The Journal  

2 December 2005


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Puebla, Puebla, Mexico

November 23-24

After nearly a week in Mexico City , we were ready to be moving again as we left on a Wednesday morning. Getting an early start and without far to travel, I decided to take the free road instead of the toll road, to see more of the countryside. The mountain passes heading out of the southeast side of the city are lower than those we crossed from the west and the road away from Mexico City wound through small villages and farm country. We were just heading up a small grade when the rear end of the motorcycle began to squirm. Although I had never experienced one before, in either a car or a motorcycle, I immediately knew that we had a flat tire. The mountain road had absolutely no shoulder and I went about 100 feet before I eased the bike into the ditch beside the pavement, finding one of the few guardrails that I had seen all morning to put between us and the mountain drop-off. We took the luggage off and hefted the bike onto the center stand, which sunk into the dirt and barely gave enough room to spin the wheel. A quick inspection didn't reveal anything, but when I tried to inflate the tire with my CO2 pump, I could hear the air hissing out. Heavy traffic flew by. A lone motorcycle passed heading towards Mexico City , giving us a fleeting glance. Almost out of sight, he slowed down, turned around and came back. The rider parked his Yamaha SR 250 in the ditch behind me and helped me pull the wheel off. We used my tire irons and rim savers to get the tire off and tube out. As we struggled to get the tire back on the rim, our helper said that there was a tire shop in the nearby town. Thinking they would have a tire changing machine and a high pressure air hose to seat the bead, I agreed to go. I grabbed the tire and jumped on the back of the Yamaha, while Holly stayed with the crippled Guzzi and our luggage. The rider recommended that she put her helmet and jacket on so no one would recognize that she was a woman.

  Rafael came to the rescue to see if we needed help changing our flat tire we got on the way to Puebla.

  Rafael helps Jeremiah try to fit the tire back on the rim.

The “tire shop” was a small room in the back of a house. The owner came out with a screwdriver and two tire irons that were about six feet long. I had left all my tools with the bike. We installed the new tube and inflated the tire. It wouldn't hold air. To get the tire back off the rim the mechanic used a bead breaker that looked like a wood splitting wedge. In our exuberance to put the tire back together we had pinched the tube. Dunking the tube into a slimy green tub of water revealed six different punctures. The mechanic patched them all and we reinstalled tire and tube. This time, the tire appeared to hold air. I jumped back onto the Yamaha, while our good Samaritan paid for the labor, and we were off to the mountain.

Back at the bike, the rider refused payment for his efforts or expenses. He had been heading to his job in Mexico City and we had now made him about three hours late. We insisted and I asked him his name as I handed about $10 worth of pesos. He said it was Rafael. Rafael jumped back on his Yamaha and was off to the city as we loaded the bags back onto the Guzzi. The multi-patched tube held for the rest of our journey, though it was after dark by the time we made it into Puebla .

We walked the streets of the colonial town after dark and decided to sample Puebla 's gift to the world, mole. It's every child's dream, not having to wait for dessert because chocolate is served as a main course. Mole is a thick, rich sauce that combines spices and chiles with chocolate. We sampled the dish at a restaurant in a former convent.

  We treated ourselves to a sweet reward with meals of mole at the Restaurant Sacristia. Jeremiah was ready with tortilla in hand to dig in to a much awaited supper.

  Puebla 's cathedral has the highest bell towers in all of Mexico , standing 69 meters high.

  Every town center we have visited the tree trunks are painted white.

I planned to find a spare tube and have it installed at a motorcycle dealership the next day, thinking that the dirt bike sized tube and a tire changing machine would be easy to find in a city of 1.5 million. After an hour on the phone, we still couldn't find a tube, so we decided to ride around and ask. The first place we stopped was a Harley dealership. One of the mechanics spoke English and had his assistant call around until he found another dealership who had the tube. We rode down the street to the KTM dealership to buy it. I thought I'd get a spare while we were stopped, so I asked the man behind the parts counter for a second tube. “No, solamente uno,” he replied. The KTM dealership didn't have a mechanic, but recommended we try down the street at the Honda dealership. Their service manager said that they could change the tire, so I parked the Guzzi and pulled the rear wheel off. With the wheel off, a mechanic motioned us to a truck and we drove down the street to another tire shop. This one was also located in the back of the house. A teenager with a lip ring took one look at the tire and pulled out a pair of screwdrivers. Again expecting a tire changing machine, I hadn't brought my tire irons or rim savers. Had I known I would have been comfortable changing the tube myself in the hotel parking lot.

With a Greenday CD blaring in the background, we went to work. An hour later, the new tube was installed and the tire was holding air. I reinstalled the wheel at the Honda dealership and we headed back to hotel with enough time to load the bike and leave before checkout time.

  A mother walks her daughter to school as we waited for a motorcycle repair shop to open.

  A little boy catches me taking his picture while his mother looks down the street for the bus.

  Jeremiah hoists the wheel with a brand new tube installed out of a truck bed after hours of searching for the tube and means to change it.

All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus