The road from Las Penitas to Guadalajara is winding. Lots of the Mexican roads around this area are. At first it was a lot of fun; on motorcycles, turning often is. But after a while, I just felt like I was on a neverending turning highway exit ramp. We made great time, though.
When we got into Guadalajara it was getting kind of late. We left Las Penitas early, but not nearly early enough to expect to get too much done in Guadalajara. Still, we asked around and at the second moto shop we visited, which was very BMW heavy, we were given the location of a suspension specialist and told that he could very likely fix my problem.
So off we went. Most of the streets we encountered in Guadalajara are named after composers, intellectuals, or geniuses of some field. I can’t remember exactly which we needed to find, but it was three roads past Beethoven. We searched for about an hour. We road up and down. Asked several people and looked at a couple maps. In the end, we finally did find the road, but the address was 52 and the buildings we were looking at had numbers like “7204.”
Not having a phone of our own, we found someone on the street who looked like they might own a phone, made friends, and asked if we might be able to use it. Within a couple minutes, a man came out from behind a large gate down the road and we found the suspension specialist, Saul.
From the street, all you can see is a tall, metal gate. Aaron likened it to the gate R2D2 and C3PO are standing at outside Jabbas palace and the comparison definitely fit. Inside was an impressive collection of motorcycles and recreational vehicles.
Saul has a business in the Baja and mainland Mexico where he takes people out for off roading tours. In Guadalajara, he has his garage. He immediately went to work taking the rear shock off and had it cleaned not long after. Everything about the way he worked indicated he knew exactly what he was doing.
After about an hour he knew what was wrong and told us we were very lucky, because he had all the parts necessary to fix it. He also told us that an Italian woman came to him with the same problem a while back. She managed to ride all the way from Venezuela to Guadalajara with a broken rear shock absorber. After Saul fixed it, she made it up to Alaska without any problems.
We made sure it was OK to leave and went looking for a pizza place Saul said was good and only just down the road. On the way we met a Argentinian creperyist named Camila. After talking about dogs, she had an energetic little pitbull that we had a lot of fun playing with, she led us to the pizza place.
We agreed that if the rest of Guadalajara was nearly as cool as that pizza place, we were very sad to have to leave as soon as my bike was fixed. The pizza had a perfectly thin and crispy crust and the toppings were superb. The restaurant had an island theme and played reggae covers of Beatles songs. We probably lingered there a bit longer than we should have.
In all of our experiences with mechanics in Mexico, I never expected that my bike could be fixed that same night. Most mechanics we met wouldn’t even have been working at the time we showed up or would have started the job and finished the next day (or the next). So when we left the pizza place and walked back to Saul’s we were expecting to be given a timeline and hoped we might pick it up sometime that week. We went to the enormous metal gate, knocked, waited, had Aaron boost me up on his shoulders to peek inside and see if Saul was there, and nearly gave up when Saul showed up and let us in. He finished the job earlier and was just waiting for us to come back. Instead of just fixing the shock absorber, he adjusted it to better fit our needs on the trip and even gave us a friendly rate. (If you have any related issues, his email’s email@example.com)
It was about 9 pm now and we realized that we couldn’t leave the city and had to find a hotel. We asked if we could just camp in the garage’s courtyard, but that wasn’t an option.
We drove around for a while before we found a sign for a hotel. We drove down a long, winding path with walls on either side that made the way seem awkwardly narrow. When we reached the end of the path, we saw a series of open garage doors and a booth with a woman sitting behind a window.
I’ve seen a good few hotels like this, and I thought I knew what it meant, but I kept my mind open… at first. The lady that addressed us was middle-aged and seemed friendly. She wanted us to get separate rooms and was confused when we insisted that we share one. Again, this was a warning sign.
When Aaron and I went to pay for the room, the lady made sure we knew that if we wanted, we just had to press “01” on the room’s phone and ask her and she would send us “chicas.” Another sign.
There was also a prominent sign stating something about the prohibited status of prostitution… this sign was also a sign.
Some of the things within the room also hinted at the purpose of this form of hotel, but, in the end, we decided this was perfect for a good few reasons. For starters, it was very cheap; about $10. Second, the garage is on the ground floor and the room is directly above it. A hotel with a personal garage is great when the security of your vehicle literally keeps you awake at night. Third, it was meticulously clean (Warning/Spoiler: this cleanliness issue turned out to be a bit of a fluke when visiting other, similar, hotels). After this night we agreed that the set up was perfect and we’d use auto hotels as frequently as possible.
We woke up and rode for Mexico City with the KLR working better than ever: the engine sounded great and the suspension was amazing. As I mentioned earlier, we hadn’t planned on going to Mexico City at first, but as we had given up the coast, we were excited to see the Teohuatican ruins.
The ride from Guadalajara to Mexico City is rather long, though, so we couldn’t see them the same day we left the auto hotel. We found a place to stay close to the ruins and left early the next day.
We were intensely dissatisfied with the ruins. Aaron asked to make sure that we were looking at the Pyramid of the Sun and was reassured. We just couldn’t believe that this was the third largest pyramid on earth. After about an hour of exploring, we began to feel bad about bad mouthing the achievements of these ancient people. “It’s good in it’s own way,” we eventually came to say as we headed back towards the bikes.
As we were leaving, just past the museum hallway lined with taxidermied local wildlife, we talked to a couple more people and learned that we had, in fact, gone to the wrong ruins. It was the Pyramid of the Sun, but it was the wrong one. Realizing we couldn’t leave Mexico City without seeing the ruins and basically counting the whole morning up to that point as a loss, we grudgingly rode towards the other Pyramid of the Sun, which was about an hour away.
Before we made it to the larger pyramids, we stopped for gas and hoped to finish off the last of the peanut butter and bread from earlier. We had a relatively large surplus of these two things because we kept buying supplies for the ferry each time we thought we were boarding. People told us we would need to have food with us, because the food on the ferry was not worth our time. In hindsight, Aaron wishes he had listened. Actually, Ben also got sick from the ferry food. Anyways, It’s hard to strap bread to a motorcycle without compromising its integrity. We definitely did not succeed in preserving it, so it was very dense. We used to have jelly, but Aaron saw fit to spike the jar on the floor at that first auto hotel (this of course is as I recall it now, just as Aaron will swear that he saw me angrily throw my iPod on the ground in Nebraska).
As we sat down next to the mart at the gas station, a local man with his wife and daughter came to talk to us. The conversation was very basic, but the man was very interested in us and insisted on running inside and buying us each an empanada. I think he was concerned for our diets when he saw the sad bits of peanut butter and bread we were consuming. I suppose microwaved kwik-e-mart empanadas are a step up. We tried to tell him it was unnecessary and he was being too kind, but he insisted and bought us another two.
When we arrived, our disappointment in ourselves and resentment in losing half the day was somewhat alleviated when we discovered a family that spoke fluent Spanish made the exact same mistake. We learned that when we rode to the bigger ruins in Mexico City, recognized them from before, and had an awkward conversation about how much more impressive these ones were.
These much larger ruins were incredible. We were way behind our schedule at this point, though, so we climbed up the central pyramid as quickly as we could safely manage and took a few pictures and left.
We were hoping to get as many miles as possible towards Pelenque, but we knew we might not get that far. We have a bit of a problem with cities, in that we have a tendency to get a little lost trying to find the right road(s).
As we finally got away from the busier highways, we started taking smaller roads to avoid the egregious tolls. When we were finally making decent time on those roads, my clutch snapped off. We tried a quick push start, but as mentioned much earlier, the KLR decided it never wanted to be push started again after La Paz. So I started pushing it while Aaron rode off ahead to find help.
I pushed it a little less than a mile and reached train tracks with police milling about them. After a brief interrogation, I thanked the officer profusely and went on my way. I knew that he did not want me to leave yet, but sometimes if you’re adamantly thankful enough about something and pretend you don’t know what someone is saying, they let it slide. Also, with the GoPro attached to my helmet, he seemed to have his guard up. Most people seemed to think the GoPro was some kind of security camera with a live feed or something. This is a very good thing.
Aaron came back with a random guy he found at the convenient store he stopped at for a drink while he was looking for a mechanic. The guy tied a rope from his car to the KLR’s handlebars and pulled me a few miles to the nearest mechanic. It was a great experience, but the rope was really short and the speed bumps were a bit unnerving.
When we got to the shop we replaced the broken clutch cable with a new one and I was good to go within an hour. In hindsight, if we hadn’t been trying to avoid tolls by riding the smaller roads that go through towns, I could have been stuck out on the major highway for a much longer time before getting help.
We had hoped to get much further that day, but due to the unintended extra ruins and the breakdown, we only made it as far as Puebla.