Pan-American Trails Part 2

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

I often wondered if those people were really happy. And what did they have to be happy about? I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them when I had to step into one of their adobes to protect myself against the rays of the sun and to ask for a drink of water and a bite of food. I was shown to a corner where I could see a pot of cooked beans and a decanter of water and nothing else. And the father was lying on the ground outside on the shady part of the building and the children were playing inside and the mother was squatting on the floor nursing a child, unmindful of the presence of a stranger.

It was everywhere the same sight. The ranches were hours apart, the sun was hot and the sand was deep. First I got to Rancho Mesteno, then to Rancho Santa Rosa and at noon I stopped in a small village, San Carlos. Again I was well treated and when I left I was generously supplied with gas and oil and water and everything was free in exchange for my cards. It was a sight for those people to see a motorcycle and they were all willing to help.

When I left San Carlos they put me on the road to Madero; from there I had to go to San Pedro and then to Torreon. Madero was only eight miles away and according to directions it was very easy to reach, but after a while I found out different. There were always so many cart tracks leading in so many different directions that I never knew which one to follow. And I never met a soul on the way. It was a long and lonesome trail, made longer by the incredible number of flat tires that I seemed to get every few miles.

That part of the country abounds with a desert plant, called mesquite, which is found everywhere and is full of thorns and these thorns are scattered all over the ground. You can’t miss them, especially as they seem to have a strong attraction for rubber tires.

It was no fun for me to stop under that scorching summer sun in the hottest deserts of Mexico and pump those tires with a tiny hand pump. Every time I stopped it meant at least a half a dozen punctures as I couldn’t afford to stop for just one or two thorns.

It was hot when I was riding but it was hotter when I had to stop and I was cursing those mesquites and the sun and the desert and I wanted to get to Madero to rest and to drink. Madero was supposed to be eight miles away, but I made the eight miles and not a house was in sight. I rode twenty miles and no Madero. I was beginning to despair. I had no more water. The sand was getting deeper and I had to ride in low and push at the same time. I rode thirty miles and it was getting late. Forty miles and the sun dropped beyond that endless desert. And I was thirsty and it seemed to me that I was never going to get anywhere. I met more crossings but I went ahead following any one of them. I didn’t care as I knew that I was lost and I was thirsty.

At last I saw a house ahead of me and at last I could find water! With a sigh of relief and renewed strength, unmindful of the road, I cut through the desert and headed towards that house.

It was more than a house. There was a truck in front of it and a half a dozen young men. And you should have seen the surprise on those young men’s faces when I got there. I couldn’t say a word as my dried tongue was stuck to my mouth. I was given water, all I could drink of it. When they found out where I was coming from they filled my tank with gasoline and then they directed me to their camp, a mile further on. They belonged to a construction gang working on a highway between Matamoros, on the United States border near the Gulf, to Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast.

By Jose Porta
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