The 'Muskox' - BMW R100GS

The Muskox in storage

Ready to go

I bought the Muskox on December 16th, 1994 at Marty's BMW in Torrance California. I paid $9,000 cash for it which included $750 worth of accessories. The accessories I chose were the larger bash plate, the plastic hand guards, a BMW tank bag, and a Thor adventure jacket. I later purchased a set of BMW bags which I still have but chose to leave at home for this trip as I went with a set of Nelson-Rigg Adventure Dry Saddlebags instead. The bike itself is 100% original apart from a K&N air filter. Three days after I bought it in 94 and with the 600 mile first service done by Martys I set off on a trip through Central America. Funnily enough even though the Muskox was the first new motorcycle I ever owned I rode it pretty hard as something in me wanted to see if they were as good as everyone said they were. Two and a half months and 13,000 miles later I returned to Martys in Los Angeles for a trip completion service and some warranty work. The rear sub-frame had snapped so was replaced under warranty. The rear shock absorber was lunch so I paid the difference between it and a premium unit and upgraded, another warranty claim. Apart from that The Muskox had held its own on the trip and lived up to all expectations.

The Muskox in Atlin

The Muskox at the Artcic Circle with two of my brothers and an R100GS PD and a Triumph Tiger

Since then the Muskox has taken me between Los Angeles and Ontario, Canada, twice, up the West Coast of the States to British Columbia, Canada, and on to the Yukon and Alaska. I used it as my main transportation for many years, winters included, until I bought a four wheeled vehicle for the first time in Vancouver. From that point on the Muskox was on and off the road depending on timing and finances. In 2009 I got hold of an R1200GSA which for all intents relegated the Muskox to storage. In 2017 I came to the conclusion there wasn't much point in having two adventure bikes so I sold the 1200 and bought a Moto Guzzi Griso. I would pull the Muskox out of retirement and use it for the gnarly stuff and the Griso for some good old fashioned fun on the road.

R1200GSA in the Rockies

The Griso on Gabriola

With the Muskox out of retirement I decided to retrace that first trip back in 94, only this time I would take my son along for the ride. I pulled it out of the bunky and to be honest did the bare minimum to get me heading south. I decided I wasn't going to replace anything major on it but instead take it for a 10,000 mile shakedown and deal with what happened as it happened. What I did do before setting out was to replace the spark plugs and battery, change the engine, transmission and final drive oils, have the rear seat bracket welded, rebuilt the carbs and bought a new set of tires to take with me. The tires on the bike were virtually unused (but 10 years old, I know, don't shoot me) so I wanted to give them a day on the road to see how they behaved, any worrying signs and I would replace them. Turns out they behaved very well.

Let the games commence

Been awhile

Elephants in the carbs

Welding job on seat bracket

The Muskox heading south at Siskiyou Summit in Northern California. The highest spot on I5

I set off on December 13th, 2017, almost 23 years to the day that I'd last set off on this trip and I needed to get from Gabriola Island, B.C., to Cancun, Mexico, in ten days to pick up my son at the airport. I took I5 through Washington State, Oregon and into California before cutting west into Arizona. The riding was all highway and pretty rapid by 94 standards. Leaving Los Angeles I encountered my first problem, the bike would stutter above 4,000rpm in top gear. My first instinct was either fuel starvation or the ignition. As I rode I worked the problem in my head and that night researched it on the internet and the next morning ripped the front cover off to look for problems but everything 'looked' fine. The Muskox fired up no problem and as I couldn't see anything obviously wrong and I had to get to Cancun I rode on. The problem persisted for the first half of the day then cured itself as the day wore on and a fresh tank of gas worked it's way through the carbs. I put it down to bad gas coming out of LA.

Is it the wiring?

Is it the diode board?

Maybe the voltage regulator?

Or how about the alternator?

BMW parts list - alternator

One of 'Snowbum's' very detailed and helpful web pages

BMW parts list - diode board

As I traveled south into Mexico a new problem presented itself. The bike was running fine yet after each stop the starter turned a bit slower than the last time. Some kind of electrical issue was manifesting itself, could it be the diode board, the alternator, the voltage regulator, or wiring? I decided it couldn't be the battery as I'd just spent $170 on a new one. My first full day in Mexico was eleven hours of non stop rain, very heavy at times so I factored that in and hoped that as things dried out maybe the bike would magically cure itself again like it had before. Normally I would have done the prudent thing and stopped to troubleshoot....but the clock was ticking and I had to get to the airport in Cancun so my stopgap solution was to buy a battery charger in Villahermosa and peel the battery out of the Muskox each night and charge it up in the hotel room while I researched cures on the internet. It is at this point that I have to thank all those Airhead riders out there that have shared their mechanical and electrical expertise on the web as without them I would have been lost at this point. Don't get me wrong, mechanically I can kind of hold my own, but electrically, well that's another story. One site I kept going back to on a regular basis was: bmwmotorcycletech.info put together by Robert (Bob) Fleischer,  aka 'Snowbum.' It was amazing how much I learned on the road by perusing his pages, he's probably forgotten more than I'll ever know about BMW airhead motorcycles and if he ever reads this blog I'd just like to say, "Thank you Mr. Fleischer!"

But back to the blog, fact is this electrical issue needed sorting as I was starting to have serious doubts about ripping through Guatemala and Belize with my son in tow on his Christmas school break. Trouble is we had a tight schedule, very tight. I'd managed to do some troubleshooting on the bike in Merida before Cole's arrival, tested the alternator for open circuit, whipped the diode board out and checked each diode, checked the voltage regulator and each time came up blank, but even if I had found something the problem was it was Christmas Eve and Christmas day so nothing was open, so off we went with nothing changed. The charging/alternator/diode board/battery/wiring issue worsened and by the time we reached Palenque the bike would hardly turn over. I rattled my brain, of all the things I hadn't checked was the battery, I'd assumed it was good because it was only two weeks old. As it turned out there was an AutoZone across the road from the hotel so I whipped the battery out for them to test and guess what? It had a dead cell. A dead cell! Even though I was some hacked off with the battery I was even more hacked off with myself, what a moron I'd been! Lesson learned. Luckily for me they had a new LTH battery on the shelf so in it went and off we went to Guatemala.

Testing old battery - dead cell = toast (Outdo battery - Made in China, sold in Canada)

New battery on short charge in hotel room

Slick product, 6 premeasured individual reservoirs (LTH battery - Made in Mexico, sold in Mexico)

The Muskox at rest at the half way point in Antigua Guatemala

At the furthest point from home the Muskox was running sweet but there were signs of discontent. Oil was weeping from the engine oil pressure switch and the pushrod seals and on another note the neutral switch had failed. The Muskox has never burned oil so I put the low engine oil on the dipstick down to these discharges. It wasn't huge amounts but enough to keep an eye on and I bought a litre of oil to replenish the engine and carry with me. Electrically things were peachy now, ever since the new battery install the Muskox was firing on cue and charging healthily, and to think of all the time I'd previously wasted troubleshooting when all along a simple single dead cell was the culprit. Moral of the story = just because something's new doesn't guarantee bliss.

After dropping Cole off at the Cancun airport for his return flight to Canada I tripped over to Merida for a couple days rest and to check the bike over. I tried tracking down an engine oil switch but delivery times were excessive and I didn't want to tackle a neutral switch replacement on the road because it was a little more involved. I didn't bother with an oil change either as by this time I was topping the Muskox up daily so new oil was working its way through the engine. I also held off on changing the tires....again. I'd caught a small nail in the rear in Belize that lead to a slow leak but left it in. The safe thing to do would have been to change them but they were doing a hell of a job and they handled really well. The front was still in good shape, it was just the rear that was a little suspect and as I was riding mostly highway heading north with a lighter load I decided to milk them a little while longer and see if I could make the border.

New hooves for The Muskox

Shinko 705s

10 year old tires held up for 8,000 miles - until this, cracks at every other tread block and sidewall

I finally changed the rubber in Kingman, Arizona. I had planned on doing it in Tuscon after discovering cracks had developed in the rear tire but it didn't work out there so I tripped up to Kingman. The cracks were in a perfect pattern, every other tread block and extended into the sidewall and were only on one side, kind of bizarre but I was extremely grateful they had got me this far. For the change I visited Mother Road Harley Davidson who helped me out without a call ahead. They were amazing and I'd highly recommend them. You can check them out here: motherroadhd.com

Not my idea of a picnic

Roadside tranny oil change

Oil from weeping engine oil pressure switch

From Arizona it was time to haul ass and so I did. As I headed into northern California the weather turned dark. I started the day just north of Sacramento with drizzle which turned to rain and by the time I approached the Siskiyou Summit close to the Oregon border I was riding through a full on blizzard. I was wet and frozen but the Muskox kept going strong. I made it over the passes and that night stayed at a Motel 6 in Sprinfield Oregon. The next day it rained hard all day before I stopped in Kelso, Washington. Things were going well for the time of year and the Muskox was still pulling strong and the new tires were behaving gracefully. The next day things went sideways as the Muskox died by the side of the road not far north of Kelso. I was up to speed, around 70mph, when the engine cut, fired, cut, fired, then cut all together so I whipped the clutch in and coasted to the side of the highway. As I was a couple hundred yards south of a rest stop I pushed the Muskox to a picnic site there and did some quick troubleshooting. The problem was definitely electrical and I suspected the alternator but wasn't a hundred percent. Without the means to do a roadside repair I called AAA who sent a motorcycle sympathetic driver to help me out. Together we loaded the bike onto the flatbed and he whipped me back to my previous nights stop, the Motel 6 in Kelso. That evening I whipped the front cover off the bike and tested the alternator with a penny between the slip rings and sure enough I had an open circuit, it was shot. I whipped the battery out and trickle charged it overnight and the next morning I disconnected the headlight, reinstalled the battery and headed north hoping for the best. We made it to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in British Columbia and while I was waiting on the ferry I whipped the battery out for a quick trickle charge by the terminal building. On the other side the Muskox fired up without incident and I caught the second ferry to Gabriola and that evening I arrived home, rode through the French doors into the basement and parked the Muskox, a 450km run. Man did it feel good to be home!

What was supposed to be the last day

Back at Motel 6

Home sweet home

The 10,000 mile shakedown was revealing. Overall the Muskox performed like a thoroughbred and the problems I'd encountered were to be expected considering the lack of preparation and age. The engine needed to be 'resealed' which I'll do this summer while the Griso is on the road. To reseal it I'll replace the engine oil pressure switch, the neutral switch, the pushrod seals and engine and cylinder head gaskets. I'm not sure whether I'll replace the main seals or not, to be determined, and I'll rebuild the carbs. On the electrical side I'll replace the alternator, brushes and springs, and probably a couple of the wiring harnesses (alternator to diode board, diode board to battery), the diode board mounting nuts, and I might replace the diode board itself and keep the old one as a spare. The shaft drive has around 70,000 miles on it which is getting up there a bit but shows no sign of failure so I'll leave it for the time being. Apart from that I'll give the bike a thorough going over including the usual fluid changes, valve and carb adjustments, grease bearings, indulge in a massive cleaning, and possibly repaint the tank in time for the fall roaming season, end of story.

The Muskox at play - loves to roam

The Muskox's favourite habitat

In conclusion I'd just like to share with you my riding philosophy, one that has endured with me for 45 years. I realize there will be many who don't agree with my 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it attitude,' but that is a personal choice. In a perfect world my preparation would have been much different and suspect parts would have been replaced at the get go, but as we all know we don't live in a perfect world. When finances are limited I crunch numbers, make calculations and prioritize. The main goal of the trip was to spend time with my son which meant flying him to Cancun and spending the extra money on our trip together, so purchases that perhaps I should have made I didn't. All motorcycles are the same from a mechanical standpoint and all motorcycles will fail eventually in some manner no matter how much money is spent on them, but if the bones are in good shape at the beginning then the odds of success are increased. I research a lot on the internet and whenever a story surfaces about a certain issue, final drive, diode board, alternator etc, there's always at least one rider in the group that never leaves home without a spare. That's great, but for me I don't want to carry all those parts (especially a spare shaft drive) or spend money on something I may not use. I carry tools for sure, but I believe in placing my faith in my initial preparation and the machine getting me there and back. If for some reason it doesn't then I'll deal with the problem when it surfaces. Parts can usually be found pretty quick online and they can be sent to wherever you're stranded and more often then not there's a local or two that will go out of their way to help you on your way, it's human nature for us to want to help, normally that is. And besides that a part of me enjoys the whole breakdown experience in a perverse kind of way, don't get me wrong I don't want to breakdown for it can really mess things up, but to me if it happens its part of the adventure, it's part of creating a scenario where we have to interact with total strangers to find a solution. I love that experience, swapping stories while working towards a common goal. The tow truck driver who picked me up on the last day was ex-military and we swapped stories all the way back to the Motel 6, he was an awesome guy who I'd met for the only reason that I'd broken down. Or when I was in Alaska and my rear tire expired and I was stuck at the Border City Lodge for a week waiting on a new one. I'd gotten to know the owners real well and in return for room and board I pumped gas and recarpeted the stairs and second floor hallway. They were salt of the earth people and I'd had a blast and what a memory. Let's face it, even with the greatest of preparation and good intentions things can go wrong or accidents can happen, new parts can fail like my battery after six days on the road, manufacturers defects can bubble up or it might be just a case of plain bad luck. Thankfully there are no guarantees on the road because in my mind the point is to have an adventure, to wake in the morning and ask yourself, 'I wonder what's going to happen today.' Isn't that what fires one of the greatest feelings yearned by many of us, the feeling of anticipation? I know it does for me, so I roll the dice and ride and deal with the shit if and when it comes my way.

Heading south

Thanks for coming along and if you ride, have fun, if you don't, what are you waiting for!

All the best.

Scott.

The Road Home

   Historical buildings in Vera Cruz

Historical buildings in Vera Cruz

My original plans had called for me to return to Guatemala after dropping Cole off at the airport, but I was rethinking that whole scenario. To be honest I didn't feel like faffing around with border crossings anymore and Mexico and Central America weren't as cheap as they used to be, plus I had to get back to Canada at some point to get the B&B back up and running. With all these realities running through my head I decided to head home at a leisurely pace instead of going further south only to turn around and rush home later.

Saying goodbye to hotel staff, they were awesome

The cathedral at Puebla

With the decision made I rode around the Gulf Coast to the coastal city of Vera Cruz before heading inland to make a stop for sentimental reasons. There was a small town, Camarón de Tejeda, that had been the site of a historical battle in 1863 between a French Foreign Legion infantry patrol that numbered 65 men, and an opposing Mexican force of between two and three thousand. The battle of Camerone is remembered and celebrated, perhaps even cherished, every April 30th by the Legion and as I'd been a legionnaire between 1983 and 1988 I wanted to pay my respects.

Camerone - a very special stop - 65 men against 2,000

It was a humbling stop. The memorial was just as I'd seen in pictures and was located in a very peaceful setting. I'm a big believer in memorials, not just war memorials, but any kind that acknowledges an historical event, to something that actually meant something to those living it. I spent some time at the 'Mausoleo Franco Mexicano' to really soak it in. The memorial had been constructed in the early 60s after French and Mexican soldiers from the battle had been uncovered during some new construction in town. Their remains were moved to the outskirts of town where the new mausoleum had been built. Lying in front of the inscription wall is a white raised platform where the soldiers from both sides now lay at rest. 'Legion Patria Nostra.'

From Camerone I made my way up into the highlands and the city of Puebla where I holed up for a couple of nights and as luck would have it a painter named Picasso was in town so I payed him a visit.

Picasso at rest

'La tauromaquia o Arte de torear' - The art of bullfighting. 26 aquatints by Picasso

From Puebla I rode across to the Pacific Coast before heading north where I crossed back into the United States at Nogales on route to Tuscon. I arrived at the border after dark and missed the Banjercito office where I was supposed to submit my import permit for the bike to get my $200US back. The office was supposed to be at KM23 on the highway but I couldn't find it so I figured I could actually do it right at the border. I was wrong and the border crossing I chose (there are two in Nogales) whipped me straight through to the American side. There was an immigration building on the Mexican side but there was no one there and by the time I realized my mistake it was too late to backtrack. The next day I contemplated returning to Mexico to get my money back for the import permit but when I factored in the time involved, another border crossing, and the cost involved I chose to swallow my losses and headed north. In other words, according to the paperwork The Muskox is still roaming the hills in Mexico and in six months I'm going to lose that money for good.

Bikers are sexy

A classic Route 66 motel

Bikers are cool

I was going to do the tire change in Tuscon but the hotel staff were less than pleasant so pushed on to Kingman instead. I love the Route 66 stretch through Arizona and Kingman has some great history. I found a room at the classic El Trovatore Motel which was run by a lovely couple that gave me some great tips on what to do in town. On their advice I visited the church where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard were married, visited the airfield where B-17s were decommissioned after WW2 and had breakfast in a classic Route 66 diner where I engaged the young waitress in an enlightening conversation about gun control. Then it was off to Mother Road Harley Davidson where Roy and Carl made sure I had a new set of hooves mounted on the The Muskox. They were amazing and I'd like to thank them for helping me out without any advance notice. It's always nice to feel welcome in a bike shop and I don't say that lightly as I find a lot of the shops today have become too corporate, not Mother Road though. I mean they were very professional as expected, but they also talked bikes with the best of them because they were real live passionate motorcyclists. There's nothing I hate more than talking to a guy in a bike shop that hasn't got a clue to what he's talking about, go back to the car dealership and leave the bikes to those with passion. Great shop, cheers!

Mother Road Harley Davidson in Kingman

A shout out to Mother Road Harley Davidson

A tad worrisome

New hooves - a set of  Shinko 705s

The guys at Mother Road were awesome

From Kingman it was I40 heading west, then I5 heading north, a monotonous but necessary route considering the time frame and weather. A hundred miles south of Seattle on what was supposed to be my last day on the road the alternator packed in. The battery was not being charged and had discharged to the point where a spark couldn't be produced and the Muskox died on the side of the highway. Luckily I was only a couple hundred yards south of a rest stop so I pushed her to a picnic shelter to have a quick look. I figured it was the alternator but wasn't sure and as the clock was ticking I called AAA and they sent a tow truck. The driver was an awesome guy, ex-military, and we swapped stories as he drove me back to the Motel 6 I'd stayed at the night before in Kelso. After checking in I whipped the front cover off the engine and put a penny between the slip rings on the alternator and my suspicions were confirmed, I had an open circuit, the alternator was toast. I whipped the cover back on, pulled the battery, charged it overnight with my trusty Mexican battery charger and the next morning set out with the front headlight disconnected to conserve juice...and hoped for the best. I had around 450km to ride to get home. Would the Muskox make it?

So close....

A shout out to AAA

A different way of checking in

It did! The Muskox held her own and brought me back to Gabriola safe and sound. The battery fired the bike after a gas stop and two ferry crossings and I rolled into the driveway, opened the French doors to the basement and rode her in. After six weeks and over 10,000 miles we were home.

Catching the ferry to Vancouver Island

Home sweet home

What a trip, what a bike! Twenty three years old and still adventurous, the bike that is, as for me, I'm not so sure.

Tulum & Playa del Carmen

We were on our last leg. From Tikal we retraced the road I’d taken 23 years ago and crossed into Belize, caught a nail in the rear tire, crossed Belize, then back into Mexico with not too much difficulty. This time I actually got an import permit for the bike, that didn’t really sit well with me but I'd had dreams of running into that police lady again and losing the bike to Mexican authorities.

Fumigation entering Belize

   Leaving Mexico

Leaving Mexico

   Belize insurance mandatory

Belize insurance mandatory

Wooden houses in Belize

After staying the night in Chetumal we scooted up the coast to Playa del Carmen and if Tikal had changed the least in my 23 year absence, Play del Carmen had transformed itself into something totally unrecognizable. I remembered it as a quaint seaside town the last time I was there, now it more resembled a mini Las Vegas strip by the sea. I couldn’t believe how it had changed. Our last three nights were supposed to be chilled to recover from the 3,000km trip, instead we were on high alert. I’ve never seen as many gun yielding policemen in my life, all dressed in battle gear with fully automatic weapons. They were literally everywhere and add to that the fact our hotel was half a block from an intersection with a disco on each corner competing nightly for tourists and… well, let me just say I won’t be going back. Cole loved the shops though as he checked out the latest merchandise from his favourite brands.

French breakfast

Divers leaving for a dive

Local art on sale

All those changes aside there was one thing that hadn’t changed however, police graft. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining as I’d rather pay an officer a little something roadside than pay a visit to the station, but to be shaken down within an hour of arrival was quite impressive in the wrong way. I won’t make excuses for what I did as in fact I did break the law (I think) and the cop had me dead to rights. At first I thought I might be able to wrangle my way out of it as he was a motorcycle cop but it turned out he didn’t appreciate our fraternity the way I did so no such luck, then again it was New Years and I imagine there were some bills to pay. He started off at $300US and we finally settled on $100. Problem was I only had 40 so Cole chipped in the other 60! The cop was actually a pretty cool guy and we ended up having a bit of a laugh and shook hands at the end of the transaction. You see in a way I was happy about the whole thing as Cole had experienced another lining to our adventure together.

Our last full day together we rode south a bit and visited the Mayan ruins of Tulum. They are small compared to the others we’d stopped at on our journey but what set them apart was their location. Perched on a cliff above vividly blue Caribbean waters Tulum offers a stunning back drop. Yes, there were hoards of tourists and designated walking paths ruled traffic patterns but nothing could detract from the waters below. After taking in the ruins we descended the stairs to the beach so Cole could retrieve a bag of white sand to compliment his Monterrico stash from the Pacific Coast, then it was off to the Gran Cenote.

There is a notable absence of lakes in the Yucatan and in their place are cenotes, thousands of them. A cenote is like a sinkhole filled with water and there are three kinds, fully covered, like a cave, partially covered, and open. Cenotes play a valuable part in the life of the Yucatan for they supply the precious fresh water we all need, plus they played a huge role in the Mayan world as they provided that same drinking water and some of them were even used for sacrificial offerings.

We paid our dues and entered the Gran Cenote and went for a dip. Bathing in the cool water and passing between cenotes by swimming through an open tunnel was really a great way to finish the day off and as I’d not visited one on my last visit Cole and I got to do a ‘first’ together so that added a bonus to the experience.

The next morning it was departure day for it was time for Cole to fly home to Canada. We were up at 4am so I could get him to the Cancun airport on time. We arrived on time and there weren’t too many questions concerning his passport this time and before I knew it he was through the security area with his two bags of beach sand heading for the Great White North. It was a bittersweet moment for me, our trip was over, mine would carry on, but it would carry on without my son and that reality made me feel a little melancholy and a little nostalgic at the same time....but we had some sweet memories.

The final goodbye...

I fired the bike up and headed back across to the city where our trip together had begun, Merida. I needed a few days to rest up, I’d been hard at it for a month without a break, decisions had to be made, the bike needed attention, and I needed to think about not thinking about riding for a few days. I was tired.

 

Tikal & Flores

Tikal & Flores

Rio Dulce had been a neat overnight. It’s a cool busy harbour town that straddles the river of the same name and has a frontiersy feel to it that I liked. It had been a long ride up capped off with some nasty weather and night riding so Rio Dulce had been a welcome destination. The fried chicken at a roadside stand sealed the deal, it was awesome and as we were the last customers of the day the lady loaded our plates up like we’d just ridden across the continent…then again I guess we had, well almost, Pacific Coast to Caribbean.

Monterrico - Pacific Coast

During my previous trip in 95 I hadn't dropped down to the Guatemalan Pacific Coast. I had in Mexico and Costa Rica but for some reason had bypassed it here. This time however my son Cole had become very interested when I'd mentioned 'black sand,' so we slated it in. It was a leisurely ride down from Antigua and when we arrived at the coastal city of Puerto Quetzal we headed south following the coastline to Monterrico.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala, is a cool cobble stoned, volcano shaded, colonial touchstone to the past. It's a living museum with a vibrant heart. I'd passed through it on my journey in 95 and had been smitten. I've always been a history buff and Antigua holds a special place in Central American history as it was once the Capital of the Spanish colony of Guatemala which covered most of Central America and the Mexican state of Chiapas. It was founded in 1543 and for over 200 years it remained the capital until the Santa Marta earthquake of 1773 swayed the authorities to move it to present day Guatemala City which was less earthquake prone.

San Cristobal de la Casas

San Cristobal de la Casas

From Palenque it was time to head up into the mountains of Chiapas as we directed 'The Muskox' toward Guatemala. To push through in one day would have been possible but there were a couple of stops along the way we wanted to take in so settled for a more sedate pace. The first stop was Agua Azul, a spectacular series of waterfalls I had visited in 95, that I wanted to show Cole. Unfortunately it wasn't much as I remembered. In fact we didn't even make it to the falls as the crowds were nuts. I couldn't believe how different it was from the relaxing visit I had had there in 95. This time the parking lot was chock full of giant buses and crowded restaurants and vendors were jammed in everywhere between the trees. It was quite disheartening so Cole and I had a quick bite to eat then decided to push on as neither of us were in the mood for the crowds.

Palenque - Chiapas

Palenque - Chiapas

From Merida we started our trek towards Guatemala by way of Palenque. There are only so many border crossings into Guatemala from Mexico and as our first stop in Guatemala was slated for Antigua the road through Palenque made the most sense. It was going to be a long day on the bike, around 550kms so we took the toll roads to make time.

Merida and the Mayans

Merida and the Mayans

Cole had left Canada on the 23rd of December and arrived in Cancun on Christmas Eve so things were busy. Merida has a lot going for it, history, cuisine, Spanish architecture and an atmosphere unmolested by tourism. That doesn’t mean it’s not a busy city, 800,000 people make for some hustle, but it’s a natural fun hustle. With the largest Mayan concentration of any city in Mexico, or Central America for that matter, it was a good place to start our Mayan loop. All one has to do to get an idea of the Mayan people’s journey and Yucatan’s bloody history is explore the Governor’s Palace on one side of the square. It is a beautiful building, but what makes it even more interesting are the paintings inside that depict the arrival of the Spanish and the subsequent plight of the Mayan people as they were eventually conquered and forced into slavery. It is a sobering collection to say the least but one that portrays what happened.

The Road Down...

The Road Down...

So the prep was over and it was time to pull the plug. The plan was to ride to Merida, capital of the Yucatan in Mexico and pick up my son, Cole, who would fly down from Vancouver during his Christmas break. After a couple of days in Merida we would do a lazy loop through southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize loosely retracing a trip I had taken in 95. That was the plan at any rate.