I'd always planned to go back to Mexico. It was one of three great dreams I'd been nursing for just about my entire adult life: to ride a motorcycle across the United States from coast to coast, to ride in Europe, and to ride in Mexico. And I'd already accomplished the first, and written off the second as impossible (which just goes to show you shouldn't give up on these things, but that's another story); but while I'd technically done the last, that single short-range visit wasn't nearly enough to satisfy a dream like that.

And then that moron wrecked my beloved Honda Four, and I'd driven a hard settlement, and now, in the spring of '87, I had myself a big Suzuki GS1000 and some insurance money left over, so obviously it was time to go do it.

The ride down through Texas was uneventful except for the weather - an end-of-March cold front had moved in just as I left home -and the first three or four hours south from Reynosa rather disappointing; the highway was in poor condition and the country mostly empty and bare. I wished I'd gone by way of Monterrey, but it was too late now.

Ciudad Victoria was a nice-looking town, though, and 85 - the old Pan-American Highway - was at least in somewhat better condition.

And not far south of town was a guaranteed rush....

The road climbed into some respectable though not exactly towering mountains. A roadside shrine invited the passerby to say a prayer; nearby a sign implored him to no tira las basuras off the roadway. I hoped the first was doing more good than the second.

Back down to lower and wetter country, and sure enough, everything was starting to look pretty damn tropical.

Ciudad Mante was a good-sized, reasonably prosperous-looking town, the biggest for quite a long way; I found a motel, paid a ridiculously modest price for a good clean room with TV and a comfortable bed, and walked out to see the place. At a little restaurant I had some local dish seasoned with napalm, drank a couple of Carta Blancas to try and quench the flames, and strolled around some more in the gathering dusk, as everybody else seemed to be doing. At a market stall I bought a large banana and discovered something very valuable: fresh banana does a miraculous job of extinguishing even the blistering Huastecan green chilis.

All this while I had been gradually becoming conscious of an odd, rather pleasant smell in the air. A guy at the motel finally explained: there was a sugar-cane mill here. I liked it; it made the whole town smell like molasses.

I was enjoying myself, of course; here I was, after all, in tropical Mexico at last. Still, the trip hadn't been quite up to expectations so far. But that was OK; I felt sure it was going to get better.

I had no idea.

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NEXT: Deeper Into Mexico