Days 13 - 18, May 14 -18, 2001.
First, let me say that I havenīt been able to keep up my web site as I did on the Alaska trip. I donīt have a laptop with me, and so have to type everything when I finally find internet access. This is in addition to writing it originally, so it absorbs great amounts of time. Before I go on, I also owe a word of thanks to my family, who has made this trip possible. My wife, Jan, and son Mike have done a great job of running our company in my absence, while also being the caregivers to both our Mothers who live close nearby. Scott, our youngest, built the current web site, and he and his brother Greg have updated it as I find the opportunity to remit material. So thanks guys. I wouldn't be here without you.
I've ridden roughly 1,200 miles since leaving San Jose, C.R., following the Pan American Highway north through Nicaragua, and then leaving the highway for three days to ride northeast through Tegupigalpa, the capital of Honduras, on to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and finally to the Mayan ruins at Copan, Honduras. It was a wonderful three-day trip through the mountains on great roads and fairly cool temperatures. From Copan I crossed into Guatemala, and stayed a night with a friend in Guatemala City before riding on to the colonial village of Antigua. It has been a wonderful, wonderful ride. I'll share a couple of observations, and due to lack of time, the rest, as they say, will have to wait for the book.
Honduras. I pass on one more border crossing, so skip El Salvador, and decide instead to spend three days traversing Honduras, including visiting the Mayan ruins at Copan, before proceeding directly into Guatemala.
It's a great highway to Tegucigalpa, our U.S. tax dollars at work, I've been told. If correct, it is money well spend in my opinion, at least at the moment. The road cuts through the Cordilliera Mountains and it's obvious from visual inspection that much of it was washed away by flooding. Hurricane Mitch, I'm told. Well, with Honduran labor and American equipment and money the road to Teguligalpa is now a 24 foot-wide brand new ribbon of asphalt, smooth as silk, and so new the center stiping has not yet been painted. Literally hundreds of buses and trucks labor uphill, from sea level at Choluteca, over the pass at 4,000'.
It is a long climb, but the Guzzi shines. Motorcycles are allowed just about anywhere on the road in Central America, and if you are passing, the on-coming vehicle simply moves over to allow you by. It is a risky manuever on narrow roads, but since the traffic is never moving too fast, one you come to appreciate. The heavily laden buses and trucks rarely exceed 30 mph on the long uphills, so as I downshift to 3rd or 2nd, the tachometer swings quickly upwards to 7,000 RPM, and I pass two or three of the offending vehicles in as many seconds. It's 75 degrees and sunny, and the road curves, twists and turns for eighty miles in virtually perfect motorcycle conditions. I'm in motorcycle Heaven.
I crest the pass and see Tegucigalpa laid out before me like a hundred-thousand flickering campfires. The capital of Honduras, this is a town of almost one million residents, and as it's getting dark I'm anxious to find my hotel. With local directions I do so a half hour later and arrive to notice that my back tire is flat. I'm tired and hungry, and not the least bit pleased at the prospect of fixing the flat. Not a word of English is spoken at this first class hotel and I struggle to communicate that I want to eat dinner at El Patio, which according to my guidebook, is the nicest restaurant in Honduras. A grab a taxi for a wild, $2 ride through the back streets and alleys of Tegucigalpa.
I'm guessing the book is right. I order dinner using the Spanish word "necisito," literally meaning "I need." It's a poor choice, obvious by the dirty look from my waitress. But I get what I want, including my steak cooked medium, and search my Berlitz book for what surely must be a better choice. I find "quisiera" meaning "I would have," - apparently the correct choice of word for ordering food. When my waitress returns with my food I say "lo siento, hablo muy puquito espaņol. Quisiera alto Corona." She beams as I apologize for my poor Spanish and order another beer. For the next hour she helps me with pronounciation and we become the best of buddies as I add several words to my Spanish vocabulary. For $15 it's two beers, a bottled water, four appetizers and a steak. It's the best I've eaten since, say, about 1995. Even with a flat tire, life is good.
Although not as dirt-poor as Nicaragua, Honduras is very, very poor. Mud-over-wood or concrete blocks is standard housing in the rural areas, and dirt floors are normal. It is a bleak outlook, although unfortunately, you begin to get used to the conditions. When I arrive in Guatemala, a much richer country, the 20 x 20 cinder-block houses (in which 10 people might live) begin to look absolutely opulent. I almost can't envision how standard housing in the States will appear when I cross at Nogales next week.
I'm running late and I'll miss Lake Atitlan if I don't get going, so that's all for now. On to the long 2,000 mile ride north through Mexico.
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