The Guatemala Cloud Forest

Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Rio Honda, Guatemala

We stayed put the last few days on a farm in the Guatemala cloud forest. Thanks to Faye and Janice, Dave’s wife, we spent a few days in the bunk house of Janeen Simon. Janeen has been in Guatemala for 30 years and owns 350 acres of prime cloud forest that she is working to protect.  In addition she is the executive director of Wings, a non-profit organization that educations indigenous women  about family planning and does cancer screenings. Click HERE to learn more. We visited the Wings office in Coban and observed a class. Janeen’s passion for her work and the local people she is trying is help was obvious. Dave, Janice and Faye, who have been involved in Mercy Corps and similar organizations for years spoke only with the highest regard for the Wings organization. If anyone is interested in supporting the indigenous population I would highly recommend supporting Wings.

But let me back up… from Antigua to Coban we decided to take the smaller secondary road through the mountains, CA-5, according to my GPS. The road started out nicely paved but suddenly turned to gravel.

Here was one of the better sections

At least the rivers had bridges

When we finally got close to Coban and found what we thought was the road to Janeen’s, it was muddy and slippery with some tough downhill sections. We weren’t sure it was the right road so they sent me to investigate. I rode 1k down the road looking for something that looked like a gringo house hoping I was going the right direction.

Finally I came to her house and saw Faye and Janice coming out to greet me. Evidently they arrived in half the time by car by sticking to the better roads. The other riders wisely decided to not attempt the muddy road and parked at a nearby hotel. I used Janeen’s truck and shuttled them to the house for dinner.

The end of the road:

It’s hard to get much traction with mud packed tires.

The next day Keith, Michael and Jim wanted to ride to see the ruins in Tikal Mayan Ruins. Deby and I decided to stay on the farm with Dave, Janice and Faye.

Also visiting was Andrea, a friend of Janeen’s from San Francisco, here she is with Faye. Nice slippers…

Janice had arranged a visit with a local Mercy Corps project that was focused on educating pregnant and mothers of young children about nutrition and child care.The program is called Procomida you can learn more about it HERE.

We visited a classroom in a small village down this path.

Waiting for class to begin

Class in session

Another part of the program is teaching nutrition, we observed a class where they taught women who were being trained to go to the villages and teach how to prepare nutritious meals.

Next we visited the USAid food distribution warehouse.

We learned about their messages and how they present the classes. Food is distributed in one month amounts.

Deby demonstrates how to carry the load in Guatemalan fashion using her head.

Overall I was pretty impressed, the whole operation seemed well organized and well run. We spoke with the operations manager and it was clear they have a clear passion for their work while being realistic about the long term impact. I give it a thumbs up!

That night we met Rob and Terra who are working on a cloud forest conservation project on Janeen’s land. Their organization is Community Cloud Forest Conservation. They happened to have a group of young adults, mostly from Canada, working on the property helping build a school, or learning center, as Rob prefers to call it. Here is a picture of the kids moving logs to be used as beams in the structure.

True teamwork and a learning experience for the kids.

Here are a couple of pictures of their work site.

Janeen and Rob.


Tuesday – A day on the farm.

Janeen took us on a tour of part of her 350 acres, including two caves.

Walking through the jungle

Into the bigger of the two caves, this thing was huge! We were told it went back 1 kilometer. The section we were in was a large cavern, almost the size of the USAid warehouse. All of this is privately owned by Janeen.

Beams of light poured through cracks in the top of the cave.

Deby is always looking for a little sunshine.

Looking out from the cave

This river goes into the cave and under the cave floor we were standing on.

Think there are any rocks in here?

Oh yea!

Next it was a short hike to cave two.

This cave was full of huge stalactites and stalagmites.

We ended the excursion with a picnic on the beach next to the river.

Today was back on the road to Rio Hondo where we reconnected with our riding partners.  The cool temperatures in the cloud forest has been replaced by 100 degree heat in the valleys. At dinner tonight we had a short meeting to plan our next few days. It looks like we will skip Honduras and ride right into El Salvador.

This was a tough post to put together because it’s just a brief, brief overview of an amazing few days. I can’t say enough about Janeen, Rob, Tara or the work of Mercy Corps. These are truly amazing people who are taking the time to care about an amazing place. Check out their links, consider supporting Wings and spend some time on Rob’s website.

Whew… thanks for following. D&D 🙂 🙂





Lake Atitlan and Santiago

Saturday, January 26, 2013, Antiqua Guatemala

See, it helps if I put the day, date and city I’m in when I write these posts to help me keep track of the days…. crazy. I didn’t mention that Dave’s wife Janice and her friend Faye flew down to Guatemala and have been hanging around with us for the past few days. They are two amazing women who have traveled the world and spent extended periods of their lives in other countries. I think Deby was glad for some women to hang out with.

We arrived in Panajachel (or Pana for short) Thursday evening early enough for a walk through town and dinner. Faye and Janice had been here before and recommended we take the boat across the lake in the morning to Santiago, a Mayan town on the south side of the Lago. Faye called a woman she know who worked as a guide and arranged a private guided tour of the city.

Boat ride across the lake, volcanos in the background

We were greeted by a woman demonstrating a Mayan headpiece wrapping technique that is steeped in tradition which was explained by our guide.

Just wrap around the head

Some more

All done

Deby and Faye walking with our guide, Delores, into Santiago, most of the roads in the city were better than this.

Vendors along the way

Guess what? It was market day! This one was pretty wild, you could absolutely buy anything there.

More market pictures are in the Guatemala Pictures folder online HERE

I had to take a picture of the power lines…. safety third!

The next stop was to visit the local shaman idol Mashimo in his shrine, Delores filled us in on the story of the Mayan religion, their deities and traditions as we walked the steep and narrow roadways.

The path to the shrine

I didn’t take any pictures at the shrine because there was a charge. Mashimo was a wooden mask under a cowboy hat with a big cigar sticking out of his mouth. He was covered in woven cloths and was sitting in a chair in a room smoky with burning incense. On each side was a man who where the local medicine men ready to cure any ailments that needed curing. Every item represented a tradition with a long explanation, it was very interesting but I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of the whole deal.

Next stop was a special ceremony in a small room filled with incense smoke. Our group of seven tall gringos ducked into the back door to observe a blessing that was going on. In the corner was an older man playing a Mayan folk song (with a long tradition) on a out of tune guitar. He played the same two chords over and over while singing a song that was more like a chant. In honor of the large group of guests they decided to to give us a blessing as well, who am I to argue? Turns out that later in the day we probably needed it. Part of the blessing was passing of the swinging incense thing to each of us, we were instructed to swing it under our armpits. Nice, given our lack of showers it certainly served two purposes. The second part of the ceremony involved drinking Coca Cola out of Styrofoam cups, the phrase “drinking the cool aide” came to mind  but it seemed safe enough. I managed one picture.

The next stop was one of the best parts of the trip, Delores took us to meet her mother who is a weaver.

Her “studio” was a mat on the floor of her house, which was mostly some tin over a couple of walls.

Here she is demonstrating her craft. This wasn’t a demo just for the tourists, she sits here everyday weaving, did I mention she’s 70 years old?

This is serious business, look how she sits, ouch.

We found out she has work in an art museum in Belgium after being discovered by a curator who was visiting Guatemala. Deby bought one of her beautiful pieces for the asking price which was a screaming bargain, about eight US dollars.

I took a few more pictures on the way back, these things are used as cabs and are everywhere. They drive like crazy!

It started to rain pretty hard on the boat ride back across the lake, here is a picture of Jim demonstrating the proper wearing of foul weather gear. Did I mention he used to be a Commander in the Navy?

The weather cleared by the time we were ready to leave for the short 45 kilometer ride to Antigua. As usual traffic was crazy and the group was immediately split up when we exited the hotel driveway. Deby and I were in the rear trying to catch the other bikes when we totally lost sight of them on the winding road out of town. Somehow we thought they turned left at an intersection and turned around. About that time my GPS (now I know why they call it the Devil Box) said the route was behind us and since I thought that’s where the group went I followed the GPS. Bad move. We rode pretty far before it seemed clear we were going a different way than the other four bikes. I should have followed the rule and went back to the last place we were all together for a re-start. It turns out the rest of the gang did and was waiting for us. Somehow Deby and I decided to continue on our way since it was a short distance and I had an address in Antiqua. I learned later that they were on the NEW highway 1 and we were on the OLD highway 1 which explains why I kept seeing highway 1 signs and mileposts. The old highway was paved (barely) and in rough shape. I kept expecting the road to just end anytime. The worst part was when a bridge over a river was out and we had to detour and cross 2 foot deep water on the bikes. I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures and was worried that I should have went back and everyone was going to be really pissed. In the end it all worked out and we met about 7:00 pm in time for dinner. Yes, they were slightly upset but in a nice way (thanks guys, I deserved it).

Today was spent hanging around Antigua, here are a few more pictures

Deby loved the colors

One of the local churches

Love these doors

And walls

And women

Deby thought I needed a picture of the fountain

I saw a professional photographer taking a picture of this cart so when he was done I stood where he was and took this picture.

This old church from the 1500s was damaged in an earthquake and is now just in ruins. It shares a wall with the B&B we stayed in It is run by Marie DeLattre, an amazing French woman with stories that kept going all night. Of course, it was market day in front of the church.

Tomorrow we are heading to Choban where Janice has arranged a stay at a farm where there is a Mercy Corp project going on.

Hey – I have my new SPOT tracker and I should have it on tomorrow. I think the same link will work. SPOTWALLA LINK

Thanks for following!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂











Checking In

Thursday January 24, 2013,Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Hi, just a short post today as I’m on a slow connection and my battery is getting low…. sorry for the lack of posts but we haven’t had WiFi for the last few nights. We crossed into Guatemala yesterday and blasted to Chichicastenago so we could get to one of the best markets (so they say) in Central America. We arrived well after dark which was crazy because the road is solid switchbacks and there were trucks, buses, kids and animals everywhere.

The border crossing:


I’ll try to upload a few pictures here but I created a SmugMug Gallery for all my Guatemala pictures, click HERE to see them.

The market was crazy, crowded and fun. Here are a few shots that hopefully give you the idea

On Tuesday we were at the ruins in Palenque wow is all I can say.

Need to wrap up. I still don’t have my SPOT, according to my tracking info it’s on “hold” somewhere. We are doing fine and having fun. Thanks for your comments, we read them all! Hopefully we’ll be at a hotel with wifi soon so I can do a longer post.

Remember you can follow Mikes SPOT HERE.



Dumb Stuff

Monday, January 21, 2013, Palenque, Mexico.

Ok, I’ll just fess up. I was tired, not thinking and left my SPOT tracking unit in my tank bag in front of the hotel last night. When I came out in the morning it was gone. That is why if you have been following my track online, there was not much progress today. However, the thieves must have pushed the OK button and broadcast their location, you can look HERE and look at the last location, that was not me. By the time I saw that they pushed the locate button we were 150 miles away and what would I do anyhow. Thanks to my son Weston, I have a new one being shipped to Antiqua Guatemala and I should have it by Friday. In the mean time I helped Mike set up a shared page and he will have his in tracking mode. Click this sentence for Mike’s shared SPOT link.

Sunday was a tough day, 349 miles, moving time 7 hours 13 minutes elapsed time over 9 hours. We arrived in Tuxtla Guiterrez as it was getting dark and pulled into the first hotel which turned out to be a Holiday Inn. As it typical we parked in front of the front door within sight of the reception desk and were told there would be a guard watching the bikes all night. Hmmmm.

We did stay at a nice place Saturday night.

Went for a swim in this pool

Had a good start to the day with coffee and fruit.

I suppose we are not really trying to travel on the cheap but we’ve found with some negotiating we can get pretty good rates per night.

We seem to have an aviator glasses theme going, here’s Keith.

And Jim…

Even Dave has joined the “cool” crowd.

Besides being a long day the riding was pretty brutal, we started out in 90 degree heat before climbing into the mountains where it cooled off but then the wind picked up. I’ve ridden in strong wind before but this seemed like one of the strongest. Why is it that whenever we are riding a high wind area there are wind farms all around?

We stopped at a Pemex and it’s become usual for there to be a 3 peso fee that is often collected by young children. The fee includes TP if needed. These kids were really cute and took their job seriously.

We stopped for a great lunch of quesadillas.

Today, after reporting the missing SPOT and a few other minor things we rode further inland to Palenque home of ruins that date back to 200 BC. Click HERE to read more.

We rode a twisty road through cold and fog until at almost 7,000 feet we broke through the top of the cloud layer where we stopped for a break.

A usual roadside stand

Chickens walking around with legs tied so they don’t get too far away

Later in the day for lunch we had chicken grilled over an open fire

The local dogs were waiting for a handout.

I managed to take a couple of pictures while riding

Deby, waving for the camera.

Keith and Dave on the road into Palenque.

A very typical scene, I think Jim said he counted 12 people in the back of this truck.

Finally, our track for today.

Tomorrow we are planning on an early start to see the ruins and then on the bikes to make a few miles towards the Guatemala border.

Still smiling… D&D 🙂 🙂





The Road of Life

January 19, 2013, Puerto Escondido Mexico

235 miles with a moving time of 6 hours and 5 minutes today and for the first time on the trip the temperature registered above 90 degrees. It was another good day.

We’ve been staying on Mex 200 for since entering the mainland and it’s giving us the opportunity to view an amazing slice of Mexican life. We must have passed through 100 small towns today and I would venture to speculate that Mex 200 is the only pavement in most of them. Life seems to revolve around the two lane highway and the commerce it brings. If we went through 100 towns we went past 1000 roadside stands selling things from every type of food staple, roadside snacks, women’s dresses clothing and toys for children. We saw all of this close up because each town is full of topes as they seem to be called in Baja or “Reductor De Velocidad” as they are called here. Translation – speed bumps. Some are more “humps” than “bumps” but most of them are like driving over a 4X4 piece of lumber which tests our suspension and certainly does slow down traffic. If we went through 100 towns and past 1000 roadside stands we easily went over 10,000 “Reductors”.

We are trying to make progress while in Mexico so we have more time to spend in Central and South America. It’s probably a good thing Keith is keeping us on schedule because I would be stopping in every other town to hang out, take pictures, try the food and generally goof off. I’m pretty sure that would totally guarantee we would never make it to Pucon Chile. Since we are moving so much I decided to take more pictures on the road with one hand to try to capture some of the life here.

Passing is a constant part of the ride, we are experts at it.

Look mom, I can pass with one hand and take a picture at the same time!

Typical roadside scene.

I wish the next picture wasn’t blurry, they were so excited to see me riding behind them with my camera. It was very common to see pickup trucks filled with people… safety third! And hey, what does that road sign mean? Nothing important I hope.

I love this next picture, passing another motorcycle.

.We stopped at a typical roadside restaurant for lunch today.

Jim and Mike had the soup with was a collection of whole fish, shrimp and some other stuff. They spent most of the time picking out the complete skeletons.

We made an ATM stop in one of the larger towns and took time to observe a dance class  in the open air court. It looked like they were working on traditional Mexican group dancing. Some of it almost reminded me of square dancing. We couldn’t decide if it was an after school class or a competitive team. These kids really had the moves.

The bikes are running fine, we all seem to be healthy and are getting along amazingly well with each other. Tomorrow is day 10 since we left the US, that means 90% of the journey is yet to come.

Thanks for following…. Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂





We survived the route through Acapulco today, it was crazy traffic, people, cars, trucks, animals, construction vehicles, buses, anything you can imagine. It took us over an hour in rush hour traffic, 85 degree heat while swerving, lane splitting, riding aggressively and trying to keep the group together. Since I have the GPS route and Deby and I are communicating in our helmets, I took the lead and Deby brought up the rear while giving me constant reports on how the tail end of the group was doing. It was quite the interesting commentary on our group riding skills.

Here is the route through the city.

A shot of traffic, this was the easy part. I needed two hands for the tough stuff.

Quite a change from a couple of hours earlier when we were riding on a new four lane concrete road totally abandoned except for the local cattle. Evidently they are, or were, planning a resort in this area and built the road but the resorts or people never appeared.

Ended the day with a little laundry in the room, nice that they had a drying rack!

More later, D&D 🙂 🙂

Twisting The Day Away

Today was 207 miles with a moving time of 5 hours. We spent a large part of the day on Mex 200 twisting along the coast. Maybe you can see the road on the above picture. It took us 2 hours to ride turn after turn after turn after turn after turn. Wow, 3 and 4th gear the whole way. Traffic was pretty light in this section so we could just glide left and right over and over. It was a bit of work but way too much fun. As we were negotiating the curves I was trying to figure out if this could possibly be the best motorcycle road I’ve ever been on…. could be!

Towards the end of the day we came to a section with construction where suddenly the road was beautiful, smooth and wide with a posted limit of 90k. It seemed we would just get up to speed when as quickly as it started the road reverted back to the old road or just gravel. One exciting moment came when I was passing a truck on a sweeping right turn at about 60mph when about 3/4 of the way around the turn the asphalt disappeared and I was on dirt! We’ve come to expect any condition around any corner at any time with obstacles including donkeys, dogs, goats, cows or rocks, topes, vada’s or any kind of debris. Yes, we are not in Kansas anymore!

We stayed at a Best Western last night for a little taste of home.

Jim at breakfast checking e-mails.

By popular demand – here’s Mikey!

Pizza delivery Mexican style

Roadside break

Three amigos, Jim, Dave, Mike

The road ahead….

The road behind….

Typical straight section of road, I didn’t think it would be safe to ride one-hand around the curvy parts.

Tomorrow we will probably get near Acapulco where we agreed to decide whether to continue directly to Guatemala or spend some time riding inland to explore the Palenque Myan ruins.

More to come,

D&D 🙂 🙂

A Nice Day Riding

Ok, just a quick post tonight to check in.

Here is an overview of our time in Mexico so far

So halfway? Here is our progress today

Tonight we are in the resort town of Manzanillo  (click HERE to learn more) a tourist destination I’ve never heard of. So far it seems like a nice place with a beautiful beach.

According to my GPS we rode 217 miles today with a moving average of 38mph. Mostly it was a nice day of twisty roads winding along the coast and the coastal mountains. There were some sections with a lot of traffic where we were passing and being passed but also nice stretches of riding with little traffic and fun twisty toads.

I took a few pictures today before my camera battery died.

Deby and I had a nice walk on the beach in the morning

Saw plenty of pelicans

They were everywhere

Fresh fish for sale on the beach

Getting packed up in front of the Casablanca hotel

Some pictures of the crew. Here is Keith.




My favorite rider, Deby

Nice gas stop picture of Deby’s bike

That was the last picture before my camera notified me that my battery has “expired”.

It’s finally warming up into the low 80’s today. I think I’ll be switching to he mesh riding gear tomorrow. Glad to finally be out of the cold!

Thanks for following,


The LaPaz Ferry

This is the California Star luxury ferry that runs between LaPaz and Mazatlan. The website says:

“The definition of comfort. There is no other way to describe our cozy cabins that are witnesses to the unforgettable journey our passengers experience”. 

That was the plan, to board the Tuesday ferry to Mazatlan and cruise in luxury in a private cabin for the 17  hour overnight ride.

So how did we end up on this ship……

With these vehicles…..

Waiting to load for the broken down truck in the hold to be moved…..

Scrounging for tie downs….

Wedged between the semi trucks?

The passenger accommodations were down this long hallway which lead to the luxury dining room.

Of course, there was outdoor seating.

And sleeping space??? It became clear that we would probably spend the night sleeping on the chairs in the dining hall, that was, until they closed at 9:00 PM and kicked us out. So that left us to sleep outside on the deck, on the outdoor seating or on the floor in the hall.

Did I mention the high seas?

The ship rocked hard enough that Jim’s GS1100 tipped over even with tie downs, I know because a crew member woke me up in the middle of the night (was I actually sleeping?) to tell me. I didn’t know where Jim was so I went to the deck with the crew hand to lift his bike and re-secure it.

I had good Spanish language practice talking to one of the truckers who was having an obvious problem with sea-sickness. Mal and no bueno and hurling hand signals let me know how he was feeling.

When it came time to find a place to sleep, Deby and I scored a nice place on the floor next to the water cooler and even had the Madonna looking down on us.

The others were not as lucky. Dave used his motorcycle cover to wrap up in and spent the night outside on the deck in his riding gear. The others moved around and I’m not sure where all they were. I heard Keith and Michael on the floor near us for part of the night and I think Jim spent most of his time on one of the benches on the deck.

We arrived in Mazatlan about 9:30 AM where a tug tied up and guided us to the dock (this one is for you Joe Smith).

This all came about because after a quick blast from Loreto we arrived at the ferry terminal  on Monday about 2:00 PM only to find the luxury ferry scheduled to leave on Tuesday was full. The next ferry we could get on was leaving on Thursday. So long as we were there, we spent about an hour getting our Temporary Vehicle Import Permits that are required once you leave the Baja peninsula. Somehow during that time Jim heard there was a ferry leaving in an hour and we could board it right away. Not knowing what we were getting into we jumped on the chance and bought our tickets.

Needless to say, if you have been following my Spotwalla link you know that we made it to Rincon de Guayabitos, Nayarit to the Casablanca Resort. We rode 274 miles with an elapsed time of 7 hours and 20 minutes. After limited sleep you can guess we were all tired and didn’t mind using some of the money we saved on the ferry to stay in upgraded accommodations.

Here is a picture of someone we met at the Pemex who guided us through the streets of Mazatlan. Riding 3 up is pretty normal around here.

Lunch along the way.

I’m not sure what’s next, I could easily be talked into staying another night here but we seem to be on a mission to ride fast and hard. Hopefully the trade off will be a few days hanging out on a beach in a tropical locale.

Keep an eye on my Spotwalla link to see if we move tomorrow.

I think I will create a separate SmugMug gallery for each country we are in to make it easier to navigate. Here is the link for more Mexico pictures. Mexico SmugMug Gallery.

Time to rest, thanks for following and the well wishes.

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂




Watching the Seahawks in Loreto

(Note: I’m preparing this post with limited Internet Access in Loreto. I might have to add pictures and finish it later)

(January 15, here are the pictures)

No power when we woke up in the Bahaia de Los Angeles which meant no showers for another day. Welcome to Mexico. I think the trick is to not pass up a hot shower when available. Fortunately, the hotel restaurant seemed unphased and had fresh coffee they brewed over an open fire, they even managed to wrangle up two delicious plates of hueveros ranchos. We managed to put a MotoRaid II sticker on their sign to mark our stay. See if you can find it.

Anxious to make some progress we were on the road by 9:00 on a bright but cool Saturday morning for points south. The ferry from LaPaz to Mazatlan leaves on Tuesday and Thursday, we had the idea to try to make the Tuesday ferry. We made good time to San Ignacio where we stopped at the famous Rice and Beans restaurant for lunch, the same place Deby and I spent New Year’s eve last year. This time, we continued on and arrived in Mulege before we decided to stop for the night. The last time Deby and I were there we stayed in a pretty crummy hotel, this time Ricco at Rice and Beans recommended the Serenidad hotel. After a little excitement on the sandy road leading to the hotel we were greeted with a pig roasting on a spit at the entrance to the officina. Lucky us, it was pig roast night, yum.


The hotel is literally at the end of the Mulege airport and there were a number of gringos who had flown in to provide medical services to the locals. They were all in the bar and we had a great time hanging out, drinking cervesas and watching the GreenBay Packer game.  The only thing that could have been better is if the Packers could have won.

Bikes tucked in for the night


Sunday we made a last minute decision to ride only 80 miles to Loreto so we could 1) visit the San Javiar mission and 2) be back in time to catch the end of the Seahawks game. It was a beautiful ride to the mission and we were back in time for the last quarter of the game. The only think that could have been better is if the Seahawks could have won (they almost did).

San Javiar Mission

View on the way to the mission

Check out the road in the distance, nice ride.

Here are a few pictures from walking around Loreto….. warning…. graphic puppy pictures to follow.


Oh, a few friends at her feet.

Who can resist.

Ok, last one, I promise.

Deby and I went for a walk on the beach and I was in the right place at the right time for this picture

Picking up shells!

Tomorrow we are going to blast the 200 miles to LaPaz and see if we can get tickets for the Tuesday ferry.

Ok, I’m giving up on uploading pictures for now. I’ll add some when I get a better connection. Everybody is doing fine, the bikes are running well and we are having a good time getting to know each other. We seem to have compatible riding styles which is nice, approximately equal bladder capacities which keeps the stops to a minimum and generally laid back attitudes about the journey which is essential.

Thanks for the comments, I do read them all even if I can’t reply to them.

Donn, Deby and the gang.