Please Weigh In on Some MX Travel Questions

Discussion in 'Americas' started by The Chief (tm), Oct 17, 2013.

  1. The Chief (tm)

    The Chief (tm) Adventurer

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    Hello All,

    Long-time lurker, noob poster, etc. Have run into a few Inmates out on the road over the years...or, at least, "on the road" only after they've emerged from the woods, or the brush, or where ever the heck else they've been in the meantime! :d

    Have a trip planned to Puerto Vallarta for either early December or early January. Will stay for at least a month, hopefully more like two or three. Have visited MX several times already, Spanish is workable, but first time doing it on bike. Have cobbled together much knowledge about border crossing, paperwork, etc. from the many seasons vets here on ADV. Am good at planning and setting expectations, etc., but have a couple of general questions I couldn't quite find answers to via forum searches.

    Trip originates in South Carolina so plan to cross over at Nuevo Laredo (or McAllen, if more highly recommended); time restrictions require that I head straight down to PV, so I cannot deviate (much) from my southbound itinerary. Happily, leisurely riding will occur after arrival and on return to US (to California). Three questions:

    1) DAILY DISTANCE: considering the route and roadways from NL to PV (via Monterrey/Saltillo and Zacatecas/Aguascalientes), what is the maximum daily distance I can reasonably expect to cover? I ride an ST1100 with plenty of on-board and spare fuel capacity, and I've maxed out at the 630+ miles between SF and Portland, OR a couple of times. Naturally, I don't expect to be able to (nor want to) do anywhere near that kind of riding down there. But can those routes (MX54 & 54D, and 15/90 to PV) support, say, 300 miles a day?

    2) OVERNIGHT PARKING: if the answer to question #1 is (mostly) "yes", then I'll likely be staying in Saltillo the first night and Aguascalientes the second. (Would do Zacatecas on Day 2, but that might leave me a bit too far to reach PV on Day 3, ┬┐verdad?) How badly do I need to find completely "secure" parking in those two places? Say I'll stay at what appear to be Mexico-wide chain hotels, with their own parking lots. If I can arrange to leave the bike closest to the door to the lobby, say, and locked with a Krypto wheel lock for the one overnight each, am I taking too big of a chance? Should I find a smaller/non-chain place with a private courtyard, or whatever? And FWIW, same thoughts about one overnight in Mazatlan, before catching the ferry to La Paz.

    3) IMMUNIZATIONS: is proof of immunization required when crossing the border in either direction?


    4) Do any of you carry the US "Passport Card" in order to use the "Ready Lane" at certain of the border crossings? Appears to cost $30, and (if I'm reading the border wait times properly on http://apps.cbp.gov/bwt/) it looks like it could save a bit of delay re-entering the US.

    But you still have to stop on the Mexico side first, turn in the Tourist Card and TVIP, collect the refund, correct?

    Gang, hoping a few of you will wish to throw in $0.02. :ear Also, would be very happy to travel down there along with anyone else who may be headed in same direction -- although I cannot know just yet exactly *when* my trip will commence. Finally, I would be THRILLED to be able to offer Tent Space once I'm there, if I can properly arrange an apartment for however long my stay will be! :freaky But let's not get ahead of ourselves. All advice welcomed! Ride safe!
    #1
  2. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    With a highway go-getter like yours, and running the toll roads, you should get 600 miles or so per day. That's starting early each day, of course.
    The tolls aren't the cheapest, but the roads will allow you triple digit running for long distances.

    Sometimes the officials check for anti-dickhead shots, but usually not.
    Only ride during daylight.

    Ride safe and have fun. :deal
    #2
  3. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    Here I go again.:norton
    I will suggest to stay off the toll roads and you will have more
    enjoyment of seeing Mexico at a more sedate pace.Trying to run freeway
    toll roads will have you running at the speed limit plus 50% and
    having to use all your wits to read the road for topes , livestock, truck parts etc etc etc and get you boiling mad every time
    the toll road turns into being the regular highway with slower traffic.

    Distance per day ought to be around 400 km maybe 500km at the most( which is what you already said in different values:D) and you should do the McAllen to PV run in about 4 or 5 enjoyable days.

    Overnight parking - avoid any hotels with open parking lots. Don't bother sweating about finding any of the big chain hotels like Fiesta inn, Holiday Inn , Best Western
    Hampton etc. Sure they are available in the big cities , but you don't need to ride your
    butt off into the evening darkness just to get to one of those .
    Pick any , ANY!, town and you should be able to find good hotels with secure
    enclosed parking . In lots you can park the bike at the desk or even in your ground floor room.
    If you want real security stop at any of the newer autohotels you will see in the approaches to towns . Quit blushing!
    Autohotels will have attractive rates better than the chains I mention, and their traffic
    entrance precludes any vandal types from entering PLUS you get to park the bike inside a big garage with roll-up door that locks and is exclusively YOURS ALONE.
    You can leave everything on the bike without a worry , just take your toothbrush.
    If you sign in around 8 in the evening you can opt for the rate of a 12 hour stay .Have an excellent night of sleep and be out by 8 in the morning to
    put in another alert day in the saddle.
    Believe me , I do know where hotels are :lol3 In 34 years I have never had anything stolen off the bike at a hotel in Mexico
    Check page 7 Hotels in Mexico
    #3
  4. RexBuck

    RexBuck Long timer

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    Listen to Sjoerd.

    Buy Sjoerd's book on hotels for bikers in Mexico. Forget about chains.

    If you absolutly have to be in PV in 3 days, you will have some shitty Cuota riding. Try to avoid it. When not on Cuotas, you will be going at a slower average speed because of: trucks, buses, traffic and above all, topes.
    #4
  5. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    If you have never ridden in Mexico before, you will be hard pressed to average over 650kms in a day even on the cuota roads. If you are doing a mix of roads, anything more than 550kms, riding like a gringo, will be tough. There is a method to riding in Mexico, it is totally unlike the USA and everything you have learned.

    First, don't fight the rhythm of traffic, you will find it after a few minutes on any road. Too fast or too slow and you are not in the groove. This will make sense after your first day.

    Second, you are on a bike and expected to act like you are, motorists will anticipate you to act like a Mexican motorcyclist. Riding Mexican style means lane splitting, moving to the front at lights, cutting through traffic jams, a cut and thrust style like motorcycle couriers.

    Third, expect the unexpected and learn to enjoy it.

    Fourth, you might stretch the kilometers more than what has been mentioned but climate and road conditions, detours, traffic blocked by protests, accidents, etc... will all conspire against you.

    Fifth, don't believe anything anyone tells you about the left turn signal being left on. That, like finding Carta Blanca in every store in Mexico, hasn't been true for a long time. It can, and will, mean anything and everything. You cannot bet on it. The moment you do, you will be seriously screwed.

    Sixth, get a Spot device to quiet the people telling you that you are insane to ride in Mexico. Or simply ask them how they think motorcyclists who live in Mexico ride?
    That will usually quell the ignorant and the innocent.

    Seventh, make sure you have sufficient motorcycle and health insurance.

    Eighth, since there is usually a debate over speed limits because, like distances, they are rarely posted and rarely enforced, you can easily cruise on the cuotas above 140kmh. Bear in mind that there will be traffic waiting to pass you because they are cruising at 160kmh and it will often be a white Suburban full of politicians or their wives on the way to their plastic surgery appointments.

    Ninth, the Federales de Caminos are not to be confused with the PFP Federales nor to be confused with the municipal transit police. You might encounter state police, PFP, or Army/Navy/Marines at a highway checkpoint. Or none. Or any combination. However, it is the municipal transit police that will usually try to screw you. How you deal with that is a whole other story that depends on so many factors you could write a book that would be outdated the moment it hit the stands.

    Tenth, listen to what guys like Sjoerd are saying, I've been living and riding in Mexico for 20 years full time and I can still learn something from these guys. I have met Sjoerd, he knows his stuff, the other US guys I have met can all ride Mexican style and understand it. Keep an open mind and remember that the learning curve at times can be quick and very steep.

    Try to "see" Mexico for its richness and diversity and it's incredible magic, rather than see Mexico as a "green blur". Try to look at your routing and find interesting places that are nearby and give yourself some time to visit the Pueblos Magicos, some ruins, famous natural landmarks, sample the foods, mingle with folks at a market (Wednesdays are market days and are always busy, busy), get your camera out and use it.

    If you are "out of sync" with things and you notice this, take a breather, rehydrate, and take a look at the landscape. Try looking at the landscape in the same way you look at a night sky. It takes a few moments and you let things come into focus and then you see all the stars and more detail.
    Try to avoid the "500 yard" stare that signals you are zoned out and not zoned in and it will usually be caused by dehydration or low blood sugar.
    Treat your body as well as you treat your bike. Know your limits.
    I probably haven't told you anything new, so I'm done. Oh! I almost forgot! Remember the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Christopher, you don't see them on Mexican trucks just for decoration.:deal Some might scoff at this, but some of us have seen some pretty incredible things in Mexico and wondered how the hell anyone walked away from it.:eek1 But it happens all the time.

    And one last thing, don't forget to tip the Pemex attendants! 3 or 5 pesos on a fill up is sufficient. Near the border, watch out for the $500 peso note scam, simply be sure to always carry small denomination bills like $50 peso and $100 peso notes and carry some coins.
    #5
  6. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

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    In addition to the above, I would try to overnight in Zacatecas on the way to PV.
    #6
  7. BullShatter

    BullShatter Gringo

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    Listen to what Sjoerd, MikeMike and RexBuck had to say, all of it will ring true once you get "In Country". I spent 2 months in Mexico earlier this year and everything mentioned above is spot on. I'll be headed back in January for two more months and I'll be spending several weeks in PV and Sayulita. We'll definitely need to connect.

    It was mentioned above, but I'll say it again, buy a Mexican Insurance Policy for the bike. I had an unexpected "get-off" near Mexico City due to oil spilled on the road through a curve. The bike suffered about $4500 in damage, but all was covered by the Mexican Insurance (after my $1000 deductible).

    Good Luck with your trip.
    #7
  8. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Just north of Puerto Vallarta is Sayulita. When you need a diversion you just have to go there and check it out, grab a place to stay and visit for a few days. There are several surf schools in Sayulita and since you don't surf, your job is to grab a table at the coffee shop and watch the surf school girls in their bikinis walking to their beach instruction with their boards each morning at 0830.

    Punta de Mita is right there as well, a few miles southwest of Sayulita and the same northwest of Puerto Vallarta. Lots of Hollywood camera crews go there for a reason, it's beautiful.

    Talpa de Allende is a nice mountain town inland via a great road when you want to go inland. It and Mascota are on the way to Guadalajara and Lake Chapala/Ajijic etc. and going that direction for a few days can be a nice change of pace if you're going to be in the area for as you say up to three months. Inmate Kiko posts here sometimes, he had a house in Ajijic but sold it and now is living in his other place in Jocotepec. You can PM him if your going to ride to Chapala and he'll show you around.

    You won't need any immunizations unless your travel plans take you through Detroit.
    #8
  9. AdventurePoser

    AdventurePoser Long timer

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    A huge +1...Zacatecas is a fabulous city with incredible people, food, and architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage City. If you could spend a couple of nights here you would not be sorry. Find Luciano's for an incredible Italian meal. I believe the restaurant is called "Lucky Luciano's," but it is in the Central Historical district. The owner has an amazing display of private art and masks, and guarantees that if your meal is not "sublime," you don't have to pay. :)

    And I agree with everyone else...slow down, use the Libre roads and ride with your "A" game on. You'll have fun.

    Steve, in Mexico City, heading south
    #9
  10. The Chief (tm)

    The Chief (tm) Adventurer

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    ¡Hola! I am (a) very thankful for all this quality input and (b) still cracking up over some of the more humorous pieces of advice!

    While I regret "needing" to get down to PV as quickly as I believe I need to, even so I'll do it right -- not too fast, not too slow. 100 MPH for three hours will probably take more out of me (and the bike) than 75 for five, whereas I've got five years of daily SF/Bay Area riding experience so lane-splitting and generally taking the initiative is baked right in. PM's likely coming soon to a few Inmates so be on the lookout, and thanks again for all the "hep" thus far!
    #10
  11. canadian chris

    canadian chris Been here awhile

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    This thread is relevant to my interests :ear

    :thumb

    :thumb

    I'm heading to Oaxaca via ST1300 in December and for the past 6 months have been lurking/reading most of the Mexico travel planning threads. I've gleaned a lot of knowledge from from you two & Trice and always appreciate the time & trouble you invest to pass on what you've learned.

    Chief: I'll be passing through PV in mid-December. If I get there before you, I can let you know how things go from the ST point of view
    #11
  12. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    Chris, I speak Timmins and Elliot Lake dialects, :freaky let me know if you want to meet up in Tehuacan or Tlacotepec, Puebla, central point for both of us. Now, if Veracruz is on your agenda, you'll find quite a few roads to your liking.:evil
    #12
  13. Dr. Benny

    Dr. Benny Enjoying the Journey

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    Wow, so much amazing advice! Not much I can add since all these inmates chimed in so quickly with very detailed thoughts! :deal

    One thought on the border crossing. If you're nervous like I was on my first crossing, consider taking the Columbia Bridge crossing just west of Nuevo Laredo. It's about 20 miles out of the way but it's extremely quiet and easy to figure out if you're new to all this. Of course, if you're not concerned, the main crossing at Nuevo Laredo is easy enough to figure out if you ask for help.

    Have a great ride! :ricky
    #13
  14. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Since you have accepted that blasting to PV is not a good thing...I would add a night in Real de Catorce. Just google it and you'll know why you should not miss this place. It's halfway between Monterrey and Zacatecas.
    #14
  15. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    I haven't ridden down there, but Cofradia is my favorite tequila tasting store in PV.
    #15
  16. The Chief (tm)

    The Chief (tm) Adventurer

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    Dr. Benny -- thanks for heads-up, and for that website. Was aware of neither, will keep the option in mind. Where in the Bay Area are you? I was in SF for five years, am on East Coast temporarily right not but will probably go back to SF when I return to the US.

    Johnnydarock -- yeah, Real de Catorce sure does keep popping up as a "can't miss" kind of place. Lemme ax you: is it a place where one can find someplace to stay overnight? 'Cuz I'd just have to juggle my trip segments differently, that's all...
    #16
  17. Dr. Benny

    Dr. Benny Enjoying the Journey

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    I'm in the south bay now (Cupertino). Originally from the east coast (New Hampshire).

    And Real de Catorce is awesome. You'll find lots of ride reports about it. Here's a writeup from my trip: http://afewmoremiles.com/2009/11/13/mexico-el-potrero-chico-monterrey-and-real-de-catorce/

    This is the ride in. It's about 15 miles long...

    [​IMG]
    #17
  18. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Hey Chief: I'm reading between the lines of your responses and I get the feeling you don't like just "winging it." You need to have a set itinerary and know exactly where you're staying for the night. Mexico doesn't work this way if you want to not only get that feeling of freedom that a motorcycle gives you plus that freedom of just going with the flow. I would say with only a few exceptions...you can roll into ANY town in Mexico and get a room for the night. Catorce has many hotels and they still had rooms on Easter Sunday when I was there...and we just rolled up with no reservation...or idea where we were going to stay. I recommend buying the "Lonely Planet" or "Rough Guide" to Mexico for some good recommendations for hotels. You may need to check out a few places before you find the right place to stay but you will always find a place.

    Wish I were going with you. Have fun!
    #18
  19. The Chief (tm)

    The Chief (tm) Adventurer

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    Johnny -- I'm not adverse to "winging it" per se, but on the way down I have kind of a time restriction so I'm hoping I can plan it out just so. Once I'm down there, I'm there for like seven weeks, and it's then that I expect to do some serious touring with no schedule, only targets...

    Benny -- JEEZ! Great pic, but I'm not sure I can subject my poor '94 to 15 miles of that kind of road...the bike has hung in there through ill-advised attempts through tough logging "roads" in the Ozarks, Cerro Gorde Road on the edge of Death Valley, and some other rock-strewn mess called Fish Camp Rd. near Gualala, CA...all towing a trailer, mind you...but 30 miles R/T on that and it may have just cause to sue me for non-support. I'm sure I'll give it a darned good look though...
    #19
  20. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    :rofl One year I broke the rear subframe on my R100 later in the same trip as visiting Real and I think that that cobblestone road was the start of the crack.It finally let go in El Salvador, the rear fender rubbing on the tire.
    I don't think you should go to Real de 14. Certainly Real is interesting but after you analise it you see that it is to a large extent a restored artifact, a "ghosty town " turned into a tourist magnet . You will be spending more time getting there than you expected, more time looking around than you intended and more time retreating to Mex 57 than you ever planned for.
    Just stick to your original route "plan" and maybe run a little slower letting the landscape views soak in and explore the towns- every town!- along the way and you will get a great feel for Mexico. Real will be there waiting for you on a later day when you are not putting yourself at the disadvantage of plans, timelines,scheduled stops, reservations. ....
    Be FREEEEEE
    If you find yourself in Guadalajara with a day left before you "need to be" in PV then consider taking the route Mex 70 through the vallies and over the mountains to PV and the coast.
    #20