La Lamparita

I listen to this recording and I’m transported back inside the shack of a roadside restaurant in Baja California.

It’s 1991 and I’m on my first bike trip in a non-English speaking country. I don’t speak the language. I’ve been warned not to drink the water–not to eat at roadside restaurants. I’m traveling alone. I’m nervous. I’m lonely. I’m hungry.

I lock my bike (there isn’t anyone to steal it within 50 miles) and walk inside this restaurant and timidly order some tacos and a coke. The kids at the next table have a guitar and an accordion. They smile and laugh when I attempt to introduce myself in Spanish. But the laughter is good natured and they ask if I want to hear them play.

The kid and his friend perform “La Lamparita”, a Freddie Martinez hit written by Johnny Herrera.

La Lamparita–as performed inside a roadside restaurant in Baja California

They’re nervous (listen to his voice crack in the recording). They’re young and inexperienced. But man, they’re giving it all they got.

They’re just like me.

I walk out of the restaurant, several tacos and cokes later, and Mexico is feeling a lot less foreign. As I pedal down the dusty highway, I hum the new song in my head. I don’t know it at the moment, but the world has opened up to me in a way that I’ll spend the rest of my life exploring.

audio recording (La Lamparita, Mexico) by Willie Weir
photo (Baja California Restaurant, Mexico 1991) by Willie Weir

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS appears on Friday afternoons. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist compiles his favorite writings over the last twelve years. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their local adventures and life without a car at

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