South Of The Border

Article By: Darren Mckeag

Originally Published In The July 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

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Annually, around the first of the year, I make a trip to Mexico. Specifically Mazatlan, which is on the Pacific Coast about half way down through the country. This annual trek has become my own personal therapeutic journey: understanding myself, clearing my head, doing some drawing, taking photos, indulging in the culinary festivities, and getting piss drunk as often as is possible. Over the years, I have come to realize many things here in Mexico, but the one thing that stands out the most is the fact that the military is always present. Whether it’s Hueys flying overhead, or trucks loaded with masked soldiers, armed with HK- 91s, M-4s, an occasional FAL and if you’re lucky, an M-16 or CAR-15 that has managed to make its way north from a leftover cache of weapons out of the hells of Central America, they’re everywhere you go. Aside from rambling on about my addiction to automatic black furniture and my days of being strapped to the skid of a UH-1 with an M-60 at my fingertips, there are two very important things I‘ve noticed. First is that the Tequila is extremely smooth, and second, the strippers are so friendly; they would do almost anything to get a hold of what appears to be a large amount of pesos in your pocket. There are however, other wonderful, joyous and recognizable attributes such as food and weather, but most obvious to me, and what I truly believe in and live for, other than tattoos of course, is the value of two wheels, especially south of the border.

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Upon arrival to my motel/apartment, my first task at hand was to get a hold of my friend Elias. Born and raised here, Elias holds two jobs which allow him less than 5 hrs of sleep per night and he hustles whatever pesos he can on the streets. We’ve become great friends over the years and his wife usually prepares two or three meals for us while I’m here. He’s never afraid to hit the streets for beers, Tequila, and previously said, the joys of Mexico. As I make my way through the narrow streets of Mazatlan, in neighborhoods that few – if any – tourists will ever see, I can’t help but notice all the motorbikes. Everywhere you look there are rows and rows, usually little Italian made 125s, an occasional Honda, Suzuki, or even a Yamaha. If you’re lucky, you might see an American made V-Twin. These little motorbikes are everywhere; zipping through traffic like modern day café racers. The only difference is that these motorbikes have an entire family on board, with a cargo box the size of an engine crate duct taped to the rear, and this is the only expedient form of transportation most of these families have. Loaded with fruits, vegetables, two toddlers, and a live chicken peeking out of the crate, the entire family perched atop this tiny scooter zip down the streets at double-digits. Screaming with excitement to get home, they can’t wait to cook their freshly found treasures. The chicken however, despite enjoying the motorbike ride, is completely oblivious to what the next 60 minutes has in store for him.

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Now making every effort here to not be “Captain Obvious” it would appear to me that two wheels to these people has a much different meaning than it does for me. For these people, riding their motorbikes to and from their makeshift homes to any one of their three jobs is an absolute means of survival. For most people in the States, it’s little more than a luxury. Nonetheless, for the Mexican natives, it’s all they have, and they rely on it daily. With all of this two-wheeled activity, one would think there has to be a place where these bikes can be serviced. In most cases, money being a factor, the head of the household also happens to be “mechanically inclined,” and I use this term loosely. Some of these homes appear to be held up by a palm tree trunk, a section of 2 x 4 wired around it, with a brick as a spacer, notched into a small trench in the ground, filled with empty beer cans. Excluding the fact that these motorbikes need gas, oil, and in my opinion, frequently replaced clutches, I have spotted the occasional two-wheeled service center. In one great instance, as if I had stumbled on to the Holy Grail, I found a custom bike shop. This was indeed a rare find.

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In this case, upon entering, I noticed few parts on the walls, that probably none of us in the States would be remotely interested in, and a couple of stickers here and there. Unfortunately though, they are promoting two famous US coastal chopper companies who are pathetic crack babies from whored out producers, getting filthy rich exploiting the unaware. Making my way through all of this, there in all of its glowing, open belt glory, as if protected by the vault doors of Dr. Evil’s hidden underground layer, was a bare bones rigid Shovelhead. Now before you yell at me, let me explain. I know what you‘re thinking; big deal, a rigid Shovelhead, right? Well considering my geographic location, and the fact that the average laborer makes less than 50 pesos a day, this is indeed a rare find. To my surprise, the shop manager, possibly owner, spoke very good English. So well in fact, that he wanted to trade my gorgeous FTW hat for something of his own. Being the great diplomatic humanitarian brother I am, and always choosing to spread the gracious word of “FTW” throughout as much of this God forsaken world as I possibly can, I accepted. Concluding my visit at the Holy Grail, I decided to adjust my life down another notch as I’ve done so many times over the past several years. On my 3 mile journey back, I reevaluated my life even more, making decisions on how I can live more simply like the people of Mexico. Living in a garage, apart from my motorbikes, I can honestly get all of my personal possessions in my van. What never fails to make me laugh is how amazingly outrageous most Americans live. Sticking with the “FTW” theme, I use these rich bastards who operate in a whole other tax bracket I don’t even know exists, as an example. They have million-dollar motor homes, trailers to accommodate 6 or 8 bikes, and usually a driver on the payroll. Their two main objectives are first, to see how much money they can spend in front of their friends, and second, to brag about how much money they have spent in front of their friends. The real funny examples are the motor homes that are traveling within the States that motorbike functions occur in. With a couple of $42,000.00 baggers on a trailer, the Cadillac of bikes, traveling across a state that is maybe 400 miles wide, these people are really quite pathetic. I challenge you all to take 5 minutes, look around and make a simplified change in your life.

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As I approach my last weekend here, I know that each day will bring wonderful new adventures of all types. I still comfort in the certainty of day-to-day familiarities like waking to the soothing sounds of ocean waves crashing on the beach, and riding in the open top Pal manias, as if I were cast into a psychedelic episode of Fantasy Island. Slowly, I feel the Mexican sun heat up into the 90s. I can hear the streets fill with the hustle and bustle of daily commerce. I listen to the motorbikes flooding the streets, speeding by north and south, honking, beeping, and weaving through traffic. I pop a fresh cerveza, slam my Tequila, and assure myself that I have a good life. Forever Two Wheels!

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