Mexico 2007 trip report Yes, it’s ANOTHER KLR-goes-to-Mexico thread. When I initially got the itch to do this, it was sparked by Gaspipe’s awesome Copper Canyon threads (Road Less Travelled I,II,III and the No Te Ahuitas trip). Living in NYC without a car/truck/trailer though means I have a LOT of USA to traverse before I get to Mexico. I was thinking of a blast down, ride Copper Canyon for a week, ride back trip… but that’s nuts. If I’m going to ride 2000+ highway miles, why only ride in Mexico for a week? So I kept saving and saving and this was the result. I bolted up boxes to the bike and brought the tent, sleeping pad, bag, plus all the clothing required to ride to/from a New York winter, all my clothes, tubes, pumps, and tools. The trunk is new and empty—the idea was to have an empty trunk to lock my jacket/pants in at stops so I could walk around like a normal human being… and strapped on back is a pair of fresh Mefo Explorers to mount in Presidio. The bike was wearing used Kenda K270s when I left home, I was figuring they’d be used up by the border. Here’s the beast, loaded up the night before leaving: Without further delay, the trip: I always skip home-to-the-border pics on these reports so I won’t bore you too much. You don’t care about interstate and neither do I. I left Brooklyn on January 3rd 2006 before dawn. It was cold, but not as cold as it could be, and the roads were dry because we’d been having an unseasonably warm December. I bundled up to maximum—wool socks, thermals under riding pants, widder vest over synthetic t-shirt, followed by thermal top and thin fleece, plus fleece neck warmer and head sock thing. It was still January before dawn. Rode of the city through the Holland Tunnel, picked up I78 to I81. In Virginia in early afternoon I stopped for gas and a coffee and picked up a nail. Woohoo, day 1 and I’ve got a flat. …and the nail: I hate changing tires, but I got it patched and on the way. I think it took me something like 2 hours, including time to go inside the gas station and warm up. If you’re going to get a flat in the cold, at least it can be next to a gas station on a sunny day. I rode all the rest of the day and into the night, trying to make up my time. Finally I stopped just shy of Knoxville, freezing cold, and found a crappy hotel for $40. It was the only time in the US I’ve had the hotel staff encourage me to park in my room—doesn’t cast the other guests in a good light. I was going to lock it up outside because I didn’t think it’d fit through the door with the boxes, but with a little throttle it squeezed through: Next day I got up early to greet cold rain. Got dressed and on the road, rode I81 to I40 west, it got up into the low 40s eventually. In late afternoon the rain finally let off. The front wheel was making a weird tweet tweet tweet that was driving me nuts. I stopped and pulled it off in the bay of a carwash place, fearing a bearing problem, but all felt fine… but the tweet continued. I ended up at a hotel in Hope, AK where the cord from the phone was chewed through by something or other. Did about 700 miles that day and wanted a beer, but I found out the hard way it was a dry town. When I got to the hotel I pulled the wheel off again and checked everything—speedo turns fine, bearings feel fine, all spacers accounted for. Day 3 up early again, riding out into nasty cold rain. I40 to I30 to I20, working my way across the great state of Texas. Right around Dallas I all of a sudden rode out of the nasty blowing rain and into glorious sunshine, and the temperature soared. I went from cold and wet to warm and dry in 10 miles, even taking the liner out of the jacket. The tweet from the front wheel is back with a vengeance. I stop three times to try to troubleshoot it—I’ve actually got a set of front bearings with me because I’ve never changed them (and have burned up the rears twice) but the bearings feel perfect. The third time I stop, the speedo worm gear is jammed forward in it’s housing, grinding against the housing. There’s no understandable reason this could happen. I wipe out some flakes of metal and stuff it back in, sick of wasting time but also not wanting to have an issue on the other side of the border. Here’s the bike parked on the side of the road at a rest stop in Texas near dusk: Some time after dark, just west of Midland, Texas, the speedo bit the dust… just slowly eased down from 75 to dead over the course of a mile or so. I pull off at a gas station and pull the drive apart. The little worm gear has again wedged itself against the housing, jamming, causing the bevel gear to strip the hell out of it. Great. I put this speedo drive in (from a parts bike) not even 4k miles ago after the original one lunched itself. I clean all the bits up, put the gears in my bag and bundle it back up. It looks like Midland is the biggest town I’ll pass through before the border so I decide to stay there in hopes of finding a Kawi dealer to sell me a speedo drive… I don’t want to be in Mexico with no means of measuring my mileage. In Midland there’s a WalMart, so I buy a bicycle odometer as a backup plan, and find the cheapest hotel: $40!!! It’s the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in, EVER, ANYWHERE. The toilet flushes once then stops—it won’t refill—and there’s a chunk of moldy pizza in the in-room microwave. I try to mount the bicycle odometer but can’t get the magnet close enough to trigger the thing. The TV’s broken, so I put the sleeping bag on top of the bed and try to go to sleep, ignoring some strung out girl screaming outside in the parking lot. Next morning I find my way to Midland Powersports where, after much begging, they agree to pull the speedo drive off one of their show room KLRs! It’s cold as hell (in the 20s in Midland, while my girlfriend tells me it’s freakishly in the 60s up in NY) so the service manager figures they won’t sell both bikes today. They insist that they do half the labor (I get to pull mine and install theirs, but they understandably won’t let me wrench their bike). For $87 (!) I’m back in business and on the road by 10am. I’d much rather buy a trailtech computer, but this is available. Next day continue on I20, then drop down US67 towards Presidio. Alpine, TX has a nice brewery/restaurant in case anyone’s passing through. I meet a few folks who tell me Creel was buried in snow 10 days ago when they were there—like 2 feet, train stopped running, buried. Woohoo. Here’s my first view of Mexico—the sierras on the horizon approaching Presidio: In Presidio I check into the 3 Palms, per the recommendation of others here. It’s a bit pricey for me, but I figure it’s my last night in the states, and after the shit hole in Midland I deserve it. Then I go cross the border, do my import paperwork, and come back to the 3 Palms to change the oil and swap tires. There’s a used oil recycling drop off in Presidio so it’s easy to get rid of the old stuff. I swap the rear, but my front K270 just isn’t worth changing. It’s got 4700 miles on it and has as much tooth left as the brand new Mefo—plus the K270 isn’t too bad offroad, while the Mefos are untested to me. On the left, K270 with 4700 miles. On the right, a brand new Mefo explorer, which costs 3 times as much. Hmmmm…. I just can’t justify throwing out the perfectly good, tried and true, K270. So I strap the front Mefo awkwardly over the empty trunk and go for a lousy dinner in “downtown” Presidio. Next morning I cross over, easy peasy (after riding off with one of my padlocks sitting on top of the trunk=lost) . The road on the other side of Ojinaga is a blast, then it drops down to a high desert blast towards Chihuahua. The goal is to blast to Copper Canyon today, where the trip “really” starts. Unfortunately, I make the stupid mistake of riding into the center of Chihuahua—ignorantly thought that if there’s signs for Centro there’d be signs back out to the “belt”. Instead I waste a huge amount of time getting lost. So much for sightseeing. I make it to Guerrerro, having passed La Junta without realizing it was there in the dark—breaking rule #1 on day #1—and find a nice clean room at the Hotel del Centro for $10. It’s COLD. In the morning it’s even colder: I blast along, headed to Basaseachic Falls, the 2nd tallest falls in the country. On the road to the falls it’s beautiful, especially once it starts to rise up into the hills. There’s snow in the woods and it’s cold, but the sun is shining at least. Keep the vest on low and the grips on high and I’m toasty. The road is getting twisty and the pavement is decent, I’m having a ball. …the road continues up and up into the hills, and there’s some ice on the road here and there. Then I come around a corner into this… and that’s SOLID ICE on the road, a huge sheet of it. It started back around the corner and kept up for a few hundred feet. I didn’t drop the bike there, but later on the road descends and there’s a lot less ice. I thought I was out of it and wicked up the speed, then came around a corner into one more ice patch. I pulled her upright and jumped on the brakes and almost had it stopped when I hit the ice, but my balance was off and fell. Not hard or fast, just enough to be a pain in the ass. Nothing bent or damaged, and no photo, sorry. I think there’s a way to ride to a viewpoint of the falls, but I wanted to do the hike down into the canyon to see it. Here’s me about halfway down. If you decide to do the hike, walk all the way to the bottom, it’s worth it. I didn’t take any photos because there was a lot of spray in the air, but you can climb right up to the pools at the bottom of the falls. It’s a lot hotter at the bottom of the canyon and the spray is really refreshing. From Basaseachic, the plan is to ride the little road over the mountains to San Juanito. It’s about 60 miles of dirt and it’s 3:30 when I leave, I figure it’ll be no problem to make it to Creel by dusk… if it’s late when I get to Juanito I figure I can stay there. It’s really pretty and rouger than I expected it to be—a good thing—and despite the huge boxes bolted to the bike I’m still able to have some fun. Then it gets snowy. I grew up in Michigan and have done my share of riding in the snow. It can be fun. But not on a 650 with hard cases and what can (at best) be called a 70/30 street/dirt tire out back. It’s still a blast though—I’m in MEXICO! Rather ride snow loaded up in Mexico then sit at home and go to work any day. The snow comes and goes as I go up and down. It’s pretty and fun riding, but the snow is really slowing me down and I’m starting to get a little nervous about making it through to Creel. Juanito will have to do. Just as the sun was setting I came across this baby SUV with Texas plates. Mental note: Do <b>NOT</b> leave vehicle if you have a problem. I was really getting nervous about the light at this point, as I was something like a third of the way through and the sun was going down. And it was getting cold. I didn’t take any more pictures. The road climbed up into the mountains more and became more or less all snowy. It got dark. It got really cold. The mud went from mud to ice, making it impossible to tell what was safe to go fast on and what was risky. After a couple <b>really</b> close calls I decided it was stupid to take risks at night in the freezing cold alone on a snowed in mountain road… having a problem could go from a problem to a serious situation if I were off the road alone in these temperatures. I eventually caught a truck that was creeping along in 2nd gear who told me I had about 20 miles left—I have no idea how accurate that guess was, I don’t remember. Even being careful I was making better time than him, but I felt good knowing that if I had a problem there was at least one vehicle behind me. I got into Juanito some time a little before 9 and got a room. Two days in Mexico, two days riding in the dark. I need to stop that. The wife of the guy running the hotel makes me an excellent dinner and we sit and chat as I warm up. Thank you, Rosetta Stone. Next day, January 9th, I get up and buy a new padlock. Of course I can’t find a nice weather sealed Masterlock, but the Mexilock will do. The ride to Creel is pretty but uneventful. I don’t have much of a plan, but I know I want to try to ride the back way from Batopilas to Urique… In Creel I see a bunch of dirt bikes parked and walk up to chat. They’ve just returned from Batopilas; their friends split off to cross the river and come up the way I’m hoping. They tell me opinions were mixed on how crossable the river was. I eat some huevos rancheros and head for Batopilas. …on the way I meet a couple guys on KLRs riding around Mexico, both have been down here before. One of them is changing his 7th flat in a month. Yuck. They’re carrying even more stuff than me, but they tell me the rest of the pavement is as good as what I’ve already ridden, and recommend a place to stay down in Batopilas and another back up in Creel. No one ever told me how good that road from Creel to the dirt to Batopilas is. That’s an amazing motorcycle road. The road down to Batopilas is as fun as I’d imagined, though it’s in better shape than I expected. Still plenty of fun. As you head in, it’s like every turn opens up a more impressive view: …then you get to the part where the canyon drops down below you. You can see the road unfolding at the bottom of the canyon here: The road itself is never a difficult ride, but the penalties for overshooting a corner are a bit severe, so I find myself taking it easy. It’s incredibly beautiful, these pictures can’t even begin to convey it. It’s really one of those places where you just stop and sit for minutes, soaking it in and being amazed. Really. Is there anyone, EVER, who’s ridden down to Batopilas without taking at least one of these baby waterfall photos? Despite the snow a couple weeks ago, it’s not that wet down in the canyon. I imagine in the wet season these waterfalls are simply incredible. …more on the road down to Batopilas… Batopilas is a chill little place. I get a room at Monsey’s for $10 with my own bathroom and hot water. The courtyard has cumquat trees that are ripe, dropping cumquats everywhere. The only downside is that there’s nowhere to park the bike (they offer to let me ride through to the courtyard, but they have a sort of sitting room I’d have to ride through and am afraid I’d tear it up on the way out). I lock the bike out front and don’t sweat it. I track down the local watering hole, next to the church, and meet a couple locals and a gringo expat named Joe who’s married to a Tarahumaran woman who eventually comes to get him and drag him home. The locals explain to me how to get through the back way, warning that it’s a long ridiculous way to go to Urique. They’re of different opinions on whether or not I could make it through the river. I decide to see for myself. This is a pic I took of the footbridge into Batopilas at night with a long exposure… I was playing with a new camera. I wish I’d shot some pics of the town, but you probably have seen it before anyway. <b>January 10th</b> Wake up early and load up, go to buy gas before heading off. I’ve been asking everyone who might know about the river crossing because I don’t want to ride all the way out there and have to double back. I’m about to leave when I guy with a truck comes through and joins the conversation. Apparently he just crossed yesterday afternoon and explains to me that where the wheels of the truck ride, it’s mid thigh (he points to me, I’m 6’4” so that’s pretty damn high) but in between the wheels and off the crossing, it’s like mid stomach. I consider this and wuss out, telling myself that alone on a loaded bike is the wrong time to attempt a maybe-doable crossing in Nowhere, Mexico. I’m wishing I had both a riding partner and a lot less stuff—I haven’t even opened the right case (with the camping gear) except to access my tools. Here’s me across from the ruined home of Alexander Shepherd, ex-governor of Washington DC turned silver baron. This impressive place sits across the river from the town of Batopilas: …on the way back up to Creel… …there’s the little road running along the canyon wall… I get back up to Creel nice and early, having left Monsey’s really early hoping to do the river. I check email and do that kind of thing and check into Margaritas where, for $10, I can get a dinner, a bed, and breakfast. While I’m in town I meet the other half of the group I met yesterday—the half that rode through the river. They made it with no problems and it sounds like I could have, but I guess it’s better to live to fight another day. I’m a little bummed at missing out, but there’s plenty of time left. At Margaritas it’s a friendly environment--I’m not much for dorm accommodations (they have rooms, too, but I’m cheap) but it turns out they’re so empty I get my own dorm room to myself. Not too shabby. The next morning I wake up to that classic, wintry mix. Great. There’s a gorgeous rainbow for just a moment, stretching horizon to horizon, as the wintry mix takes a brief break… then it converts to rain. I eat breakfast, chat with the two guys on loaded KLRs I met earlier, and hit the road for Urique. It’s wet and foggy and my piece of shit Scorpion EXO400 helmet both fogs and LEAKS. I forgot to mention this earlier: Scorpion, if you’re out there, your helmet is the single crappiest motorcycle thing I’ve ever bougt. Anyway, the view at Divisadero is spectacular despite the fog: After San Rafael the roads turns to dirt/mud. These Mefos suck in anything at all loose, I don’t know what you people who rave about these tires are on about. They don’t perform any worse than you might think from looking at the tread, but they’re certainly not any better, either. That K270 on the front is my saving grace—the rear is all over the map but the front stays more or less where it ought to be so as long as I correct it’s fine. With the bike loaded it’s hard to remember to ride it like a dirtbike—stand up, use your feet, etc—but it works alright. Sometimes the mud turns to slick as snot clay, and it’s just a mess. I damn near fell here, just trying to keep from sliding sideways into this stuck truck as I rode around him: The rain let up into a drizzle as the road dropped down into the canyon, and you get to ride along this pretty, easy road by the river for a while… Twice I have to ride through the little river, once because they’re reparing the bridge and once because the bridge just isn’t there anymore… It’s not deep so it’s no big deal, kind of nice to spash the mud off the radiator. On the other side of Bahuichivo the road is suddenly a modern, graded dirt road. I figure this must be due to the mining, but I didn’t expect to come across it so soon… I dug this tunnel and the fact that the rain had stopped for a bit, and I took the opportunity to stretch the bike’s legs a bit. After Cerocahui the road went back to how it was before—a decent but narrow dirt road. This is the little town of Cerocahui. Somewhere in here there’s the option to take the high or the low road… I don’t know which one I took. Anyone able to inform me? My road had little traffic but was more or less in good shape. …a pic looking down into the canyon. Somewhere down there is Urique. In Urique I find my way to Entre Amigos / Cabanas Keith, where for five bucks I can throw my sleeping bag on a dorm bed (same price as camping, but it’s raining). Keith’s is owned by some expat who I think may be into bikes? Anyway, it’s this old hacienda turned into a hostel/hotel. They have dorm beds, rooms, or a whole little house you can rent, or you can camp. There’s only two other people staying there, and one of them apparently rides an 06 KLR that’s parked outside, so I’m fine with it. They have a huge garden… …that’s full of greens and beans and peppers and all sorts of things, and we’re encouraged to pick and eat whatever we want (there’s a big kitchen). Nice. There’s also lemon and grapefruit trees, which I take advantage of the next morning for my first tree-fresh grapefruit. Top notch. They also have a home made wood burning hot water heater. Seems like a hassle to run, but it’s not my job. The water is piping hot and the shower’s big and clean. I head “downtown” to find dinner at the Plaza restaurant, the only thing open. An old grandmother ushers me into the outdoor dining room—passing through the living room and the kitchen—and we have a stilted conversation around what’s available to eat (menu? Ha!). I end up with aguas chiles, a sort of Mexican style gazpacho with shrimp, served in a big volcanic stone bowl. Yum. And CHEAP. On my way out, I realize this guy is running this crazy machine to make the tortillas for the restaurant! …I thought that was really cool until a few days later I had a fresh hand made tortilla… it’s kind of like having your first garden fresh tomato or cask ale, none of the machine made ones will ever be satisfying again. But at the time, that was neat. Back at the hostel/hotel I met Kevin, the guy with the KLR. He’s from California and basically decided it would be fun to buy a KLR, learn to ride it, and take the thing to Panama and back. So here he is. This little guy was hiding above a curtain that covered the little alcove I was sleeping in. He almost fell on my head. We decided to export him. Since Kevin had shoes on he got the honors… The next day I spent the morning teaching Kevin about his KLR—he hadn’t done any of the free mods and had therefore stalled out in some creek in Baja (who knew they had creeks?). We did his T-mod, disabled the safety switches, pulled the smog crap, relocated the fan fuse, that kind of thing. I also did some minor crap on my bike, don’t remember what. The sun came out in the afternoon (finally) and we walked into town looking for a bit… Then we took a walk to Guadalupe, the town east (?) of Urique. We ended up in a soccer game on the rocky road with a bunch of local kids—Kevin, myself, and another American girl named Jessica versus about a dozen Tarahumaran kids. Good times, no photos, though. It started off all of us just kicking this ball around, then we found a vaguely flat spot and set up two piles of rocks for goals and had a game. It was 3-3 when we bailed, a happy tie.