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Nick Enters Mexico

Location: Salt Lake City to Benson, Arizona
Distance: 880 miles

It’s like space travel, moving so quickly across America. I am in Dennys in Benson Arizona. A very pleasant man called Brandon, who moves carefully across the restaurant displays a number of bodily and facial tics. He appears normal, but maybe isn’t. Now he’s talking to himself quietly but in an involved way, answering a question he has just asked himself. I can’t hear everything but he doesn’t compress his words; every syllable is articulated precisely as he rubs his hands over and over, wringing his fingers. This is now but nineteen hours earlier I leave Wrights in Salt Lake. Tim’s team have worked through the night, replacing the fork seals, front brake pads, dropping the oil, changing the tyres and rather disasterously they clean the bike. I had hoped to take it into Mexico looking ten years old because with 20 000 miles on the clock, it’s done the mileage. Now it looks new.

It is getting light and I ride along State Street, left at the first set of lights and left onto the I-15 and then south. The bike feels solid with not a nut out of place, truly growing on me. It is becoming a remarkable machine. But I am still tired. I slept for two and a half hours in Salt Lake and the same the night before in Calgary, three hours before that in Fort Nelson and nothing before that since Prudhoe. I have completed five full days, each 24 hour period covering 900 miles. I wake up shaking and at the end of the day, when I step off the bike, when I eat and drink, I suddenly have minutes before I need to be in bed. It is 1.35 in the morning and I must leave for Douglas before six. I have allowed myself four full hours sleep before attempting to ride across Mexico in three days.

After 100 miles I see a quiet sandy side road and pull off the freeway, park the bike and lie beside it. I sleep for one hour. Five metres away there is a train track and the yellow Union Pacific Railroad hauls it’s load right by me sounding it’s horn. I barely look up. When I start again I ride 200 miles before fueling once again because that is all I do, ride and fuel. Sometimes I look around but it’s too quick to take in. I focus on the riding and not on the sideways glance. All day I ride along a prescribed route marked to the nearest inch. I never waver from where the bike needs to be. The tract of it’s wheels and tyres are controlled almost by intuition. The fast riding is not always on a conscious level. So much time is taken up riding this machine that it becomes like breathing, you don’t know that you are doing it.

I miss the highway 20 east turn-off for Pangulitch but come in further down on the 143 before Cedar City. The road winds quickly up to an altitude of 10 000 feet before dropping to the lake and then back onto the 89 south. I like this southern route to Flagstaff. The northern section is sweet, with country stores selling nothing that you need but some of the Americana memorablia that you want. There is a Norman Rockwell feel here that he as an artist captured 1950’s America so well. Further south it is poorer. Homesteads stick out all sorts of trash on badly made tables to sell. It goes from quaint to jumble to car boot along the same highway until at Kanab I stop for a quick coffee and half a sandwich. I am parked on the corner of a quiet junctions where the kerb is painted red; “move your bike now,” a policeman shouted at me as he drove around the corner. He is a rude bastard and up for a fight and I’d lose. I leave and ride to Flagstaff. Then I switch onto the I-40 west before turning south on the 17 and east onto the 10 once again for Tucson. It is 19 hours and 880 miles since I left Salt Lake. A good day and still on a flying schedule. How long can I keep this up?