One year on the road. Un ano. An excellent adventure and bogus journey. The throttle was turned and old New York was spied in the mirror in June of 2011. Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Latin America, through Mexico, down Central America way, over the Darien and into Colombia, then Ecuador, and now Peru. Patagonia was always the goal, and it still is, but I never really actually thought I would make it this far en serio. And indeed it is far and a long way to come on an old moto and in stinky boots.
Sure, few great truths are revealing themselves, few insights.
But look, it was never that kind of trip.
A great DJ once asked me, “Subcommandante, after all this is over, how will you adjust back to civilian life?”
The truth is that I never really adjusted to it anyway. So it’ll be more or less the same.
I’m just living my life, one peso at a time.
…but never mind that.
We’re in Peru now where the death roads bring new life when you’re staring into the eyes of the beast and crazy, muddy, rocky dirt roads with vertiginous drops blow us away like we’re listening to an old-school Maxwell tape.
On speaking Spanish: After 8 months in Latin America I can faithfully say that I am a beginner level Spanish speaker. You hear a lot of people throw out the platitude that they can speak Spanish well enough to order food. The truth is that ordering food is one of the harder things to do while speaking Spanish in Latin America. It’s a process that is entirely different than ordering up a cheeseburger in the states. Every country and every different region of each country has different names for everything and, like an imaginary linguistic wall is set up between them, no one knows the words that other places use for different foodstuffs. Menus only exist in upscale joints and sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get. It’s cool though and I don’t mind. The set lunch is a common thing down here and it’s something that I think we used to have in the states but disappeared a long time ago. It’s like the menu of the day but it’s super cheap, between $1.50 and $4 for the most part wherever you go and it comes with a soup, main dish with meat, starch and vegetable, a glass of juice, and sometimes a little something for desert. It’s really a great deal and it’s enough food for two people. En serio, my spanish is not that bad. It should be better, but I’m lazy. I never study my notes from Xela and I’m a loner man, a rebel, and care little for small talk anyways. And yet, I get by. Here I am.
But hey c’mon man, you got your whole life riding around in that rubbermaid top-box. What if somebody looks in there!?
Relax Billy, they won’t even know what it is man, they won’t even know what it is.
Che Guevara. Who was Che Guevara?
I dunno, some dude I guess. Latins and hipsters and gente the world over love their romantic losers, killed on mountaintops and emblazoned on t-shirts the world over. Best to die, but better to die for a cause.
I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy Che Guevara’s biography. I didn’t. I was going to, in a bookstore in Phoenix, but it was like 900 pages and weighed a metric ton. Couldn’t they have condensed it into a 200 page paperback? Louis L’Amour could’ve done it. I just wanted to know why those dreamy eyes are staring at me from a million t-shirts and car bumpers.
I read the wikipedia article and washed my hands of the whole thing. Fidel won his revolution, but there are no Fidel t-shirts and the reason is obvious. What if Guevara had won?
Che Guevara’s first name is Ernesto, but everyone called him Che because he used the word Che a lot. Che is like saying dude, or man, in American English. If Che Guevara grew up in Mexico instead of Argentina, everyone would have called him Guey Guevara. Because that’s what they say a lot in old Mexico.
I don’t care about dead revolutionaries and It’s not my fight anyway and so the mind drifts to other, more important things.
To go on forever, would be ideal.
I was in Xela, Guatemala for nearly two months and everything revolved around the Miguel de Cervantes School of Spanish. They surprisingly had these neatly constructed ramps to get motorcycles up the two feet of steps and into the narrow hallway. I never fell but the thought of being pinned in the doorway with a hot exhaust pipe burning my leg to the bone was always there.
Worlds tallest flag pole (it isn’t) in Calipatria, California. It was well over a hundred degrees that day and I was alright with that.
Saguaro cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Just south of Why, Arizona and bordering old Mexico, thousands of Saguaro reach and twist towards the sky in all sorts anthropomorphic shapes. I was camped out here, under a million stars, awakened by a Black Hawk border patrol helicopter hovering over my tent.
Dude, the Arctic Circle. Way up North. An incredible day really. I would do the Dempster in the rain and in the mud all the way up to Circle and back without pause. Over 500 miles and skies that stretch forever.
Hyder, Alaska. No small feat indeed. Hyder is this little thumb of America reachable by road that juts into British Colombia off the Cassiar Highway on the way to real Alaska. It felt good to be back on American soil, if only for an hour or so, and out of stinky ol’ Canada.
Ah, the melodious mambo beats of Captain Louis Prima. Who can forget lil’ Kevin and his homestead up in Northern Maine? I can’t, what with all his pianos and what not. This guy was a real surprise. An original.
Where’s the beef? The food in Mexico was amazing, inspirational even, the best in Latin America and the best I’ve seen yet in the world. I haven’t seen anything like it since, not even in Ecuador where they gobble down guinea pigs for breakfast. Sure, that’s different, but I don’t really want to eat guinea pigs. I just ate one because it’s the thing to do. But I could eat head tacos everyday. American food is boring, bland even, but the things we do we do well. New York pretzels and pizzas, a cheeseburger at any diner in America, a cheap fat steak, and a good beer are the things I miss most here in Latin America. They sell pizza in Latin America, but it’s universally terrible, and usually expensive because of the price of cheese. Most of it is sort of like Elios type stuff. The pizza place I used to work at on Long Island would cut the good cheese with the cheap to save money, the good sauce with the bad. I don’t want to know what they do here. Beef is expensive here too, and the hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always thin joints, all slathered in sauces and messy, salty, and disappointingly small. They use “super” a lot to describe the ones that come with cheese but they’re never super, and I always feel just a little bit sorry for my latino brethren because their super cheeseburgers aren’t super at all, but sad. Pitiful even. Maybe as we inch closer to the pampas the beef situation will get better. No se che, vamos a ver.
But yea, I just miss the regular stuff about being an American in America. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, taking a shit in a clean bathroom, being comfortable and warm and snug, and even the law and order of it all I miss at times. Les extrano mis amigos and amigettes.
But I wouldn’t be here in Latin America if I didn’t want to be.
I’m going to miss Latin America wherever I go next. A lot. The people here might be xenophobic dicks sometimes(who isn’t?) but they are unpretentious and you can ride a motorcycle nearly anywhere. On the sidewalk, through buildings, or down one-way streets and no one cares. Motos are looked at here kind of like the way bicycles are in the states. And go ahead and climb a live volcano if you want to because no one will turn you away.
And when all this is said and done, I don’t know where I’ll end up. Probably America. There are no jobs down here in Latin America anyway. You can teach English and make $5 an hour and scrape by, or rent out your abs to washerwomen for less, but neither is a real option; maybe for a little while.
Just remember that wherever you go, people are going to be the same, no matter the tongue.
There are scant originals out there, though it’s been told that but a few hooligans still roam the roads, searching for something that they will never find.
strangers in a strange land
…with thoughts of the West continuously swirling inside their heads.
That’s it yo.
No regrets…well, maybe a few, but the trip isn’t over yet and they will be made up for.
The heat is on and it’s never been hotter.
See you in Patagonia putas.
Meet me across the sky.