Elk Grove, CA - ODO: 2,768
By the time we arrived at Dora's place I was tired, cold, and wet. For months I could think of nothing but this adventure and now that it had started I could think of nothing but my warm bed at home. I wondered whether this had been a good idea after all and kept telling myself that I could go home if I wanted to. This wouldn't be my first unfinished project.
After a hot shower I regained the feeling in my face and partial mobility of my right hand, so I grabbed my journal and curled up in bed. I wrote the date at the top of the first page. I underlined it. Then wrote the city name and the odometer read. This was not going the way I fantasized during the months leading up to our departure. I chalked up my lack of creativity to exhaustion, so I closed my journal and prepared for bed. Meanwhile Russ was clacking away at his keyboard, so I took a moment to think the worst of him. Later, I turned off the lights, pretending not to notice that I left him in the dark while he rummaged through his bag looking for his headphones, which were safely stowed away under my pillow.
Santa Ana, CA - ODO: 3,174
The following is a real conversation that took place in Korea, circa 1991. It was all in Spanish, so allow me to translate:
Me: I just saw a guy walk up to a machine and it gave him money.
Juan: That's an ATM
Me: ATM, as in A Toda Madre?!? Orale!
Juan: No, a machine you use to withdraw money from your bank account
Me: Ah, so he must be rich
Juan: No, everyone has a bank account
Me: Now you're just making sh*t up
Juan: *sigh* We need to talk.
This isn't funny and rather borders on the sad and embarrassing. When I first came to the US not only did I not speak the language, but also was ignorant about things that most people here know by virtue of simply being alive. That's when I met Juan Sanchez and, luckily for me, the timing couldn't have been better. I was a blank canvas and he was the ideal friend and role model. Juan is a natural teacher — passionate, industrious, smart, and humble. He patiently explained everything from ATMs to Milli Vanilli. I've considered dubbing over my voice in videos with that of someone with a perfect American accent. Not unlike the dramatic garage door reveal, this idea has been squashed by all involved.
I mention Juan in this post because he and his lovely wife, Eliza, were our hosts in Santa Ana, CA. As always, they treated me like family and made Russ and I feel right at home. If my calculations are correct, during our stay we ate 32 street tacos, 4 pots of refried beans, 127 tortillas, 2 bowls of homemade salsa, a watermelon, 4 pineapples, 7 mangoes, and 1 jicama. Eliza makes the most delicious vegan Mexican food. Well, since she's Mexican, I guess she'd just call it vegan food.
Juan teaches the fifth grade so we asked him if we could come meet his class. We think it'd be great to connect them with kids from schools throughout South America, perhaps through Skype or Google Hangouts. Juan presented the idea to the class and they loved it.
"Kids in South America," Juan explained to the class, "will probably think that all kids in the US have white skin, blonde hair, and…"
"three eyes..." One of the kids interjected and laughter ensued.
What Juan meant to say is that kids in South America might find it surprising that kids here in the US look just like them. We are not clear on the specifics yet, but we'd like to organize a project that will allow our adventure to contribute to a rich learning experience for the class. I'm looking for ideas!
After lunch the kids went to check out our motorcycles and had a million questions about them. "How fast can they go?", " Are they heavy?", and "Could you still ride it if you only had one arm?" Talking to those kids remains one of the highlights of our trip as it allowed us to see our adventure from the wondering eyes of a child.
While we took pictures during our visit and refused to stop until we had exhausted every possible photo configuration, I'm yet to get those copies from Russ. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I am beginning to suspect conspiracy. To avoid further delay, I'm including the few pictures from the trip that I have along with some unrelated photos of Juan, Eliza, Kasandra, and Rebecca.
Quick side note - there's a picture of me standing in front of supermarket El Super. That was my first employer when I came to the US. I worked the night shift pushing carts and bagging groceries. Every time I'm in Southern California I like to go see the place, just to remind me of how fortunate I am.
Bisbee, AZ - ODO: 3,794
Call me unimaginative, but unless you work for Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold, belong to a motorcycle gang, or intend to cross the border into Mexico, I couldn't have thought of a reason to ever go to Bisbee, AZ. So I would have totally missed out on seeing this quintessential small town with its bright colors, picturesque main street, and Victorian-style architecture. And that would have been totally OK with me.
Our host, Stephen Tham, was a delight to meet. A very young fellow with a sharp mind and a dry sense of humor. After some brief introductions he gave us a quick tour of the house. I filmed some of our interactions, but lost the audio. This, of course, happened immediately after I suggested to Russ that he should do all the writing and I'd deal with audio/video - my supposed core competency. I did manage to salvage some of the mute footage and added captions.
Chihuahua, Mexico - ODO: 4,174
I'm not one to brag, but I'm fairly certain that we hold the record for getting lost the fastest after crossing the border into Mexico.
Do Not Ride at Night, They Said
It's important to note here that before leaving the comforts of home in Portland, we set a series of rules by which to abide in order to avert disaster. The first rule is "Do not ride at night in Latin America." Between getting lost, the constant road detours, and Russ' penchant for Mennonite cheese sandwiches, halfway through our ride we realized that there was no way to reach Chihuahua before dark, so we had a decision to make: do we stop at the first town we reach before dark and stay the night, or do we ride after dark to Chihuahua?
Having read all the warnings and watched all the YouTube videos about the horrors of riding at night in Latin America, and knowing well that the Internet never blows things out of proportion, we hesitantly decided to take our chances and press forward. At every turn I imagined criminals coming at us with machetes. At some point I was fairly certain I saw a sack of severed heads, but it turned out to be a toothless old man selling coconuts on the side of the road. Still, I was spooked.
When it's Dark, You Can't See Anything, They Said
Once darkness came, it was pitch black. Other than the faint lights from Russ' motorcycle and those of my own dashboard, nothing could be seen. I was fantasizing about vegan meatballs when suddenly a set of bright lights startled me back to the present. A local police car. We pulled over and I prepared for the worst. We were traveling at the speed limit, so I couldn't imagine why we'd get pulled over.
Watch Out For The Police, They Said
The police officer approached me and was a little surprised by my Spanish, which was laden with a northern-Mexican accent. I asked whether we had been speeding, but before I could finish he raised his right index finger as he answered his ringing mobile phone. He did a series of mhms and ahas and then said, "I got the two motorcyclists right here. They're Americans." Russ quietly listened through his helmet, which was connected to mine via bluetooth. The police officer walked away to continue with his phone call and I began to panic. He came back and asked if I had a camera on the helmet. I said that I didn't. He then proceeded to ask the price of each item I was wearing, from the motorcycle, to the helmet, to my underwear, which was purchased expressly for situations like this one. For the first few items I discounted the price by 50%, but when his response was, "Say wha????" I continued to discount them even further. By the time we got to my underwear prices were so low that he began to consider moving to the US - at those prices, he thought, is it any wonder everyone wants to go there? After inventorying and pricing everything, he decided to try out my gloves and I stupidly said, "If it don't fit, you must acquit." He wasn't amused. Luckily even if he spoke English he was too young to have gotten the reference, so I told him that what I meant was that my friend really needed to use the bathroom. He looked puzzled again so I said, "number 2." He handed me the gloves and said, "Enjoy your ride!"
We finally made it to Chihuahua and our host, Edgar, turned out to be a wonderful person. He and his friends Lupe and Rocky prepared a delicious meal and helped us plan the rest of our route through Mexico. Thanks to them we made some modifications that I believe made the journey much more enjoyable.
By the time we settled in for the night, I was too tired to even think about writing a post, so I did the responsible thing and hid Russ' power cords before going to bed.