Pan American Trails | Part 1

The story of a solo tour over some of the world’s worst roads. A trip from St. Louis to Managuz in Nicaragua…

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

I had heard that it never rained in California.

It took me a few days to get to New Laredo, on the Mexican border and it rained all the way thru.

At noon I crossed the bridge that joins the United States to Mexico. They charged me one nickel toll on the American side and on the Mexican side they hardly stopped me at all. It happened to be a Mexican holiday and only one guard was on duty. He told me to go ahead and then came back the next morning and show them what I had in my bundles.

It sounded silly but I went ahead into Mexico and I stopped at a hotel in Laredo for the night.

The next morning I went back to the bridge and here I had my first unpleasant surprise. It was all right for me to get into Mexico but I had to pay a heavy duty for the motorcycle. They wanted me to deposit almost one hundred dollars if I wanted to keep my machine in Mexico, that sum being returned to me on my leaving the country.

I tried to talk them out of it but it was all in vain. They succeeded in convincing me that they were just keeping that money for me, kind of helping me out so I wouldn’t be held up on the way. I almost thanked them for their thoughtfulness and I went to the nearest bank to cash some travelers’ checks. They don’t use any paper money in Mexico and for one hundred dollars I was given two hundred silver pesos and a sack to put it in.

I walked out of the bank with that sack in my hands. I tried to hide it but it was too big. I felt uneasy at first but I was soon relieved to find out that nobody seemed to pay any attention to me.

I went to the Custom House where they made me sign twelve documents and then relieved me of the sack.

A few minutes later I was back on the road again, free to go where I pleased.

I had the thrill of going over what was possibly the longest stretch of straight highway in the world; forty-six miles of straight paved road, without a single curve. It was part of the highway to Mexico City which was at that time under construction. It would have been easy to follow that road all the way to Mexico City, but I wasn’t out to break any records. I wanted to see Mexico and I intended to see every nook and corner of it and go to those out-of-the-way places where the people are not yet affected by our civilized ways. I wanted to see the Mexicans in their natural habitat, living their own lives in their own ways.

It took me but a few hours to get to Monterrey where I intended to stay a few days to make arrangements for the rest of the trip. From then on the real work would start and paved highways would be but things of the past.

In Monterrey I got in touch with a gasoline company trying to induce them to furnish me with free gas in exchange for advertising.

I was told it could be done, but they had to write to the main office in Mexico City and it would take about a week to get an answer.

Therefore whether I liked it or not I had to stay in Monterrey for one week. I was glad I did in a way because it rained steadily every day until I was ready to leave town.

While in Monterrey I boarded with a nice and interesting family. Don Andres was the head of this family. Eighty-eight years old, an old time gold digger, all he would talk about was gold and hidden treasures. He had discovered a gold vein in Durango a few years past which would yield enough gold to make anybody multimillionaire in no time. All he needed was a partner to put up the money to file up the claim.

And I was to be the partner, he said.

It would only cost me five thousand dollars to become a millionaire.

Mexico is really the land of golden opportunities. I had just landed in the country and somebody was trying to make a millionaire out of me already and only for five thousand dollars. Too bad I didn’t have the five thousand dollars.

But Don Andres didn’t mind. He was willing to start on something smaller. He knew of an old lady who lived in an old house which used to belong to a famous bandit. Don Andres was sure that there was a treasure hidden in that house. He wanted me to go with him with pick and shovel and tear down the building. I told him I wanted to go to South America.

By Jose Porta
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