I reluctantly left Guadalajara after having a fantastic time, and decided to make my way towards Mexico City (also known as DF – Distrito Federal). I take the long way there, riding around a favorite weekend vacation spot for Tapatios (nickname for Guadalajaraians), Lake Chapala. It’s the largest lake in Mexico, and once you get away from the main tourist and expat towns on the north side of the lake, it turns into a beautiful winding road through fields of corn, fruit and vegetables.
Lake Chapala, the biggest lake in Mexico
It’s starting to get dark on my way to DF, so I found a good place to stealth camp behind some trees on a newly harvested corn field. Originally, I was nervous about camping in Mexico, but if you’re smart about where you setup your camp, get there when it’s starting to get dark, and leave when the sun rises, you should be ok. Ben, over at Motorcycle Mexico, has a good interview about camping in Mexico with Federico from Zacatecas.
The next day, I hopped on the bike early in the morning and made my way to DF by going through Morelia. I get impatient stuck in construction traffic, so I start splitting lanes and taking residential streets to bypass. I haven’t eaten anything in 2 days, am impatient, and a little sick – a bad combination while riding. While splitting lanes on the right-hand side of traffic, my view is blocked by 2 large construction trucks, and I don’t see an intersection that I’m approaching. Once I see the intersection and a van going across it, it’s too late – I slam on my brakes as quickly as I can, but still end up t-boning the van at about 10mph.
It happened so fast that for a few minutes, I didn’t even know what happened. I pull my bike up and push it to the side of the road, and sit there checking over myself while the man from the van comes to check on me. I feel ok, but know that it could just be the adrenaline pumping through my body, so I relax and speak with the man. He’s dressed up in a suit and tie and on his way to a convention for Mormons. We get down to business settling up for the damage to his van. I pull out my wallet and give him all of it’s contents – 300 pesos. He insists that he needs more to fix the van, but I tell him that I have no more money and none in the ATM either. I lie, saying I’m going to DF to work and make more money, and after giving him my 300 pesos, won’t even have enough for gas to get there. He believes my lie and takes off while I look for a mechanic. Whew… I was lucky there. I could have been forced to pay thousands of pesos for the accident, or had the police called and had even more trouble, but I’m lucky and make it out only 300 pesos poorer.
Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures of the accident site or the guys car. I didn’t want to pull my camera out in front of him and start snapping pics.
I find an open business and some friendly folks who help me with my problems. I definitely need to get my wheel fixed, as it’s tweaked and bent and is rubbing against the forks every rotation. It’s exhausting pushing the bike 4 blocks to their business, but I make it and start the search for a mechanic to fix my wheel.
We stop by 2 repair shops to see if the rim can be salvaged, and they just laugh when they see it. Ok, I need a new wheel. A new one costs about 5000 pesos, way over what I can afford. I continue searching around the city and find a used KLR front rim for 800 pesos. Score! I thank my new friends that helped me on my search, and decide to get the hell out of Morelia after spending all day stuck there. I’m frustrated, hot, and sore, and just want to be alone in the mountains.
Oscar is not too happy. My steering is completely out of whack, and the entire bike shakes like I’m going to have a tank-slapper at any moment. I slow down and make my way out of the city and into the mountains. I really just want to get to DF to meet up with Wendy, get my bike to a mechanic, and relax. But, it’s too late and it starts to get dark in the mountains.
I search for some side roads or trails in the mountains but am having no luck. I’m about to resign myself to getting a hotel room, but I see some folks standing outside. I pull up along side them, asking “Donde puedo acampar circa de aqui?”, or “Where can I camp around here?” They insist on letting me camp in their yard for free, give me access to their bathrooms, and hand me an icy cold beer. The only positive thing that’s happened today are the friendly and helpful people I’ve met along the way.
Earlier in the week, I reached out to the riding community in DF via Horizons Unlimited to see if there was someplace secure I could park my bike. I don’t want to ride very much in the city, and public transportation is great and incredibly cheap at 3 pesos per ticket. The response was incredible – multiple people offered up a place to park, a place to stay, and recommendations for a mechanic. I take Eduardo, also known as Dudu, up on his offer of a place to park. He lives in Tlalpan, a neighborhood of DF, that is close to where I’m planning to stay with Wendy and her best friend.
Eric is also in DF for the day, waiting on a flight back to the US. Wendy, Eduardo, Eric and I meet up and tour around the town, checking out the Zocalo, or main square, which is packed with Mexican tourists and has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Wendy and I spent a week together in DF, waiting for my motorcycle to get fixed. In addition to fixing the tweaked front end, I get some much needed maintenance done – oil change, valve check, chain work, and a general tune-up from Roberto Rojas. He’s a backyard mechanic that comes highly recommended by Eduardo and his group of riding pals.
The service, while slow, is excellent and inexpensive. Roberto’s information is:
Address: C. Ofelia #33, Tizapan San Angel, 01090
Telephone: 5668 5393
Wendy and I make the most of our time in DF, visiting the sites and relaxing with her friends.
I’m currently waiting on my stock front brake rotor to be shipped to DF before I can continue on Oscar, as a replacement is incredibly expensive in Mexico (around $400USD). Instead of sitting around waiting for Mexican post to deliver the replacement, I hopped on a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, in the southern state of Chiapas, to meet up with Eric and Sabrina for Christmas and New Years.