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David

Our Adventure to Mexico and Back

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David

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, I had a clear path to take some time off, and decided to take advantage of a slower time. So with two weeks to plan, I decided to go to Mexico. Bill Hawkins (K2R) and David Bearden (GTR) originally thought they could join me, but both had to back out. I was going regardless, but as it turned out Bill was able to go.

 

I lived in Latin America for 13 years, and I'd gone through Mexico in a car, train, bus, small plane, and bicycle (partway). But never on a motorcycle, and I wanted to do a shakedown trip for a much longer adventure through Central Amerca and perhaps into South America.

 

So I whipped the maps out and started to do some planning. (Yeeha, I thought of you with all the maps spread out on the floor, knowing how much you enjoy looking at them.) After putting a rough route together, and changing it a dozen times, it seemed better to just plan our way to a major city and then wing it from there. We also wanted to do the crossing at a place that was less crowded, and based on several pieces of advice, we went for Presidio, TX, which faced Ojinaga, Mexico.

 

Next I had to get the bike ready. I had an electrical issue and my Motolights were not working. This is not what you want to see the night before! grin.gif

 

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After spending hours tracing both leads, through fuses and plugs, all the way to the battery, I couldn't find the problem. Time to say "screw it" and button things back up. I'll ride without them.

 

For those of you who have religious reasons to never trailer a bike, please skip this section. I've never trailered one before, either, but the prospect of riding long days across TN, AR, and TX in July was withering. And Bill wasn't interested in going if we had to go that route. So we borrowed Bearden's trailer and hooked it to my older pickup truck, and then loaded them up the night before.

 

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Hopefully Bill will fill in the missing details and provide his own impressions of our excellent adventure.

 

DAY 1: Sunday

 

I picked Bill up at 6am and we drove 670 miles, spending the night somewhere west of Fort Worth. Towards the end of the day, the "check engine" light came on. We did everything we could think of, but couldn't get it to go off. We figured it was an O2 sensor, and just plugged along. Nothing else eventful happened, except lots of heat and very boring country. It's a bit ironic that on our first occasion to tow a bike the tow vehicle has problems, eh? grin.gif

 

DAY 2: Monday

 

We got up the next morning, faced with a slightly shorter day so that we could unload the bikes and stage them. We decided to stop at an auto parts store in Eastland, TX, just to have them hook their OBD reader to see what code was getting stored. It turns out that it was an O2 sensor, as we thought. There happened to be a small Ford dealer across the street, but they didn't have the part in stock. They assured us that it was fine to drive, so we forged ahead.

 

While there, we were admiring a Ford Ranger that looked like it had been rolled. I asked the old man what happened, as he got ready to drive off, and he said that one of his cows got mad at him and circled the truck, kicking the sh!t out of it! I wish I'd taken a picture.

 

In spite of the stop, we were making great time. Bill was asleep when I saw signs to the Petroleum Museum just east of Midland, so I pulled off (we'd been discussing oil exploration earlier in the day). It turned out to be a fascinating place, with lots of real life exhibits to explore up close.

 

We pulled into Fort Stockton. It was 150 miles from the border, but I'd stayed there before on my way out to ride with the Arizona boys and girls, and knew of a hotel that would let us park the rig there. Plus, there was a great BBQ place that I wanted to go to! (The same one Sean Daly did not get to go to the same week because his kids overruled him!)

 

We unloaded the bikes, full of anticipation, and got packed for tomorrow. I figured we'd not ride any that evening, so put the alarmed disk lock on, placing the case on the left grip so that I wouldn't forget to remove it (that's also the purpose of the alarm, in my mind). Anyway, I went to do some parking lot stuff later that night, and proceeded to drive off without removing the lock. I think I was too excited and distracted. Anyway, the front wheel rolled a few inches and then came to a sudden stop, and I went over. I was able to hold it up enough so that the engine guard took the weight, and the bag barely touched, but the mirror never did. Of course my arm was sore the next day! What a nimrod I was. In years of riding, I'd never dropped a bike (other than the normal dirt stuff) except my 360, when I was in 8th grade, showing off for some girls. I was balancing the bike while stopped, and got my pant leg caught in the peg. Oh well, I was hoping that wasn't an omen.

 

DAY 3: Tuesday

 

We pulled out about 7a, not as early as we wanted. But we only had 320 miles to ride that day, so no big deal. The first task was to ride the 150 miles to the border. It was generally flat and straight, but still pretty. Here's a moving shot as we motored along, just before the rain hit.

 

06moving.jpg

 

To take it, I locked the throttle, used my left PTT switch to tell Bill to speed/slow, and then modulated my own speed with the rear brake, shooting with my right hand. It worked pretty well, but be warned. Unprofessional Rider on Open Course!

 

We had breakfast in Alpine, TX--what a great little town. Then we went on to Presidio and filled up one last time with good ol' US fuel, and then called our loved ones one last time.

 

You basically just drive straight through the US side heading south, but the paperwork starts at the Mexican side. There's a very small customs/tourist card center that you must stop for. First, it's time to get a tourist card. They'll ask lots of identity questions and they'll want to know how long you are going to stay. The only people who spoke English were these officers.

 

Next we get copies ($1 dollar total) of our important documents, and present them at the window: driver's license, passport, tourist card, vehicle title, and credit card. They charge your card about $22 before issuing a permit. What you are promising to do is not sell the vehicle in Mexico. If you are found without the permit, the vehicle will be confiscated. If you try to enter again with a different vehicle and have not cancelled the permit (as you leave the country), you are in deep doo doo.

 

The name on Bill's title was "Bill" while his passport said "William." They originally said he couldn't enter the country, but we persuaded them otherwise. Later Bill admitted that it was frustrating enough to make him turn around and head home if they had given him much more difficulty about it. Bill's definition of "adventure" was a little different than mine!

 

Finally we got everything squared away and passed under the Welcome to Mexico sign.

 

As far as border towns go, this is positively tame. Nothing like Juares or Nuevo Laredo. It's small and feels much safer. But still dingy.

 

Soon, though, the landscape opened up, and we headed across the desert for 150 miles to Chihuahua. And it was deserted, too. We passed very few cars, and went 95 miles between gas stations at one point. And two restaurants.

 

Even though it was the desert, the vegetation was interesting, and the road was really fun. It was quite curvy, but had virtually no signs. You'd be moving along at 85mph, cross a little rise, and then face a 35mph corner, with no warning. It was easy to stay awake! grin.gif We stopped for a quick look back over the valley. Here's a quick shot of Bill on his GS. Bill was a great companion, and I'd recommend that you choose your partners carefully. They need to ride well and be flexible and enjoyable to be with. Bill is all those things.

 

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For the entire time, we only ate two "nice" meals in restaurants. The rest were in roadside cafes, which are my favorite. I lived there long enough that I eat everything without worry, and Bill pretty much did, too. We found this restaurant just north of Aldama, and had shrimp, beans, salad, etc.

 

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A lady was making fresh corn tortillas in the corner, and brought us a plate. Yummy.

 

We were painted with Ka radar coming into the city, but weren't pulled over. We filled up at Pemex just on the outskirts of Chihuahua so we'd be ready to go the next morning. I'd only made one reservation, and that was for the hotel that night. But all we had was an address, so I headed toward the downtown area, thinking it would be there. We finally asked someone, who indicated that we were off by only two blocks--he kindly led us there.

 

We pulled into the Hotel San Francisco, and the doorman let us park right by the flowerpots, in a covered garage by the front door. Perfect! We had a nice view of the city traffic just outside the door, as well as a typical street store on the sidewalk.

 

There was a catholic church next door, and I went exploring with my camera.

 

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We had a quick dinner and headed to bed. We found that we fell into a routine of eating only two meals a day: breakfast and dinner. But we did drink a lot, helped by the fact that Bill strapped a small soft cooler to the flat rack in front of the top case on his GS.

 

DAY 4: Wednesday

 

We assumed we'd do some riding in the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) region, and come back to the hotel that night. So we left almost all our stuff there.

 

Heading west out of town, we saw some interesting rock formations, first. The roads were very passable, and in most cases were very good. We also had a fantastic breakfast in Las Juntas at a roadside cafe, where I also stocked up on bottled Guayaba juice--my favorite beverage.

 

It was still tempting to explore side roads, like this side one. Bill zipped ahead of me on the GS, but I had to take it easier as we looked for a waterfall. Even standing up and going as slow as first gear would let me, I bottomed out three times.

 

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Of course our main concern was a flat tire. We were in a veery remote part of Mexico. This is not tourist land. Very few people knew any English. We never saw a single large displacement motorcycle, much less a BMW of any kind. We didn't even see a single tourist the entire time, except two families at two different hotels. If you get a flat and can't fix it yourself, you can count on several days just to find something.

 

We motored on, and found some beautiful places on our way to Creel.

 

20sideview.jpg

 

And one pretty funny thing happened, two. We were on FRS channel 2 until we encountered a repeater that was stuck open, apparently. Anyways, we had to switch to channel 3. As we passed through San Juanito, I said something to Bill and someone else answered, in English: "are you talking to me?" I introduced myself to Mark Davis, a missionary in the village we were passing through, and then his wife Roxanne got on the same frequency from a different radio, and we had a nice chat as we drove through! That was weird. We never actually met them face to face.

 

Creel itself has only one paved street, and it's very much a frontier town. One gas station, with only 87 octane available. And only one nicer place to stay. But we decided that'd we'd skip a change of clothes and hang out in the area for a day. So we got a room, and headed southeast. What beautiful sights we saw, too. Just very difficult to describe. And all to ourselves. In fact that's what made it so special. We'd go 45 mins or an hour before seeing another vehicle of any kind. It was our playground, shaped just for us. I'll just shut up and let some pictures tell the story.

 

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It started to rain and it was obvious that we were riding smack into a serious storm. We figured we'd never be able to take pictures, and the roads wouldn't have been all that safe in the driving rain, so we turned around just south of Humirá.

 

On the way back I snapped this outdoor laundromat.

 

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It rained on us anyway, so we stopped by Laguna Arrereco, nudging underneath a tin roof in a store where an Indian tribe sold trinkets:

 

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I tried to strike up a conversation with this young indian girl, but she was too shy. But Bill snagged this shot of her:

 

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After the rain stopped, I walked to the lake and grabbed some pictures, including this panorama of the lake.

 

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Bill mentioned that my RT looked tired, so we finished our adventure that day and headed back to our "cabin" in Creel for the night.

 

The lodge was quite a sight, and that was one of the "good" dinners we had, though it wasn't very good. Just expensive.

 

That night we parked out front of the cabin. I joked with Bill that the RT looked like "beauty between two beasts."

 

33sandwich.jpg

 

As I mentioned, there's only one paved street in Creel, though they did have an internet cafe, where I posted my "hi" to you folks. It cost the equivalent of $2/hour for a fairly good connection.

 

That night at dinner we joked about dodging dogs, cats, burros, sheep, horses, and chickens. Talk about road hazards! Then we took a stab at solving my electrical problems, having brought every tool we might need. It turns out that the accessories were dying from a bad tip fuse. We never quite figured out the lights.

 

DAY 5: Thursday

 

We left at 5:45a that day, as the darkness turned into light, and headed southwest toward El Divisadero. The first 9 miles were very challenging, with oil laid over the entire road surface and small gravel on top. My Metz 4 tires did not enjoy that, and it required the smoothest control I could muster. The rear stepped out twice.

 

But the next 21 miles were really nice, and we finally came to the end of the road: El Divisadero, a train stop with nothing but a new (yet deserted) lodge, some market stalls, and a roadside cafe. This first shot was taken down into the canyon, and there were no rails. I wasn't going to get closer than that. The second shot is more straight out into the canyon. And the third shot pictures the lodge, perched right on the rock edge.

 

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We had a fantastic breakfast in the dining room overlooking the gorge.

 

Afterward, we wound our way all the way back to Chihuahua. We'd been in those clothes for quite some time, and it was time to shower and pick up the stuff we'd inadvertently left behind. I didn't take any more pictures, just basked in the views, memories, and riding.

 

The Copper Canyon is an extension of the same mountain range as our Grand Canyon. Only the Copper Canyon has no motor homes, no tourists, and it's unspoiled. And even deeper. I hope you get a chance to see it.

 

DAY 6: Friday

 

We road north again to cross the border and spend another night in Fort Stockton. I got us hopelessly lost through miles of dirt roads in Aldama. Argh. I needed a GS!

 

We passed the requisite military checkpoints manned by machine-gun toting young kids, but were never stopped. I was a little nervous at each, having lived through the civil war in Guatemala where I faced too much death at the hands of a military state, but I forced those memories down and smiled/waved.

 

Everybody that we encountered was very friendly, curious, and helpful. I speak Spanish fluently, and struck up many conversations about politics, travel, motorcycles, food, and the US.

 

Day 7 and 8 were just driving back, so there's nothing to tell. But this picture that Bill snapped captures a genuine smile from a wonderful adventure as we reluctantly loaded the bikes back up and drove the 1,150 miles home.

 

40davidbill.jpg

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BPeterson

BRAVO! Well written and wonderful photography. Man, I felt like I was actually there. Thanks for sharing David.

 

Also, did you and Bill feel that either bike was better suited for the trip? the GS or the RT?

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David
Also, did you and Bill feel that either bike was better suited for the trip? the GS or the RT?

 

I'd go again on the RT without hesitation, but the GS is definitely the bike for that kind of trip. More suspension travel, more clearance, and less damage if it drops. Plus his tires were more suited to the roads we ran.

 

If I do this longer trip I'm thinking about, I'll do it on a GS, Adventure, or a V-Strom, I'd guess. And I'll have a satellite phone. smile.gif But definitely not the RT for a longer trip.

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kld41

Great stuff David, good write up, good photographs, good adventure, good buds.

 

Hey are those my test Savanahs, getting all dirty wink.gif!

 

I wish I had done this trip before the GS was traded off but it will numbero UNO on any new GS I get. You had to have a blast.

 

Those 259's ran OK on that Pemex - must have been Magna Sin.

 

 

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TonyM315

 

 

Awesome, David. Great read and I really enjoyed the pictures. Wow.

 

Thanks for sharing it all!

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Ron_B

David, I'd love to do this some day. Thanks for sharing a great report and stunning pictures.

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Tasker

As usual, great story, great humor and great photography! Thanks for the memories!

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David
David, I'd love to do this some day. Thanks for sharing a great report and stunning pictures.

 

Ron, I took some notes on the outside chance that we do it as a group some day. Can you imagine the fun of meeting at various border crossings, and then meeting in Creed? That would be "sport touring" I'd say.

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poops

Great photographs! You've got a very good eye. I didn't even bother to read the whole tale, 'cause the photographs seemed to be telling a good story.

 

Ever since seeing the movie "Y Tu Mama Tambien", which is about a couple of boys and a woman taking a road trip through the Mexican countryside, I've always wondered what it'd be like to ride through Mexico on a bike. The movie showed a lot of great roads that would be great to take on a bike.

 

Good job!

 

poops

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rdfrantz

Thanks for sharing your great adventure, David. I admire your courage to undertake such a venture... and reap the rewards.

 

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Mango

David, you are a real artist with your camera, thank you for sharing. (Your pictures of T.W.O. from a previous post really captured the ambience).

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chadhargis

Wow! A trip I can only dream of.

 

Thanks for the well written ride tale and the excellent pictures.

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One

Nice you enjoyed the adventure...come back any time.

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ChrisNYC

Great ride tale and great pictures David. I admire your 'seize the day' attitude towards the whole thing. A trip like that I couldn't have made with less than 10 years of planning 158748-rolleyes.gif158743-smile.gif

 

 

------------------

Chris (aka Tender Vittles),

Little '77 KZ400 in the Big Apple

Black '99 RT for Everywhere Else, including Rhode Island!

201135-riloop4.gif

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KevinH

Incredible photos.

 

Thanks for sharing! smile.gif

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LJR

Yes, that is the way to do it. Pick a spot, don't plan it to death, and just GO!

 

Glad you had fun. Great pictures as always.

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ian408

 

That was great ride report!

 

Some of the pictures of the lodges look like something you'd

find at any ski resort (with a Mexican flavor).

 

Are the areas you visited beginning to see more in the way of Tourism?

 

Thanks again for the arm-chair tour!

 

Ian

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David

That was great ride report!

 

Some of the pictures of the lodges look like something you'd

find at any ski resort (with a Mexican flavor).

 

Are the areas you visited beginning to see more in the way of Tourism?

 

Ian, tourism is increasing in those areas. We were there in the off-season, of course, when it's greener, warmer, and also rains most days. Most tourists are going to go during our US winter.

 

That lodge in Creel and the lodge in El Divisadero are the only ones there. You'll find cheap hotels in Creel, but that's it (save one other American style place).

 

If Cancun and other such places are Las Vegas, Creel is Gunnison and El Divisadero is Torrey. It will be years before they are overrun with tourists, only because there is no infrastructure.

 

We did not encounter a single tourist out and about at the sights during the entire stay.

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Venturello

Congrats on the trip David - very nice indeed. A trip in motorcycling to a 3rd world country is far better in deserted regions like this, with little traffic. You know, when a road is traveled, in poor countries road manners are crazy, and encountering a slow truck being passed by a slow boss in a bling curve is a normal occurance.

 

Friend of mine almost got killed (in bed crippled for 6 monthes) when in a motorcycle, in Colombia, he found a truck being passed by a bus coming his way. No problem, he thought, I will use the (my english failed - pavement at the side of the road which is there for situations like this) to avoid them. Only another MOTORCYCLE (125cc, a local) was passing the bus which was in his lane - coming of course towards him. He had to choose either to wreck into this guy or drive off the road. That's what he did.

 

Anyway, excelent all went safe and you found such excelent roads. In most third world countries, you find this kind of things - well traveled road which are old and in bad condition, and decent fairly new roads in remote regions...

 

Q: did you know this roads where like this or just came into them by chance?

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JerryMather

 

 

Quote:

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ron, I took some notes on the outside chance that we do it as a group some day. Can you imagine the fun of meeting at various border crossings, and then meeting in Creed? That would be "sport touring" I'd say.

--------------------

 

Yes, I can!

 

WHEN?

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David
Q: did you know this roads where like this or just came into them by chance?

 

A few DB members had been down that way, and coupled with information we'd gleaned from Horizons Unlimited, we figured they would generally be in good condition. And they were, except for the 9 miles of oil/gravel AND the times we chose to go off-road.

 

There were some serious potholes in places, and of course many road hazards (e.g. animals and slow moving trucks going uphill on blind corners), but overall it wasn't any more dangerous than riding the Smokies or something.

 

Having said that, no road engineer in the US would be impressed. No shoulders, off-camber surfaces, blind corners, tightening radius turns, insufficient markings. You know--the stuff that makes motorcycling terribly fun! grin.gif

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David
Yes, I can!

 

WHEN?

 

The idea starting hatching on the way down, so I took good notes of places to ride, and got waypoints of a couple hotels that would work.

 

Not sure when, yet. But I can't imagine a more appropriate "sport touring" venue.

 

Jerry, you could cross at San Diego, and then take the ferry across from Baja. What a blast it would be. smile.gif

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JerryMather

"Jerry, you could cross at San Diego, and then take the ferry across from Baja. What a blast it would be."

 

I can see it now..................A ferry boat ride with me, Jamie & Les, Tool, Dick & Laney, BadAdam (for sure), Russell, and the rest of the So. Cal. knuckleheads tongue.gif.

When do we go! laugh.gif

 

Oh... and $1 Margaritas tongue.gif Where's Gleno and Wurty? I need to tell them about this one!

Edited by JerryMather

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