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Old 04-02-2008, 09:56 PM   #16
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Michoacan Day

Day 9. Palm Sunday, Mar 16, 2008 Mazamitla to Acámbaro, 284 miles

Spent the morning in Mazamitla, hanging around the church, watching Palm Sunday. I'm chums with the people making the palm thingys by now. I hung with them last night.

Mazamitla, Palm Sunday

Food stalls at the market

Typical Mexican juice stand

Between 10 and 11 the young kids started showing up at the market eatery. These were the guys who partied all night, it was obvious who was hungover and who not.

As my style, I pulled out at about noon. Explored back roads from Mazamitla to Valle Juarez to Tocumbo (the back way), Los Reyes, Angahuan, Corpu to Paracho (again, the back way).

Day 9, Explored back roads from Mazamitla to Los Reyes to Paracho

Tocumbo is the birthplace of the Michoacana ice cream chain. It all started right here and made the whole extended family rich. It is HOT in Tocumbo and Reyes. I shed my riding jacket for the first time.

It's Indian country around Zacán, Angahuan, Corpu, and San Felipe. Having a great time. Just stopping to ask directions turns into a cultural event, I'm presented a chair, asked to sit down, offered a place to sleep. These people are amazing. Wear funny hats. A funky backwoods church service in a village I didn't catch the name of, with the same palm fans they were selling in Mazamitla, must be Palm Sunday. Saw a group of about 15 old men in Cherán, all sitting on a low wall, all wearing the same kind of hats. A couple of them make twinkling eye contact with me. They recognize the spirit I carry. And I kick myself for not stopping. Why didn't I stop?? They were practically asking me to. But I'm bent for home now. Heading north. Put the camera away. No more time for cultural exchange. Head home.

Just stopping to ask directions becomes a cultural event

Michoacan, near Paracho

Paracho looks like a good place to base out from. And the stretch of road between Paracho, to Cherán and Corapán is amazing. Volcano alley. Pine trees from Zacán to Corapán. Farming out around Corpu and San Felipe. These are all hamlets near Paracho, north of Uruapan, in the state of Michoacan. I stop and bundle up. Getting muy cold again.

Ok, playtime over. Time to go home. From Carapan I head north to the big super highway toll road running between Guadalajara and Mexico City. Once again I screw up and take the long way to a Cuota road. Again, kick myself in the rear. Why didn't I just go to Zacapu? I went for the safety of the Cuota and went backwards. Could've been in big Zacapu.

Alone on the Cuota
I get on the Cuota superhighway headed east. It's night time but the Cuotas are easy at night. Right? 'Cept it is freezing *** cold tonight. And there's absolutely nothing on the Cuota roads. No bill boards, no hotels, no service stations, no rest areas, nothing. You are just out there, in the middle of the stars and cold and blackness. There's not even any traffic. What am I doing out here? I'm freezing, and I'm tired. I plan to exit the toll road at Acámbaro, (pronounced ah-CAHM-barrow, practically dropping the first "a" altogether). Well, by midnight I'm so sleepy I miscalculate and miss the correct Acámbaro exit lane when it finally comes. Mistakenly I pay another $10 to head on to Mexico City, then have to go back against traffic and cross the tollroad illegally to catch the exit coming from the opposite direction and end up having to pay again. Ahhagh!

Motel California
It's past midnight and I can find no worthwhile hotels in Acámbaro. In fact, there is nothing worthwile in Acámbaro. It is one podunk town. After crisscrossing the pueblo various times I settle at Motel California on the hwy headed out the farside of town. It's an $18, bare minimum hotel. 4 walls, large room with clean tile floors, no furniture, double mattress is on a cement platform, with night tables built into the walls and floors. No toilet seat, no shower curtain. But plenty of hot water and good lighting. It's a lot better than sleeping outside, I tell myself, and the bike is in its own little garage right next to my door.
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Old 04-03-2008, 08:41 AM   #17
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Thanks for taking the time to write this up and post pictures. I have also traveled to Mexico solo on my K1200RS and like you have found the people very friendly.
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Old 04-03-2008, 05:29 PM   #18
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Going home? Not so fast.

Day 10, Monday Mar 17, 2008, Acámbaro to Zimapan, Hidalgo, 152 miles

Motel California, Spartan room, $18

Motel California

Being a bad boy
I have two days to get home. After carefully studying all my maps and options this morning, I decide I really can't go to Zimapan and Tamachunchale on my way back home. After all, it would be 1020 miles from Acámbaro to Austin, via Zimapan (Hwy 120 to San Juan del Rio, Tequisquiapan, Cadereyta, then cut across to Zimapan and Hwy 85 (mountains), to Tamachunchale, Cd Valles, and on to Reynosa/McAllen). On the otherhand it's a more palatable 870 miles from Acámbaro to Austin via the more traditional Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Saltillo, etc 4-lane slab route. Yeah, I decided Zimapan was definitely out. Can't afford the time. It's pay-back time. The long putt home. And I was so not looking forward to 2 days of Interstate style highways.

Then, I just said, to heck with it. And did what I dang well pleased anyway, regardless of rationality, and ended up in Zimapan, stuck, well, that is its impossible to make it home by Wednesday morning from here. I guess this is just one of the things that happen when I travel alone.

Chemin, tha man
An amazing thing happened today. I left my little basic motel, all clean and fresh headed home, got 30 miles into the ride and my dang clutch cable snaps. Well, that's it I thought. The nearest Harley dealer is Leon. Leave the bike, go home, return for it later.

I had pulled over into a kind of a rest area outside of Jejécuaro. I was having trouble shifting gears. Well, no wonder the cable was on it's last thread which snapped before my very eyes. So then an ambulance pulls up, and Jose speaks some English, he used to live in Arkansas. (These days, EVERYONE has put some time in the States and they love to practice their English.) So the ambulance guy, Jose, says he has a fire to attend to but he'll be back. Next thing you know he's back with a couple of guys that start right in dismantling the clutch cable. I'm wanting to be broke down in San Juan del Rio, but I'm thinking "whatever", at the same time trying to maintain some control over the situation. The clutch cable is useless anyway. Well Chemin is one of these hyper guys like on natural speed. Talks so fast and into everything, I'm saying, "Hey, tranquilo, dude". Jose the ambulance guy's got to go pick up some dead person. Chemin and his ayudante disappear down the road walking, with my clutch cable.
"Hey," I holler at 'em. They stop. "You got a phone number or something, just in case?"
Oh, yeah, the ayudante has a cell phone, #'s exchanged. Jeez.

I hate it when this happens

Well there's a rest area here cause its the local fishing and swimming hole. A couple of dudes are down by the water smoking pot. Another one fishing. A young couple are meticulously detailing their beat up car. I'm, like, chillin'. Many people stop and ask if I need help. Mostly they know some English.

So next, another Jose pulls up in a pick-up truck and says he's here to help me buy a new clutch cable. Turns out he's completely unrelated to the other folks already helping me, he just heard in town some Gringo on a Harley was broke down out at the fishing hole. So the word has spread. Well luckily I have a little piece of paper as to where the clutch cable went and, well of course he knows Chemin so off we go into town to find Chemin.

Wait. The bike? With all my luggage? Well I guess I forgot to mention this other old dude, didn't catch his name, who is selling bee honey and flower pollen there at the rest area/swimming hole. So everyone knows everyone and we get the honey dealer to promise to watch the bike, which is out in the middle of the open area, albeit partially dismantled. Tools lying around. Did I mention I had to remove the battery support to get to the clutch cable? Oh, yeah. Had to tell Chemin, "cool it! I'll do this part". (4th time this trip for me but who's counting.)

Anyway, Jose used to pick grapes in California, and we find Chemin. He's wearing glasses now which make him look more intelligent, at first I don't even recognize him. So Chemin has done a bang-up job wielding a blob onto the end of the clutch cable and then milling it to exactly fit the clutch lever.

Back to the bike at the fishing hole we reassemble, do a parting final tool check, (Chemin's impressed I have "puro Craftsman"), and then a test ride. The ambulance guy returns, and we are all one happy family. I am basically flabbergasted.

3 hours after loosing my clutch I'm riding off down the road shaking my head in sheer disbelief. Chemin charged me $10 for the wield job, and Jose with the pickup truck refused any compensation at all. I didn't get anyone's address. I visualize Jose, the ambulance guy just cruising around doing good deeds.

My crew. L to R, Jose the ambulance guy, Chemin, the honey dealer, Jose with the pickup truck


Zimapan reservoir
Part of the purpose of this insane excursion into the mountains when I should be headed home was partly to check out the tunnels at the Zimapan reservoir. Three in all, one a mile long. The dam itself is an amazing project, damming up a huge narrow slot canyon with sheer walls. Army guys with submachine guns are guarding the dam pretty well, no stopping allowed here. Got to love Mexican simplicity. No wands, body searches or car searches. Just guys with submachine guns pointed at you, motioning, move on. Any questions?

The Hornet and the Zimapan reservoir

The first tunnel. You can see cars coming and going.

Day 10,Acámbaro to Zimapan, Hidalgo

Had a great hotel room in Zimapan. Two rooms, nicely furnished, original 1940's furniture it looked like, huge tiled bath, great old fashioned style place currently being renovated. $25.

There was a carnival in town, with amusement rides and such, set up right in the town square, in front of the church, and so the night was hoppin'. I was so starved, having not eaten all day, (didn't want to waste the daylight) I went around to all the sidewalk stands and had one of everything. Tacos, pizza and hamburgers. They make their 'burgers here with ham added on top of the meat paddy. The town has a wild west feel, some buildings look right out of a spaghetti western. Like I said, it was hoppin'. Everybody having a grand time. Loud music, jivin' DJ on loud speakers. Whoopin' and screams from the rides.

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Old 04-03-2008, 05:47 PM   #19
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Nice pics and write up. More!
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Old 04-03-2008, 05:52 PM   #20
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The long putt home

Day 11, Tuesday, Mar 18, Zimapan to the Hotel Rancho Viejo, approx 430 miles, 17 hours in the saddle!
Why approximately 430 miles? Cause my speedo cable ate it today.

Classic funk in Zimapan

$25, good value. Yes that's my "purse" on the bed.

Downtown Zimapan

Zimapan police station. Wild west or What?

I loved this sign for its simplicity. Any questions?

View from the old Pan American Highway, near Zimapan

One of my last photos in Mexico. The Pan Am Hwy between Zimapan & Jacala

When we removed the clutch cable, uhhh, guess that was yesterday, there was a zip-tie joining the clutch and speedometer cables. I cut the zip-tie off and then completely forgot about it. Well, it was there for a reason and today somehow the speedo cable got into a bind and... is now toast. Other than that, the 'Hornet keeps on a puttin' along. Motor is sound, no leaks and clutch cable is holding. Good ole Hornet. Take papa home.

The local loop
I've heard the local moto clubs do a big loop, starting out say in Xilitla, Hwy 120 across the Sierra Gorda to Jalpan, and down out of the mtns into the semi desert to Bernal. From Bernal east to Zimapan, Hwy 85 north to Tamachuncharle and Hwy 120 back to Xilitla. Or some variation thereof.

I was told it would take 4½ hours to travel the 100 miles from Zimapan to Tamachunchale. Well it took me 5½ hours. The first 43 miles, to Jacala, is the most spectacular I thought. Cardon cactus giving way to pine trees, cool air, spectacular scenery. I didn't like the stretch between Jacala and Chapulhuacan as much, though it was amazing enough, mountainous.
The road, Hwy 85 is part of the original Pan-American Highway and an engineering marvel, constantly twisting and banking. Great motorcycle road, I'm thinking it may be better than Hwy 120 from Jalpan to Bernal, but then this Hwy 85 seems soooo long.

From Chapulhuacan to Tamachunchale the road descends into the valleys, lush vegetation, hot. Tamachunchale, with such an exotic name, ain't much to look at. It ain't in the mountains, its at the bottom of the mountains. Hot and stuffed with mind numbing traffic. Traffic coming south was backed up for a good mile.

The road actually straightens out between Tamachunchale & Ciudad Valles, but this welcome development is tempered by the fact that there are now speed bumps spaced every 4-5 kilometers along the way, making slow going. It's HOT HOT HOT. Orange growing country. Piles of oranges everywhere. Fresh, cold O.J. at $1 a liter. Yumm. And HOT. Really Hot.
The people are different here. Shorter, more slender, darker. Huastec Indians. I see thatched roofed houses for the first time this trip. This is what's called the Huasteca.

Familiar territory
I'm in familiar territory now. In Ciudad Valles (3:15 pm, traffic) I stop (feel the heat) at my favorite place, the Bonanza Restaurant, where they had a buffet waiting for me. I was hot, dirty, and burnt. I must've looked a frightful sight 'cause the waiter immediately handed me a glass of cold Tamarindo water, without my even asking. I drank about 6 of 'em, cleaned up, ate all the food on my plate. Topped off with dessert and coffee. This is a great place, open 24/7, just good eats. Popular with the locals.

Out of pesos
Well, in Valles over coffee and dessert I reflect. I am now only 700 miles from Austin, it's 4:30 pm Tuesday and I'm out of pesos. Don't know if I'm up for this but off I go. The road is straight, true, and fast to Ciudad Mante, minimal traffic and no speed bumps. Round houses with thatched roofs. This is the Gulf coastal plain. Then crossing over the cane fields of Xicotenatle, there is a raging dust storm. Turns the mountains a dull grey, turns the sky a yellowish beige. The low sun a dull golden area of the sky. Dull grey haze filters over everything. Is that smoke? No, it's dirt... The wind is outrageous. When I stop I fear it will blow my bike over. (I'm lookin' at my bike out of the corner of my eye, thinking, no, can't happen.) Ahh well, what's a trip to Mexico without a dust storm?

Mexican night riding
New Hwy 81(?) connecting Tampico and Victoria. Dark outside of Victoria, I push on, fight to stay awake. Good road, nominal traffic, I have to stop multiple times to either nap sitting on the bike or jump around. Finally find a good place to stop where some trucks are parked, park my bike by one of those little crosses on the side of the road, this one has a fence around it, and collapse in the tall soft grass and fall asleep in full riding gear. 40 minutes of unconsciousness later, I pop up rejuvenated! Ahh, what's a trip to Mexico without sleeping in a ditch somewhere? If someone had been awake in one of those trucks and seen me, they would've seen a motorcycle pull up, the guy put down the kick stand, get off, walk two steps and collaspe, not to move again for 40 min.

Suddenly it gets colder around San Fernando. Stopped at my very first army check point for this trip, they want to review my bags. These army guys crack me up. I have all of Mexico to my back and they ask where am I going?
Uhhh, Texas? Where does it look like I'm going, Jack?

12:30 am, Hotel Rancho Viejo, north of San Fernando, Km marker 202. $35, free internet, credit card accepted. Strategically located, this is the same place Clayton and I have stayed a couple of times, a good value.

Sore butt tonight.

Day 11, 17 hours!, 430 miles

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Old 04-03-2008, 06:00 PM   #21
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Day 12. approx 434 miles. Trip total = approx 2,590 miles.

The remainder of the trip was fairly straight forward, so to speak. I made it from the motel Rancho Viejo to Reynosa in 1 hr 20 min. (about 75 miles). For the first time I am passing cars. The Green Hornet is headed for the barn. Good Hornet. Take Daddy home.

Got across the border in a seamless one hour total, including lines on both sides of the river. In McAllen I read the Spanish newspapers talking about windstorms in South Texas and Monterrey, Mexico. The newspaper shows photos of overturned semi's in Monterrey, blown over by the wind. That was part of the same storm I experienced yesterday north of Mante.

North of McAllen, Texas, I witnessed first hand our Texas firefighters battling wild fires fueled by high winds in far south Texas

Helicopter with water siphon hose

Wild fires in south Texas

Wind damage to a service station,

helicopter douses wild fires with water

Oops, I realize I've made the whole trip without one pic of Me, so here's Me and the Green Hornet

It was weird seeing Texas license plates again.

And bitter cold as I motored up thru San Antonio to Austin. Arrived Austin about 10 pm.

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Old 04-03-2008, 06:09 PM   #22
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Fantastic journey, pics, report and ride

thanks for taking us along with you, what a great trip!
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Old 04-03-2008, 06:18 PM   #23
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Old 04-03-2008, 07:02 PM   #24
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Hiya Milton

This report just gets better each time I read it.
OOh... I loves me some Mexico!

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Old 04-03-2008, 08:57 PM   #25
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Great report man! and ride
Have a dream, live it. Set a goal, achieve it.
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Old 04-04-2008, 04:14 AM   #26
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thank you

Wow. Cavebiker Tom. I'm honored.
In fact, thanks to all.

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Old 04-04-2008, 04:53 AM   #27
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Thanks for taking us along on your ride. Neato Photos. Hope to start doing some Mexico next year. Was kinda worried about trying to learn some Spanish. Heck been in South Louisiana all my life and know very little French.
A14 KLR 43k miles ,07 1250S Bandit 75K miles , 03 Chevy Truck 80K miles '43 model me. Simper Fi
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Old 04-04-2008, 06:30 AM   #28
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Man oh Man I don't know how to put this, other than to just say that this is the style of ride report that I love.

Great narrative, off-beat, photos that capture the essence of Old Mexico, and more. Nice

Thanks for including the maps, too.

A solo, serendipity-style journey south of the border is always a good story, but this one was particularly well told. Gotta love reading it with a cup of coffee.

P.S. We were just north of Mazatlan last fall when a '74 Harley flathead I was behind blew a piston. It was like following an Air Force Thunderbird jet with smoke on.

Viva Mexico

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Old 04-04-2008, 09:13 AM   #29
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Thanks for the great report, love your writting style. Photos were excellent.

You mentioned you had a new lens. What kind of camera did you use?

Great shot!

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Old 04-04-2008, 06:46 PM   #30
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Camera & Lens stuff

The camera is a Canon Rebel XT, the lens I referred to is a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM which costs roughly twice the price of the original camera + kit lens. That's the lens I used with the photo above. Previously I was using a Tamron AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 IF Macro which is really a pretty versatile and smallish lens. I didn't like the Canon 24-70 at first due to its huge size, took it right off and went back to the Tamron. Later on the Canon L went back on and now I like it fine, the Tamron seems inferior. The helicopter shots were taken with the Tamron, however.

All & all, many, many times I wished I had a smaller point & shoot. I looked at the Canon G9 (I think it was) and it seemed to do everything the SLR camera can do and way smaller. I see some pretty fine photos with even more economical Nikon Coolpix cameras on this web site.
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