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.
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.
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. 'Legio 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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.