Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 10 - Ride to Playa Azul

Yesterday, day 10, was another very tough day. Tough from the perspective of a long hard ride but a good day - a very good day - nonetheless. It was only 340 klm but on a twisty Mexican road, with more topes than you can count, it took us seven long hot hours.

Fist, we had a great night in the hotel in Colima. It’s surprising how a king size bed, colour cable TV, unlimited hot water and attentive staff that speak English will rejuvenate you when you need it. Rosi’s back, no thanks to the masseuse that received her training from the Marquis de Sade, (another story, that won’t get repeated here) is doing much better and we got away right around 8:00. Because the hotel staff speak fluent English we were able to get excellent and specific directions out of town and we had no problems.

Likewise the first 50 or so klm are on the Autopista to the coast and we made great time. But, apparently, the “can’t get out of a Mexican city” syndrome isn’t restricted to just the city you spend the night in. We took a wrong turn in the first city of size down the coast and ended up on a lovely scenic but pretty remote, secondary road heading out of town the wrong way. After 10 minutes or so I clued in it just wasn’t busy enough to be Hwy 200, the VERY friendly herd of goats notwithstanding, and the cute cow that came right up the fence to check out the lost Gringo’s. We turned around and went back into town and stopped for coffee and donuts (yes, again) and got several sets of conflicting directions until we settled on the two or three that matched the closest and headed out of town in the right direction.

The next 100 klm or so were great. Good roads, not much traffic and just enough topes to keep you on your toes. The only thing of note that happened on this stretch was when we crossed the Chiapas state line. We hit out first army road block. A full on, fairly serious affair. They directed us to the side, recorded our names, passport numbers and the bike registration on a form and asked us to remove all our luggage from the bike so they could inspect it. Rosi was convinced it was so they could go through our stuff and steal something (based on anther incident from a few years ago) so a bit of a Mexican stand off ensured. She refused to open more than one bag at a time and insisted on watching the process each time. It got a little funny, especially when the kid with the biggest tude couldn’t figure out how to open the roll top dry bags we use for some of our gear. We eventually got everything inspected and loaded back on the bike and headed south. This set us back easily a half hour though.

We then we hit the stretch that I remembered from last year. It’s 100+ klm of VERY tight turns, quick changes in elevation and never ending switchbacks and S turns. Last year - except for the truck that almost killed Kevan on a blind corner (which isn’t saying much because they’re ALL blind corners) - we were all grinning from ear-to-ear. It’s a riders dream. This year however, my bike weighed 300 pounds more and I was responsible for someone else so it added a whole new dimension.

But….very soon after you start this section the road hugs the Michoacan coast, which is some of the most beautiful coastline in Mexico. This is where Mexico meets the Mar de Sur - the southern ocean. Instead of facing due west like PV it now faces more south than west. It’s not quite the Caribbean but it’s definitely different. Without exaggerating, and trying not to be too cliché’, it’s fantastic. Literally hundreds of kilometres of untouched beach, turquoise blue ocean, crashing waves and rocky outcroppings, and all under a crystal clear blue sky.

If this is the price for several hours of hard riding it’s a fantastic bargain and well worth the price of admission!

This stretch comes to an end after a couple hours and settles into a final routine of go fast, go slow, scream because you didn’t see the tope until too late, and start again. Exhausting.

We arrived into Playa Azul around 3:00, soaking wet and literally wrung out. The temp and humidity in this area are both high and the exertion of this type of riding takes a toll. But….that’s no excuse for what happened next. We rolled up to the curb to get off the bike to check our guide book and I didn’t have it set up well enough on the side stand. If the road angle is just right it sometimes puts the bike at an angle that’s too upright for the side-stand to properly hold the bike. That’s what happened this time but I didn’t notice. I was halfway off when the bike fell away from me towards the low side.

OK, you say, this sometimes happens and bikes fall from time to time. Except, ROSI WAS STILL ON BOARD! Yikes!, my life flashed before my eyes. In nano-seconds I considered all the ramifications. Will she be hurt? Will she want to stop riding? But the one question I already knew the answer to - She’s going to be soooo pissed! She was.

All’s well that ends well though. Between the panniers both front and back that held the bike away from the road when it was on it’s side, her forethought to not try to jump away from the bike and instead hug it to protect her legs, and our motto of ATGATT, (all the gear all the time) she was fine. Pissed, but fine. The Mexicans that witnessed this little fiasco, including me having to pretend that 600 pounds of bike and gear isn’t too heavy to pick up in 38 degree’s, are still laughing their sombrero’s off.

She’s a trooper though and doesn't hold a grudge. She quickly shrugged it off and we got back on and headed off to find accommodation.

We're checked into a lovely hotel with a great pool, wifi, and a few channels of Englais on the TV. The town though, is Muy interesting. All the guidebooks describe an idyllic seaside village. I guess that’s accurate. In a scary, deserted, Stephen King could write a book here, kind of way. It’s a dusty, very quiet little place but you can see it must be rock’n on the week-ends when the large crowds of Mexican families arrive. So far we’ve seen maybe five other tourists but there are restaurants on the beach that might seat 100+ but are completely empty. Great for getting a table but a little spooky and surreal once the sun goes down.

Anyway, this morning is a new day. Sun, surf and cerveca while we decide what to do next.

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