SF to Panama... eventually

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by stickfigure, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=San+Patricio,+Jalisco+Mexico&sll=19.233363,-104.714813&sspn=0.319621,0.586395&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=0,19.223498,-104.700203&ll=19.978511,-103.875732&spn=2.544934,4.691162&z=8&om=0"><img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2297/2226382100_34a72c3304.jpg"/></a>

    I played tourist in the morning so I didn't leave Guadalajara until 3pm. Highway 80 southwest of Autlán is a hoot (lots of twisties) but it was dark by the time I reached the coast, so I stopped in the first town I found.

    Melaque is a typical retiree beach town; cute and lots of not-too-expensive hotels. I've stopped taking pictures of places like this, except Melaque also has a huge dead hotel. Casa Grande, which once hosted 1,000 tourists at a time, was severely damaged in a 1995 earthquake:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2318/2225552008_a885ec256b.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2126/2224772915_f48f0c1f45.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2396/2224757787_25aac19e5c.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2175/2225545134_f884d4814d.jpg"/>

    Yes, I have some sort of fetish for civic decay.
    #41
  2. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=zihuatanejo,+mexico&sll=19.978511,-103.875732&sspn=2.544934,4.691162&ie=UTF8&ll=18.25022,-101.228027&spn=10.274708,18.764648&z=6&om=0"><img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2182/2225717965_2d79941663.jpg"/></a>

    The road between Melaque and Zihuatenejo is perfect motorcycle fodder. I finally got to wear down the outer edges of my about-to-be-bald rear Sahara. Plus some of the views are spectacular:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2235/2226442174_0d0165c3f5.jpg"/>

    My near-term goal is to hole up somewhere pleasant for about a month to take Spanish lessons and let the seat-shaped deformation in my ass reinflate. In choosing a location, my criteria was:

    * Early enough in the trip so that I get some utility out of my freshly acquired skill
    * Late enough in the trip so the location feels exotic
    * Relatively cheap
    * More Mexicans than tourists
    * Cute but enough excitement around to keep me from getting bored
    * Must have an airport so 1) friends can visit me and 2) I can visit friends

    Oaxaca is my prime candidate, but Zihuatanejo was in the running. On paper, Zihuatanejo looks good - reported to be the "genuinely Mexican alternative to Ixtapa", coastal (I suffer from seafood addiction), and plane flights to & from SF are cheap - less than $300. Oaxaca's airport is domestic-only, so with the extra hop flights tend to be about twice that amount.

    Zihuatanejo was disappointing. It fails the "more Mexicans than tourists" test and really isn't all that cute. It's also rather expensive - everything is priced for tourists. In almost every way except one, I'd rather be in Puerto Vallarta. However, there is one thing... it's HOT HERE! Somewhere south of Guadalajara the climate became "sleep naked on top of the sheets at night with the fan on" weather. I stayed in a cheap hotel on the beach without hot water and I didn't miss it. For two nights in a row.

    Also on the plus side, I had wifi and piña coladas under a palapa:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2038/2226446992_f65cd7934e.jpg"/>

    For some reason I felt a little concern about parking my bike on the street. I ended up wedging the bike behind a tree right up against the window of my room:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2124/2225660891_eb418b7a8f.jpg"/>
    #42
  3. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    Ixtapa is a government-planned resort community, designed to be the Pacific-coast equivalent of Cancún. It was only 8km out of my way so I had to ride through to check it out.

    Ixtapa is not part of Mexico. I feel fairly certain that Ixtapa is actually a suburb of San Diego. I leave you with a few pictures that capture the essence of Ixtapa, but the most important thing is to imagine the <b>strong smell of freshly cut grass on a hot day</b>:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2089/2225679761_1aeda0134b.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2381/2225664845_b9ee5703d1.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2194/2225692643_854ac5cfdf.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2210/2225675165_bd6f65fa77.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2343/2225688349_578622b32d.jpg"/>
    #43
  4. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    On the road to Acapulco I caught up to a pack of BMW 1200GS riders in full gear with Jalisco license plates. "Caught up" is probably not the right term; I stopped for a beverage and when I got back on the road, there they were in front of me. If the timing had not worked out exactly this way I would have missed them entirely since they were riding 90mph+ and passing cars the way that you can when you have 1200cc engines and the Mexican constitution for vehicular risk. Incidentally, these were the first local riders I've seen with what I consider proper motorcycle safety equipment; rarely do I see helmets, let alone body armor.

    They were actually great riders and the roads were straight so I had to seriously flog my poor lone 600cc piston to keep up. When I finally saw three digits in my (still reading mph) speedometer I decided to just catch up when they stop for gas.

    It continues to be my experience that motorcyclists, especially adv-type riders, are the nicest people on earth. This group (six riders and four pillions) was part of a large (60+) club in Guadalajara that takes two-week trips every couple months. The leader is even on advrider (hi Guillermo!). We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. They're planning a trip to Alaska in the spring, maybe I can arrange to have them meet my SF riding crew. I'll still be in Central America.

    I rode with this group for a while but then sanity (and the lure of a dirt detour) set in and I broke off. Of course, immediately I started riding 80mph on a rough dirt coastal road... so much for sanity.
    #44
  5. Mexicho

    Mexicho n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    nyc
    Bringing back some old memories. Took a very similar trip about 6 years ago on my first bike (honda shadow 600) which I bought on ebay 3 months prior. learned how to ride in those 3 months and than took it down to Costa Rica.
    I see you're looking for a cool hip place to learn Spanish. Guatajuato is a great place. Its a university town full of young people so the party seen is one of the best in Mexico. Barely any gringos so its pretty cheap. Also the town is absolutely stunning. Oaxaca is really cool but I think you'll get pretty bored. The ride from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido is a great one however so if you need to get your party on it'll give you a excuse to ride some seriously technical twisties. There are 2 routes and one is in real bad shape so make sure that you travel on the right one. I believe its the one that is more north.
    Another option is to wait and take the course in Antigua, Guatemala. Place stunning, weather spring like year round, great english schools, dope party seen and close to a international airport. There are quite a bit of travelers going through but they are generally of the shoestring, international, adventure type.
    If you have any questions about places down to Costa Rica shoot me an email. I've travelled extensively all over Mexico and Central America so I know the place very well. However, stumbling upon gems on your own is half the fun so i understand if you never write. I'm also running mototours through Mexico
    HTML:
    Exodussouth.com
    so if your spanish picks up maybe we can work together in the future.

    Via con Dio amigo
    Song:clap
    #45
  6. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    Yuck.

    I do not like Acapulco. It's dirty and smoggy and ugly. The traffic, while not as bad as Guadalajara, is somehow more menacing because the streets are narrower. I have yet to find something pleasant other than the cute little hotel I'm in, supposedly the oldest hotel in Acapulco. I feel reasonably certain that if I left my bike outside on the street, something bad would happen to it overnight.

    The port is full of tourists that came in on cruise ships. The locals in stores and restaurants communicate with hand gestures, assuming off the bat that I won't understand spanish. A guy offered me "girls" as I walked through the zócalo.

    I'm fleeing after one night. I thought maybe I would check out the cliff divers or a jai alai game, but I am not inspired.

    The essence of Acapulco:

    [​IMG]
    #46
  7. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    Thanks for the advice and the offer of help! It will be at least another two months before I leave Mexico, but I would love to PM you with some questions when the time comes.

    I'm looking forward to the ride from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca, but I think I'm going to stay a few days in PE first. It's nice here! I've heard good things about Guatajuato, I will put it on my itinerary. From Oaxaca I'm headed north through the mountains for a little bit, but that might be a while.
    #47
  8. JackL

    JackL T plus 16 months

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2006
    Oddometer:
    435
    Location:
    Colorado
    To respond to your "I doubt there is an inch of coastline in the US that you can get this experience from. Fifty years from now, probably not an inch in Baja either..."

    Come on up to Washington State & we'll show you one of the last in the lower 48. There are only a few small towns on the entire Pacific coast of WA. And one of the worlds 10 best beaches. Only a short 1-2 mile walk from the nearest road. ;)
    #48
  9. GuyD

    GuyD Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    807
    Location:
    Catskill Mts in New York State
    Rock On Dude, you're an inspiration to me right now!
    #49
  10. a1fa

    a1fa Throttle Jockey™

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    14,737
    Location:
    Arkansas
    dude. if you dont want calluses pull over every hundred miles and clap your hands very hard. get that blood flowing..
    #50
  11. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    I love WA - I've spent a lot of time in Seattle thanks to two-and-a-half long distance relationships (long story). I've been up and down the Oregon coast a couple times, but only in a car :waysad

    This summer I may join some friends on a ride to Alaska, so maybe I'll take you up on that offer!

    Jeff
    #51
  12. meat popsicle

    meat popsicle Ignostic

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Oddometer:
    14,339
    Location:
    Circumlocution Office of Little Dorrit
    jones'in for mexico :tb

    thanks for taking me along - I have been as far south as Michoacan (well, just to La Ticla, the suburban surfin' couple noted on their blog) and went down Baja to take the ferry. I'll say this:

    BE THANKFUL YOU TOOK THE SHORT FERRY!!!

    The long one, an overnight trip can be bad. We did not know they do not let you go back to your vehicle, so we couldn't get anything: sleeping bag, toothbrush, or even just a jacket! It gets cold on the Sea of Cortez after dark... and there really isn't any food; folks who knew brought their own.

    I believe I have seen at least one of the dead resorts you photographed, but I can't recall the name of the bay it was on, um, Boca de Iguana?

    Again, thanks for stirring up memories. :beer
    #52
  13. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    The short ferry had its downside too - dumped me in a nasty part of town at 10pm. Plus the ride to Mazatlán was boring boring boring. I would have rather stayed overnight on the ferry! I was warned that I wouldn't be able to get anything from the vehicle under way. That sucks about being stuck on the boat without stuff! I hear stories of people having to leave their pets in the car for the whole trip :(:

    Google maps doesn't show me the names of the bays and my maps are all packed up, but I'll look them up when I get a chance. I got to walk around in the one near San Blas, that was pretty neat. It's been standing like that for decades, what's the chance it's going to fall on little old me, right? :fall
    #53
  14. marluna

    marluna n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    4
    Hey
    I logged on intially to be jealous of my friend's trip to South America and now I'm loving your trip description. I lived 6 years in Chiapas, Mexico and there is not a day that goes by that I don't fantasize about a trip like this! As for Spanish schools, Guanajuato is great ( I taught English there) but San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas is even better... Gto is very spanish colonial and SCLC is indigneous.... interesting contrasts. Anyway, thanks for your report. I look forward to more.
    #54
  15. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    [​IMG]

    It's as if all the juice that makes a city attractive to me was squeezed out of Acapulco and poured on Puerto Escondido.

    Puerto Escondido is cute. The beaches and air are sparkly clean. There are no megahotels. The "main tourist strip" is a little cobblestone road that runs parallel to the beach (closed to vehicle traffic at 6pm) and more than half the tourists are Mexican. The non-Mexican tourists come from all over but they seem to be mostly backpackers and surfers.

    [​IMG]

    Puerto Escondido has a great hostel, the Mayflower. It's the tall white building in the center of this picture. I have a room on the top (4th) floor with a king bed and a private bathroom for 250 pesos per night. Best of all, WiFi reaches everywhere.

    [​IMG]

    Here's my new "office":
    [​IMG]

    Turning around, this what's inside the room. Yes, that's a baby grand piano. My room is just around the corner to the left. This floor is so nice that one of the backpackers (actually a guy studying for the Minnesota bar) has started sleeping on the couch!
    [​IMG]

    Joe requested more pictures of food. Here's a lunch I had at one of the nicest restaurants in town. Giant prawns stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, and bbq'd. Fresh coconut, beer, cantaloupe. Not pictured: a small side of guacamole and glass of fresh orange juice already consumed. All together, 250 pesos (about $23US). I eat a lot of street food (yum!) but every couple days I like to splurge, and splurging really delivers in Mexico.
    [​IMG]

    Oh, here was the view from my table:
    [​IMG]

    I've been here three nights and I'm debating staying here for another week. There is a <a href="http://www.puertoschool.com/">language school</a> here, but they're pretty booked and the soonest I could start classes would be Saturday. And while I love this hostel, it's filled with 20-something surfers that speak fluent English. I've had hangovers two days in a row and will no longer attempt to keep up with the "kids".

    Random pic of me:
    [​IMG]
    #55
  16. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    I may just have to do a week or two of study in each place :thumb

    I need to be in the vicinity of Mexico City early March, so I'm hesitant to go too far south now (there well be plenty of time for that later). Plus somehow I want to take a week's "vacation" to SF mid-Feb for my birthday. Maybe Guanajuato is the right answer... or maybe it is a good place to hang out in March because in April a friend is planning to ride down to meet me for the Journey South. Eh, one day at a time I guess :jump
    #56
  17. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    A couple random pictures from Puerto Escondido.

    Late last night (1am?) I was walking back from a club along the beach. I stumbled across two Mexican gentlemen trying to wrestle with some plastic chairs that had been parked a little bit too close to the surf. Of course I jumped in to help, but not before taking a picture!

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2013/2230037982_450f550434.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2413/2229253425_c1e9af6ff5.jpg"/>

    After about 20 minutes of carrying heavy wet-sand filled chairs around, we were victorious!

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2256/2230063682_cc1a04bb6b.jpg"/>

    They offered me beer but by then yo necesité dormir.

    The next day I found all these strange egg-like jelly sacs *all* over the beach. Anyone know what they are?

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2252/2229275913_300645d330.jpg"/>

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2071/2229279999_0292993229.jpg"/>

    Oh, and here's a Mexican interpretation of the <a href-"http://www.ratbike.org/">Rat Bike</a>. Some parts obviously came from a scooter:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2311/2230107996_67101c5fcd.jpg"/>
    #57
  18. xdbx

    xdbx Motorcycle Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,503
    Location:
    NorCal
    Those are jellyfish. I'm not sure what causes them to get caught out on hightide, but they're just trapped in shallow water when the water ebbs back out. I've seen this many times on the Mediterranean coast in Israel
    #58
  19. dirtypumpkin

    dirtypumpkin "Monster Truck Bike"

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,001
    Location:
    Northern California
    Great report, thanks for sharing.:freaky
    #59
  20. haggeo

    haggeo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    930
    Location:
    oakland, ca
    the int. means interseccion, you don't have to know spanish to know what that means. the A is Avenida. in costa rica the addresses are given in meters from some church, street corner or other landmark, 300 metros de la iglesia santa teresita, and so on.
    #60