Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Staying Put for a Month

Quick note: I will be in Antigua, Guatemala for the next month, so no SPOT messenger location messages for awhile. 

Looking forward to updating the blog, and learning some Spanish.  Give me a shout if you are out there!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tania and the Goddess Temple

It somehow seems fitting, that it was my work with an all female roller derby league that brought me to a goddess temple.  

Within five minutes of meeting Tania and touring the grounds of her Zihuatanejo home, I felt at ease. Relaxed. I don’t get “all woo-woo”, too often, but I was clearly supposed to be there. My two-night stay soon turned into three, and on that third night while sharing a late night Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, I asked for a fourth.  If I ‘d stayed another night, I would’ve been there a month – I swear.

Pam, the past medical director for Seattle’s  Rat City Rollergirls, introduced me, via Facebook, to her cousin Beverely who lived in Zihuat. While traveling through Mexico Bev and I would keep in touch. I voiced my interest in staying in the area, but preferred a palapa style dwelling (palm thatched roof) to the conventional condo on the beach type thing, not to mention my incredibly strict budget constraints.  Bev gave me the name and number of a "Tania", and said that she was holding the “tree house” for me.

A full day of driving for me is six hours. After that my shoulders (throttle arm especially) get tight and knotted with an annoying burn quality to them. Mentally fatigued and generally uncomfortable – six hours is definitely my threshold.  I rolled into Tania’s after eight hours. She came out to meet me, and my gargantuan bike. “Where are you going to put that thing?” (she lives on the side of a steep hillside overlooking La Ropa beach).  Within two hours, the bike was secure at a neighbor’s house, I was re-hydrated, showered, and eating a bowl of homemade chili with a cold beer. The only part I was responsible for was showering myself, she handled the rest – all for a stranger.

We talked freely at the open-air dining table, next to the open-air kitchen. My palapa was down the walkway and built into the hillside on stilts. I was given the rundown of the area and a couple “house rules”.  I was introduced to her daughter, Anna, (a two time Mexican surfing champion) who also lived on the premises in her own open-air palapa. We said goodnight.  She left me with, “Tomorrow I’ll show you the goddess temple”. “Huh?

Next morning after some the best tasting coffee I have had since leaving Seattle, I was taken up to yet another part of the property. (Tania bought the place almost 30-years ago when there was nothing at this end of the beach. She has since raised three successful and happy daughters. She is now surrounded by million dollar homes, but still with the best view. Her property has changed little.) Being from Seattle, this “goddess temple” thing was not that new to me, and quite frankly I wasn’t expecting more than a few candles and some busty stone carvings, but I went along with it.  We entered yet another open air structure with two half doors closed with a simple hook and latch.

I have never been in the presence of such powerful and beautiful women in all my life! What I was introduced to was a museum quality collection of life size wood carvings of some of Mexico’s most historic matriarchal figures and Mayan goddesses of the past. I cannot tell you how surprised I was, or how fortunate I felt for being there. This room was the obvious culmination of a lifelong passion.

She proceeded to take me through the room, introducing me to each lady (always preceded with a very personal salutation and bow).  The collection followed the work of Mexican artist, Arturo Macias ( Tania purchased his first two commercial pieces. Since then they have worked closely together and have become personal friends. There are pieces from other artists as well, all depicting Latin American matriarchs. Here is site with more information about the collection:

As impressive as it was to come across this treasure, the real treat was spending time with Tania, and being there for her ** birthday.  Needless to say, she has lived her life on her own terms and is as strong a personality as anyone standing in the temple.

Thanks Tania!



What's in a Name

When hearing about my trip, people often ask what brought me to my decision? How I decided to sell everything and hit the road. Though the final decision was made in April of ’07, it was a culmination of many small things that had brought me to that point.

I don’t always have a clear answer for people, and I haven’t figured it all out for myself yet, but I do think about it often, “what brought me here?” There are things I know, and things I hope to figure out later. One small, but significant influence that I have thought a lot about lately was one of my all time favorite movies. Because I am writing this entry in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the movie is of course Shawshank Redemption.

In the movie Zihuatanejo takes on an almost mythical quality, and becomes a code word for freedom. I take it as a minor victory that I am here, if in symbolism only.

In the movie, Tim Robbins' character, Andy, is in prison for a crime he did not commit – it’s where he finds himself. During the course of the movie, he decides to take control of his life and destiny and give himself a second chance. It would have been easy for him to stay and follow orders, but it wasn’t for him – he didn’t belong there. So, he breaks free and sets out to live the life he wants, a much freer life.

Now, I am not comparing my previous life to a prison sentence, but I did feel like I was “doing time” often enough. I found myself living on a repetitive 30-day billing cycle, with a daily routine that would go on until I stopped it - no one else was going to. I do not yet know where my “Zihuatanejo” will be, but I am sure it’s out there somewhere.

I you haven’t watched the movie in awhile, it’s worth renting again.

Colonial Mexico

Please forgive me for it has been many weeks since I have updated my blog.  I must say I am not very good at this. Time off the bike quickly gets apportioned out and there isn’t always time to write, and/or a decent internet connection available.  I apologize.  

Since being in Mexico, I have clocked over 5,000 miles, missed out on any cartel syndicate massacres, and to date-avoided the new pandemic. I have zigged-and-zagged across the country and now find myself near the exit. Since we spoke last I have been on a bit of vacation.

San Miguel Allende is a couple hours north of Mexico City and more or less is in the middle of the country.  This is where I spent the climax of Holy Week. I was fortunate enough to have spent an incredibly relaxing week at my friend Tom’s compound right outside of town. We had been introduced just before I left Seattle our mutual friend, Sue, and he had offered up a place to stay if I were make it to the area. Unfortunately, by the time I was there Tom had just left. Generously, he had the staff refill the pool for me and hand over a copy of the keys. I swam everyday in the hot springs fed pool, caught up on the non-profit’s work, and other communication with the excellent internet connection, and for the first time on the trip picked up a book.

Visiting San Miguel and neighboring Guanajuato gives one a good taste of colonial Mexico. So many vignettes reminded me of the hill towns of Tuscany, but with more donkeys on the narrow cobblestoned roads.

While in San Miguel, I befriended Steve, Sandy, and Jane – all from Seattle. Steve, Sandy, and myself hired a driver and guide to take us to nearby Guanajuato for a day trip. With its colorful hillside homes, underground tunnel system for in-city driving, and an interesting history of the town flooding, all gave this town a quirky vibe. I liked it! The local University explained all the internet cafes, and bohemian feel. Not to mention the presence of Diego Rivera’s birthplace.

Back on the road, I was heading back to the west coast to meet my buddy Dave in Sayulita. I had always heard so much about this quaint surfing village, I was eager to get there. However, after lunch, the day I left San Miguel, I found a guy with his young son checking out the bike. I let his son sit on the bike, but I think it was Dad who wanted a go at it. Jorge Carlos was an instant fan of the trip and wanted to offer a suggestion as to where I should spend that night. Within minutes, he had run across the street to his hardware store, deposited his son, and brought back some literature about some cabanas on a remote lake in the state of Michoacan. The town wasn’t even on the map. I had no real plans, and Dave wasn’t to arrive for four more days, so what the hell?   I diverted, and headed due south and four hours later I was in a cabana by serene little lake at sunset.  It was a perfect days driving down the through the middle of the mountains, until I dropped the bike on a steep dirt road and “tweaked” my right SI joint (my low back’s Achilles heel). No worries-an ice pack and a homemade dinner by the cabana’s manager, Meche, were just what the old body needed.

The next morning I continued down to the coastal highway and then a turn northwest (both "wrong" directions for the journey) towards Sayulita (an hour north of Puerto Vallarta). 

Sayulita was true treat, not only was Dave there, but my friend Michelle was there with her company, ViaYoga, giving a yoga retreat. Her boyfriend Bruno was also there. 

Bruno has been a major source of inspiration and source of knowledge for my trip. Two years ago he spent three months riding his KTM motorcycle from San Diego to Tierra del Fuego. I have called on him many times for advice, in fact, one to the panniers on my bike is his - making it's return journey.