South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Oct 2, 2012.

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  1. rtwpaul

    rtwpaul out riding...

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    john check your email...i sent you an idea on a very cool route/ road i found near where you are by mistake a few weeks back that wasn't on my maps or GPS
  2. RayAlazzurra

    RayAlazzurra Stuck in the Eighties

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    This ride report just gets better every day. I have thought about living on a motorcycle for over twenty years, so it is very interesting to read about your solution. My wife also had the idea to live on her bike before we got married. Her plan was to work odd jobs such as waitress at various casinos, and then move on. I had planned on saving money, traveling very frugally, and working the occasional job. Your story about doing the tile work in Costa Rica last trip was cool. The internet should make it possible for a skilled person like you to line up a few jobs along the planned route.

    The donation support seems to be going well. I was a sucker for travel books long before I had a bike. I've bought "Travels with Charley", "Blue Highways", and "Walk Across America". Your ride report is a better bargain than most books--I get to interact with the author and ask questions--what a deal. Perhaps a better analogy is that your ride report is worth the equivalent of three years subscription to Motorcycle Roadrunner.

    My only suggestion is that if you get bored or have a slow day you could add some background to the story. How did you first get interested in motorcycle travel? What events in your life brought you to this situation? Why you find Mexico, and Central America interesting is already clear from your writing and photography.

    Muchas Gracias.
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Stone masony is like handwriting. Every mason's work is slightly different like a signature. It was interesting walking through Las Pozas fantasy garden all day yesterday looking at the handwriting on the wall. It told an interesting story. You can trip out here for hours. Well worth the visit.

    I have worked for people like Mr. James with unlimited budgets and active imaginations. These projects take on a life of their own. Some people turn 60ish and have a huge pile of money and a lot of time on their hands and active creative imaginations. It usually starts out small with a folly or two, then friends come over and ooh and ahh and a designer friend says oh wouldn't it be cool if you built this and that and before long you have Hearst Castle. Or in this case Las Pozas garden. And these obsessive projects don't usually stop until the money runs out or the owner dies. I have worked on two fantasy garden projects for people who are now bankrupt. Obsessions die hard.

    My guess is the far stone arched entry into the lost world was done by a classically trained stone mason possibly from England brought over by Señor James. We'll call him Stuart. Same guy that did the circular window. His work is all in the lower section of the garden and I expect he got fed up and went home early on:

    [​IMG]

    This looks like the spot where Stuart quit and the C team finished up over to the left:

    [​IMG]

    After Stuart left nobody knew how to do stone arches. Here further up in the garden Jose did a nice job of rustic stonework on the left while his cousin Pablo with the drinking problem wasn't having as much success over on the right. When they got up eight feet they called the fantasy concrete sculpture boys over to build a form with reinforced concrete for the arch, stripped the form after a couple hours and embedded small stones. Somebody else finished the top.

    [​IMG]

    It still is aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye and will look better with time in another 100 years when more moss is growing on it.

    The reinforced concrete boys were the artists on the job. Really nice sculptural work. This area almost has a gothic cathedral medeivel feel to it:

    [​IMG]

    The lacy fretwork of some areas is so different than the lower area where the muy macho boys were building massive columns to the sky:

    [​IMG]

    I have worked for wealthy gay men and they are drawn to tall erect garden art. I'm just reporting the facts and have no idea of Mr. James proclivity nor do I care:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some areas of the garden have a Machu Pichu lost world feel:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And others are pure lost world Shangrila:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]






    [​IMG]
  4. tricepilot

    tricepilot El Gran Payaso

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    Actually that section is the "after the mid-day mescal bender" zone
  5. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    Very nice Juan:clap:clap:clap

    Bet the water was a little chilly for swimming. Very nice place to walk around early before the tourist buses show up.
  6. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    QUOTE=tricepilot;19998375]Actually that section is the "after the mid-day mescal bender" zone[/QUOTE]

    One does wonder what the inspiration was for some of the work at Las Pozas.
  7. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I didn't check the water actually. It was definitely a trippy place and I enjoyed wandering around there.

    It's like the Grand Canyon though in that you really have to go there. Photographs only give a hint of the total picture.
  8. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi rtwpaul,

    Thanks!

    Best,
    John Downs
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi RayA,

    I started out bicycle touring in my teens. Rode to Canada and back with friends, then there was hitchhiking to Mexico before college. My Mom didn't want me buying a motorcycle, so the natural progression to motorcycles was when I was on my own. At first it was economical transportation. The slippery slope to moto-hobo came later.

    Best,
    John Downs
  10. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I took a crap ton of pictures at Las Pozas yesterday and it took a while to upload them to Smugmug down in the town square in Xilitla. I won't bore you with more pics. Well okay, maybe just one more climbing the upper winding staircase to the top looking straight down 50 or 60 feet to the Sherpa below. You better not suffer from vertigo if you want the killer shots at this hacienda:

    [​IMG]

    Anyway, plenty more shots free for the looking over at smugmug. In fact they're free for the taking as are these stories. Anyone can use them for anything. A moto magazine editor emailed and wanted me to write a story. I told him he was free to lift anything here and edit it to his hearts content. Moto Magazine folks need all the help they can get.

    It was dark by the time I headed up Rt. 120 towards Jalpan. Stealth camping is best done at sunset when you can see. Fortunately an F-150 passed me who was cooking through the corners. And on 120 it's nothing but corners for 100 miles. That boy could drive. Used him as a cow catcher all the way to Jalpan and got gas at the Pemex and asked about camping. Shoulder shrugs is all I got. So I headed back up the road and saw a sign pointing to a waterfall with a symbol for a picnic table heading up a dirt road into the mountains. I can sleep on picnic tables. Sounded good to me.

    The dirt road climbed quickly with steep hairpins a few miles to a wide parking spot where I stopped and shut off the motor. Total darkness. I couldn't see my hands until my eyes adjusted. After a few minutes a flashlight came bobbing up the road and it was an old man with a walking stick walking home late at night. I asked him if it was okay to camp here and he said "¿Porque No?" (why not?).

    So I set up the tent in the dark with the sound of waterfalls in the distance. Very peaceful place up in the middle of the Sierra Gorda at:

    N 21º 10.174'
    W 99º 33.476'

    Just off Rt. 120 past Jalpan maybe 20 kilometers. Here's what it looked like at sunrise this morning:

    [​IMG]

    And the road up:

    [​IMG]

    and the waterfall stream in the valley below:

    [​IMG]

    I was up with the sun and rode several miles up the road to see where it went until I decided to head back to Jalpan and see about some breakfast.

    This is Rt. 120 at sunrise winding through the Sierra Gorda mountains:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Those little dots up on the side of the mountain are houses with roads. So plenty of fun backroads to explore around here. None of them are on my maps so it looks like an afternoon of getting lost in the mountains:

    Yesterday I spent 285 pesos or $22.80 on food, gas, park fees.

    More later….

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  11. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    If you are bored at home try successfully setting up a new tent you are unfamiliar with in the living room with the lights out by feel with a box fan turned on full blast preferably blowing across air cooled with a chest full of ice as a soundtrack with dogs barking and donkeys braying plays from your sound system and you can re-live my first night arriving in Real de Catorce in the dark. That my friends is ADV FTW!

    I've been traveling in Mexico for around a week and thought I'd share some things I've learned so far.

    The word for wifi password is clave (claw-vay) which is the word for key en español.

    Town squares sometimes have free public wifi as a community service or hotels with open wifi nearby.

    This wind-up battery powered flashlight that my sister gave me is proving quite useful. Just fold out the handle give it some cranks like a wind up toy and voila, LED lightting that never needs batteries:

    [​IMG]

    Another handy thing to have has been this screw in socket with 2 outlets for charging the AA batteries and plugging in the computer from the ceiling fan over the bed instead of in the bathroom where the only outlet was:

    [​IMG]

    this 4-way AA battery charger is handy for charging 4 AAs at a time. Also eight spare rechargeable AA has been a nice amount to keep the camera, GPS and water purifier going between plug-in recharge availability while out camping.

    [​IMG]

    Since I am carrying more camping and computer gear this time it is much easier to find things if you always put things away in the same place. Same goes for wallet, keys, pen, pad, camera, glasses, coins always going in the same clothes pockets while you are riding. I try to put things in the first place that comes to mind since that is where you will look for it the next time. You will save yourself a lot of time looking for things if you always put them back in the same place. Especially when stealth camping in the dark it is nice to know where things are. If you can't find something and do without you should throw that thing away when you finally find it if you are traveling minimalist. The only things I am carrying that I haven't used so far are tubes and tire repair kit, battery trickle charger, battery powered tire pump, spare zip locs, rain pants and spare bike parts like front sprocket air and oil filters. And they go in the bottom of the waterproof duffle bag with the tent since duffle bags are such a pain in the ass. I have gotten rid of everything else I don't use . Most of that came from the bottom of the duffle bag or the bottom of the panniers. You don't need as much stuff as you might think. Less weight on the bike saves your suspension when you're pounding down the roads less traveled. You have to be a bit ruthless at times but if you haven't used it this week, it's easy to find down the road and it's not essential for bike maintenance and emergency repair I get rid of it

    Always put things away after you use them. Don't set things down. The only things I have lost so far are things I set down and didn't put away. Baseball hat flew off somewhere in Kansas when I set it on the bike and took off one morning and top of the line pair of REI expedition socks that I took off and left outside Tricepilots back door when I was staying in San Antonio. It is very easy to lose stuff while you are traveling if you set things down absent mindedly and don't put them away. Maps, bottles of water, camera, wallet, battery recharger that sort of thing. Easy to lose.


    That's all I can think of for now.

    More later……

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  12. craftsmanjoc

    craftsmanjoc In for the long haul

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    This is the first ride report I've had the opportunity to catch at the very beginning. Usually I run across one
    Months or even years after the are wrapped up. So following along dailynis a blast. And Evan more cool
    is reading practically as you're writing.
    just this moment I am taking a break in one of the single seat smelly blue boxes on my construction site
    flipped on my phone only to read what you've written just moments before.
    very cool!
    keep up the good work.
  13. hogwsh

    hogwsh DReamer

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    for sharing your adventure. I tune in daily. In an earlier post you had the Guia Roja page listed. That with the grid square would make following along very easy. I did a Mexico trip a few years ago on a DR 650 and now have started prepping an XT225 for another. Thanks for your insight.

    Perry
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi CJ,

    It's my job to keep you entertained this winter. I like to think I am providing quality crapper moto jounalism.

    Still looking for a nice Señorita to buy a drink for and take a picture in your honor as Chief Executive in charge of food and beverage. It would help if I went into bars.

    Glad you are enjoying the ride.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  15. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Perry,

    I am currently in Jalpan in the Sierra Gorda Mountains on Page 25 of the Guia Roji in square F-2.

    That little Yamaha of yours would have been fun on the backroads down here today cranking down RT. 120. No need for a big bike when you're in the hairpins all day.

    Best,
    John Downs
  16. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I wandered around in the Sierra Gorda mountains around Jalpan today. Came down to get something to eat this afternoon and sat in front ot the Casa de la Cultura and used their free wifi to upload stories and check email and heard back from MikeMike in Veracruz. So it looks like I'll be meeting him down in Coatepec on Sunday for a ride around backcountry estado de Veracruz. He suggested the Jimmex ride. Sounds good to me. Jimmex is coincidentally my latest sponsor. Chief Executive in charge of the Entertainment Division. So I will be dedicating Sunday's pictures and stories to my man Jimmex. Should be fun.

    Didn't take any pictures today. Sorry. Having too much fun riding in the morning and goofing off all afternoon. My computer was down to 8% battery and I saw a nice place across the street from the culture center where I was sitting this afternoon called Posada Karina with secure parking, wifi, cable TV and hot showers for 250 pesos. My batteries needed charging and I needed a shower so I decided to splurge and got a room and promptly fell asleep and woke up as dark clouds were moving in.

    So here I am at:

    N 21º 13.142'
    W 99º 28.585'

    Here's a pic of the room:

    [​IMG]

    Nice clean place with the bike outside the door in the locked courtyard.
    I spent 320 pesos on gas food and lodging today or $25.60

    Best,
    John Downs
  17. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

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    "promptly fell asleep and woke with dark clouds moving in." Been there.

    You even got an outlet by the bed this time. High class for sure. :wink:

    Since you're a stone mason I do appreciate what you offer on that craft. Keep it up.
    As a skilled OTR truck diesel mechanic few want to hear what I can offer. :lol3

    This ride will be of considerable distance and a not uncommon issue is rear wheel bearings.
    Have you thought of carrying a set?
    What about jetting for the time spent at high altitudes in the area of The Andes?

    Just finished a short RR of a couple doing the TAT and in The Rockies her KLX250 was only good for 1/2 throttle
    but his WR being injected had no issue. (The new XT250 is injected btw)
    I think of this because of a trip in The Rockies two-up on a Guzzi in the late '80s. It ran like crap.

    Stayin' with you on this ride, my best,
    OldPete
  18. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi OldPete,

    What looks like an outlet in the pic is the switch for the ceiling fan, but a hot shower and a nice bed for 20 bucks a night is definitely high class for me. Like staying at the Ritz Carlton for a normal person.

    As far as jetting, the bike ran fine over 12,000 feet further north. The diaphram on the main jet needle slide seems to do a fair job of compensating for altitude. Just had to turn up the idle. Not sure what carb the KLX250S is but my guess is regular slide like my XR250 that runs like crap over 6,000 feet with the stock main jet.

    But if it's a problem and if I make it to the altiplano of Bolivia and the Andes then it is easy enough to pick up a slightly smaller main jet. Easy to get to on the Sherpa without removing the carb.

    Wheel bearings for small bikes aren't hard to find. So far mine are holding up. I think it would be good to carry a spare set if you were on a bigger bike with a heavy load. Those seem to be the ride reports you read where the rear shock blows and the wheel bearings wear out.

    Glad to have you along as always.

    Best,
    John Downs
  19. BlazerRalph

    BlazerRalph n00b

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    Great report, very educational to some of us posers.:clap
  20. jameswwright

    jameswwright Adventurer

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    Just sent you a little donation. I know you don't drink, but hopefully you can find something equally irresponsible to spend it on.
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