Mazatlan serves me a series of strange serendipities.
A last minute request lands me a stay at Yesie’s house – latino pronunciations make connecting names to their gringo counterparts a fun game. I arrive at night in a small suburban neighbourhood. Typical beat up streets and smoking taco stands, small bungalows castled behind iron bars, and little parks where kids play in the blessed respite nighttime brings from the coastal heat. Not too sketchy, not too safe either. Yesie meets me in her truck with a couple of lady friends to guide me to her house. She’s going out and doesn’t invite me, but does ask if I’ve been drinking for some reason – I must be wearing the day’s travels poorly. Not quite the cultural exchange I was expecting, but I suppose that’s the point of it all. Saturday night in Mazatlan, and I sleep.
In the morning she’s comatose so I head out in search of some liquid fruit goodness for breakfast. Riding past the boardwalk by the sea I spot a badass looking Ural motorcycle with sidecar, a sticker outlining a path around the Americas. I stop to check it out and meet another inspiring adventure couple – Gary and Mary, or Gar and Mar. They’ve traveled the perimeter of the Americas together and are living on their sailboat, free to take their motorcycle where they please and explore. Radical. They are a super friendly couple and invite me to breakfast, he tells me it’s paid for by the videos he sells online of his adventures. I try to trade some tall tales but haven’t gone far yet compared to this seasoned wayfarer. He offers to loan me an extension bar I need to check and adjust the valves – I still don’t trust the job I had done in Durango, and now I’m getting some terrible backfiring.
I spend the day exploring Mazatlan; it’s an interesting bayside town struggling to balance gentrification and local culture as gringo & gang dollars speed up the former. The preserved colonial part of town is charming with quirkiness and character to spare. I spot a mechanic shop and show him my remaining gear-ring, he fishes one out of a box and gifts it to me. Feels good to have the pair again, I give it a spin to feel them grind satisfyingly against one another.
Gar&Mar invited me over to see their boat where Mar fixes me some delicious fish and I get to see some of the videos and hear about what it was like to travel back in the day, and what a tank of a vehicle the Ural can be with its double rear wheel drive. It’s wonderful to share with fellow wayward souls, and I rest easy that night thinking I’ve seen a potential happy future for myself.
The next day I attack the engine to discover the valve cover gasket is all buggered up and the cam chain was one tooth off. I look it up and discover a chilling warning – “Your KLR can be 1, 2 teeth off max before you risk grenading the engine”. I discover and resolve a missing header pipe bolt, which should help my backfiring until I can get a new crush gasket. After returning the extension to Gary, I can’t get the bike to start again; we have to drag it up a hill (multiple times) as I learn the art of bump starting, which gets me to a mechanic who simply connects the fuses that had rattled out. Well, that was an embarrassing way to burn 100 pesos.
Maybe I’m flustered, but I start off without my helmet and get swept away by the winding one way streets. As I stop at a bank a couple of motocops dive in on me with grim faces and get my ID – it’s fine time. I tell them it’s been a long day and I just got lost after absently testing the bike helmetless, probably in part due to the fact that they don’t seem to have managed to get anyone else in town to wear helmets. They promise take me back to the shop as soon as I pay up, so I ask them how much the fine is. Their answer is a bold “how much you got?”.
I’ll (grudgingly) pay a fine for breaking a decent law, but fuck their bribes. We’ve got enough cops in the world looking to prey on the weak without me encouraging them to hunt gringos. I tell them I don’t have any cash and pull out the decoy wallet with a few coins and expired IDs in it. No problem, there’s an ATM over there. I head over and fiddle with the machine for a good while to make it look good and kill time, then go back and say it isn’t accepting my card, spinning a yarn about how worried I am that I’ll be stuck here without any money. They look at each other in disgust and decide I’ve wasted enough of their time and wave me off. I cheekily ask about the escort to the garage and one vaguely waves his hand in that direction. I’ve got more time than money, and am glad to have been able to trade one for the other here and avoid supporting corrupt cops.
After sheepishly recuperating my helmet I decide it’s too late to leave today and get myself a cheap room with parking by the beach. My stay with Yesie expired this morning and I haven’t actually had a chance to spend a single minute with her; I don’t feel comfortable asking her for another night.
A walk around leads to a couple of friendly conversations but it’s still early when I get bored and decide to just hit the sack and wake early to get in a good day. I do get a chance to see baby turtles being released into the ocean though – the locals tend to take the eggs for food so now conservation groups rescue them after they’re laid and return them after hatching in a big foam cooler.
The next morning’s progress is interrupted by one of those weird moments you don’t know what to do with other than move on, perturbed. I’m getting dressed and I notice I have three rings on my finger now – the two I had when I went to sleep, and the third I had presumed lost that drunken night in Durango. I decide that the set looks cool and I’ll keep it on as a sort of talisman, accept the possibility that something beyond my ken is going on despite all rational attempts to disbelieve the three rings on my finger.
Since leaving Canada everything has sort of fallen into place – security has never been paying attention, I always seem to land in just the right place for free meals and lodging, the fellow free spirits I’ve met on the road just happen to be on the right course for us to cross paths, the motorcycle seems to be taking a progressive approach to falling apart perfectly in sync with my increasing mechanical aptitude, and any obstacle I’ve faced has been accompanied by just the right expert to tell me what I need to know…
I don’t believe I’m being guided, but can’t deny that’s not to stop me from being guided.
There are waves of particles intangible to us constantly shooting through our bodies and the earth; we ignore them like a ghost walking through the sea. Some mysteries can be solved, and others only serve to drive men mad.
I spin the rings on my fingers, and wonder where I’ll end up tomorrow.