Copper Canyon with the Mutz

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by judjonzz, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Oddometer:
    2,032
    Location:
    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    Our group consisted of ten men and one woman, mostly from Minnesota, two from Wisconsin and one from Kansas City. I knew most of the participants, all of whom except for me and Andrew, a DWI lawyer from Milwaukee, had ridden Copper Canyon before. We met at Terlingua Ranch Resort, near Big Bend National Park, and spent Saturday night there. The area is host to what I hear is a pretty good dual sport ride in November, and is probably worth a trip in itself. I had always wanted to go, so the choice of Terlingua as a jumping-off point was a happy accident.

    Paul, Richard, John C., Andrew, Craig, Marty
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    We would be staying in hotels and riding some difficult roads, so I tried to pack light, and chose my DR650 for its nimbleness over the more-familiar KLR. The PO had set the Suzuki up for Mexico travel with a 5-gallon IMS tank and a modified Corbin seat. My luggage consisted of a Wolfman Enduro tank bag and a large Ortlieb duffel across the rear rack. A small Chase harper bag on the rack contained my tire gear and a minimal tool set to supplement the stock Suzuki kit. I also threw some old ATV panniers over the tank with a can of WD40, some Tow-Downs, and a taller countershaft sprocket. They were mainly there to have a place to stash snacks and stray items collected along the way.
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    We got a little taste of the area right off the bat with a 15-mile ride out via Ament Lake Road. Nothing like 10 miles of fast, sandy or rocky 2-track to test your luggage packing skills. The group comprised five KLR's, three Suzukis of various stripes, including my DR650, and three Yamahas, Marty and Lissa's XT600s, and Tom Phillips's YZ426, converted to dualsport with a WR lighting coil and homemade aluminum rack. Tom lost a couple of bottles of oil and a jacket liner before we reached the highway, but someone always stopped to pick up his stuff. I bet Craig quietly that EL Tomo's rack would not last the trip.

    From the first fill-up at Study Butte, we took the twisty and scenic River Road along the Rio Grande to Presidio, where we crossed into Mexico at Ojinaga. A few miles into the ride, customs agents waved us through an inspection station, as did the heavily-armed kids who manned the military checkpoint a little farther along. The road was good pavement, scenic and twisty until past the lunch stop at Coyame. From there it was a series of long straight shots across three basins separated by mountains.


    Somebody has to provide comic relief on a trip like this, and on this day it would be me. At Aldama we stopped for gas at a busy Pemex. The DR is jut a bit tall for me, and my Roadcrafter pants take up Saddling up to leave, I dropped my bike in front of a large crowd. As we rode into Chihuahua, a pair of Kawasaki-mounted cops asked us our destination and gave us a blue-light escort to our hotel, the Parador.

    As became our daily practice, we finished our ride in mid-afternoon, with plenty of daylight remaining. We got settled in our rooms, found some beer, fettled the bikes and set out to explore our surroundings, which seemed pretty exotic to this guy who had never seen any of Mexico other than beach towns and border towns. The first thing that struck me was the apparent prosperity of the state and city of Chihuahua. There seemed to be plenty of poverty, and a great divide between the upper and lower social classes, but what stood out was an apparently sizable and vibrant middle class, if the number of shiny new cars and F250 Lobos was any indication.
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    The veterans headed to the main square a few blocks away for a shoe-shine, while we newbs tagged along, goggling at the sights. We strolled for a while looking for a restaurant, passing up Domino's and KFC before settling on Caballo Loco, a 24-hour joint near our hotel that the locals had warned us away from, but where we found some perfectly satisfactory pollo asada and an enviable bowl of pozole.



    Breakfast the next day was included in the price of the room. It turned out to be a stingy selection of cereal, yoghourt, bread and coffee, doled out grudgingly in the hotel dining room by a concessionaire who refused to budge until he had received the necessary certificates from the hotel management. Thus fortified, we suited up for the next day of adventure. The ruta libre or "free road" took us through rolling countryside to Cuauhtemoc, an attractive city set on a plain populated largely by Mennonites. We continued on the paved Route 16 to Carichi, where we left the highway for lunch.

    Tom and a few others had needed to stop at cycle shop in Chihuahua, so only seven of us rolled up to the restaurant on the corner across from the square. Even a small group can create a disruptive spectacle in a small town. Most of the visible population of Carichi drifted over to the steps of the Palacio Municipal to watch us shrug out of our riding gear. We exchanged pleasantries with the locals and did our best to understand and answer their questions about where we were from and where were headed.

    Trip veterans were looking forward to lunch, which was served upstairs in a cool, dark room under a log-beamed ceiling that looked very, very old. While most of the group ordered tacos or enchiladas, I asked the waitress to explain a dish called higado encebollado. The most that I could grasp as that it was "meat from a cow", with onions, of course. Only when I smelled it cooking did I realize that I had ordered a large plate of diced liver. Andrew had ordered the same thing, in addition to his enchiladas. The liver turned out to be very popular, one of the tastiest meals of the entire trip. Even so, I was stuffed before I could finish my plate. I am glad I ordered it, because I never saw it offered anywhere else.

    After lunch, we waited for the stragglers and tried more conversation with the curious spectators. John and Lissa, who would be traveling slowly in deference to Lissa's recovering shoulder injury, got on the road right away. My cigar was not quite done when Marty, our road bully, finally grew impatient: "They know the way. We'll see them in Creel." A back street off the square carried us out of town on the back road to Creel. Although there was a paved alternative, this was a dual sport ride, well-scouted by the guys who had done it before. Wherever there was a choice, Charlie's GPS tracks (which we had all loaded onto our own receivers) followed the unpaved route.

    The next fifty miles gave us a little foretaste of what the next couple of weeks would bring. The road was fast and fun, gradually rising into the Sierra Tarahumahara, with plenty of curves and elevation changes, a few stretches of rocks or sand and a water crossing or two. At the hotel in Creel, we secured "the clubhouse", a suite with accomodations for five, plus a small living room and kitchenette, and made sure there would be rooms for the entire party. The shower was the last hot one I would get for eight days. By the time the latecomers arrived, we were getting laundry done, mixing Tecate with Kertomate (Clamato) and thinking about dinner.


    From Creel, you have basically two choices for a trip into the canyons: to Urique, or to Batopilas. Last year, they started with Batopilas, so this year it woud be Urique. It was all the same to me. The road begins with about twenty miles of spectacular twisties. We stopped at Divisadero, a popular stop for tourist buses with dramatic views into the canyons. There is an expensive tourist hotel, burro tours, and Tarahumara women selling their baskets and woven goods.
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    Once we left pavement, at San Rafael, there was a choice between the high road and the low road to Bahuichivo. The high road was on the GPS tracks, but Craig knew the turnoff to the Low Road, so he took the lead. This was a beautiful ride that followed a shady creek bottom. Every so often we climbed a little, and encountered our first stretches of polvo, very fine dust that covered the road, concealing hazards, rendering traction uncertain and forcing us to spread out to avoid the dust clouds.While most of the party took lunch at Bahuichivo, Craig and I pushed on to Cerocahui, where we sat in the town square for a light snack.
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    Shortly after the turn-off to Urique Canyon, we encountered two spectacular sights: an overlook with a panoramic view of Urique and the canyon, maybe 6000 feet below, and Richard sunbathing in his undershorts. In a suit, his imposing frame is no doubt very impressive in a courtroom. However, I am sure that Richard wishes that his photo never saw the light of day.
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    On the way into the canyon, we passed a newborn goat and his mother. A long hour of switchbacks took us down into Urique. The hotel room had bad feng shui, and felt claustrophobic at first, but the courtyard was spacious and pleasant. After a cold shower and dinner, there was a large cop presence in the streets. The owner of the next hotel over had died, and her wake was being held in the middle of the main drag, so the street had to be closed to traffic. John Coons buttonholed a cop to see if he could schnorr a URIQUE POLICIA t-shirt. He even offered a Wabasha Co. Sheriff patch in trade, but could not make the deal without approval from higher up.

    In the morning, we had breakfast with a doctor and an orthodontist from Chihuahua, who were on a volunteer tour to deliver medical services to the Taramuhara. The doc put in a word with the jefe de policia, and Coons got his shirt.

    The road to Chinipas took us through Temoris, where Craig and I arrived about lunchtime. As the rest of the party rolled up, the duena of the restaurant where we had parked was obviously thinking that we were thinking about taking lunch with her. A local kid dashed her aspirations with a bucket of fresh, hot tamales at two pesos a pop.

    Craig muscles up on tamales.
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    Following Charlie to the local overlook, I came over the crest of a hill to find a low cloud of polvo across the road. Charlie stands about six two, and the dust cloud was only three feet high, so I knew Charlie had to be on the ground. He got up and made it about fifty feet before biffing it again, this time going wheels up and landing over the embankment. I guess the trip to the overlook was worth all the drama: a view about a mile straight down to the old town with the railroad winding in and out of tunnels as it snaked up the mountain.

    In Chinipas, Marty found us a hotel with a large, charming courtyard for our bikes, and comfortable beds. The promise of agua caliente failed to materialize, however. In fact, we never got water to our rooms, and lined up instead for cold showers in the house facility at the back of the courtyard.
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    We had a recommendation for Restaurante Gaby, but she was closed. We found her taco stand on the square, however, and enjoyed a plate of excellent beefsteak tacos. Mere tacos were not enough for Andrew and Richard, who ordered huge platters of grilled beef. Tom was more interested in Gaby, and cajoled her into opening up for breakfast in the morning. At breakfast, Tom stepped into the kitchen and started flipping hotcakes while keeping up a running patter alongside our hostess. The presence of a husband looming somewhere just offstage kept everything on the light side.

    The river at Chinipas was low. We crossed without incident and began a long, hot climb into evergreen forests whose shade gave a little relief from the heat. After crossing the mountain, the road into Alamos was fast and sandy. We were well spread out to beat the dust, but reassembled at an excellent taco stand in the town square. Under a canopy, a long table with benches held lots of fixings: peppers, cukes, guacamole, several salsas, radishes and more.
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    Wealthy Americans are buying up a lot of real estate in Alamos. We talked to a yuppie couple from Santa Fe ("We did very well on the sale of our house") who had cashed in their chips and moved to Mexico with their grade-school-age daughters. "In the U.S. we'd have to worry about them. Here we can let them run loose and be kids. And they will grow up bilingual."

    At the other end of Alamos, we turned under a viaduct into a wide arroyo that led to the road out of town. At a wide junction in the road, Charlie followed the GPS track past the mining town of El Chinal, while Marty veered right in search of a faster route to El Fuerte. I followed Marty, but he left me far behind when I stopped to wait for Craig. The road crossed a sandy plain dotted with saguaro and thorny bushes. Craig and I navigated by following John and Marty's tracks in the sand, and asking directions as we went. We made some of the same false turns as they did, and once rode into a yard where the rancher and his family came out from the shade of their porch to point us to the right way. After chasing them around a reservoir and across its dam, we finally overtook them outside El Fuerte, and followed them to the Hotel Guerrero, where John Krueger and Lissa were waiting, having come down from Bahuichivo on the train the day before.
    The courtyard at Hotel Guerrero
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    El Fuerte is a vibrant city of about 50,000 people (Charlie says more like 15,000). Bass fishing in the nearby reservoirs creates some tourist traffic. The RV trains from Creel stop there, disgorging trainloads of name-tag-wearing AARP members from the North. But unlike the beachtowns where every bellboy has to speak english in order to get the job, El Fuerte pretty much minds is own business, of which there is plenty, conducted in Spanish. My own Spanish has improved, still not quite rudimentary, but nevertheless past the stage where I just point and grunt. Well, almost. I have to point and grunt to get internet access, but in the liquor store I am able to (sort of) discuss the relative merits of reposado tequilas. The brand we like is Cabrito. Richard found it first, but required considerable assistance in getting through the first liter. Cabrito is a very nice aged tequila, the best I have tasted. My experience is limited to Herradura and Centenario, but I know what I like. The liquor store guy says Calzadores is just as good, and he has more of it, but I grab the special offer two-bottle pack of Cabrito. We can drink the big bottle in an evening, and the 375 will travel nicely in my bag.

    El Fuerte has some pretty good restaurants, some internet shops, and hardware stores. It has young girls tearing around town on 4-wheelers, and a nice shady town square where teenage sweethearts nuzzle on the benches. There is an old fort, and a walking path by the river. It is close enough to the Sea of Cortez that El Tomo and Paul can ride to the coast for the day, while John Krueger and Richard try some bass fishing on a nearby reservoir. After two nights there, we hit the trail again feeling pretty refreshed, except for Andrew, who was a little shaky from the effects of too much Cabrito.
    Palacio Municipal - El Fuerte
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    Across from the square - El Fuerte
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    El Fuerte
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    We followed pavement to Choix, then turned into a cool road that took us along a creek bottom and then through some mountainous mining country to Tubares for lunch. After Tubares, the road was not exactly difficult, but in poor condition, requiring constant attention. Before La Reforma, we had to take a ferry to cross Lake Huites. The rest of us had been loaded and ready to sail for some time before Andrew finally came around the last bend to the landing. We rode back into the high country and came to a town that would have been a convenient stop, but the hotels had neither electricity nor running water. We made a shared lunch out of a couple of grilled chickens and backtracked to Cerocahui for the night.
    Our Parc Ferme in Cerocahui
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    This trip was routed to follow the dirt roads wherever an alternative existed, In the canyons, however, the only pavement we saw was in the larger towns. Where the roads were at their steepest and tightest, they were also the only roads, carrying pedestrian and equestrian traffic, as well as cars, trucks and buses. Drivers were generally courteous, and gave us a wide berth where possible. Although many of the turns are blind, you can often spot an oncoming vehicle several turns ahead and plan to pass in a safe place. On some of the back roads, however, the drivers do not seem to expect to see motorcycles, and can surprise you coming around a turn.

    Andrew and John C. each reported having dropped their bikes in avoidance of oncoming traffic, and coming to rest under a truck bumper. An F250 Lobo (Chihuahua's's answer to the Northland Edition) once surprised me coming out of a turn, crossed up and with his foot in it. I grabbed all my brakes to avoid centerpunching his grille on the loose descent. I didn't hit him, but his bumper stopped about four feet from my downed bike. Richard hit an embankment one day and went down; he was sore and a little cranky that evening. Everyone had close calls several times a day. It is important to crash-proof your bike, wear your protective gear, and carry a supply of ibuprofen. Some time in the gym beforehand wouldn't hurt, either.

    Problems with the bikes were rare. No one reported tire, brake or chain problems. Andrew's KLR experienced some fuel delivery problems in Texas and he broke the plastic L-fitting on the float bowl. Marty figured out a way to use the fuel filter in place of the fitting, which solved a potentially vexatious parts problem. Later on, in the motel courtyard in Chihuahua, Andrew cured the balky fuel delivery by extracting the brass filter medium from the filter body. In Cerocahui, my DR wouldn't crank in the morning, and was very difficult to bump-start. The battery was fine, but I had left the gas on overnight and fuel had flooded the air box.
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  2. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Oddometer:
    2,032
    Location:
    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    Did I mention that every trip has to have some comic relief? Once again, it was my turn in the barrel. Leaving Cerocahui on a frosty morning, we passed the turnoffs to La Reforma and Urique and set off for Batopilas, where we planned to spend a couple of days. Everybody seemed to be looking forward to Bato. The whole trip had been, like, "Bato this, Bato that, Bato blahblahblah, Bato, Bato, Bato." Almost like that scene in "Being John Malkovich". We crossed a new bridge to get lunch in Tubares, and then set out for the Urique River. The success of this particular leg depends on the condition of the Urique River crossing. If the water is too high, you can only get to Bato by backtracking to Creel and coming down the other way into the canyon, perhaps doable in a day if you are fast, but more likely a two day trip if you don't want to be riding in the canyon after dark. Sometimes an Army truck will come along and offer a ride. Or you can walk the gear across, and walk the bikes across, three guys to a bike - big adventure-expedition stuff where everybody wades across the river about eight times.

    But this year, the water was low. We expected it, because the crossing at Chinipas had been so easy, and none of the rivers seemed to be carrying much water. Most of the guys got across without incident. Paul hung his KLR up when his rear wheel dropped into a hole, but he got it free and crossed okay. I determined to take a line other than Paul's, but sure enough, a couple of rocks bounced me right into the same hole. I could just get my toes down, but the rocky bottom sloped away on both sides, so I could not push with my feet, while the rear wheel just spun (the only time I really regretted the half worn K270). The only answer was to get off and push; the next thing I knew, I was lying on the rocks in a foot of water with my bike on me. As I struggled ignominiously to my feet, I caught the glint of bright, hot sunlight reflecting off camera lenses....

    Do you think he'll have to drain the airbox?
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    A few hours later in Bato, this regrettable incident was nearly forgotten. I had only biffed once more, on the last easy stretch into town. We were comfortably ensconced in Hotel Mary, and had some beer. Exotic Batopilas was beginning to reveal its secrets.

    The Hotel Mary
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    So what do you drink in Mexico? Well, first off is Tecate, the Miller Lite of Mexico, not by choice, but by ubiquity. It's everywhere, it's funky, and it only comes in cans. Next, bottled water. It's even more available than Tecate, and it's what you will put in your Camelback if you know what's good for you. Coke, sweet and sticky. Fresca Toronja (grapefruit). Manzana Lift, a Coke product, fizzy apple pop. Jarritos? Tamarindo, Limon, Mango, every flavor of the rainbow, you can find it in any Mexican restaurant or store in Minneapolis, but it was completely absent from the shelves wherever we went. They never even heard of it (or else they didn't get my bad Spanish). Corona beer? It's like they never heard of that, either. Carta Blanca is almost everywhere. Bohemia, Indio, DosXX, Sol, you can get 'em if you are lucky. Sol is cool. Clear bottles, with little cartoons, kind of like Bazooka, but printed on the glass, four colors, fabulous-looking 'toons having a fabulous time drinking Sol. At least that's what I think they are doing; the cartoons are so small I can't really see them without my reading glasses. So now, I'm a Sol man.

    Did I mention Kertomate? Mexican Clamato. I saw some on a shelf in Creel, and thought a red beer might be good. Then in Bato, at the Puente Colgante, the locals were drinking pitchers of this red stuff. We'll have one of those. Como se llama? "Jarra", (pitcher). We drank six jarras on the patio of the Puente Colgante one fine afternoon. Craig later got the recipe from a Raramuri Club rider in Chihuahua: Sol, Kertomate, limon, chiles, soy, and a glass rimmed with salt.

    Tequila? Cabrito. I don't know a thing about tequila; I have tried Herradura, and Centenario, and actually been in a casino in Cripple Creek that has 150 kinds. Cabrito is tops in my book. Last, but not least, lechuguilla, moonshine made from the eponymous small variant of the Agave plant. Bato is a dry town, no off-sale liquor. But you can get lechuguilla. Lissa told us where to go find it. Up past the convent, across the street from where we had dinner in the woman's home, is the tienda that sells lechuguilla. It would be a shame to ride all the way down here and never sample the local hooch. We have to wait while the military comes in with their big German assault rifles. A Mercedes truckload of young soldiers is in town. About six in the evening, a bunch of Lobos peeled out of town all at once, tipped off the army was coming. Something about rival drug factions and a shooting over by Satevo, here to maintain order. After they leave, the owner picks up a couple of empty plastic pop bottles off the floor, makes a show of blowing the dust off, and fills them out of a bigger bottle he finds under the counter. Richard and I each take a bottle. The first taste is nasty, a cross between turpentine and dirt, or as Ashley put it "dirt on fire". But as you drink more, each sip is worse than the last. I dub the stuff El Gasolino, an homage to Juan Berenguer. It will make a fine souvenir, and only costs a little more than a bottle of good tequila.

    As soon as we got to Bato and got our gear into the rooms, we crossed the street to El Zaguan, the outdoor bar. A couple of Tecates on the patio overlooking the river took the edge off the ride. We made book on whether a herd of scrawny cows would actually cross. The veterans noticed that there seemed to be a lot of new residential construction on the bluffs across the river; the houses were built with pot money, so the growers could move their families into town. After so much drought, however, the river gave off a miasma of open sewer, and El Zaguan proved less popular than in past years.

    The lady who served dinner on her porch was booked until 7:00, so, since we were hungry at 6:00, we found dinner at the Puente Colgante, or Swinging Bridge. John Coons had a delicious seafood-stuffed trout, and I thought the seafood soup was the best of the trip. A pretty decent meal that was expensive by local standards, but still several bucks less than the same thing in Minnesota.

    The next day was an off-day, so a few of us went five miles down-river to Satevo to look at the 16th century church. Lissa spent some time talking to a cute 13-year-old girl who did finger tricks. Craig remembered her from two years previous. Inside, a heavy length of rope hung free in the bell tower. I couldn't resist giving it a healthy tug.

    This view of the church is on all the postcards
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    Andrew and Craig get some religion
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    There was a busload of nice lesbian ladies from the Bay Area who had hiked the five miles out to Satevo. I forget what we were planning to do back in Bato, but it didn't matter, because as we rode past the Puente Colgante, the shady patio looked mighty cool, and a cold beverage seemed like a good idea. The old jefes inside were drinking pitchers of red beer, so I ordered one of those.

    Richard and Andrew and ther Coons family rode up, and we had to pull up another table and order another jarra, and then another. It started to look like this might be a good spot for lunch, but the lesbian ladies (hey, I'm way outta line here; let's just say they could have been lesbians) had slid in behind us and taken up a big table. When we talked to the waiter about some lunch, he just motioned with his head toward the other table, and shook his head, like: "Buddy, you can get el lunch-o here if you are willing to wait, but no lunch-o until I have fed these ladies". The clamato and a late-arriving burrito would have to tide us over until dinner.

    Funny you should ask. Why, that old church bell had a rich, full-bodied tone, very deep and not round, exactly, but definitely spheroid. As the sound of that single perfectly-formed note echoed through the countryside, the paisanos began to swarm out of the surrounding foothills - thousands of them, more than you would have thought could survive in that harsh landscape. Before long, the church yard was teeming with humanity, with more people arriving every minute: farmers still carrying their rudimentary tools, children, nursing mothers. They were singing the Internationale, and it sounded like they knew all the words. Trucks with camera dollies appeared, and a helicopter circled overhead, the throbbing of its rotors not quite able to drown the sound of a loudspeaker, barking unintelligible orders to a horde more indifferent than defiant. Eventually the army rolled up in a couple of big Mercedes camiones. The clean cut boys kept their HK assault rifles slung over their shoulders and quickly circulated through the crowd. They remonstrated with the people, quietly and politely, but firmly. After a time, the throng thinned out, and the people began to return to their homes, slowly, in groups of two or three. As quickly and inexplicably as it had started, it was over. Yes, that's exactly how it happened. Quite remarkable, really.

    An American woman in Batopilas has a shop where she sells silver jewelry from Taxco at excellent prices. Since we were about to make the turn toward home, I had started to think about souvenirs for Shelly and the kids, and found a couple of nice pieces. Felix wanted something with a worm in it. Sorry, kiddo, no worm, Cabrito, what else?

    For such a little, out-of-the-way place, there is a hell of a lot to do in Bato. Eat elote, corn on a stick. Hang out in the square and look at the girls. Hang out in the square and watch the kids. Walk uptown for dinner. walk further uptown for moonshine. Go over to Juanita and check out the Coons's hotel room, sit on the patio and drink Cabrito and smoke cigars. Fast lane, high pressure entertainment. El Tomo struck up a conversation with a young lovely that persisted through an entire evening. Sat on some steps by the square and chatted her up until everybody else had gone home, but eventually went home alone.

    After two nights, we rode up out of the canyon. Several guys stayed another night to check out a loop through Satevo, up to the top of the pass, and back to town, supposed to take six hours to ride. Craig and I thought we would ride to Baseasachi to see the falls. Marty, Lissa and john K. would overnight in Creel, and then meet us in Chihuahua, either at the Maria Dolores, or in the square at 8 pm. Paul would decide at Creel whether to stop or ride to Baseasachi.

    On the way up, I met a big flatbed truck, and stopped well back from the turn, on the inside of the turn, but on the dropoff side of the road. The truck was long enough that the rear wheels came inside to the apex of the turn. If he hadn't stopped, he would have knocked me over the edge. As it was, he left me less than a foot between his tire and the edge. The width of my handlebars gave me less room than that. As I tried to squeeze by, my rear wheel dropped into some soft dirt, and fell off the edge of the road. I straddled the bike, but couldn't dismount or go forward; no way I wanted to go back. Paul came by and got me going with a push.

    We passed two groups of DS bikes heading into the canyon as we were coming out. Some BMWs and big KTMs, a couple of KLRs, a DR650 and a Ducati Elefant. At the junction with pavement, we met a young Swiss couple who had their bicycles wrwpped in blue tarps, waiting for the bus. They were about two months into a year-long tour of Latin America. In Creel, we located Marty and Lissa at the Hotel des Valles. The afternoon was wearing on, and a hot shower was starting to look good, so we bagged Basaseachi, settled in Creel for the night.

    The next day, the six of us lit out for Chihuahua. Not long after we gassed up at Bocoyna, my bike began to run roughly. In Carichi I stopped at the square and cleaned my air filter, clogged with mud from polvo mixed with the Urique River. From Carichi we were back on pavement for good. After a long lunch break in Cuauhtemoc, we rolled into Chihuahua under a leaden afternoon sky, the first clouds we had seen in more than a week.

    Maria Dolores was full up, so we took rooms at the Bal-Fom. I would recommend that you not do the same. A room for two is only 38 bucks, not bad for the heart of the big city, but that was one grim and claustrophobic room; the carpet on the stairs looked filthy even to me, accustomed as I am to bachelor squalor, and the dark and oily underground garage looked none too secure. That concern eased a bit when we learned that traffic cops on Segways made the garage their base of operations. We ambled around the city center for a few hours, and drifted over to the square to rendezvous with the guys who had stayed in Bato for a day. You can almost do that ride before sundown by taking the paved highway from Creel.

    Our group was spread among three hotels, so we met for drinks in the Zeppelin, across the street from Bal-Fom. Andrew and Richard took off in a cab, while John Coons and I went back to the Caballo Loco for a bowl of pozole. After a while, we decided it might be good humor to track down the lawyers and see if they had found any fun. We hailed a cab of our own, and gave him our search algorithm. After a couple of stops, including a long ride into the northern suburbs, we found them. Good thing, too, because we were just about out of pesos. About the rest of the evening I will say no more. What happens in Chihuahua stays in Chihuahua.

    The next day, Marty, Lissa and John found rooms at Maria Dolores. Craig and I moved into a Big modern motel up the block. Richard and the Coons party were already there. I forget the name of the place, but there was a big quiet bar, a cute bartender, a pool, and a meeting room that featured a huge mural depicting la Raza Cosmica, "the cosmic race". Go ahead and Google it.
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    The next day, we walked through the market stalls. Clothes, pirate CDs, vegetables, meats, herbs, buy it all here.
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    There is plenty to see and do on the streets of Chihuahua.

    At one of the bike shops, John met a member of the Raramuri Motorcycle Club, who invited us all to join them for their weekly meeting at a local restaurant. These guya are all pretty well-off, but are strictly street riders. Last year they did a 3000-mile group tour to Veracruz, riding in a lot of rain. They know the canyons, but have never ridden them. We spent some time trying to persuade them to take advantage of the dualsport paradise in their own back yard. Maybe next year. That was our last night in Mexico.

    Friday morning, there was nothing left to do but ride back to the border, and no reason to ride in a group. We got going about 9:00 and rolled out of town on Av. Benito Juarez.
    [​IMG]
    The pump jockey at Coyame was really captivated by the big IMS plastic tanks on the Suzukis. He was the first station attendant on the whole trip to express any interest in our bikes. Maybe it was a cultural or language barrier, or maybe he was the first guy who wasn't just busy as hell. Over a quick burrito, El Tomo filled us in on his Thursday night's adventures in the red light district. Tom had spent a lot of this trip roaming around alone in search of female companionship. One gal had taken him for twenty bucks and vamoosed, but he did hook up for fifteen, plus ten for the use of a room for an hour. That was on Av. Benito Juarez, west of the square a few blocks. I had heard somewhere that a guy could easily spend ten times that much over on the other side of town. The final score: El Tomo 1, Muchachas de Chihuahua 1, Andrew ?.

    At the border, we had to get our vehicle permits stamped. Charlie was able to promote some bureaucratic efficiency when he persuaded the girl to come out and inspect all our VINs at once. He also put in a word for the BMW sport touring group who had showed up after us and were about fifteen places further back in line. I don't know if those guys were worn out from their trip or what, but they were barely able to say hello, except for one on an F650. Charlie saved them about an hour of standing in line; I'm not sure they were even aware of it.

    The tow vehicles all started after sitting for two weeks. By three p.m. we were all trailered up. In Bucyrus, KS, we stopped at Richard's hobby farm and took a couple of hours to enjoy a St. Paddy's corned beef and cabbage lunch. Even with the long break, we were back in the Cities by nine on Saturday night, digging parked cars out of the 19" of wet, heavy snow that had graced our absence. Good trip. Buen viaje.
    #2
  3. Plugger

    Plugger Eat'n a sammich

    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Where the wind blows and the corn grows
    Jud,
    Great report and pics! Good time to be in Mexico especially given the weather in the Northland lately. As a KLR guy, one question, Why the DR and not the KLR?
    #3
  4. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Oddometer:
    2,032
    Location:
    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    Better brakes, better suspension, a little more nimble. The modified Corbin on my DR is much better than the stock Corbin on the KLR. Besides, the K270 had another couple thousand miles in it; the 858 on the KLR was toast.
    #4
  5. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,527
    Location:
    Westby Wisconsin
    Damn dude, awesome trip report. Tons of good info there! Could have added some pics of the chicas though :evil
    #5
  6. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    I like the way your report was written. Great fun!

    I ran into a couple of riders in your group down in Baja, tad over a year ago.
    #6
  7. Hammer

    Hammer Hawlin' aZZ

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,299
    Location:
    Pacific Northwet
    Great read! Has Tomo been to the Dr yet? He might want to get a shot! Not one of Te-kill-ya either!
    Looked like a real good time!
    Are you willing to share the GPS tracks? I want to ride from Tecate to Cabo to LaPaz, cross the ferry, then ride Copper Canyon back up to Tx. Some trail data would be very handy!
    #7
  8. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Pickwick Lake, Tennessippi
    Nice report :thumb
    #8
  9. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    66,767
    Fantastic report and pics.. gotta do that trip some day soon! :thumb

    :clap
    #9
  10. ScottJ

    ScottJ Wandering Jew/Sally Tribe

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    116
    Location:
    North of the cities, MN
    Great report. I haven't seen John C. in quite a few years, he's really starting to look like Charlie (too bad for him:lol3 ). Charlie should make it a real adventure and use his NX650. $15 for female companionship I hope that in includes the anibiotic :1drink .
    #10
  11. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
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    Location:
    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    I think he tried that once, just once. Too adventurous.
    #11
  12. motoxusa

    motoxusa Biker Dude

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Clermont, FL
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos. I went to the Copper Canyon last April and had a ball. Wouldn't mind making the trip again and hitting some new areas. I had a few close calls, and went down real hard on the mountain road heading back to Creel from Batopilas. Ended up breaking my Fibula, but didn't know it until I got back home and went to the doctor. Us dual sport riders are tough.....right?
    #12
  13. Hootowl

    Hootowl Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
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    1,481
    Location:
    Bend Oregon
    Would their names be Robin and Richard by any chance?
    If so, we met them last year when we were there. They bought the house that the silent movie actress Mary Aster built in the '20's.
    #13
  14. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
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    2,032
    Location:
    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    Could have been. She was a blonde, he was kind of tall and lean, glasses, short hair.
    Didn't get their names or much info about their house.
    #14
  15. winterhk

    winterhk *Disminuya Su Velocidad*

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    Dec 16, 2004
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    :clap Eh - he - lente!
    #15
  16. trailuser

    trailuser take the backroads

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,402
    Location:
    Illinois
    great report Judd:nod

    How did craig like the DRZ for the amount of riding:ear
    #16
  17. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

    Joined:
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    2,032
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    Not Fargo, not Butte, not Cheyenne
    He was very happy with it. Said it didn't bother him on the longer days on pavement, and it worked very well for him on the canyons. This trip really does reward the guy who can pack light and ride a light bike. Charlie's DR350 and Craig's DRZ were the hot set-up.
    #17
  18. cwc

    cwc .

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
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    1,185
    Location:
    Minnesota
    The tracks we used are at http://www.gpsxchange.com/ in the Mexico/Baja section.
    #18
  19. motowest

    motowest Two-wheeled Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,438
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Good stuff! Muchos gracias!:D
    #19
  20. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
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    19,490
    Location:
    New Hampshah
    Outstanding report -- well crafted! Thanks!! :freaky
    #20