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May 31, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 12: Ciudad del Carmen to Champotón, Mexico

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the Snook Inn Hotel on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Champotón, Mexico.

Friday May 31, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 2,990
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 3,108
Miles driven today: 128 miles

View Larger Map

So, this morning I wake up in my hotel, and I'm trying to get organized. I really am. I'm carrying too much crap, and I'm well aware of this. I need to downsize, but some of the gear is fairly expensive, so I'd like to just mail it back to myself in the U.S. of A. However, this isn't so simple, since we're in a stone-age culture.

First of all, if you go to the FedEx website, and look for locations in Ciudad Del Carmen, there aren't any. Ditto for UPS. DHL has one location listed, so I attempt to drive there.

The streets are still completely flooded. Two feet deep in places. Whoever designed the drainage for this city should be held accountable.

When I get to the location, there's no DHL business at that address. It's just the slums of Ciudad Del Carmen.

This is frustrating, because, the third world really doesn't seem to be on the same plane as the first world. I'm like..."Really? What the fuck? Where is the DHL office?"

The same thing happened to me last night when I was trying to find the Hampton Inn. I drove to the address. The Hampton Inn wasn't there. Now...why is this? It's hard to know. It's hard to know who's throat to choke.

Part of it is that the addresses are confusing as hell. For instanced the Hampton Inn address is:

Isla de Tris 28 Santa Rosalía, 24157 Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche

I'm like...ah....OK. Finally figured out that the State is Campeche. Ciudad del Carmen is the city. Isla de Tris is the street. 28 is probably the street address. No clue what Santa Rosalia is.

And, I can assure you that the Hampton Inn isn't at this address. It's certainly not at the Isla de Tris 28, any way. There's a Wal-mart there. This is next to the airport. So, sure, you'd like to go find someone and strangle them slowly in a shallow pool, but I'm not clear what it gets you.

So, the Hampton Inn wasn't there. The DHL place isn't where it should be. I tried to call the phone number for the U.S. Embassy in Belize, and their number has been disconnected.

So, eventually, you just kinda of realize that down here, nothing is right. Nothing works right. Everything is broken. No one knows why. And even less people care. Which is, in a way, kind of maddening if you're not used to it.

At the hotel where I spent the night, I try to get to the bottom of the shipping issue.

"People do, in fact, mail things, right? People do mail packages down here, right?"

"We get packages here at the hotel."

"Aha. OK. Now, we're getting somewhere. Do you send packages out?"

"For what?"

Never mind. I don't know how people ship things in a third world country. I really do not. So, finally, I just give up trying to mail anything home. I throw everything in the trash and just say "fuck it. It's not worth the heartache."

I have to get some oil filters for the KTM though, and I can't find a dealer down here that carries them and has a listed phone number. Finally call my buddies back in Illinois and ask them to FedEx me some down in Belize City, Belize.

Now, I have to get my credit card working. The dogs at my credit union have hosed me again. They do this every time I leave the country. It's a little game they play. And I told them I was leaving the country. They knew this already. So, I call them up and start dog-cussing them on the phone. They won't admit to any wrong-doing, of course. But they do admit that they had put yet another fraud alert on my credit card. So, they lift it for me, yet again.

I go to a Wal-mart to see if I can buy a GPS, a pair of pants, and some gloves. They don't have gloves. Their pants are the thinnest pants you've ever seen. And they don't carry a GPS unit. And they don't have an ATM machine.

So, now, to a Mega store. They have an ATM. (No GPS units, of course.)

And so, I'm standing in this long line for the ATM. The ATMs are guarded by two men armed with 12 gauge shotguns, while another man refills one of the ATM's with Mexican pesos. All three men are wearing bullet proof vests. The two armed guards are holding pump 12 gauges, with extended magazines. Fingers in perfect position beside, but not on, the trigger. Barrels pointed up. Each has a .38 pistol in a holster on their thigh. I complain that one of the 3 ATM's is open, and I should be able to use it. He tells me to sit tight, and no one goes near the ATM's while the guy replaces the cash.

Finally, I get $3,000.00 (Mexican Pesos), and now I at least have some cash for the toll roads.

So, I got the credit card working. Got some cash. Refilled the bike. Tried to get stuff shipped home. Tried to buy jeans and gloves, but apparently no one down here has gloves. I was like...then could you give me some cloth and a needle and thread?

Somehow, I lost my gloves last night in the storm when I nearly crashed.

I can't find gloves. Can't find a GPS unit. So, I buy some tape, and tape my iPhone back inside my windshield so at least I can use that as a GPS.

I also call Verizon and tell them I need data plan for Central America and they'd better not rape me over the data usage.

I spent a lot of time dealing with all of this nonsense, and I wasn't able to get away until something crazy like 3:00 or so. I got onto the 180 and drove East, hoping to get to Chichen Itza.

I finally get out on the open highway, and just wind it up. I'm running like 110 mph, trying to stay awake. Rolling down this beautiful scenic beach. Just have it gapped back. And there are some other cars that are running about 100 also. I'm no the only one. Then, I come to a bridge, and I'm going to try to get a shot while I'm driving, but I'm not really paying attention....I'm going 100 mph, coming up on a guy going 50 mph, and there's a truck coming at us on the bridge. There are no shoulders.

And I'm taking photos. I do this while I'm driving. I drive with no hands and shoot through the lens of my digital SLR camera.

At the last moment, I realize this probably isn't the ideal time to take a photo, and stand on both breaks to keep from creaming the back end of the guy ahead of me.

This is why riding a bike is dangerous. It's because you get lazy going 100mph all the time and start getting complacent.

However, after I'd gone about 100 miles, I see this wall...this massive thunderstorm approaching, and I think about what happened last night. How I nearly died in the streets of Ciudad Del Carmen. And I'm like...I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm not that stupid.

So, I'm racing down the road, and this animal runs across the street in front of me. I'm not clear what it is, but it has a huge tail, sticking straight up in the air. The closest thing I've ever seen to it is probably a raccoon. But I looked it up when I got home at night and settled, and I now believe what I saw was a white-nosed Coati.

The first sign I see that says Hotel, I pull in immediately and ask them for a room.

Does it have internet in the rooms? Warm water in the showers? Air conditioning in the rooms? This is all that matters. I learned to ask these questions going through Peru.

They offer me a room for $640 Mexican Pesos, or $60 US Dollars. I was like....yeah...I'll pay in Pesos, thank you very much. For some reason, they think that 10:1 is the exchange rate, which it clearly is not. That's why I always get local currency out of the ATM machines. It's the best currency conversion rate you can get, and then you don't get the sucker rate of 10:1 pesos to dollars.

As soon as I check in, the bottom falls out of the thunderstorm. It's raining cats and dogs just like it did last night, only this time, I'm not stuck out driving around in the rain storm like an idiot. My assumption is that this is still tired to Hurricane Barbara, although I'm not certain of this. I'm no meterologist, after all.

So, I only drove 100 miles today, but I don't really care. It's not like it matters. I don't really have any set timeline for this trip. It's essentially open ended. I'm not really sure what coming back looks like. It's hard for me to imagine.

I was up texting Carrie until 2:30 this morning. She was telling me how happy she is to be dating her gorilla-armed boyfriend, and I'm like "I'm really happy for y'all. I've moved on also. I wish you the best." But nothing ever makes her happy, really. Only to make sure that I'm aware she's going out with someone else and that I'm fully cognizant of that fact. So there is that. Spite. Happiness. Call it what you will.

But I've got someone that I'm going to take out if I ever make it back to the United States. Hmmmmm. Now, if this rain would ever let up, I might could get an early start and make it to Chichen Itza tomorrow.

Photos in Extended Entry.

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 12: Ciudad del Carmen to Champotón, Mexico"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2013 at 5:53 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

KTM Fiasco

I'm having a hard time finding an oil filter for my new 2010 KTM 990 Adventure in Central America.

KTM Part Number 60038015000). This is the same oil filter for all KTM 990/960 year models, is my understanding.

This was not something I really planned on, of course. It looks like the next KTM dealership I will hit will be in San Pedro, Honduras. There's not a KTM dealership in Belize, and I just past one yesterday in Villahermosa, Mexico, but I had no clue.

I now know how to look up KTM dealerships using this website:


Colonia Jardines del Valle, Calle al
2505 San Pedro Sula

The problem I'm having is that I need the oil filter, and I'm not clear that the guys in Honduaras will have the part, be open, and available, etc. They don't even have a phone number listed, which doesn't give me a warm fuzzy.

What I'd like to do is contact the U.S. Embassy in Belize City, Belize, and ask the if they'll accept a package for me. And then call these guys, and ask them to Fed-Ex a package of 3 oil filters down to the U.S. Embassy in Belpoman, Belize City.

Nicholas Eckermann
Fun Mart Cycle Center
1320 36th Ave.
Moline, IL 61265
Phone: 309-762-9624
Fax: 309-762-2591
Toll Free: 877-389-7540
Cell: 309-756-7861

I can't figure out how to call Belize. You should just have to dial 00 first. But, the number listed for the U.S. Embassy in Balmpoman, Belize isn't working. Fascinating.

Should be able to dial the U.S. Embassy in Belpoman, Belize at:
00 (501) 822-4011

OK. Dialing 00 is correct. The problem is
But it's not a working number. So, I called these people, but they're not sure if FedEx ships to Belize ("we're a third world country"), he apologizes. Nice to hear someone saying that in English, for once.

So I called up my buddies in Moline, Illinois, and ask them to FedEd me come oil filters down to Belize at the following address (I'm not making this up):

The Bachelor Inn
5931 Bachelor Avenue, West Landivar
Belize City, Belize
+501 223-7310

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 31, 2013 at 10:55 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 30, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 11: Veracruz to Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico.

Thursday May 30, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 2,557
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 2,990
Miles driven today: 433

View Larger Map

Today, I drove like a rabid bat out of hell. I did a few things differently today, that helped me get in more miles. The first thing I did was, before I left the hotel this morning in Veracruz, I mounted my iPhone 4S into the KTM 990 Adventure dashboard using the KTM approved mounting kit (tape). This was beautiful because now, I don't get lost any more. This is nothing short of beautiful, and why I thought I could live without a GPS in a third world country in 2013...well I'll never know. But Lord God that GPS makes it so much nicer. The signs down here are ambiguous, confusing, erroneous, absent, or worse.

So, having the GPS there just provides this crucial piece that I was missing. Now, I don't get lost any more. Now, all I have to watch is my gas, my speed, and distance to the next turn.

I deliberately took a more traveled path today. I didn't want to spend my whole day going through town after town, speed bump after speed bump. I wanted to make some time, so basically, I went 50 km southwest of town out of Veracruz towards Cordoba, and picked up a toll road. I then took Mexico 180 from there.

Mexico 180 is a series of toll roads, mostly divided median, similar to the interstate system in the U.S.

So, basically, I got down on the throttle and held it wide open for hours. Imagine running 110 mph down a road you've never been down before. In a country where you don't speak the language. Can't read the road signs. Have no clue what they mean. I'm in the country illegally. I have no insurance. And I don't really care about the law any more.

This always happens to me. Always. Always. After you're down here for a while, you change. I mean, if there is no law enforcement, then you'd be a fool to follow the laws.

So I'm just blowing through this brightly colored scorched-earth third-world poverty. Mexico, to me, is a dream. The countryside is so perfect. So pleasant. So hard to believe it's real. To take it all in, screaming down the road on a bright orange motorcycle.

A surreal dream, painted for me by people I'll never know. Fresh fields of pineapple, bananas, mangos, papayas, and watermelons. Mountains and valleys. Rivers and swamps. All of this. All of this scrolls by my bleeding eyes at suicidal speeds.

I decide I will not stop until I've gone 100 miles. This is the way to put up big miles. You have to be more disciplined. I'm not going to stop every time I see a cute little 4 year old girl hawking pineapple on the side of the road.

I'm not stopping. So I'm just tearing through the country, at this insane speed. Sometimes running as fast as 120 mph.

The greatest danger, I think, is coming up behind someone too fast. It's hard to me to judge how fast they're going, for whatever reason, but if you're going 120 mph and come up behind someone going 80 km/hr, it's hard to get stopped if it's not safe to pass.

It's so hard to drive through this country. So difficult to understand what's wrong. Mexico is, for all intents and purposes, a stone-age culture. I see men gathering wood. Walking down the road in the heat of the day with a machete. Men riding bicycles, not for exercise, but for transportation.

Goats tethered by ropes feeding on the right of way.

When we get near the ocean, people fish to survive. They bring their catch to the side of the road and offer it for sale. Carp. Crabs. Whatever they can harvest from the ocean, they hang from sticks on the side of the road.

Every time I stop at a Pemex to fill up with gas, everyone stands around my bike and comments on it appreciatively. They've never seen a KTM before. Never heard of it. It's like they're looking at a UFO or a time machine.

I see four year olds selling snacks on the side of the road. In front of the OXXO stores. They're selling puppets and peanut brittle in the heat of the day.

How did this happen? How did we get here?

I'd be lying if I said this doesn't bother me. It does.

I think about what it is that I do. And what it is that they do.

I'm not sure what it is that I do. Nothing really. I fly back and forth between two cities and drink a lot of coffee. I take pictures of homeless people and drink a lot at night. Other than that, I'm not really sure that we're all that different.

But I look at what they're doing....they're wrapping bananas in plastic bags as they grow in the fields. They're trimming pineapples with machetes on the side of the highway, and squeezing them into buckets. Wait a second. Fresh squeezed pineapple juice? Have I gone a hundred miles today? I have? Woohoo!!!!

So I shut it down and pull under the overpass for a glass of fresh squeezed pineapple juice. Best ever. They trim the pineapples with a machete, wrap them in a cheesecloth, and then put them, two at a time, into a juicer with a bar coming out of it like a car jack. A little bout about seven years old leans on the handle with all his weight. Fresh pineapple juice runs into a bucket.

"Yeah...that's what I want...set me up."


"Necessito jugo de pine, por favor. Quanto es?"

"Viente pesos"

So, a liter of fresh squeezed pineapple juice is going to run me $1.50 USD. Yeah. OK. Seems fair.

"Aqui." I pay the guy 20 pesos, and then tip him 10 more pesos. I figured they need it more than I do. Then, I sit under the overpass and try to explain to them that I'm driving to Panama. Pa-na-ma. Finally, they get it. Now, they're all on my bike, taking pictures with their cell phone cameras. One of them turns the key on and turns it over a few times. I start to get afraid that they will take off on my bike, leaving me stranded and stupid in Mexico.

But no. They're not stealing it. Just playing around.

But the problem is that, it's so hard to interact with these people. They have nothing. They never will have anything. And I'm blowing through town with the most expensive laptop you can buy from Apple.

It's kind of hard because, you want to let your guard down, and I don't really care about my material possessions. I really don't. I don't feel like I'm better than they are. I'm really not. But we are living very different lives. So, it is important to realize that a lot could go wrong, very quickly, given the circumstances. They see me, and, in their eyes, I am rich. Now, clearly I'm not rich. And anyone that knows me knows this. But to them, I'm as rich as Croesus.

People that haven't been around money can't really be trusted around money. They don't know how it works. Only they know that you have some, and so we'll have to extract it from you, by any means necessary. Emotional blackmail, sex, promises, lies...nothing is off the table when you're dealing with them.

Someone once told me that we should go to Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, California, etc., etc. And I was like...we can do all of those things. But, the problem is that, once the money is gone, the money is gone.

But I worked like a dog last year, so I don't want to blow through my money like a crack whore on a binger. I'd like to at least be able to take the summer off and maybe drive the bike down through Central America for a bit.

People that haven't been around money don't understand this, or else they don't care. They want to just extrude your assets as quickly as possible, and then tell you to "get out" when their little brain goes into an emotional tailspin.

So, it is difficult to forge a serious friendship, given the restrictions. But I do try to make friends with everyone. I smile and wave and say hello and introduce myself. I open doors and hold them and say "Pardon", a lot. I wave when people let me pass on the highway. I'm trying to be a good ambassador from the U.S., I really am.

The country today is much more green than on the first day in Mexico. It's all verdant countryside, and I'm just blowing through it like mad. With the GPS, I'm making much better time. I do stop occasionally, to sample fresh fruit or whatever else they're hawking on the shoulders of the road.

When you're driving on a road that isn't divided, you really have to be paying attention, because the oncoming traffic will use your lane, and expect you to move over. If you're not paying attention, you could easily hit someone headon in your own lane. It's just the way they drive down here. So, you've REALLY got to be paying attention. Plus, at every little town, these notorious speedbumps. They're almost never painted. Sometimes, they'll have a sign beside them indicating a speed bump. Often, they're not painted, and there's no sign. I've launched off the bike pretty high in the air before. This is very scary.

I drive all day, going roughly 100 mph the whole time. For some reason, the trucks here have red triangle shaped flags sticking out both sides of them, presumable to give themselves a little more room. I dunno.

Finally, when I'm about 20 miles outside of Ciudad Del Carmen, it starts to rain. Now, this sucks. Because, I'd actually thought that I timed it about perfect. I'd get into town in time to get some shots, but instead, as I get into town, it starts raining. It's raining lightly at first. I roll into town, and stop at a Pemex and ask the guy where the tourist zone is (donde zona tourist?), but he doesn't get it. Has no clue where a hotel is. He actually tells me he doesn't speak english.

This is what kills me. I'm like....I"m not speaking English you jackass. I might not have the pronunciation right, but this is Spanish I'm speaking. Argh.

So, I go off driving around town, looking for a place to stay. The GPS was only programmed to get me into town. I didn't have a hotel in mind, per se. I also didn't expect it to be raining. So, basically, I just start driving around looking for a hotel. I stumble across a Holiday Inn, and walk inside.

I'm soaking wet. I don't really care. I just walk up to the front desk and ask them for a room for the night. They promptly tell me that they have no rooms available, but that they'll check with the Holiday Inn Express. I'm like...whatever...so I sit down in the lobby, pull up Hotels.com, and book a room at the Hampton Inn, which is only a block or two away, apparently.

She tells me they have a room at the Holiday Inn Express, but I tell her "no thanks", I've got it covered. Because it's now raining like a Noah's Ark type of flood, I decide to eat dinner at the Holiday Inn, while I wait for the rain to let up.

So, I sit and eat and presently, I hear a couple of guys next to me speaking English and I'm like..."Holy Shit! Americanos!!!"

Like, these are the first Americans I've seen in Mexico on this trip. No joke. So, we start talking and they're really friendly, of course. Both working in the oil industry. One of them is from New Iberia, Louisiana.

I tell him that I'm going to check into the Hampton Inn, and show him the address on the iPhone. He assures me that there's not a Hampton Inn there, which isn't reassuring.

As we talk, he explains that the weather we're getting is from the hurricane out in the Pacific that hit Mexico, and has now crossed over to the Gulf of Mexico. I was surprised because, I'd never really considered that the hurricane would cross over into the Gulf.

But, it really flooded. And it didn't quit raining. But finally, I decided to leave to find my hotel in the dark. In the rain. So, I climbed back onto my bike and tried to drive to my hotel. Only, the iPhone wasn't sticking to the tape very well any more, so I'm having a hard time driving in the rain, with my right hand steering the bike and doing the gas, and my left hand holding the iphone, and using the clutch to shift, as needed.

Now, basically, we were hit by a monsoon. I'd guess we got a foot of rain. And, whoever designed the drainage system for the town must have gone to Engineering school in Mexico. Because, the streets are now just lakes. Like...the water is seriously 2' to 3' deep. And I'm driving through it with one hand on the gas, one hand on the iPhone. And, I keep thinking the bike will die, as I'm plowing through the lakes that were once streets. My feet are completely soaked. My bag is soaked. And, when I get to where the Hampton Inn should be, it isn't there. And I have no idea what to do.

I go to a Pemex and plead for help, but they can't really help me. I'm wet and exhausted and lost and I just want to check into a room, but I can't find the hotel. So, finally, I decided to drive back to the Holiday Inn and just tell them that I'll sleep in the lobby if they won't rent me a room.

So, I start heading back to the Holiday Inn. But on the way back, it's raining hard again, and I'm driving through a lake. Like something you'd see on a movie, seriously. And suddenly, I realize that I'm driving down a line of bumps in the street that designate a turn lane. But these are big. Each one is nearly a foot in diameter, and probably 4" to 6" tall. So, with one hand, I'm trying to keep from crashing, as the front end goes bat-shit insane. The front end is all over the place. The bag falls off the bike. I accidentally gas the throttle trying to save the bag, and I drop the iPhone. Somehow, I keep from crashing. I pick up the bag and put it on the bike. I get the iphone, and put it back on my little dash and then I pull into a Pemex, dazed, wet, and confused.

When I stop, I realize i don't have my iphone. So, I go back and find it laying in the street, wet, but not run over. I retrieve it out of the street.

I don't know how I didn't wreck. Finally, I get back to the Holiday Inn, then I see another hotel just past it. So, I decide to check into that hotel. They tell me they have a room, but now my credit card is declined. And I don't have enough pesos to pay for the room. I offer to pay in US dollars, but now they're claiming the exchange rate is 10:1, instead of 13:1.

I am so pissed at my bank there are not words. They do this to me every time I leave the country. Every time I leave the country, they fuck me like a school girl. And I'm so sick of it. They fuck me every single time. And I told them I was going on this trip through central america.

I pull out an envelope with ten grand in it, in U.S. dollars, and say...."How much?"

"One hundred and ten U.S. dollars."


Then, I go to my room, and there's no hot water. So, a cold shower, and it's off to bed. With everything soaked and dripping on the floor.

I text my ex and ask her if I get at least get my things out of her trailer. She says she burned all of my belongings, and then tries to explain to me that we were never "engaged". I'm like...are you seriously that stupid? When a man asks you to marry him, and you say "yes", you are, by definition, "engaged". There isn't like a form you fill out. You're engaged. Then, when you go ape-shit crazy 24 hours later after looking at wedding rings and cast him into the streets without a single word of explanation, you are no longer engaged. But that doesn't mean you weren't engaged, unless you were lying when you said you'd get married to begin with.

The good thing is that the new guy has arms like a gorilla, apparently. She made sure I was aware of this, grinding her teeth, closing her eyes, and making grunting noises like a female baboon in heat when she thought about him. Her eyes rolled back in her head like Poltergeist, and she started making grunting noises. Probably that should have been a sign, I guess.

Then, she told me that, if he showed up, there'd be trouble. That he'd kick my ass all over the place. Like, I'm not clear why I didn't leave then. Anyone with a brain would have. But now, she has gorilla-arms, and maybe they're both as dumb as a bag of hammers, and they'll live happily ever after. So be it. I'm happy for them both. I'm moving on. :)

The rest of the photos are in the Extended Entry.

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 11: Veracruz to Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 30, 2013 at 6:52 PM : Comments (4) | Permalink

May 29, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 10: Tampico to Veracruz, Mexico

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Veracruz, Mexico.

Wednesday May 29, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 2,557
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 2,223
Miles driven today: 334

View Larger Map

This morning, I wake up late and start driving. Always, I want to shoot the madness of the city in the morning, but never I can. The cameras have slept in the freezing cold hotel room with me all night, so in the morning, I take them outside, and they just fog up completely and won't shoot at all for at least an hour.

Lost as always, of course. It's a funny thing to be lost in a country where you can't even speak the language. Almost maddening, but I chose this little adventure - no one forced it on me. So, I do the best I can.

I find a Walmart and I want to tighten my chain, so I into the parking garage, and start trying to figure out how to tighten it. I have the owner's manual, and a small tool kit that came with it. But i can't find a wrench that fits the chain tensioner adjustments. I'm not clear why this is. I assume that it has to be metric, but none of the KTM metric wrenches fit it. They're either too big or too small. So, I buy some walmart wrenches. Same problem. Nothing fits it. Finally, I buy a U.S. 7/16 and a 9/16 (all I could find). Still, nothing fits. I tighten my right rear view mirror, so at least I have that working, sort of. KTM has missed the trick here. On two things. 1) The rear view mirror should not "break loose" when the wind pushes against it. Honda has this all figured out, so, KTM, you might want to check with them. As to why I can't tighten my chain with the tool kit that came with the bike, again...no rational explanation exists. Thanks for that, KTM.

Now, I'm lost in Tampico again. I don't have a GPS, and I desperately need one. Or, rather, I should say that I have 2 GPS units, neither of which works. So, yeah, I definitely need a GPS. Maybe I'll pick one up in the morning.

Lost, lost, lost, circling the slums of Tampico again. Finally, I stop at a Pemex and get directions. OK. So, I've got to cross the bridge (puente). Got it. Now, rolling south along Mexico 180. The plan is loosely to follow the coast, down through Texpan, and on into Veracruz.

But I'm really not making good time. I keep stopping for gas, or to take pictures, or to eat snacks on the side of the road. I never really know what to do on these trips. It's so hard to know when to stop, and when to keep going. I usually end up screwing around for half the day, and then I have to drive like a bat out of hell at the end of the day to got to my destination.

The entire country of Mexico is founded on the premise that life would be better if only it had a soundtrack blasting your ear drums down into your skull. That girls ears should be pierced as they exit the birth canal. That trees should be painted white for at least the bottom six feet. That speed bumps are more effective at slowing down cars than writing tickets.

There must be no safety net here, as the country seems mired in inconceivable poverty. As I'm driving, I observe crews clearing brush with machetes. Like...seriously? It's 2013 and you've got men in the field swinging machetes?

Fires burn sporadically, unattended, along the sides of the roads. Old-skool slash-and-burn clearing of the land, I assume.

Other times, I see a family gathering wood along the right-of-way. People walking down the road with machetes. Always, if a man is walking, he has a machete. They do not wave. People riding bicycles. At every town, people stand in the streets selling bananas, coconuts, papayas, dried shrimp, sandia (watermelon)... you name it.

I am a sucker for these vendors, and I keep stopping and tasting and eating and drinking things from these street vendors.

My initial plan was to put up a couple of big 500 mile days to get across Mexico as quickly as practicable. And, it's true, I've certainly been able to knock out 500 miles in a day in no problem in the U.S. But the reality is that, down here, it's different. It's different for many reasons. First of all, the terrain is all completely new to me, so I'm in no rush to race through it. Secondly, the roads are not as good down here as they are in the U.S. Plus, every little town I come to has speed bumps, traffic, slow double-eighteen-wheelers, dump trucks, etc. So, it's really hard to make more than 300 miles in a day. So, I decide that I'll stick to the 300 miles a day plan and just deal with i

I have not seen other motorcycle adventurers down here doing what I am doing. Or...OK...I saw one. I saw a guy on a BMW GS1200R yesterday with saddlebags. He's the only other person that I have seen in two days that appears to be touring the country by motorcycle.

I finally make it as far as Tuxpan, Mexico, where I get terribly lost again. I really do not like driving in the cities of Mexico. The traffic patterns are so foreign to anything I am used to. I finally just give up stopping at red lights. If it's clear, I just go. It's not really worth it. And, I've got to make up time if I'm going to get down to Veracruz by sundown. I will not drive the motorcycle at night. It's too dangerous, for all sorts of reasons. Animals in the road, highway men on the road at night, running out of gas...all of these are bad things. Must get to town by dark thirty.

Now, south of Tuxpan, we're following the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Gone is the warm air, now, the cool refreshing breeze of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, the road is better. Still following Mexico 180 south. Now, however, i decide it's time to get moving.

The scenery is much better now, and I do snap photos from the saddle occasionally. I let go of the handlebars and shoot through the lens as I'm driving. But now, I decide to really open the bike up and let it run. The road is much better now, and I'm running 80 mph. 90 mph. The greatest danger I have is coming up behind someone to fast. A few times, I come up behind a car going too fast and don't realize it, and have to lock up the brakes a bit.

Now, I'm passing people where there's very little margin for error. This is where the KTM exceeds. I can go from 60 to 100 in about two seconds. So, if you need to pass and don't have a lot of room, this is the bike you want. I'm racing through the countryside, really terrorizing the country now because, at this point, I realize...this area is not patrolled at all, for whatever reason. There are hardly any soldiers, federales, or state police here. Those guys are all back up on the border. This road I'm on is wide open and I'm flying now. Trying to get to Veracruz before sunset. It's going to be close.

The nice thing is that I haven't seen any deer down here. In Colorado, I'm deathly afraid of deer, elk, and even moose. But down here, the only animals I see as a threat are those grazing on the shoulder of the roads...goats, cows, horses, donkeys, etc. And these are normally (but not always) tied up with a rope around their necks.

So I'm cooking, heading south, still trying to fix my stupid rear view mirror while I'm driving, and then the silly thing falls off. Drops into the road going 90 mph. I go back and get it, dog-cussing KTM the whole time for making this stupid thing backwards.

At some point, I try to get my GPS to work, it also falls into the street, but I'm able to fish it back up to the bike by the USB cable.

I'm really pushing the bike now, trying to see how fast I can get it to go, but once I get north of 120 mph, the road isn't really smooth enough for me to see clearly. My head and helmet and glasses start shaking and eventually, I decide it's just not worth trying to go over 100 mph.

But I have, at this point, completely given up on following the law down here. The reason is that the laws are not enforced. And, if they're not enforced, then you'd be a fool to follow them.

Finally, I come screaming into Veracruz at about dusk. I run the lights, Ignore the traffic signals, until finally, I see red and blue lights behind me. I'm like..."wtf was I thinking? I have no insurance. I'm in the country illegally. This is not going to be good."

But instead, he just drives past me. I have no idea why his lights were on, but it scared me pretty good.

I ask a few people for directions, and promptly find a room on the beach with wireless internet, and I'm done for the night.

I will try to make it to Ciudad Del Carmen by tomorrow night.

Photos in the Extended Entry.

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 10: Tampico to Veracruz, Mexico"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 29, 2013 at 9:23 PM : Comments (4) | Permalink

May 28, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 9: South Padre Island, TX to Tampico, Mexico

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly at the Arenas Del Mar Resort on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Tampico, Mexico.

Tuesday May 28, 2013

Miles driven today: 336
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 2,223

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Wow. What a completely insane day. Hmmmm. OK. So, I woke up this morning late..about 10:00 a.m. as I recall. Hop on the bike and get rolling...basically head west on 48 towards the center of Brownsville. Brownsville is technically in Texas, but everyone speaks Spanish. It's all strip malls and box chain stores. Horrible air pollution. I thought it was bad in Mississippi, but now I'm starting to remember how bad air pollution can be.

Turn South on the main drag (77/83/69) and follow the signs that say International Bridge.

But, I can't help but notice that I'm the only car on the bridge heading for the border. As in, there are ZERO other cars crossing into Mexico. At Chula Vista, California, this was not the case. There were plenty of other cars going into Mexico. But not now. Not this time. Zero other tourists are heading South. This entire adventure strikes me as a supremely bad idea.

For some reason, the U.S. has a customs agent on our side of the border to harass people leaving the country, for whatever reason. So I pull up and ask him.

"Dude...why is no one going into Mexico?"

"Because of the crime. The drugs. It's not a good place to be right now. Do you have to go?" he asks.


"Then I would suggest not going. It isn't safe. You're on your own down there. There no police. There's no 911 to call if you need help. If you get in an accident, there's no forms to fill out. No one to report anything to. You could lose everything you have."

And I thought about that. 1) I hate police 2) I don't call 911. 3) I've never been clear that filling out forms after an accident helps anyone. 4) If all I have to lose is everything I own, I think I'm OK with that.

"OK. Thanks bud."

And I roll across the border heading south. On the Mexico side, they just wave me through. Zero paperwork. No Visa. No passport check. No stopping. Nada. This is the same as what happened when I went through at Baja last time. The Mexicans don't care. They really don't.

I roll across the border into the crime-ridden urban squalor that is Matamoros, Mexico. Of course, I have no idea where to go. I'm lost as soon as I cross the border, but I see a Pemex and I turn towards it. Now, technically, I probably ran a red light. And made an illegal left-hand turn. Into oncoming traffic. I'm not in a position to deny this. But in the United States, cars go out of their way to try to avoid running over motorcycles. In Mexico, not so much, as it turns out. The car coming at me probably would have hit me cleanly if I'd not gotten out of his way at the last second.

I pull into the Pemex and stop to fill up.

After I fill up with premium ("lleno dojo"), I'm looking for an ATM to get some Pesos in my wallet. But I'm so clueless, I can't even figure out where the ATM's are. A construction worker offers to help me. Now, I'm deathly afraid that I'm going to be filleted and attacked with grenades by the locals. But instead, this kind construction worker takes me inside, shows me where the ATM is. Helps me figure out how to use it in Spanish. And the whole time, I'm thinking he's going to stab me and frog-march me from one ATM to the next until they've drained my entire life's savings of $850.00.

But of course, he's just the nicest person on the planet, and I tip him for helping out a very lost, paranoid, and confused gringo.

Now, I have a full tank of gas and a few thousand pesos on me. But I've got to get rid of these cameras if I'm going to live in Matamoros. So I pack all of my cameras into the little gas tank bag I carry, so I'll at least be somewhat less conspicuous.

Then, I leave, and proceed to get thoroughly lost in the slums of Matamoros. I'm so hopelessly lost...I just can't sort it out....I've driving down streets beside open sewer ditches full of trash and I can't quite sort it out. Finally, get out my iPhone and use it as a GPS and get back on track.

Now, heading south on Mexico 101 roughly toward Ciudad Victoria.

Once I get out of the slums of Matamoros, Mexico 101 proves to be a fine road. I'm driving south at about 80 mph. Mostly, it's just open farmland. Crops growing on both sides of the road for as far as one could see.

Presently, I come to a military checkpoint. A bunch of soldiers standing around with FAL's. So, I stop. He asks for my papers. I don't have any papers. I'm in the country illegally, I would guess. I mean.... I've never handed anyone in the country anything except pesos so far.

So, I hand him my passport. It's brand new. I got it on Friday. He can hardly even open it it's so new. He tells me in perfect English that I am under arrest.

I'm not sure if he's serious or not. But he just laughs and waves me on.

It's hard to imagine how they figured that this is the most dangerous state in Mexico. And, seriously, I was very close to turning around at the Mexican border. I was convinced that I'd be killed and tortured as soon as I crossed over.

The greatest threat I've faced so far is the other drivers.

As I drive south, I pass lots of soldiers, Federales, and state police. But this does not intimidate me. In fact, for all the people who claimed how dangerous and lawless this place is, I'd argue just the opposite. They have the municipal police, the state police, the federales, and the army crawling all over the place. It's the same as I saw in Baja. Same as we saw in Quintana Roo. It's just Mexico. It's crawling with cops and soldiers. It is what it is.

Mexico 101 is a good road, but as I follow it south, it slowly dawns on me that they don't drive down here like we do in the U.S. Like, if I come up behind a car, they pull over and drive on the shoulder, essentially, to allow me to overtake them without changing lanes. I always wave them thanks as I pass. This is something they do in Texas also. It's polite, I guess you could say.

But it gets a little tricky if someone is coming the other way. So, if a guy is driving down the shoulder, I feel obligated to overtake him, even though an 18 wheeler or a bus is coming the other direction. So, I don't really like this form of driving, but it is what it is. So, I find myself basically lanesplitting between two buses when it's not something I'd normally do.

Now, if they're coming towards you, it's even more interesting. Because, essentially, they want you to give up your lane and drive on the shoulder, if two cars are coming towards you and wanting to pass.

So, essentially, you have to be watching all the time to see if someone is going to come into your lane and hit you head on, and I've had a few people nearly do this. I'm sure they think it's justified, because they needed to pass, it's just not something I'm used to, of course.

It's hard to guess how far it will be to the next Pemex, so I keep stopping and filling up. And after I've been driving for a few hours, I realize that I've gone, essentially, nowhere.

So I decide that I'll do a little short-cut down to Tampico on the Mexico 180, to save some time. Plus, it will get me onto some smaller backroads, which I wanted to do anyway.

When I get to the exit for Mexico 180 towards Tampico, I take it, and presently find myself in the middle of a vast desert. Now, of course, I don't have enough gas to make it anywhere close to Tampico. But I was seeing a lot of Pemex stations, so I figured I'd be OK. But that was on the Mexico 101, before I turned off onto this little Mexico 180, which I now realize has no towns. No gas stations. No other cars on the road. Nothing.

I feel stupid for doing this, and I drive and drive through the forbidding desert, trying to guess how long I'll be able to live out here. It's not pretty. I'm very mad at myself for making this mistake. But there's nothing to do now but drive until it runs out of gas, and then plead for mercy on the side of the road.

No cell coverage. Plus my cell phone is dead. And I'm about to be on the side of the road in the most dangerous state in all of Mexico. Why do I do this to myself? Why can't I be normal. Other people watch TV at night. Why can't I just do that?

Then, inexplicably, the road turns, and I'm in the town of Soto La Marina, and they have a Pemex. I'm expecting it to be abandoned, but no. People are filling up with gas. I'm so happy I want to cry.

After gas, I stop for roadside pork tomales and a CocaCola Light to celebrate being alive.

Now, I have a full tank of gas, and some food in my belly, as I roll south out of Soto La Marina towards Tampico. At this point I realize that, since we're not on a main road like the 101, the roads are essentially not patrolled. I can drive as fast as I want.

Rolling south, trying to make some time. Running about 90 mph. But the trick is that, every so often, the road changes to gravel, or is under construction, etc. But the view is just spectacular now. We've gone from flat farmland to desert to now, a verdant landscape, and I'm really enjoying myself for the first time on this trip. I'm seeing some land I've never seen before. Not afraid of running out of gas at the moment. Really beautiful countryside.

All manner of livestock is tethered to the side of the road, to feed on the grasses in the public right of way.

Lots of little roadside vendors selling water melons, dried shrimp, tamales, and lots of stuff I could never identify.

At one point, I stopped for a grilled corn on the cob. I parked my bike on the shoulder, and when I turned around, it fell over. So, the bike is lying on its side, and when it falls over, both gas caps open up and start belching gas, onto a scalding hot motorcycle. This is not good. I slap the gas caps shut, and then stand the bike up. Apparently, the wind blew it over, and wasn't leaned over enough? It's hard to say. But what pisses me off is that the gas caps opened. I hate that the Pemex people have to pump the gas. Tomorrow, I'll ask them if I can pump the gas, because I'm so pissed at them there are no words.

I'd hoped to get further today, but by the time the sun was setting, I was thoroughly lost in the slums of Tampico. Could not find the beach. Hard to imagine that this urban pollute squalor town has a beach, but finally I see a sign that says "Playa", and I get out to the beach. There's some insanely nice hotel right on the beach and I stop and ask how much it is for the night. 700 pesos, or $77 USD for the night. I'm like..."Uh...yeah...OK...I'm in..." and the guy carried my bag to me room for me.

I'm so tired I could die. Warm shower. Shrimp cocktail and Negro Modelo for dinner. And I'm out for the night.

Additional photos in Extended Entry...

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 9: South Padre Island, TX to Tampico, Mexico"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 28, 2013 at 8:33 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

May 27, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 8: Galveston to South Padre Island

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Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the peaceful, border town of South Padre Island, Texas.

Motorcycle Odometer: 1847
Miles driven today; 400

At night, I have to copy all of my photos onto the laptop, archive them onto the Lacie Rugged external drive, uploaded them to my home server using DropBox, etc.

Have to clean the motorcycle visor, charge the Macbook Air, iPhone, camera batteries.

All of this, so that at the end, I'm sort of this little over-organized neurotic rainman type of person, not really an adventurer, per se.

I wake up around 10:00 a.m. and climb out of bed. I have little rituals for when I'm on the road. Lube the chain every morning.

A motorcycle needs gas and oil and chain lube...all of these things to keep it running. But those things don't make the bike go, really. I mean, you can fill up the tank, lube the chain, change the oil and filter, and the bike won't go anywhere, of it's own accord.

The thing that the bike runs on, is pain. And without pain, there would be no reason for the bike.

I tell people that I'm driving to Panama, and most people assume I mean Panama CIty, Florida. Some people don't know that Panama is a country. Still others are aware it's a country, but weren't aware you could drive there.

But thanks to my psychotic ex-gf, I have plenty of pain to make the bike run. Probably, you'll never know what it's like to be out shopping for an engagement ring, and then get home, get in bed, and have your fiance tell you that it's over. Time to hit the road.

I was like..."Uh...what'd I miss?"

But it's fine. It doesn't matter. She gave me the pain that I needed to make the bike run. Enough pain to fuel the bike for thousands of miles. And for this, I am grateful.

In the morning, I get up. I never set an alarm, as I'm not that excited about getting up and getting out of bed. I'm kinda lazy, truth be known.

I decide to drive down the coast for a way, to Freeport, and then sort of wander down to South Padre by dark, if possible. This is sort of how I plan my trips...one day at a time. I'm trying to go about 400 miles per day, which is a lot, but I've got a lot of distance to cover, so driving more and shooting less.

The truth is that the beach on Galveston isn't all that nice. I mean, it's sort of muddy and covered with sea weed and not very white, per se. I mean, the island was hopping like mad. Crazy chics drunk, running through the streets wearing next to nothing. Galveston was insane, but the beach didn't really impress me that much. It was a nice drive, but nothing to write home about.

I end up cutting inland and following US 77 down to South Padre. Stop along the way and pick up a little cigarette-lighter-to-USB adapter, so I can now charge my iphone while I'm driving down the road. Also pick up some oil for the bike. Not clear where I could get an oil filter for it at this point, though.

The funny thing about the police in Texas is that, you pretty much couldn't get them to pull you over if you wanted to. I mean, the speed limits on the roads are insane. Like...we're going down US 77 and the speed limit is 75, and they won't stop you if you're doing 90. So, pretty much you can just drive however fast you want, which is nice.

And for a while, the bike sort of goes away. When you don't have to worry about gas, or cops, or anything, the bike sort of just fades away and I'm just moving through these flat farmlands of South Texas. Really beautiful. Serene. Calm.

And the problem with this is that, pretty soon, you're going 90 mph down the road, and it's hard to even believe that you're on the bike, really. It's not hard to drive a motorcycle. It's fairly simple. What's hard is to stay focused when you're driving 400 miles a day and going 90 miles an hour and there's nothing as far as the eye can see but flat fields, growing corn, or Lord knows what else.

I miss the camaraderie of the open road. Every bike I pass extends a long-armed wave. Well, not every one. I'd say about 85% of them do. And if I wave, and they don't wave back, it doesn't matter. It doesn't bother me. I don't get upset. It's all good. Life on the road is a dream.

And the truth is, I don't mind it. It's true that, I'm alone at night, but I don't really care about this. There's no one screaming at me, telling me over and over what a jackass I am, or explaining to me that, even though we're engaged, somehow it makes sense for them to be dating someone else. All of that nonsense is gone. It's all out the window.

Now, all I have are fields and farms and Memorial Day Flags and kites fluttering in broad Texas skies.

Every time I stop for gas, people ask me who I am. Where am I going. What am I doing. I've taken to giving them my website so that they can follow me. Not that what I'm doing matters. I'm not clear that it does. But people do seem somehow invested in my adventure. I think that this is the curse of being the village idiot. I'm in a situation to do what many people can not. Many people seem inclined to live vicariously though me, and who am I to stop them?

This one guy at a gas station asked me today what I was doing, and when I told him, he said..."Oh...you must be independently wealthy..." and his voice sort of trailed off. And I'm like....dude...this is the cheapest way to travel on earth. I get 40 mpg. I'm sleeping in the cheapest motel rooms imaginable. Like..no...I'm not rich. Not by a long shot. But I'm not living hand-to-mouth, either. So everything is relative, I guess.

As I get further south, the law enforcement picks up noticeably. Whereas you couldn't get pulled over for anything north of Corpus Christie, south of Corpus Christie is a totally different story. Now, there are cops everywhere, pulling over everyone at once. Writing tickets. Playing that little game I hate where they come running up behind you to see if you'll run, and then turning around and going the other way. I don't like this part. This makes me nervous. I don't like the borders. They're always the most terrifying part of the trip. The border towns in Mexico are not good. Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Reynaldo. These are all bad bad towns. In Matamoros, they were taking Americans and sacrificing them in some sort of bizarre cult ritual. So, this is a not a place I want to spend any more time than necessary.

Tomorrow, I will get up somewhat early and get across the border into Mexico. I'm not sure how far I'll make it. I'm tentatively shooting for Tuxpan, Mexico tomorrow:

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Additional photos in Extended Entry

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 8: Galveston to South Padre Island"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 27, 2013 at 8:15 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

May 26, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 7: Monticello, MS to Galveston, TX

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Update 3: After a warm shower, I'm resting peacefully in a King-sized bed on Galveston Island.

Update 2: i'm at a bar called Float on the seawall at Galveston Island.

Update 1: Im on the road again after a few days in monticello. Currently stuck undwr an overpass on I10 near Tex/La border.

Motorcycle Odometer: 1447
Miles driven today; 400

Plan is tomorrow to drive down into Mexico. I'll cross the border at Matamoros, and then try to head south for a safer town, as Matomoros is probably at least as dangerous as Tijuana.

Here are the 10 most dangerous cities in Mexico.

Here's the state I'm planning on driving through first in Mexico (Tamaulipas):


Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are major cities/travel destinations in Tamaulipas -see map to identify their exact locations: You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas. All USG employees are prohibited from personal travel on Tamaulipas highways outside of Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo due to the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking. USG employees may not frequent casinos and adult entertainment establishments within these cities; and in Matamoros are subject to a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew. Nuevo Laredo has seen an increase in the number of grenade attacks within the past year, particularly against night clubs within city limits. In June 2012, a small car bomb exploded in front of the Nuevo Laredo city hall. Both Matamoros and Ciudad Victoria have experienced grenade attacks in the past year. All travelers should be aware of the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking on state highways throughout Tamaulipas, particularly on highways and roads outside of urban areas along the northern border. Traveling outside of cities after dark is particularly dangerous. In August 2012 an American family was forced off the road, resulting in one death and several injuries, in an apparent robbery attempt soon after crossing the bridge from Texas into Nuevo Laredo. While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, many of the crimes reported to the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros have taken place along the Matamoros-Tampico highway, particularly around San Fernando and the area north of Tampico.

Additional photos in Extended Entry

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 7: Monticello, MS to Galveston, TX"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 6

Saturday May 25th, 2013

Miles driven today: 0

Still in Monticello, MS. We go look at engagement rings in Jackson. My fiancee has a nervous breakdown and throws me out of her trailer.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 26, 2013 at 4:10 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 24, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 5

Friday May 24th, 2013

Miles driven today: 0

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the banks of the Pearl River in my hometown of Monticello, Mississippi, in the house I grew up in.

OK. Lord God Jesus. I checked the mailbox and I have a passport. I'm outta here. :)

Fiancee tells me that she'll marry me. Then she changes her mind and says she needs more time. Then she changes her mind and says she'll marry me. Thus begins one of the shortest engagements in human history.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 4

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 4

Thursday May 23, 2013

Miles driven today: 0

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the banks of the Pearl River in my hometown of Monticello, Mississippi, in the house I grew up in.

Still no passport. Called the U.S. Senator from Colorado Mark Udall and asked them to see if they could get a ruling on where my fucking passport is. I got nothing.

My fiancee is out on a date with another man, if you can believe it. And I can't leave the country without a passport, and I'm so pissed I'm about to start killing strangers.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 24, 2013 at 10:51 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 22, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 3: Blytheville, AR to Monticello, MS

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Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly on the banks of the Pearl River in my hometown of Monticello, Mississippi, in the house I grew up in.

I wake up this morning in Blytheville, Arkansas, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Want to get moving before the afternoon thunderstorms set in.

Last night, I hung up all of my sopping wet clothes, and somehow, this morning, they're completely dry.

So I get back onto I-55 heading south towards Memphis.

As I roll south, I study the thunderstorms forming before me. The eyes seek out the darkest clouds, to tease out the dangers and threats it might harbor. What's likely to come of these clouds, the brain wants to know. Rain? Hail? Lightning.

The brain pushes the eyes hither and yon. Looking for the most menacing part of the storm. Will we have a repeat of the nightmare of yesterday where I

What makes them so ominous? Why is dark such a sinister color? How is it that the brain equates the color black with evil? Why is that?

I get to Memphis, and I know I've got to get down to Monticello today, but I want to check out Memphis, because I have vague memories from watching the ducks climb into the fountain at the Peabody Hotel. But how old was I? Maybe 5 or 6?

So, I'm in Memphis, and I want to check it out. But I also want to beat the thunderstorms and get down into Monticello. And always, this. This is the crucial struggle, I think. To know when to push on, and when to hold back. There's no way to know, of course. Only it comes from within. I decide to turn back and eat lunch in Memphis.

I stumble onto Beale Street, and walk into the first restaurant I find open. The waiter sees that I'm on the road.

"Where ya headed?"


"Panama City, Florida?"

"No. The country of Panama," I clarify. I get this a lot. But I don't mind, of course. It doesn't matter or anything. Nothing really matters, of course.

"I'm trying to get to Monticello today. About an hour south of Jackson," I offer.

"Are you going down Highway 61?"

"I'd like to, but I'm not sure if I have time. I'm worried about the weather."

"Get off the interstate, man. Take 61 down through the delta. They're saying no rain today. It's supposed to be clear."

And this is what I love, of course. I love when locals give me advice on where to ride. I have always wanted to see the Delta and I have never seen it. The attraction is strong. But I don't want to get into Monticello too late, or I'll miss my birthday dinner. Slowly, a plan comes together. Local 463 in Madison, at 7:00 p.m.

So, basically, I just ride like a bat-out-of-hell down I-55 all day to Madison, and I ignore the advice of the waiter, which sucks.

I don't get to see the delta, but when I show up for my birthday party in Madison, everyone is there, and we're all drinking and swapping old war stories. Just a roaring good time, and then we say our goodbyes and I roll down to Monticello, knowing that I have to drive to Panama now, and the only thing stopping me is they have to FedEx me a new passport.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 22, 2013 at 4:28 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

May 21, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 2: Moline, IL to Blytheville, AR

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Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on the banks of the Mississippi River in the town of Blytheville, Arkansas.

Miles Driven Today: 414
Total Trip Miles: 514

Stayed on the phone last night for 2 1/2 hours. Didn't wrap up the call until like 2:30 in the morning, I think. Slept in until 9:30 a.m.

Waking up in the morning alone in a motel in a strange town is not an uplifting experience. I don't really like being alone, it's just that no one with any sense wants to be around me, I think.

I lay in bed, wondering if I'm sane. Wondering if I'm going to get married, or if I'm going to Panama. I really don't know. If I had to wager money on it, I'd say i'm going to Panama. And not by choice, mind you.

I think about how odd my life is, bouncing across the planet like a stone skipped across a creek. I don't want to get out of bed. Don't know what happens when I get to Monticello. I really don't.

Crawl out of bed, pack up my gear. Go out into the parking lot. The bike is still there, surprisingly. The problem with this bike is that it's nicer than any bike I've ever owned. Newer. More expensive. More attractive to thieves, I'm sure.

As I'm driving through Peoria, I'm struck by the architecture of some stunning buildings on the town's east side. I want to stop and shoot them, but I'm more concerned about getting down the road, so I just hammer down and head South.

Eventually, I pick up I-55, and this goes within 20 miles of the town I grew up in, so I'm good now. All I have to do is stay on this road and head south.

The problem I'm having is keeping the bike at the right speed. Every time I look down, I'm doing 90 mph in a 70 mph zone. I have a little trick on my speedometer that I learned from Doug a few years ago. It's called a "cramp buster"...essentially, a little piece of plastic that wraps around your throttle and provides a flat piece of plastic that you can rest your palm on. Your palm is then essentially the throttle, so if you get it adjusted properly, you can ride whatever speed you like without hardly even touching the handle bars. This is way better than holding the throttle wide open all day with your hand.

After I've driven about 50 miles, I get pulled over by the Illinois State Police. I'm pretty much in a panic, as it's not like I have insurance or registration or any of that stuff. But, essentially, the cop is upset because I drove past him when he was parked on the right shoulder without moving over into the far left lane.

"What kind of motorcycle is this?"

"It's a KTM 990 Adventure."

"Is it new?"

"Well, it's a 2010, but it's never been out of the showroom before. I just bought it yesterday," I offer.

"Can I see your driver's license, please?" he asks.

I give him my license.

"Do have any firearms or any weapons on you?"

"No sir."

"And can I see your proof of insurance and registration, also?"

This is the tough part. I'm sure I don't have any of those things. I pretend like I'm looking for them in my wallet.

"Why don't you take off your helmet, and come back here and have a seat in the car," he offers politely.

So I go back and start to get in the back seat. Like, this sucks, but I know the drill. I don't like where this is going.

"Front seat. Front seat," he suggests.

That's way better, of course. So now, I'm sitting in the front seat. I stop pretending to dig through my wallet. I pull out a piece of meaningless paper and hold it, against the bottom of my wallet, as though it's something relevant.

He calls in my driver's license.

"What were you arrested for in Colorado?" he asks.

"Ah, they found a loaded weapon in my console and got all excited. But it's not illegal. I have an attorney. My court date is June 28th."

"Why did they arrest you if it wasn't illegal?"

"You know how cops are. They can't stand for people to own guns," I replied. And this is true. It's no different than the way he asked me if I had any firearms when he stopped me. Cops don't give a Tinker's Damn about the law. They don't want the citizens to be armed. And if they have to break the law to confiscate them, then so be it.

The cop is actually pretty nice as far as cops go. He gives me a written warning, and we talk about the changing laws in Colorado and Illinois. Apparently, they're about to legalize pot in Illinois. And he's hoping that the judges will really enforce the law properly, because some judges just throw it out if it's related to pot, apparently.

The system is kinda funny because what happens is that the police are always bringing people into the judge to see how much revenue they can get out of them. But then, if the judges just throw out the cases, then the pigs don't make any money.

So, the pigs sit out in the median of I-55 on a fishing expedition of sorts. They chase down people that are speeding, write them citations, and search their cars to see if they can find anything else that will get them bonus money in front of a judge. It's a racket.

A wall of clouds forms as I'm rolling south in I-55. It looks like I'm riding into a monsoon. But I don't want to stop prematurely, and I feel like if I keep going, I might can skirt the front of the storm.

I roll south and then, at St Louis, Missouri, we cross over the Mississippi River for the first time, so I'm now on the west side of the river in the state of Missouri.

This is sort of a prototypical late afternoon thunderstorm system, I think. These form over the middle of the country nearly every day in the summer. I want to get in as many miles as practicable today. I'd like to get to Memphis, if possible.

So, I drive south all day, stopping every 120 miles for gas. Finally, I get outside of Blytheville, Arkansas and the bottom drops out of the clouds. They're dark and they stretch from horizon to horizon so I pull up under a bridge. It's raining so hard, and the wind is blowing so hard, that I leave the bike and climb up under the shoulder of the overpass to the very highest point to get out of the monsoon.

Thunder, lightning, pouring rain. I sit and wait it out, surfing the internet on my iPhone. About 30 minutes later, it's let up enough that I start out again, south on I-55 as always. But 10 miles down the road it's pouring again, so I decide to call it a day.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 21, 2013 at 6:09 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 20, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 1: Moline to Peoria

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Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the farmlands of Peoria, Illinois.
Miles Driven Today: 100
Total Trip Miles: 100

Somehow, my neighbor and I figured out we were both flying to Chicago today. So we carpooled to the airport. The TSA got all excited about my Givi motorcycle case. They called me out at the gate and told me I'd have to come back and unlock the case. I told them they could keep it, as I didn't want to miss my flight. I'm not clear really if the case would even mount onto the KTM. All it had in it was some tools, fix-a-flat, motor oil, etc.

Nothing that can't be replaced. The main thing is to get onto the bike and get rolling. That's the real thing. That's the plan. Everything else can be picked up along the way.

So we fly to Midway. I rent a car on the plane, a one way rental from Midway to Moline, Illinois. At Midway, we meet her daughter, and then go our separate ways. I follow Google Maps on my cell phone and find my way from Midway to Moline, Illinois. So far, so good.

I find the little motorcycle dealership, and walk in. I've been texting them throughout the day to let them know I'm on my way. I end up rolling in at about 5:30 p.m. They close at 6:00 p.m.

"Nick, I finally came to get my bike, man!" I bought the silly thing back in December, and I've just been trying to find the time to get out here and pick it up. Now, I'm finally here. I look around the shop, hoping to spy my magic beast. Finally, I see the lovely glowing orange beast out back. They're leading it out of a corral of motorcycles like a prized horse.

I look at the bike, and I have no clue. I know zero about it. So they start laying it all out for me. It's a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 990cc twin five-speed, with front and rear disc brakes, ABS, and a digital dashboard. Insanely nice. Way better than any bike I've ever owned. Zero miles on the speedometer. It's a brand new 2010 that's never touched the road before.

I'm outside, admiring the beast. Picking pieces of plastic from the new chain. Fresh tire nipples. 0.0 miles on the odometer.

This bike is a thing of beauty.

We check the oil. It's full. And with that, I'm off. Top off the gas at a Shell station. It has two gas caps, and I have to fill each tank for reasons that still aren't clear to me yet. But I fill up both tanks and take off down the road, following I-74 towards Peoria, Illinois. This seems like the most direct path at this point. I'm just trying to get some miles on the bike on Day 1. Trying to get somewhere down the road at least.

I pull onto the road, trying to get the feel of the bike. I pass a highway patrol and he turns on his blue lights and I look down. I'm going 85 in a 65 and I'm like "Shit. That didn't take long."

But the pig never turns around to come after me, for whatever reason.

The problem is that the bike is so smooth, it doesn't feel like it's going 100mph. It feels like it's going 65. But I look down and, instead of 65, I'm going 95. So, I have to sort of get used to the feel of the bike. It has almost zero vibration. A small fairing breaks the wind, so I'm not nearly as beaten by the wind as I was on the XR.

They installed a little wrist-throttle type of contraption, like the one Doug showed me in Alaska. I'd sort of forgotten about them, but you get tired of holding the throttle wide open for hours at a time, and this little contraption allows you to control the throttle with the palm of your open hand, essentially. Which is way more relaxing.

The weather is bad. Enormous thunderheads rise like malevolent beasts above flat fields. Lightning strikes all around me. Somehow, it's not raining on me. I'm not clear why. I'm heading roughly east. I figured that the storm is moving east also. I nearly chicken out and stop, but I decide that I'll be OK and I just open the throttle and run 90 for a while to try to thread the needle between the thunderheads.

When I'm about 20 miles from Peoria, it starts to rain. I pull over and try to break under an overpass, but the brakes are way different than what I'm used to. Suddenly, I'm aware that the ABS system is activating, so I let up on the brakes a bit, then exit and fill up the tanks with gas. I talk to some other people at the station. They assure me it's raining cats an dogs just a few miles down the road. So, I sit there for a few minutes cooling my heels.

I haven't had a bite to eat all day. I'm tired and thirsty. I have zero rain gear, as the TSA goons have stolen my Givi case, along with my tools, and my rain gear.

But I still want to get to Peoria tonight. I have to get at least 80 miles down the road or I just feel useless.

By the time I roll into Peoria, it's solidly dark. I've driven only 84 miles for the day. But at least the adventure is under way.

Something great is about to happen. I've hedged my bets. Either I'm about to get married, or I'm about to drive a KTM down to Panama. Either way, I'm going to have a great time. :)

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 20, 2013 at 7:42 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 19, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: The Loneliest Highway in the World

The woman I loved more than any woman I ever met has left me, so I decided that I need to go on the biggest road trip ever to try to clear my head. This week, I drove my dirt bike across the "loneliest highway in the world", (US 50 from San Francisco to Denver). The photographs are from CA, NV, UT, and CO.

The bike I drove is a 2004 XR650L I bought in Petaluma, California in 2011. I've driven it from SF > Alaska > SF > Denver > SF > Denver. It now has over 30,000 miles on the bike. So, I'm going to basically retire it at this point. Heading out to get the KTM in Iowa tomorrow and get out of the country to clear my head down in Central America.

This slideshow starts out with a song I heard in the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operated hotel in California. I nearly strangled the bartender when the song ended before Shazam had figured out who it was. The song is "Canela" by Devendra Banhart. Then, when I get deep into the Great American Desert, the song changes to a song by The Fray called Be Still, which Carrie sent to me while I was on the trip.

The images are compiled into a 20 Meg (4:30) Adobe Flash slideshow (SF_Denver.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (SF_Denver.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Lyrics in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Postcards from Nowhere: The Loneliest Highway in the World"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 19, 2013 at 11:35 AM : Comments (2) | Permalink

May 17, 2013

SF to Denver: 2013 - Day 3

Wake up this morning in Ely, Nevada. In theory, I'm supposed to pick up Jennifer from school today, but that doesn't seem terribly likely, as she's 650 miles away and I'm the the Nevada desert on a dirt bike.

I remember the towns of Tonopah and Ely Nevada from when I passed through this same way 18 months ago. The towns are laid out slightly differently than I recall, but memory isn't perfect, is it?

I serviced the bike last night....it's good to go. Topped off with gas and oil. It's leaking oil like a sythe, so I make a habit of checking the oil every time I fill up. The leak is serious enough that it shouldn't be all that difficult to locate, but I'm too lazy and it's easy enough just to carry a quart and add some when it gets low, which I do.

I check out of the no-tell motel, and the desk clear says the forecast calls for rain. I'm checking out at about 9:00 a.m. which is pretty good for me. I hate the idea of riding a motorcycle in the rain. I mean, yeah, it's part of it, but it's not fun, by any stretch of the imagination. And it's not like I have decent rain gear. I've got Dri-Ducks, which are about as cheap of raingear as you can find. The wind rips them into ribbons on the bike.

He says he's from "Persia". I'm like..."Iran?"

Yes. That's what he means, of course. He says the Shah that got run off in 1979 wasn't such a bad guy. Now, it's run by religious zealots, which is no better, apparently. The northern and central part of his country is apparently green, not desert. This surprises me.

I return my key and walk to my bike in the parking lot. As I do, an old man pulls up in a rusted import. The doors have holes rusted nearly through them. Tires about to pop. Seats held together with duct tape. It's pretty clear that he's living in this thing, though I'm not sure why he's in the motel parking lot, if that's the case. Baggy jeans. Shoes cracked and worn. Threadbare shirt.

And I think about Carrie. I think how nice it would be to find someone you could live with and grow old together with. Because, if I don't find someone that I can tolerate, then I'm afraid that I'm going to be this guy.

Blow out of Ely, not real sure where I'm heading. General plan is to follow US 50 East to I-70, and then take I-70 home.

A short while later, I'm at the Utah state line. I pull over to take a picture. This is also where the time zone changes. I remember this gas station from the last trip. There's a guy on a bike there. A big Yamaha cruiser. Little older than me, with white hair, getting gas, talking on his cell phone.

I want to see if he'll take a picture of me at the Utah state line, so I pull up and we start talking, and he's a really good guy. Just one of those cool people you meet on bikes on the road. The kind of person that makes going on the road fun, instead of a long, desperate dry race across the desert.

I tell him about the trip I'm on now...and how Carrie figured out I wasn't taking the most direct path from SF to Denver and was upset for some reason.

"Why would you want to take the most direct route? Who would want to do that?"

"Exactly! That's what I thought, right? I mean, the whole trip doesn't make any sense. I mean, flying from Denver to SF to drive a dirt bike back that's only worth $1,500.00 doesn't make any sense to begin with. It's just an excuse to get out in the desert and clear your head, right?"

"Of course! Exactly!"

Now, we're fist-bumping like old friends. He's a real character this guy.

We talk about some of the road trips we've done. We both with down the Baja peninsula in Mexico, but he got on the ferry which I could never swing since I entered the country illegally. Doh!

I tell him about my upcoming trip to Panama and beg him to come with me, but I think the timing isn't right.

So we decide to ride together for a while. When US 6 and US 50 split, we'll go our separate ways, be we agree to ride through the desert for a spell.

I'm not sure that I have enough gas to make to it the next town, but we strike out anyway. Sure enough, my bike dies in the middle of nowhere. I reach down to switch it onto reserve, but it's already on reserve. So, I've got to do my trick and lean the bike over, to get the gas to drain from the right side of the tank to the left side.

David circles back and checks on me. I explain that I have to switch to the "reserve tank", and proceed to lay the bike down on its side. I stand it back up, it fires right up, and we ride on into town.

The parts of Nevada that I've crossed are just scrub-lands surrounded by mountain ranges. A never-ending series of 15 mile desert bowls surrounded by low mountains.

The desert is nice, it's own way. The air is clear. No smog. You don't have to worry about running into any large animals because, to my knowledge, there are none.

But Utah is much different. When we cross Utah, suddenly everything is green. The land is all irrigated, and they're growing crops of lord knows what but it smells heavenly.

All of the motorcycles that pass us wave, and this is the camaraderie that I miss. You get on a bike, and you're in the club. It makes no difference. Harleys. BMW's. Honda. Yamaha. All are alike on the road. Everyone gets a wave.

I don't have a map or anything. And Google Maps is next to useless since they updated it. Finally, I just give up and follow the signs towards US 50.

It threatens to rain on me a few times. I get rained on very lightly about 3 or 4 times. But the clouds never looked that intimidating, so I just kept driving, and then the rain would always stop just as soon as it had started.

I end up on Interstate 15 North for about 3 exits, then back onto the two-lane black tops through the Utah mountains. When I descend into the next valley, I recognize it as the valley that I-70 runs through. Hop onto I-70 heading East.

I don't really like riding on the interstate, of course, but I'm got to make better time. I'm not sure where I'll spend the night. The furthest I've ever gone in a single day is like 500 miles. And then I nearly crashed I was so tired.

But today, I want to see how far I can get. I've been holding the throttle wide open all day. I'm thinking I should be able to make it into Colorado today...drive all the way across Utah, and then at least get into Colorado. Then I think I'll try to Glenwood Springs instead of Grand Junction, and once I leave Glenwood Springs, I just decide I'm going all the way home.

As I climb up the summit of Vail pass, the temperature drops drastically, and I start shivering uncontrollably. On the other side, I race down as fast as possible, trying to get out of the cold.

Lake Dillon is all dried up. Just a series of disconnected small ponds. Zack had told me this, but I didn't believe him.

Down to Silverthorne, now climbing back up to the Eisenhower Tunnel. At the summit, I'm freezing again. Uncontrollable whole-body spasms. Sun is setting fast. Temperature dropping. In the tunnel, I'm running 100 mph, just trying to get back down off this crazy mountain. Racing downhill wide open past Loveland, Georgtown, Idaho Springs. Finally, I warm up enough at Idaho Springs that I think I might survive the night.

Now, I just have to follow the backroads home in the dark, dodging elk, deer, foxes, coyotes, etc. Somehow, I make it home in one piece.

My legs are so tired I can hardly stand. My back is killing me. Jen says she's down for the night, so I'll pick her up in the morning.

Somehow, on Sunday, I've got to convince myself to start my next ride from Illinois to Panama. Ugh..

Miles traveled today: 650 miles

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 17, 2013 at 10:04 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 16, 2013

SF to Denver: 2013 - Day 2

I am alive and well and resting quietly in the town of Ely, Nevada.

Miles driven today (odometer): 29,015.9 - 28,619 = 396.9 miles

In the morning, I leave Groveland, California and follow 120 into Yosemite. I'd forgotten about all of the lime-green moss on the trees.

I was last here in September of 2011, so that was about 21 months ago. But there are large sections of the park that I don't really remember.

It's hard to understand how large Yosemite Park is. I drive and drive and there's nothing but forrests and mountains and lakes. Hardly anyone is in the park yet, as school isn't out.

Tioga Pass opened last Saturday, so I figure I'll run over Tioga Pass. When I first catch a glimpse of the pass, however, I'm stunned. White snow-capped peaks, and it's snowing.

What I failed to realize is that if they opened the pass 6 days ago, odds are it's going to be freezing cold. As we climb toward the pass, the temperature keeps dropping until finally I stop and put on everything I have, which isn't a lot. Three t-shirts, a cotton shirt, two thin rain jackets, and a leather jacket. Put it all on.

Then I resume climbing up Tioga Pass. The elevation of the pass is approx 10,000 ft above sea level. At the peak, it's snowing. It's so cold I'm shivering uncontrollably.

As I roll down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the trees disappear and now it's this barren desert. At the bottom of the hill, the dramatic Mono Lake, and I stop for gas and lunch in Lee Vining. South 5 miles to 120 East, and 60 miles later I cross the Nevada state line, a cattle gap, if you can believe it.

Basically, Nevada is a barren desert. The Great American Desert. Although, I don't ever see a lot of bare earth. It's more like grass lands or sage brush. Not so much cactus and dirt.

There's pretty much zero traffic on the road. Long, ten-mile straight stretches of road cross flat bowls surrounded by low mountain ranges.

The landscape is beautiful, but vast. I have to get home to Jennifer, so I open the throttle and just hang on. The bike runs about 95 mph top-end on level ground. I don't know what the speed limit is. I don't really care.

I just hold the throttle wide open for hours. My wrist hurts. Shoulder hurts. Back hurts.

As I drive, I think about Carrie and me. I'm not sure what happens now. She left me. She's dating some new guy now. I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life. So I think about if I could get her back, and if it would work out if we did get back together.

This is what the desert does to you. It gives you time to think about complicated things. Sort of like if you dropped a piece of granite into a hand-crank cranberry grinder. If you have a tough problem to work out, driving across the desert is a good way to free up some time to think.

At some point last night, Carrie figured out that I'm not necessarily taking the shortest route back to Denver. She's upset because to her, it seems like, somehow, I'm trying to trick her. But that's not what's going on. The whole trip doesn't make any sense. I mean, the bike is worth maybe $1,500.00. To fly to California and drive it back to Denver is, at best, a break even proposition. The bike is just an excuse to drive across the country. "I've got to drive it back to Denver," doesn't really make any sense. It's just an excuse to clear my head, obviously.

I stop for gas again in Tonopah, Nevada.

It's 180 miles to the next town of Ely, Nevada. I have plenty of daylight, so I want to keep driving. Try to put up some good miles today. I'm hoping that there's a place to get gas before Ely, though, because 180 miles will be at the upper limit of the distance I can go on my bike. 30 miles outside of Tonopah, I pass a gas station. The signs seem to indicate another town before Ely. So, I pass the gas station.

Halfway to Ely, I'm so tired that I start to hallucinate. I see cars that aren't there. I see my own rear-view mirrors and get startled by them. I see things moving in the road that I can't understand. Nothing lives out here that's any bigger than a rabbit. Finally, I realize I'm seeing giant tumbleweeds rolling across the road.

But, when my trip meter gets to 143 miles, I switch over to the reserve tank. I'm still 37 miles outside of Ely, Nevada, in a barren wasteland. On this stretch of road, there are no other cars. This is not good. I switch over to reserve and keep driving, but I'm freaking out, of course.

I have some gatorade, and some cherries, but I won't live long out here in the desert. No cell coverage. No other vehicles.

I've been calculating my gas mileage at every fill-up on this trip. It varies from 43 down to 37 depending on how fast I'm going, how hard the wind is blowing, etc.

I do some quick numbers. My estimate is that the reserve tank is only 0.6 gallons. If I only have .6 gallons left, at 37 mpg, I'll only be able to go another 20 miles, tops. That means I'll run out of gas in the desert before I get to Ely. This is going to suck in a big way.

I drive until the engine dies, 9.5 miles further down the road. Now my trip meter is at 152.5 miles. I'm still 27.5 miles outside of Ely, Nevada, stranded in the desert. But now, I remember the last time this happened. I ran out of gas in the Owyhee Desert in Idaho, and later, in the office, I did some calculations, and decided that the gas tank still had gas in it, but it's on the other side of the tank. I have to lean the bike on it's side to get the gas over to the left side of the tank so it can flow into the carburetor. In theory.

I open the gas tank. Sure enough. There's plenty of gas, it's just on the right-hand side of the tank. I lay the bike over on the left side. The gas flows to the other side of the tank. I stand it back up. It fires right up, and I drive into Ely on fumes.

When I fill up the tank, it hold 4.58 gallons, meaning I had .02 gallons left in a 4.6 gallon tank. I decide to crash for the night. I'm exhausted.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 16, 2013 at 7:59 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 15, 2013

SF to Denver: 2013

Last Philly Cheestake at Busters

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly at the north entrance to Yosemite, in Groveland, California.

Spent the day working on bike like mad. New front brakes. Changed oil. Lubed chain. Found out frame was broken. Welded frame. Reinstalled rear rack.
Reinstalled Givi case. Finally taped down the rear rack as one nut is stripped.

Changing the oil

One grain of sand will ruin the engine. Why doesn't our government see this. They open the borders and import muslim terrorists, criminals, illegal immigrants. And thing how well your engine would run if you threw a handful of sand in there? Not good. So stop importing these grains of sand.

Also, I installed my license plate. Now, this is an interesting lie. That you have to have a license plate. Why is this? It's to generate revenue. Because, surely, I've driven through this city for years as a truly free citizen. If you want to see what freedom feels like, it's terrifying. Pull your plates off your car and drive around for a while.

Suddenly, the red light cameras have no power over you anymore. Now, make no mistake. The red-light cameras were not put in to make the intersections. It's well documented that the traffic accidents increase when they are installed. This is not open to debate. It's a documented fact. Their goal is to make money off of you, not to make you safer.

You can run the red lights with impunity. You become something close to free. But, you are treated like a terrorist.

Now, you think that we have to have these things or civilization would break down. But that's not the case.

In fact, take the case of illegal immigrants. They're allowed in the country. They're not deported. They don't file income tax returns. They can't be turned away from the hospitals. They can't be deported. They don't have drivers licenses. And they don't go to jail.

Same is true of the homeless. The homeless people cannot go to jail, regardless of what they do. They smoke weed in the streets, litter, cuss, scream, shout, and shit in public. But they never go to jail. The reason is because they don't have any assets. The goal of the government is to a) stay out of the paper and b) liberate your assets from you.

At the start of a trip, the first thing you have to do is take inventory. Things that you have, and aren't aware of, you don't have. Things you think you have, but don't have, you don't have.

So, it's very important to figure out what you have at the start of a trip.

Get into Groveland, California at about 7:30 p.m. or so. Check into the same place I stayed last time.

Run back a mile down the road or so to a gas station. The front end has been acting sqirrelly all day. Check the pressure in the front tire and it's so low it doesn't even register.

It's a state law in California that they have to give you free water and air if you ask. So I tell her to turn on the pumps. Pump up the front tire to 30 psi.

Swing back to the Iron Horse Bar, the oldest bar in California.

Start pounding Stellas.

Miles driven today (odometer): 28,619 - 28,429 = 190 miles

Miles driven today (GPS): 167
Max Speed: 84.4
Total Ascent: 9,979
Max Elevation: 3,069

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 15, 2013 at 9:40 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 12, 2013

WWII's Strangest Battle

When German troops fought along side of U.S. soldiers to defend a castle in Austria days after Hitler's suicide in May, 1945.


Posted by Rob Kiser on May 12, 2013 at 1:25 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 11, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: San Francisco - May 2013

I've been walking into work every day, packing two canon EOS 50D frames and the following lenses:

The photographs are from North Beach, Greenwich Steps, Filbert Steps, Chinatown, and the Financial District.

This slideshow features a song by The Veils called Vicious Traditions.

The images are compiled into a 20 Meg (4:30) Adobe Flash slideshow (SF201305.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (SF201305.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Lyrics in the extended entry.

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 11, 2013 at 12:36 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 8, 2013

Walkn n


Walkn n
N the morning cool wet streets and pigeons pecking at soggy wet bread in the streets of north beach
The sun is shining today
Dripping wet motorcycle but ots mine! Got it back from sfpd.
A spectacular day
Peeling back the blanket of winter
All the scars and all the scabs of winter painted over in fresh spring makeup
Grizzled men Watering the flower boxes along columbus
Homeless sleep in doorways beneath damp blankets
At transamerica pyramid scaffolding and a chinese beggar pushes before her a
Titanic sized Cart filled with cans
Columbus turns into montgomery

A couple comes down the wet street on motorcycle
Precariously riding the line between death and life

Im at wk :)


Walkn n
Chinese new year
The year of the slug
Firecracker wrappers cover chinatown
Old broken chinese men smoking
All Red Crackers is the brand of fire crackers
An old woman rushes down steep hill on a walker
Im at work
Mostly takn pics today


Walkn n
Cool grey low fog skies
I try to shoot the city
So that i might rememder it when i'm gone
So that i might remind my future self what Sf was like
Kids toddle down steep hills babbling like fountains on the way to school
Washing down the sidewalks at broadway
Writing parket tickets
A bus stops spilling asians into the streets
They surge across the street
No crosswalk
No lights
Theyre writing tickets to a fedex truck n NB
The cable is going nits today
The uphill cable has too much slack in it
Its snapping and popping louder n ever
I wish i could record that sound
I just realized i dont have my headphones on
Somethin goin on at market/montgomery
Man in loud dooming voice
Baritones "and they shall rise up!"
Like a drum major for the Homeless parade
U might follow him also
Marching along calling the chant
Where is he going
Wearing two backpacks
He is like Captain Homeless
Bellowing and marching
So that you might want to follow him
To see where he leads you
Only i follow him a short distance and he turns around to walk the other way
And you realize hes, at best, a false phophet
But in truth, just another meth addict
Im at work


Walkn n

In the cool morning sun burning off thick fogs
Im climbing the filbert steps
No jacket today
Im sleeping with the windows open again
Finally got my iphone synced w the macbook air n got some new tracks to listen to on the walk n
Now some tourists from vancouver looking for the parrots
Princess flowers n bottlebrushes n great flocks of robbins pecking at white blooms
Tangled mangled mess of vines choking one another likes city subway vagrants
Some agapantsus beds at the end of montgomery street
A london plane tree slowly cracks out of a planter
The gardens at the foot of vallejo
Crippled pigeons hobble down montgomery
Flocks of pigeons over broadway. I wonder why they form and fold like prayer cloths n split apart again
Boxes of fresh cut flowers
Theyre cutting them open on the sidewalks
Wrapping them in clear plastic wrap
48 degrees n u would never want it any warmer if youre walking
And now the firetrucks screaming down montgomery
Running lights
Everyone diving from the crosswalks
Flocks of pigeons explode leaving behind treasured morning bread heels
The homeless scan the free dailies which is kinda funny
Like i live in the streets but i wonder whats going on in the world
Now screams the ambulance
Racing down market
Hell kill the ceo of a fortune 500 company trying to save a meth addict
Im at work


Walkn n

The inconceivable madness of chinatown
I bounce down the sidewalks of stockton like a warm pachinko ball
At one point, i find myself on a pallet being lifted into the air as i dodge crates of produce and ancient chinese babbling in cantonese
Fresh fortune cookies from the fortune cookie factory in ross alley
Shattered purple glass sidewalks and hobo feces
A handicapped homeless old black man with a shiny new scooter ripping down the sidewalks
Slowly it dawns on me that the financial district is all owned by the national and international banks
Banks that closed ranks with the repeal of the Glass-Stegal Act.
Both of the cables are popping like mad today
Uphill and downhill
Red said he hangs out at the walgreens on pine n montgomery
But i dont see him there
Im at wk


Walkn n
Cool foggy san francisco
The queue at mamas on washington square
The asians perform foreign exercises in unison in the park
Service trucks squeak by
They all work together
The asians are all in step
Staying in shape
When have the blacks ever organized themselves to do anything?
Produce distributors unloading produce onto sidewalks
Its easy to see the things you see
Whats much harder is to see the things you dont see
Or to wonder why the things that are missing are missing
Yeah....like when you look beside you why am I not there!? Or in the window reflection peeping around you!;) I am missing!!
The madness of chinatown
Aged men chained to dollies
Smoking in perpetuity
Im looking for a sign
Am i through here?
Or should i dig in deeper?
Its so hard to know
A courier rides a bike up an impossibly steep hill
Its so hard to see whats not here
Where are the jugglers? The street musicians?
I saw a black man in the bart tunnels blowing on a flute
But he didnt know how to play it
A group of homeless people waddels down steep Pine Street
Pushing rolling suitcases before them
Im walking down kearney now
It would be nice to have a break
One post plaza
Office workers mix uneasily with the fields of homeless
A group of first grades led like ducklings with backpacks down brick sidewalks with marble curbstones
The guy that holds the door at 7-11
A firetruck screams down market
Stops at bart
Slow methodical
I try to follow them down past all the homeless people living underground
But my Clipper card says SEE AGENT
The kids are all on spring break field trips
Thats the deal
Waves of children now
Guided by frayed teachers
The same girl works the desk every morning
I wonder why
But i do the same thing every morning
Am i any better than her?
Im at work

Continue reading "Walkn n"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 8, 2013 at 6:10 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

When you are alone talking to imaginary friends

I saw this bit of paranoia taped to a utility pole in SF last week (04/29/13). I googled the lunacy, and found a single reference to this gibberish on the intertubes from last year. Interestingly, the wording has changed a little. So, my guess is that someone actually believes this nonsense. I'd say they're probably fairly intelligent. The grammar, spelling, etc., is pretty much spot on. My guess is that they're just completely bat-shiat insane. I'd pay good money to find out who's posting these. Screed follows:

"When you are alone talking to imaginary friends and the discussion is (1) detailed, (2) is with supervisors, friends, lovers, or celebrities, and (3) it seems like you can almost feel what the other person feels like, you are being influenced with remote-based computer programmed conversational skits.

How we are technologically manipulated from a remote location:

Each person's natural & distinct electrical cerebral emissions are assigned human tracking numbers. Our emissions are then constantly attached to thru usage of tracking medium (such as radio and microwave) which also have an open channel for transferring speech into and from our heads (i.e., our emissions are used like a transistor inside a radio; chip implants are not needed). Computers, programmed by operators for conversational manipulation, are at the other end of the tracker medium where our tracking numbers and other information such as name, sex, family members, likes, and dislikes, etc., are stored. Libraried conversational skits, designed to make it appear that you talk to yourself a lot with persons you are aware of (for better influencing impact), are applied into our hearing reception centers. Web query: Mind Control and US Patents (beware, many sites include speculation).

Our leaders are of 3 types: (type 1) fearful of the usage of WMD by the imposters AND too manipulated / kept busy to have sufficiently met and conferred (we need to post notices to enable them through their seeing our discourse on the subject); (type 2) selfish / cavalier; (type 3) criminally implicated in our abuse through ordering the usage of the remote technology.

Solution: Spread the word to permit that these manipulations become commonly discussed by the general public so that compromised leaders on both sides of the aisle will no longer be able to ignore it. It is inconsistent with our laws and therefore must be prosecuted if discussed out loud on a regular basis.

Continue reading "When you are alone talking to imaginary friends"

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 8, 2013 at 12:56 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

May 2, 2013

SF Train

I'm on a plane at altitude heading east across the Great American Desert. They don't call it that any more, but that's what it is. You can see it on the old maps if you care to look.

The guy in front of me is a royal jackass. He keeps putting his feet underneath his own seat, where my feet are supposed to go. He puts his feet on that little bar so his heels are way into my space and I push them off with my toes several times until I'm sure I'm going to have to garrote him like John Benet Ramsey.

They come around for drink orders, so I drop down the middle seat tray table. The middle seat is empty because I put the tray table down and my cameras in the seat when everyone was boarding. But now, the guy beside me decides that it's his private tray table so he puts his dead tree newspaper on it and I'm furious but I don't say anything. I just push it away when my drinks come so I don't have to deal with it.

Now, the moron decides to stand up in the aisle. The idiot just stands up in the aisle, and stares at me, as we fly across the country. Why do I get all of the freaks? Why the fuck is that. Finally, I can take it no more, so I start taking pictures of him. This stupid idiot standing in the aisle beside his chair and staring at me as we fly across North America. The fucking jackass.

Finally, I think that he's about as uncomfortable with me taking photos of him as I am of him standing there and staring at me like a serial killer, so we reach a sort of detente, and he sits back down.

Now, when we ordered, I ordered a cup of ice and a can of Diet Coke. He says "I'll have a Diet Coke also," thinking he'll get the same thing as me. But he's an idiot.

When she comes, of course, she brings me a cup of ice and a can of Diet Coke. She hands him a little plastic cup with ice and Diet Coke in it, which he quickly gulps down.

Now, as we fly across the continent, he's trying to drink what's in his cup, only there's nothing there, save what ice has melted since the last time he tried this two minutes ago. So, for this, I am grateful.

Finally, he gets up to go to the bathroom. When he does, the flying waitress comes by to take our trash. I quickly take everything on the table and give it to her to throw away. I shove his newspaper into the seat back in front of his chair and lift of the tray table. He comes back, and he's furious. He promptly lowers the tray table, and fetches his newspaper from the seatback. Only he's already read it. We both know this. He's reading a book now. So, it's meaningless for him to put the newspaper back on the tray table. We both realize this.

He's foaming at the mouth, but he finally relents and puts the newspaper back into the seatback pocket where I'd shoved it.

He promptly put his DejaBlue waterbottle back on the tray table to re-assert his dominance over the tray table.

At this point, the jackass in front of me realized that his seat would recline. We've been in the air for two hours, but it finally occurs to him, so he rocks back onto my laptop and tries to crush the screen on my MacBook Air but I'm able to keep him from destroying it completely.

Now, another idiot decides he needs to stretch his legs. This tall bald white psychotic stork start stalking up and down the length of the aircraft, I shit you not. Looks like he's John Cleese doing the "funny walk" up and down the aisle. Finally, the gay flying waitress at the front of the plane decides he's had enough and he tells everyone to find their seats because we're about to enter some turbulence, which isn't true, of course. But causes the idiots to all find their seats anyway.

The idiot beside me actually turns in his seat to face me while he's reading his book. So, I want to reach over and choke him out. Push his adams apple in until it touches the back of this throat sealing his air vent. Who in the fuck turns sideways in their chair on an airplane?

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 2, 2013 at 12:15 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink