I woke up extra early this morning in preparation to cross into Mexico. Given all of the stories that I have heard about Mexico I was nervous about making the trip and there have been times I considered not going at all. I pushed those concerns aside after reading blogs from people either already in Mexico or who have safely passed through. After a sleepless night or two I decided to go.
After packing the bike and getting my paperwork ready I removed from my tank bag a bracelet that I have been carrying. This beaded bracelet is from a Chinese temple high in the mountains and was given to me by someone who trekked up the mountain specifically to bring me a good luck. I slipped the bracelet on my wrist, started the bike and headed for Mexico.
The customs at the border was easy enough but it did take an hour and a half to complete. First there was passport control, then permission for the motorcycle, back to passport control who then sent me back to pay the motorcycle deposit, make copies, check the VIN on the bike and back to passport control. It was easy enough, just time consuming. With documents in order I was off and heading for Tampico. I wanted to put some distance between me and the border on the first day, no stopping, no photos, no lunch, just keep going and stop only for gas.
Just 1 kilometer past the border and I witnessed a minor accident, and it was blocking my route. Two women get out of their respective vehicles and start shouting at each other. I just want to get going and started to look for an alternate route, when I am approached by a man wearing a uniform and a badge; he was with the “Tourist Police”. “My name is Jimmy, it’s my job to help you. Where are you going” he said to me. I told him that I am going to Tampico today and then continuing south. “Let me guide you to the highway, away from this trouble” he said pointing to the accident. “Let me get on you moto”. I really did not want him to get on my motorcycle but I thought I had little choice, I wanted away from the accident argument that was getting more and more heated. So the little fat man got on my motorcycle and started to guide me around the accident. The motorcycle handled the extra weight ok and after about 10 minutes I saw a sign for the highway I needed. I felt relieved and did not mind giving Jimmy the “tip” he asked for, $20 in total.
Another 35 kilometers down the road and there was a road block by the “Policia Federal” and I thought for sure that I would be shaken down for money, given their reputation. The “Policia Federal” officer who approached me was a big guy, kind of fat, expressionless and carrying a M16. He extended his hand and as we shook hands, he smiled. Our conversation went like this; (pardon my poor Spanish spelling and grammar)
Policia; A donde vas Amigo? (where are you going my friend)
Policia; Viajar solo? (travelling alone)
Me: si solo.
Policia; por que solo? (why alone)
Me: mi amigos no loco (I have no crazy friends)
He suddenly burst out laughing, a real loud and hardy laugh that drew the attention of other officers. Another officer approached us and the first officer told him what I said. The second officer laughed a little and went back to his duties, I guess not as funny to him. The first officer continued to make small talk about my motorcycle and our respective families and after about 5 minutes he finally said “Enjoy your time in Mexico”. No money was solicited.
I continued heading south on a relatively quiet and uneventful highway. After 100 kilometers another road block, this one was border patrol and customs. I showed my passport and was then sent to customs. I was the only vehicle so I had all three customs agents around me looking at the bike and speaking to each other in Spanish. They asked for my vehicle import papers, made small talk about my trip and my bike and sent me on my way with a “Welcome to Mexico” and three agents waving as I drove off. No money was solicited.
As I continued south the landscape became much greener and much more beautiful than the dry areas near the border. I wanted to take some photos but decided to stick with my plan of putting as much distance between me and the border as possible. I now regret not taking a photo of the “Tropic of Cancer” sign, but I am not going back. I encountered some construction and a few extra wide loads that took up all lanes, but nothing worth writing about.
I was getting a bit tired and hungry when I saw a road sign “Tampico 30km”, I was relieved. As I came over the crest of a small hill there was another “Policia Federal” patrol car and I was being waved to stop. I was greeted with a smile, asked for my vehicle import documents and driver’s license. We engaged in more small talk about the motorcycle, my trip and how lucky I was not to have a wife, then I was sent on my way again. No money was solicited.
I arrived in Tampico and started to make my way towards the beach. The traffic became surprisingly heavy so I decided to stop at the next reputable hotel. I am now enjoying a Glenlivet and planning tomorrows ride.