Panama and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    This is a story about an older man who hasn’t been to the dentist in 20 years and gets the bright idea that it would cost the same to ride a little thumper down to Guatemala and go to the dentist as it would to pay the big bucks to go to an American dentist. People like you might understand this logic. Most people smile at me knowingly.

    Ah yes. But I don’t care what people think. I just like to goof around and have fun. And any excuse to go on a long ride into the unknown is a good excuse in my book. So I hitched up my trailer in Nebraska in a foot of snow in February and loaded up my Super Sherpa and high tailed it out of town in between storms. I spent a month in Apache Junction, Arizona doing some remodeling. And then it was time to head south of the border. I had a passport, bike title, and 3000.00 cash that I put in an R.E.I. money belt. I have been to Mexico and Central America before, so have learned to travel light. I used to ride a BMW loaded down with stuff I thought I might need. Nowadays I just take the essentials. This included throw over panniers with mostly bike tools, battery powered air pump, spare tubes, patch kit, maps, an old camera, with room left over for water and snacks. Also brought a small duffel strapped to the rear rack with spare tee shirt, sweat shirt, pair of socks, and long underwear for the cold winter mountain riding in Mexico. I wore everything else.

    When I leave on long trips it is like I’m shot out of a cannon. I crossed over into Mexico at Nogales and immediately was smiling as I adjusted to the fluid Mexican driving style. Ahhhhhh. What a great feeling. Soon I was out on the open road heading down to kilometer 15 to get my tourist and vehicle permit. With that taken care of it was time to hit the libre road. The longer my money lasted, the longer my trip lasted, so I avoided the toll freeways and took the free road south through the Sonoran desert. More later....

    Two days later I stop at an overlook south of Puerto Vallarta and finally start to slow down and relax. I'm not in Nebraska anymore......
    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Off Limits

    Off Limits Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,481
    Location:
    Camp Snoopy
    Nice!
    #2
  3. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Happy Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    278
    Location:
    Northern Colorado
    John,

    Perfect timing! I am anxious to read your report as I will be going on a road trip next weekend to pick up a (new-to-me) low milage '01 Sherpa. Be sure and include lots of pictures of the SS.

    Ride Safe!

    Taz
    #3
  4. cavebiker

    cavebiker Old School Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Oddometer:
    853
    Location:
    Hayward, WI
    I like it a lot :rilla
    Doing a long ride like that on a 250 has been something I have thought about for a long time. Agree, lots of pics.
    #4
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    The Sonoran desert is usually brown as toast, but this year has seen a lot of winter rain and the hills are green.
    [​IMG]

    I stop to take a break and take some pics of the desert flowers starting to bloom.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The libre 15 hwy wanders through the country and passes through the towns. There are speed bumps in every town (called topes), so the going is slower and more relaxed than the 15 freeway. Also, the freeway costs about 10 cents a mile. So you ride 30 miles and pay 3 bucks, ride another 50 miles, pay a 5 dollar toll, etc. But just like in the states, if you want to get somewhere quickly, the freeway is fast and smooth for the most part. I was enjoying the more leisurely pace of the backroads. In fact, I couldn’t believe how nice the back roads are getting in Mexico. They are putting an incredible amount of money into road improvements. I hadn’t been down here in 4 years, and the changes are amazing. You used to have to weave around the potholes, and the road could have missing parts or change to gravel unannounced for a stretch.

    I stopped to use the restroom at this Pemex station.

    [​IMG]

    Arturo and his friend were outside the bathrooms cleaning everyones windshields for tips. They were like mosquitos hovering over everyones car as they came in. They made 5 pesos just while I was there checking out my map and drinking a coke.
    [​IMG]

    Arturo even cleaned my faceshield and I gave him a peso.

    [​IMG]

    Of course, a few miles down the road I hit a swarm of bugs and my faceshield got totally slimed, but I liked those little entreprenurial kids.


    I just had to stop and take a pic of this fire station right next to the most important building in town. The folks in Sonora have their priorities straight. Departamento de Bomberos is Spanish for Fire Department. No way this brewery is burning down.
    [​IMG]

    Mind you, I don’t know much Spanish. But that doesn’t stop me from having fun and trying to speak the language. People appreciate it if you at least try. I can count to 100. When I first used to come down here, I had to have people write down the numbers they wanted me to pay. Anyway people mostly want to know where you are coming from and where you are going and how long you’ve been on the road. I am good at those basic questions. Along with lleno (yeno) con magna por favor (fill it up with regular please).
    #5
  6. ArcticRider

    ArcticRider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    170
    Location:
    Alaska, Costa Rica
    Amigo,
    If you decide to keep heading south and you make it to San Jose, Costa Rica, give me a shout and I will offer any assistance I can. In the meantime, I will enjoy reading about your trip.
    #6
  7. Sourjon

    Sourjon TAT'erd

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,051
    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    :lurk

    John
    #7
  8. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Happy Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    278
    Location:
    Northern Colorado
    I have popped the top on a Corona and settling in, so keep it coming!
    #8
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE

    Hey Cavebiker!

    I last saw you in Todos Santos down in Baja. I was reading your ride report and found your hotel from the picture. That was a few years back. Your jeep was broken down, so I felt obligated to track you and Heidi down and drop off a six pack to hold you over since I was riding in Baja at the time. What a hoot!

    Hope you guys are doing well. I don't live far from Wisconsin now, so might have to track you guys down again. Don't be surprised if I drop by for a quick visit.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
    #9
  10. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    Hola ArcticRider,

    I just got back to Arizona and am writing up this adventure while it is fresh in my mind before I head back to Nebraska. I LOVED Costa Rica, and had an absolute blast slicing through traffic in San Jose on my way to the Camino del Muerte. I plan on heading back down to Costa Rica next winter though, and will be sure to look you up if you're still in town. I still smile remembering what a feeling of victory it was to make it through San Jose in rush hour traffic and find the other side of town. I LOVED splitting lanes with the pizza delivery bikes in the big central american capitols. Better than a carnival ride!

    Best,
    John Downs
    #10
  11. ArcticRider

    ArcticRider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    170
    Location:
    Alaska, Costa Rica
    John,
    Oh man, you lived it! That is how I spend every morning. Just when I start getting cocky, then some 45 kilo tico kid comes by me on an ancient 100cc 2-banger and leaves me breathing his exhaust. These locals can really ride. There is a joke that the designated moto lane is between the solid yellows.

    Glad you made it back home safe and as for next winter, I hope to be enroute to the Dakar.:wink:
    #11
  12. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    I finally have to stop for gas and pull into a Pemex station. This guy tells me he makes 720 pesos a week. At 8 cents to the peso that isn't much. And he works seven days a week. Yikes!

    [​IMG]

    Here is a cool little bike that looks like it would get the job done. Honda Bros NXR 125. They don't sell them in the U.S. I'd be tempted if they did.

    [​IMG]

    It probably gets better gas mileage that my 250. But cruising through the desert I only needed 10 liters after 200 miles, so about 75 mpg. I can live with that.

    The sun was setting as I pulled into Hermosillo.

    [​IMG]

    I checked my booklet on economical Mexican motels that I got from fellow inmate Sjoerd Bakker, and cruised to the cheapest one in town. But the prices have gone up in Hermosillo. They wanted 28 bucks for a basic room. I didn't really feel like stopping, and it was a full moon, so I kept riding. Of course you should never ride at night in Mexico, but I always do. So shoot me. The sun sets at 6:30 and it's dark by 7 in the winter. I wasn't tired, so kept riding through the moonlight. I put on all my warm clothes as it cooled down. It was magic riding through the desert in the moonlight. I pulled into Guaymas at around 10 and checked into the cheapest place in town which was 21 bucks (270 pesos). The places that used to be 10 are now 20 in northern Mexico. Fortuneately it gets cheaper as you head south.
    #12
  13. Spuds

    Spuds On my way home

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    515
    Location:
    SoKal
    Post more.:lurk
    #13
  14. Doubleplay

    Doubleplay Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    311
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Good Stuff. :clap
    Thanks for posting.
    #14
  15. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    So I woke up the next day and got an early start. The skies were blue and the weather quickly warmed up. It was a great day for riding. I soon left the northern state of Sonora and entered Sinaloa. I had been wondering how it would be passing slow trucks with a 250. It turned out to be a non-issue. Just downshift to 4th or 5th and crank the throttle. I was traveling light and found it easy to pass slow traffic on the long straight northern Mexican roads. I stopped to take a picture of one of the long trucks called Dobles parked on the side of the road.

    [​IMG]

    These bad boys are 100 ft. long. A third of a football field. They have a 40 foot trailer tacked on to a regular 40 foot trailer and 20 foot cab. I would downshift twice and upshift at the middle trailer and shift into 6th as I was passing the front bumper. That little Super Sherpa can eat Dobles for lunch.

    Sinaloa is a big agricultural area. So of course I had to stop and take a pic of the cornfields for my buddies back in Nebraska.

    [​IMG]

    And this cornfield next to a fancy cemetery.

    [​IMG]

    There were acres and acres of nice looking crops. There were a lot of Mercedes diesel transport trucks like this one loaded to the gills with tomatoes.

    [​IMG]

    I passed alot of them out on the open road. Mexican drivers are courteous for the most part and often will move over on the shoulder if there is one to let you pass.

    It was getting dark by the time I made it to Mazatlan, so I stopped for the night just south of town on the old highway at a place that was finally under 20 bucks at 200 pesos (16.00).
    #15
  16. rawdog

    rawdog Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    817
    Awesome, John! Give us more!!! :clap:clap:clap
    #16
  17. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,739
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    On the third day of riding in Mexico I finally started to slow down and relax. What's the rush? Beautiful weather, nice roads. I was hard to relate to sub-zero weather and the howling winter winds of the northern plains as I cruised south from Mazatlan. The roads finally started changing from straightline desert riding like this:

    [​IMG]

    To roads with more of these:

    [​IMG]

    I still don't know what all the road signs mean. Some are easy like slow down:

    [​IMG]

    And these nice new signs with a car going over a speed bump to announce the traffic calming topes. These signs are new since the last time I came down here.

    [​IMG]

    Mexico is celebrating it's 100 year centennial since the war of independence and there were a lot of 2010 informational signs. They had pictographs of museums, cathedrals, historic sites of the cities you were coming into. They look like this:

    [​IMG]

    If anyone knows what the one in the lower right of that sign means please let me know. It looks like a policeman getting ready to chuck in a toilet to me. But I know that's got to be wrong.

    I had a wonderful day riding in the warm sunshine. I took a cutoff over to the coast road at San Blas north of Puerto Vallarta. I pulled over to take a leak and a nice guy in a Toyota Tundra with Alaska plates pulled over to see if I was okay. What a nice guy. He had a sea kayak on top of the camper shell and the air conditioning coming out of his rolled down window felt good. He was a motorcyclist and invited me to spend the night on his 40 foot sailboat anchored in Puerto Vallarta. It was late afternoon and I should have taken him up on it, but I had gotten an email that my sister was vacationing in Puerto Vallarta from Feb. 28th to March 6th, and today was Feb. 28th. I thought it would be cool to drop in and surprise her and my brother-in-law Skip. I hadn't seen them in a couple years. So I had to pass on the nice offer.

    The coast road dropped down onto the freeway into Puerto Vallarta. Really nice new freeway with fresh paving. There was an exit sign for Costco. Boy, things have changed around here. I headed down to the center of town. This place has gotten HUGE. I remembered that my sister was staying at the Hotel Regina. The capitol of Saskatchewan. That's how I remembered the name. So I stop at an tourist info kiosk and the guy speaks English! So it was easy to get directions. And soon I wheel up to the open air lobby/reception desk and park my bug encrusted bike. And walk across the four star immaculate marble floored lobby in my bug encrusted first gear jacket and riding pants and ask the nice lady if my sister is staying at this beautiful hotel. So the dear receptionist rings my sister's room and puts me on the line. BOY, was my sister surprised to see me turn up out of nowhere. What a hoot! She and Skip had just gotten in 15 minutes ago, so I went down to her fabulous suite with a million dollar view out to the bay. WOW! My sister travels in style. Quite a big difference from the places I've been staying. But then, I just need a flat place to sleep, a place to go to the bathroom and a pipe sticking out of the wall with water coming out. Tepid water is good, hot water is a luxury. Of course, my trips last a lot longer than my sister's.

    So we all take a walk down to a nice place for drinks and shoot the breeze and catch up on things. Really nice to see them. They invite me to spend the night, but it's still late afternoon, and I'm in the zone and not ready to stop riding. So, saddle up, bid them farewell and head down the road for some great riding winding up into the mountains and down to breathtaking views like this:

    [​IMG]

    Miles and miles of untouched beaches. This part of the coast road reminds me of Hwy 1 in California. With cliff riding winding through hairpins with views down to the water:

    [​IMG]

    I just about lost this, so better post it now.
    #17
  18. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,306
    Location:
    Alaska
    Great pics and commentary John. :thumb The cop getting ready to chuck in a toilet is a strange one. I thought the exact thing when I first saw that sign. :rofl

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think your 250 is the perfect bike for down here. :strum
    #18
  19. Animo

    Animo Beastly n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2009
    Oddometer:
    5,046
    Location:
    Playa del Carmen
    Way to go man! Way to go!!! :clap :clap :clap
    #19
  20. Jaqhammar

    Jaqhammar Hooligan

    Joined:
    May 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,726
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia.
    My lady and I have a Sherpa and a KLR 250, so looking forward to the rest of your RR.
    The cop sign says to me they're doing luggage checks.
    Probably looking for drugs in vehicles and bags.
    #20