Day 17 – Mexico City to Apizaco

It’s two days before Christmas and today has been filled with ups and downs.

It started with us going down to the lobby of the hotel to look up directions to quickly escape the grasp of Mexico City, a task which we have since learned is impossible. And then we spent an hour re-evaluating the latest version of the iPad magazine app we’re having built because the guy doesn’t believe that he hasn’t squashed all the bugs. We confirmed that no, there were still plenty left.

After that we packed up and had the hotel call us a cab to take us and our piles of crap to Motohaus BMW, where we expected to drop off our stuff and go hunt down food while they finished our bikes. But that was not to be. They were simply too efficient. I blame the German influence. Our bikes were done, cleaned, and standing ready to be loaded up by the time we’d finished paying the bill. We’re still a little unclear about why it cost the same for both bikes when, theoretically, I had more done, but it was a totally reasonable price so we paid it, and decided to decipher the bill later. Unfortunately we were starving.

Dachary felt it best to flee the city than stop and attempt to find food. So we did, or, we attempted to. One of the important intersections Google maps wanted us to turn at simply wasn’t there, and we found ourselves in the old historic part of town. It was incredible. I wish we had video for you, but my camera mount has been removed from the helmet (long story, will replace it shortly) and Dachary was simply too stressed by the excessive merging and lane-hopping to deal with taking a hand off the bike to turn on the camera.

Eventually we turned onto Eje 1 as the Eje’s seem to be important cross streets. Unfortunately Eje 1, where we were, was about one mile of vendors lining each side of the street with tons of people, and vendors, spilling out into the road. We both agreed it would have been great to explore on foot, but sucked on the bikes. And then, it all disappeared. Dense hardly moving traffic evaporated and we were zooming down the road without interference from anything except traffic lights. A little help from the GPS and we were slowly shirking the grasp of Mexico City.

We rejoiced when we saw the sign thanking us for visiting Mexico City, but it had been ages in traffic, and we’d been up for at least five hours at that point without anything in our bellies but water. We kept going. Something would come up, just as soon as we got past the dense edge of the city. And eventually it did. We have dubbed it the Restaurante California, because while we got in easily enough we had the most incompetent waiter of my days. After clearing away our plates he disappeared. It was at least 15 minutes before he even looked our way and we were able to summon him and suggest that maybe getting us a bill would be a good thing. He then disappeared for another ten minutes.

The meal was uninspiring and way overpriced, but it was like a restaurant at any highway pull-off. They had a captive audience and could charge pretty much whatever they wanted. There was one good thing there. A map. Actually, an atlas, of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize! $210 pesos ( just under $20 US ) and it was mine. We debated if we really needed it, but I was unsure of the location of the border crossing with Guatemala, and after the insanity of the city, I wanted the reassurance of knowing that we had a good detailed map that we could use to extricate ourself from wherever we ended up. There are a lot of towns that aren’t on our big map, and there are a lot of roads in Mexico with no names. And while, overall, the signage is pretty damn good. Sometimes it doesn’t exist when you really need it.

At one point we followed the signs to Apizaco and found ourself in this beautiful little town that looked like someone had taken all the fancy boutique stores from a major city and tastefully laid them out side by side, block after block. (After consulting the map, we can confirm that Tlaxcala is the name of the town.) Many of the streets were even lined with stone instead of asphalt. Another great shopping place.

It was only a little after four at this point and both of us we feeling tired. The time spent in the heat of Mexico City’s stop and go traffic combined with the poor meal and we were ready to call it a day. We had planned to camp that night at a campground not far away, but Dachary had checked the weather and it claimed an evening temperature in the low thirties, and while we can survive that in our sleeping bags, we know from experience that it’s not pleasant… at all.

A little farther and Dachary’s seriously starting to fade. We stopped in one hotel but realize it’s a kiss-no-tell motel, and we don’t want to pay for sixteen hours. They’re usually sold in blocks of four, and 4 PM to 8 AM would be just as much as a normal hotel, plus the stress of a running clock and the complications of figuring out how to indicate our needs through a hidden window dealie… we turned around and continued down the road. The Hotel de Angels* ( I think ) appeared next with a normal nightly rate af $1222 pesos ($100 US) but he offered us a Christmas discount of only $750 pesos which I declined. As we exited that one I spotted another down the road. I don’t remember the name but the woman offered us a room fro $250 pesos (just over $20 US) and suggested we could pull our motorcycles into their gated (and locked) tunnel of a driveway. So we did.

We took off our helmets and I grabbed my tank bag and followed the girl up to the room… on the 4th floor. Incapable of asking for something on a lower floor I went with it, came down and said “Ok. New strategy. We’re on the fourth floor. So, we grab the valuables out of the panniers and leave them locked up on the bikes. ”

At this point Dachary lost it and pretty much just sat down and started crying, and eventually sobbing. She’d severely sugar crashed a while ago and just kept holding it in until we found a place to stop and the prospect of hauling our stuff up four flights of stairs or leaving the panniers behind was simply too much. And, she desperately needed to eat. And, having her period on top of all that probably didn’t help.

She got it in her head that the place, and the parking was insecure, and bad in some indescribable way, but agreed that in her current state trying to get a refund, getting back on the bikes, and continuing our search for a hotel simply wasn’t going to happen. Also, I don’t think either of us could do a very good job of asking for a refund.

So, unwilling to leave the panniers on the bikes, she put her helmet back on, grabbed her tank bag, and both her panniers, and proceeded to carry them all up at once, stopping frequently and not letting me help. “Stubborn” is a word that comes to mind. She felt that she couldn’t deal with the stairs at all, but if she must she was only going to do it once, even if it was far more difficult that way.

I made a couple more trips for the rest of the stuff, and to lock the tires to the bike and found her undressed in her sleeping bag (with liner), under the covers instructing me to wake her when it was time to leave in the morning and that no, she wanted nothing to do with the idea of dinner.

Dachary Cocoon
Dachary Cocoon

I decided that the presence of warm food might change that perception and went out to find some. I wish she had of come, because what I found was so sweet.

The first restaurant was this green walled fluorescent soulless looking space with one person eating alone at a table. The next ( Restaurante Blanco i think) had a Christmas tree in the corner, with blinking snowmen, and lights. The family that owned the place was gathered around a table with the matriarch at the head, a fuzzy TV showing a dubbed US movie by the tree, and a child’s car game on it. The tables were nicely adorned with tablecloths and the woman was wonderfully patient with my horrid spanish, and got me something along the lines of what I asked for. Grilled meat. :)

I asked her specifically what the name of it was before leaving, but forgot it 2 minutes later. It was some sort of thinly sliced grilled pork with lemony flavor, french fries (probably home made), some refried pinto beans, some avocado and a little tomato on the side.

I swung by the OXXO (the largest convenience store chain in Mexico) and grabbed some soda and some cookies (good source of fast sugar while the food digested), brought it back to our room, and startled Dachary out of sleep even though i’d been talking to her since before i opened the door.

It took some convincing to get her out of her cocoon (“It’s cold.” she claimed) but the food was delicious. The avocado went brilliantly with the fries, and I politely ordered her to eat some cookies when she finished. Within ten minutes she was a new woman. And now, she’s laughing and reading her novel beside me.

So yeah. Today had some ups and downs.

Tomorrow we should make it to El Tajin. Some very impressive ruins. I don’t know if we’ll make it in before dark, or if they’re going to be open on Christmas, but we’ll see. There’s a campground right next to it that’s well recommended (actually, there are a few) but it’s pretty cool in our room right now, and probably cold outside and the weather report didn’t look like it was going to warm up much for Christmas. So, it’s likely we’ll end up in another hotel.

Gear Notes:
Cardo Scala G4 seems to be working well overall, but we’re not 100% thrilled. When the environment is quiet (like when stopped at a gas station) they are almost imperceptibly quiet if you’ve got earplugs in. We find that they occasionally need to be rebooted while riding. Not a hard thing, but an annoying one. The audio becomes incredibly distorted and you can only barely make out what the other person is saying to you. When you reboot a module it requires both people to initiate the connection again but seems to fix the problem.

The noise filtering is impressive though. While the Sena is far louder we didn’t realize just how much wind noise it was transmitting. Riding at speed today was practically relaxing it was so quiet. The G4 emits sound exclusively when someone is talking. Sometimes it’s too aggressive about this, chopping off the beginning of the first word, and monosyllabic words like “yup” and “yes” frequently disappear into the ether.

As the outside noise increases so does the volume, and I believe the G4 performed quite well. It was still hard to hear at highway speeds with wind but no harder than the Sena. It was just a different form of hard.

The buttons on the side are difficult to find with a glove, and would probably be very difficult with winter gloves.

Oxford Spanish / English dictionary.
I’m seriously beginning to dislike this thing. It’s nicely sized, and laid out, and the colored letter blocks on the edge of the pages make it easy to find the section you need but when you get there there’s an 85% chance that the word you’re looking for isn’t there. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking in the Spanish or English half.


* There is no way in hell the Hotel de Angels at $1222 pesos could hold a candle to the the $970 peso Hotel Villes in Ciduaded de Villes. When I went in to check the rate there people were walking through the wonderfully decorated main hall in incredibly nice dresses and suits that pretty much told me there was no way in hell I would be spending the night there before I even found the clerk. I really regretted not being Charlie and Ewen that night. To be able to stumble across some totally swank digs and not worry about the price? That would have been excellent.

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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