Of the hundred or so stories written to date and the dozens of presentations about traveling our amazing world, the one point that consistently gets the most attention is my advice to always travel with a flask of premium spirits and some stainless steel shot glasses.
Flasks used for carrying alcoholic beverages have been around since the stone age. It’s speculated that about fifteen minutes after making the first alcoholic beverage, someone got the bright idea to put it in a transportable carrier to enjoy it, on the go.
Modern flasks have been around since the 1700’s and were a common item among the gentry.
Today, in many many US States, the carrying of flasks in a car is considered an open container of alcohol and could subject a person to criminal proceedings. Additionally, since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 and the even more tragic restrictions on freedoms, especially in air travel, many people have associated the flask with something wrong or harmful.
It’s time to shake some sense into the conversation.
Why a Flask?
Up until somewhat recently, before cell phones and seemingly instant help available 24 hours a day, the hip flask was the proverbial AAA for a traveler. If stranded with a broken down car, motorcycle, or another vehicle it was customary for others to stop and see if they needed help. In turn, it was customary to offer one’s flask as an expression of gratitude for stopping to help.
For a traveler, a hip flask truly should be as standard to carry as one’s passport or local currency. This is not to get plastered in a foreign country. Quite the opposite is true.
The reason for carrying a flask with premium spirits is simple. No other gesture more effectively offers an extension of respect and friendship than handing your flask to a stranger. This is especially true when a common language is a barrier to communication. The stretching of one’s hand with a flask or a freshly poured shot of your spirit of choice immediately sends a powerful message that transcends politics, bigotry, and mistrust. This gesture immediately tells the person offered the gift that you respect them and value their assistance or friendship.
It’s important to state, that under no circumstances do I promote, encourage, or suggest one should drink and operate a motor vehicle. This should be obvious, but in this day and age, one must state the obvious.
In places like Mexico, where this writer travels extensively, it would be unthinkable to go without a flask. Should I ever need assistance or help someone on the side of the road, after dealing with any immediate crisis, a flask offered, whether accepted or not, tells the other party that you are friends since you offered to share something valuable.
A significant influence was Dr. Guillermo Cisneros (Mi Doctór). Known as the best pediatric surgeon in Mexico, he was also an avid motorcyclist. We shared many miles together, and through careful observation, a life lesson befell upon me.
He would always carry a hip flask with four stainless steel shot glasses that would stack together. When we’d stop for the evening, he’d sit outside and pour shots for each person sitting with him. While seeming insignificant and straightforward, a feeling of camaraderie and loyalty was sewn deep into my soul, and I knew a valuable life lesson was just bestowed on me.
It’s been over a year since Dr. Cisnero’s tragic passing, but not a trip begins without a toast to him and his simple wisdom of friendship and camaraderie all summed up with a simple hip flask.
Make it Your Tradition
These days, flasks come in all shapes, sizes and variations. Some folks desire the authenticity of yesteryear with an antique flask. Others, prefer the practicality of plastic which doesn’t set off metal detectors at sporting events. Use this opportunity to choose a flask that defines you as a person and your tastes.
Whether it’s whiskey, brandy, Tequila, or other spirits, make sure it’s among your best and make sure it’s readily available, for that friendship you’re about to make.
About the Author
Jim Foreman is the owner and director of operations for Authentic Moto Travels. This originated by taking groups of friends to far-off and exotic destinations south of the border. When you are looking to make a motorcycle journey through Mexico, Latin America, Europe, and soon Asia and Australia, please consider Authentic Moto Travels for your adventure.
In Memory of Dr. Guillermo Cisneros “Mi Doctor” QEPD
Summertime is the time when most Americans, Canadians, and visitors from Europe and Asia come to ride in North America.
As riders are traveling to well-known destinations across the continent, the risks and danger change from inattentive drivers to dehydration and heat-stroke. This is the most insidious of issues because when you begin to feel it, it’s already in full effect.
There are several ways to effectively avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke on hot summer days. They go against conventional wisdom. Those who have experience know that ‘conventional wisdom’ should be rebranded as ‘fool’s wisdom.’
The symptoms of dehydration include light-headedness, loss of focus, slow and sloppy responses to the road, infrequent urination, dry mouth, and feeling sleepy.
If one is feeling the effects of dehydration, stop as soon as possible and head to a shady area. Begin drinking water. Pedialyte or Electrolit (in Mexico) can help a lot, but make sure to chase it with plenty of water. If Pedialyte or Electrolit is unavailable, coconut water does the same thing naturally.
Plan on spending a couple of hours letting your body rehydrate. Typically it takes two urine cycles to get back to proper hydration. You’ll know you’re right when your urine is light colored instead of a dark yellow.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are faintness or dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating often accompanied by clammy skin, pale face, muscle cramps, headache, and fatigue.
Heat exhaustion usually accompanies dehydration. Stop riding and get into a shady or air-conditioned place and rest. Ideally, check into a motel with Air Condition, drink a lot of water and take a nap. Alternatively, a library can serve as a great place to cool down and even catch a few winks if you’re discreet.
Heat stroke is a severe medical condition, and one must call for medical assistance immediately. Signs include that of the initial heat exhaustion and fever, throbbing headache, staggering or disorientation, seizures and ultimately unconsciousness.
Do not mess around with this. Heat Stroke can be fatal. While waiting for help, get the victim into a shady area or place with AC. If appropriate, strip off many of the victim’s outer clothes and use water and a fanning action to cool them down until help arrives.
The key to avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke on a motorcycle is to keep moving. Even at a slow pace you are moving enough air for your body to keep cool. If you are in stopped traffic, some states allow riders to slowly ride in the emergency lane to keep moving. It’s critical for a rider to be more conscious of their health and safety than committing a traffic infraction. It may be necessary to find an alternate route. Sometimes, one must lane-share to keep moving. It’s better to potentially get a citation or warning than it is to end up in the emergency room. Most states have exemptions to minor traffic offenses for medical emergencies. If behaving discreetly and prudently, without making a scene, most law enforcement will give leeway to a motorcyclist who keeps moving during these conditions.
Riding in high heat doesn’t have to lead to dehydration or worse. The most important factor to realize is that riding in hot temperatures is drastically different than walking or standing still in the heat.
The easiest way to handle high heat is to stop every hour and drink a half liter of water. At the same time, you should also have to visit the restroom and urinate. The urine should be a light color.
It doesn’t matter how long you can go between fill-ups or whether you are doing an Iron Butt Association SaddleSore 1000. Stop to drink and urinate every hour. When it cools down, you can then lengthen the duration between stops.
Let’s make something clear. When it’s said to drink water, it’s WATER you need to drink. Sparkling or flat is fine, but do not drink sugary or alcoholic water. Don’t drink Gatorade, Powerade, lemonade, Red Bull, Monster, etc., and think you are staying hydrated. You’re not. Coke, and other soft or energy drinks don’t hydrate you. Instead, they have a counter effect and make you more thirsty. If you drink a Pedialyte, chase it down with water. It can help offset oncoming dehydration in your favor, but it’s going to take water to keep you sharp, healthy, and hydrated.
What you wear will have a significant impact on how well you handle high heat riding conditions.
Fool’s Wisdom says ride with a T-Shirt, shorts, sneakers, and a party-lid, half-helmet, or no helmet at all, to keep cool. While this may not be a bad move when walking or staying still, when riding, it will accelerate dehydration. A rider won’t even feel sweat because it’s evaporating so quickly.
There are two types of hot, humid heat such as on the east coast and dry heat one encounters in the desert. For humid heat, wearing a vented long-sleeve jacket, pants, and a full-face helmet will give a rider the best success to keep cool. The vents will keep air circulating, and the natural cooling effects of the body will work correctly. A jacket and pants help the body regulate its temperature.
For dry desert heat, wetting a polyester shirt, or a gaiter around your neck will do wonders to help keep you fresh. If you use a skull cap, bandana, or do-rag between your head and helmet, wet that too.
Wear gear that can control airflow through zipper vents. Just open up the vents a little to keep a little airflow going. As long as you’re moving your body will do the rest to maintain a proper temperature.
An evaporative cooling vest in 105ºF+ (40ºC +) temperatures will keep your body cool and its temperature regulated. The effect lasts about one hour, but that one hour gives an excellent opportunity to drink water, use the restroom and recharge the vest (soaking it in water).
One can travel around Phoenix, Arizona, during the summer, in relative comfort, wearing an evaporative cooling vest.
Perhaps surprisingly, the color of the gear matters little in keeping you comfortable. Sure when standing still, the color black absorbs more heat. When moving the airflow will negate nearly all of the effects of the color. Either way, a full-face helmet with good venting adds to the positive benefits of this effect.
Timing is Everything
Most riders in high heat areas such as Hermosillo, Sonora generally don’t ride during those extreme months, opting for air-conditioned four-wheelers. If they do choose to ride, they start at daybreak and ride until noon, then call it a day.
Whether you’re a new rider, old-timer, or your country’s leading pediatric surgeon, pushing your limits is a losing gamble.
High heat days don’t have to kill your riding time. One can ride safely and relatively comfortably by paying careful attention to your body and keeping it equipped with the necessary tools to do its job.
This article is brought to you by Authentic Moto Travels. Authentic Moto Travels is your source for high quality, exciting moto trips at a budget price. While other tour companies treat participants like children, Authentic Moto Travels respects a rider’s ability, experience and desire for adventure.
There we were. Riding in the lead, and opening up the throttle to go even faster, Tom White, a former road racer, keeps steady on my tail and continues the chase. Criss-crossing mountain peaks and ridgelines on the new toll road, we traverse Alpine style tunnels that arch, turn, and dip with a perfect surface beneath our wheels. Finally coming around a tunneled corner, the egress brings us to a marvel of engineering. The spires and support cables rise above the road surface revealing a spectacular gorge. We are now on the world’s tallest cable-stayed bridge.
For many riders on this 19-day journey through Mexico in 2017, this day, in particular, stands as the pinnacle of a spectacular trip.
Late 2016, a plan was developed to take a group of US-based riders down to Mexico to participate in the 21st annual Motorrad Convención Internacional happening in Zacatecas. Immediately five of the ten slots were spoken for by the participants of the last Mexico trip through Chihuahua and Sonora. This year, Riders from SoCal, Colorado and North Carolina all met in El Paso, TX to be a part of this special event.
The journey took the group consisting of members of the South Coast BMW Riding Club, the BMW Motorcycle Club of Colorado, and the Brotherhood of Shanghai. Several riders are also members of the GS Giants.
The trip took us to amazing destinations including Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, Queretaro, San Miguel de Allande, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Baja California.
It’s during our stay in Mazatlan that we were able to traverse ‘El Espinazo del Diablo’ or ‘The Devil’s Backbone.’
The day began fairly typically. We all met for a hotel type breakfast. Not amazing, but not bad either. From there, a quick stop to purchase Ferry tickets to go to La Paz and Baja California. Finally, in the head and humidity that was still prevalent in Mazatlan, we began eastward to Mex 40 (Libre).
Mex 40 (Carretera Mazatlán-Durango) was once a very dangerous road. It served as the only link between the port city of Mazatlán to the state of Durango. In the worst of times, it was said that there would be occasional bodies that would show up on the side of the road in the morning. Since the opening of the new toll road that makes the previous 9-hour journey only 2 hours, the Libre road is mostly forgotten. …Except by motorcyclists.
The road that stretches from Villa Union, Sinaloa to El Salto, Durango is commonly known as El Espinazo del Diablo. Though the Espinazo is only a small mountain feature on one part of the road, the whole road, because of its notoriety got the name.
El Espinazo del Diablo is 125 miles of relentless twists, turns, curves and elevation changes. The scenery is among the lushest and beautiful one can imagine. The danger for motorcyclists is keeping one’s eyes on the road. The newly surfaced road is immaculate, and because of the parallel toll road, it’s wide open with almost no vehicle traffic.
The greatest hazards to riding this road are cows, wild horses, and burros. Look for fresh piles on the road as your warning. Secondarily a danger is riding above one’s ability. This road does not suffer fools lightly.
Now with all the scary part out of the way, this road will also change your life for the positive and give you a sense of accomplishment no tamer of the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ could ever understand.
About 20 miles in, the road rises in elevation, and the temperature becomes perfect for comfortable riding. Only near El Salto does the elevation rise to 8700ft and becomes a bit cold.
Now, once one finishes the road in a couple of hours, the best surprise is yet to come. Imagine Germany’s famous Nurburgring with tunnels and across the world’s tallest cable-stayed bridge. That’s the new toll road that awaits your journey back. Currently, at $165MN ($9 USD), it’s one of the most expensive toll roads in Mexico, but it’s oh so worth it. The toll road is lightly traveled as well and those that do know it quite well and are quick to give way to motorcyclists and passionate drivers who want to push it a little bit (or a lot bit, in our case).
The beauty and majesty of nature’s designs along with the impeccable engineering the road designers used make for an experience you probably can’t get anywhere else in the world.
US roads like CA-1 (Pacific Coast Highway), US 191 (Arizona’s Devil’s Highway), US 550 (Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway), Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, Cherahola Skyway in North Carolina all pale in comparison to the diversity, intensity, and rewards granted to riders of these great roads.
In late September 2018, another group of intrepid US-based riders will head south for the annual Convencion in Morelia, Michoacan. You can be a part of it. It’s called the PIY 20 Day Mexico Interior Trip
One thing is for certain, above all else. We’ll be riding El Espinazo del Diablo again!
Jim Foreman leads groups into Mexico on short and longer trips through Authentic Moto Travels. If you’re interested in discovering or re-connecting with our great neighbor, to the south, please contact Jim at email@example.com or at 310 923-6635.
For a helmet-cam video of the scene described at the beginning, click Play below,
It was Saturday morning. Ten minutes before my alarm was set to ring I was already up and stepping into the shower. The excitement of riding with great friends, old and new, sent me going in record time.
The bags, packed the night before, were loaded onto the bike and 20 minutes later, I was riding out to meet one of the other riders, Tom White for breakfast.
St. Patrick’s Day is always a fun day in the United States. Restaurants serve up faithful Irish meals amongst the decorations and green dressed servers.
By 7:20 am we were breakfasted, caffeinated, and making our way to Irv Seaver BMW to meet another rider, Jessie Vaca and his incredible BMW K 1600 B. Tom rides a rugged R 1200 GS Adventure and I ride the BMW S 1000 XR.
It seems Tom and Jessie were equally excited as we left Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, a little before 8 am, to meet the rest of the group at a South Orange County spot.
In Lake Forest, Bikram Mann on his R 1200 RT, Nico Okoneski on the Triumph Tiger 800, with Enrique Giner, and Trino Caicedo on R 1200 GS Adventures were eagerly awaiting our arrival. Dale Sprosty on his R 1200 ST arrived in Ensenada, on his own, a day early. He began a fact-hunting mission along with enjoying the Beer Fest, Friday evening.
Heading south, to the border, the group encountered light rain and drizzle. Ordinarily, a little rain is no big deal, but on California Freeways, on a holiday, the risks inched up. In leading the group, we were going to take it easy. We would forego any lane-sharing as the painted lines and reflector pucks would be slippery. More perilous is that California drivers are less capable in wet conditions. Fortunately, traffic was light.
We arrived at the border and crossed without incident. We all commented on the steel half-cantaloupes at the crossings and our techniques for navigating them as the bikes slipped on their wet surfaces.
Wonderfully, once we crossed the border, the precipitation abated, and we were in chilly but dry weather and roadways.
The run south of the border on the “Scenic Highway” is always spectacular. Riding the stretch between La Fonda and Ensenada, one feels transported to CA-1 and Big Sur found on the Northern California coast. The roadway is smooth and fast with a series of three toll-booths along the way. Riding a motorcycle in Mexico is fantastic. One of the simple affirmations of that is paying half the price of cars on the toll roads throughout the country.
The ride was exhilarating and those who were taking it for the first time were visibly beaming from ear to ear.
The group safely arrived at the Quintas Papagayo Hotel around 12:30 pm where we met Dale.
Most of the rooms were not quite ready, but one was, so we used that to unload our bikes, clean up, change, and get ready for one of the best afternoons we’d ever experience. Once changed and ready for a great afternoon, we arranged a van taxi to take us to the Beerfest event grounds at the celebrated Museo de Historia in Ensenada.
Beerfest started at 2 pm and we were among the first ones inside. We were warmly greeted and received our glass and a couple of tokens for samples.
As the event gained momentum, the grounds began to fill with a vibrant and classy crowd roughly equal between men and women. There were many dozens of craft cervecerias (breweries) on display as excellent bands played on three stages at the event.
Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by beautiful people who shared a passion for good times, great music, and the elixir that Benjamin Franklin remarked was proof of God’s love and desire for us to be happy.
Throughout the afternoon and early evening, it was a delight to see the warm smiles on Bikram, Dale, Enrique, Nico, Tom, Trino, and Jessie’s faces.
The best thing about an event like this in Mexico is that there aren’t any problems, drunk brawlers, or fights that is so typical in the US. There was no ego or arrogance. All you see is people having a great time, everywhere.
At 7 pm that evening we had dinner reservations for Mr. Pampas Brazilian Churrascaria. The group feasted on perfectly cooked meats and Brazilian caipirinhas. After dinner, we hired the same Taxi Van back to the hotel. Though some, including myself, clocked out early, several true adventurers continued the party by returning to the Beerfest and later, the bar adjacent to the hotel.
This group knows how to party!
The following day, we enjoyed breakfast together and decided on our riding plan for the day. Jessie and Nico went to La Bufadora while the rest of us headed east on Mex 5 toward San Felipe on a wonderfully twisty road that reminds one of Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) from La Cañada to the tunnels.
The road surface was perfect, traffic was light, and lean angles were sweet as we traversed the roadway both directions.
At 4 pm I arranged a van and our driver from last year, Alejandro to take us to L.A. Cetto winery for a tour and tasting and then dinner at La Esperanza Baja Med.
L.A. Cetto is Baja California’s oldest and largest winery. Our guide Daniel took us through the entire winemaking process from the grapes on vines to bottles for sale. The tour was educational, informative and filled with good humor.
A section of lawn had signs posted that read “No Pisar El Pasto.” I decided to have a little fun with the group by saying this read, “Don’t piss on the lawn.” While Jessie and our guide Daniel were giggling, Dale and Bikram began a lively discussion on why signs like that would be necessary.
As if on cue, Daniel began to tell the story of the after harvest party that goes on from noon to midnight every year. I added that sometimes people couldn’t make it all the way to the baño so they would relieve themselves on the lawn behind the statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe. More smiles and laughs came from our guide along with Jessie, Trino, and Enrique.
I had to let the guys off the hook and told them it actually means, “Don’t Step on the Lawn.”
We went to sample some wines produced there. We obviously liked some better than others. We said our thanks and goodbyes to Daniel and hurried off to La Esperanza BajaMed. The Executive chef is Miguel Angel Guerrero. He sources all of the foods locally, within 100 miles of the restaurant. In the mornings, Chef Miguel Angel is often out with his shotgun gathering ducks to serve up later in tacos. Chef Miguel Angel is also an avid motorcyclist who rides a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure all over the world.
We were treated like VIPs with wine and appetizers coming quickly. We also were welcomed to walk the grounds and take photos.
Dinner was served up Mexican Style. Seven entrees were ordered, so everyone had a little bit of everything making our tastebuds dance.
The meal and especially the company was exquisite.
After dinner, Alejandro took us back to Cerveceria Transpeninsular to enjoy some more good times and excellent beer.
Several of the boys enjoyed a unique brew with 18% alcohol.
We were later joined by Nadja Castillo who helped arrange the evening and can outdrink most of us. Alejandro’s wife Marianna also arrived to make for an even better experience.
The following morning, we packed up and rode out to El Meson de Mustáfa for an excellent breakfast with Sharim Ali. Mustafa owns a small vineyard and bottles up some excellent wines. He also has the very popular restaurant that’s been a regional hotspot for decades.
His daughter Sharim now runs the restaurant, but Mustafa often comes in to socialize with guests and friends.
Concluding Breakfast, this group of incredible friends headed north to Tecate. The road up is a high-speed thrill ride that was the perfect way to cap a brilliant weekend in Baja.
Crossing the border demonstrated another reason why Motorcycles are perfect for Mexico. We passed 4 hours of cars waiting to cross back by riding right up to the front of the line. Filtering to the front can be done at any of the border crossings.
Once across the border, we rode Campo Road (Hwy 94) from Tecate to Jamul, where they have a Starbucks Coffee. We said our heartfelt goodbyes and went our own way.
I am so grateful to have led these wonderful riders and friends across one of my favorite regions of the world.
Can’t wait to do it again.
From September 29th to October 18th, 2018, I’ll be leading a group of intrepid riders into some of the best and most amazing parts of Mexico. It will coincide with the 22nd International Motorrad Federation Mexico’s Convention taking place this year in Morelia, Michoacan. It will include a full run on “El Espinazo del Diablo”, one of North America’s Greatest Roads, and visits in San Carlos, Cuernevaca, Cosala, Queretaro, Durango, Batopilas, Copper Canyon, Mazatlan, Tequila, Xilitla and the Garden of surrealist Edward James, Hermosillo, and Guanajuato. There will be approximately 649, 864 awesome corners we’ll take on this trip through some of the most beautiful parts of Mexico. Bring fresh tires!
This will be the trip of a lifetime! Contact me for details. Jim@authenticmoto.com