6. Destinations

This trip didn’t start out as a destination where there’d be a place we’d turnaround and come home.  When the USA first loosened restrictions on Cuban travel, I imagined riding all around the rim of the Gulf of Mexico.  This impact crater is what formed Cuba and once the ferry between Havana and Key West started, I just needed to find a ride from Cancun to Cuba.  But after relations cooled, I became focused on Belize.  It just felt much further away than riding to Mexico but it also created a clear change of direction in the ride.

To get there, we still had to head south a bit.  After the crowds of Chichén Itzá, we skipped the rest of the Mayan Riveria because of the high season.  We were able to stop at some lower-key ruins on the way in Chacchobee.  Ruins exist throughout Mexico, often with just the surface scratched of the cities they once were.  I’m learning some of the longest, continuous civilizations were in mesoamerica and ones I can barely remember learning about.  This was a typical example and we could clearly see the city buried under the jungle waiting to be uncovered.

You could still see the rest of the buried city
There were three main pyramids on the site

We made our last stop in Mexico at the beach town of Mahahual.  We found a room with an ocean view and private beach for $58, lying along a sleepy stretch of restaurants and bars.  One day turned into two as we couldn’t motivate ourselves to leave the second morning.  Even with Belize coming, a whole day on the beach helped us recover from the ride.  This is the quintessential, quiet Mexican beach town I had been looking to find.

View from our own beach
This was one of the largest hotels in town – eight rooms
Even in high season, all the restaurants had room
On a careful swim with my camera

We had another border to deal with so we crossed a day early and stayed in Corozal, the northernmost city of Belize.  Belize was a re-entry into normal vacation and another friend from college flew in for a long weekend.  The country ties itself close to American with English as a standard language and Belizean currency interchangeable with American.  The entire country has more of a resort feel, whereas Mexico has the industrial edge of a rising economic power.  After a surprisingly good night in quiet Corozal, we took a fifteen minute flight to Ambergris Caye for the weekend.

Corozal waterfront
Corozal was filled with street art
Protected cove
The ferry waiting room
Beliken was everywhere

Four days with old college friends is always fun.  Our resort was right on the beach and had pools and drinks with umbrellas and ice.  We took a reef fishing trip, which was a highlight. After getting picked up early, we went net fishing near shore for bait fish and filled a bucket with fish that we’d use to catch the bigger fish.  Beyond the reef was rough, but we pulled up a 40 lbs barracuda before moving back inside the reef for snapper and jack.  After diving for conch, our guides tooks us to a private beach and cooked up a delicious lunch of ceviche and fish filet mixed with vegetables and coconut.  

Clifford fishing for bait
Fresh ceviche on the ride home
The biggest fish of the year so far
Docked for lunch

Cars are restricted to residents on the island so we rented golf carts for a few days to visit Secret Beach, the town of San Pedro and some different restaurants.  In town, we had ice cream at Paradice Ice Cream downtown.  Bill is in the same business and knows the owner, Mike, from some previous events.  Mike spent his career in engineering and after some big personal life changes, decided to follow his dream of opening an ice cream place in some tropical paradise.  We had so much fun talking, he and his wife, Reina, joined us for dinner in town and gave us a lot of information about Belize and his new passion, paramotor flying.

Tourist transportation
Mike’s dream business
Coffee shop and hostel
Waterfront restaurant
Sunset over Secret Beach
The Truck Stop – restaurants made from shipping containers

On Tuesday, we packed up and took the shuttle flight back to the mainland.  When we got to our bikes, the parking lot had added their own lock to our bikes.  I don’t know if it is for security or just to make sure we pay, but it took more than an hour to track down everything we had to do and pay to get them removed.  Our bags were ready and waiting for us at All-In-One travel, whose office was just 30 feet from the bikes.  The bags were much easier than the parking.

Protecting our bikes or protecting parking revenue?

The ride home was a blur of long days and we took just 5 1/2 days to cover what took us a month on the way south.  It started with news that President Trump might close the border to Mexico which spurred us on a rush to get back to the USA.  Home became our real goal and our thinking shifted quickly from the journey to the ultimate destination: back home to our families.  We crossed over the southern borders with relatively little problem, though it was a long wait getting back into the USA.  It seems that many people were choosing a side of the border just in case it would close.  After a blur of miles and a trip through Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia, we pulled into Bill’s driveway and the end of the joint trip.  A quick three hours from the Maryland mountains and I was pulling back into my own driveway.

Hotel Yaakunah in Escárcega on the ride home
Successful cancellation of the vehicle permit
The last gas stop

The destination is where I began, but have I changed?  There were no ephiphanies on the way or great insight into what my upcoming decades will be like.  A trip with this many stops and an old friend for talking didn’t leave much time for deep life planning.  However, I do feel changed subtly, but importantly.  I’m more patient.  Trying to force my life onto a timetable or pattern no longer seems as important to me as finding a way to enjoy the time, even when that time is spent on something not originally planned.  This is something I need to hold onto, because maximization of time productivity has been something that drove me for years to stay too busy. I’ve also become more willing to accept help. That sounds funny since I’ve prided myself for my entire life on trying to do things myself.  But this trip taught me that accepting help from others is another way of connecting and not a sign of weakness.  Trying to prepare for every eventuality on my own can be a way to wall myself off from the world. With help often came friendship and led to a better journey.

Just as importantly, I’ve broken many of my daily information habits.  I don’t obsessively read the global economic news in the morning, I’ve stopped scanning the trade and competitor stock information, and turned off most of my RSS feeds.  Whether the UK leaves the EU or if Germany gets a new chancellor isn’t going to be affected by how closely I follow it.  Our world of information can consume us. I want to spend my time-off DOING instead of WATCHING.  My favorite podcast (The Moth) closes with a tagline to live by, “have a story-worthy week.”  Next time I see you, I’ll tell you last week’s story, but I’m already planning the next one.