With my bike parts filling a small greasy cardboard box, its sub-frame lying on the floor and a guy painting an old Honda 750 just 10 feet away from me, Luis raises his hammer and says “I’m a Mexican, I can fix anything with a hammer.”
Thank god my package finally arrived late last night. The gang at DHL tried to sign for it, but with a COD amount of $46 due for import duty, our short lived friendship wasn’t that strong. The sweetie at the DHL office called the UPS contractor and within 20 minutes the package was at my motel. I feel almost anticlimactic. I’ve been getting used to riding a pogo stick and getting to know the motel staff by name I wonder what it all means. The waiting has ended. No what do I do?
I thought I’d be well on my way south over a week ago. But maybe there’s some good here. I huge hurricane, Stan, has hit the Chiapas region in southern Mexico. More than 100 people are dead and roads have been turned into muddy rivers. The storm took its toll on El Salvador and Guatemala and I’m wondering what the roads will be like when I arrive later this month. Images on the TV screens at a restaurant last night showed despair and cars floating down streets. No, the levee didn’t break, but this is a weather story that won’t likely make the screens of your televisions in the States. Searching for a website organized to solicit support for those who’ve been evacuated or whose homes have been destroyed and I can’t find anything.
Luis has been repairing motorcycles for 20 years. He lived in El Paso, Texas for four years and worked for a shop there. He opened Motos Baja about 10 years ago. Six years ago he got the Honda franchise. A sturdy but plump man in his late 40’s, he appears to be blind in one eye. The constant joker, he introduced a friend that dropped by, “this is my boyfriend.” Later he drops a bolt on the floor and looks at my with a look of pain and concern and says, “uh oh!”. Then shrugs and laughs.
He was rather amiss when he learned that to change my shock he’d have to remove the whole sub-frame for my motorcycle. As he pulled parts off, unplugged hoses and wires and through a melange of hardware in that cardboard box I wondered if he’d ever get my back back together. Meanwhile, a steady stream of Mexican’s either stood around and watched, walked in and out, all sharing the new handshake I learned.
During the five hours I was in his shop, at one point he gets up to go check on his truck. I’m left wondering if he’s ever coming back. But the job was done by 3pm today and I can’t tell you what a difference riding a motorcycle with a shock feels like. Oh sure. You know, right? How about trying to ride a bike for 10 days and 500 miles of which 50 of those miles are roads that have made the annual Baja 1000 desert race legendary. Not that I needed a reminder that a shock is a simple yet highly important part of a motorcycle. But my newfound appreciation for a motorcycle suspension suits me well. Take nothing for granted.
While Luis continued to take apart and put my motorcycle back together, I tried out my recent training by Al Jesse on how to repair the panniers while on the road. Dropping the bike in the sand pushed the left side bag in closer to the frame and bent the bag slightly where the bracket attaches in the front. So with a rubber mallet and a smooth part of the concrete floor I went to town banging and straightening. The noise of my pounding drowing out the loud Mexican music pumping from the boom box at the other end of the shop.
“Hey Allan. You now Mexican. You fix your bags with hammer,” he’s laughing.
Later as I’m ready to go a guy rides into the shop on a little 200cc Honda delivery bike with a huge Dominoes Pizza top box affixed to the rear rack. Before you know we’re all eating Dominoes Pizza and taking pictures of the gang.
Later at the free wireless coffee shop, A large guy dressed in a BMW suit sweating over his hydration tube and beading sweat from his beat red face. “Is that your bike?” I’m sitting there in shorts a t-shirt and pounding the keys of my Apple PowerBook.
“Yep.” I share with him my shock saga but it doesn’t sink in, I don’t think. Next thing we’re looking at his website as he hunkers over in his dirty suit. He screamed down on his loaded 1150 Adventure down from Tijuana without stopping along the way — he missed Muleje, Loreto and more. But at least he did it with a good shock. It’s Mike from San Diego. He packed up his things, sold his belongings and left home on a world tour. Crossing the United States three times and taking the Dalton Highway, he’s got more than 30,000 miles logged. A former bartender in San Diego, Mike sold everything, quit his job and decided to do what he has always wanted to do: travel the world. His only outside of USA journey was a week in Italy for a friends wedding a few months back. He becomes my roommate for the evening and we connect with Kevin and Lana for dinner and beers.