Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Report Summary #1

Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 11:29:27 -0800
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list 
Subject: Trip Report - August - September Summary

For those who don't have the time to wade through my volumous trip reports (
forget that some of you suckers still have to do real work :-) what follows
is a brief summary of my trip to date.

[Addendum: After I composed this message, but before I got a chance to email
it out, I suffered a battery failure which wiped out some critical software
on my palmtop, including the software to send and receive email.  I found a
commercial Internet Access Provider in Antigua, Guatemala, and with the help
of Paul Thompson and Dave Jevens back in the San Francisco Bay Area was able
to reacquire the needed software via FTP, and I'm back in business it


I just crossed the border from Mexico into Belize on Tursday October 2, at
the town of Santa Elena, Belize, the most northern town in Belize, near the
Mexican city of Chetumal.  I'm writing this from Corozal, Belize, about 10
miles south of the border.


Basically, the phone system in Mexico sucks (my apologies to any Mexican
citizens reading this).  I've been in Mexico the past 5 weeks and found it
virtually impossible, with my palmtop computer, to call back to my ISP in
the States to send/receive my email.

None of the cheap hotels I'm staying in have phones, and since I'm not
carrying an acoustic coupler, pay phones were out.

There were many long distance phone "stores", private businesses which have
several phones and allow you to call long distance, but the problems there
    1) The human attendant at the store dials the number for you on a
       separate phone, and when the call goes through you pick up your phone
       This means you can't just have your modem dial the number.

    2) Often it's physically impossible to connect my computer because the
       phones are hardwired or do not have modular RJ-11 jacks.  And it's
       not like in a hotel room, where I could use my splicing kit to tap
       into the correct wires.  They're pretty much watching what you do.

    3) Several times when I found such "stores" which had the required RJ-11
       jacks, I was simply told I could not hook my computer up to the line,
       that they were only for voice communications.  My Spanish was not
       good enough to get a clear answer as to why this was the case.  I
       sort of got the feeling that they felt that by using my computer I wa
       avoiding their higher-priced FAX services.

    4) I use Sprint to call to the States, and Sprint has a toll-free number
       from within Mexico to access the Sprint operator. When I place voice
       calls from pay phones it works like you expect: I don't have to pay
       anything locally, and the call gets billed to my Sprint account back
       in the States.  Well the long-distance "stores" always tack on their
       own surcharges, even for toll-free or collect calls. And it varies
       from store to store.

Here in Belize I've found it's almostly completely opposite.  The government
phone offices are located in almost every village and town, and the staff ar
very helpful and friendly.  The Sprint toll-free number is really toll-free,
no surcharges.  I dial 115, ask for the Sprint operator, at which point I ge
a dial-tone to which my modem can dial my Sprint account number, followed by
the number of my ISP, and bingo, I'm connected.  Very nice and relatively


Nothing major.
- After heavy rain in New Mexico, got water in the ignition system and
  the bike died.  It fixed itself with the help of me pulling the sparkplugs
- Flat rear tire in El Paso, TX
- Developed a couple pinhole leaks in the rubber driveshaft boot.  Fixed it
  with silicon sealant.  Suspect the root problem may be a slow leak at the
  final drive seal.
- Went to adjust my valves for the first time and discover I don't have my
  feeler guages with me.  Adjust them by sight/feel.  Buy some feeler
  guages a week or so later.
- Dropped the bike while taking it off the centerstand.  In the process of
  picking it up, I rip out  the rivits holding the seat latch to the seat
  pan.  Am able to force a couple of the rivits back in, and hold the seat
  on with a nylon strap.
- While the bike was parked, a bus clips it, knocking it over, breaking the
  handlebar perch where the front brake lever bolts to it.   I call Cal BMW
  and have the part shipped to me by DHL.  I am forced to spend a week,
  waiting for the part, on the Carribean coast of Mexico at Playa del Carmen
  Life is tough.


- At the checkpoints, whether they are military or civilian, the young
  guys are usually more interested in the bike, my GPS, and where I am from
  and going, than hassling me.  I have not had any problems.  Often we
  end up talking about the bike, until they look up and see that 4-5 cars
  have lined up behind me, at which point, they wave me on.
- I had a small flashlight and a pair of lightweight leather gloves stolen
  off the motorcycle one night at a small hotel.  The bike was parked in
  an inside courtyard, and I got lazy and didn't put my cover on it like I
  usually do.  The next morning those items were gone.  I think the
  proprietor's small sons took the items, but by the time I discovered the
  items missing the boys and their father had left in their car, so I could
  not directly confront them.  I blame myself more than the kids.  The stuff
  on the bike probably looks like a million bucks to them, and leaving it
  uncovered is just a temptation.


The following is a brief summary of my route, naming thecity/town I stayed
in that night.

14      Leave Sunnyvale, CA
17      Arrive Ft. Collins, CO to visit sister
21      Leave Ft. Collins
28      Cross Mexican border at Del Rio, TX
28      Matehuala
29      Real de Catorce
30      Jalaca
31      Tula
1-2     Teotihuacan, NE of Mexico City
3       Parque Nacional La Malinche
4       Alvarado, Gulf Coast of Mexico
5       Villahermosa, Tabasco, Gulf Coast
6     Teapa
7-8     San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
9       Palenque, Chiapas
10      Campeche, Campeche
11-13   Ticul, Yucatan
14-16   Merida, Yucatan
17      Celestun, Yucatan (western Gulf coast)
18-19   Progresso, Yucatan (northern Gulf coast)
20      Chitzen Itza, Yucatan
21      Coba, Quintana Roo
22-23   Tulum, Quintana Roo (Carribean coast)
24-30   Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
1       Chetumal. Quintana Roo
2       Crossed the border into Belize
2-3     Corozal, Belize


- I'll probably spend 7-12 days in Belize.
- There are 2 remote Mayan ruin
  sites, Lamanai and Caracol, I6d like to visit, however the roads to them
  are supposed to be very difficult in the rainy season, and October is
  the transiton from the rainy to the dry season.  So I'll have to see  how
  bad the roads are.
- There a number of wildlife sanctuaries, a couple of which I want to check
  out, including howler monkeys (locally called baboons), jaguars, and stork
- If the US Embassy in Belize City will store my bike for a couple of days
  I'll take a boat out to the Cayes offshore for a couple of days.  Belize's
  offshore reef is second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
- From Belize, I head west into Guatemala, where I will visit the ruins at
  Tikal, in the El Peten region of NE Guatemala.
- From there I will head south in Guatemala, eventually ending up along
  the Pacific coast and the Highlands of Guatemala, where I plan to stay for
  an as yet undetermined period of time, taking a home-stay language course.

Doug Ruth