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.
Road trips rank high in my ways of bonding with loved ones. At my 'mature age' of 55 I’ve seen and experienced a bit, I’ve lived in different parts of the world, served 5 years in the military and taken numerous motorcycle trips to sate my wanderlust, but when it comes to happy memories past family road trips are probably one of my favourite sources of connection. Like traveling to Portugal with my mom, or through Wales with my dad, or the annual family Easter Break road trips to Florida. I remember those times vividly as they were times spent away form my normal world and in the undistracted company of my family.
Cole and I had been on a few good road trips, back east for a month to visit family, down the west coast to the Mexican border, out to Calgary to pick up a motorcycle, but this time was going to be different, this time it was going to be just Cole and I, and he was older now, 16, and we were going to a part of the world that he was unfamiliar with.
To get to Merida I needed to hustle. The ride was going to be around 6,500km one way and I was setting off a little later than planned, December the 13th instead of the 1st. His school break started on December 23rd so I had some riding to do on a bike that was 23 years old. I hadn’t even booked his plane ticket yet as I wanted to make sure the bike would get me there. Yes it was definitely going to be an adventure.
Things started off okay, the bike ran smoothly and the skies were clear with an exaggerated nip in the air. I whipped down I5 through Washington State, Oregon and California, caught some bad gas in Los Angeles before heading east into Arizona where I crossed into Mexico at the Nogales border crossing. That’s where things started to go a little sideways. I’d already bought motorcycle insurance online and was kind of aware of the Mexican ‘Import Permit’ required for the bike but at the border things unrolled quickly so I kind of adlibbed it. As there was only one official waving everyone through I just kept riding, riding with no import permit or tourist card to my name. I thought I was being clever by beating the system and maybe saving some money but I would be proved wrong later in the trip. As I rolled south the skies darkened and finally opened and for the rest of the day the rain beat down on me heavily, definitely not what I had expected.
To add a little stress to the scenario the battery seemed to be faultering, the new one that I’d bought the week previous. Each morning when I went to start the bike it was weaker which had my mind gnawing different possibilities throughout the day. I researched charging issues online at night, whipped the front engine cover off in the morning to troubleshoot, traced wires looking for bad grounds, but couldn’t find a problem. I kept telling myself it couldn’t be the battery as it was new. Things got so bad in Vilahermosa that I bought a battery charger and started charging the battery at night. Hotel staff were quite amused at me lugging my battery through their reception each night and back out in the morning. The funny thing was that even though I was fully charging the battery each night the following morning it still didn’t have a lot of juice. I was stumped.
But I rode on diligently as I’d finally bought Cole’s plane ticket. He’d be here in a couple of days regardless of battery health so I needed to get gone. I finally rolled into Merida, a city loaded with Mayan history and one that I had enjoyed back in 95, found a place to stay and a couple days later I whipped across the Yucatan peninsula to pick my son up at Cancun airport, but not before running out of gas on the way.
I arrived an hour and a half late but Cole had had nowhere to go and was waiting for me outside the terminal. He’d had a long flight, what with the layovers and all, but his day was not over yet as we had a 300km ride back to Merida and the hotel….so off we went, this time with a full tank of gas!