Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Road to Nowhere

   After passing through Guatemala City with minimal trouble, I stopped to contemplate my route to the Honduran border. The Central American map on the GPS I'm using only marks main routes (primary and large secondary), but when used in conjunction with paper maps I have been able to get around rather well.  So, when I saw a very direct path to the border using one of the secondary roads I didn't think twice. After all, the roads in Guatemala had been a joy. To begin with everything was perfect, low traffic, smooth pavement, and terrific vistas. Eventually, though, as I continued to ascend some rather impressive mountains, the road turned to dirt. Checking both my map and GPS I looked to be right on track, so I pressed on. The dirt road morphed into one of large loose rocks as it wound from peak to peak and I continually checked the GPS which indicated I was where I was supposed to be. Passing ramshackle houses and locals with dumbfounded looks on their faces, I began to worry that I'd made a mistake. However, the direction was perfect and I continually told myself that the road was so rough due to the loftily obscure location and once I began my descent the road would improve.
  The above photo was taken following my first spill (it really doesn't convey exactly how steep the grade is). After hoisting my steed back up (no small feat) with the help of some wide eyed kids, I asked a local, who seemed to speak a bit of English, if I was heading in the right direction to reach Honduras. He replied, "Si". Reaffirmation in hand I maintained my course. The road did get a bit better but would occasionally lapse back into a surface of easily shifted rocks. After a few kilometers of snail paced progress, I found myself in steep descent and the GPS indicated that an intersecting road was just ahead. SUCCESS!  So I thought. 
    Now in a valley the road was a muddy mess and I was sliding about with only the slightest of control. As I reveled in my victory over the mountain, with light continuing to dwindle, ahead of me there appeared a brand new Caterpillar road grader sticking out of the undeveloped scenery like a sore thumb. I mused, confusedly, at the appearance of the big ticket item in the middle of nowhere. Clearly, the roads here were in need of some development, but this seemed strange. Given a bit more time, I might have considered the potential value of this difficult path for nefarious dealings. I was far too entrenched in search for asphalt to be bothered with such concerns though. Unfortunately (or, in hindsight,  perhaps fortunately), I noticed that the road had dwindled into nothing. The GPS indicated that I was where I was supposed to be there was nothing but a lightly worn foot path leading into the woods. I stopped next to the big yellow machine to contemplate my next move. Just as I decided to follow the path into the forest a perturbed man materialized to my right. Though slightly startled I initially dismissed his demeanor as harmless and tried to explain myself as best I could. The Hombre had no interest in my attempts at communication and moved around my motorcycle in a highly erratic fashion, flailing his arms and screaming. It was about this time that I noticed the pistol in his waistband which he was in the process of brandishing. I spun the bike around as quickly as I could. Without looking back I sped through the muddy tracks which had given me problems before, this time at a far higher speed. I climbed back up the mountain as rapidly as I dared, at times outside of my limits, finding that the darkness brought with it a thick fog which had transformed the atmosphere into an opaque haze. At these elevated speeds the large rocks, which were to be handled with the utmost care, often found their way to my wheels before I could react. I was tossed around as if in a rodeo. Struggling to maintain control, my muscles clenched and my mind raced in an adrenaline fueled frenzy. Though I managed to stay upright for longer than I should have, I eventually went down hard. The bike was positioned in such a way, amongst the loose rocks, that lifting it upright was impossible so I dragged it to a more suitable spot and jerked it back up on two wheels with strength I didn't know I possessed. In my rush to leave I immediately lost my footing and once again found myself on the ground. With much haste I repeated my previous technique of dragging the bike around, sideways in the road so the bottom of the wheels were pointing down the mountain, and pulled it upright.
    The hazy fog was clouding my mind as well as the air. I was hearing an engine, though I could see no light, and I was almost certain the gun wielding madman was going to emerge from the glum intent on making me pay for my trespass. Following the erection of my BMW for the second time in quick succession, I dismounted and calmed myself before proceeding. After traveling a few more kilometers the fog dissipated and I came upon a road to my left that looked to be in good repair and would take me back down. Though not on my GPS the road lead toward a primary route into El Salvidor. So, rather than backtracking the 70 kilometers to the last town I decided to try my luck and see what the outcome would be. As was becoming the norm, what was a decent road quickly turned to shit once the grade steepened. Following several close calls, my bike was once again on the ground. This time, however, my muscles were not up for the challenge and all my efforts to rite the fully loaded beast were in vein. I was drained. After a couple of failed attempts to lift my fallen steed I took a break and sat by the side of the road, looking at the bike and conversing with God. The two tiny bottles of water I had did little to quench my thirst, but they helped. Following a prolonged break I removed all the luggage I could from the bike and after a deep breath I jerked a much lighter R1150GS upright. I took my time reloading and walked down the road a bit as I tired to decide whether or not to continue on. Being the persistent sort I decided to continue moving in the same direction.
  After a short while I came upon a village and passed a church with open doors and loud music. Eventually, I came across a group of people congregating at the the edge of the rocky path. I stopped and asked them, "El Camino? kilometers?"  They were perplexed but answered that it was about 10 kilometers to the road. As I attempted to leave they said more, not that I could understand, but the group had grown and as church let out my motorcycle and I had become the center of attention. One of the new arrivals, an elderly man with a cowboy hat, beckoned for me to follow him. I crept along next to him while being followed by the rest of the group and within a few hundred meters I was told to stop. The leader and the rest of  the contingent approached a gated house that had JESUS spray painted crudely on one of the surrounding walls and the inhabitants emerged with some concerned dogs. After a rather long conversation the gate opened, I was approached and it was conveyed that the road I was on was impassible (no passa). I wasn't sure I believed them as I had already been told that the road I wanted was ten K ahead but I was beaten, battered, weary, and just put my head down on the tank bag. The owner of the house motioned for me to pull the bike behind the gate, which I did. I covered the bike with a tarp and sat on the the covered porch just as it began to rain in a torrent. I was brought water and the group of 15 or so conversed. The rain was very heavy for a brief period then subsided but continued on in a lighter fashion and the crowd dwindled. A new fellow joined and he spoke a bit of English. His questioning bordered an interrogation but of all the inquiries he made the most unusual was if I was here searching for a church. I simply shook my head and said, "No, Honduras". It was clear that there was much I didn't understand about this encounter and still the mystery of what this community was hiding further down the road invites conjecture. After the inquisition I was offered a bed with a straw mattress in a room with dirt floors and quickly fell into a deep sleep.                                       to be continued...  


  1. Right now that day probably seems like hell, but in a few years you'll look back on it and laugh. :) Good luck!

  2. better than novel..
    safe(r) travels,

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this. I don't ride much any more due to arthritis so I get my fix for adventure vicariously when you share your escapades. When first learning to ride, in an effort to improve my skills, I tackled a dirt/rocky road that looked similar (though it was in N.C). I did great until I got to a curve that looked much like the one in this photo. It was a sharp right with a steep negative slope that wasn't graded properly. It dropped to the left instead of to the right.. Needless to say, I dropped my bike to the left. I was riding solo in the middle of the day on this deserted rocky road. No one knew where I was, my husband was at work, I had no cell phone and there were no houses anywhere near and the road dead- ended so I doubted anyone else had a reason to be on it . The way my bike fell, there was no way I could budge it. So as you did, I sat on the side of the road, looked at my bike and conversed with God. About 7 minutes later, a cablevision van came crawling down the road. The driver saw me and stopped. When he got out of the van, my jaw dropped...he had to be a body builder. He had muscles on top of muscles. He said he thought he was lost and must have taken a wrong turn. He easily righted my bike, gave me a beatific smile, said "have a blessed day", then got in his van and road away. To this day I believe he was an angel sent in direct answer to my prayer.
    So when you shared this story, from my perspective it seems rather spiritual. Looking at it metaphysically; finding the church, receiving sanctuary, and shelter from the storm being provided for you, was the reality and expression of God's love and concern for you. So, maybe seeing JESUS painted in big letters and the man asking if you were looking for a church is something on which to reflect? Is he calling you?
    With your permission, I would love to share this story in a teaching or in spiritual direction sometime in effort to help others understand how much God loves us. (Cousin Betsy,