3 Bad Hombres go south of the border to Copper Canyon, Mexico

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Yinzer Moto, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Hello,

    In the spring of 2018, a few of us in our riding group started grumbling about going to Mexico in March of 2019. We just got back from the most epic trip I have ever done on a motorcycle. Having traveled most of the United States, including Alaska, I can say the Copper Canyon area is hands down, the best dual sport riding I have ever done. I will continue to expand my riding horizons to other parts of the world and I do not deny that there may be better places. Mexico is an area that is close and obtainable to most of us that live in the United States. I will do my best to write an organized trip report that may be helpful to others who my want to travel the area. I will also allow the others who went on the ride some time to chime in between my posts.

    This first post is going to be very wordy and long, I promise more photos and videos in later posts.

    First, let's introduce the 3 bad hombres.

    All 3 of us will be riding mostly stock Yamaha WR250Rs.

    Danny (@LtCrashDan) on the left and Ron (@racerron) on the right.

    Danny and Ron.jpg

    Danny is a newer rider but a strong guy. What he lacks in skill, he makes up for in pure strength and determination. Danny had been to Mexico a few weeks before the trip for business and learned a good bit of Spanish. Danny is from the Pittsburgh area. Ron is a seasoned rider and knows when and where he can ride fast. He never looks like he is going fast but he will leave you wondering how he just passed you as he floats past as if he is riding on top of a cloud. Ron had never been to Mexico before and did not even know what Cerveza meant. Ron is from the Buffalo NY area but is newly retired and spending winters in Arizona.

    Myself (Jason)

    Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 12.28.23 PM.png

    I have been riding for 20+ years but I am always looking to learn more. At 41 years young, I don't bounce as well as I used to, so learning little skills techniques that keep me from hitting the ground is my priority. At this point, slowing down is not on my radar. I have never been to Mexico but did a little studying during the weeks leading up to the trip. It was not really enough and Danny acted as our main translator.

    At this point, you may be asking, "Why are you talking about skills?" Well, Mexico will test them. It is relentless, even if you take the easier routes. The paved roads are sketchy, everything and anything will be trying to take you off the bike. Every little town will have aggressive speed bumps that are not marked. The corners of the asphalt roads will have rocks (sometimes cinder block sized) and gravel in them. Dogs will come out of nowhere and chase you, even in very remote areas. Cattle, horses, goats, pigs, chickens, and any other mammal will be in the road at anytime. At one point, we ride into a town, on their concrete main street. I was looking at my surroundings and not paying attention to the road. When I looked back, I was about to ride off a 3' loading dock. Instead of panicking, I just blipped the throttle and jumped off. The others followed me. Many people will complain about the traffic in Mexico, I can understand their point, if they expect the others to follow traffic laws. Even in the United States, I never assume someone sees me or that they are going to obey a law, I felt comfortable on the roads of Mexico. I know my handlebar width well from riding tight woods around home, I always found a line around other vehicles. Sometimes it was on the other side of the road when the oncoming vehicle was on my side of the road, in the ditch of the road, or on the sidewalk in a town.

    Our plan was to take the harder routes and go to the more remote areas. Danny did a lot of research of the routes ahead of time but as our departure date closed in and I started to study the maps, it became apparent that there was going to be a lot of asphalt. In the trip reports here on ADV, there is very little info for people looking for the rougher rides. Danny had started a planning thread (Link here) and with only a little time left @stormdog suggested getting the E32 maps. That tip took our trip to the level we wanted. That is an excellent product. We found routes on there that do no show up on any other map. With that map in our GPS' we felt confident to ride roads that were not on the map.

    Below is a rough overview of our planned route. It is just a spiderweb of tracks and we were just going to use it as a suggestion for our ride. Top right is Ojinaga Mexico and bottom left is El Fuerte Mexico.

    IMG_5961.JPG

    In the past, on off road rides, like the MABDR, SEAT, CDR, to the TAT, I could easily do a 300 mile day and would often hit 400. We knew Mexico would be slower so we laid this route out for 200mi days. In the end, I think we averaged 160mi/day. We would go long stretches with average speeds knocking on single digits. The turns in the road require 1st gear and just as I clicked into 3rd, I would have to start braking again.

    Day 0:

    Danny and I loaded up the truck in Pittsburgh in the morning and hit the road. It was going to be a 27 hour straight through drive. With an 8am departure, I believe we pulled into Presidio TX around Noon the next day. One person would sleep while the other drove. Danny had a couple places he though we might leave the truck. One was a city storage yard that he had permission to use but we could not find anyone on a Saturday. The other was the 3 Palms Hotel, they were supposed to be $2 but when we asked, they wanted $5/day. I suggested that we go over to the Loma Paloma RV park. I stayed there a couple years prior and the people were very friendly. They ended up letting us leave the truck in the back corner for free. I said I would bring them some souvenirs back.

    Ron had his wife drop him off in El Paso TX and was riding down, he was due in around 3pm. Danny and I unloaded the bikes and rode across the border. No real paperwork is required to cross the border. They never even checked my passport. All they checked was that my PA vehicle registration matched my VIN number. Then we rode into Ojinaga for a little exploring. We hit a money exchange and I traded $500 dollars for Pesos. That was almost enough for the entire trip. I only required an additional 1000 Pesos on the last day. Hotels, gas and food for 13 days of riding for about $550.

    After the money exchange, we hit an ATM for Danny to withdraw. Then a store for me to grab a Mexican SIM card for my phone. The SIM card was $200 (In mexico they use the dollar sign in front of prices and I am going to start doing that for now on in this thread). So about 10 US dollars for the SIM card. For iPhone users, make sure to check all of your settings, I ended up using all my data in a few days because my phone was backing all the photos up via cellular. Turning that feature off may have enabled me to use the card for the whole trip.

    It was Friday afternoon and we started searching for hotel for the night. It became apparent that it was the weekend and a lot of places were sold out or were $1400/night. Eventually we were running low on time and needed to meet Ron at the border. We headed back down there and found him. After pissing a few border agents off because were riding in circles around the buildings, we found an agent to point us in the right direction.

    To cross the border for an extended time with a vehicle, you need to do a few things. A copy of your title may be needed (as usual with Mexico, there are no strict rules). Don't worry, any additional copies can be made on site for minimal fees. Everything needs to be done in one building. Ride across the bridge into Mexico, then through the gate where they check your vin number and registration. They may ask a few questions and ask for a Passport. Then pull forward and park in the lot near the big exit gate.

    From there, walk back toward where the registration was checked and go into the building that was on your left when entering the check area. There, you will go to the migration desk, they will give you a piece of paper and keep your passport. Then go to the cashier who you will pay roughly 50 dollars US. Take the paperwork back to Migration desk where they will stamp your passport and give it back.

    Next you will go back to the Cashier for the TVIP (the import paperwork for the bike). You will need to pay roughly 500 US dollars, most of which will be returned when you exit the country. It was a busy Friday night, all of this took almost 2 hours. It was hot and there was a lot of standing. Additionally there are multiple smoke alarms that need that need their batteries changed.

    Once we were out, of there, we were free to roam Mexico for up to 180days. It was a good feeling to ride through that gate knowing we will not be back for almost 2 weeks.

    We found a hotel real close to the border that had secure parking and was only $750. It had 3 beds. Done deal. The secure parking is back to the right in the photo.

    IMG_5808.JPG

    We took Ron around town to get Pesos and a sim card for his phone. Then we hit a restaurant for some chicken burritos. Not exactly sure how to feed ourselves in this country yet, I realize now this was a bad choice but it got the job done. We stopped at the store for some beers to go and went back to the hotel for the evening.
    #1
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  2. LtCrashDan

    LtCrashDan Been here awhile

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    I want to take a moment to thank a few that helped make this possible. We originally planned for Baja, and then heard about copper canyon and dropped baja. Thanks to a local rider Norm for some initial information and inspiration, and then thanks to those who helped us with info and planning. @cwc, @cyclopathic and @stormdog gave some tracks for us I used, and some others provided some other great info on routes and border crossing (see planning thread). Thanks to you guys for the info, and yes the e32 maps did end up being way better than anything else we found.

    Don't let Jason's post fool you, my spanish is muy mal, but it didn't matter, the people of Mexico are so nice and helpful, you can always manage. I think the border crossing has changed a bit yet again, and the personal import and tvip are all done in the same place now. You will need to loop around after going through the border check and stop before the return loop. There is a small lot on the left or a big truck lot on the right you can park at, and proceed to do your border paper work. They did not like our PA registrations as they are printed, and asked to see copies of the title. We had 3 copies of everything ahead of time (registration, title, us insurance, mexican insurance, passport, license). We left our original titles in the truck just for safety and they were never needed. They also never asked us for insurance, but @raceron said they asked for his at the border crossing.

    I've also only been riding dual sport since Feburary 2017 when I got my wrr, but have a few trips in and used to ride quads as a youngin up in western, NY.

    The ride down was long so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves like this
    [​IMG]

    Parked at Loma Paloma
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    crossed over and grabbed dinner and peso's
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    grabbed a hotel at hotel marval
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    and some very important cervesa's
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    We were still pretty unsure at this point what waited us.
    #2
  3. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware Supporter

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    IN! :lurk
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  4. jules083

    jules083 Long timer Supporter

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  5. VTbeemer

    VTbeemer Traveler Supporter

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    Ok I’m in.

    Just to keep you guys honest.

    Great to meet you guys down there.

    I know which one of you is the snorer.

    The other Dan
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  6. Snake Oiler

    Snake Oiler If the world didn't suck, we would all fall off

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  7. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams Supporter

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    ¡Muy bien!
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  8. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    :imaposer

    Sorry....
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  9. Trailer Rails's wife

    Trailer Rails's wife Is that what you're wearing? Supporter

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    :lurk:raabia 10/10 - Will continue to read.
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  10. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Day 1: 600Km

    Ojinaga to a wild camping spot

    Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.00.07 PM.png

    I got up in the morning before dawn, made some coffee and oatmeal on my camp stove in the hotel room. We were having trouble telling what time it was on our devices because we were very close to the border. They would pick up a cell tower on the Texas side and flip back over to Texas time. Dalight savings time just happened up north and there was a 2 hour difference across the border. We figured it would sort its self out as we rode south. The others heard me stirring around, making coffee and they got up. We were packed and on the bikes shortly after, I would guess around 7am.

    I forgot to mention that we had gassed up the night before and were ready to ride.

    We hit the convenience store down the street for some pastries and snacks. As we were eating in the parking lot, a guy pulled up in a Jeep. He got out and spoke decent english. He asked where we were heading. We mentioned a few of the towns and he looked shocked. He said we should not go there, the military was moving 1200 troops up there and they were going to wage war on the cartel within a few days. This gave us a little concern, we told him that we would be careful but we are going to head down there. He seemed convinced that we would not make it back. Danny sent a message to a coworker in Mexico City to see if he had heard anything. He had not.

    We rode out of town with a little apprehension. First time in a new country. Barely speaking the language. Knowing the Cartel was abundant. And now a local resident saying we were to go into an area that he would never set foot in.

    The roads out of town were surprisingly twisty. We stopped at an overlook and there was a nice canyon below.

    IMG_5811.JPG

    The 3 bikes, Left to right, Ron's, Danny's and Mine.

    IMG_5812.JPG

    We rode to Juan Aldama where we got gas and lunch. The spot we picked was better than dinner the night before. I ordered a Torta, which I thought was some type of tortilla thing. I got a sandwich with avocado, beef, and some type of delicious sauce. Even the bread was delicious.

    From there, we planned to head south to try and bypass Chihuahua City. The pre planned route was not working out. We spent some time riding around farmers properties and running into large fences that were padlocked. We turned back and rode though the city. This was another learning experience, being new on the roads, there were minimal road signs. Luckily, Danny's phone was able to give pretty decent Google directions through the city and in not too much time, we were out the other side.

    After a little while, we tried to turn south again. This route worked. Soon we were on some nice dirt roads. After a few hours. We thought we should think about evening accommodations. Creel looked like the best option but was some distance away.

    Nonava came up around 4pm. We grabbed gas. On the way into town. I saw a sign that said "Hotel $300". Not knowing the dollar sign thing yet. I joked over the Sena to Danny that was the price to buy the whole hotel. Had I known that it was only about 15 US dollars, I would have said "lets call it a day and stay there".

    We went and grabbed some dinner at a little restaurant in town and set off again in search of more affordable accommodations. It started to get late, sometime around 5:30, we made the decision to wild camp. We continued on our route until we could find a spot that was not real visible to the road. There were single track paths all through this field. Because of the amount of cow shit, I assumed they were cow paths. As they would be in the United States.

    We setup camp and had a nice quiet night.

    IMG_5813.JPG
    #10
  11. LtCrashDan

    LtCrashDan Been here awhile

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    My recap of day 1

    I had read there was potentially a checkpoint 50km outside of Ojinaga. We first came to an overlook after some twisty roads and I snapped this panoramic (I had one I thought was cooler, but looks almost identical to Jason's).

    [​IMG]

    We headed on Rt 16, and as Jason mentioned stopped for lunch at Aldama. I looked at the torta's those guys got and though, glad I didn't order that that doesn't look like real mexican or that good (it wouldn't be for at least 5 days until I would realize what I was really missing).

    In trying to meander south to San Francisco from here, we were met with some farm roads, and some new looking large chain link fences. We thought they looked official enough to not try and get through them and headed back to pavement. Would would later learn from a local in Creel, it is likely they were protecting crops. We ended up going through Chihuahua, which I thought was not too bad. We even made the tricky turn after the overpass, though I did lock up my tire to make it.

    I snapped this pic somewhere along the way, it was my first time in this type of terrain (I had been to Arizon when I was real young, but probably 25 years ago)
    [​IMG]

    I wonder what Jason meant when he said that was probably the price to buy the place, I knew the $ was meant for peso's, guess that was a miscommunication there. The town of Nonava was pretty neat little town, and I don't think the locals say many out of towners, let alone those on dual sports. We had a hard time at the restaurant trying to communicate, but the girl really did try, and brought out an interpreter at some point whose english was about as good as my spanish, we made it work.

    We headed on hitting some dirt, and as Jason mentioned camped out. As I got into my sleeping bag I thought it was nice to be out camping again as it has been since at least September since I camped. As the temperature dropped however, I couldn't help but think my chinese sleeping bag seems like it has lost some loft.

    [​IMG]

    Here is the route and elevation for the day (the beginning got chopped off as I left the GPS on that night).

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. cwc

    cwc . Supporter

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    In
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  13. cwc

    cwc . Supporter

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    We forgot to tell you that in a small town you can ask and there will almost always be someone that will have a bed for you. Just south of where you camped in Norogachi 6 of us stayed with the lady that runs the library for $250MXN each including supper and breakfast.
    #13
  14. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Oh, NOW you tell us. :imaposer

    That is kind of what I guessed would happen. The people there are so helpful and friendly.
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  15. radmann10

    radmann10 Derf Supporter

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    I'm in, keep posting your story so we can learn some MX travel tips!
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  16. drumdog

    drumdog it wasn't me !

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  17. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Day 0 and 1 video is edited. It was a lot more scenic than the maps suggested it was going to be.

    #17
  18. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Day 2 About 400Km

    Wild camp spot to Urique

    The distance thing is interesting and something I struggle with on these trips. If I look at my garmin track, it says about 150mi. When I zoom into the track, I see it is a series of straight lines, cutting off corners. I did not think it would make that much of a difference but I have been on a few trips where my initial planning said it was going to be a 300 mi day by Garmin Basecamp but then real miles end up being over 400.

    Looking at the elevation map, you will see a huge decent at the end of the day. It was the most stunning riding I have ever done.

    Day 2.png

    We got up in the morning around sunrise, 6am and made some coffee and oatmeal. Then we packed camp and were on the road around 7am. As soon as I fired up the my bike, I saw someone running. They were in traditional Tarahumara Indian clothing. I now realize the "cow path" that we were parked on last night, may have been their foot path. I believe the person who I saw running may have been silently watching us in the morning.

    We set off and the riding this morning was really spectacular. It was rocky and through wooded areas. Much like riding in West Virginia. The mountains started to grow bigger, or should I say the valleys started to get deeper?

    Does anyone know anything about these trees with red bark? I found them interesting.

    IMG_5814.jpg



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    We finished the dirt road section near the Cusarare Waterfall. We turned north and followed the asphalt north toward Creel where we grabbed gas and a lunch snack. Then doubled back to go to the waterfall. We took a wrong turn trying to find the waterfall and wound a large rock formation that is similar to Moab slick rock, we spent a few min riding around on it.


    IMG_5821.jpg


    I dont like hosting the photos outside of ADV because they load slowly sometimes and make reports difficult to read. ADV limits posts to 4 photos. So, I will continue on the next post.
    #18
  19. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Day 2 continued:

    Cusarare Waterfall was a pretty nice sight. As we got close to the waterfall, a guy directed us to ride down the foot path toward the waterfall. It was interesting riding down past all of the people selling items along the path. We eventually got stopped by a small flight of stairs and had to walk the last 100m to the falls.

    You can see Danny on top of the falls for scale. Id like to see this during higher water levels.

    IMG_5824.jpg

    Then we rode out to water crossing just before the falls, Danny had to use the restroom, Ron and I explored the path that is behind the bikes in this photo. It was a fun singletrack section and there was a picnic pavilion that would have made a great camp spot if we needed to stop for the evening.

    IMG_5827.jpg

    We continued south out of the falls area and the roads turned to dirt again. It was starting to get scenic and rough.

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    #19
  20. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    Day 2 continued:

    After a short distance, we came to the descent into Urique. I did not know this was coming. Danny did a lot of reading before this trip and had seen a lot of photos, I really did not. I was completely stunned. As usual, photos do it no justice and only convey about 1/10 of the feeling.

    If you look close, we were about to ride all of the dirt roads in the photo. It was also over a 1 mile elevation loss to the bottom of the valley.

    IMG_5835.jpg

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    It is still just stunning how people live in this area. These people's walk to their houses would put most of us Americans in the hospital. As an American, it was also just mind boggling that there is no way to get a 4 wheeled vehicle to those houses.

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    #20