Mexico and Paperwork

OK I say.  Our motorcycle ride to Mexico is on.  And now for the paperwork shuffle.  First, I grab a manilla folder, next I do a little research and print off a few things.  Since I’m traveling to Sonora, Mexico it says that the area I am traveling to (Banamichi) is not in a  free zone.  I.e. as in not touristy?  The other part of Sonora, the touristy part does not require some of the paperwork requirements.

The Mexican paperwork shuffle says I need a valid passport to receive my Mexican tourist card.

Step 1 – Mexican tourist card – A little research on-line says that Mexican Instituto Nacional de Migracion has a web page and they say that I am able to on-line fill out and print my Mexican tourist card.  fmm@inami.gob.mx   So far so good I say.  Without a hick-up the form is downloaded, my printer is switched to color and it prints right out.  Voila!  Right.  Wrong!

If this were any country other than Mexico then you could assume that you are done  with the Mexican tourist card however, at the border, the Immigration guy just looks at what I printed on-line and pulls out an identical fill in the blank form, fills it out for me, stamps it and hands it back to me.

So why did I go to the trouble of going on-line and printing my own Mexican tourist card?  Still a mystery to me.  Even with a fully functioning bilingual vocabulary I am not yet able to get a straight answer.

Step 2 – The infamous TIP – Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit for Mexico.  You need one of these puppies to visit the part of Sonora that we visited.  Something like 98 kilometers south of the border you are safe.  Don’t quote me.  Beyond this point you need one of these.

$80 US dollars for car or motorcycle.  Even though we are only staying a week; you still need one of these – good for 6 months.  Once again, I am able to do an on-line version of the TIP.  Says on the form it is an electronic preauthorization form from the Secretaria de Gobernacion – Institutio Nacional de Migracion.  The form then downloads and you can print it out.  It contains all the info they require, i.e. passport info etc.

Think you are done.  Wrong.

When you visit the Banjercito the gal just looks at the form I completed and smiles.  Another do over.

So why do anything on-line at all.  Because it must make us gringos feel real good and educated.  Next time don’t bother.  Just show up hand them your passport and $$.

Buenos Dias.  Bienvenidos a Mexico.

Step 3 – Mexican Insurance – This is an auto policy in case of an accident.  It contains the required Mexican liability insurance plus any property coverage (i.e. motorcycle) you desire.  For my 2017 Honda Africa Twin full coverage through El Aguila Insurance (on-line) coverage and print out of form, the cost total $82.46.

This is for a one week coverage.  Expensive huh!  $20.00 is shown as the policy fee charges.  $3.00 goes towards travel assistance from Mexico.

Everything else I assure you is real cheap considering the exchange rate.

Asta la vista!  See you in Baja next time.

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Bisbee, Az, Gringo Caravan, Motorcycle Ride, Bacanora, and Banamichi, Sonora

This morning I come across a word definition for “caravan”.  Quite simply, “a company of travelers wandering through a dangerous or hostile region”.  Yeah, I say to myself, that about fits our small wandering group right now.  For those concerned about my safety in Mexico while traveling on my Honda Africa Twin motorcycle I sincerely thank you!  However, there is really no need for concern.  Even if you throw in the narco groups and U.S. state department warnings Mexico is still safer than an over 40 U.S. adult male riding a motorcycle on Los Angeles freeways.  Right now Mexico is even safer than visiting San Francisco on account of the possibility of running into an overly aggressive homeless person; certainly safer than living in the path of the recent wildfires.   Please note today is November 14, 2018, the situation can once again change.  Also note, even though I live in the Los Angeles area I don’t travel through say Compton or South Central after dark.

Our ten plus gringo caravan in the picture I took from far away resembles biker bad hombres without their motorcycles.  But, the moment you begin to get up close enough to us – we could easily be mistaken for a wandering group of geriatric grey haired pony tailed pensioners.  The real danger to our gringo caravan started the moment we hit the edge of Banamichi town – someone could’ve twisted a foot or sprained an ankle.  The town drops down almost a straight hundred feet of elevation.  The hard cement like road quickly begins to give way to a sketchy boulder packed road but, once past here.  The  road fizzles out to a beautiful rustic and sandy country road.  The small aquifer cement lined creek rapidly flows bringing bees, birds and flowers to the farmers fields.  Here is where you also find happy Sonora beef cows.  I know this story is about Bacadora but, don’t forget the beef!

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Our goal – Bacanora and Mexican cuisine!  Around ten of us continue to follow the one old guy in the group who says he came down this road several years ago, perhaps before the onset of old age memory loss.  Bacanora if you don’t yet know simply put is – illegal moonshine.  See, I told you there’d be some danger in this story.  Bacanora starts off by harvesting the root of the agave heart.  The entire three or four-foot around heart is then roasted with mesquite wood in an earthen pit.  Then the hard work begins.  The La Choa family then uses the blunt edge of a large ax to mashed up the fibers.  Then they are taken and placed inside of a large 500 litre plastic container and mixed with plain water.  The sugary fibers provide their own fermentation.

Today we can thank the Spanish priests for introducing the distillery process that softened up the bacanora so that its taste is less harsher than moonshine.  This drink was long ago popular throughout Sonora.  It continues to be called bacanora today because lots of the agave grew near the town of Bacanora.  Bacanora is another town also founded by the Spanish Jesuits in the year 1627.

Enter the prohibition era in Mexico.  From around 1915 until 77 years later bacanora production was forced to go underground.  It wasn’t until 1992 when it became legal for the residents to obtain licenses from the government to not only transport the agave but, to produce and sell it.

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The Third Annual Banamichi Motorcycle Meet-up at the Los Arcos hotel was a great success.  Our host Tom, his wife Lynn and professional staff (Vivian and Beto too!) made this a trip to remember and cherish until the next one comes around.  Riding the Rio Sonora roads, meeting new friends, savoring the wonderful cuisine of Mexico.  That is what it’s all about.  And somewhat “off the beaten track”.

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The Phantom 3 Professional Drone

Recently I visited a friend in Rancho Mirage, California.  Steve shared with me that he owned a drone and so of course my first response was “let’s go fly it”.  It’s broken and won’t start-up, he added.  And so began the start of my new drone adventures.

That evening I came home with Steve’s broken Phantom 3 Professional 4k drone.  My go to source for fixing it – YouTube.  After about a dozen or so videos I finally figured it all out.

On its maiden flight the little drone rose up in the air somewhat above the swimming pool before the new drone pilot somehow managed to panic and fly it into a tree.  It was then packed up for a future day and forgotten for almost two years.  And now that its repaired I took the 4k camera off to learn how to fly it.  Once I got reasonably good at flying I added the 4k camera back on and took lots of video and pictures.

I could not resist including my Honda Africa Twin in the picture.  So far flying and taking pictures and videos is easy.  The hard part right now is editing a viewable product.  The other challenge is the amount of time it takes to upload a video.  So for now enjoy the camera shots.

 

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My friend Shane

My friend Shane recently passed away and when I received the news of Shane “on the great adventure” it shocked me.  Shane always sported a full head of black hair, olive skin complexion, and always moved with a purpose in life.  Shanes membership in the Los Angeles Adventurers club, I believe was one of the highlights of his life.

Unlike anyone else I know Shane celebrated birthdays by inviting Adventure club friends to come hike with him to the top of Mt. Baldy.  Yes, an 11 mile hike to the top of Mt Baldy, considered the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. On a clear day one can see from the Pacific ocean to as far away as the Mojave desert.   Shane even though I never said the words to you, you inspired me to always be on the lookout for that next great adventure.  Shane you will be missed.  My birthday is coming up in ten days.  Dare I say, a hike to Mt. Baldy in your honor Sir.  But first, I need a set of those Tibetan prayer flags.

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Shane and everyone else whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting and calling friend from the Los Angeles Adventurers club, know how to enjoy life and squeeze it for all its worth.

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Shane’s Tibetan prayer flags after stringing them up on the summit of Mt. Baldy.  No doubt these ones are originals brought back by him from the Himalayas.

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And yet on another hike.  Vance and Shane.  Who else but Shane would take you out on a hike on opening day of hunting season.

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Rick and Shane just prior to a “training hike” to the top of Mt. Baden Powell.  Thank you my friend, till we meet again.

 

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Camino de Santiago – Training

Today is Monday around noon.  My weekdays follow a somewhat familiar pattern of waking up, some form of exercise, plus projects and daily household chores.  The freshly cut bamboo pole is now waiting to become my new hiking pole and self-defense weapon.  A smaller grandchild version you might ask?  Don’t get Patti started.

This past Saturday, the start of my first official twelve-mile hike with the So Cal Camino hiking group (Facebook So Cal Camino hiking group for further info)  The Camino Frances is a 483 or 790 km walk across northern Spain.  It takes around four weeks to complete.  The Camino Frances i.e. Camino de Santiago (same hike) starts in France (St. Jean/Roncesvalles) and ends in Santiago, Spain.  Watch the movie, “The Way” for a  hollywood version.

In 2001, I attempted a thru hike of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) right after retirement.  A thru hike is where one starts and finishes the trail in one complete season.  The PCT is a 2,650 mile hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.  At the 701 mile mark I called it quits at Yosemite (Kennedy Meadows); hikers could not continue even if they wanted to as a result of the worse snow pack year in ten years.  After over a week of waiting for the trail to open some hikers stayed while others skirted around a major PCT section, and still others like myself searched for and moved on to new adventures.  (Visit http://www.trailjournals.com/trawlercat for my daily PCT journal)   If you are going to challenge yourself then why not do it all the way.

To do any long distance hike there is an inner and an outer form of preparation that needs to take place.  The outer form includes the physical training and planned equipment to carry or use.  The inner or mental state for some is usually the harder part of the preparation phase.  It becomes far easier when one is passionate about the project or life in general.  So why am I doing this hike?  If you already researched the camino then you will know that it has existed for over 1,000 years.  The journey for some is  religious or spiritual.  For me, the Camino de Santiago is a way to honor the memory of my recently departed mother.

We all have the same amount of time in the world.  No one gets more or less; the difference is in how we choose to spend it.  My spiritual and physical well-being was already tested on the PCT; I’m looking forward to this new pilgrims path to stretch and expand my soul.  A way to gain further understanding and knowledge.  And now I leave you with the following words from William Ward.

“To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.

To weep is to risk being called sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement.

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To try is to risk failure

 

But risks must be taken.

Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow.

But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or really live.

Chained by their servitude they are slaves who have forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is truly free.

 

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Food – Cuban Style

One cannot travel far into the countryside without encountering fields of bananas.  And if I recall correctly every home in the countryside had a food forest growing in their back and side yard.  The usual, bananas, avocados, mangos, guava and an assortment of other fruits we are not accustomed to seeing.  Sugar cane fields in August were planted in the Holguin province and everyone was hoping for rain.

Below in the picture is a type of bananas not grown to eat raw.  To eat either boil or fry.    A bag of fish.  Small, tasty and delicious.  The guy on the bicycle stopped us on the road to sell us the two fish for 10 CUCs.  Way too expensive said our driver.  Seemed like a good deal to me but, what do I know.

The small hut by the sea is where we sat and enjoyed a delicious plate of garlic shrimp, cucumbers and avocado and cole slaw appetizers.  A large packet of crackers completed the appetizer entrée.  And of course the champion of the meal – ice-cold Cristal beer.  The culprit for my five-pound weight gain.

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El Chorro de Maita – Guardalavaca, Holguin, Cuba

El Chorro de Maita is a 16th century archaeological site made into a museum.  Worth the visit.  We nearly did not get a chance to visit since neither one of us had any Cuban CUC currency on us at the time.  However, the tour guide let us in for free.  To repay her I dug deep into my backpack of gifts and came up with pens, pencils, memo pads to hand out.  This is a must do if you plan on visiting Cuba.  Stock up back home at your local .99 cent store with anything school or health or beauty product related.

If I recall the story correctly about the Chorro de Maita; a farmer digging his field made the discovery.  When he reported the discovery he was paid handsomely and his home was moved to the adjoining lot.  This place is where native royalty was buried.  The arrows on the body point to the exact location where a gold or otherwise artifact was found buried with them.

After the tour I walked around the area taking pictures and came across the guy below selling bananas.  Once again I pull out my bag of goodies and made a trade.  I usually carried things like Goya food seasoning, deodorant, cleaning sponges and of course school supplies.  Pencils and a memo pad got us four ripe bananas.  Being extremely satisfied with the trade he headed home and came back with a bag of avocados and a garlic ring.

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Switching Gear for the Idaho Backcountry Ride – August 2018

Tomorrow the street tires come off.  Above our planned route.  Starting in the historic town of Jarbidge, NV our planned route crosses range lands and then heads into the Boise National Forest and treats riders with views of Andersen reservoir and Trinity lakes.

For me Burgdorf Hot Springs makes this a bucket list ride.  Lewis and Clark made history on the legendary Magruder Corridor and Lolo Motorway which skirt the roadless Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness.

We will reach modest hints of civilization as we pass through Sand Point, Bonneys Ferry on our way towards the Canadian Border. 

 

 

More to follow.

 

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We travel not to Escape life; but, for Life not to Escape us. – Anonymous.

Holguin, Cuba:  The greatest boon on earth to the traveling man is bringing home as complete a photographic memorandum of his travels as one desires.  My Fuji film digital camera did just that; too bad I forgot to pack it before leaving Miami.  Thanks Sis for offering to mail it back.

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Photo above:  An American with a vision by the last name of Boston once upon a time gathered up a few investors and built this sugar processing plant in the province of Holguin, Cuba.  The place quickly prospered and employed hundreds.  The town took on the name of Boston.  After the revolution the bearded one not only changed the name to  Nicaragua, Cuba but, by closing the plant brought economic ruin to the area.  And today with a total disregard for even the most routine of maintenance the place is quickly falling to the ground.  During our visit the two extremely talented workers that can produce any mechanical or industrial part needed were producing an aluminum cutting apparatus for some farm equipment.  Somewhat similar to an oversized razor blade.

 

Everything was operational, powered by 440V.  Mostly US manufactured equipment from NY, Cincinnati, Ohio and one Soviet era machine.

The now decrepit dock and abandoned track.

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And finally the feast under an avocado tree with the nearby ocean breeze blowing.  If only one could also bring back the smell and taste of a delicious meal.  Priceless!

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Holguin Random Pictures

 

An old Wurlitzer record player now playing.  An old radio on the bar counter ready to turn on and enjoy.  Earlier I consumed the first and second mojito; one slightly weaker than the other however, my thirst is now quenched.

My thousand word picture of the revolution.  “How do you like my little revolution now suckers”.  (Note: not a literal translation)

After the one hour flight jet lag wears off and you consume the first of many drinks everything around you feels like you are drifting back in time.  Time that without a cell phone or wi-fi suddenly slows way down.

In Cuba as a visitor you feel like an explorer on a mission; nothing can hurt you, certainly not the people and this is a country without snakes; dogs don’t even bark or want to bite humans.  They are also on a mission, in search of food.  However, your body in Cuba may become your worse enemy.  If you are not used to standing, can’t stand the heat, humidity or bugs, or seem to crave snacks or drinking water; or your body weight is such that you can’t stand for hours or walk endless steps, then low budget travel to Cuba may not be for you.

But do not despair my friend.  High end travel to Cuba is entirely available.  Resorts abound.  Endless tour buses and/or personal tours in old cars or jeep safari’s are available.

 

Above some random pictures.  My bar seat.  The shower in my casa particular (B&B like room) that cost me 10 CUCs (less than $10 a night)

My shower and hot water 240V thinga ma jig.  Totally scared the crap out of me for fear of electrocution I opted for cold showers.  Random people walking.  And if a picture is worth a thousand words to you then walking is my explanation for longevity of life in Cuba.  Almost daily I met someone in their 80s, out walking.

Above a Cuban breakfast kiosk.  And on this particular morning I somehow managed to consume an expresso coffee and milk, mango juice, one bar of a peanut brittle molasses mix, a small bar of crushed peanuts, the worse Iron beer soft drink in my life, and a half  bottle of water.

An hour later we stop in Las Tunas for a visit.  My first impression of this town is its  distinct sewer like smell.  My stomach begins churning.  Next I start to sense a  Mt. St. Helens type eruption.  No time for immodium.

Next I catch a strong whiff of what was later described to me as a pig shit odor.  But, this is a housing development I say.  You are correct my friend but, people here still keep a  pig or two in the back room of the house for fear or something stealing the critter.

Quickly I begin distancing myself from this location.  The treatment.  Three ice cold Cuban Crystal beers in their distinctive green bottles.  Once again, all is good with the world.  Eruption avoided.

 

Twins in their youths and today.  A fact is that people in Cuba live longer lives than in the US but, the women tend to age at a faster rate.  Don’t get me wrong.  They are some of the most beautiful people in the world.  However, that same woman ages at twice the national average.  Must be a climate change sort of thing.  The Cuban diet is totally hormone free.  You can taste the flavor in everything you eat in this province.  The Cuban people also have no choice in exercising.  So rarely do you encounter someone obese.  It is all the walking and waiting for everything that does it plus the humidity and heat.  Want to lose some weight.  Visit Cuba.

 

And were it not for the Pope, Cuba today would still not have any religion.  Castro outlawed it and in 1962 also stopped their postal system.

 

If non of the above have so much as peaked your interest in a possible visit of this 60s era encapsulated country then your sense of adventure needs a reboot.  Three Cuba provinces down.  Another 13 to go.

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