LoneStar: Texas to Uruapan, Mexico
Howdy folks! Been a while since I've done a ride report so I figured it's about time.
A couple of firsts on this ride - I've not been to Mexico on the GS, and this will be my first non-solo trip.
Hank, of "my 1995 GS has right at 475,000 miles on the clock" fame, runs his shop "MotoHank" in Dilley, Texas and had invited me to head south with him several times, but I was never able to coordinate. So when he invited me to go with him to the national BMW Rally in Uruapan, Mexico, I jumped at the chance. Hank has spent many years traveling in Mexico and Central America and I did what had to be done to make it happen.
Shortly before leaving, my GS began having intermittent issues of stumbling, and I spent my prep days chasing parts and ghosts. The mileage had dropped significantly to the 33 mpg range, and after new filters, pressure testing yada yada the consensus was to dope the fuel with as much injector cleaner as it could handle and hope for the best.
I packed the bike, filled the tank with gas and Gumout and headed south for Laredo. I stopped in briefly at MotoHank and dropped off a GoPro housing, where a disassembled KTM 950 "GO!" was being reassembled by its owner, Cullen. He'd ridden in from Nevada for the trip, was doing some last minute prep to his bike. I stood around and pointed at things while he worked and Hank supervised. From there I headed south to Laredo in a fierce headwind, serious heat and setting sun to swap cash for pesos and get some rest for our early morning rendezvous. MPG to Laredo was an unbelievable 29… not looking good. I didn't sleep well.
Exciting pics from the Motel 6:
Stuttering Stuttgart Sow… but I still love ya babe
Note the copious amounts of Pepto. There's a lot more stashed all over the bike.
Would you believe me if I told you those shorts were originally white?
High tech, eco friendly, usage of air - note that the position of insoles not only dries them, but deflects a tornadic air current into the sweaty boots. Pure genius in action.
Ok, I admit they're boring, but what else do you do in a Motel 6 besides count all the other creepy people?
MONDAY 8 A. M.
Plan was to meet in the parking lot next to the motel at 8 am and head for the border to beat the crowds, but Hank called and had had a fuel pump failure a couple blocks from his shop and was running late, so we had breakfast and met at 9:30. Riders were Hank and his girlfriend Sherry, Cullen from Nevada on his KTM 950, Jimmy from Texarkana on a 1200GS and Rob from Michigan on his 650 GS twin. In addition we had two other riders, Jim from Michigan and his son Matthew from Arizona, who were going to cross with us and then part ways in Monterrey.
Crossing the bridge, we had three pulled aside for inspections, and upon reaching the Aduana and Migracion offices we found few people in line. Benefits of a Monday morning. The process took a couple of hours and we were on our way into Nuevo Laredo, dodging and bobbing in traffic, seeing lots of armed polizia and federales, passing a large machine gun nest in front of the Holiday Inn Express.
We took off for Monterrey at high speed, about 140 miles away, and into a strong headwind. I watched as my fuel gauge went slowly down, my stomach sinking at the same rate. I didnt think I would make it, and looking at the bleak landscape all the way, I was already trying to figure out how long it would take on the side of the tollway before the gang would be able to come back and siphon gas for me.
The air was so hazy - whether smog or natural - that I was barely able to make out the shapes of mountains as we entered the region.
Just as my tank light came on at 115 miles, I began seeing signs of the city and we finally rolled in to a Pemex and filled up and ate a quick lunch.
I was wrestling with continuing since the bike was getting such poor mileage, but after filling with Pemex Premium and heading for Saltillo the gas gauge slowed its descent, and by the time we turned south towards Real De Catorce, the bike was beginning to feel like its old self. Filled up in Linares and afterwards I could tell the bike was getting straight again. I was finally able to relax a bit and check the scenery.
We raced south, passing innumerable "Vulca" or tire changing sheds and shacks, stacks of bagged onions or lemons on the inside lane, horses and sheep grazing the medians along the highway. At the speeds we were traveling 80-90, you need to be alert at all times.
We raced past a freshly rolled vehicle in the center median, the bodies having been drug out and surrounded by a crowd of locals, feeling that terrible sense of guilt in knowing there's nothing you can do.
It seemed we stopped for 25 toll stations, and I was frankly beginning to wonder if I'd changed enough cash into pesos at the rate I was handing it out.
The beautiful desert mountains rolled past as we flew along, with no time for photos in the race against a setting sun.
We finally reached the cut off for Cerda north of Matehuala, where we topped off on gas before turning onto the 12 mile cobblestone road up into the mountains. The road was an amazing site to see, and the vistas into the setting sun were beautiful. I snapped a quick pic while riding but the cobbles made it a challenge.
We did switchbacks up into the mountains until reaching the tunnel which leads into the old town of Real De Catorce. We waited for a truck to come through before paying a 20 peso toll and driving through.
I can't remember the length, but the old tunnel was several kilometers long, dark and musty. It was a great ride.
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Bursting out into the light and into the old town was like stepping back in time. Steep cobblestone streets and stone buildings, street vendors and crisp mountain air. The tiny streets are steep and rough, but it's a beautiful place. We found the hotel just about dusk, showered and went out for a meal in the darkness.
It was dark but here are a few shots
Real De Catorce is a spectacular place and anxious for daylight to explore!
I'm on board for this one.
Nice destination and nice time of year to be heading that way!
Going for Day of the Dead?
Ride safe, have fun and thanks for taking us along.
Awakened to the sounds of donkeys braying, roosters crowing, muffled voices and rattling pickup trucks on the rough cobblestone streets. Walked out into the early morning light and watched the children walking with mothers to school. Bleary eyed to say the least, having gone to sleep way too late and then being awakened by the TV coming on at 3 am at full volume.
Cullen and I had shared a room. Poor guy.
Our plan was to leave at 10 a.m., giving us time to do some exploring in the town after breakfast. There was mucho dawdling, mucho cafe' olla and cafe' con leche, sweet bread and a wonderful breakfast - on Mexico time. Didn't have enough time to really explore and photograph, as you could easily spend days doing such. But in the short time we had, we wandered the steep streets and I huffed and puffed my way up and down in the 9000' elevation.
A few pics from the wandering:
Let sleeping dogs lie
Remains of the night
We were geared up and ready to go by 10:30, and jumped the curb onto the polished cobblestones and wound up and down the tight streets until we reached the tunnel.
I fired up the GoPro and got some of the ride through the town and tunnel. As soon as I get a chance to upload it I'll add it in here…
REALLY COOL VIDEO COMING SOON RIGHT HERE :deal
The weather has been magnificent, stinging hot sun and crisp cool air with wonderful nights.
We wound back down the mountain and headed west for Zacatecas, which compared to yesterday will be a short day. We hit the road in force, Cullen quite a ways behind for a while. His KTM developed a problem with oil coming out the breather tube and coating the engine. Hasn't been serious but he's having to attend cleaning the oil off and has been creating ways of collecting the oil to minimize the spray.
We traveled at speeds ranging from 80-90 down into the altiplano, my eyes stinging in the crisp air despite having sunglasses and shield down. They were, in fact working like windshield washers and spraying my sunglasses. Sheesh. We motored on passing miles and miles of cactus, shepherds and sheep, road crews who waved and cheered as we rocketed past, me giving a big thumbs up as we passed.
We gassed up somewhere and Rob's 650, which has no trouble staying with the bigger bikes, had developed a disconcerting wobble at times. After a thorough check-over we believed it to be caused by the larger aftermarket windshield, which probably was not designed with those speeds in mind.
Hank's warning before leaving the gas stop was simply, "Stay right against the next bike's rear tire when we hit Zacatecas or you'll get split off by cabs immediately and never find the downtown plaza." Ok, great. My position has been tail of a five bike train, and I wasn't relishing the thought of trying to stay with them in insane traffic.
With that thought in mind, we reached the city and immediately the fun began. In a nutshell, that is the craziest high speed traffic riding I've ever done, trying to stick with Jimmy's rear tire through the mess, eventually just clearing my mind and charging past bumpers and blaring horns. As we came very fast down into a traffic circle, I hit both brakes, but felt my rear brake pedal go limp. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Rear brake non-existent.
To say my "Threat Level Midnight" pucker factor went to "Black Hole" in an instant is an understatement. I was praying the front didn't fail.
Thank God the front brake continued to work, but the rear never came back. We had to continue the insanity into the downtown centro district and I tried to decide whether I'd lay it down or simply try to slow as much as possible and aim for the side cases of Jimmy's 1200 in case the front brake failed as well. I tried several more times but the rear pedal had no pressure.
In the midst of the traffic race, a transit policeman pointed at me and blew his whistle for me to pull over, but I simply nailed the throttle and shot past him, to be frank, I didn't give a damn.
We finally pulled up in front of the main plaza, each of the guys parking the bikes and getting off with increasing degrees of sweat and red faces. Hank and Rob, both in the front of the pack, said "Hey that wasn't bad at all!". Jimmy calmly said, "You guys weren't riding the tail of the dragon…" Truer words were never spoken LOL.
I told Hank about the brakes, and checked again but the pedal pressure was back and pads appeared fine. It's possible I boiled the fluid, since we were really getting a workout, but I didn't use the rear much. Honestly I've drug the rear brake for much longer periods on Colorado mountain passes. Oh well, we'll see tomorrow.
Cullen and his KTM - seeing this wrenching scene on a daily basis
The view from our room really sucked
We checked into a nice hotel, then decided to take two cabs to the Museum of Masks and then up to the top of La Bufa which overlooks the city. We grabbed two cabs, and immediately our's turned the opposite direction of Hank's cab, and after a few minutes Rob, who is a linguistics genius and fluent in many, many languages asked the driver if he knew the way to the museum. He responded "no" then took us on a wild drive to the cab headquarters, running inside for information we guessed, then tore off into the city again. He finally stopped in the middle of the street, blocking traffic to go talk to another cabbie, then headed off yet again. We eventually reached the museum, which had closed since we were late.
So... we grabbed two more taxis and drove to the top of the mountain, enjoying the views and then took the cable car down and walked to the hotel.
View from the top
We eventually walked to an Argentinian restaurant and ate steaks in the evening air of the plaza. From there we grabbed two more cabs and went to get cafe' at the bar of the Quinta Real Hotel. What an amazing place it was. Literally built on the old bull fighting arena, its bar being the chamber where the bulls were kept.
Crazy cab ride!
Quinta Real - an amazing hotel
More tomorrow amigos! If my brakes work… :D
Hey LoneStar thanks for the post! Give my regards to Hank and Sherry. Enjoy the land of finite dissapointment and infinite hope. Its great to be able to travel along. Get your mojo working.
What was the name of the hotel you stayed in in Zacatecas ?
Zacatecas hotel looked like the Continental across from the Cathedral in the zona historico.
Great start...looking forward to more!
Great ride and superb pics LS:clap
Thanks for taking the time to do the report while you are traveling. It is fantastic! How is your GS running? Did overdosing it with injector cleaner fix the stuttering/stumbling problem?
The architecture is awesome. Thats the coolest hotel I ve ever scene.
Looking forward to more!
Well, today has been a long one, and I'm a little goofy at the moment so bear with me :norton
Did not get much sleep in Zacatecas, due to staying up til 2 am and then got up at 6 and loaded the ride report. We were to leave the garage at 9 am sharp.
Zacatecas is a city that reminds me of Rome in many ways, the only city I can compare it to since I've not been to Spain. It's a place that needs to be explored and discovered over several days, but I really liked it, despite the intensity of the traffic at the time we arrived.
At 6 am, the streets were completely deserted, and the cool air felt nice. I had planned to seek cafe' on the street, but decided to use the hotel breakfast bar instead. I was under the impression that breakfast was included, and after coffee and the ride report I walked out, only to be chased by the waiter as if I were a thief - for 22 pesos. All I had was a 500 peso bill, after all the tolls we'd paid had used up the smaller bills, and he turned his nose up. I went to the room and scraped up 21 pesos in coins, being 1 peso shy and upon paying him swore I'd return yet again with a peso. We had paid 1700 pesos for the room, and you'd think they could spare a cup of cafe' but "no" :lol3
Have to laugh as both Cullen and I have been squeezed for pesos in smaller denominations, and at gas stops we swap and loan pesos back and forth both for gas and the ever present toll booths. Showing a 500 peso bill seems to scare folks and they refuse to accept them. The tolls have ranged significantly in price so you never know if you've got enough small bills or big ones
We were loaded and idling by about 9:15 am, my mind wondering about the brake issue as we climbed the steep ramp up and into the streets, still subdued at that time of day. I tried extremely hard to stay off the brakes with gearing, expecting failure at any moment. We eventually made it out of the city and onto the highways heading for Aguascaliente at high speed. I rode a ways behind as we progressed until the brakes proved. When we reached Aguas, we fell into the thick traffic and narrow streets of the centro district, searching for the way south to Leon. Our plan had been to reach Leon, then go west and catch 37 down to Uruapan to get off the tollways.
Lets just say that there was no Aguas and plenty of Caliente. It was hot, we were sweating and seemed to wander back and forth in the town until finally a cabby got us going the correct direction. He also warned us that 37 was loaded with trucks and we should stay on the tollways to Morelia instead. With the heat and traffic, I had forgotten to worry about the brakes which were working better, just a little weaker than usual.
When we finally broke free of town and got going south, the wind felt wonderful and my temp gauge returned to 5 from it's 9 position idling in traffic.
Descending into the volcanic region near Morelia, it was very cool to see a volcano off to the left, with either clouds or steam covering the top. The region had much water and hills, usual in an area of calderas. Quite a change from the desert scrub we'd been in.
When we finally reached Morelia, I had the ride of my life. Traffic thickened, and again being on the tail it was a major workout to stay with Hank. There was a huge traffic jam that slowed to a stall, in which a three lane road suddenly held five lanes of traffic. The lane splitting began, at which point we all eventually were separated. It was my first time to ride like that, literally pushing your way in and out of cars, squeezing within an inch or less between buses, cabs, cars and semis.
If ever I wish I'd had my GoPro helmet cam on and running, it was then. I would see Hank several cars ahead in one lane, Cullen passing in a ditch to the right, Jimmy behind me at one moment, then ahead in another lane the next. I'd cut between semis and ride the right side ditch and see no one, then see Rob passing two lanes over and no sign of anyone. Then be wedged and going nowhere only to see Hank pass from behind three "lanes" over, me having no idea how he ended up behind. It was true craziness.
Eventually the bottleneck cleared and we all seemed to morph back together. Then the real fun began.
A couple miles up the road the traffic thickened into another mass, and we again ended up separated and wrestling, only this time the traffic moving at some speed. I have to admit, the adrenaline grabs you and it becomes such a rush you forget about the dangers and just go for it. I have not had such a rush since I raced motocross long ago. Amidst this chaos I'll simply say I saw mirrors knocked off cars, paint scraped and other similar things… not by me I'll add :D
I finally broke free and got moving again only to see Rob parked and waiting on the side. I pulled over to talk to him and another pulled up behind me. We assumed the two others were long gone ahead of us and decided to ride on a short ways. We stopped at a crazy intersection and were trying to decide what to do when from behind we heard yelling "Go to the right, go to the right!!!" I did a hard right and was passed by the group and a cab in hard acceleration. We weaved and bobbed, eventually getting to a place where we pulled over for gas. When I took my jacket off, water literally ran out. We were all beat and just rested like sweaty zombies. I found out that the cab had been chasing someone.
Weird thing is, I totally enjoyed the experience.
We got moving again for Uruapan, leaving the volcanic region and quickly climbed into hillls, trees, and pines. It was surreal after so much time in the desert areas.
The "fun" continued as we had to race to get to the rally before dark and get the hotel, get registered and attend the event. With that in mind, we followed the typical rules of the road in Mejico. Slower vehicles to the right and passing at speed to the left. In the undulating hills and mountains, we flew along, flashing past semi's, cars and anything slow.
Most memorable pass of my day? Well there were several, but I think the one that takes the cake was the uphill pass I made of a huge tourist coach, which decided to suddenly pull out to pass a slow semi on the uphill, which forced me to pass the coach and semi simultaneously, me completely on the far shoulder of the opposite lane. I won't mention the speed nor the oncoming traffic.
To put all this in perspective, I ride safely and conservatively generally, but I have never ridden in such a hooligan fashion in my life. I will say that you don't have much of a choice at times, as people pass you at speeds well over a hundred, on blind uphills and corners, and you have oncoming trucks and cars in your lane passing other folks. You simply move over as they flash past. Its a weirdly dangerous and effective dance, that somehow works.
Finally upon reaching Uruapan, as we pulled into town there was a group of folks waving and cheering for us and it was pretty cool. As we got deeper into the town, I could tell it was very different than the others, more of what I'd imagine a Central or South American town would be like. The people looked different, the town was older and dirtier, but I liked the feeling.
As we motored along the streets, people would stare and wave. They were not used to seeing the bikes and riders. We had smaller motorcycles pull alongside to ride with us and smile. When we reached the main square, there were large parking areas filled with BMW's and a street literally lined bumper to bumper with Federal Police trucks for an entire block.
We have continually passed through road blocks by the military, state and federal police, having been pulled over by masked men in the black uniforms to check papers and look us over, but the police were out in full force for the rally.
We eventually found the hotel and a gaggle of BMW's on the street. We pulled in weary, worn and windbeaten. I pulled my helmet off, sweaty hair hanging in my face and got off the bike. People on the sidewalks were taking pictures of us and standing around. I turned around and a young lady ran up to me and in spanish asked if she could have her picture taken with me. I was so shocked, so smelly and so sweaty I simply burst out laughing. Her boyfriend asked me to put my arm around her and smile and he composed the shot to frame us with the bike.
That was certainly a "first" amongst a day of "firsts."
The hotel staff were excited to help us, and as we checked in and generally sorted things more and more riders began arriving. Cullen and I dragged gear in and then rode down the street to the secure parking garage, where he began checking the success of his crankcase breather hose collection bottle. He'd rigged a coke bottle, stuffed with a rag to collect his oil residue. It had worked well indeed.
Hard to see but the upside down coke bottle stuffed with a rag
I have a lot of pics of Cullen tinkering on his bike, but it's very well sorted and he really maintains it - didn't want to give the impression he's having bike issues constantly.
And speaking of bike issues, my GS has begun to run much better. From a low of 27 mpg from Laredo to Monterrey, the bike has steadily climbed to 39 mpg - and that 39 is at sustained 85 mph for 120-150 mile stretches. With the wind drag of my height, weight and fully loaded bike I'll take that any day. We have been at altitudes of 6000 to 9000', and my GS always gets great mileage in thin air, but I'm gettin' happy :lol3 As to the brake issue I'm getting some weird ABS faults and resets, but the brakes are working, both being a bit weaker. I'm truly hoping the fluid has just gone past its prime and a good flush and fill will solve the issue. At any rate, today's insanity tested them well and I didn't lose the rear, though I worked hard not to use it.
After check-in, Hank and I wandered over to register, ogling the vendors, bikes and multitudes of riders. Of course I don't have a clue of what's being said since I speak no spanish, but smiling a lot seems to help. Seriously though, the people have been so nice.
If you look closely you'll see the street is lined bumper to bumper with Federal Police trucks with belt fed machine guns. We assume they were there for the rally
Snagged some swag
After registration they bussed us to the main event at another hotel - entertainment, fresh cooked tamales and enchiladas, drinks and local music.
We mingled and had a great time, despite the fatigue of a very long and very stressful day. I met so many nice folks, who went out of their way to accommodate me by speaking in English as best as they could.
Truly a wild, woolly and rich day.
Ned addresses brake fluid boil over by only using
AP Racing PRF Brake Fluid
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