Concluding Pan American Trails

An earthquake writes finis to one of the most difficult solo tours of all time. The long trip started from St. Louis, Mo. and ended in Managua, Nicaragua, in Central America, nearly 10 months later

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

From the June 1936 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

While in Guatemala I spent most of the money I had collected in Chiapas, since I couldn’t get anything out of the people of this country. They have it in their minds that anybody who comes from the States must be a sucker loaded with money and they try to get all they can out of him. In fact there are more American tourists in Guatemala than in any other country in Central America, due perhaps to the facility of travel offered by their beautiful scenic highways. And where tourists spend money lavishly the people soon learn to take things for granted and expect more and more and in this case I was the goat and I suffered for it.

I rode to Jutiapa in one day, without any incidents and on very good roads and the next day at noon I left Guatemala and entered El Salvador, the second Central American country. Here I was well received and, together with the custom officers, we all sat down and had a toast to the success of my trip.

A few hours later I was in Santa Ana, after having ridden over a road which was as good as a paved highway.

I was beginning to believe that all roads in Central America were good but I changed my mind after passing Santa Ana.

I went over the dustiest roads that I ever had the misfortune to see. They were wide roads indeed but the dust was deep enough to reach the wheel hubs and it was so fine that the least puff of wind would send it flying all around me, making it impossible for me to go any further for the time being. And to make things worse I had to stop every few minutes to clean the carburetor which got clogged up with dust. I had no exhaust pipe and every time I started the motor I would lift a cloud of dust which would envelope me like a thick veil. I had to hold my breath and ride a few feet until I could go fast enough to leave the dust behind me.

I had a whole day of this and at night I reached Santa Tecla, only a few miles from the capital. I hated to spend any money for a hotel room and it was too late to go and see the mayor so I went to police headquarters.

The chief of police treated me to a dinner, but then he was at a loss as to where to put me to sleep.

“Let me sleep inside with the prisoners,” I suggested.

At first he laughed at my idea, but then “Why not?” he said, “it could be done. Only I’ve got a few murderers among the prisoners and if they know that you are not one of them they might not let you come out alive.”

But I finally convinced him and he had me thrown in by two guards. I was soon surrounded by a bunch of fetid and stinking ruffians who wanted to know what I was in for. I was tired and sleepy and after telling them to leave me alone I laid down in a corner and wrapped myself in a dirty blanket and went to sleep.

Next day I followed a good road to San Salvador, the capital city, and here I stopped again for a few days to familiarize myself with the people of this country.

El Salvador is the smallest and in the meantime the most thickly populated country in Central America, in comparison to size. But in spite of that it lacks good roads and is very hard to cross.

By Jose Porta
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