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Old 10-31-2013, 06:37 PM   #1
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Brooklyn NYC to Puerto Escondido, MX

To the Border

Of course, none of us ever have enough time for a trip. In my case it was 3 weeks. I have wanted to go to Oaxaca for a long time, so I decided to make it happen. While mapping it out I realized it was feasible, but it meant not much time to wander or dawdle or take it slow.
My wife, who is always up for an adventure, could only manage 6 days off, so the plan was that I'd ride to Oaxaca, pick her up from the airport, then spend the next 6 days between Oaxaca and the coast. Then I'd drop her back at the airport to fly home and I would begin my trip back north. Sorted.

I would be riding down on my '07 KTM 990 Adventure, the 'Komanche'.
(posing handsomely here in Rapide du Fort, Quebec)

The Komanche was long overdue for service. I dropped it off at the shop, and the next day nearly had a fucking heart attack when they told me the estimate. After picking apart the list, there really wasn't anything I could argue with. It all really needed to get done for my peace of mind on a 6000 mile trip, and screw it, that's what credit cards are for. Sorted.

Had to explain to a number of people that Oaxaca was not a resort in Cancun and yes, I'm going on a motorcycle and yes, I'm going solo and no, I don't particularly want to get myself killed but that could also easily happen right here in Brooklyn.
When I would mention the trip to any of my riding friends,
"Awesome! Have a great time!" Thank you, fellow riders.

I have to mention if any of you are planning a Mexico trip go to "Trip Planning" (duh) on this site and check out "Is Mexico Safe?" I got a lot of helpful information and replies to my questions from that thread, especially in working out the paperwork involved for your bike. It's explained pretty well at the beginning of the thread and at the end of the day not all that complicated. Also quite helpful for route planning. A great resource.

So on early one Saturday morning in late September I headed out from Brooklyn. Since my total trip time was short I wanted to be at the border in 3 days. That meant first stop, Knoxville TN. And riding through a 100 mile wide band of heavy showers that stretched from the Gulf to Maine. And battling all the trucks on 81 in Virginia. But make it through I did at dusk arriving in Knoxville. Barbecue and bourbon and day 1 comes to a close.

It was a chilly start leaving Knoxville and I hit a few patches of heavy fog coming down from the Tennessee hills. As soon as I got through the fog it was all bright sunshine and nice scenery, but I don't think I really warmed up until Mississippi.
I had intended to stay in Slidell, LA for the night, where a friend of mine grew up. Although he relocated up north, he had a few good restaurant suggestions. Unfortunately when I found the place I was looking for it was closed. I still managed to find a good place for grilled oysters and a catfish poboy (NOLA Bar and Grill). I realized then it was still only about 5:30, so I hit the road to pound out some more miles. I made it past Baton Rouge, then past the interminable swamp. Wound up at a dingy hotel, in a area that seemed a little meth-y. So I got creative with the parking:

Sorted. Slept soundly.

The next morning as I was putting on my riding pants the slider on the zipper broke completely in two. Now I had a significant ride ahead of me, and my first motorcycle into Mexico border crossing to handle, with my fly open.
At least I had more ventilation.

It was a long hot day through Texas, mostly uneventful. One stop was here:

The owner was on his way out as I was getting ready to go. Nice guy, asked where I was from and headed. After I told him he seemed a bit concerned, saying the people that work at his place are from Mexico and they even don't go much because of all the trouble and so on. Now I know the stories of 'trouble' are plenty real, and the guy meant well, for me to proceed with caution, but hell, I just didn't want to hear it. I'm a couple of hours from the border, my man. I'm not gonna turn back now.

Soon I was blazing through Brownsville, over the bridge, and at the border. Here we go! Was a bit nervous if I had everything in order, god forbid I'm turned away at the border because my paperwork isn't right, I don't make it to the airport in Oaxaca in 5 days, and my wife kills me.
I park the bike. Paperwork in hand, fly open, I march into air-conditioned uncertainty.
Half an hour later, passport is stamped, TVIP approved and tourist card purchased. I swapped a fistful of dollars for a pound of pesos and headed into Matamoros.
Ahh, dirt in the air and blue smoke. With no hotel in mind I tried finding something promising. Then traffic. And confusion. And one ways. Not that way, the other way. Looping around. Oh, I can't do that. Sweating. Profusely.
I decided to hit the main drag south, hoping one or two of the 'bigger' hotels would be there just as the congestion thins out a bit. And there it was, a big ol' Best Western. With parking. Done.
Got myself showered in my room and started to feel the starvation kicking in. There's a restaurant right next door, it's a... NO! I did not ride 2000 miles to Mexico to eat at a Bennigan's.

But I did. I took a look up and down the road and saw nothing promising. I happened to glance in the Bennigan's and happened to notice 2 for 1's and happened to notice Monday Night Football on... and I was starving. In I go.

Don't really have photos because I was still waiting for the machine gun fire and bombs exploding and human heads rolling down the street that I hear about in Mexican border towns, and was being conservative about brandishing the phone about for pics. I do have this from the end of the night, a bit different from Knoxville:

More to come soon
'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:
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Old 10-31-2013, 07:42 PM   #2
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great start here.

can wait to hear more.

is that your black eldo that i see parked down on court street and columbia street from time to time?
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Old 10-31-2013, 08:15 PM   #3
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No, but mine is black, glad to know there's yet another one around.
'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:
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Old 10-31-2013, 09:51 PM   #4
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Go Roberto Go!
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Old 11-01-2013, 01:15 AM   #5
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Way to make some time for adventure. Looking forward to your updates. Safe travels!
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Old 11-01-2013, 05:06 AM   #6
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I'm in! You're doing the trip I've been planning...
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Old 11-01-2013, 05:28 AM   #7
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nice start to a ride report. I'm in
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Old 11-02-2013, 07:37 AM   #8
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Woke in Matamoros eager to begin my first full day in Mexico. With the border behind me, I only had to worry about food, fuel, and hotels. My goal for the day was to get to Ciudad Valles, taking the 101 south to Ciudad Victoria then 85 south to Valles. 550k, About 340 miles. Had a decent breakfast of chilaquiles, eggs and coffee. I clicked the speedo/odo over to kilometers and hit the road on a hot sunny morning.
About 20 minutes outside of town I hit the Federale checkpoint. A quick check of my TVIP and a glance thru my luggage. No problems. A solemn nod of approval from the guy who seemed to be in charge in regards to the Komanche. He said the "ke te EMMay" was "the best for on and off road". With Federale approval, I made a spirited departure, making sure they could hear the bark of my aftermarket airbox as I ripped through the first few gears.

I soon realized that there is very little regard for any kind of speed limit in Mexico. I would be dutifully hovering slightly above the posted limit, just like we do back home, only to have somebody fly by me on the two lane road as if I was standing still. Right. Go faster, no problem. That is, until you get to the towns, where you quickly become familiar with Topes, or speed bumps. Topes means "sleeping policemen". They are a way to regulate speed through the little towns without manpower. They quickly become annoying, though I can understand why these little towns don't want trucks barreling through unregulated, especially when you see how many people's main mode of transportation is their feet. Topes can also be dangerous. Often there are warning signs and side of the road markers, but plenty of them are not marked, and those always seem to be lying in that one bit of shade across the road to hide them. They can easily flatten a tire, bend a rim, or throw you from the bike entirely. I adopted the policy of slow down and watch out when I approached any small town or village, not just for my own safety but out of respect for the locals.

The terrain was starting to get interesting as the farm and ranch land started to approach the mountains, and I entered the Tropico de Cancer.

I was happily breezing through the rolling hills all the way to Ciudad Victoria. I stopped there only for fuel, not really feeling hungry and wanting to make some time. Taking 85 south out of Ciudad Victoria takes you through nice mountain roads all the way. I saw a lot more beautiful scenery than I took photos of, but I was just enjoying the ride.

The mountain roads and small towns made for a great picturesque day of riding but also take up a good amount of time. I finally rolled into Ciudad Valles in the late afternoon. It had been hot all day, but now I was really feelin it. I wound up finding myself a room at Hotel Estancia Rheal. Basic place straight out of the 70's but very clean. No wifi, but only 450 pesos. Done. And they've got a pool. Well, then. I guess I'll treat myself to a liter Michelada for 45 pesos from this friendly gentleman behind the bar and enjoy it poolside. Too bad I had to enjoy it all by myself...

'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:

motoroberto screwed with this post 11-02-2013 at 11:17 AM
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Old 11-02-2013, 07:48 PM   #9
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Hot points

You definitely took the riskier route to cross the border. Next time try Laredo,Tx. From Valles on is what we call the Huasteca, very nice. If you can do a quick stop at Xilitla, and in tamanzunchale try the Tamales they are awesome. From where you are and on, its a piece of cake.


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Old 11-04-2013, 05:22 PM   #10
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Next Stop- Mexico City

Quite a few people tried to discourage me from going to big bad DF. Understandably so. As motorcyclists, we spend a good amount of time avoiding congested areas, I certainly do at home. Others were concerned about big city dangers (crime). But coming from the biggest city in the states, I wanted to see the Mexican counterpart. And since Times Square is full of tourists, nobody hangs out in the East Village anymore unless your night clubbing, CBGB's is closed, and where I live in Brooklyn is getting massively overdeveloped, I was ready for a big funky real city.
I recently finished a book on the history of Mexico City (El Monstruo by John Ross) which sealed the deal that I wanted to work it into my route. And since I seemed to be making pretty good time to Oaxaca, DF made the list. I still had 4 days to get to Oaxaca, so I could even spend a tourist day in DF with plenty of time to spare.
It was another HOT morning in Ciudad Valles when I hit the road. My planned route was 85 south out of town until Tamazunchale, then take the 102 toward Huejutla de Reyes, take the shortcut south at Orizatlan, then hook up with 105 south all the way to Pachuca, then back on 85 south to DF.
And I did most of that. I never could find the shortcut south at Orizatlan, so I had to stay on 102 till Huejutla de Reyes. Spent much time on the side of the road watching the google maps refresh icon spin. Or at my blue dot on a blank graph. Right. This shit ain't workin, go with instinct. Plenty of lovely sights along the way.

Note the landing strip!

I would love to hit that 105 south again some day. What a fucking road. A twisty mountain road broken up by small towns, like many in Mexico. But as you get close to Pachuca, the dense green mountain scenery changes: it gets dryer, the canopy opens up to big sky as you approach the tall shoulders on the edge of the mesa, there are cacti everywhere, and then you drop. You drop on switchbacks down a massive mesa's face as the whole world opens up in front of you and you feel like you could see the Pacific if you didn't have to pay so much attention to the road. Then Pachuca is suddenly spread out everywhere before you, with tiny colored box houses everywhere like a blanket over the now rolling hills.

I, of course, have no pictures of this. I was shitting a brick that I was about to run out of gas. Up until this point, I had been pretty conservative about Pemex stops, stopping at the next one after say 100 k's of riding. On this day, I stopped a bit past my normal point, but the Pemex didn't have premium. You see, the Komanche, although a beast, loves to sip of the premium. "How far to the next Pemex with premium?" I asked in terrible Spanish. "Oh, 25 kilometers." OK, fine, I'll make that. Get there, closed. Shit. Keep going, no choice. Push on. Next Pemex, only diesel. FUCK. Of course, now I'm thinking why the fuck didn't I get regular when I had the chance and unplug the little doo-hickey under the seat and be fine? Because I'm an idiot. I ask the guy at the Pemex with diesel only how far to the next one and he says about 50k. Right, I figure I can go about 30k on what I have left. So there I am cascading down one of the most impressive mountain descents I have ever seen, holding in the clutch, short shifting, even shutting the bike off and coasting down the mountain trying to squeeze as much as I could out of the Komanche. And then, lo and behold, a heaven sent Pemex, with premium, comes into view, a good 20k sooner than I expected. Thank you, dinosaur bone juice gods. And in Mexico, don't expect what you'd expect.

Having avoided complete disaster, I was ready for the final push to DF. Now the road got more and more congested, but faster and wider. Heading to the big smoke. I had mapped out my route and had my directions scrawled out on paper in the map case of the tank bag. I was slightly apprehensive about approaching this megalopolis and being able to negotiate the signs, and then the rain came. It was a thick grey/black monster in the distance, directly over the city, and it started to spit at me. So there I was on the side of the highway pulling on my 20 year old rain gear. Who needs visibility?

It seems Mexico City is so big that the worst of the rain was done before I was even in the city proper. Couldn't complain really, other than the soaking into Knoxville I hadn't had any bad weather at all. But it cleared up, then I hit the traffic. And then lane splitting, and then saw bikes can use the bus only lanes and bikes can go down blocked off streets and I got spun around maybe twice but got back on track and before I knew it made it all the way to my hotel. Just past all the hookers on Calzada de Tlalpan on the Benito Juarez/Coyoacan border.

This was a long day. I enjoyed the dinner of champions,

and I slept with satisfaction. I was looking forward to my first day off of riding and checking out DF.

'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:
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Old 11-04-2013, 05:42 PM   #11
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What town is that with the landing strip? Nice................
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:17 PM   #12
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Wish I could tell you. I'll have to retrace my steps.
'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:25 PM   #13
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Wonderful report so far. A nice mix of great pics and writing. Keep it coming
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Old 11-05-2013, 07:42 PM   #14
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Death of the San Patricios and the Beauty of Frida

Day 6, a break from riding, checking out Mexico City. Thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in and having a late breakfast. More chilaquiles, eggs, chorizo with nopales and tiny quesedillas. With coffee, of course.

I was really looking forward to this day off the bike and walking around. There were two places I wanted to check out within walking distance of the hotel.
The first was La Museo de las Intervenciones, at the old Churobusco convent in Coyoacan. The museum chronicles the many invading armies who have landed on Mexican soil over the past few hundred years. The convent was also the site of the last stand of the San Patricio Battalion in the Mexican American war.
I have been irrationally fascinated with the San Patricios for some time, having read 3 books on the subject. They were a mostly Irish band of US army conscripted soldiers who defected, many literally swimming across the Rio Grande, to join the Mexican forces in an artillery battalion against the US army. Partially from cruel treatment from their mostly protestant privileged sergeants and partially from sympathy for a poor Catholic country invaded without provocation and partially from promises of better pay and land from Santa Anna himself, they crossed. Some would also add that pretty senoritas washing and bathing by the river and copious amounts of tequila may have had something to do with it as well. They named themselves Saint Patrick's battalion, or the San Patricios, and fought under an emerald flag. They fought fiercely throughout the war, and were pushed ever farther into Mexico, until Churobusco. A bloody battle on both sides. Many San Patricios were killed, some got away. At least twice a Mexican soldier raised the white flag only to be shot by a San Patricio. After it all, most of the captured San Patricios were hung, those who weren't were given 50 lashes and were branded with a 'D' for deserter on their cheek. They 'mistakenly' branded their leader, John Reilly, with an upside down D so they had to repeat it on the other cheek. They are regarded as traitors to the US, and heroes in Mexico, where a number of monuments and yearly events, mostly around Saint Patrick's Day, commemorate their service. These photos are not all San Patricio related, but all are from the Museo de las Intervenciones.

Next stop, Frida Kahlo's house. I have always been a fan of both her and Diego, and I was surprised how close her house-turned-museum was to where I was staying. The 'Blue House' is lovingly restored and full of obscure works, sketches and personal items from them both.

Their kitchen, with old fashioned hearth and their names on the wall:

The drawing room.

Art appreciation:

Stuffed with culture, I started to make my way back to the hotel. Spotted a promising little corner taco joint and took a chance.

Awesome. Bistec and al pastor tacos. Perfecto.

Got home and realized I still had plenty of time to go to the Zocalo. There was a train station right across the street from the hotel, and the Zocalo was 9 stops away. The subway in New York is now $2.50 each ride. The Mexico city subway? 30 cents (3 pesos). Sweet.
Of course, the Zocalo stop was closed, and the train kept going. Good thing I examine a map of where I'm going before I get there. Got out at Allende, then more surprises.
The entire Zocalo was blocked off. It had to do with the teachers' strike and the recent national holiday and they expected trouble. I have never seen so much law enforcement in a single location. Federales, municipal police, army and marines. Everywhere. Not only behind barricades in the Zocalo but lining many of the surrounding streets. After circumnavigating the Zocalo to try to get some bearings, I started to realize the city was a lot bigger than it seemed on the map, and I had no real destination, just walking around.

Must have been my beer radar kicking in because I stumbled across a microbrew joint. Very friendly owner, we struggled over a good conversation, and I had a few delicious beers.

As it got dark outside, I thought I should start to head back, but I was still unsatisfied. I wanted to sit in an old storied bar and have a drink. The thought crossed my mind to find he oldest hotel in the city and sit down at the bar. But how would I find it? Google maps was having a shitty attitude and I was holding on to a foggy notion of how to get back to the train.
Then I crossed right in front of it: La Opera. It looked perfect, where a gentleman (or me) could enjoy a nice drink before returning home. I found out it was opened in the 1870's. High ceilings and dark wood everywhere, I stepped inside. I started with a beer and a proper tequila/sangrita.

After a bit to eat and a bit more to drink, I switched on the autopilot and found my was back to the Allende station. I descended the stairs with the sweet feeling of accomplishment. the next day I would tackle the road to Oaxaca. But today, I conquered DF.

'07 KTM ADV 990
'73 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Brooklyn to Puerto Escondido, MX:
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:19 AM   #15
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You're a madman baby! What a ride!
"Careful, there's a beverage man!" The Dude
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