The answer to what actually was “flaming” on my way to San Cristobal de las Casas, a pueblo in the highlands of Chiapas, the southern-most Mexican state bordering Guatemala, is two-fold. My first attempt at climbing to 6360-ft summit came to a sudden backfiring halt when some mysterious moto-monster cut Cart-her’s fuel supply. Now this is after 250-kms of smooth riding, starting in Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, a city just inland from the Pacific coast.

A market in Tehuantepec that we accidentally followed the tuc-tuc drivers through trying to find a way out.

With no forewarning, the bike started to jerk and sputter, like it was out of fuel, but there was a good 3-gallons left; the oil was full, the air filter in fair shape, no breather hoses were being pinched. It was like Cart-her was passing some sort of kidney stone.

“No more soda pop for him,” was my first gleaming thought; making about as much sense as his sporadic disorder.

At this point, I had just crested about 20-kms of hill with my 525-lb motorcycle and 100-lbs of gear. Cart-her would start and idle, but sputter, cough and die when put into gear and when given any throttle. If I gave him a smidge of juice and quickly pull in the clutch, he’d crawl along; about walking speed. So, alongside my 625-lbs of frustration in my Aerostich, I began to run, working the clutch and throttle and hoping that the next little peak was the top and would allow us to coast back to the rural town of Chiapa de Corzo below, so I could deduce the problem before the sun went down. I was in luck; as odd as that sounds considering the circumstances. Malcolm followed at our neutral tugboat pace until we arrived in the shanty outskirts of Chiapa de Corzo and saw a “Taller Mecánico” sign.

Revisa su bujía,” said the mechanic, an older tubby man with a dirty shirt and hands that showed a life of labor.

So we did; pulling off my saddlebags and tank, we unscrewed the sparkplug. It was white, meaning that it was running lean, which is odd because air thins at elevation, meaning that a motorcycle jetted for sea-level should be running rich, or using a higher amount of fuel than air, at altitude. Hmmm ... I was boggled.

I twisted in my spare sparkplug and showed the mechanic my ash deposited bujía. He took it, immediately re-gaped it wider for “elevation,” which I’ve never heard of and handed it back. I guess I’ll be investing in a gap measuring tool now.

With the re-gapped plug in my bag and the new one already in the motor, I started up Cart-her, rolled him back and forth in gear before giving the mechanic a smile, tip and steadily cruising into Chiapa de Corzo to find a hotel for the night and self-diagnose, aka internet search, for what the problem could be or could have been.

The first hotel that we were so kindly led to by a local moto-delivery rider was a bit pricey, so we got directions to a posada más economica on the opposite side of the huge central plaza that was concurrently hosting a marimba concert. I ran into the hotel that was equipped with the ever-so-vital gated parking lot to check on the price and came upon the most flaming young men I have ever seen in the machismo mundo of Mexico. One of the teens who was sitting just feet from the flickering lights of the Disney Channel, wore a tight ¾-length sleeved girls crop-top and capri pants. The other, resting on the couch, donned a sleeveless v-neck top, tight jeans and tall, black high-heeled boots.
The sweet young flamers were very talkative and took us to our very un-gay grimy room. But it would do.

After a few test rides in the morning, Cart-her seemed cured: could it really have been the sparkplug? San Cristobal’s altitude is certainly not high enough to require re-jetting. But all-in-all the kidney stone had passed and the next morning we slowly twisted our way up through the thick fog as the temperature proportionally sank.

A indigenous populated highland pueblo that appeared through the thick fog as we ascended toward San Cristobal de las Casas.

We are now in the highland-chic pueblo of San Cristobal de las Casas with our bikes safely inside a family run posada.

San Cristobal is a quaint pueblo where retired 4-star explorers and young traveling hippies wrap themselves in native indigenous knits, sip lattes and watch artsy indi-films at WiFi cafés … uh, which is actually what I did last night.