Mexico March Ride

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Trailblazer, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 1. Sat Mar 8 2008
    Austin, Texas, 114 miles to Devine, Texas

    Each March, for five years running now, I dust the cobwebs off my trusty (+rusty) 1985 Harley Davidson Low Rider (aka The Green Hornet) and take it places angels fear to tread. Namely road trip Mexico way. This year were no different 'cept my usual riding partner would not be accompaning me. This would a solo ride. The Lone Wolf rides again.

    At 6pm Saturday night, I was finally leaving my casa. Lord, why does it take me so long to pack?

    Once on the road all my misgivings evaporate. I don't care about time anymore. No deadlines. I finally feel like I'm on vacation.

    Logged 114 miles to Devine Texas, just south of San Antonio, where I checked into your basic overpriced ($60 night) frumpy motel room. Stained carpet. Torn upholstery. (No rooms at the La Quinta in San Antonio.) I was pretty layered-up against the cold, and almost warm actually. Tee shirt, long johns, long sleeved heavy flannel shirt, pull-over goose-down shirt, AlpineStars riding jacket, and finally the rain jacket for its wind cutting properties. The little East Indian man at the Country Corner Inn motel said, in broken English, "You-have-a-lot-of-jackets."
    Yeah, lots of jackets.
    Oh, you-have-motorcycle.

    Oh, and by the way, I have no idea where I'm going. I'm just pointed south. Ok, I'm headed for Cuartocienegas, Coahuila, Mexico, but from there, I'm not real sure.

    Day 1
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    #1
  2. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 2. Sunday Mar 9, 2008. Mexico, otra vez
    295 miles Devine, Texas to San Buenaventura, Coahuila


    [​IMG]
    I left Devine at 8:30 am, headed south on I-35 10 miles to Moore, where I take a right off the Interstate and head for Eagle Pass. No lodging available in Moore, so I congratulate myself for the wise choice of stopping in Devine.

    Flat empty road across south Texas scrub. Ahhhh, On the road again. Me and my bike and the kaleidoscopic carousel of faces, vistas and observations. Cloudy cold wintery looking day at first, gives way to clear skies.

    53 miles to Batesville. Yoni´s (Mexican) Restaurant in Batesville. I'm the only white guy in the joint. The place is packed with Hispanics. I'm directed to the only free table which is in a side room next to stacks of soft drink cases. Many folks are chowing on bowls of menudo. The waitress writes my order on the palm of her hand.

    63 more boring miles to Eagle Pass. Auto Zone stop for motorcycle maintenance. Top-off engine oil (low), primary drive case oil holding well. Brake fluid, tire pressure, good. Various bolts and nuts checked for tightness. This poor ole bike has seen it all. On past trips it has lost brake levers, foot pegs, gear shift levers, rear views, all. Even the transmission in 2005. But she´s looking good today.

    The reduced traffic at the Eagle Pass crossing to Piedras Negras is a mixed bag. I can find no open Casa de Cambios on the US side. Its Sunday and the two available are closed. (I'm spoiled by Laredo's multiple choice of outfits open 24/7.) And then I almost lost the bike in a slick oil patch on the International Bridge.

    And get this, you obtain your vehicle papers 50 miles inland, into Mexico, south of the border. This seemed so strange I found it hard to believe at first, and needlessly waisted time asking other people and chasing wild geese. But sure enough, at the 2nd check point, the inland check point, they processed my papers in record time, 10 minutes max. I was the only soul there. The Mexican Immigration official even filled out my Tourist Card for me. When is the last time you saw that? When he asks where I´m going I answer, "Puerto Vallarta". Seemed as good an answer as any.

    Car permits granted 50 miles inland. No long lines here.
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    The Green Hornet gets right with Mexico
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    I am finally, really in Mexico. Strip coal mining near Allende and Santa Rosita. Man-made mountains of coal. Man-made mesas of eroding earth. And the landscape changes, now this is different. I make it to San Buenaventura for the night, which is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet tome, Mexico. San Buenaventura is 170 miles from the Rio Grande, technically north of Monterrey and Brownsville, due south of Midland, Texas and Sheffield, near Monclova which I am proud to report, I avoided altogether. The Monclova bypass took me across the wide open boonies thru some pretty rough, poor towns. One had a plaza that looked like the Sahara desert with sidewalks. No plant life whatsoever. I mean, what´s the point?

    I arrive in San Buenaventura just after dark Sunday night and the plaza is popping. Police direct traffic.
    Watch my bike, please, I ask in sign language?
    Thumbs up, the cop replies.

    Hotel Gran Plaza ($30) is the only hotel immediately obvious.
    [​IMG]
    The manager goes out of his way to be nice, giving me extra towels and offering to help me put the bike in my room. (An offer I declined. I love my bike, but... Guess I´m not a real biker.)
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    57,304
    Location:
    Toronto
    Looks like a great ride :thumb

    Putting your bike in your room is an ADV tradition! Plus.. you're sure it's still all there in the morning :lol2

    Keep it comin' :lurk
    #3
  4. AusFletch

    AusFletch Vincit qui Persevere

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    77
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Good to see a new report from you, Milton. Keep it coming. -Fletch
    #4
  5. AusFletch

    AusFletch Vincit qui Persevere

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I just found the post on the other site....headed back to read some more. -FLETCH
    #5
  6. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 3. 44 miles San Buenaventura to Cuatro Ciénegas

    Did some serious goofing off today before leaving San Buenaventura. Taking photos of bell towers and bicycles. Saw several trucks move through the plaza area with beautiful horses in the back, but I wasn't quick enough with the camera.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Compliments
    I went to the bank in San Buenaventura to change $100. It was fairly crowded, all the employees were helping customers. I caught the eye of one gentleman behind a desk and asked if I would be able to change money here. He asked if I was changing Euro's.

    I don´t know why, but I took that as an extreme compliment. Don´t get me wrong, I´m proud to be American and I'm proud of my country (ahem) but I was really proud to be mistaken for European. I think what I'm trying to say is I'm not always proud of all Americans, if you understand me.
    I guess I´m so far off the Gringo trail, only European travelers pass thru here.
    And...... another pearl. The bank gave me a better exchange rate than the Casa de Cambio in Piedras Negras. I was surprised. I always thought you got better rates at the Casas, especially near the border. A fluke? Maybe.

    The road was under construction, led through some arid mountain ranges.
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    Cuatro Ciénegas, about an hour away, is a fine little desert town, [​IMG]

    upbeat, painted with bright colors, laid back.
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    And internet.
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    Poked around, got the lay of the land
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    There are all these pools, or pozas they call ´em here. In the middle of the desert, and there are lots of them, like oasises. Lonely Planet suggested one in particular for solitude, and that´s where I headed, about 10 miles out, after finding out where it was.

    Poza Churince
    [​IMG]

    There were several palm roofed palapas available, the place was deserted.
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    Spent the afternoon there next to the water, taking photos with my new gigantic big-bucks lens. (Hard to even hold the camera.) Took a swim. Saw a turtle, and a lone duck. Both disappeared under the water and I never saw them again.

    Then out came the maps and calculator and it was time to plan the rest of my trip. After careful deliberation, I decided on a big push to Guadalajara, before coming home. Towards the end of the afternoon the wind started blowing fiercely. I toyed with the idea of heading out tonight, towards Torreon, but there is about a 100 mile stretch with no gas and my tank was less than half full.

    Then a couple of "older" guys (like in their 60's?)(joke, son) show up in a pick-up truck and proceed to sit with me at the table under my palapa and share their lunch of tortillas, avocados, sandwiches, coffee and sweet rolls. One of them, Raul, was described by the other, Jose, as the owner of this land. Well, Raul said he owned 17,946 hectares of it. That's 44,326 acres! Desert acres, but I was still pretty impressed. It includes these pozas. He admitted it was a lot of land.

    Raul, local desert owner
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    Raul & Jose, after sharing tortillas & sandwiches
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    With the wind out of control, late in the afternoon, I decide to be nice to myself and go back to Cuatro Ciénegas and spring for a room. Finally nailed a nice room! Woo Hoo! I'm so tickled.
    Check it out at Plaza Hotel.

    Plaza Hotel. At $47, what a deal
    [​IMG]
    Saltillo tile floors and spacious bath. High, rustic ceiling. Thank you Lonely Planet. It reminds me vaguely of the Hotel Hacienda Santa Engracia... only better.
    #6
  7. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 4. Tuesday Mar 11, 2008
    Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila to Rio Grande, Zacatecas, 332 miles

    Out of my room at 9am. Hotel breakfast. On Mexican TV is a Mexican morning show where periodically everyone gets up and dances a jig. Met an Italian on a bicycle with a trailer. He left San Antonio 10 days ago. We stayed in the same hotel in San Buenaventura and then again last night in Cuarto Ciénegas. I complimented him on his good taste in hotels.

    Goofed around the plaza
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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Mexico knows buses. These superliners are like space ships.
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    [​IMG]

    Excited about riding
    I ran thru the bike's check list. Load up. Ready to roll at 1pm! Well, there's one thing to be said about being meticulously cautious and ready to go --- when you are ready... you are REALLY ready to go. I was excited about riding today.

    It´s 122 miles from Cuatro Ciénegas to San Pedro with little or nothing in between. Tanque Nuevo, which owns a spot on my maps? One abandoned building. Don´t count on gas there. No gas for 122 miles. There were a couple of places that maybe looked like "functioning" stores. Maybe. Incredibly there are dirt roads leading off to other unseen communities off in the horizon distance. I could only wonder what lies at the end of those tracks.

    Pretty kool ride actually. Somewhat like Texas' Big Bend area. [​IMG]
    Across Chihuahuan Desert. Ocotillo, creosote bush, picaya cactus. Much of the territory is unfenced. The road straight and true, very little traffic. I saw trucks carrying logged trees heading north, (from Durango I imagined), and heading south I saw trucks carrying huge blocks of rock, like 3 blocks at a time.

    Laguna = desert (?)
    About 85-90 miles into the ride on the other side of a little mountain range called Sierra Las Delicias, the desert turns into white flat NOTHING. No creosote bushes, no cactus. It was shocking. I guess this is part of what they call Desierto Laguna de Mayrón (or Mayran?). Not really sure why they call a desert a laguna.

    Laguna de Mayran (?)
    [​IMG]

    Torreón, La Perla de la Laguna
    From San Pedro de Las Colonias to Gomez Palacio to Ciudad Lerdo, it was the usual dodge-and-dance traffic around Big-City Torreón. Not only do you have to watch traffic and decipher road signs, but also you watch the road conditions immediately ahead, which can change drastically without notice.

    So lets see, the priorities in descending order -- watch road, watch traffic, watch signs. I guess its not all that different from the States. Just seems much more intense here. Don´t look at the 8 people and wheelchair in back of that pickup. Too distracting. Eyes on the road. Taxi whizzes by on my right. Speed Bump!

    It's 5:30 by the time I´m finally on the other side of it all. 4.5 hours for the 1st 183 miles.

    Autopista (Cuota) Toll plaza, on the south side of Torreón.
    [​IMG]
    And then its the Autopista, that is, toll road hwy, comparable to our Interstates. Also known as Cuotas. $12 toll for 46 miles of super hwy and worth every dang centavo. I say this as they are safer and faster than the "libre" roads. Generally speaking, when I'm headed into Mexico I make use of the cuotas to get as far into Mexico as fast as possible.

    The huge Nazas river flows majestically just south of Torreón. I'm out of the desert now, and in the Central Highlands. Setting sun casts long shadows on rock formations and arid mountain ranges.

    I exit the Autopista at Cuencamé (it continues on, Durango bound). It gets dark and colder and the road is rough and hazardous with traffic to Juan Aldama, where I finally pause for food. This is a bus stop gas station cafeteria, decorated with scores of paintings and photographs of Marilyn Monroe. 3 huge buses are parked outside. Delicious burritos ($3.50) but I can´t figure out the system as to how you pay for them. The gals behind the cafeteria line watch over me. When all the buses leave, the place is deserted.

    It's 9:15, I push on for another 42 miles of good 'ole Mexican night riding. Good choice. The road is much better and traffic is lighter. Just gotta get used to the oncoming cars/trucks passing on my side of the line, with me 'a coming. They expect me to move over. Just a little unnerving.

    At 10:15pm I exit the hwy and enter the town of Rio Grande, Zacatecas. OK, I'm ready for a room now. Rio Grande is a small farming community. Lots of fertilizer smells coming into town. Hotel El Carreton, $18. It's a motel located directly across the highway from one of the bus stations. I'm skeptical, but too tired to care, and in the end, grow to call the place home. I am so adaptable.

    Day 4. 332 miles
    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 5, Wed March 12, 2008. Rio Grande, Zacatecas. Grease Monkey Day

    This a.m. I'm greeted with a small puddle of oil under the bike.
    [​IMG]
    My friend, Warren sez it ain't officially a "leak" if you can cover the spot on the floor with your hat. Well, I guess this qualifies since black oil is dripping from under the engine, both sides, and along the swing arm to the rear axle.

    The Hat test
    [​IMG]
    OK, long painful story short. I traced the leak to a hose clamp that connects to the bottom of the oil tank reservoir. It seemed loose so I tightened it. The chore involved draining all of the oil from the tank. The job took me all morning, performed in front of my room. No shade. I get to know the maid.

    Draining oil from oil reservoir in front of my motel room
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    So it's all fixed? Nope. Still leaking black oil, maybe worse.

    Now this Harley has a peculiar set-up. The battery is supported by a bracket that is wielded to the oil tank. (Stupid design, if you ask me.) Vibration and riding rough roads has repeatedly broken one of the battery bracket supports -- and I fear the leak may be coming from a crack in the tank, where it is wielded to the battery shelf support. Which happens to be right next to the hose clamp that I originally suspected as leaking.

    Option #1. Ride on, checking engine oil frequently. After a cruise thru town I've just about decided to do just that. Get the bike to Zacatecas and be broke down there. I contemplate the ride back all the way to Texas with this messy oil leak.

    On my way back to the motel/hotel I run across a motorcycle repair shop and decide the best use of my time is.... to fix the bike right here and now.
    I put the bike into the shop. Mechanic Gabriel and I will do this chore together -- that is, inspect the bottom of the oil tank. As in, remove oil tank for inspection.

    1st mishap, we clumsily loose 1½ liters of jet black oil onto the shop floor.

    Finally, tank is removed. Gabriel thinks the hose is old and ratty. I ask him to check for other leaks with gasoline, and hear him talking to his boss about that, but somehow this is passed. Of course when the bike is reassembled, I still have the oil leak, so... for my 3rd time, and Gabriel's 2nd, we break down the bike and remove the oil tank. We´ve got it down now. Passing tools, working as a team, we tear it down "volando" (flying). Sure enough, testing with gasoline, now Gabriel finds the suspected tank leak at the seam with the battery bracket, an insignificant looking tiny crack. He's off with the tank to the wielder. Job finished about 7:30pm. I'm done.
    Charges? Oh, yeah. The charges were $8 for the wielder + $15 for the shop for a total of $23. I slipped Gabriel a $5 tip on general principal.

    Good news. That leak is fixed. No engine oil leak. Just a slight primary drive case "seep" (i.e. it does't pass the hat test) and I can live with that.
    Please no comments about new bikes or leaky Harley's in general.

    Went into town later that evening. It's a small town, everything closing up at 9:00. Had an excellent burger cooked on a street grill. $3. Skateboard gangs rule the Plaza.
    #8
  9. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    12,224
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA.
    Enjoying your adventure into Mexico! Great pictures! Keep it coming!:clap

    colleen
    #9
  10. schwartzkm

    schwartzkm Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    88
    Enjoying your ride report! My wife and I are going to do a trip to Mexico the 2nd week of June. We would like to make it to Veracruz in two days from the border but now wonder if that is possible without riding too hard? Any thoughts riding from Brownsville, TX down MX 180 to Veracruze?

    thanks in advance!

    Kevin...
    #10
  11. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    I'm sure there are others out there better qualified than me to answer that question. That being said, looks like your talking about 600 miles or so. I found my comfort level to be about 250 miles per day, so 300 miles per day ain't that much of a stretch. I'm constantly amazed at the difference between "Mexican" miles and miles logged in the USA. They are much longer.

    Veracruz is a neat place. Personally, I would avoid (as in go around) Tampico. Bypass it on a secondary road to Ebano. Tuxpan is nice, and of course Papantla. The ride from Papantla to Veracruz should be the highlight. Don't forget El Tajin near Papantla.
    #11
  12. SKINNY

    SKINNY Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2001
    Oddometer:
    669
    Location:
    West Texas

    I made that same trip in a cage in 3 days...we left Matamoros early one morning...stayed in Tuxpan on day 1 and Jalapa on day 2...hit Veracruz about mid-afternoon on day 3...
    #12
  13. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 6. Thursday
    Rio Grande, state of Zacatecas to Tlaquepaque (Guadalajara), Jalisco. 332 miles (same as yesterday!)

    It's Thursday and I'm still headed south. I call home (my cell phone works!) and quickly arrange for more time off.

    Sierra Chapultepec, north of Fresnillo
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    A double 53 footer, Zacatecas bypass
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    Mexico's Central Plateau
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    I feel I'm making a mistake by NOT going into Zacatecas. But I pass on it, taking the Cuota road bypass. Beautiful day, sky so blue. I just remember how congested Zacatecas was the last time I was there (2001?). I would need to spend the night to do it right.

    Zacatecas in the distance, from the bypass road. Feeling uneasy
    [​IMG]

    The wind continues to be down right cold. Mexican Highlands. Finally, in Aguascalientes, for the first time on this trip I feel overly warm in my riding jacket, but soon the sun goes down and it's frio time again.

    Day 6, Rio Grande to Tlaquepaque
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    Know your Cuota roads
    I've taken the Autopista route, as suggested by the hotel people in Rio Grande. At a gas stop at the Jalisco state line, south of Aguascalientes, a guy in pick-up and I are talking. When I tell him where I started this morning, he laughs and sez I shoulda taken Hwy 54 out of Zacatecas! He sez I've come the long way. Well I'm steamed. A through map check reveals that indeed, the Hwy 54 route from Zacatecas to Guadalajara is 200 miles, whereas my route is costing 242 miles. So Hwy 54 is 42 miles shorter (these are Mexican miles we're talking), but not the 100 miles shorter the guy teased me about. Still, its late in the day and I've got another 140 miles to go. I stay steamed.

    I pull into super crowded heavy traffic Guadalajara at 9-10pm. Tired burnt by the sun I've 'bout had it with this Mexican Central Plateau. I'm plateaued out. The last toll plaza had 12 toll booths. I'll admit I was a bit rattled with all the night time traffic, unmarked hwy lanes, everyone in a hurry. Can't see s***.

    Tlaquepaque
    I exit Tlaquepaque (that's TLA-Kay-PAH-Kay) and land at the first Pemex station. Its huge. Four buses are gassing up at the same time on one side. 6 cops fly in on Honda 250's. They are like 'skitters. In fact, there are cops all over the place, some in flak jackets. One hour to unwind, clean up and regain my dignity. I study city maps on the filling station wall. What to do, where to stay? Downtown Guadalajara? I'm a crispy critter.

    Somehow I wind up in centro Tlaquepaque, the real Tlaquepaque, and I fall in love with it. Tlaquepaque is a part of Guadalajara. Funky old town. 6 square blocks of pedestrian only streets. Run into a motorcycle "gang" of young kids, 15 bikes. Orlando leads the Black Dragons. They pretty much don't know what to make of me and the 'Hornet. But smile big when I say I came from Rio Grande today. Giant moto rally in Mazatlán next week end. I'll have to miss it.

    Many streets closed to car traffic but at this hour, I follow the Black Dragons' lead and enter the pedestrian zone. Great chow at an outdoor restaurant that takes up a whole city block, actually its made up of many different eateries and bars. Gouged with a bill for $19! That's the most I've paid so far.

    The Swing Room
    At 12;30 a.m. I get a room at the very first place I can find, the Caprice Motel, located across the blvd from the Pemex station where I first landed in Tlaquepaque. For $26 it comes equipped with fancy TV, free porn and one of those sex swings hanging from the ceiling. I kid you not. Plus my own private garage.

    The Swing Room. As nice as this place was, notice there are no closets or shelves to put your stuff.
    [​IMG]

    If these walls could talk
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    Nice TV
    [​IMG]

    Know what? I don't care. It's brand new, super clean, and the bike is safe. A respite from the mean ole wind and sun out there on the Central Plateau. I didn't see the sign warning "No Children or Minors Allowed" until I left in the morning.

    Of course I knew something was up when the Administration is behind a one-way-glass mirror. A voice comes over a speaker from nowhere, Dr No style, telling me to go to Room #57.
    Just go to #57?
    Si.
    Ok, I putt around to the back and find the garage for #57. As I'm parking the Green Hornet two "maids" show up, at least they were wearing maid costumes, uhhhh, uniforms. Nice looking girls, friendly, they ask for the $26. Paying for your motel room away from the Administration office/one-way mirror is kinda strange, but OK. $26. Then one of them asks me if I want anything to eat. Well it's 12:30 a.m. and no thank you, I just ate, but in retrospect this may have been a chance to upgrade my room.

    You gotta love it. So much for one of those classic old colonial hotels in the Guadalajara center.
    #13
  14. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Kudos to Ajijic
    Day 7. Friday Mar 15. Ride to Ajijic (say Ah-hee-HEECK), Lake Chapala, 40 miles.

    I studied maps upon waking and thru the morning. I'm so close to the Pacific coast I can taste the sea salt. Puerto Vallarta, Barra de Navidad. Do I dare? After map study I evaluate the oil tank supports, another one has broken but I make it OK.

    Leave motel, fool around in Tlaquepaque. Breakfast in the market. Shoot photos.

    Tlaquepaque, outside the market
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    About 6 square blocks of pedestrian only streets, Tlaquepaque
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    Tlaquepaque
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    Find high speed internet and disappear for 2.5 hours. Back outside the place has become inundated with tourists. Day trippers from Guadalajara. Time to go.

    Day 7, Short blast down to Ajijic on Lake Chapala
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    Short blast down to Lake Chapala. The hard part was trying to get out of Guadalajara. And then Ajijic, I park in front of the police station. And....

    Ahhh.... Oh yeah. This is why I came. The town is so tranquil, the sense of well being is immediate. Laid back. Lots of Americans and Canadians but the locals have no hostility. They must bring in the bucks and the locals know it. Whatever. Everyone seems to get along. No hurries here. Suddenly my trip seems very short.

    Ajijic police station
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    Chapel on the square
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    Ex-pat hangout on the square in Ajijic. I'll admit, I didn't go into this place. Local places were more fun.
    [​IMG]

    Mexican electrical engineering, Ajijic
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    All this, and.... real coffee houses too
    [​IMG]

    Now all I've read about Lake Chapala is that the water level is down, no it's fluctuating. The water is polluted with fertilizers. Well, I walked down to the shore of Lake Chapala, and let me go on record as saying, it is beautiful.

    On the shores of Lake Chapala
    [​IMG]

    Watched an amazing sunset.
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    The colors just kept coming long after the sun had disappeared behind the distant hills.
    [​IMG]

    I was so full of peace. I returned to the plaza in stunned silence. Last night, coming in off the road into Guadalajara in the dark, burnt, rattled, overwhelmed, was the low point of the trip. No doubt.

    At last I've found my groove. At last I feel in sync. Ajijic, regardless of what you read about the gringos taking it over, real estate prices, yada-yada-yada, has earned 4 stars in Otto's book. And I'm pretty picky. Kudos to Ajijic.

    Stayed at Ajijic Hotel, right on the plaza. My room is right next to a little fountain pool with running water. No AC here, they just leave their windows open. $40.

    My suite, Ajijic Hotel, $40 and I don't care
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    Hotel Ajijic, the next morning
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    Unpretentious Hotel Ajijic, right on the main square
    [​IMG]
    #14
  15. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 8. Saturday, March 15, 2008 Ajijic to Mazamitla, 60 miles

    Morning soft light. Hotel Ajijic garden.
    [​IMG]

    La Nueva Posada hotel

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    Hotcakes and no beans
    I walk down to La Nueva Posada for breakfast. A big gang of gringos cluster around the front door. Old gringos. "Mature" gringos. They're probably not that far from 60 but they still make me nervous. They are part of some sort of walking tour and chatter away in English.

    At the outdoor restaurant garden overlooking the lake, the Americans order in English. I overhear someone ordering,
    "And I want.... two eggs..., over-easy..., hotcakes...., and no beans".

    The ex-pat crowd in Ajijic is definitely older. I'm somehow reminded of the younger hip crowd I encountered in Sayulito last year. Ahhh, Sayulito. The walking tour comes in for breakfast and as tolerant as I am, there comes a point. Ok, they ruin the ambiance. I go.

    Hotel Casa Blanca B & B

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    Hang out at the Lake Chapala Society. An outfit run by the ex-pats here. Nicely done, gardens, library, snack shop, something for the local kids. Nicely done.

    Ex-pats at Lake Chapala Society. The signs are in English.
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    View from "la cruz"
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    Climb "Camino a la cruz" a hill overlooking Ajijic, for the views. Its got the 12 stations of Christ along the way. About 30 min strenuous hike, 50 min from the hotel. Oh My God, when crossing the hwy I see long lines of cars at the light. The tapatios (what Guadalajarans call themselves) are out in force. In hordes. Its Saturday. From my view point, overlooking the lake, I can see that much of the newer development is on the mountain side of the hwy. The old Ajijic is between the hwy and lake. All of the north shore of Lake Chapala is slowing being developed, as an extension of Guadalarara.

    On the hwy thru town
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    Hard to leave Ajijic, I kept meeting interesting people.

    Dr Jesus Martinez is a retired pediatrician who wants to sell me a house for $81,000 on the otherside of the lake. His daughter is married to the manager of my hotel.

    Vince, sholder length white pig tails. Claims to be of American Indian descent and is doing his best to prove it by being alcoholic. Wears red bandana Indian style on his forehead. White pigtails.

    Ever been shot in the back?
    Then there was Ricardo. Ex law enforcement. Ex Colorado county sheriff. He didn't like No Country for Old Men.
    "I guess that law enforcement job isn't all that glorious, like they depict in the movies I mean," I'm trying to be sensitive here.
    "Oh it was a kick in the a**!," he sez, "until some sonofa***** shot me in the back..... And I saw my buddy killed."
    "Have you ever seen a man shot in the gut?" he goes on. "With a shotgun?"
    "I've never seen anyone shot," I admit. "I've barely even fired a gun."
    He also served as the law in Texas, but I never got where. He talked about Tom Russel and Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, and his favorite, Guy Clark. He knew all the words to their songs.

    Scott
    And then there was Scott, my favorite. Scott tells me he rode a Harley Davidson Low Rider all the way down to Tierra del Fuego.
    "It's in Argentina, now." I'm in shock and awe.
    He crossed the Darien Gap in a sailboat! He said there was a video clip of it on YouTube. I got his email address but..... no answer, yet. He said he was a geologist, and he had a house in Guadalajara and Lima, Peru. I'm wondering if its too late to change professions. I wanna be a geologist too.

    I finally say farewell to Ajijic and move on. Around Lake Chapala. Nothing could be finer than a slow putt around Lake Chapala on a Saturday afternoon. Nothing, 'cept maybe chasin' my buddy Richard Black thru the Texas hill country on any Saturday morning.

    Day8
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    Leaving Lake Chapala, still heading south, looking back
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    Approaching Magical Mazamitla
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    On the other side of the lake I climb into the hills, finallly leaving Chapala behind.
    Into the Jalisco hill country. Small town of Mazamitla. Everybody has a cabana. I am not prepared to be picky here. I pick Cabanas Gloria. It's a "cabana" right on the main road into town. Oh, well. It's just one night. And I wanted to be near town. It's a suite for $50, includes kitchen, living room, as well as bedroom. Plus a working fireplace, which I fire up in the middle of the night.
    Eat at El Troje, a big restaurant on one of the roads into town, nice but I wish I'd picked a smaller more local place in the center of town. The place is hoppin'. It's Saturday night and many young people from Guadalajara make a weekend of Mazamitla. There were a couple of discotecs that are going strong way past midnight. I hang with the all-night crew camped out on the church steps. They were making these palm weavings for Palm Sunday, tomorrow, and work on them all night long.
    #15
  16. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    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
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    Food stalls at the market
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    Typical Mexican juice stand
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    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
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    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
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    Michoacan, near Paracho
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    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.
    #16
  17. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Out Standing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    137
    Location:
    Tallahassee. FL. USA
    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.
    #17
  18. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Day 10, Monday Mar 17, 2008, Acámbaro to Zimapan, Hidalgo, 152 miles

    Motel California, Spartan room, $18
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    Motel California
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    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
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    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
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    Chemin
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    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
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    The first tunnel. You can see cars coming and going.
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    Day 10,Acámbaro to Zimapan, Hidalgo
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    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.
    #18
  19. infoatnmmoto

    infoatnmmoto with the band

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,550
    Location:
    Wanted felon
    Nice pics and write up. More! :clap
    #19
  20. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer no cualquier gringo

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    251
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    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
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    $25, good value. Yes that's my "purse" on the bed.
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    Downtown Zimapan
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    Zimapan police station. Wild west or What?
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    I loved this sign for its simplicity. Any questions?
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    View from the old Pan American Highway, near Zimapan
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    One of my last photos in Mexico. The Pan Am Hwy between Zimapan & Jacala
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    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.

    Control
    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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    #20