We woke up facing our longest day yet: 300 miles of mainland Mexico, from Mazatlán to Guadalajara.
I'd had reservations about safety in Mexico before taking off and Baja had proven to be just fine, but the mainland was a big question mark. Between the long day, the uncertain terrain, and the unknown danger level, I was a bit apprehensive.
We planned on getting off the boat by 10am, but in reality we got off at noon, eating into precious daylight hours. To make up for lost time, we decided to take the expensive cuotas. First we would gas up, meeting station hands at the Pemex who couldn't stop talking to us about our bikes and our journey. One of them, looking at Darren with his armored compression suit: "¡Está el Terminator! ¡Robocop!"
We blew through scrub foothills that could have been northern California, learning the new rules for passing on these busier mainland roads. At one point I pulled over to let a bus finish passing a semi, both doing 75 mph in the other direction. In Tepic, we gassed up and I found my tires hot to the touch. A lunch nearby consisted of tacos with tortillas pressed before us. Hosted by a lady and her children, the youngest tried to take our order but walked off showing jazz hands of exasperation at the first words of my terrible accent.
The final 100 miles into Guadalajara gave us some wind and mountains, but it was hardly a challenge. Getting into the heart of the city, we found our hostel by accident. Finding secure parking would be more of an issue, but after driving for an hour and trying several parking lots, a hotel finally took pity and charged us MXP$50 (USD$4) per night for both bikes, guarded. This, in the middle of Mexico's second largest city.
We walked around that night, finding the city square quite beautiful. Even at 10pm, children and families were out enjoying the night air. We were perfectly safe, and really I was starting to feel embarassed for ever having worried about the safety situation in the country.
The next day, we took the bus to see the canyon at the edge of the city. At the art campus of the University of Guadalajara, the cantilevered Mirador hovers out over the precipice, yielding pretty good views.
We then visited a bar with a better view: the lovely local women, who are known as "Tapatías", apparently after my favorite hot sauce. We ordered enormous draft Tecates served with terrible cocktail wienies which I couldn't stop eating. The bar was named and themed "U2″, so of course the bartender told me I looked like the The Edge, which is true.
We then visited the Governor's Palace, where there is a set of enormous Orozco murals. I'd seen them in pictures, but to see them in life is overwhelming. The size, the color, the themes, the history — it made for an unexpectedly intense experience. I really began to appreciate Mexico's rich history and it's long struggle for democracy and justice.
We had only two evenings in Guadalajara, but I felt I could have stayed there for much longer. It was metropolitan and clean, with beautiful and friendly people, and I regretted not sticking around for a weekend of the nightlife.
The next day we would head for San Miguel de Allende, a lovely gringo redoubt featured in a number of Hollywood films. Who would have thought that this quaint little town would the site of our craziest adventures yet?