Tiffani’s Yamaha FZ-07 Tour: The Return to Mexico

Chapter 3, Part 20

Tiffani FZ-07 Tour Mexico
A relatively short hop takes us across the country, from the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico to the Gulf side.Motorcyclist

I don’t know if I’ve just gotten used to Mexico, if the east half of the country is just much more enjoyable, or if the rainy season has just cleaned up the place. But either way, I can honestly say I actually really like returning to this country again.

Tiff with a machete on FZ-07 Tour
What kind of protagonist would I be if I didn’t have a sword? If you can ignore the fact that machetes are basically Central American lawn mowers, I might even appear intimidating one day!David Hayward

Since we arrived in Tapachula, Chiapas, just across the Guatemala border, life took a turn for the pleasant—though anything seems pleasant after Highway CA-2. We spent our first day back in Mexico sweeping along the fast, smooth toll roads of Chiapas, still surrounded by lush rainforest and a heat made more workable by the constant cloud cover of the season. We made one last pit stop along the ocean shore, cutting through Reserva de la Biosfera La Encrucijada as well as an endless stretch of farms and ranches. I opted not to swim in the ocean this time around, as the water was arage with large barrels and riptides. And not least of all because it was brown and gross looking. The Panama coastline may have spoiled me more than I realized.

Tiffani's Yamaha FZ-07 Tour Chiapas
I had never even heard of Chiapas before I started this trip south, and now it’s the first place I think of every time someone asks me what my favorite place in Mexico is. My second impression of this country is starting strong.David Hayward

After a leisurely shrimp cocktail lunch on the beach, we returned to the main road and started making our way toward the east coast in hopes of seeing a figurative and literal different side of the country. Next stop, Veracruz!

The roads followed the mountains and valleys of Chiapas with large, open turns, twisty enough to be fun and fast enough to be exciting, and the whole state was blooming with life. I didn’t expect to be so happy to be in Mexico, but I was quickly reminded of why I had liked this state of Chiapas the first time around too. We skirted through one military checkpoint after the other, some of which searched us until they got bored of all the clothes and camping equipment, and one even X-rayed all of the vehicles looking for who likes to party harder than the rest of them.

As checkpoints and traffic droned on and on, we stopped at the side of the road to cool down in the shade and stop for a water break. Another rider on a bright red Ducati Monster whizzed by—and then almost immediately turned tail to come back and talk to us. While motorcycles probably outnumber people in these Latin countries, they’re usually so small, cheap, and common that they seem to be viewed more as a mode of transportation than an all-consuming lifestyle (crazy, I know). So it’s rare to see bikes as big as ours in Mexico. It seems that all of the riders who do have bigger bikes, however, share the same kind of enthusiasm that other riders have for bikes and each other in the States.

He was wearing a Jorge Lorenzo replica helmet and a Valentino Rossi-branded balaclava—a combination that probably should never be expected to work in unity—and was immediately disappointed to learn neither of us spoke Spanish beyond the simple phrases we picked up along the way and some of the swear words I learned in high school. He still seemed excited to see other riders though, so he stuck around to admire the FZs and bid us farewell in his best English: “Ride safe!”

goats by the road in Mexico
You may have been bored at various times, but have you ever been “stuck at the side of the road, studying the mannerisms of goats” bored?Tiffani Burkett

Anyway, after a long ride along what became boring toll roads lined with Pemex refineries and big trucks, we finally made our way to the stretch leading toward Veracruz. With about 30 kilometers to go, Hollywood coasted to the side of the road, hot, exhausted, and with a chain that seemed to be spinning in place on its front sprocket. We had replaced the rear in Panama, but it turned out the front sprocket needed a little more urgent attention than expected. He tried to limp it a little farther, but being so close to town, I figured now was as good a time as any to get my money’s worth on that overpriced Mexican insurance I bought before we left. After 30 minutes of awkward attempts at communication, yelling over semis that seemed to be in open rebellion with their mufflers, we switched to WhatsApp so we could communicate through text and GPS tracking and had a tow truck on its way.

Towing motorcycle in Mexico
Your chariot, sir. I’m pretty sure Hollywood was just faking the whole broken-down thing because he was tired and wanted some air-conditioning.Tiffani Burkett

Of course, Mexican roadside assistance in the boonies is about as fast as you expect it might be. We chilled under an overpass for about two hours, hanging out with the kind of disturbingly large red ants that nightmares are made of and a slightly less large herd of escaped goats.

Having tied down bikes many, many times while hauling my way out to the racetrack and back over the years, I struggled not to cringe as the tow truck driver haphazardly wrapped his straps around the handlebars and seat of Hollywood's FZ1. As I put all my gear on, I also struggled not to be jealous as Hollywood got to hop into an air-conditioned cab. I'm not really sure if the FZ-07's reliability was really a win today or not.

Police stop for motorcycles
This is literally the fourth time on this trip a police officer has stopped us because he just wanted to check out our bikes. I think cool motorbikes might be the universal language that transcends all differences. My luck with getting off of speeding tickets has gotten much better in Mexico!David Hayward

I followed them into the city, saving us the effort of navigating the typical poorly marked/unlabeled Mexican city streets, and we ordered some new sprockets to be dropped off at a local DHL hub. Then we signed up for some scuba diving at a nearby dive shop.

Underwater scuba
Is it weird that the second I stuck my face underwater, all I could think about was that these fish would make great paint schemes for my racebikes?David Hayward

Diving in Veracruz was interesting, to say the least. As we had only gotten a lower-level scuba diver certification in Belize, we opted to raise our licensing level to a full Open Water Certification in a place where the full course and six dives and all of the rental equipment cost less than one dive did to the south. Of course, for your savings, you also had the disadvantage of learning from people who spoke almost no English, with equipment that was at a few notches above passable, and all of your practice had to be done in a 15-foot-deep section of the open ocean instead of a pool, but this is an adventure, damn it.

The waters outside Veracruz are full of squid, eels, gigantic lobsters that look strikingly similar to the sci-fi Predator, and, most importantly, shipwrecks. Some were actually United States and Russian navy ships, interestingly enough. If you go far enough out, supposedly there are also some Spanish treasure ships from centuries past that sunk after leaving Veracruz, so I’ll have to come back and see those someday.

Tiff in scuba
And now I'm officially open-water certified! I think I may have found something I can obsess over almost as hard as I do motorcycles!David Hayward

Finishing my Open Water Certification was hugely satisfying, but, unfortunately, our timing was less spectacular. As we went to pick up our parts the next day, the winds were howling something fierce, and the sea was in mortal combat with itself. Apparently a huge hurricane had been brewing off the coast, first tearing through the Yucatan, with Veracruz directly in its path.

I’ve already ridden outside a tornado, so I think it’s reasonable to buckle down and not feel like I’ve lost all of my toughness points, right? Looks like I’ll be here a few extra days!