Pan-American Trails part 3

The story of a long solo travel tour through Mexico to Central America

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

It was my first motor trouble since I had left Saint Louis, and it seemed to me to be serious enough to require a few days’ stop. I couldn’t have picked a better town for that purpose and I was sent to a bicycle shop where the owner, Don Pedro Penuelos, treated me like one of his own kin. He put his home and his shop at my disposal and bid me stay as long as I wished.

I took advantage of his hospitality and I was there four days. During that time I put the whole motor apart and found out that a few pieces of the damaged crankcase had found their way into the work ing parts of the motor, thus impeding their proper functioning. I cleaned the motor and had the crankcase welded and I was ready to go again. My stay in Los Mochis remains like a pleasant dream in my memory. I was always selling my cards wherever I stopped, and I had given a bunch of them to Don Pedro to sell for me while I was working back in the shop. In some towns I had met with complete indifference, but here I didn’t have to go around selling them. I remember Don Pedro coming behind his store every few minutes to hand me a dime or a nickel with a “I sold one of your cards” and “I sold another one,” “and another one,” and so on, lasting all day long. I believe that everybody in town had one of my cards. They all wanted to help the poor boy who was going around the world on a motorcycle.

Of course, I couldn’t have gone very far on my trip without this kind of help. I usually got everything free, from gas and oil to food and bedding, but I always needed some extra money for emergencies. I went through places where I had to pay one dollar and a half for a gallon of gas, where I had to pay fifty cents to go through a man’s backyard, and where I had to pay two pesos for a rotten plate of beans.

I have always been awkward and bashful about asking for any help, but whenever it was offered me I wouldn’t refuse it.

I must extend my thanks to all those who helped me on my way, from the humble peon who with open mouth and admiring eyes gave two pennies, to the fatherly governor who with a generous gesture handed me a check for twenty pesos. For the kindly tortillera who at dawn stuck a few tortillas in my saddle bags and with moist eyes whispered “God bless you!” to the opulent ranchero who let me feast at his table. To all those I extend my thanks.

And all the others I forget and forgive. I forget those who ignored me and I forgive those who laughed at me and those who chased me away with a shotgun. Amen!

Guasave, Angostura, Pericos, Culiacan are but a few of the next villages that I had to pass on my way south. The roads were very primitive, with an occasional muddy stretch.

In Culiacan I had the misfortune of killing a dog. Dogs are a nuisance in Mexico, anyway. They are almost as plentiful as the people themselves. Every street in every village is swarmed with them, every market place is lousy with them. You know how dogs like to bark at a motorcycle! Imagine my arrival at a town, any town. Imagine all the dogs in that town barking after my motorcycle, all at the same time, a million of them. From every corner, from every door, from every alley they’ll come out and join in the rumpus. If you can imagine all that you can understand my predicament. And I killed one of them, one out of a million. And I felt sad because I killed a dog.

By Jose Porta
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