Days of the Dead

A man dressed in drag dances and poses in the lights of a police vehicle as the residents of Tule Mexico exit the city cemetery following a dance party on November 2, 2013.

A man dressed in drag dances and poses in the lights of a police vehicle as residents The residents of Tule Mexico exit the city cemetery following a dance part on November 2, 2013. Photo: Alex Washburn

Alex did a pretty good job of filling everyone in on what was going on in Oaxaca for day of the dead (in fact there are multiple days of the dead, with one big celebration at the beginning for All Hallows’ Eve). It begs to be mentioned that for every flash happy maverick we saw in the cemeteries, there were plenty of tourists being respectful of the families and celebration (though there were a crushing amount of tourists).

On Friday afternoon we got back from Tule cemetery and having been out late the night before, going to three cemeteries for Day of the Dead, we thought we’d just spend the night in. However, someone was going around the hostel promoting a cemetery tour that night that would go to a couple of cemeteries we hadn’t been too.

We said yes and signed up, and only after did I find out it didn’t start till 8:30 and was a five to six hour tour (you read that right) meaning it wouldn’t be over till one or two in the morning. I almost ducked out at the last minute before the tour started, and after what was to come, I wish I had.

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

The tour was the worst both Alex and I had ever been on for a multitude of reasons. The person conducting the tour (asshat) hadn’t done any research and half of the cemeteries we went to ended up being closed for the night by the time we got there. Of the two we did visit, one was Tule (where we had just been earlier in the day) and the other was the main cemetery in Oaxaca (where we had been the night before). While touring the two cemeteries we did go to, the guide didn’t offer any insight or knowledge of what was going on and I honestly think Alex and I know more about Day of the Dead than he did.

After leaving the main cemetery at 11pm, we then proceeded to be dragged from closed cemetery to closed cemetery until finally at 1am, the tour asked for the guide to just take us back to the hostel (where he informed us he wanted to take us to one more place that was supposed to be happening, we didn’t bite). Once returned, he offered us a free tour the next night, but we all declined citing other plans. I could think of nothing worse then to have to relive that experience again. I would pay money to not have to go a second time.

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

We spent the last night touring the celebrations in Tule and Oaxaca, which is where I met a posse of drag queens and was escorted around town. The next morning it was time to pack all the gear, load the bikes and head on out to the gulf coast.

Alex’s cousin (who is a truck driver) told us that there were three options out of Oaxaca: 1) was a pleasant, but relatively boring back-track, 2) was over 200 miles of hairpins going kind of the wrong direction, and 3) (the one we picked) was just over 100 miles of s-turns with gorgeous views and a nature reserve.

Heading out of Oaxaca and into the mountains, it was all climb for the first two hours of the ride. What had started as a warm, muggy day in the valley quickly turned into a chilling, foggy climb where at one point we broke through the fog (yes literally climbed above the clouds),

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

The road out of Oaxaca. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

before descending once more into the mist. However, about right at the halfway point, the road circled the mountain and started heading down and we were suddenly in the middle of the nature reserve complete with roadside waterfalls.

If you are ever in the Oaxaca region with your bike, you have to take the road from Tuxtepec to Oaxaca (hwy-175). Make sure your bike can handle the mountain terrain, but the views you get will be some of the best anywhere. We finally made our final descent, and rode on to Tuxtepec for the night.

We Are Tumbleweeds

Something Nathaniel and I quickly realized on the Baja Peninsula is that it takes you twice as long to get anywhere as you would expect.

We’ve ridden about 500 miles in the past two days and they’ve been a long two days. Mex 1 runs through the center of a ton of small towns and they’ve constructed speed bumps and s-turns to keep trucks and tourist from blowing through at 70 mph.

Overall the asphalt has been wonderful and other than a few towns doing road construction a regular cruiser bike would be able to make the trip.

I’m sorry for the small number of photos on the blog thus far.

At the moment we are focused on making a boat in La Paz on the 15th which is why we haven’t had much time to stop and smell the tortillas.

We literally got up at 6:30am today – were driving by 8am and didn’t stop for the night till 4:30. Other than a quick taco/gas Mapstop in Guerro Negro it was all riding. 250 some odd miles of gorgeous desert, rolling hills and a roaring engine.

There was this beautiful sweeping turn on the way to Guerro Negro and as I came half way around it I saw a flock of vultures eating something just on the side of the road.

They started to rise up into the air as I barreled down on them and I didn’t have time to stop. Realizing how disastrous hitting an animal the size of a vulture could be I may have yelled inside my helmet.

I let go of the throttle and flattened myself on my gas tank praying that extra foot of space was enough to go underneath them. It was – but it was a close call that left me rattled for a few minutes.

Today we leave Santa Rosalia and hope to get more than half way to La Paz.

The Road to Farmersville

The view from the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was a 180 from the previous 24 hours' worth of events.

The view from the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was a 180 from the previous 24 hours’ worth of events.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

The silver lining of Wednesday, was my AAA premium service kicking in before the quoted 48-hour time frame and I received free towing to Farmersville California from Coalinga (score!).  We got to 360 Motorsports by opening time and proceeded to hangout with the mechanic and his Dad (the John’s) for the next seven hours.

John proceeded to go through the the bike step by step to see what the source of the stuttering could be, without much success. At one point, John suggested digging into Alex’s bike to swap out the CDI (Capacitor Discharged Ignition) which controls all the electronics for the bike and if that didn’t work he was stumped (this is one reason Alex and I have the same bike, so that we can use one as a reference for the other).

Alex and I meandered over to the one of only two food options close by to discuss the situation and our options.  I even called the former owner of the bike to see if he ever had the sputtering problem as he was familiar with the bike.  This was the lowest point of Wednesday- where our hope was running thin.

Re-fueled with coffee and a plan we headed back to the shop without much certainty that there would be a solution.  The CDI swap hadn’t yielded anything, and John’s last idea was the check the readings of all the individual electric components against the manufacturers suggested readings.

This is where we struck gold.

The ignition coil is supposed to read .4 and mine was at 1.8.  He swapped in the ignition coil from Alex’s bike, took mine for a spin, and came back triumphant.  The bike ran like a champ, with no sputtering at all.

The next issue, could we find a spare ignition coil locally….the answer was no.  Luckily John has a bunch of spare motorcycles around, and sourced a spare ignition coil from a 50cc Honda moped (they have the same electrical output).

Alex: “Like with organ transplants, there is a theory that the recipient sometimes takes on characteristics of the donor”

Me: “So my bike is now going to think it is a 50cc?”

Alex: “Yep.”

John threw it in the bike, took another ride, and the bike was ready to push on.  It took another thirty minutes for Alex and I to get all of the gear back on the bikes and get ourselves ready to go.

Alex wanted us to get to LA.  With the sun setting and the temperature dropping, we made our way down 99 towards LA.

It took us three and a half hours and two stops, but the bike held up and ran perfectly.  The one heralding challenge was riding the Grapevine at night, but we both stayed confident and vigilant, and before we knew it we were in the valley and in a warm house of a good college friend (shout out to Mac).

I ordered a spare ignition coil which will arrive in San Diego by Friday and give us one free day in Santa Monica!

Mac is in Los Angeles attending the MBA program at UCLA. Watching him iron his shirt before class was how we started our delightful day in Santa Monica.

Mac is in Los Angeles attending the MBA program at UCLA. Watching him iron his shirt before class was how we started our delightful day in Santa Monica.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

Nathaniel on the Ferris Wheel at the Santa Monica Pier.

Our second night in Santa Monica gave us enough time to hang out with Mac and Cristina!

Our second night in Santa Monica gave us enough time to hang out with Mac and Cristina!(Photo: Alex Washburn)

As a good friend commented on our Facebook page:

“Its good to earn those stripes early, on home soil, so when the real adventure begins you’ve got a few calluses.”

Tomorrow (Friday) we should be picking up my ignition coil at 9 AM in San Diego and heading to Mexico as soon as they install it.