MexTrek 2010 - The Extended Version or alternatively it could be called Nine Days of Adventure with Madman Milton Life worked things out so that I had the entire week of MexTrek off. What should I do with the extra days? Go to MexTrek early, of course. Dual sport adventure riding in Mexico sounded like the perfect way to spend my time off. My buddy Milton, the World’s Foremost Adventure Dentist, thought it sounded just right too and was able to arrange his schedule so he had the same days off. Early Saturday morning we loaded the bikes in my trailer and headed for the border with the intent of scouting out some new dual sport roads for the MexTrek crew. Day 1 – Austin to Galeana We trailed to McAllen and then rode the bikes to Galeana. The ride to McAllen was boring as always. There’s not much you can do to spice up 300 miles of freeway. The good news is that it's only 300 miles. A virtual hop, skip, and a jump. Mexico is practically our back yard. Just on the outskirts of town a large billboard alerted us to the fact that a local establishment named "Valley Girls" had 100 hot girls just waiting for us to stop by. Hmmm, do you really thing they have 100 hot women? 100? Hot? We debated whether we should verify their claim - truth in advertising and such - but we were on a mission to Mexico. Maybe next time (most likely not, but I should probably leave the option open. :) ) We passed some huge fields of sunflowers in full bloom on the drive to McAllen. I’m not a good enough photographer to take a photo that shows just how massive and colorful these fields of flowers were. Milton stayed up most of the night before doing last minute prep on his bike. So, he wasn’t exactly a bundle of fun on the boring ride to McAllen. I took advantage of the drive time to practice my Spanish. Most of the Spanish I’ve learned has been via this “Learn in your Car” Spanish course. If you drive much it’s a good way to pick up some Spanish. It has certainly worked well for me. After his power nap, Milton decided to get in on the action. His Spanish is mucho, mucho better than mine. As in years past, I left my vehicle and trailer in the parking lot of the McAllen Motel 6. We’ve been using this motel as our link-up spot since the first MexTrek. The hotel manager is a great guy and lets us leave our vehicles there while we are riding MexTrek. The other option is to park in long term parking at the airport. $3 per day per parking spot (so, it's $6 a day for a vehicle/trailer combo). My Italian Supermodel Husky TE610 was about to be put to its first real test of fire. Nine days of adventure riding with Madman Milton is guaranteed to stress any bike and reveal all its weaknesses. Note the very sano luggage set-up on my Italian Goddess. I can install or remove all three pieces of luggage - Wolfman tank bag, Dirt Bagz Ranger side bags, and Nelson Rigg seat bag – in about five minutes. All three pieces are designed specifically for motorcycles and are easy- on and -off. For me this is great because at the end of a long day I can unpack the bike very quickly and take everything to the hotel room in one trip. In short order I can have my feet up, enjoying the first cold beer of the evening. Ahhhh. Milton was riding the venerable DR-Z 400 (ven•er•a•ble, adjective, 1. commanding respect because of great age or impressive dignity; worthy of veneration or reverence). It’s a time-tested machine, worthy of all the respect and praise that has been heaped on it over the years. Milton and I have different packing methods and preferences. I’m what you would call a minimalist and use a system designed for motorcycles. I don’t carry a lot of stuff and don’t want to spend a lot of time messing with my bags. Milton is a maximalist and carries lots of stuff in a home-grown kind of style. He just keeps stacking and arranging till it’s all on the bike. He calls his packing method “vagabond” but it works for him and that’s all that really matters. From the Motel 6 we headed west to the new Anzulduas International Bridge that John Thompson had told us about. This bridge is fantastic for several reasons. You can do all of your paperwork in one location, it has lots of parking, it’s not crowded, you bypass most of Reynosa (especially downtown Reynosa), and it takes you straight to Hwy 40. The only downside to the bridge is there aren’t any convenient money exchange places (Cambios) or gas stations. So, get your money exchanged and your tank filled before you head for the bridge. Milton getting his tourist permit at the immigration station inside the Anzulduas International Bridge tourist building You can get from Austin to Galeana in a single day. It’s 300 miles from Austin to McAllen and 200 miles from Reynosa to Galeana. Figure on 12 hours of travel (9 hours of driving/riding, and 3 hours for bike unloading & packing, tourist paperwork, gas stops, money exchanging, food, checkpoints, etc). If you want to go straight from Reynosa to Galeana it is easy to do. Take Hwy 40 out of Reynosa, turn left at General Bravo and take Hwy 35 to Montemorelos. Head south on Hwy 85 to Linares and then take Hwy 58 to Galeana. Of course, there are a number of much more adventurous and interesting ways to get to Galeana but we were bypassing those routes today. Our goal was to get to Galeana as quickly as possible (and in daylight) so as to be positioned for the adventure ride planned for day 2. However, a little adventure was not out of the question. Milton ran out of gas a few miles shy of Montemorelos. The stock tank on the DRZ doesn’t hold all that much gas. Knowing this, Milton always packs a little one gallon gas can for these occasions. Digging out the spare gas While Milton was conducting Operation REFUEL, the guy that lived across the street walked over to see what was going on. He spoke excellent English and offered his yard as a safe storage place in the event Milton couldn't get the bike running again. The kindness of strangers in Mexico is something you have to experience to believe. We rolled into Montemorelos about 4 p.m., looking for food. During these types of trips we usually skip lunch in the interest of saving time but also because it can be difficult to find a restaurant while riding in the boonies. We weren't in the boonies today so we reverted back to reason #1 for skipping lunch - saving time. Lunch time had long since passed. We had eaten breakfast hours ago and it was close enough to supper time that we decided to stop. Milton likes to eat at Milton’s whenever he passes through Montemorelos. The two Miltons. One’s a restaurateur and the other is the world’s foremost adventure dentist. After our early supper we made a bee-line for Galeana, arriving about 8 p.m. There have been lots of stories in the news about the drug war currently going on at the border. There are daily reports of violence and other activities related to the cartels fighting each other over territory. However, despite all that we had heard about this war we didn’t actually see any evidence of it nor did we encounter anything particularly unusual. At most there are one or two additional military or federal police checkpoints on the highways. We went through the usual checkpoint outside Reynosa (where they randomly check tourist and vehicle permits) and a federal police checkpoint (they waved us through) on Hwy 40 about 80 miles west of Reynosa . There is a military checkpoint on the way back into Reynosa (they waved me through on Wednesday; they stopped our group of 8 and gave our bags a cursory inspection when we went through on Sunday). So, while I’m sure there is a war going on, I’m not sure just how dangerous it is to ride between Reynosa and Galeana. If the news hadn’t told me there was a war going on I would not have been able to tell while passing through the area. During the four trips I made through the area during my extended MexTrek I never encountered anything dangerous or saw any signs of the war. Which was completely fine with me. That’s it for day 1. Tomorrow Milton is taking me on a road that’s not on the map. It’s a 70 mile long dirt road that crosses over the mountains east of Zaragoza. Not on the map? That should be fun. And easy. Right? It just must be an oversight that it's not on the map. Surely that's the reason it's not on the map and not because it's the road from hell or anything like that. Or because it's not actually a road, but a torture test. Naw, nothing like that.