Friday, January 30, 2015

Fuc&ing Topes in Beautiful Guanajuato.

I’m going to start this blog by thanking my Guardian Angels and our sponsors who have made and given me gear that keeps me safe: Moto Machines for the Hepco & Becker Gobi cases that prevented my leg from being broken. KLiM for the Altitude suit that kept my knees and legs from unknown bruising and road rash. Racer Gloves for the Ladies Sport gloves that sustained the deep scratches instead of the heels of my palms. And although Scorpion is not a sponsor, they made a great helmet and thanks to that helmet my face is not purple and puffy.

And lastly, I’d like to thank the Universe for conspiring with the lessons I needed to learn, and in-turn showing us a silver lining to what started out as a VERY bad introduction to Guanajuato.

As Roel and I follow Jose Sr. out of Guanajuato, he on his Ducati Monster, leaving the Twin and Transalp in the dust, I am trying to figure out to share with you just how much Guanajuato, and her inhabitants, have come to mean to me.

So I have a little story for you. It’s a long one, so go grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and get comfortable.

There are topes.

A reasonable, although annoying, Mexican tope (a.k.a. "speedbump)

And then there are fuc&ing topes.

These, my friends, are what fuc&ing topes look like:

Unreasonable, fuc&ing dangerous, death-trap "topes"...

And yes, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I picked a fight with one and lost. Actually, it was probably more than one that pulled me down. That should probably make me feel better about it, but it doesn’t.

And that’s because I really only have myself to blame, like *almost* any motorcycle-only crash.

I’ll tell you that Roel and I had had a little tiff and perhaps my head wasn’t exactly where it should have been in order to ride into a bigger city like Guanajuato, one that has lots of tunnels, one-way streets, and sneaky, slippery fuc&ing topes.

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to give my consent to the video being posted (my Mom is a strong woman, but there are some things I think she doesn't necessarily need to be confronted with)… but to sum it up, we are riding through a tunnel that leads into the city of Guanajuato. I ride out of the tunnel into the light and am temporarily blinded… then I realize that the Centro is to the left, I am on the right and all I can see ahead of me are one-way streets that do not lead back to the road to the Centro. The communication system is off, (yes, due to aforementioned tiff) and in a split second, I make the decision to take on a string of topes dividing one lane from the other. Silly, stupid girl. I slowed down slightly, tried to square up to the topes as much as possible and then gave it a little extra gas. At this point, I was probably going 40 kilometers per hour. Or more. :/

The front tire crossed without issue, but the rear tire was another issue entirely.

In a frightening display of sideways movement that no motorcycle is meant to achieve, the bike does a 180, the rear tire sliding along the slick topes, the back of my Gobi case making hard contact with a 20cm tall curb. When the bike comes to a stop, we are on the ground facing oncoming traffic. I never remember the part of dropping (or crashing) my bike where my body hits the ground; and nor do I remember it this time. But I do remember my bike being at a very strange angle to the ground… and then looking over and seeing my left Gobi case a few feet away.


The lock that secures it to the luggage rack mount has been ripped off upon making contact with the curb. (I later find out that the Gobi cases have been designed this way to ensure that minimal damage is done to the actual frame in the event of a crash.)

Despite being royally peeved at me, Roel jumps off of the Africa Twin and picks up the Transalp.

Moments later, a nice woman in a green 4x4 who was in traffic behind us, stops and asks over and over if I am OK and if she can help. The concern on her face is obvious, and I so appreciate that she cares… but there is really nothing that she can do.  

We assess the damage:

The detached Gobi case is the most obvious issue, but upon inspection, Roel deems that it will be easy to reattach the lock with proper tools, and he pulls out a tie-down strap to re-secure it to the luggage rack for now.

Things I love about my Gobi cases now include: 1. The fact that rather than allowing damage to the bike to occur, the lock simply broke off and the case detached from the rack. 2. The case broke my fall and protected my leg. 3. The case is still water-tight. 4. Although the mounting device had broken off, with the use of one tie-down strap, the case was temporarily and reliably re-mounted to the rack in a matter of moments. 5. You're going to have to look really closely to see that anything ever happened. No dent. Only some small scratches. And everything inside the case was fine, too.  

“Walter” however is another story. Walter is my DeWalt Toolbox-cum-Topbox that I have been using since eastern Canada. Walter had already been cracking on the bottom due to alterations we made to the mount so that it would work well with the Gobi cases. Well, the cracks let go once the Gobi case was off and Walter hit the ground with some force… there is a gaping crack in the bottom of Walter.

As you can see, "Walter" did not fare so well in the crash

Roel runs off to find something to rig up Walter with so that we can at least continue. I later find out that he found a rubbish pile a little ways down the road and began digging through it with the local children, until he found a piece of wood that he was able to chop with the ax he is fortunately carrying, so that it would support Walter.

While I’m waiting for him with the bikes, waving traffic emerging from the tunnel around the bikes, my head begins to pound and it is at this moment that I realize that I must have smashed the front of my helmet on some part of the bike (handlebar?), as my chin is also somehow a little sore. I’m not crying, which I think is weird. Now I realize I was probably in some state of shock. And I am alternately kicking myself for my stupidity, first of all, for being dumb enough to ride distracted and two, for executing such a stupid move, but mostly, I am thankful to be physically OK.

With the bike more or less back together, Roel checks the frame and takes it for a test ride. He deems it safe to ride for me.

We proceed into the city and Roel warns me about EVERY single tope. If you know Roel, you know that this was done with a sneer, now that he knows I’m OK. Nonetheless, I begin to think to myself that if I was going to hit a tope the wrong way in this city, I’m glad it happened where it did… The tunnels are filled with topes and the lighting isn’t the best. Had the same thing happened inside of a tunnel, I likely would have been run over by the cars behind me.

Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato Centro

We ride around the city, easily getting lost on the one-way streets and eventually find a well-priced hotel with a serene courtyard, AND secure parking for the bikes: Hotel Embajadoras. It’s a lovely spot and the shower is hot and strong, but all I can do is vacillate between feelings of self-loathing and incredulity at the state of things.

The next day, I am feeling better and we decide to spend the morning wandering around the city until we have to check out at 1pm. It’s a gorgeous city and wandering around by foot was healing for my mind and body.

There were calla lilies EVERYWHERE... an easy reminder that this was the birthplace of Diego Rivera.

We treated ourselves to a rare brunch at Restaurante Campanero - delicious and inexpensive.

While we were packing up the bikes to leave, the owner of the hotel comes out and starts chatting about our travels. He’s a lovely older gentleman who speaks perfect English and we find out he studied in Europe and loves Holland. He checks out the bikes and tells us:

“You can stay for an extra night, for free, if you like. Amsterdam Student Hotel was very generous to me and so this is the least I can do. And I have something to donate to your trip. Wait here.”

He returns with a fluffy, lush sheepskin to replace Roel’s which is falling apart by this time.

Daniel, whose family owns the wonderful Hotel Embajadoras, Roel and the Africa Twin's new sheepskin

I'm guessing Roel won't be so quick to take breaks from now on...

We take him up on his offer, grateful for another day of rest (especially now that I’ve realized that I have a nice case of whiplash).

With the afternoon free, and grateful not to have to support the weight of my helmet with my sore neck, just yet, we head to the Mummy Museum of Guanajuato. Easily one of the most creepy places I’ve ever been. Families at one time had to pay to keep the bodies of their dead family members buried, and if they failed to pay, the bodies where disinterred. Most of the bodies in the museum were disinterred between the 1850s and 1950s… many still have hair and clothing.

Yes, VERY creepy.

Realizing we’re going to be in town for another day, I think to send an “SOS” message with my number to a guy named Jose Jr. who had sent a message a week ago to this point:

“Let’s catch up for a beer and talk about moto traveling. I live in Mexico City but my parents live in Guanajuato. My dad has a great shop, so if you need anything don’t hesitate to get in touch with him.”

Within an hour, Jose Sr. calls me and gives me directions to his home. And says:

“By the way, do you remember the woman in the green car who asked if she could help you? That was my wife, Laura.”

Wow. What are the chances in a city of 160,000++. ……………….?


  1. Thank GOD for angels both seen and unseen for watching over you....

  2. Totally AMAZING....and what ARE the chances? So glad for your gentle with yourself....and each other!!
    xo from Playa el Coyote amigos!

    1. Hey Nan! Thanks so much for the kind note - great to hear from you! Miss you all there on Coyote!

  3. Looking at the possitives., it's good you are in one piece! I always have shivers when I think what actually might have happened! Stay safe!

    1. Thanks Dominika! I am so grateful that things turned out as they did!

  4. The Universe conspires to keep you both safe and resilient. Look forward to your Blogs. May you continue to have great adventures. Ride safe and no squabbling

    1. Exactly - the universe is AMAZING! Thanks for joining our ride :D