I didn’t sleep well at all the night before the border crossing.  I had read and heard too much about the crime and corrupt officials in Northern Mexico, near the border, and it all kept going through my head.  Strangely, I hear all sorts of stories about how dangerous some of the places I have flown as an Airline Pilot are, and I never give them any heed at all.  I have walked the Favellas of Rio, walked all over Buenos Aires, and walked to bars at night by myself in Mexico City.  I’ve never been worried.  But this felt different for some reason.  I felt like a target, alone and on a nice bike in an area known for violent crime. 

I crossed into Mexico at the Colombia Bridge, just West of Laredo, and it was a breeze.  I was in and out with my Temporary Import Permit within about 25 minutes.  I had been warned that the cartels employ “spotters” at the border crossing who call ahead and report who is coming if its someone they may want to relieve of their possessions.  Were the two young men sitting in the car in the parking lot really eating their lunch, or were they watching me?  It seemed like they were watching me as I got ready to leave the crossing.  Were they going to follow me?  I left the border, watching to see if I was being followed, but nada.  Did I mention that I am convinced that every noise I hear at night when camping alone is a bear?  

In the end, nobody followed me, I was not stopped, and there were no corrupt officials.  It was just another day of riding high speed highways, as I wanted to make good time South and leave the border region as far behind me as I could.  I took the toll Autopista towards Monterrey and bypassed it, heading to Saltillo.  The Texas mesquite gave way to the desert and ubiquitous Joshua Trees, their arms all seeming to wave “Bienvenidos” to me as I rolled into their country.   Climbing up to the altoplano from Monterrey, I went from a few hundred feet above Sea Level to 5500 feet within about 30 miles.  As I climbed up to the high desert, the temperature soared along with the elevation, quickly reaching almost 90 degrees, and Bella started pouring heat from her engine onto my legs.  By the time I reached Saltillo and my hotel for the night, I was a sweaty mess.  

Saltillo was just an overnight stop for me.  My hotel was about 20 minutes from the downtown area and I was tired and just wanted some food and sleep.   After an all-too-short overnight, I awoke early to hit the road, ready to put a few hundred more miles behind me.  But before getting on the highway, I stopped at a roadside restaurant for some breakfast.  They gave me some chips and salsa with breakfast and my mouth was on fire!  It was a hell of a lot better than the crap they serve at Mexican restaurants in Virginia.  It was like the Mexican I grew up with in San Diego, and it was gooood!  

I hit the toll highway again, taking Mexico 57 towards Matehuala and San Luis Potosi.   The highway continued through the high desert and the temperature continued to climb.  Although you’re on a toll highway, there are still plenty of hazards to keep your eyes open for in Mexico.  Some of the things I saw:  Cattle being driven across the highway, random people walking along the side and crossing the highway, herds of goats and sheep in the median between the two directions, potholes, cars and trucks pulling out of roadside stops without seeming to care (or knowing that they are bigger) that a motorcycle is coming.  Oh, and did I mention that when the highway is just two lanes, you better ride close to or in the shoulder, because the big trucks coming the opposite way will pass cars even when there is oncoming traffic.  Nothing like seeing a big rig coming straight at you to get your attention!  Not paying attention is not an option on Mexican roads, if you value your life that is!

One of the little pleasures of having Pulmonary Fibrosis:  High elevations can really cause you problems.  I pulled into a gas station that was situated at about 6500 feet, and when I walked in to use the bathroom, I noticed I was very short of breath.  When I came back out to the bike I pulled out my Oximeter and it read 76%.  That is no bueno.  88% is generally accepted as the minimum, as below that your organs do not get enough oxygen to function properly and eventually start to shut down. Its called Hypoxemia.  It can cause dizziness, a sick feeling, and, if you let it continue, you could pass out.   I sat still and did some breathing exercises, watching my oxygen level, until it slowly got back above 90.  For PF patients, any kind of exertion can often make your oxygen levels fall rapidly because your muscles are sucking the oxygen out of your blood, but the lungs cannot resupply the oxygen at the same rate as a healthy person.  Despite all the running and hiking at high altitudes I had done prior to getting sick, I now could not even walk to the bathroom and back without feeling dizzy.   What a pain in the ass this disease is!

After that little scare, I decided to head towards lower elevations, and altered my destination from San Miguel de Allende, to RioVerde, which was a few thousand feet lower.  After Matehuala, I took Mexico 75D Southeast to RioVerde and was there in about 2 more hours.  Once again, the temps reached the mid-80s and the desert sun beat down on me.  It was about an hour to sunset as I pulled into the center of RioVerde.  The Centro was bustling, with lots of small 125cc motorcycles buzzing about, often passing the slow gringo on the big bike.  I pulled over next to a line of mini-motorcycles and shut down, pulling out my phone to look for a hotel.  A local standing on the corner started speaking to me but my poor Spanish let me down again, and he switched to English upon realizing the gringo could not habla Espanol very well.  

He told me how he used to live in Houston for four years and he had a motorcycle.  He live in RioVerde now, where he was from, and he liked it there.  He asked about Bella and how big her engine was.   He was looking her over and I asked if he wanted a picture with her, which he did. 

Once I found a decent hotel, just on the outskirts of town, I bid my new friend goodbye and headed over to the hotel, La Moline, which was as old Sugar Cane mill.  Apparently Sugar Cane used to be a big industry in RioVerde.  The family-run hotel was quaint and quiet, which was exactly what I was looking for.   I helped myself to sleep with a few Advil PM and had the best sleep I had had in a week.