On a trip like this I tend to select what I will
politely call frugal accommodations. Since most of my spare time in the
room is spent pecking at this damn keyboard ... uh, I mean participating
in the thrill of electronic communication :) all I care about is a clean
bed and a functioning bathroom. So I often end up in 'fringe' neighborhoods
where it seems each parking lot has its own lot lizard. Lot lizards are
usually harmless, but they gravitate toward anything stationary. I always
attract one when I am unpacking the bike.
Last night in Tucson at my $21 motel, Lizard peppered me with a bunch of the usual questions then eventually got to his business: got a smoke? don't smoke. got any spare change? Look, I'm not a mark, so you're not gonna get anything, but if you want to sit and talk, that's ok. The one thing this guy probably never gets is attention. He told me he is half Navajo, half Hopi, and Mormon. He told me where the best medicine men are, and how he went to Florida with his Aunt to sell Navajo Tacos at an international food festival. The best thing he liked about Florida was the rain. I asked - the Navajo and the Hopi tribes don't exactly get along ... how did your parents get together (me thinking a native version of Romeo and Juliet)? He said, "They drank too much".
It is a dangerous game to play with a Highway Patrolman,
but desperate for writing material (or I have to write more about the desert
...) I threw myself into it. Approaching a construction zone with a line
of about 20 cars stopped, I saw a Highway Patrol car positioned at the
flag waver. There was a clear path beside the traffic without crossing
the (right) white line, so I rolled up toward the front. He first looked
at me incredulously, then looked again to be sure and wagged his finger
for me to stop at his car.
"Where are you going?"
"To the front of the line to wait."
"Why can't you wait in line like everyone else?"
"Because it is not safe for motorcycles to wait between cars that are idling. Cars tend to slip forward while they wait. If a car bumps another car, nothing happens, but if a car bumps me, I go down and there is $1000 in damage. As a matter of safety I move to the front." Now that really flummoxed him. So for effect I added, "And besides, if they all see me talking to you, they won't want to come anywhere near me. More visibility is more safety." I could see he didn't know how to counter that, but we all know it's his game, not ours.
"You have to go back and wait in line. This is a no passing zone."
"I ride all over this country, and everywhere I go I move to the front of a stopped line. If Arizona is somehow different than all the other states, ok, but I am not going to be the meat in a bumper sandwich. Look, I am not in a hurry. I'll even wait until all the traffic goes and be last." That really threw him.
When traffic moved, he stopped the line about half way down and motioned me in. He actually smiled as he waved. I'd call it a draw.
In the never ending quest to find something reportable
on my rides, I passed through a town whose name is often found in advertisements
of "out of the way" locations: Why, Arizona. Having been there, I ask the
same question. But on the bright side ... if you are going to find all
the Cactus National Parks, you have to go through Why to get to Organ Pipe
National Monument (yup, there is), so why not.
While chatting at the Trinity site, where it was warm but pleasant, I commented that I am comfortable riding in temperatures up to about 110 degrees. Today I was thinking it was a bit on the warm side but not too bad, then I passed a bank thermometer that said 107. Sometimes it is better not to know. (I understand it snowed in New York today ... I'll take 107, thank you.)
Bienvenidos a Mehico! There isn't any (paved) way
to avoid an Interstate across Arizona. So I avoided Arizona! The map showed
that Mexico 2 parallels the border for about half of the state, and after
purchasing a one day Mexican insurance policy I entered the land of belching
busses and new old style (VW) beetles. At first concerned about how long
it might take me to cover 300 miles in Mexico, I am pleased to report that
once they are outside the towns Mexican drivers treat the kph speed limit
signs as mph. MX2 is signed 80 kph (and 100 kph on the toll road :). If
you are interested in this route, there are actually two 2s. One is the
original 2-lane and between Mexicali and Tijuana which is Libre (free).
The other is a divided 4-lane Interstate equivalent that winds and twists
over the central mountains like West Virginia without trees (or grass or
houses or people). The toll costs a whopping M$35.00, which keeps most
of the village people off. (At today's exchange, that came to US$3.40.)
Observations: The sun is bright and hot and constant here, so why do most Mexican laborers seem to go without a shirt? Don't they burn? The roadsign for "cattle" in the US is a cow, with its head up (level). The roadsign in Mexico is a bull, with horns and an extended chest and its head down. More macho.
Ah what thrill could possibly end the day better than getting lost in Tijuana. The signs 1/4 mile from the border clearly said San Diego (arrow pointing up) and Zona Fiscal (arrow pointing down), so I took the up ramp. Woulda worked if I had been on the road where the signs were ... unbeknownst to me, my road crossed that road and I ended up somewhere on 'the mesa'. Despues de mucho derecho y izquierda (after many right and left turns) I found a sign that pointed to Alta California - appropriate since Tijuana *is* in Baja California.
Border crossing, total conversation: "What are you
"I just wanted to ride through Mexico."
It was only a day, but it seemed longer.
444 miles (including 463 kilometers in Mexico), 8:56 hours
Tucson AZ86 AZ85 MX2 San Ysidro
Sam Lepore, San Francisco
© 1997, 1999