Juarez to Parral

Ola Amigos,

I didn’t get up as early on this Sunday as I had hoped, especially after getting to bed early – 11 p.m. – last night. The flip side is that I’ve gotten over 7 hours of sleep for the first time in a long time, waking up at 7:30. At 4:30 a.m., my phone beeped to let me know I have a message. I can’t use my cell in Mexico, so if you called me, I didn’t get the message. Hope it wasn’t anything important. I was pretty excited about getting out of Juarez, which doesn’t really offer much other than a brutal, brutal heat, and a dirty city. Once I got everything packed, and my bike loaded, it was 9 a.m. I went to bed thinking I’d go to the ruins near Casa Grande, but when I woke at 4:30, I thought I’d pass, but at 7:30 I was going to go again. I followed the signs to Chihuahua, like I did yesterday, but didn’t see the turnoff today. So my decision was made.

The first part of the trip is through the desert that I went through yesterday. It was early, so it was only 5000 degrees. I’ve only driven through a true dessert once before, in a car, – Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and I’d forgotten how boring it is, and how much Air Conditioning is appreciated. I’d just as soon not do it again. The road south from Juarez (45) is partially a toll road. It was a lot cheaper since I was on a motorcycle, but it was still somewhat expensive. I think it was $51 pesos, or about $5/US. It would have been more than $11 in a car. The road was in great shape – not as good as the better american roads, but a whole lot better than most (especially I-5.) About halfway to Chihuahua, the landscape changed. I took a few pictures that I’ll eventually post. It becomes rolling hills, with the occasionally butte, and a whole lot more greenery. Gorgeous, I tell you.

Chihuahua was a very interesting city. The road I was on, continued to be nice as I went throught the town. If you have an image of dirty cities filled with shanty towns, you’d be very, very wrong. There were a lot of brand new businesses, selling a huge variety of cars, lot’s of American fast food, new housing developments and well, it looked more like France than Juarez. I feel a little guilty about not stopping and seeing the city center, but I’d rather avoid large cities, which Chihuahua certainly is (600,000 people.) Stopping would have meant spending the night, which I didn’t want to do.

From Chihuahua to Parral was generally a very good road. There were some stretches that were being worked on, and a few that needed to be, but overall quite nice. I’m glad to be here on a motorcycle (more on that late.) I rolled into Parral about 5 p.m. When I turned on my cell phone to see what kind of signal I could get, it said I was in a different time zone. I don’t have a way to verify that. My Rough Guide says this about Parral “Once you have figured out the river dictated street grid, you’ll likely find a charming little town thoroughly unaffected by tourism.” It’s very true. I drove around for a few minutes, before I came across the cheapest hotel in my rough guide AND they had secure parking. It took about five minutes of back and forth with the woman behind the counter before she figured out I wanted parking, and I figured out she knew that. I’m much better at telling people what I want than I am at understanding them. Just like all my other relationships. Anyway, the woman behind the counter was very nice and patient. A room with Air Conditioning was 195 pesos, or about $18/us. It was very basic, but it had everything I needed, other than that nude channel they have in Juarez. Actually I’ve found an english language channel with “What not to Wear” – the BBC version, and some home makeover show set in Australia.

Once I got my bike unpacked, and a quick shower, I headed out for something to eat. I haven’t had any food all day, other than a powerbar about 3 p.m. I walked around for a while looking at the city, then decided to head back towards my hotel. Some guy was selling tacos out of a stall on the side of the road. Six tacos for 25 pesos, then I got a guava soda for 6 pesos. The guy selling the soda said “six”, not “Sies.” I guess he pegged me for a gringo. Lastly, I went to a Pastaria for four tasty treats for myself. Two donuts, and two other pasteries cost 12.5 pesos. It’s the best bargain in Mexico. Nope, the whole world. When you go to a pasteria, you get a metal tray and tongs, then go crazy. 12.5 pesos. Wow…

Parral is a small town, so I was able to see most of what I wanted to before it got dark. I stumbled across the Pancho Villa Museum (he was killed in this building, I think.) It was pretty interesting, but completely in Spanish, so I wasn’t there long. At 5 pesos, it was worth it to me, if for no other reason than to see a death mask. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. When leaving the guy behind the counter asked me if I saw what was upstairs (I think?) I replied “mi espanol es piquanio” ( I can’t say it, much less spell it, so back off.) He spoke english pretty well, and became a lot more friendly. He gave me a map of the state of Chihuahua, and a guide (in spanish) of the various cities in the state. As I was leaving he said “remember – Parral is your second home.” With an attitude like that, it’s suprising they don’t have a booming tourist industry.

I then found the main square, which was right next to a large church – Catedral de San Jose. I think every large church is right off a square/zocalo in Mexico. My hotel is right off the church/square combo. I don’t know how old the church is, but the city was founded in 1638. I snuck my head in the church, and it was amazing – it took my breath away. I don’t think I’ll be stopping by in the A.M. to take pictures, mainly since I’m not comfortable taking pictures in churches, and I want to leave quickly in the morning. I hope I don’t ever forget the way that church looks.

I have some mixed feeling about being here on a Sunday, since it it’s a slower night than most, but it was still charming. People were sitting in the various squares, some just out of church, some just hanging out. Parents taking their children out for a ice cream, a ballon or a donut. High school age boys and girls dressed to the hilt out to do what teenagers do. Most of the businesses are closed, but a lot were open considering it’s a Sunday night. Just a lot of people strolling around. As I headed back to my hotel, there was the most beautiful rainbow I may have ever seen, and with a little work, I was able to place it right over the church. For once, the pictures do the rainbow justice. I had always intended to make my blog work so I could post pictures, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to, since I can’t really find an internet connection for the life of me. Thank god for my little laptop. Without it, I don’t know what I’d do for my technology fix. When the day comes, I’m going to be one of the first one to sign up for a Borg makeover.

Today has been a MUCH better day. Yesterday was a stressful, unpleasant day. Today was much, much better. I put a lot of miles on today – probably more than any other time on this trip. I didn’t measure, but I think it’s something close to 400 miles. As luck would have it, I get many more kilometers per gallon than miles per gallon. I think people in Mexico are better drivers than in the US. I have yet to see someone turned around backwards to feed their spawn while trying to talk on a cell phone and drive. I also think it’s safer being on a motorcycle here, because of that, and because people don’t really ride motorcycles. I saw one other bike on the road today, not counting cops. I don’t count in-city bikes, since they are used as glorified mopeds. I get a lot of waving, etc., which is nice.

It was also a good day for other reasons. For the first time, I thought – I’m doing it. I’m finally doing it, and I’m really enjoying it.

Tomorrow (Monday) I’m going to shoot for Zacatecas, which everybody says is very nice. It’s going to be another long day – 400 miles, which is a long day since you really can’t go as fast as you do in the US. If I can make it, I’m going to take the next day off, and see if I can find insurance, figure out how to call the US, put these post up, firm up my Oaxaca language classes and relax a little bit.