style, as if reclined in a Laz-E-Boy, swooping thru a downhill corner with the nonchalance of a professional rider, or manipulating his camera or video recorder with his left hand, and his motorbike with his right. Seldom do I see a flicker from the Swede’s brake lite.
Huber rides hard, with a white-knuckle intensity. He’s the most aggressive of us four. I tell him, man, you ride fast for the conditions here. Too fast, I think. I know, I know, he says, with his characteristically effusive smile and laugh. I always have. At speed on his black BMW Dakar, his muscular, 5 foot 6 inches frame is low in the saddle, practically as hermetic as a bullet.
In five minutes, he’s gone. Forty-five minutes later, he’s waiting by the side of road as I pull up from my leisurely tour.
Shockley is a perfectly capable rider. He has years of experience on dirt, including motocross racing, and it shows, even on his lumbering 1983 R80 and its low-slung, side-mounted monoshock. He’ll keep pace with Jon, though he’s not entirely comfortable with it. Still, he is usually faster than me.
I’m happy to be the last of the four. I stop for more photos than the others. Riding thru the countryside or thru a town, I slow and admire the sights and scenery. This is territory I am not likely to pass thru ever again. I try to impress it in my mind … inhale it into my soul. At 50 or 60 or 70 mph, I can relish both the riding sensation and the scenery. Anything faster, and your focus is strictly on the road.
The 50 miles from our lunch Santa Rosa de Copan to La Esperanza began as pavement. It turned quickly to dirt. We were spared an awful struggle thru mud, though, as the leaden clouds parted and let only an occasional drizzle, mostly in the distance.
Hard or slick, the road was still a challenge. We ascended to nearly 4000 feet over a heavily rutted track, the ruts having been created by torrential rains and resultant streams. I picked my way through. I stood on the pegs and maneuvered the bike left and right with pressure from my boots. Keep the front tire out of the rut.
Scan the next 30 or 50 yards. Find your line. Hit the throttle. Feather the brake, more so the rear than the front, because you don’t want that front tire to skid on loose dirt. Light grip on the handlebars. Grip the tank with your knees. I recalled several dirt riding tips I’d picked up from Patrick Moriarty, the editor of San Francisco’s City Bike newspaper, at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Creel.
The route was hilly and twisty and narrow and, as I began one uphill turn, there it was -- a lurid-yellow school bus, bearing down straight at me with the purposeful malice of a tank, and at a damn good clip.
No one understands how the mind and body can react so swiftly, and so precisely. Was it me – the sentient, reasoning me – who deftly executed a just-so swerve to the right, finding the slender ribbon of road between bus and ditch and nailing the throttle to escape by a matter of inches?
I could see the broad, flat front of the bus, its oversized windshield, and its big black fender. I could feel the heavy whoosh of the vehicle to my left, as heavy and as malignant as mercury. And then it was done.
It happens so fast, yet in such vivid slow motion. Two seconds, a squillion thoughts, each of them plainly enunciated and understood a deeper, unconscious nexus of mind and body. No, it wasn’t me, as I understand myself. It was something or someone inside – a magical orchestration of muscle and synapse, neuron and nerve -- that took control at the moment of crisis. Or maybe it was my dear mother's many prayers.
I could only marvel. I could laugh, even. The only damage was the brown stain in my riding pants. The incident steeled me, too, for peril. Over the next days, turning a corner on dirt or on pavement, I exercised the phrase as a mantra of sorts.
Shockley was not so fortunate. I rounded a bend on the road to La Esperanza and spotted his bike on the ground. He stood over it. He was all right. Thank God. “He ran me off the road!” Bill exclaimed, apoplectic. “The sonofabitch, he ran me right off the road!” For Bill, it wasn’t a school bus, though the vehicle had passed him, too, at speed too fast for conditions.
It was a beat-up maroon pick-up, with several people in the rear cab. I remembered the truck. It has passed me moments earlier. If the driver or occupants had seen Bill crash, they did not bother to stop.
Four young men from a nearby settlement helped us right Bill’s bike. It was rideable. Esta carretera hoy esta muy peligroso, one of them told us. This road today is very dangerous. Why? Because it was Sunday, and men from the rural settlements through which we had passed had driven to La Esperanza to drink.
Heavy drinking on Sunday is a tradition in much of Latin America. I recalled having read that. Now it was 5 p.m.; we had less than an hour of daylight left. Negotiating a heavily rutted dirt road at dark would be a treacherous ordeal, and only exacerbated by drunken drivers. We thanked the men, excused ourselves, and rode on.
We descended upon La Esperanza in the nick of time. Twilight was upon us, and it was soon dark. We stood there, us four, on a dirt street in a delightfully dumpy hamlet of 7200 or so people, and exulted over the day’s adventures.
I raised my hand and gave Dan a high five. The day’s ride had been exhilarating – the fine paved road and the jaw-dropping scenery, some time spent with giggling youngsters who lived in a cluster of what sufficed for homes, and the challenging earthen road and Bill’s spill and my near-French kiss with the school bus.
We found lodging at a place called Hotel La Esperanza, one of three in town. The rooms had TVs and, improbably enough, we watched an exciting, final-seconds conclusion to a Sunday nite showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Perfect: Bill is from Wisconsin, and Jon from Minnesota, and avid fans of their respective teams.
I watched approvingly as the Pack prevailed. You have to admire a team from a northern latitude that plays in an outdoor stadium. Plus, I’d made the venerable Lambeau Field a destination on one of my cross-country motorbike rides. In Minneapolis, the Vikings play in a dome. A coincidence that they have failed to win a Super Bowl? I think not.
Later, we strolled the town in search of supper. A large church on the central plaza was packed with worshippers for a Sunday evening service. The few cantina bars in town were packed with boisterous drinkers. Cacophonous music and high decibel banter spilled from their doors.
Several badly intoxicated men weaved and stumbled about the little downtown. I could only wonder if they were bound for their vehicles, and a perilous dirt road to a home in the hills.
* * *
The next morning, I was in the hotel restaurant at 7 a.m., drinking coffee and writing in the convenient paper notebook I carry in my tankbag. Shockley was up early, too, and promptly made the acquaintance over coffee of a 50-something gold miner from Kentucky named Dennis.
Dennis claimed to have lived in Central America for more than 15 years. He was a big, gruff grizzly bear of a man, with a face the texture of meatloaf and hands as callused as bark. He accompanied by a pretty Honduran girl, 18 years old, who ate eggs and potatoes as Dennis pored over my maps and recommended routes and destinations for our ride.
The fact that we had ridden the rough “back side” to La Esperanza, as he termed it, seemed to impress him. His recommendations, as a result, involved out of the way routes and wild camping and suspicious-sounding ferries to Colombia. His girl had a friend, 21 years old. Ana was in the parking lot out back, hanging around our motorbikes.
“You want ‘em?” Dennis asked.
Want … what? Who?
“The girls? You guys want the girls? Put ‘em on the backs of your bikes. They’ll go with you.”
He and another man, a young Honduran, had met the girls in a town called Siguatepeque, about 60 miles to the northeast. Now he needed to get them back to their home. (What he was doing in La Esperanza, I did not ask; his manner was as inscrutable as it was blithe).
I did determine, though, that it wasn’t Dennis doing a favor for us. It would be us doing a favor for him. He had another woman in Siguatepeque, and it wouldn’t do to have her, or her friends, see him pull into town in his big white pick-up with two pretty young girls in the cab.
In the parking lot, I spoke with Ana. Like her friend, she was pretty … prettier, even. Would she like a motorbike ride today? She would be delighted. I put her on my bike and started the engine. She twisted the throttle and giggled, and asked me if I wanted to kiss her.
Choices, choices. Would it be charmed, or simply a misadventure? Siguatepeque was a bit out of our way. If Ana rode with me, what about the others? It would delay our day. It was a bit cool, and she would need warm clothing, namely mine. She had no helmet, of course, though I could loan her mine. Ultimately, it struck me as more trouble than it was worth.
I brought Ana into the hotel to meet Dan Pettersson. Returning to the parking lot only minutes later, I spotted Dennis pulling away. Trying to make a fast escape and leave me with his unwanted cargo.
I didn’t like that. Nor did I like that he seemed to regard these young women as a commodity, and, too, a gaping hole in his knowledge of Central America – he didn’t know of the Darien Gap and absence of road between Panama and Colombia – left me suspicious.
I ran over to his truck, with barely a moment to spare. You gotta take her, dude. We can’t. It’s too much of a hassle. Thanks, but no. He seemed disappointed.
With a fabric suitcase bungeed to the passenger seat of my motorbike, rather than a pretty young Honduran girl, we set out of La Esperanza for nearly 20 more miles of dirt. It was great fun. The morning was bright and crisp and invigorating, as fine as autumn in New England. I find riding dirt most enjoyable in the morning, when I’m at full strength and full of coffee and piss and vinegar.
The fun on dirt ended shortly enough, though. We found ourselves on a surprising fine, broad road, shouldered and painted and litely trafficked. Jon Huber tore ahead at 80 or 85 mph, squeezing every RPM that he could from bike and highway. I lingered behind, admiring scenery that just didn’t quit, stopping for photos, and indulging in daydreams. I was in no great hurry.
Around 4:30 p.m., we descended upon the Honduran capital, the 1 million-pop. city of Tegucigalpa. From a distance, it is an enchantingly lovely place, nestled among hills and low mountains and gilded, in the late afternoon, with the sun’s golden hue.
What’s down there? I felt compelled to find out.
We stopped for photos of Tegus, as it’s expediently called in order to spare the five-syllable tongue-twister, and then for a soda. Huber was antsy to push on to what we’d planned as the nite’s destination, the town of Danli another 60 miles to the east. Hurry-Up Huber, I called him, and he laughed.
I started thinking: Maybe I’ll let them go on, and explore Tegucigalpa myself. It was pushing 5 p.m., and another nick-of-time twilight arrival seemed inevitable. Dan Pettersson, it turned out, was thinking the same thing.
Outside a soda stand, the decision was made. Huber would take off solo for Danli, and Pettersson and Shockley and I would explore Tegus at ground level. If I didn’t, I’d regret it. Pettersson felt the same.
We turned our bikes around to find the city center. Less than a mile later, I could see a police car behind us. Its lites were flashing. He couldn’t be pulling us over … could he? He was. I hadn’t been stopped once by the police in more than 5000 miles. It was bound to happen.
Two cops asked for our documentation. Follow us, they said. We will need to go to a police headquarters. No, we said. We cannot. We are in a hurry. What did we do? Smartly, Pettersson claimed to speak no Spanish, and attempted to divert the conversation to directions to the city center.
The senior officer was adamant. He brooked no banter, and seemed unaffected by my subtle offer of a bribe. Sternly, with our documents in his possession, he ordered us to follow him.
Resigned to ordeal and expense, we followed the police car for a mile or so. In a parking lot, officers examined our documents and bikes. One wiped the mud from my license plate to inspect the numbers.
In less than 15 minutes, it was done. They wanted only to check our documentation. We were not ticketed, even though, moments before being stopped, we’d been carving thru urban traffic over solid yellow center lines.
The stern officer’s demeanor changed instantly, from cheerless to cheerful. He asked us about the motorcycles – size of motor, how much they cost, the usual questions we field practically every day. He prowled about the bikes, admiring their lines and gears. Bikes of our size are a novelty in Latin America. He was delighted to pose with us for a photo, shook our hands, and bid us happy travels.
Tegus proved to be more easily navigated than Guatemala City. It is smaller, traffic was lighter, and we found a surprising proliferation of signs. Still, we found ourselves lost. We pulled from a freeway onto an exit ramp and stopped to examine our maps. A taxicab stopped to solicit our business.
Again we hired the cab. It was a good investment. The man led us a decent hotel called Hotel Granada 2, found in my Lonely Planet book. It was a few blocks from the city center, in a labyrinthine downtown of one-way streets. Traffic was horribly coagulated, and we’d turn off our engines to wait for it to inch ahead. The hotel had a good parking garage, and we lingered there, unpacking at leisure, securing the bikes, and recounting the day’s many adventures.
I found myself overcome by an ineffable joy. I was happy – thrilled, even -- to be here, in a parking garage in Tegucigalpa, with my bike and my buddies. Sometimes, a good end to a good day’s ride pays off with a jackpot of joy, wildly disproportionate to time and place and circumstances.
This was one of those occasions. I walked across the street and bought a couple of beers for Pettersson and I. We toasted, a clink of brown Victoria bottles to the day’s many victories.
At ground zero, Tegus proved to be less enchanting than it had appeared from the surrounding hills. It was tough and dirty and dark, and the city center offered little in the way of sights or entertainment. It reminded me of Bucharest, Romania. I found our visit rewarding nonetheless. Too, I would never regret not having visited.
That nite in Tegus, I thought of my Uncle Walt. He is in his mid-80s and lives in Daytona Beach, Florida. When I was a boy, he took me fishing on a lake where he kept a camp. I loved it.
“You never want to say I wish I did,” Uncle Walt had told me.
* * *
It took Jon Huber until well after dark to make Danli that Monday, November 15. It was a tough ride, he later acknowledged. Unlike our approach to Tegus, the road to the east was narrower and badly potholed and mountainous. Our passage the next day was trying enough. I could only wince at the thought of riding it at nite.
Leaving Tegus bound towards Nicaragua, Pettersson missed by a matter of inches a collision with a semi that had swerved into his lane to avoid a cluster of potholes. Quipped Shockley: “Man, you would have been a Swedish meatball.”
In Shockley’s estimation, the many vehicles veering to avoid potholes made this about the dangerous road he’d ever ridden. Dan was sanguine about his near-collision, but a bit shaken nonetheless. He rode more slowly thereafter.
It’s a long ride, said the Swede. It’s not worth it, taking chances.
De acuerdo, amigo. Let’s just enjoy it.