Filling in the gaps in Mexico, now with more insanity!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by climberevan, Dec 23, 2007.

  1. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    340
    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    A couple of years ago i drove with a SO to Costa Rica in a beaten-up Toyota truck. We were in Mexico for a month or so, and it was far too little time--ever since i've wanted to return and spend some real time exploring the entire country. Having travelled the west coast, i am focussing my energies this time on the east and central areas, as well as the Yucatan peninsula.

    I'm also using the Bicimapas mapset for my Zumo on the newly modified KLR. In short, the maps are really great. The accuracy and completeness of the US Topo and City maps are not there, but they are much better than any paper map i've seen, and the routing works very well. I'll do a complete review in the GPS forum.

    So to start the trip i had to escape Colorado. Winter arrived there just before i left, so i waited for a window in the weather.

    The driveway:

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    Red Mountain pass north of Silverton was my big concern, but it turned out to be fine. I drove on not more than a mile or so of packed snow, and didn't even crash!

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    In new mexico i met another KLR rider. He has done lots of riding in Mexico and Europe on his KLRs, and quickly learned the ADV salute:

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    Farther south i passed through the giant lava flow in SE NM. The state park wanted to charge $4 just to walk around, so i passed on through.

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    Here's one reason i love the desert:

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    They sure do love their aliens in Roswell, NM.

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    I found a place to camp somewhere in NM along the road. It was pretty windy, but i slept ok.

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    On into TX on lots of these kinds of roads:

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    Then one more night in the US. I wandered off the road near the border and found a spot previously used by some illegals, i suppose. There were cans and whatnot around. It was absurdly foggy the next morning, and i had to slowly creep south.

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    YAY! Finally there. And for those who wonder if i'm taking "heat" to Mexico, here's your answer:

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    Next time: MEXICO!
    #1
  2. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

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    I love reading your stuff!!

    :lurk
    #2
  3. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2006
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    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    As most of you know the border region of Mexico (and the US) is not the best or safest place to linger. It's also not too interesting, with most of the people there focussed on either immigrating, preventing immigration, or profiting from immigration.

    I crossed in Ciudad Acuna as opposed to the larger crossing at Laredo. It was as expected: much less chaotic and generally mas tranquilo. There is a convenient Aduana (customs) and Migracion right across the bridge, and the Aduana guys let me park the moto right among their drug dogs and trucks. I waited in the line and did the necessary paperwork, and about 90 mins later i was on my way. I had previously considered crossing at some unmarked spot in Big Bend NP, but this went well and about $50 is not too bad for the surety of having all of the correct paperwork.

    Northern Mexico in general is characterised by flat, relatively unpopulated terrain. This means that the roads are pretty boring, and since i like to get about 100k from the border before really stopping, i don't have many photos of that area.

    I stayed in my first hotel of the trip in Sabinas, at a pricey MX$236. At least there was a good native dance spectacle around a fire in the street nearby.

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    I was hoping to do this trip for about $30/day. After realising that i need to stay in hotels almost every night and that there are no hostels or really cheap places available outside of the tourist-frequented cities i will probably have to up it to more like $40. Gas is actually cheaper than in CO--about MX$130 to fill up after hitting reserve. In the US a similar amount would be about $15.

    After a good night's sleep i decided to be a bit more adventurous and try out the Bicimapas. The routing took me over this bridge which the Mexicans apparently built about 8" too low:

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    Afterwards i headed south for a while on a great paved road. In general the roads in the north are straight and pretty good. It's easy to maintain 100kph or faster if you can stand the wind--on a GS you could really fly. There is almost no speed enforcement outside of the towns and cities, and some Mexicans passed me as though i was going backwards.

    All right, let's get down to business! As those of you who have read my other recent report know, i seek out the most back-ass roads that i can find to get me more-or-less where i want to go. On the past trip to Mexico i used paper maps and asked directions. That method will eventually get you there, but since most rural Mexicans don't know about villages farther than 20k or so from theirs, it can be pretty hard to navigate farther away, since the maps don't show even a fraction of the driveable roads.

    Bicimapas, though, does know about most of them. It will also, if you ask it to, route you on them. The problem is that it doesn't know about gates and other closures. So, when encountering a gate, i just keep going on another route and it eventually recalculates and finds a way around! Miracle of miracles!

    Here's a series from my mostly dirt route to near Hidalgo, north of Monterrey:

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    After spending a few hours wandering in the middle of nowhere i got back to some pavement and had the best Fajitas i've ever eaten. I met some new friends and talked with them for quite a while.

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    A little of this, and then my first stop: El Potrero Chico. It's a world-famous rock climbing area, and i stayed there for 11 days. The climbing is incredible, and the camping scene couldn't be better: MX$40/night with showers, a kitchen, and within easy walking distance of the crags.

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    Since i'm now on the road again, i'll just time-lapse past the climbing segment for those of you who aren't climbers. PM me if you want more info on that topic, though.

    Next time: jungles, curves, river crossings, and my first flat tyre and crash of the trip.
    #3
  4. PSYCLOPS

    PSYCLOPS Diduseedasizeofdatchickin

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    :lurk
    #4
  5. BDKW1

    BDKW1 KL"X" not "R"

    Joined:
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    Easton, KS

    KLR cheap bastage Hippo hands! Gotta love 'em! :rofl :rofl


    Still happy with the forks? :ear

    Thanks for the pics :freaky
    #5
  6. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    You may have gathered by now that i'm not a big fan of northern Mexico. It's just too...American, i guess. I was excited to head south into a new region, the east coast and mountains.

    I first had to navigate through Monterrey. It's a huge and very wealthy city, and it took me most of an hour to get through it. I don't take the cuota (toll) roads because they're actually quite expensive, so i was in the thick of things.

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    It all eventually came to an end, though. When on the road i prefer to stop at the most basic looking food establishments. This one was pretty tasty, and gave me plenty of Asado.

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    I suppose the good thing about northern Mexico and its long stretches of nothingness is that it allows one to covertly camp near the road. This site was loud, but secluded, and i slept well.

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    Another generic sight:

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    I almost passed this sign, then realised that it's practically obligatory:

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    So i decided to take a little chance and let the Bicimapas take me off pavement again. It was fun, and i certainly wouldn't have known which of the various forks to take without it.

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    Once back on pavement, i had my first real problem. That tube is definitely un-patchable. I took out my spare, then managed to pinch it while installing it. DAMN! After trying for about 90 mins to get my shitty patch kit to work ( i patch road bike tubes successfully all the time and they hold 120psi but have lots of trouble with moto tubes) i gave up and went off in search of a vulcanizadora. I found Norelio about 3k back. He did some serious, heat-activated patching on my tube, then gracefully put the tyre back on the rim for me--i learned a lot watching him. he charged me M$30, and i gave him a M$10 tip. Norelio is my hero!

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    I continued on. One of my rules, which i have since broken a lot, is never to drive at night in Mexico. After my little incident i was in a foul mood and wanted a hotel, so i pressed on into the night and eventually found this Casa de Huespedes, which was spartan but fairly cheap at M$170. They let me park inside, naturally. I had a nice time wandering around this little town, called Tamazunchale. It was bustling, but in a good way.

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    And now the real Mexico begins. I was pretty excited to enter the less-travelled and more indigenous areas. They tend to have better food and nicer people as well as lower prices. The jungle was pretty cool, and some of the roads were really fun.

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    Another dirt road excursion, this one pretty long and involved. It was fun, but not easy riding.

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    Several of the stream crossings were pretty substantial. A couple really made me think, and one produced the first crash of the trip (not counting a low-speed drop in Hidalgo on super-slick concrete paving). It broke one of my headlamp lenses, but it still works.

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    Whenever i see gates i become worried about whether the road keeps going. Luckily in this case they were all unlocked, and i pressed on. The people who see me in these kinds of places (probably 30k from the nearest pavement) just stare. Sometimes i stop and say hello, but mostly i just ride on and look at them through my dark visor. It must be quite the sight.

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    So i was getting pretty stoked and having a great time blasting around on the dirt roads/tracks. About 30k before i was to hit pavement again i ran into this, a stopper river crossing. Bicimapas wanted me to go right through it and onto the dirt road on the other side, and the guys milling around nearby said that indeed there was no bridge. I really didn't even contemplate trying--it was pretty far and obviously too deep. Dropping the bike in the middle of a 500m long river crossing would be a huge disaster. I turned around and then spent quite a while wandering before finally getting back onto a road that the GPS recognised and which i could find on my paper map.

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    The pavement from there was fun, and a bit of a relief. It climbed up into some really great jungle.

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    And then the curves began. I was going from sea level to 2500m in about 40-50k. The pavement started out pretty bad and not fun, but then turned into this beautiful, US-quality stuff. I started to really enjoy myself!

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    During the fun i passed some neat villages:

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    And then another ride a bit too late:

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    At the left side of that image is one of Mexico's tall volcanoes. Just to its left i could see Orizaba (5636m), which i climbed on my last trip. I tried to photograph it but my pinche camera was out of memory, and the light was fading too fast to dig out my spare card. The view is very reminiscent of Rainier from Seattle--a giant snow capped peak looming above the flat surroundings.

    I stayed in Xalapa that night. It's a pretty nice city, and i enjoyed wandering around. At a cafe there was a Mexican band playing pretty good covers of Beatles, Pink Floyd, and other classic rock tunes. It's always funny to me that US citizens often love to travel to see cultures that we regard as more authentic and rich than our own, but that many of the people in those cultures are trying very hard to emulate that which we flee. I suppose some of my motivation to travel as much as possible now, rather than later in my life, is to see the world before it becomes any more Americanized than it already is. Some of the things i would have loved to have climbed have actually just melted away, forever out of existence, and i fear that a lot of the real culture in the world is on the same path.

    So, we're catching up quickly. Internet access is much easier to get than i was expecting. All of the cafes appear to be totally fine with me disconnecting the ethernet from their machines and plugging in to mine, and many hotels have wireless. It's not as ubiquitous as in the US yet, but i'm very glad i brought my laptop. Doing a TR makes me feel like i have the benefits of travelling alone and with people--thanks for looking!

    Here's a teaser for next time:

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    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    64,676
    Fantastic!! Thanks for the details report and pics.. what a great journey :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    340
    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    Oh, yeah. Now i've really thrashed them, and i'm still blown away. It's kind of eerie how they don't move when i shift my weight around, but as soon as i hit a bump they just absorb it. I can't even imagine going back! Frame flex is pretty noticeable in bumpy corners, but it's more than worth it.

    An unexpected advantage of riding a motorcycle in Mexico as opposed to a car is that the TOPEs just don't matter. I slam into them at whatever speed i feel like going, and as long as i'm standing up they are pretty much a non-event. The extra tyres move around a lot, but soon i'll swap them out and solve that problem. Believe me, if you drive a car in Mexico you'll grow to really, really hate the topes, but on my KLR i just don't care.

    Another thing: my attitude has improved a lot since i started riding like the Mexican motorcyclists--always split lanes, pass on double yellow, pass while cars and trucks are going 5kph over topes, pass on the right. Generally i do whatever i want when there's traffic, and it cuts down hugely on the frustration level and time spent in cities. I also just park wherever i want--yesterday i parked among the shopping carts at a supermarket (the only thing i could find open). It seems that the police view motorcycles more like motorised bicycles than like cars....
    #8
  9. Ensey

    Ensey KLR Combat Touring

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
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    739
    Location:
    Duncan, Ok
    Thanks for posting.....keep it coming.:lurk :lurk
    #9
  10. Mz660

    Mz660 Rydethere

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    Location:
    Washington
    :bow Great report, Please Please (as it rains here) keep posting!
    #10
  11. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Great so far!!! Have we seen this road's end on ADV before??? Can't wait for the next installment.
    #11
  12. BDKW1

    BDKW1 KL"X" not "R"

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Easton, KS

    Welcome to My world :deal


    Wait, I do that in the states too :rofl
    #12
  13. brad21

    brad21 We have a pool... and a pond.

    Joined:
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    Minden/Gardnerville, NV
    Great report Evan, as expected. Keep us all jonesing while we watch the rain/snow fall.:thumb
    #13
  14. Sucks2drive

    Sucks2drive Banned

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    :lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk:lurk
    #14
  15. thetourist

    thetourist Just passing thru

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2005
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    Location:
    Moscow, Idaho
    Great handlebar muffs. I was trying to come up with a temporary type, myself. Plastic bags work, but shred easily. You may have the perfect product there. Very light and throw away. Thanks for the idea. And keep up the good report.
    #15
  16. elgin

    elgin n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4
    Hi Hermano! I am at the pod's and we looked through all of your pictures, what an amazing trip you are having! I imagine some of the places you are seeing are spectacular. We miss you! Love alma, dad, shaune and mom.
    #16
  17. Alpinist

    Alpinist Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    17
    Hey E,
    Great pictures and fun reading. That last picture really has me hanging.
    Keep us up to date and may your days be long and your nights pleasant.
    Thanks for the TR bro!

    John
    #17
  18. RealitySheriff

    RealitySheriff Attempting Awareness

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Between NM and CO
    The least you could have done is post a photo of the Wave Wall. The last time I was there, sometime in the mid 90's, Homero had just opened up his land to campers, his wife would chef up the best chicken mole on the planet for their guests every Wednesday and Kurt Smith was still living in a tin shack.

    I imagine the place has changed a bunch since then. But one thing I'm sure hasn't changed. Potrero Chico is still the only choss pile worth climbing. That place is just awe inspiring.
    #18
  19. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
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    Westby Wisconsin
    as a long time climber. please bore me with the pics of Potrero Chico! Great start on the ride report!
    #19
  20. Katsumoto

    Katsumoto Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Tabasco, Mexico
    Typical state of the roads in the gulfcoast... Tabasco is it?


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    #20