Today, I turned 50 years old.  I’m not one for big parties and this is the perfect way to celebrate.  We’re now 22 days into the the trip from DC to Belize and spending my birthday with no particular schedule, and in a place of great beauty, is the kind of change that I needed. Although I’ve spent a lot of my recent life traveling, I’m an inner homebody and this is one day that I miss celebrating at home. But I had a chance to call home and get ready for the next part of the ride.

After my last post, I still wasn’t done with problems with my Triumph and I ended up limping into Puebla with more clutch issues.  We arrived just an hour after the Triumph dealer closed for the long weekend celebration of Benito Juárez, an early champion of Mexican identity and a long-time president.  Since this was the last Triumph dealer for 5,000 miles, we decided to wait out the weekend in Puebla City.  Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest city and knows how to celebrate.  It was packed with people all weekend while we toured some famous churches, buildings and even saw where the first shots of Mexican independence were fired.  On the way in, we visited the largest pyramid in the world in Cholula but, finding it still buried, I was unimpressed.

Ruins at the base of Cholula
Sculpture at Cholula
Puebla main square on Saturday night
Street celebrating 100 years of independence
First shots are still visible on the building
Paella being cooked up at our hotel
Capella del Rosario
Another Capella view
Puebla celebrating

At the dealer on Tuesday, we found that the clutch was not in as bad a shape as feared, and had not been replaced.  In fact, there were no clutches in the entire country of Mexico so I got a lesson in clutch maintenance, some more new friction plates, and we headed warily on our way with all the best wishes of Hiperbikes in Puebla.

Triumph being inspected
The Hiperbikes crew sending me off

Our trip down to Oaxaca went smoothly, but took much longer than expected.  The mantra to travelers here is to never drive at night.  Crime, potholes, and drunk driving become more treacherous after the sun sets and the 90 minutes in the dark probably felt more harrowing than they actually were.   We pulled into what seems to be the party town of Mexico since Oaxaca on a normal midweek night looked similarly to the day after Mardis Gras in New Orleans.  The locals assured us there was no special festival but this is a town I want to revisit in the future.  Oaxaca is also one of the biggest coffee producing regions of Mexico and they’ve mastered the art of brewing here.  I’ve had trouble finding good coffee on this trip, but the best baristas seem to be here.  It’s the first time I’ve felt properly caffeinated in a couple weeks.

Oaxaca Centro
Oaxaca main church
Gilded altar
An expert at work

Just outside of town we visited Monte Albán, an important Zapotec ruin site.  After the buried wonder of Cholula, this was a good introduction to Mesoamerica ruins.  I’ve been rapidly catching up on my Mesoamerican history but this was a very important site to the Zapotecs and Mixtecs alike and a large site to explore.  I’m finding that Mexico is riddled with ruins and has far more left to be explored than has already been uncovered.

Monte Albán overview
Well-preserved details
Preserved carvings throughout the site
Another complex view

Onward we headed to the “bend” of Mexico and a region without a big tourist infrastructure.  Chiapis and Tabasco are two of the poorer states, along with southern Oaxaca, and we started to see some of the imbalance between central and northern Mexico and the southern states. We even had to break the lines of some blockades on our way where taxis shut down roads in protest.  But don’t take the lack of tourist infrastructure for lack of beauty, this is some incredible countryside and some of our best riding.  On our way east we visited the quaint mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, a 7,000 ft climb from the valley floor.  Back at the bottom was the famous Sumidero canyon and a chance for a boat ride.

Our hotel street in San Cristobal de las Casas
Market street
Lively night life
Boat being prepared for Sumidero Canyon
Entering the main canyon
Monkeys, herons, vultures, and crocs on the way in
The walls keep getting taller
Formation from a periodic waterfall
Memorial at the end of the canyon

Now, we’re in the humid, jungle part of Mexico on our last few days before entering Belize and our turn-around.  Palenque is a huge Mayan complex and probably the highlight of ruins that we’ve seen so far.  We headed up the gulf coast first to Campeche, a bright gem of colors. Our ride into the Yucatán has brought heat and traffic as we head toward the 25 million spring breakers on the Atlantic coast of Mexico for the next two weeks.  Visiting Chichén Itzá has been on my bucket list since I took an ancient astronomy course in college, but the tour buses and crowds took away some of the charm.  A visit to an underground cenote helped clear my head.

First sign you’ve left the desert
You can still hike through this complex
Smaller building
Campeche cathedral
Even the lights are colorful in Campeche
Campeche is the only walled city in Mexico
Main pyramid at Chichén Itzá
I cropped out the other 30,000 people
The cenote cavern
Staircase down to the water

This trip marks a passage for me from a long career to a new one that is more suited to my personal life.  A birthday is just a day to me, but it is hard not reflect on the many good things in my life.  My wife who always supports me, kids I love, and family and friends to add the kind of happiness I want.  This motorcycle trip is a bridge into the unknown for me.  I hope to clear my head and get ready to think about next steps for my personal life as well as my career.  But for now, there’s just a few more days before hitting Belize for a short break and then the long ride home. I can think about the next fifty years then.

Just a reminder, I’m doing a daily ride report with more details and photos on the following motorcycling page:

5 Replies to “5. Fifty

  1. I think theee are among the most stunning travel pictures I’ve ever seen, and the hits just kept on coming! Not just fantastic places but a real emotional trip into “what it looks like.” So much that i haven’t been exposed to. Amazing architecture and symbols of lee just being people/-differently. This is an amazing adventure, well shared. Thank you.

    1. Glad you’re enjoying it, though transferring my pictures seem to have brought the entire Mexican internet to a crawl. Well worth a trip here if you get a chance!

  2. Sounds like a perfect way for you to have spent this milestone birthday!
    Thinking of you today and the day we met for the first time at 4:55AM 50 years ago.
    Much love from Mom!

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