Summer, 1976 – Call of the Caribbean

The Caribbean Basin was calling. Key West had been abuzz with tales of smugglers, shrimp boats and seaweed. Miami danced to a Latin beat. Driving cab in Lauderdale I’d hear all about beaches in Jamaica and super-cheap shopping in Panama City. And, of course, Colombian Gold and Oaxacan Spears were the stuff of legend.

I’d spent the summer of 1976 in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, working for a local contractor and living at home. My dad had hurt his back earlier so I was helping out around the house. I’d saved close to $1000, a goodly amount in those days.

I grew up in Center Barnstead and always had a bike. New Hampshire is perfect for cycling. Back roads with little traffic, hilly terrain, quaint villages and refreshing lakes at every turn.

I pulled my old three-speed out of storage and started to ride around the Granite State. I’d clock up 100+ miles on week-ends, really enjoyed it. It was fast enough so I could cover some ground yet slow enough to really see, hear and smell the scenery. Loved the back roads. Gravel, pot holes, steep hills. But right through the forests, meadows and fields.

Maybe I could take the bike on a longer trip? Why not Mexico?

The Mayan culture had always fascinated me. I’d grown up reading Morley and Coe and spent hours studying National Geographic’s ‘Archeological Map of Middle America’. I’d been enthralled by Halliburton’s jump into the cenote at Chichen Itza. And the spectacular murals at Bonampak and stucco masks at Kohunlich were just coming to light.

A plan started to develop. I already had a passport…i’d applied for it when I was still in Florida. I had a bike, tools and camping gear. I’d need a few spare parts. I could travel light. Fly to Yucatan and ride south?

I wrote letters, made phone calls and talked to travel agents. Aero Mexico offered cheap flights from Miami to Cozumel; I should be able to ship a 50kg crate on the same flight. No problem to buy the tickets and get my Tourist Card at the airport. Easy as.

AAA sent me their latest road map of Mexico and Central America. It showed a network of paved roads criss-crossing the Yucatan as well as the major highways further south. Plus my National Geographic map located the major archeological sites. The plan was coming together.

Towards the end of September my dad was back on his feet and I was getting restless. Time for action.

Click Here to go to October, 1976 and the Journals.

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