Sometime during this past year, while researching great places to ride in the southwest and Mexico, I read something about Copper Canyon. To be honest, I had never heard of it before, but I decided I really should go see it since it’s not that far from southern Arizona. As usual, I spent many hours researching and planning, studying maps, GPS tracks and ride reports by others who have made the journey. I wasn’t sure when I’d go, but I knew if I was prepared the opportunity would arise.
For those who may be interested, more information about my general preparation for riding in Mexico can be found here
I was headed back to AZ in October and thought that might be an opportunity for a short scouting trip down to the Copper Canyon area, so I made sure I had everything I’d need if I decided to go for it. A few days after arriving in AZ I decided this was the time. It was the perfect time of year, I had done all the necessary planning, and I was going.
There was one more thing I needed to do, however - get my travel permits. Most people do this when they enter Mexico, but since I was staying so close to the border I decided to ride down to Douglas, cross over to Agua Prieta and take care of it before the trip because I knew the first day of the trip I had planned would be a long day and I didn’t want to waste any time then.
I went to Agua Prieta and got my permits on Friday. It was easy to do there since everything is right at the border crossing. It didn’t take very long, and would have been even faster if I spoke any Spanish. Fortunately, there was one guy there who spoke a little English. Everyone there was friendly and helpful, and I got permits for myself and my motorcycle, which will allow me to travel anywhere in Mexico for the next six months.
And so . . . the journey begins.
Monday October 22th . . . all packed up and ready to roll.
I left Sierra Vista AZ a little after 6:00 am headed for Douglas. By 7:30 I was in Mexico, had made my way through Agua Prieta and was headed south on MEX-14 toward Hermosillo.
My plan was to take the scenic route to Hermosillo, then ride across MEX-16, which I had heard is a spectacular ride. This certainly wasn’t the shortest route to Copper Canyon, but I figured I’d be able to accomplish a few things this way; ride MEX-16, get familiar with the general Copper Canyon area, and get familiar with more area overall, like Hermosillo and the road to get there. As much as anything, I really just wanted to gather information to see if I might want to make a longer trip to the area in the future, and if I did I'd have a general knowledge of the area and be able to make the most of a longer trip.
The road south from Agua Prieta passed through a sparsely populated area, occasionally passing by tiny villages. There are a few actual little towns along the way and fuel was available in a few places along the way so that was not an issue. It’s about 240 miles from Agua Prieta to Hermosillo so I decided to get fuel in Moctezuma, which is about the halfway point.
Most of the way to Moctezuma was relatively unexciting, but the next 50-75 miles beyond Moctezuma the road twisted through the mountains and was a lot more fun, with some nice mountain views.
I reached Hermosillo shortly after noon. I had no plans to stop, except for fuel before heading into the mountains on MEX-16. Hermosillo is a good-sized city and I was paying more attention to my GPS than anything else, just trying to get through there. I missed one turn, but was able to turn around and get right back on track pretty quickly - maybe a little too quickly . . .
As I merged with the traffic flow and accelerated over to the center lane I noticed a Police Officer standing on the side of the road waving me over. Dang. As I slowed down and pulled over I noticed there were several officers, a couple Police cars, and a couple other cars pulled over. As the officer walked over to me I noticed he was carrying a radar gun so I presumed he was going to tell me I was speeding. They obviously had a speed trap set up. I don’t think I was really going any faster than the flow of traffic, but I was one of the lucky ones they decided to stop.
I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t really nervous about being stopped. I just got off my bike, took off my helmet and got my driver’s license out. I was really curious how this was going to play out.
The officer was very friendly and after looking at my Maine license plate asked me where I was from, where I was headed, etc. He was being very nice, and so was I, but I had a feeling he was trying to feel me out, just as much as I was him. After several minutes of chat, he mentioned that I would have to pay a ticket. He seemed to be implying that I would pay him, and he hadn’t written any ticket yet so I figured he was going to pocket the money. I asked how much, and he said “600 Pesos”, which is about $50 USD. By the way, he barely spoke any English, and I barely speak any Spanish, but we managed to communicate fairly well somehow, albeit slowly. Anyway, I thought $50 was a little too much so I started asking him for the ticket and where I would go to pay it. I figured this, along with the language barrier might help me at least bargain him down some. It took a while, but after maybe twenty minutes or so he finally handed me back my driver’s license and said if I paid the ticket now I could go. So, once again I asked how much, and this time he said “you decide” - I wasn’t expecting that! It was obvious at this point that we both knew what was going on and he just wanted to get a few bucks and let me go so I held out $200 pesos, which he gladly accepted, then shook my hand, wished me good luck and a safe journey, and walked away. It was an interesting encounter and a learning experience, and all in all for a little less than $20 USD I was on my way, which in many ways is a lot better than a US speeding ticket.
After that I was on my way, headed east on MEX-16 away from Hermosillo, and civilization in general. I had a lot of ground to cover so there was not much picture-taking today.
Fueling up in Tecoripa . . . fuel is scarce in this area.
I covered a total of 465 miles and ended up in a decent little hotel in Yecora. I was hoping to make it to Basaseachic Falls, but the sun sets early if you're on the wrong side of the mountain. I was making good time until about 75 miles east of Hermosillo on MEX-16, then the next 100 miles was like the Tail of the Dragon all the way - the longest, twistiest mountain road I've ever seen, and I still had a long way to go on it!
Hotel King in Yecora . . . very friendly folks, a pretty decent room (miles from nowhere), and it seemed pretty secure.
The only stops all day were for fuel and a couple pictures. I passed through a few military checkpoints, but they were just like the ones in Baja - manned mostly by young guys whose eyes light up as they’re looking over my bike. They always ask me about the bike, but I never know what they’re saying. I smile, they smile, they say some things, I say some things, but nobody understands much of anything. Occasionally they look in my saddlebags, but the stops are always short and the soldiers are always friendly and smiling at me as they watch me ride way. I wish I could speak with them a little - they seem so interested in the bike. A little after 4:00 pm, about ten minutes after the last military checkpoint I stopped at, which was at the intersection of MEX-16 and the road that heads south toward Rosario, I saw a fairly large, black, furry animal with a long tail run across the road not far ahead of me - I’d love to know what it was if anyone has any ideas. Other than a lot of birds, that was the only wildlife I saw.
Should make it to Copper Canyon tomorrow, planning on a lot more pictures then, but it may be days before I see the internet again - can't believe they actually have internet access at this hotel here in Yecora.