When I got up Wednesday morning and looked out the front door of the cabin I realized I had made a good decision not to camp at the lake. The layer of ice on my bike indicated that it had obviously gotten pretty cold overnight.
I wasnít too surprised by the cold considering the elevation, and that was a small factor in deciding not to make a run to Batopilas. I knew it would be too cold for an early morning start, which might have at least given me enough time to get in and out of Batopilas in one day, even if it was just back out to Guachochi. I also figured trying to make a run to Batopilas just for a quick stop wasnít really worth the time and effort since based on what Iíd seen so far I was already pretty sure Iíd be returning for a longer visit in the near future. I decided to save Batopilas for the next trip when Iíll plan to spend several days exploring the area properly.
Looking back at town. There were some low hanging clouds.
I had a GPS track that I wasnít sure Iíd be using this trip, but after seeing the big valley leading into the Copper Canyon area I decided to follow that track home. It appeared to follow some secondary roads north through the valley, and looked like it was probably the most direct route back to Sierra Vista anyway. I had a feeling it might be a nice ride, and if they turned out to be nice roads that I could make decent time on it could be a great route to get from AZ to Creel in one dayís ride, about 450 miles.
I had ridden so many miles through twisty mountain roads the past couple days I was hoping for a change of pace, and wondering how far north the big valley went. What I had seen so far was some really nice farmland.
When I reached the intersection with MEX-16 after heading north from Creel I noticed a lot of new towers being built for carrying big power lines. There seems to be a lot going on in the area and between paving the road to Batopilas and the obvious effort to bring a lot more electricity into Copper Canyon, it appears the area is growing . . . or at least someone is trying to aid in its ability to expand. If youíre thinking about going to Copper Canyon . . . go soon.
As I headed north on Route 31 I was impressed with how beautiful the farmland was and how different it was from all the mountains I had ridden through. There were huge apple orchards, fields of corn, and there appeared to be a variety of other crops as well. I passed through an occasional small town and these towns seemed to be doing comparatively well . . . surviving on the farmland. These towns looked nicer than many others Iíve passed through in Mexico.
One particularly nice looking town was Guerrero, only about twelve miles north of MEX-16. I was really surprised when I rolled into town - it was much nicer, and a little bigger than I expected. Iíd like to try to spend an hour or so walking around there next time through. I pulled over at an intersection to take a couple pictures, but the best looking end of town was behind me. I took a picture of the corner vendor, and then put my camera away and when I looked up again the vendor who had been leaning against his pick-up truck was standing next to me. I was a little surprised to see him there, but he just smiled and asked me where I was from - in very good English. Itís always great to actually be able to speak to someone. I always tell people Iím from Maine (because I am, and my bike has a ME plate), but in Mexico nobody has ever heard of Maine, they just look at me when I say Maine and say ďUSAĒ? One of these days Iím going to get a map to carry with me to show them where Maine is relative to Mexico. Anyway, he seemed like a very pleasant guy and I couldnít help but wonder where he was from, when I asked he pointed to the ground and said ďright here.Ē I told him Guerrero looked like a very nice little town and he seemed anxious to tell me what a nice place it was and that everyone there was easy going and friendly. He asked if I was staying for a while and when I told him I was just passing through he seemed disappointed and told me to come back and spend more time there sometime. He seemed very proud of his little town of Guerrero.
Occasionally I would pass through areas where trees lined the road . . . it was very pretty and the October leaves were turning color.
I rode for miles and miles through the big valley, still at about 7,500 ft. elevation . . . it seemed to go on forever, and it was beautiful.
A couple times I came across a few miles of twisty road through some big hills, but then Iíd be right back in the valley again.
I passed a few hay-wagons along the way.
Computer diagnostics for all kinds of vehicles at the ďCiber ShopĒ - seemed a little out of place.
Eventually the valley narrowed some and appeared to become more ranch land than farmland
Doing things the old fashioned way
After riding through the valley for 150 miles (all at about 7,500 ft. elevation) I hit about a ten-mile long stretch of road that wound through some mountains.
Dogs are everywhere in Mexico. This one was miles from any home or people. It was scrounging for road kill and wagged its tail every time I said something to it.
I began to descend and I could tell I was finally heading for lower elevation because the air was warming, the grass was turning to dirt, and trees were becoming cactus. I checked my GPS and I had dropped to about 5,500 ft. elevation when I came out the other side of the mountains onto a lower valley/plateau. I had been riding for several hours with my jacket all zipped up and a sweatshirt underneath, but it seemed a good ten degrees warmer all of a sudden and I had to stop to remove the sweatshirt and open all the vents on my jacket. The valley at 7,500 ft. and surrounding mountains reminded me of Wyoming, but at this lower elevation it was just like Arizona.
At this point I still had a couple hundred miles to go to reach the border, but I had been making good time on this route and it looked like I could easily make it back to Sierra Vista today. I donít like riding at night anywhere, especially in Mexico, and typically avoid it, but it looked like Iíd reach home right around dusk so I continued north to the AZ border.
I passed through a few towns along the way. Casas Grandes was one of the bigger ones and I tried to stop at a nice looking roadside taco stand because I hadnít eaten much all day, but it was about two minutes after 2:00 oíclock and they were closing up for the afternoon siesta so no taco for me. Itís hard to get used to things closing from 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon, but many do, including some Pemex stations.
I kept going north and the scenery stayed about the same most of the way until I reached the last fifty miles of MEX-2, which runs along the US-Mex border within less than a mile in places. It was a little strange being within a mile of the US and knowing I still had to travel fifty miles before I could cross. And it was a little different running along the border on the Mexican side so close that I could see the border fence in some places.
After a few miles of riding through a big field along the border, the road climbed into some mountains, and once again I was riding twisty mountain roads. I wasnít really expecting that, but it turned out to be a really nice ride through the mountains most of the way to Agua Prieta.
Surprisingly, this twisty mountain road was obviously a popular trucking route. I saw many eighteen-wheelers through here, probably more than I had seen in the past few days. There were even a number of double-long rigs winding through there. Some of the curves were so tight they could barely make it and they were just barely crawling along. They were obviously in radio communication with the other trucks because some were stopped at certain points waiting for others doubles to come through because they would not be able to pass on certain curvy sections of the road.
After a while I came back down out of the mountains to level ground again near Agua Prieta. Then, I came up behind a long line of trucks stopped in the road. At first I wasnít sure why. I thought maybe there had been an accident or breakdown, but I also suspected it might be another military checkpoint - I just couldnít tell because there were trucks stopped ahead of me as far as I could see. I had been through many military checkpoints over the last three days and they had become fairly routine. I noticed a dirt road alongside the paved road and was giving it a good look considering passing everyone on the dirt, but I thought that might not end well if come flying up to a military checkpoint. I wasnít too keen on sitting there for an hour or more, and about then a guy came walking up from alongside the truck ahead of me. Of course he didnít speak English, but he kept motioning for me to go down on the dirt road. After a couple minutes of that I decided to go for it, but slowly and cautiously. A couple hundred yards up the dirt road I could see that it was in fact a military checkpoint, but there was a car and a couple pickup trucks ahead of me on the dirt. Apparently, all smaller vehicles passed on the dirt while the big trucks were checked out on the road. The military guys had a separate setup on the dirt so everything was good. I made it through there pretty quickly and was on my way again.
The border fence just east of Agua Prieta
Shortly after the checkpoint I was making my way through Agua Prieta, and across the border to Douglas back in the good old USA. I wanted to drain as much Mexican fuel as possible so I continued on to Bisbee and fueled up there a little after 5:00 pm. A half hour later I was back home in Sierra Vista.
It was a great ride and a very successful scouting mission for future rides. Each day turned out to be very different. The first day riding from Agua Prieta to Hermosillo, dealing with the crooked cop, and then riding halfway across the spectacular MEX-16 to Yecora. The second day riding the rest of the way across MEX-16, then south to Creel and Copper Canyon, almost being crushed by construction debris, then finding the perfect little cabin. And day three, riding back out of Copper Canyon and north through the beautiful farmland and nice little towns along the way.
I marked all the fuel stops I saw, and a number of places to stay and points of interest along the way for future use. Iím glad I took the time to go the long way and ride MEX-16 because that road is unbelievable. Even the crooked cop in Hermosillo turned out to be a harmless, yet valuable learning experience. Iím also glad I decided to take the route home north through the big valley because it turned out to be a very nice ride and now I know I can easily get to Creel in one day from AZ via that route.
For anyone thatís thinking they might like to go to Copper Canyon someday . . . do it, you will not be disappointed. Itís a unique and beautiful place full of friendly people. Next time Iíll plan to spend a day getting there, and then spend several days in the area exploring more of the back roads and meandering down to Batopilas the back way.