The boat is loaded with cars, semis backed in carefully, and a few motorcycles. Ours are strapped to the walls like mental patients. Riding the motos onto el barco is something like driving into the belly of a whale - out of the sunlight and up ramps, into a dull orange and green-lit cavern with a hot dampness all it's own.
The deck is diesel engines and our beds for the night. Thumping, thumping, rocking, holding fat ropes and emergency rafts, and exuding a strange slimy water that changes course over the deck during the night and soaks our sleeping mats.
Inside, a man is playing a soulful song illuminated by lazer-dots as people drink themselves to ignorance of sea-sickness at the bar, and fall sleep on cafeteria benches.
The sea of cortez passes by just beyond my right shoulder. It is tropical weather sans mosquitoes, con tecate. 15 hours to Mazatlan..
The Baja is Mexico to be sure. Dirty, dusty, sunny, and a little confusing at times, but like Tecate lite is still considered beer, so do I consider the Baja peninsula Mexico lite. Too many ex-pats, high tourist prices, and too many California license plates to be in a different land.
So with the tickets of a ferry ride to the mainland in our palms the future held for us the reality of real Mexico. Mountainous Mexico. Volcanos, church squares, 15 peso beers, and a brand new expanse of antique landscapes unexplored by our nubile minds; Mexico.
Hundreds upon hundreds of elaborate churches spot the Mexican land, though they are "newer" in the Baja than on the mainland. There is so much rich culture and history here. Often, the Spanish built their churches and abbeys on top of indigenous religious places so frequently you will find them placed on pyramids that are thousands of years old. A clear statement of "conquer"
The Baja had worn thin on me. The sand, salt, sea, and heat were taking their toll.
As a child I thought of myself as a beach lover. Every summer my family took trips to the oceans of North Carolina and the yearly return to beach condos, pier pinball machines, and saltwater taffy perhaps played a bigger role in influencing my favor for the ocean than the actual enjoyment of the ocean itself.
But later as an adult I began to see the ocean for its tactile qualities and with a slight penchant towards the OCD the sand never seemed to leave the soles of my feet fast enough, the sweat never dried, and my pale complexion I've come to learn doesn't roast to an even brown like one would hope.
So after 10 days of few showers on greasy motorcycles through hot sand and mosquito-filled nights, I was ready to say goodbye to the peninsula and hello to the cooler weather of the mainland.
Mazatlan would lead to Durango up past 7,000 feet of mountains and into a climate more reminiscent to cities where I once lived, of Salt Lake City or Boone, North Carolina, as Harry Nilsson once said, going where the weather suits my clo-o-o-o-o-thes. Whaaaa wha whaaaaaa.
Pristine camping on the coast of the Baja California Sur, and excellent fishing. Travel warnings here are clear, and some think that the fall of El Chapo has increased territory wars as cartels and gangs struggle for power. We haven't seen anything to make us nervous - and are careful about how we travel. So far, the general goodness of humans has far outweighed anything negative.
I enjoy boats these days. Ever since I spent 7 miserable days and nights on a sailboat endlessly tacking into the winds of the Gulf Coast, our beds soaked in diesel, I haven't had a problem with most boats. And the ferry is closer to a cruise ship than a cargo ship so a 12-hour overnight cruise loaded up on beer with sleeping mats seemed like a vacation compared to riding through the Baja.
We came onboard prepared for the boat excepting the fact that I had broken Sharah's vape pen while driving to the dock. The pen slipped off my bike while it was charging and hit the ground hard.
Sharah's been trying to quit since we entered Mexico and short a few loosies here and there she had been holding on strong. But to have the one thing that was mediating her misery (Sharah's words) break moments before a 12 hour trip was too much.
The rocks began to fly, the curses flowed, and the scene wasn't pretty.
I felt bad for breaking the pen but it must have been a pittance to what Sharah was feeling. Eventually a pack of Marlboro Reds calmed the high seas but I was beginning to understand what it was like for a person to try to quit smoking and see that it's not a 3-day, 1-week, or even 1-month struggle, and that the struggle is real.
This trip is a learning experience coming from all sides and sometimes the obvious difficulties of travel that lay in front of you like a new land, a new language, or a new riding hurdle pale in comparison to the internal struggles we all face every day.
A motorcycle doesn't enable us to ride away from our problems, and I'm always learning from Sharah what it means to overcome obstacles. For someone to not only have to master an overloaded motorcycle on shitty roads in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, and to try to quit smoking and be successful at all of those things at the same time is an inspiration. Sharah's one hell of a person.
Side note on "overcoming obstacles". Quitting smoking sucks. It's hard, and miserable and makes you look all of the things you have been avoiding directly in the face. Sometimes you feel like diving off of a bridge. Of course, I want a cigarette. And I fully appreciate the support of my partner in this endeavor without whom it would be a much more miserable task, and who has most compassionately engaged in my misery on multiple occasions like the wonderful and kind and patient human that he is.
Obstacles, though - yes, quitting is hard, yes, motorcycling is wearying, difficult, and sometimes frustrating. Sometimes it's extremely awful and sometimes it's brilliant, like most things that are worth doing.
However, all of these things are rather pale in comparison to the obstacles I've hurdled or crushed completely to be here in my life today with this opportunity, this partner, and this tested and tried ability to take on hard things and succeed. So it seems easy in some ways. Not less challenging, but I have the utmost confidence in success, I am ok with discomfort, and I am grateful.
I am not grateful for the very many difficult things (which of necessity can not be explained fully here) I have experienced in my life, as in, I would never choose to repeat them or wish them on another person, but I am grateful for what they have taught me and who I have become.
We have choices - and bitterness is not a choice that makes any sense, no matter your circumstances.
Finally some general words of advice for riding the ferry. Make sure you got your tourist visa and vehicle import permit at the border before trying to get on the boat.
A lot of travelers think that just because you can ride straight into Mexico you're golden, but you will be turned around at the dock if you don't have your paperwork, and the customs agents don't take the mordida.
We met a fellow moto-traveler who neglected his paperwork and had to fly back to Tijuana from La Paz just to get back to the border and get his paperwork stamped. It cost him $300 for the flight.
The tourist visa and vehicle import paperwork are necessary for the ferry ride. Don't forget it!
Oh, and sing the karaoke. Whaaaa wha whaaaaaaa!