Trip To Veracruz, Mexico

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Andres A, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. Andres A

    Andres A FINDING NEMO

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    Hey Riders, the next month some riders and i, planning a trip to Veracruz, the beautiful state, the target is Central Veracruz, visiting Xalapa the capital and some places like the coffe mountains (Coatepec, Xico, ETC...)and several places with history, wait for pic's and the report, may be could be described by ARTE my good friend, well check this hotel this is our headquarter (jeje).

    www.hotelbocadeovejas.com

    This is the ligth house "El Morro" near to Boca de ovejas (translation "mouth of lambs") the last year, today is better.
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    And this is Jalcomulco near to Xalapa, rafting level 4.
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    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Let's see the ride report when you get going :thumb
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  3. Arte

    Arte Pata de Perro

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    Sure my friend, I'll be glad to do the RR. so far 4 riders to go and probably other 3 from Zacatecas will join us at Tampico.
    This is going to be great!!

    Arte
    #3
  4. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Andres and his friends were kind enough to let me tag along a bit. I have to say that they are some hard riding folks!

    Anyway, I'll let Andres and Arte start the story but here are some photos to perhaps get the conversation going.

    Andres on the left, Arturo on the right, and Arturo's young son (yes, they rode two-up on a KLR!) in the window, catching up on breakfast:

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    Some more of the group at the destination resort:

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    And no ride report is complete without a photo of the food: crusted red snapper, with oysters and shrimp cocktail:

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    #4
  5. Andres A

    Andres A FINDING NEMO

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    Go Pirate Go, my friend, the post is yours.


    #5
  6. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Fototime, where my photos are at, seems to be down Andres. I'll start writin' when they come back up.

    Great trip ... even if I was playing catch up most of the way. :lol3
    #6
  7. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Freakin' Fototime is still down ... although at least my earlier photos are showing. I guess that's progress ... :cry
    #7
  8. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    First of all, my tale is going to be a bit different from Andres and Arturo. I rode in from San Antonio, met them in Reynosa, and then we rode together for most of the first day.

    Most of the way. I found out pretty quickly that once the roads got narrow and twisty that I was no match for them! :lol3

    So they rode my ass off. On the first day of the trip I lost the group south of Tampico, and I got a room in a small town called Naranjos. Andres and Arturo and the group from Rio Bravo dragged into the resort south of Santa Ana at 10:30PM that night. (Narrow two-lane Mexican roads, well after dark, one guy with no tail light ... fellow gringos are getting the picture here). :eek1

    I caught up with everyone the next day around 1PM, at which point everyone else was getting out of the pool at the VERY nice resort that Andres' cousin owns.

    Somewhere along the line a third group from Zacatecas rode in. :clap

    Andres and Arturo and the group form Rio Bravo went for a ride to a ranch nearby where Andres has family. Being an old gringo I went to take a nap. :wink: I ain't no one's dummy.

    We all got together for a whale (red snapper, actually) of a great dinner. Good compansionship, plenty of BS stories told, etc.

    The next day most of the group got together and headed for "the mountains." I took off along and retraced much of our original journey because I wanted to take photos. And to ride slowly, since my back was killing me. :tough

    Along the way I ran across some other folks who were going to a motorcycle gig in Tuxpam, so that gave me an opportunity to hang out, drink beer, and take some more photos of a really nice city that I had never really thought much of before.

    Andres and Arturo will have some tales of their route home, which was different from mine.

    Great guys, and I had a great time. Some of the guys were talking about doing a Fall trip to the Yucatan, and if I can raise the $$$ I'd love to do that even if I did have to leave 3-5 days ahead of everyone else. :rofl

    My only regrets with this trip are 1) I need to get a bike-mounted camera to record the highways, because that's pretty eye-opening for some of us Norte Americanos, and 2) in 20/20 hindsight I wish that I had headed down to the city of Veracruz for a day.

    Oh well ...

    Details follow:
    #8
  9. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    I met Andres and Arturo when I was hangin' around the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas last Fall. At that time I had been somewhat unexpectedly sent to Texas at the behest of the good disaster relief folks, and didn't have a motorcycle with me.

    My girlfriend and I fell in love with the area, on both sides of the border. Having a bike there would have been mucho better.

    Andres and his crew have a motorcycle club that is centered around a bar called the La Finca. I have it at 26° 03'37.14" N 98° 18'44.72"W. ADV emblems are proudly displayed. Last Fall I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bless of the Bikes. A priest was there, along with what seemed like about half the Transitos (transit cops) on motorcycles. The Reynosa transitos ride a mix of V-Stroms and some cruisers (Yamaha, as I recall).

    Sorry that the photos of that event are so bad; I forgot my camera that day and had to rely on the cell phone.

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    #9
  10. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    A word about Northern Mexico and Reynosa -

    Reynosa gets a bad rap as being an industrial city and being pretty crowded, with confusing streets. I was shocked at how many of the "Winter Texans" (RV'ers that had driven down to the Rio Grande Valley for the season) would brag about the number of years that they were in the RGV and had never entered Mexico. Blah!

    Plus, so many of us Norte Americanos have this idea about what Mexico is like and, well ... it just ain't that accurate.

    Andres is part of a group that takes off-road motoring pretty seriously. After seeing Andres' "Armadillo" I really, really regret scrapping my old Range Rover before we left Florida.

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    I won't show you Andres' house without his permission (y'know ... privacy and all of that) but I was pretty impressed with his neighbor's house:

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    The first time that Andres took me out to a pub it was a frickin' US style brew pub called the Sierra Madre Brewing Company (http://www.smbc.com.mx/). Great place with good beer and good food. I was joking that it was TOO nice a place to hang out, us being gnarly bikers and all. On the other hand Andres and his pals thought that it was pretty funny that I had been hangin' out in the Centro (downtown) drinkin' at a place that has reproduction Pancho Villa recruiting posters.

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    You have to love this stuff. I think that every time I go to Mexico folks treat me better and better. Great folks!
    #10
  11. Greenflyfarmer

    Greenflyfarmer I'm better now.

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    More please.
    #11
  12. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    OK, I'll start the excuses. And the boring part.

    Three or four years ago I rode down to Tampico and came back with a nasty case of viral meningitis. I lost a lot of motor control for several months and my, uh ... what do you call it ... dammint ... "short term memory" never quite came back. My hair went gray pretty fast, and whereas earlier I could drink almost anyone under the bar now my drinkin' was, uh ... "average."

    So for a variety of reasons it had been a few years since I was riding as hard as I was going to be riding on this trip. I knew that before I even got on the road with these guys.

    And it's been hot in San Antonio. Since we got here it's been above 100 degrees literally every day as far as I know. I've been struggling with the heat, but the locals tell me that I'm not alone.

    OK, so I'm old (53) and slow. And bigger now than I used to be. BFD.

    About a week before the trip I started to look into finding a chiropractor in Mexico because my back was killing me. Andres gave me some help, but I wound up getting someone in San Antonio to pop my neck and back. I was in a lot of pain.

    Finally, four days before the trip I got some sort of digestive problem that felt like I had swollowed a football and it wouldn't pass. Although, logically, "those parts" were as clean as the proverbial whistle and I *never* have digestive problems.

    Girlfriend was worried about me and questioned the wisdom of doing this trip but I was NOT going to cancel.

    Miraculously, about 36 hours before I had to leave, the digestive issues "passed" (use your own jokes there) and I felt fine.

    So I'm on the road from San Antonio to the border at Reynosa at 7AM sharp.

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    I'm near I-37 so I run down the slab until I find Rt. 281 and head into Edenburg, TX. So I've got about 250 miles to do (piece of cake in my IBA days but today ... ) on one of Texas' rural roads: wide open, and what few towns there are are pretty hot and dusty.

    This is what passes as a Texas rest stop. Note the trucks to the right; there is no shelter out here, so I stopped for a scorching but relaxing smoke at maybe 10AM.

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    I dragged into Edinburg and Mission/McAllen around 1PM. Edinburg is the only place that I can think of in the States that has several big trucks stops (A Flying J and a Petro) that aren't on an Interstate highway. It's that way here - things are "different."

    Crosswinds were awfully strong, and the heat wasn't any better than in San Antonio. Hot and really windy - keep that in mind.

    But like I said, I spent several months in the Rio Grande Valley in the Fall and, frankly, I think that we are going to try to get back there. Other than San Diego, I can't think of any place other than the RGV that has Mexico, salt water, and the USA in such close proximity.

    I got a wild hair and decided to stop into a bar that I used to haunt in McAllen. They opened up a bit early just for me and all the guys working there treated me like royalty. Life is good, and I had managed to ride a whooping 250 miles and was ready for more. In a day or two.

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    A few beers later, and a telephone job interview (yeah, that went well :puke1 ) and I was crossing the border to get my permits.

    This is the portion of the Reynosa crossing where you do your paperwork for your vehicle and your immigration paperwork. This is a far cry from the group of shacks out in the desert that Mexico had when I crossed at Nogales a decade ago.

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    Then it was off to get a room for the night. When I was hangin' at the Mission Bar months earlier I remember that they were de facto the hotel bar for a place a few doors away. I rode maybe 8 blocks to the Centro and tracked down the Savoy Hotel.

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    The rate was something like $390pesos (about $28US), the room was quite clean, the bathroom would have passed Ms. Deb's rigorous inspections, and for one of those grand downtown hotels a bit past it's glory days it was quite nice.

    I retired there, took a shower, and walked down the street to see my pals at the Mission Bar and to order some tacos from the Penguino, two doors down.

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    #12
  13. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    It's Tuesday morning and our trip starts at 7AM on Wednesday. I've been in touch with Andres. He's looking for another gringo from San Antonio to show around 2-3PM so I've got time to run about 40 minutes to the east and hit Progreso.

    Progreso is about the most gringo-friendly town that I have ever seen. It's the one Mexican town where everything is priced in dollars (of course, I had already changed my money ... duhhhhh ...) and everything pretty well revolves around dental care and haircuts for Norte Americanos.

    I wanted to see if I could find a masseur in town. Not the Boy's Town kind of massage, mind you, but the kind to take care of my shoulder muscles, which had been cramping on the way down.

    Riding into town I asked one of the semi-official/non-official (they dress the part but you know how that goes) guys parking cars for tips if he knew where I could find a massage. So he hops on his bicycle and tells me to follow him.

    We go to a back street, he chats with a gal at a modest house, and he tells me that they are looking for the guy that does massages.

    I head across the street and buy some fruit juice. Soon enough the guy with the bicycle shows up and behind him here comes Mr. Massage.

    Now I'm not sure what to expect, but I figure what-the-hell.

    Results? I got a very good, 1 hour massage that matched the best professional massage that I have ever gotten in the States. The price? $20US.

    My massage guy in Progreso:

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    After a massage, I got a haircut (maybe $5?), and a hearty breakfast with multiple cappacinos for maybe $12US. Life is good in Progreso!

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    I head out of town, and as I am paying my tolls to get onto the toll road between Progreso and Reynosa I watch this monster back up traffic:

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    This is a fairly typical tractor trailer for much of Mexico; double 45-48 ft. trailers. So keep it in mind as we start riding tomorrow.

    Two minutes later I'm on the toll road, buzzing along on the GS, and listening to Ziggy Marley on Radio Margaritaville and thinking "life is good!"

    Andres, Arturo, and Yours Truly got together later that day (Tuesday). We plotted a point where we would meet up to ride out of town. The ADVRider from San Antonio cancelled due to a combination of heat and illness, so maybe I wasn't totally being such a wimp after all.

    Tomorrow the games begin, so to speak! :clap
    #13
  14. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    It's 7AM and I follow my GPS and am standing in a parking lot pretty much precisely where I set a waypoint the day before. Wandering around in the dark I almost literally run into Arturo and his son.

    A few minutes later Andres shows up and we are off.

    We leave Reynosa on Rt. 97, with Andres leading. The road is pretty wide but we are fighting early AM rush hour traffic. I can see Andres' flashing amber light in the distance and I know our way, so I'm not too worried about getting left behind but right off the bat I'm impressed by the aggressive riding.

    Bear in mind that I'm riding a big BMW and Arturo is right on my tail, with his son riding as a passenger. #1 Son was no doubt thinking "That poor old guy is really slow, isn't he Dad?"

    We stopped at a Pemex just outside Reynosa to wait for a group from Rio Bravo.

    Andres on the left, #1 Son behind the window, Arturo on the right:

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    These guys are all excellent riders, but this young man has serious guts. I was VERY impressed!

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    The group from Rio Bravo rolls in:

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    I heard later that the gentlemen in the foreground (black KLR) was actually almost 20 years older than me, and formerly elite military in the Mexican system. Sheesh. There was going to be no rest for the slow and weak on this trip.

    More of the Rio Bravo group:

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    #14
  15. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    (If anyone has a program that will draw the routes in Mexico I'd love to know about it. Some maps would make this easier to follow).

    I'm not sure how familiar the reader is with Mexican roads, but here's the Cliff's Notes version:

    One of the dirty little secrets of riding in Mexico is that, depending on where you are going, you can often stay on Interstate-quality toll roads. Those are a peace of cake, although you ALWAYS have to be alert for something out of the ordinary.

    NEVER, EVER get complacent on Mexican roads!

    And remember that Mexico is rapidly improving their roads. I saw quite a few changes to this route from this trip to the last time that I rode down to Tampico about 4 years ago.

    Once you get off the toll roads, the next level of roads tend to be wide two lanes with shoulders that aren't quite wide enough for a vehicle. ONCOMING TRAFFIC WILL EXPECT YOU TO GET ON THE SHOULDER and it's not at all uncommon to see tractor trailers coming head on in your lane as they pass slower traffic.

    This is a photo from my earlier trip of that road somewhere between Tampico and Victoria. Like I said, imagine a tractor trailer coming head on, passing traffic, and being solidly on YOUR side of the yellow line:

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    Another caveat. ALWAYS stay awake. It's not uncommon to see the shoulder suddenly end, for there to be a bridge abutment in the shoulder, or to find a broken down vehicle parked there.

    So no problem-o, right? I've ridden enough in Mexico to just sorta get to the right and let traffic flow around me. Right?

    Not with this group! I have now seen sport touring the Mexican way, and it involves judicious use of the throttle and the left lane! :eek1

    :lol3

    So we boogied down Rt. 97, right on through the Immigration check point (there is a story there that we won't go into :wink: ), and didn't even pause at the little crossroads and Pemex at Miguel Hidalgo as we hit Rt. 180, the main road between Matamoros and Victoria.

    Ye-hah!

    You will notice a decided lack of photos here because ... duh ... we didn't stop and we didn't slow down.

    In fact, we didn't stop until the turn off where Rt. 180 heads into the foothills and Rt. 101 continues on to Victoria.

    Here we are at the 180/101 Pemex, making a QUICK fuel stop:

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    #15
  16. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Well, I described the first two types of Mexican roads. Once you go from a wide two-lane with shoulders that you drive or ride on, the next step are the two lanes with zero shoulders.

    And I mean ZERO shoulders, because there is usually a pretty good drop off if you go off the road. In many places the roadway is elevated above the ground so to run off will mean rolling your car or riding your bike quite a way down. :eek1

    I had never ridden that stretch of Rt. 180 but knew that it was going to get narrow and twisty at some point, so the inevitable happened. When the road narrowed Yours Truly became a bit of a moveable chicane, and the other guys got around me while the gettin' was good.

    No problem-o. We had agreed to grab tacos in the little town of Manuel and I headed there.

    Like I said, there aren't a lot of photos on this route and I'll probably run back and take some pics in a month or two. We passed by the turn off for the little beachfront town of La Pesca, which is popular with Texas fishermen and RV'ers, and I want to ride back over there one of these days.

    The road got narrow, and as you get to Soto La Marino the road construction got intense. Bring your knobbies, and I am only halfway kidding. Otherwise that road is pretty good, even if it is skinny and shoulderless in most places.

    Very pretty area, with plenty of hills in the background:

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    Finally, I rolled into Manuel and found the guys at a little taco joint. Honestly, those were some of the best tacos that I had ever had! They had been there for an hour, waiting for me, and ready to go, so I wolfed my tacos down and we boogied.

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    Here is Manuel from a previous trip. If it wasn't for this group I never would have found that great taco place.

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    Manuel is a neat place. There are cenotes - underwater caves - just outside the town that have been attracting everyone from NASA to the international diving community.

    Alas, the new road effectively bypasses Manuel and Gonzalez, taking away just that little extra bit of Mexico adventure for us travelers.
    #16
  17. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    We were off and running again, down Rt. 180 and into Altamira, which is the northern suburbs of Tampico.

    We have run for an hour or two, including some lengthy stretches where the opposing sides of the divided highway was closed and oncoming traffic was routed onto the left lane of the side that we were riding on.

    (To put things into perspective, in the USA when the flow of traffic is reversed you can expect the DOT to put orange cones down the center line for the length of the bypass. Not in Mexico! No cones, and in fact I rode by some signs that indicated that both lanes were flowing the same way when they actually were not. Your only real warning that you need to stay out of the left lane is the oncoming traffic and that one sign many miles ago telling you that traffic was being diverted. :eek1 ).

    We rolled past some landmarks in Altamira (i.e. a really notorious tit bar that I famously remember from my previous trip has now gone out of business but their signs remain :lol3 ) -

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    Slightly past Altimira one of the KLR's has electrical problems:

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    If you want to get one of the infamous Tampico Transitos (transit cops) to ignore you completely, then break down on the side of the road:

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    This poor guy (on the left) was selling fruit at the very same spot where we stopped. If he had just had a glass, he would have made a fortune selling us all fruit juice. Christ, it was hot out there! :lol3

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    Andres was carrying a full tool kit (but evidently none of us thought about bringing extra fuses! :huh ) and got our amigo going again, although he would later roll into the resort at 10:30PM on narrow, busy Mexican roads without a tail light. :eek1

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    #17
  18. Arte

    Arte Pata de Perro

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    Hey John!

    He really loves to ride. Once we finally arrived to Zacatecas (the next sunday, after some 600 miles or so from Veracruz), it was 7:00 pm and someone in the group said as a joke: hey guys I will meet you everyone in two hours, at downtown for a final ride around the city, ok?

    And I tell you, my son did not understand the joke, and after two hours he was pushing me to get ready for the final ride !!:eek1 :eek1

    This is a great report!! keep it up.

    Arte
    #18
  19. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Thanks Arte!

    I might add at this point that I've been kidding the guys about their aggressive riding. They were good, they were fast, and they were smooth. They were also in keeping with the standards of most other aggressive Mexican truck and auto drivers, so I don't want to give anyone the idea that anyone was riding recklessly.

    And ol' John ain't that much of a slouch. I was cruising along at about 60-65mph most of the time. I noticed that my GPS did record right around a 100mph pass at one point. :lol3

    Let's put it this-a-way ... you try this when you can only read about half the road signs. :wink:

    Andres and Arte got this group to Tampico by 3PM. When Tom Sayer (an excellent long distance rider with great credentials) and I rode from Matamoros to Victoria and I continued on to Tampico it took me 2 days to get to pretty much the same place.

    We be a buzz'n along! :clap
    #19
  20. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    Andres got our friend back on the road ("Mexican repair," it was explained to me, which involved hard wiring a switch and eliminating the fuses ... :huh ) and we took the bypass around the western side of Tampico.

    I thought that I was pretty slick and was learning to hop over the numerous topes motocross style, until one of the guys rode up and showed me that he had picked up my 5-cell Maglight flashlight, which had popped out of the holder. :lol3

    (Later the guys commented that my batteries had "turned to dust" and it dawned on me that all the pounding had absolutely pulverized the C- or D- cells ... whatever goes in there). :eek1

    For you that don't know what topes are, they translate roughly to "speed bumps from Hell." Forget speed limit signs, Mexico puts topes out in the damnedest places to slow you down. They come in different forms, including tar strips and round steel balls. Usually your first warning is when you see a pile of car parts at the side of the road.

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    I loved this one. In true entrepreneurial style, these folks were asking for donations as they painted the topes in some small towns. Note also the width of the road:

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    Tampico is a great city, and very industrial on the western side where we ran:

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    The roads got narrow; at one point I got behind a truck climbing a steep hill and it put me literally into first gear 'cause I was going so slow. This was a bit before we got to Tampico Alto and the group rode away from me. Again. :cry

    In fairness, I told 'em to keep cruising, and that if I got separated again that I'd just get a room and catch them at the resort the next day. Twelve hours on the road, in Mexico, in the heat and winds, and I was pretty well cooked.

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    #20