Well, today has been a long one, and I'm a little goofy at the moment so bear with me
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"
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
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
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.