Panama and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure
This is a story about an older man who hasn’t been to the dentist in 20 years and gets the bright idea that it would cost the same to ride a little thumper down to Guatemala and go to the dentist as it would to pay the big bucks to go to an American dentist. People like you might understand this logic. Most people smile at me knowingly.
Ah yes. But I don’t care what people think. I just like to goof around and have fun. And any excuse to go on a long ride into the unknown is a good excuse in my book. So I hitched up my trailer in Nebraska in a foot of snow in February and loaded up my Super Sherpa and high tailed it out of town in between storms. I spent a month in Apache Junction, Arizona doing some remodeling. And then it was time to head south of the border. I had a passport, bike title, and 3000.00 cash that I put in an R.E.I. money belt. I have been to Mexico and Central America before, so have learned to travel light. I used to ride a BMW loaded down with stuff I thought I might need. Nowadays I just take the essentials. This included throw over panniers with mostly bike tools, battery powered air pump, spare tubes, patch kit, maps, an old camera, with room left over for water and snacks. Also brought a small duffel strapped to the rear rack with spare tee shirt, sweat shirt, pair of socks, and long underwear for the cold winter mountain riding in Mexico. I wore everything else.
When I leave on long trips it is like I’m shot out of a cannon. I crossed over into Mexico at Nogales and immediately was smiling as I adjusted to the fluid Mexican driving style. Ahhhhhh. What a great feeling. Soon I was out on the open road heading down to kilometer 15 to get my tourist and vehicle permit. With that taken care of it was time to hit the libre road. The longer my money lasted, the longer my trip lasted, so I avoided the toll freeways and took the free road south through the Sonoran desert. More later....
Two days later I stop at an overlook south of Puerto Vallarta and finally start to slow down and relax. I'm not in Nebraska anymore......
Glad your posting your ride report...
Perfect timing! I am anxious to read your report as I will be going on a road trip next weekend to pick up a (new-to-me) low milage '01 Sherpa. Be sure and include lots of pictures of the SS.
I like it a lot :rilla
Doing a long ride like that on a 250 has been something I have thought about for a long time. Agree, lots of pics.
The Sonoran desert is usually brown as toast, but this year has seen a lot of winter rain and the hills are green.
I stop to take a break and take some pics of the desert flowers starting to bloom.
The libre 15 hwy wanders through the country and passes through the towns. There are speed bumps in every town (called topes), so the going is slower and more relaxed than the 15 freeway. Also, the freeway costs about 10 cents a mile. So you ride 30 miles and pay 3 bucks, ride another 50 miles, pay a 5 dollar toll, etc. But just like in the states, if you want to get somewhere quickly, the freeway is fast and smooth for the most part. I was enjoying the more leisurely pace of the backroads. In fact, I couldnít believe how nice the back roads are getting in Mexico. They are putting an incredible amount of money into road improvements. I hadnít been down here in 4 years, and the changes are amazing. You used to have to weave around the potholes, and the road could have missing parts or change to gravel unannounced for a stretch.
I stopped to use the restroom at this Pemex station.
Arturo and his friend were outside the bathrooms cleaning everyones windshields for tips. They were like mosquitos hovering over everyones car as they came in. They made 5 pesos just while I was there checking out my map and drinking a coke.
Arturo even cleaned my faceshield and I gave him a peso.
Of course, a few miles down the road I hit a swarm of bugs and my faceshield got totally slimed, but I liked those little entreprenurial kids.
I just had to stop and take a pic of this fire station right next to the most important building in town. The folks in Sonora have their priorities straight. Departamento de Bomberos is Spanish for Fire Department. No way this brewery is burning down.
Mind you, I donít know much Spanish. But that doesnít stop me from having fun and trying to speak the language. People appreciate it if you at least try. I can count to 100. When I first used to come down here, I had to have people write down the numbers they wanted me to pay. Anyway people mostly want to know where you are coming from and where you are going and how long youíve been on the road. I am good at those basic questions. Along with lleno (yeno) con magna por favor (fill it up with regular please).
If you decide to keep heading south and you make it to San Jose, Costa Rica, give me a shout and I will offer any assistance I can. In the meantime, I will enjoy reading about your trip.
I have popped the top on a Corona and settling in, so keep it coming!
I last saw you in Todos Santos down in Baja. I was reading your ride report and found your hotel from the picture. That was a few years back. Your jeep was broken down, so I felt obligated to track you and Heidi down and drop off a six pack to hold you over since I was riding in Baja at the time. What a hoot!
Hope you guys are doing well. I don't live far from Wisconsin now, so might have to track you guys down again. Don't be surprised if I drop by for a quick visit.
I just got back to Arizona and am writing up this adventure while it is fresh in my mind before I head back to Nebraska. I LOVED Costa Rica, and had an absolute blast slicing through traffic in San Jose on my way to the Camino del Muerte. I plan on heading back down to Costa Rica next winter though, and will be sure to look you up if you're still in town. I still smile remembering what a feeling of victory it was to make it through San Jose in rush hour traffic and find the other side of town. I LOVED splitting lanes with the pizza delivery bikes in the big central american capitols. Better than a carnival ride!
Rush Hour Traffic
Oh man, you lived it! That is how I spend every morning. Just when I start getting cocky, then some 45 kilo tico kid comes by me on an ancient 100cc 2-banger and leaves me breathing his exhaust. These locals can really ride. There is a joke that the designated moto lane is between the solid yellows.
Glad you made it back home safe and as for next winter, I hope to be enroute to the Dakar.:wink:
I finally have to stop for gas and pull into a Pemex station. This guy tells me he makes 720 pesos a week. At 8 cents to the peso that isn't much. And he works seven days a week. Yikes!
Here is a cool little bike that looks like it would get the job done. Honda Bros NXR 125. They don't sell them in the U.S. I'd be tempted if they did.
It probably gets better gas mileage that my 250. But cruising through the desert I only needed 10 liters after 200 miles, so about 75 mpg. I can live with that.
The sun was setting as I pulled into Hermosillo.
I checked my booklet on economical Mexican motels that I got from fellow inmate Sjoerd Bakker, and cruised to the cheapest one in town. But the prices have gone up in Hermosillo. They wanted 28 bucks for a basic room. I didn't really feel like stopping, and it was a full moon, so I kept riding. Of course you should never ride at night in Mexico, but I always do. So shoot me. The sun sets at 6:30 and it's dark by 7 in the winter. I wasn't tired, so kept riding through the moonlight. I put on all my warm clothes as it cooled down. It was magic riding through the desert in the moonlight. I pulled into Guaymas at around 10 and checked into the cheapest place in town which was 21 bucks (270 pesos). The places that used to be 10 are now 20 in northern Mexico. Fortuneately it gets cheaper as you head south.
Good Stuff. :clap
Thanks for posting.
So I woke up the next day and got an early start. The skies were blue and the weather quickly warmed up. It was a great day for riding. I soon left the northern state of Sonora and entered Sinaloa. I had been wondering how it would be passing slow trucks with a 250. It turned out to be a non-issue. Just downshift to 4th or 5th and crank the throttle. I was traveling light and found it easy to pass slow traffic on the long straight northern Mexican roads. I stopped to take a picture of one of the long trucks called Dobles parked on the side of the road.
These bad boys are 100 ft. long. A third of a football field. They have a 40 foot trailer tacked on to a regular 40 foot trailer and 20 foot cab. I would downshift twice and upshift at the middle trailer and shift into 6th as I was passing the front bumper. That little Super Sherpa can eat Dobles for lunch.
Sinaloa is a big agricultural area. So of course I had to stop and take a pic of the cornfields for my buddies back in Nebraska.
And this cornfield next to a fancy cemetery.
There were acres and acres of nice looking crops. There were a lot of Mercedes diesel transport trucks like this one loaded to the gills with tomatoes.
I passed alot of them out on the open road. Mexican drivers are courteous for the most part and often will move over on the shoulder if there is one to let you pass.
It was getting dark by the time I made it to Mazatlan, so I stopped for the night just south of town on the old highway at a place that was finally under 20 bucks at 200 pesos (16.00).
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