Out of the Mountains and to the Coast

I was up early in Xilitla to try to beat the heat.  I’m a bit slower in everything these days and, on average, I find it takes me about an hour and a half to shower, get everything packed, load the bike, and be on my way.  It used to take me 45-50 minutes.  Oh well, it is what it is.  

The ride out of the mountains was beautiful, as the morning mist and cloud shrouded the jungle-covered hills.  Snaking my way down the mountain, the views from the two lane mountain road were often spectacular, but there were no safe places to pull off and take a picture.  If there was a good place with enough room to pull off the road , it was often littered with trash and behind vegetation which blocked the view.  So, unfortunately, no good pics from that ride.   

When I got to a fork in the road, Mr. Google took me to the left, which is strange, because I thought I was supposed to go right.  After a few kilometers I found a safe spot to pull over and check what the deal was.  As usual, google decided it knew better than I did, and had changed my route.  I wanted to take the slower, smaller-road route, but google decided, without telling me, that it was going to route me on the high-speed autopista.   A quick re-program fixed that, and I made a U-turn to head in the correct direction, towards the Gulf of Mexico coast and a port city called Tuxpan.  Why Tuxpan?  Its not really known for any great sights or a booming adventure destination, but it was listed in Lonely Planet as a nice port city which was a good stopover for travelers headed down the coast, and it was about the right distance for how far I wanted to ride that day.   Plus, supposedly it had some awesome seafood.  

The roads I took were all fairly low-speed.  80 kmh max, and, in a lot of places, you were doing only 30-40 as you passed through small towns and heavily-trafficked areas.  Riding the smaller roads in Mexico is an feast for the senses, and you are on high-alert at all times, or at least you should be.   Some of the potholes look as if they could swallow half your wheel, and various forms of life are constantly crossing the road, from stray dogs to people.   The Topes (speedbumps) often appear with no warning, but if you watch the brake lights ahead of you, you can tell where they are.  Automobiles, trucks, and small motorcycles just pull out onto the road, expecting you to brake for them, which, being on a motorcycle, I do.   If they did that to me in the US, they would probably get a horn and a finger, but since I am an outsider in a foreign land, I just sigh and let them go, no harm, no fuss.   No point being an ugly American and giving motorcycle riders a bad reputation. The smaller roads are very slow going.  No wonder google says it will take 6-7 hours to go a mere 160 miles.   

As I came into one of the small towns I was hot and thirsty and ready for a break.  I saw a small shop to my left and I pulled up to the curb and parked the bike.  While buying my water and some chips to eat, one of the local men started asking me about the bike (Bella is the star of the show here…. Most want to know how fast she goes, what kind of bike she is, and how big the motor is).  A school nearby mustve just gotten out, because a bunch of teens in school uniforms were walking by, and one of the boys was very interested in knowing about the bike and about my trip.  His name was Rodrigo and I invited him to sit on Bella and take some pictures.  His girlfriend took pics of him on it, and then we got a few pics of us together.  Of course, then the grown man who was interested thought it was his turn to sit on the bike too.  He jumped on without asking and almost tipped Bella over (he might’ve had a few drinks, I think).  I grabbed the handlebars to steady Bella before anything bad happened, and his buddy took a pic of him on the her.  Satisfied, he dismounted and his buddy stood near her for a pic as well.   Rodrigo took a pic of the Instagram name I have stuck to the side of Bella, and I was surprised to get a message from him the next day.  He had been very taken by the motorcycle and with my journey when he read my Instagram Bio.  I was very pleased to hear it inspired him.   

A few hours later I pulled into my hotel in Tuxpan, which was situated right on the riverfront.   I was hot and sweaty and very happy to get out of my riding clothes and boots and into a shower.  Needing to stretch my legs, I went for an evening walk in the heavy air of the Gulf of Mexico, enjoying just strolling along the waterfront.  I found a little restaurant called Mr. Pulpo, and enjoyed the house specialty, also called Mr. Pulpo, over a beer while watching the setting sun.   I slept hard that night.


The next day I was up early again, and after a breakfast of eggs and what can only be described as looking like a log of poo (it was beans), I was headed for a nearby Archeological site called El Taijin.  El Taijin was built and rose to power between 800 and 1200 AD by a mysterious lost civilization.  It is one of the best-preserved pre-hispanic cities and it is a good example of the Classic Veracruz civilization.  The site is pretty big and it fills up over 10 square kilometers, but it is often undervisited.   I was just about the only person there, and only saw a couple of other visitors the whole time.  The Pyramid of the Niches is probably the most impressive structure there, as it stands almost 60 feet high and is surrounded by small square niches.  Archeologists think it may have served as some sort of calendar, as there were originally 365 niches.  I also found the Ball Courts fascinating, as there are relief carvings along the walls which depict, in some spots, ritual human sacrifice.   I have read that the winners were sacrificed and it was considered an honor, but I also read other things disputing that.  Either way, its very interesting.  

Leaving El Taijin, I headed back towards the coast and towards the small fishing village of Villa Rica, just to the north of Veracruz.  Villa Rica, founded in 1519, not only has some beautiful beaches, but was also the site of the first European settlement north of Panama in mainland America.  As I approached the coast I was delighted that the temperature dropped a bit as the clouds increased.  Finally, I got a glimpse of the ocean and a whiff of the salt air.


In Villa Rica I bedded down for the night at Casa de Cortes, a small and simple hotel owned by Edgar, a Captain and former paratrooper in the Mexican Air Force.  I was the only guest there that night and Edgar and Yari treated me like family, cooking me a delicious dinner of fresh shrimp pasta.   The hotel had a nice patio from which I could see the ocean and I enjoyed a nice after-dinner beer and read my kindle while listening to the peaceful waves.   It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.