MotoAventuras New Year's Meeting - Valle de Bravo, Mexico

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Gustavo, Jan 20, 2007.

  1. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    I step off the train,
    I'm walking down your street again,
    and past your door,
    but you don't live there anymore.

    It's years since you've been there.
    Now you've disappeared somewhere
    like outer space,
    you've found some better place,

    and I miss you like the deserts miss the rain.



    Back in the days I used to drive to Albuquerque to see Lizbeth, this was playing on the radio often (it had just been released, and it was popular...:deal). I love driving/riding in the southwest desert, and often Missing gets stuck in my mind as I drive through it. It was playing in my mind (OK, I admit I was singing too. Luckily, the drivers around me couldn't hear me, so nobody was harmed in the process of keeping myself entertained on the road :lol3) as I was heading east from Palm Springs, having gone past the large wind turbine farms, suddenly the floor drops, and the wide open spaces of the SW desert are spread in front of me. The sun was getting low, the desert had these beautiful golden brown colors. I was not missing the rain... :nod


    Gustavo
    #1
  2. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    Hey, dude. You're hyped right now. :D

    Where are you ahorrita?
    #2
  3. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Backtrack one day. It’s Saturday morning and I’m headed out to Phoenix for a work trip that I am about to combine with a trip to Mexico to see my MotoAventuras buddies. I have been watching the forecast every day for the last two weeks. Will the Siskiyou Pass be passable by motorcycle or will I have to ride down the coast? Two weeks ago, it would have been the coast, and maybe not even that. It has been dry for a couple of days, it started raining today, but it’s warm enough not to snow in southern Oregon today. Straight down I-5 I go.

    Ready to leave Portland:
    [​IMG]



    It wasn't that bad, surprisingly. It rained a bit, but nothing heavy and there was light traffic on Saturday morning.

    Still a bit wet on I-5 south of Salem:
    [​IMG]



    As I get to Roseburg, the skies clear up, and the ride through the pass seems like it's going to be a piece of cake.



    Going up Siskiyou Pass:
    [​IMG]



    There was almost no snow at the Siskiyou summit. Very surprising, but I wasn’t complaining, that section of I-5 is much more fun than any highway has the right to be.

    Where is the snow? :huh
    [​IMG]



    Compare to last year :eek1:
    [​IMG]





    Then I start to descend into CA and the skies look thick and black. I was hoping this would be the case only until I got past Mt. Shasta.


    Looking into CA :bluduh:
    [​IMG]


    No such luck. There was a short break around Redding and then the skies opened up... As I was approaching Sacramento, the rain was coming sideways, it was gusty and the spray from other cars and trucks around me made it difficult to see the road.

    Just when I was thinking it couldn’t get any worse, I see the tach going nuts. At first I thought the engine had a problem, but it was quickly apparent that it was just the tach, not the engine. I guessed something got wet and it's shorting out. What I didn't think was that soon thereafter, all my instruments will short out too... :eek1 So, I'm now around Stockton, my instrument panel is dead, it's pouring rain and I can’t see a place to pull over to look at this. Well, I know I can make it to Tracy on the gas I have, the bike is running fine, no reason to stop and get any wetter than I already am :deal. Push on to Tracy.

    Motel 6 doesn’t have covered parking or private garages (boy, am I disappointed :evil). Should I try to identify the source of the short in the rain? No, I don’t it’s a good idea. Knowing how fast you are going is way overrated :lol3. Knowing when to stop for gas, OTOH, could be useful. Did I mention that the instrument panel is dead, i.e. I can’t see the odometers or the fuel gauge? This could be a problem. :scratch

    Well, it could have been, but knowing how far the V-Strom can go on a tank of gas, I just highlight on my map stops at ~150 mile intervals (to be on the safe side, strong winds and fast CA traffic will decrease the range). Sunday morning dawns with just as much rain and wind as Saturday. The local forecasts don’t give me too much hope either :waysad. The only place where it’s not raining in their forecast is south of LA...

    Both in Oregon and NorCal, where the weather was not SW-like, and I know it's not scientific or statistically significant, the only other bikes I saw on the road were Harleys. Say what you will about Harley riders, but not all of them are RUB posers. :deal

    There's something wrong here...:scratch
    [​IMG]



    Did I mention Californians drive fast? :evil I pick rabbits to pace and help me keep out of trouble (I really don’t need an HPDA), but by the sound of the engine, they are not going the speed limit. :lol3 I have to let a couple go, as I am not willing to risk that HPDA. :deal It must have been entertaining, because before I knew it, I was climbing into LA. And the forecast was right. I could see the blue skies on the other side of Tejon Pass. :clap I was so excited to see clear skies I stopped at the pass to enjoy the sun while I had a snack.

    Finally, some blue skies...
    [​IMG]



    I did the usual loop around LA through Pasadena, and as seems to be the case every time I am in LA, I got buzzed by a CHP moto cop. I saw him coming in the HOV lane to my left, next time I look in the mirror, he is behind me, and closing fast. He must have been going 90 (65 MPH zone, mind you :deal) when he went by. Traffic was heavy for a weekend, but not anything like you see there on a weekday, so I quickly made my way out of LA and east towards Indio.


    Wind turbines near Palm Springs:
    [​IMG]



    And there I was, looking at this beautiful, wide open, golden brown desert, thinking to myself it was worth it. After those long miles of putting up with cold and rain and suddenly here I was singing in my helmet - like the deserts miss the rain – even though I wasn’t missing it at all...

    [​IMG]


    and I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain...
    [​IMG]



    Gustavo
    #3
  4. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Estoy en Hillsburrito, OR. :cry

    How about you? Still wandering around Mexico?

    Gustavo
    #4
  5. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    crossing into Guatemala tomorrow morning.
    I thought your sorry ass was still down this way....:dunno
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  6. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Don't I wish...

    How far are you planning on going this trip?

    My sorry ass had to get back to work. :(: I think that I was on may way back when you started your trip. I need to go pick up my bike in March, so another mini-trip then.

    Gustavo
    #6
  7. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    I spent the week in Phoenix for work, not much to report on other than long meetings.

    I haven’t figured out what was the cause of the short in the instrument panel, but it does look like it's the panel that bit it. I was going to get a bicycle computer to replace it, but couldn't find anybody that was willing to splice 18" of extra wire on one to make it reach it's location on the bike. I tried several electrical and computer repair places, and nobody would even look at it. "Sorry, we don't do that kind of work" What kind of work do they do? :scratch Are people that afraid of liability that they wont take on simple job like that? :dunno You'd think that a guy that repairs computers and I can see has a soldering iron on his bench could do this in less than 10 minutes. I wasn’t asking for favors, I made it clear that I was willing to pay for his time, but he’d still rather surf the web (that’s what he was doing when I walked in to that shop) than try to do it.

    I posted on the West regional forum, and got some great offers to use grange space of several gracious inmates that live in the area. Many thanks again to all that replied to my post about that. :thumb

    Luckily, I can always count on my friends to bail me out. I was talking to Tony and he offered to buy one, splice the extra wire and is mailing it to me tomorrow. On Friday I get back on the road towards NM, where I am going to pick up my new bicycle computer. I think I owe him big. :bow


    Gustavo
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  8. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    After a hard week at work :knary, it was time to hit the road again :ricky. On a beautiful Friday just before noon, I get on the bike and continue the trip south. It's warm enough to only wear a long sleeve shirt under the 'Stich. After the previous days' ride getting to Phoenix, I have a hard time believing I wont be cold, but as the miles accumulate, it seems I made the right decision. Welcome to the southwest. :wings


    Traffic south of Phoenix on I-10 is incredibly heavy. I am guessing it's not moving at more than 55 and sometimes even slower. A bad combination of 18 wheelers and paisanos making their way south and blocking traffic from making progress. "Paisanos" is what Mexicans call the Mexican ex-pats returning to visit (and most typically go back for the holidays). You often see then caravaning, 2-5 cars/trucks heavily loaded, bringing back everything and the kitchen sink. :eek1

    Back to the paisanos. For reasons I don’t fully understand :dunno, they tend to drive in tight formations (no one ever heard of safe following distances here), typically well under the speed limit (on I-10 in AZ where the speed limit is 75 - and effective speed is actually quite a bit higher than that - these caravans were going about 55) and unfortunately, almost always in the left lane. Now imagine one of these caravans trying to pass an 18 wheeler going, oh, 1 MPH slower then they are. No wonder traffic wasn’t moving going south. But, if you drive as if you were in a RHD country, there is always a passing lane available. :evil

    Paisanos:
    [​IMG]



    I finally manage to find some clear road and start making progress. It's a still a beautiful day, and I can't help but enjoy the ride. When I stop to get gas in Benson, AZ, the road to Tombstone is calling my name. Never been to Tombstone, this is the day to go check it out. The road is OK, I was hoping for a bit more entertainment, but certainly better than an interstate.

    [​IMG]


    Tombstone was a bit of a disappointment (Wyatt Earp wasn’t there to greet me :lol3). Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a tourist trap today.

    Not much trading going on today:
    [​IMG]


    O.K. Corral:
    [​IMG]



    It's not obvious from the picture, but these two gents were ready for a gunfight of their own...
    [​IMG]



    Tourist trap:
    [​IMG]



    Bird out of the cage :D:
    [​IMG]




    I continue on to Bisbee, the road will take me over Mule Pass. Finally some curves.

    Curves? Not yet:
    [​IMG]



    ...like the deserts miss the rain...
    [​IMG]



    Not quite as steep or twisty as I expected:
    [​IMG]



    Unfortunately, they decided to put a tunnel instead of going over the mountain, so the curves didn't last long.

    [​IMG]




    You go through the tunnel and you are in the great metropolis of Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee is also the name of a huge copper mine on the east end of town, you can see much of the open pit mine as you drive AZ-80 towards Douglas. Douglas is a border town, and if you weren’t paying attention, you couldn’t tell when you are downtown on which side of the border you were :cromag. I followed the main downtown street all the way to the border. It's strange, you run into a dead end and a fence, but the street seems to continue on the other side of the fence. Only the Border Patrol truck parked by the fence clues you in to the fact that this is an international border.

    After that short detour, I got back on the highway and started making time. I calculated that I could have made the whole loop from Benson back to Lordsburg, NM on a single tank, but as I was making my way NE from Douglas I started second guessing my estimate. Not sure why, but I decided to stop and fill up before I got back on I-10. I found gas in Rodeo, NM.

    Rodeo, NM. Yes, this is IT:
    [​IMG]



    A few miles after Rodeo I see a sign for New Mexico Hwy 9. NM-9 runs more or less parallel to the border, and it’s a shortcut to Deming, NM. I figured there would be almost no traffic, so it’s probably as fast as using I-10. Turned out to be much faster :evil and it had some nice curvy sections (everything is relative) for entertainment value. :ricky

    NM highway 9:
    [​IMG]



    As I was getting to Deming, the sun was disappearing fast and the temperatures dropping even faster. It was getting really cold really fast :vardy. I went from thin long-sleeve shirt to long-sleeve shirt, heated jacket, fleece and Heat-Troller cranked way up in one gas stop. Welcome to the SW. Hey, at least it wasn't raining. :D

    Which reminds me. Yes, I spent most of the day singing - and I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain...


    Gustavo
    #8
  9. RonS

    RonS Out there...

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    Looks like a good time to break into this. Time to start having some serious discussions with your employer Gustavo. You need 2 months off (minimum) next winter. I think you know what for and what the destination is. I just picked up an Elephant. Hopefully it will be reliable enough to complete the journey. If not, I'm keeping the DR as a backup and planning to keep it in a state ready to be shiped anywhere at any time. Think about it. It would be a hoot to have you along.

    P.S. tell us more about the ride.
    #9
  10. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    I never figured you for a masochist... :lol3

    Two months next winter? Man, that's going to be tough. I'll have to think about how I manage that... :scratch


    Gustavo
    #10
  11. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    It turned out that most of my friends were not in town that weekend (hey barko1 :wave), so I used the time to see some family and visit Mesilla.

    Mesilla used to be the county seat of Arizona and New Mexico territories. It has an old historic center that has been going to waste for years. It has the potential to be a really interesting attraction for tourists ($$$) if they were a little more flexible, sort of like a nice Mexican town in the US...

    Mesilla's plaza:
    [​IMG]



    This used to be the courthouse where they tried Billy the Kid:
    [​IMG]



    I love this section of Hwy 28 where it goes through the pecan farms:
    [​IMG]



    And it was time to finally get south of the border.


    Gustavo
    #11
  12. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    As usual, I left really late, and I started to worry that this would be a problem at the Mexican border.

    As I was making my way to Mexico, I saw this sign and I wasn't sure Emily, Martie or Natalie would agree :evil:
    [​IMG]



    I usually cross at the Santa Teressa-Jeronimo border, as it's a lot more convinient than going through Juarez (plus it avoids the city traffic completely by taking the cuota bypass). The parking lot was rather full on the Mexican side of the border, but it didn't take that long to get the tourist visa and even less time to get the bike registered for temporary import into Mexico. I am not sure if this is a universal change, but they asked for my driver's license to give me the FM-T form. Not clear to me what the concern is, that you'll run off with a form that doesn't have the stamp on it? :dunno Anyway, it was quick, and the ITV (temporary vehicle import - Spanish) permit even quicker. On a side note, I had made copies of everything - passport, driver's license, registration and title (just in case) - in advance. The only thing I needed a copy of was the FM-T form (hard to make a copy of that in advance :deal) but there was no line at the photo copier (cheaper than last year, but still a rip-off at $0.50/copy) so it took practically no extra time.


    Entering Mexico:
    [​IMG]



    In less than 30 minutes I was blasting south on the Pan American highway.

    Finally, a working trip meter - Thanks Tony! :clap:
    [​IMG]



    Sand dunes of Samalayuca:
    [​IMG]



    Given the time, I figured I'll bite the bullet and take the toll road, at least to Sacramento. Actually, riding the cuota roads in Chihuahua often makes a lot of sense. The distances are significant, the alternatives usually longer, much slower and the State of Chihuahua is enlightened enough to charge motorcycles half the rate cars pay :thumb. This is not the case in the rest of the cuota highways, and a source of an intensifying battle between Mexican motorcycle assosiations and the government. Made a pit stop in El Sueco, the sun was shining, it was a very pleasent day to ride.


    El Sueco:
    [​IMG]



    I took the libre section that bypasses the Sacramento toll plaza. It's a really nice (and twisty :clap) section of road that is a very welcome change from the mostly straight highway from Juarez. I got to Chihuahua just in time to go to dinner with friends.


    Gustavo
    #12
  13. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    The weather forecast for the rest of the week looked very questionable, especially for the Sierra, so I decided that there is no point in waiting, and went for a day ride to check a road I had not been on in a long time. On Outer Darkness Lone Rider said he heard it had been paved (it was dirt last time I rode there), so I figured it was time to verify the road condition (the stuff I put myself through for you guys... :lol3). The fact that this road starts at the Basaseachic falls didn't hurt, as the section between La Junta and Basaseachic is a fantastic motorcycle road (actually, Mex16 is a fantastic road all the way to San Nicolas, some 120 miles further west from Basaseachic). I left Chihuahua around 9 and it was still chilly. It only got chillier as I climbed up into the mountains. Good thing I had brought a fleece in addition to the heated jacket.

    I went through Cuauhtemoc, the sun was shining, but it was still cold. After La Junta (or more precisely, after the Creel turnoff) the road starts to get very interesting. It's about 110 kms from that intersection to Basaseachic and it keeps you busy the whole time with just about every combination of curves you can think off (and some you can't :eek1). A lot of tight curves with varying pavement quality and it makes for slow progress, especially when compared to what you get used to before you get to La Junta.

    I love the Sierra Tarahumara:
    [​IMG]




    You go through several smaller towns along the way, and you can basically count on have a warm and excited receptions from all the kids you see on your way.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    Before I knew it, I was in Basaseachic. If you are wandering how to spot that turnoff, it's where the army checkpoint is.

    The road from Basaseachic to San Juanito is about 60 miles and it is definitely not paved.

    This is the road I was going to explore, on the Basaseachic side:
    [​IMG]



    This is a picture for my friends in the PNWet. That blue thing above me is called "sky" :evil:
    [​IMG]



    I'm not sure these guys get a lot of business at this location:
    [​IMG]




    Not only is it not paved, in some sections it caused me to wander if the Givi top case would still be there next time I looked in the mirror. Of course, those sections usually came right after a nice and smooth one in which you pick up the speed to something that way out of line with the bumpy and rocky sections. If you are riding something like an XR/DRZ, it would probably go un-noticed, their suspension would just eat that stuff up, plus, you more than likely don't have any detachable hard luggage to worry about.


    This is one of the better sections:
    [​IMG]



    There was little traffic, but once in a while I'd run across a truck coming the other way whose driver seemed to be practicing for next year's Baja race :eek1. I managed to avoid becoming a hood ornament on those trucks. Some drivers were a lot more considerate, moving over and slowing down a bit to reduce the amount of dust they kicked up as they went by.


    The road follows this valley for quite a while, fantastic scenery:
    [​IMG]


    Then it starts climbing up into the mountains:
    [​IMG]


    The Copper Canyon is on the other side of that ridge:
    [​IMG]



    It turns out that there is some construction going on on the San Juanito end, but it looked like they were re-grading the dirt, not preparing it for paving.

    As I was getting gas in San Juanito, there was a small group of kids that was very interested in the bike. But they wouldn't come close or talk to me. They just stood there, hiding behind a column and stared, fascinated, at the bike and the guy with the astronaut suit (you see very few people riding in full gear in Mexico).

    Bikes always attract kids, even when they are very shy:
    [​IMG]



    Unfortunately, those 60 miles took a little over 2 hours, which meant I was running out of daylight (and nice temps) when I got to San Juanito. I decided against going up to Creel, opting instead to start making my way to Chihuahua. The section between San Juanito and La Junta doesn't suck either (although it's much faster than the one going to Basaseachic) so I had a nice ride down from the Sierra towards Chihuahua. :ricky

    Traffic in Cuauhtemoc is chaotic:
    [​IMG]



    I took the toll road back into the city (it saves over 30 minutes driving time). Technically, toll plazas should have services for the paying motorist, but in many states the services were limited to a dirty bathroom (you want paper or towels? Not even if you pay extra :deal). In Chihuahua (as has been the case in previous trips) not only do they have the cleanest facilities I have ever seen on the road (anywhere that is open to the public), they often offer free coffee, maps and info. And, as I mentioned earlier, they give motorcycles a 50% discount over car rates only state to do so, AFAIK. :thumb Almost makes me want to use highways more often.

    Almost. :lol3



    Gustavo
    #13
  14. crazybrit

    crazybrit Long timer

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    Dude. we need to talk :D

    Plus, those Tombstone pics are annoying. I went there when I lived in AZ and never saw the main Wildwest drag. I was convinced it was a sham. Hmmnnnnn.
    #14
  15. Scottysix9

    Scottysix9 Shhh...

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    :clap
    #15
  16. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    I spent a week in Chihuahua, working :type and taking care of family business, and it was time to get back on the road and continue with "the plan."

    The plan? :ear

    The plan was I would ride to Puerto Vallarta, pick up Jose Luis and Lety and we would ride along the coast to meet Johan and co. in Lazaro Cardenas, on the Michoacan coast.

    I got off to a late start, a long list of honey-do stuff that had to be taken care off before Lizbeth would let me take off for the trip. No problem, my first overnight stop was Durango, and it’s an easy ride there, only 660 kms away... :eek1


    There used to be lots of these vendors by the side of the road in northern Mexico. On the way to Durango, this was the only on I saw, I kind missed them:
    [​IMG]




    The roads in the northern Mexican highlands are mostly straight and very fast.

    Hwy 45 to Parral:
    [​IMG]


    Slow traffic:
    [​IMG]


    Of course, like most Mexican roads, they are built to a very low budget, so when you reach any sort of elevation changes, they always follow the contours of the terrain and this makes for some entertaining curves that suddenly show up after long stretches of mostly straight roads :ricky. As I observed in previous trips, the roads in Durango aren’t quite as well maintained as they are in Chihuahua.

    Driving in Mexico is always an interesting change from the US. Traffic laws are used in a very lax manner and there is a lot of tolerance for bending the rules as needed. This is a benefit when you are trying to make time, but also means you have to be ready to react to all sorts of driving maneuvers you would almost never see in the US :huh.


    Parral was a regular stop for Pancho Villa's Division del Norte, it's also where he was murdered, so he is an important figure in the town's history, you'll see many references to Pancho and his men there.

    Pancho Villa in Parral:
    [​IMG]



    Interestingly, I saw more police presence, especially Policia Federal Preventiva (PFP, which is sort of a federal version of our state police forces) on this trip . I remember seeing a news article about a road safety campaign started by the new president, Calderon, just in time for the holiday season. They were showing off these new Dodge Chargers (same as many US police forces got), and sure enough, there were quite a few on the road, in places I had not seen them before.

    Back to driving. Mexicans will pass anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Most drivers of slower moving traffic will help you by turning their left signal on when the road is clear ahead. If they are about to turn left, they will usually make a hand signal as well, to be sure you understand the difference. Whether you want to trust those signals, is really up to you...


    Mexicans pass just about anywhere they can see and sometimes in places they can not...:eek1
    [​IMG]



    I noticed something new on this trip - drive through liquor stores. I first saw them in Cuauhtemoc, and then started noticing them everywhere. Lizbeth tells me that's not really new, but I really liked the convenience. You simply pull into the store, load up on all your favorite drinks (might as well have one while you wait) pay and take off without leaving the comfort of your car. What a great idea. :freaky

    Drive through liquor store:
    [​IMG]


    Between Parral and Durango, there was some free entertainment provided by the Durango DOT :evil:
    [​IMG]



    Hwy 45 through Durango - Note no paint stripes of any kind...
    [​IMG]

    It wasn't all like that, but there was a long section that didn't have any markings. That's one of the reasons it's not recommended riding at night in Mexico.


    These two must have been on a long ride. There was nothing on this road for the next 60 kms.
    [​IMG]


    I couldn't see much either...
    [​IMG]


    Lots of these adobe houses in small towns along the way:
    [​IMG]



    I made it to Durango in no time, the GNS took me straight to Hotel Roma (where I stayed last time. It's quickly becoming my favorite place to stay in Durango, it's clean, well located and about $25/night). The drive through the city was a bit slower than I expected, and with the heavy traffic and narrow streets, it was hard to split my way to the front of traffic lights.

    [​IMG]


    Avenida 20 de Noviembre from Hotel Roma:
    [​IMG]



    Interestingly, I found Durango more appealing this time than I did on the last trip. Strange how you go to the same place and get a different perspective on it. On my way to find an Internet cafe I passed a taqueria that was packed with dinners, I figured if it’s that full, I has to be good, so I had dinner there too after I finished checking my mail. By that time, most people had gone, so there was no wait to get a table. An order of mixed tacos and one soft drink set me back $2.50. They were very good too.

    Taqueria Doña Maria:
    [​IMG]


    The main plaza was full with families (and later young couples who can't afford a motel... :evil) out enjoying the evening, it's also lined with vedors - everything from food carts to shoe shinners - trying to get some of their spending money. It was much nicer than on my last visit last January (maybe they all ran out of money after Reyes :lol3, the city center was dead on that visit), so like I said, I liked it much better this time.


    Gustavo

    #16
  17. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    3,303
    Location:
    West Texas/Rico
    You've got a great ride ahead of you. Makes me want to go back down there.
    #17
  18. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2002
    Oddometer:
    8,096
    Location:
    North Salt Lake, UT
    Great write-up, Gustavo :thumb

    Keep it coming

    :lurk
    #18
  19. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,487
    Location:
    Sometimes in Hillsburrito
    Last year, when I tried to leave Durango early, I froze my butt off for the first 100 miles or so :vardy . I decided there was no rush to get going this year (who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? :D), especially given the weather reports on TV, claiming a cold front that was affecting Mexico was responsible for record setting low temperatures. I know it's hard to believe from the pictures, as the skies were completely clear all day the last few days, but those cold fronts in Mexico only cause precipitation in high elevations, mostly in the form of snow. The rest of the country, around this time of the year is just colder than usual. They mentioned the Durango sierras and some towns I quickly found on the map as being right off the road to Mazatlan. It felt really cold last night as I was walking back to the hotel after dinner. This can't be good. :bluduh

    I woke up at 6:30 anyway. Damn internal clock. Took my time and decided to go out for breakfast, but it was too early and the only place I found open was an Oxxo (convenience store). They had warm coffee and some pastries. I guess that´ll have to do. Walked around the plaza, were shoe shiners were setting up their stalls and city workers were cleaning up the mess left by visitors the previous night.




    Durango is cleaner thanks to this woman and her coleagues:
    [​IMG]


    As an aside, My friend Balam tells me Mexico is the dirtiest country in Latin America. He should know, he has traveled most of it. It's harder for him to accept, since he is Mexican and an environmentalist by heart, hearing him rant about it is both entertaining and sad. But he could right from what I've seen. It's not uncommon to see people roll down their window as they drive and dump whatever junk they have out the window. Often when you pull over at any lookout point on a highway, the first thing you see is trash. It is especially annoying when there is an empty trash can right next to that pile of trash. And it's not just poor uneducated people. I followed a new S-Class Mercedes out of a Pemex station only to have to dodge a Coke can that came out the passenger's window less than a mile down the road. Why they couldn't have thrown it into a trash can at the station is beyond me. Money may buy an S-Class but no class.

    Back to Durango. Like I said, there weren't too many people out at this time of the morning, a few "early" risers walked into the Oxxo for coffee and left in a hurry to get to their work place.



    Durango's cathedral:
    [​IMG]



    These guys are among the last to leave at night and the first to show up in the morning:
    [​IMG]



    The road out of Durango starts up with a nice climb into the sierra. I was wearing all the warm gear I had, and it was the right choice. The air was crisp, clear and the sun was shinning (but not providing any warmth :ddog ). I wasn't cold, but I knew it was the gear, not the air temperature.

    The main industries in this region are cattle ranching and timber. Almost all towns I passed through had sawmills. Most towns were scattered on both sides of the highway, in a way that looked like not much planning happened before construction. They simply grew as more people moved there and they built their houses just about anywhere they found a piece of land. Needless to say, the only paved road is the main road, everything else is dirt.

    Typical sierra town:
    [​IMG]



    Spot the tope. Shrewed vendors take advantage of the topes to sell their stuff to vehicles that have to stop to get across these speed bumps:
    [​IMG]




    Fantastic road, and it's not even El Espinazo yet:
    [​IMG]



    When I stopped for gas in El Salto (a huge sprawling, dusty, sawmill town), more or less at the top of the sierras, it was still rather chilly. From El Salto it's about 100 miles to Concordia, and I was really looking forward to this stretch of road. This is where the Espinazo del Diablo starts (not that the section between Durango and El Salto wasn't fun, but the next section is even tighter and with less straights). Last year I had a great time, but there was more traffic than I would have liked to enjoy it. This time, going in the opposite direction, I was there a lot earlier, and I had not seen that much traffic so far. It was looking rather promising.


    The road climbs a bit more from El Salto and there I started to see snow by the side of the road. Hey, what happened to that warm weather Mexico I was going to ride through for my vacation? I guess keeping all that cold weather gear on was the right choice. I stopped to take a picture of a snow covered mountainside and went on my way. A few curves down the road there was some ice on the road. Not a lot, there were clean tracks to ride through, but still, it got my attention. I made a mental note - Remember to not blindly charge through curves on the "dark side" of the mountain (northern facing sections that get almost no sun in winter).


    Yes, that is snow. Actually, I wasn't so worried about snow, but the ice that started showing up on the road was more of a concern :eek1 :[​IMG]


    Sure enough, there was some more ice on some other "dark side" curves. No big deal.

    After a while of not seeing any more ice, I figured I had passed the coldest sections and went back to the usual pace. And then I come to this relatively mild left hander that's on the "dark side", it takes me a couple of seconds to adapt to the light and when I do all I see in front of me is ice. Pretty thick, whitish, slab of ice on the road and no clean tracks that goes on for about 20 meters.:eek1

    All I could think off at that moment was "oh shit, there goes my trip". I am not sure I can come to a complete stop before I hit the ice, so that's not a good option. I pick a line that looks cleanest, move forward in the seat, keep a loose grip on the bars, steady throttle and one deep breath. About half way through I hit a bump left by a truck's tire in the melting ice (likely the previous day, it wasn't melting today) and the bike moves sideways a bit. Suddenly it got really warm, even in the shade :knary . I think American Super Camp just paid for itself, as I managed to keep the bike up. I owe thanks to Tony again for talking me into taking it.

    There was another "dark" curve that had some ice after that, and then as the road descended, the ice patches disappeared. I kept a slightly slower pace for a while, until I was sure it was warm enough to find no more ice. I took advantage of the slower pace to snap some on board pictures.


    Now we are really warming up: :ricky
    [​IMG]


    And it only gets better and better:
    [​IMG]


    But as the road got tighter and more fun, the camera went back into the tank bag and I concentrated on the job at hand - keeping a good, entertaining pace, while avoiding becoming a hood ornament on an on-coming truck :lol3 .


    It's all fun and games until you run into one of these guys at the worng moment:
    [​IMG]


    Mexican truckers like to drive fast too, and they use the whole road to do so on tight roads like this. If you ever had any doubts about the safety value of running well within your limits and not counting on using both lanes to negotiate a curve so you can change your line as needed to avoid an obstacle, El Espinazo del Diablo is going to make a believer out of you. Or a hood ornament. :evil


    Traffic was significantly lighter than last year, and it was a lot of fun :ricky . I only stopped once, to take a picture and peel off the cold weather layers, as it was getting warm.


    El Espinazo del Diablo:
    [​IMG]



    I made good time to Concordia, but good time here means I averaged only a little over 40 MPH on this 100 mile stretch. It's one of the best 100 miles of curves I know, though. It's fun, it's challenging, it's exciting and it requires absolute concentration, can't day dream on this road, if the road conditions don't get you, an oncoming car/truck will. Maybe I can find a job in Durango... :D

    It was more than just warm in Concordia. I took everything off (OK, not everything :lol3 ), drank a lot of water and promptly got back on the road only to get stuck behind two large trucks that were using every inch of the road to negotiate the last tight turns before reaching the coast.



    I'd rather be behind him looking for a chance to pass than meet him head on around a blind curve:
    [​IMG]


    Given this delay, I decided to take the toll section south from Villa Union to Tepic, but it turned out that most of that road is under construction, so after a short 30 mile section we got diverted back to the libre road. That is a narrow two lane road that serves as the main north-south road on the pacific coast side, traffic was very heavy and passing opportunities limited, at least so I thought. I would slowly make my way around long lines of cars, pickups and trucks only to get stuck behind another long column of slow moving vehicles a few miles down the road.


    Traffic on Hwy 15 was heavy:
    [​IMG]



    I took the detour to San Blas, I figured even if it's not any faster, at least there will be less traffic and I'll make a stop in San Blas to see the town.

    The town turned out to be a disappointment, not what I was expecting at all. Never mind, the road was nice and twisty, there were no trucks to follow, so I didn't have to inhale exhaust fumes like on Hwy 15 and when I got near the coast, the views were really nice. Good choice. :nod

    When I re-joined the road to Puerto Vallarta traffic was even heavier than on Hwy 15. Not as many trucks, but obviously, a lot of people going to the beaches for the New Year holiday :jkam . In Bucerias traffic wasn't moving when the lights turned green, as there was nowhere to go. Luckily, you don't have to wait in line on a bike, and I made my way to the front of every traffic light rather quickly. I got to Nuevo Vallarta around 7 PM and found Jose Luis' new house without a problem (GNS works :deal ).

    It was fun to catch up with Lety and Jose Luis, I had not seen them since last New Years (even thought I "see" JL online a lot :type ). Lety had a wonderful dinner ready, and it was very well timed, as I was starving by the time I got there.:kbasa

    It was a 500 mile day, and I only averaged 50 MPH between the tight curves of El Espinazo and getting stuck in traffic on Hwys 15 and 200, but it was a really good day. :ricky

    Tomorrow we continue on our way south.


    Gustavo


    #19
  20. salcar

    salcar Riding 4 Health

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,085
    Location:
    Nicaragua or Mexico or ?
    Hola Gustavo! como estas? me da gusto averte encontrado aqui tambien :freaky estado viendo el relato en motoaventuras.net. me dio gusto ver rutas y personas que conoci el ano pasado. aver cuando nosotros nos conocemos en persona! gracias por el relato y fotos!!:clap
    #20