Xplore2Gether - California to Ushuaia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. Beetle66

    Beetle66 n00b

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    WOW. That is a big plate of "NOPE" ! I usually like to try different things but .... Is it anything like calamari (with out breading obviously) ?
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  2. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    It is octopus ("pulpo") and it is delicious. I was first introduced to octopus on a business trip in China and had reservations similar to yours going in - but lost those at the first bite. It is delicious. And very prominent on the menu in Baja. Like green eggs and ham - try it, you may like it!
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  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Trying to update this tethered to slow cellular data connection at a campground near Morelias, between Guadalajara and Mexico City - I hope it works! We are on the move again so I'm redoubling my efforts to catch up to present!

    After our decidedly first world tourist thing at the Westin (and I'm not knocking it - was nice for a few days) we headed back north to Loreto to meet up with some friends who were flying in from California for a week of vacation. That's a long haul and I knew it would take us two days - but the "half way point" was in the middle of no-where. So I pulled out the iOverlander app and it showed a camping symbol - in the middle of no-where! The description said it was a restaurant and if you asked they'd let you put up a tent in their yard. And so we did - and it was a treasured experience. This little roadside restaurant is owned and operated by an extended Mexican family. Their elelctricity came from a few solar panels, the oven was wood fired, and they don't even have a sign - but locals who travel that route (e.g., truckers) know it because they had a fairly steady stream of customers pulling in both for the food and the crafts that the patriarch makes (leather and other). They had a bunch of kids and as many (very friendly) dogs, and we enjoyed talking with the mother and her kids, using our very minimal Spanish, and sharing some pictures of our famiy. One thing we've noticed is that in Mexico, in even a casual street-side encounter, if you pull out pictures of your family [we are grandparents - it's what we do :-) ] people are genuinely interested, not just politely so. A very family-centered and focused culture.

    20190215_183747.jpg It was remote but there was a cellular signal so Carol could chat with family back home! The dog adopted us and slept outside our tent all night.

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    #23
  4. Beetle66

    Beetle66 n00b

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    I normally will try anything as long as it is not looking at me (whole Brook Trout) ! So if I get to make that trip will give it a try.
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  5. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Nice write-up and fotos. I'm in

    To show your web site add it to your signature line. It then shows on every post.
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  6. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    We met up with our friends in Loreto and stayed there three nights, this time in an B&B. It was a bit of a haul to bet back up there from San Jose del Cabo, but it was great to see our friends and spend some more time in this quiet little town. We went to an old Spanish mission, the first mission established in Las Californias, way up in the mountains at an oasis. I learned that Loreto is the starting point of the "El Camino Real" that extends into California, linking the Spanish missions. And we went snorkeling, which was awesome because we snorkeled next to some sea lions and they swam around and under us. Never thought I'd swim with the sea lions! Overall it was a great stop on our journey.

    We had a "small world" experience in Loreto: I was sitting in the back yard at the B&B, working on my we page blog, and was writing about our time in San Ignacio and a couple we met there (Chris and Sharon, see post #13), who are also on motorcycles doing a similar trip. At this point that is was about two weeks and nearly 1000 miles in the past. Literally as I'm typing away describing our meeting them, Chris and Sharon walk into the back yard and say "Hi"! They were in Loreto (obviously) and met a woman who was staying at same B&B as we were. When she heard about Chris and Sharon's trip, she told them about this couple staying were she was, doing similar. Upon hearing her describe this couple, Chris and Sharon realized it must be us. Then a day later they were walking down the street and saw our bikes in the driveway of the B&B, so they walked in and there I was! We invited them to dinner with us and had a great time getting to know them better, and we found out that they have reservations on the Stralratte for same voyage as us, so at the very least we will meet them in Panama in June! 20190217_105501.jpg
    Spanish Mission up in the mountains. Note the palm trees in the background to right - signs of the oasis!
    We swam with these guys!
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    Carol at the "Incia" (beggining) of the El Camino Real P1210478.JPG
    With Chris and Sharon at dinner. Till next time!

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  7. Bulldog Buddy

    Bulldog Buddy Adventurer

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    Great report. My son is George, he's headed north in Chile.
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  8. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    If he is headed all the way through Central America, we will pass each other at some point!
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  9. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Wait a minute - do you mean "95Monster" George?! I've been following him for months (via his thread)!
    Jim
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  10. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From Loreto we headed back to La Paz for the ferry to Topolobampo (date stamp 2/20/2019). I mentioned it in an earlier thread but worth repeating: Getting your ferry ticket in advance is a plus - it secured a birth in a cabin (hard to get day of departure from what I understand) and, we felt, removed some of the stress from the day of departure. However - the piece of paper you are given when you purchase in advance is NOT a ticket (boleto). What you have is a receipt that you can and must (fairly quickly) exchange for a "real" ticket on the day of departure. You have to go back to the ticket window with your receipt, ID and TVIP to get the ticket. It took some healthy use of Google Translate to get that explained to me by the load-master (my made-up job title, but that describes it well) that was directing traffic onto the ferry. Also - you need to bring your own tie-down straps! Fortunately, Joe from Washington (see post #13) gave me that tip when we were in San Ignacio, and I had stopped at an Autozone in La Paz a few days earlier and picked up some cheap ratchet straps. Once on the Ferry we strapped down the bikes and went to our cabin and slept!

    We got into Topolompampo around 9:00PM and were one of the first off of the ferry. We made quick time to our hotel in Los Mochis, where we stayed two nights - we wanted a free day to do some planning and to recoup form the loooong two day getting from Loreto to La Paz and then to Los Mochis.

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    Waiting ... we got there three hours early. That was to early. Two or even an hour and a half would have been sufficient - they load the motorcycles last. The guy in the background with the red vest and yellox "X" is the "load master" - as far as I could tell his job is playing tetris with all the various vehicles that want on the ferry.

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    Our bikes, strapped down. As I read somewhere - it isn't like you are strapping them down for transport on a trailer. You just have to keep them from tipping over in gentle swells. There were a couple of Mexican guys on Harley's that pulled in right after us - I think they got there just as we were boarding, the antithesis of our "3 hours early".

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    Made it! We and the bikes are on board!

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    8 hours later - Topolobampo!
    #30
  11. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Many people headed south from Baja take the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, a longer ferry ride ending further south than Topolopampo. But we were planning to ride through the Copper Canyon, and had even planned a route to minimize the amount of dirt roads we'd have to traverse (this was done with much appreciated input and advice from Sjoerd Bakker, an icon when it comes to Mexico motorcycle travel - can't thank him enough for his input). But as we sat in Los Mochis and considered our trip in light of our June 4 deadline to be in Panama for the Stralratte, we realized that there was no way we'd be able to do the route north through the Copper Canyon and take Spanish classes before we got to South America, considering other planned destinations in between. Interacting with people is a big part of our enjoyment on this trip, and we had been planning all along to do at least two weeks of intensive Spanish in Mexico to augment our very basic language skills. After considering the whole trip, and the fact that northern Mexico is someplace we can relatively easily return to in the future (we assume we will eventually re-establish a home somewhere in southern California), it became clear that the we would need to skip the Copper Canyon (still makes me sad to type it!) to secure the time for language classes, and save the Cooper Canyon for another trip. This was the first (and so far only ) major course correction we have had to make in our journey, but it was the right thing to do.

    So with that decided - we booked two weeks of intensive Spanish classes at the Guadalajara Language Institute and headed south on Hwy 15 through the "dangerous" state of Sinolea (according to US State Department) to Mazatlan. Sinolea was beautiful, and so different from Baja just on the other side of the gulf - verdant and reminiscent of Iowa or Kansas with the endless acres of corn.

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    Corn or sugar cane - not sure which. You could easily blink and imagine you were in the California central valley or maybe the midwest USA (Iowa, Kansas)
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    It wasn't all verdant! But far from the Baja landscape none the less.
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    This took some getting used to: They use fire to control roadside grass!

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    We passed this chicken truck in a hurry just before this toll station. It almost got ahead of us again as we stopped so I could get my gloves back on after having stopped to pay the toll. Whew! You do NOT want to be behind a chicken truck!
    #31
  12. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The irony is that our route south to Guadalajara took us straight through Mazatlan, where we could have gone directly by ferry from La Paz. But we truly enjoyed the ride south through Sinolea. We took two days to get from Los Mochis to Mazatlan, spending one night in Culiacan. We stayed for three nights in Mazatlan at the Motel Marley (a lonely planet suggestion) and it was wonderful. It is on the beach surrounded by much larger hotels, but it is a very quaint, un-touristy place with about a dozen apartment-type rooms (kitchen included), many rented by long-term seasonal "snow birds" from Canada. Mazatlan had some awesome Sunsets, and the old-town area is fascinating and gives you a glimpse of the rich history of Mexico. 20190224_130907.jpg
    What it says

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    We walked several miles along the beach front to the old town.

    20190225_121810.jpg Carnival" was coming up the next week and there were a lot of decorations up in preparation. Including this larger butterfly.
    20190225_181702.jpg Every night the sunset was spectacular. So many pictures - hard to resist such a beautiful site!
    #32
  13. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From Mazatlan we headed to Guadalajara, taking two days. We entered the state of Nayarit spent the night in the state capitol, Tepic. Tepic is currently listed as "do not travel" by the US State Department. I am sure there are reasons behind their advisories, and I'm sure there are bad places and people (see below). But I've lived in the city and I've traveled all over the world staying mostly in large cities, and in doing so you develop a "radar" for uncomfortable situations. And I have yet to get that sense of "this is somewhere I don't want to be" in terms of m personal safety. All along our route we keep meeting other expat travelers, nearly 100% from Europe or Canada (we are from the USA if you started this thread mid-way), and the conversation has never drifted to "do you fell unsafe?" It hass always been about how beautiful it was, how friendly the people are, did you stop and see this or that, and I can't wait to come back next year. It has left me unsure what to make of the State Department advisories - I will still read them, but I have not figured out how to interpret them. I think I get much more actionable information from advrider and the HUBB.

    All that said, Tepic is not a destination city from what we saw, and is does seem rough around the edges. But we found a wonderful little oasis of a campground (Los Pinos RV Trailer Park - iOverlander for the win!) in the middle of the city, and we and another couple in a camber Van (from ... Canada) were the only campers. It is the most unusual entrance to a campground I've ever seen - you pull into this strip mall (if you are from the USA, imagine a 7-11, a dollar store, a chinese restaurant and discount shoe store -that type of thing). In the middle of this line of stores is a "gap" where there is no store, and an entryway that you follow and suddenly you are in this walled-in "park" of about an acre in size. The entire inside is well manicured, grass covered with large trees around the ~12' tall brick or concrete wall that encloses the camp.

    To my earlier comments - it isn't all roses. The state department description indicates strong gang influence in Tepic over local government and police. I think I observed evidence of this that night. Around 7:00PM, I started to hear dogs barking from what seemed a few blocks away. It became clear that it wasn't just dogs barking - it was an organized dog fight. It would get quite and I would hear an announcer on a PA system for a few minutes, then there would be this horrible sound of dogs barking and howls of pain, and then it would get quiet for a bit - then another round. It was horrible to have to listen too. Officially, as in the US, dog fighting is illegal in Mexico. Given how this was in the middle of the city and how plainly obvious it was, I have to conclude that the local law enforcement in Tepic is not enforcing this law, and it is reasonable to assume that it was a gang controlled gambling activity. Still pains me to remember.
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    Los Pinos Campground

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    On our way the next morning. The couple from Canada took the picture for us. The bikes are still covered with Baja mud! Finally took care of that in Gudalajara.
    #33
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  14. 95Monster

    95Monster Been here awhile

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    Yes! I love Alfonsina's! And glad Carol got thrpough that section with just a bump or two. Ride safe! I'll be following along!
    #34
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  15. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From Tepic we made it easily to Guadalajara, arriving on a Wednesday and our classes didn't start until the following Monday. For the first few days we had a room in a house with two other fellows, one from Germany and one from Holland. It was useful to get some first hand info on life in Tlaquepaque (the name of the neighborhood we were living in) from other expats who had lived there a while. For example - driving in the neighborhood is crazy - until you learn that East-West traffic has the right of way. No where does it say that - you just have to know it! Once you know this, the traffic patterns seem less random, and you get honked at a lot less :-) After two nights we were able to move into the apartment we had arranged to rent, which was on the top (third) floor with an outside staircase - a really lovely place to stay and within a short walk of the language school.
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    Why we are here! We had two classes a day - this was our afternoon class. Our teacher, Karen, is standing, students are sitting.

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    One of at least two churches in Tlaquepaque near or in the village square.

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    Street (one way, N/S so no right of way!) outside our apartment.

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    View in the morning from the patio outside our apartment.
    #35
  16. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    In post #10 I mentioned that I used a contact I made in Baja to find a shop in Guadalajara that could straighten out the bent crash bars and (turns out - was news to us) handlebars on Carol's bike. We picked the bike up a few days before we left Guadalajara and they did a great job. As soon ads I saw the shop I knew it was the right kind of place. Lots of bike frames, forks, and a good assortment of tools and equipment in that state of "shop chaos" that says things are being used. They even sent the bars out to be re-painted, to match the factory-red. Cost just under $300.

    Also related to Carol's bike: While I had the time, a BMW dealer and a place to work I changed out her front sprocket to a F800 17 tooth (F700 OEM is 16 tooth) sprocket, to gear the bike down a bit. So far she is liking it. Should help in the dirt and maybe avoid situations like the one that led to the bent crash bars! 20190301_164403.jpg
    This is the kind of place that can bend anything back into shape. I was amazed at some of the forks I saw (not in picture) that were in for repair. They looked beyond repair to me!
    #36
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  17. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    We had two weekends while we were there and we took advantage of that. The first weekend we went to Chapala, which is on the shore of a huge lake. It was a nice weekend and the place was crawling with motorcycles! The second weekend we rode to Tequila, where it all began!

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    Motorcycles everywhere in Chapala! This picture doesn't really do it justice - there were literally hundred's of motorcycles there. Look under the two big trees in the background - those are handlebars, not people And behind me as I take this picture were many many more. 20190303_145724.jpg
    We took a boat ride on the lake. 20190309_162218.jpg
    Second weekend - Tequila! Did a tour and tasting at Jose Cuervo. That is 7-year barrel aged family reserve - only 10,000 bottles sold to the public each year! The tasting was very educational.
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    We stayed at Hotel Matices - the individual rooms are shaped like barrels! They have a restaurant and Tequila distillery, and do tastings as well. The grounds are lovely - we enjoyed just walking around. Only downside is that it is on the outskirts of the town, but they have a free shuttle.
    #37
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  18. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Quick thought on the language classes: Though our heads are still spinning, we both agree it was worth it - we notice the difference in our ability to communicate. Long way to go but it was a step forward.

    After finishing our two weeks of language classes we headed out towards Mexico city. The half way point was a town called Morelia, but it was "booked" for some reason - not a single hotel room was available. So I went to my standby .. iOverlander! Another win - we stayed at San Juan del Lago RV Park. The owner, Arturo, built the park when he had access from the main highway, but they turned it into a toll road and limited the access, and he had to make a new road coming in through the village at the edge of the lake. The road is pretty bad! But Carol made it, and she agrees the new gearing with the 17 tooth sprocket helped. There were two other people at the campground - both German. Did I mention that we meet mainly Germans and Canadians? DSC00016.JPG DSC00018.JPG
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  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The next day and made it easily to Mexico City, where I sit typing, so I'm finally up to date! We were thinking originally to leave tomorrow (Wed). But there are still some things we wanted to see, and the final straw was when I found out that Mexico City has restrictions on driving in the city based on the last digit of your license plate number, with no exceptions for out of country vehicles (or motorcycles). Our plates end in 3 and 4, and 3 and 4 we cannot drive on Wednesdays! So that made it easy - rather than risk getting a ticket, we'll stay and see the things we wanted to see anyway. Uber and the Metro system make it easy to get around the city.

    The thing that strikes me about what we've seen here is the depth and richness of the history of Mexico compared to the USA. There were thriving civilizations with huge cities well before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I knew this in some general way, but being here and seeing these artifacts first hand makes it poignant. We learned that when the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, there were 200,000 Aztecs living where Mexico city now stands. At that time the largest city in Spain was 40,000.

    Today (I'm really caught up!) we went to see the pyramids at Teotihuacan and learned that those were built by a civilization that pre-dated the Aztecs. When the Aztecs moved into this area, they found the pyramids and surrounding city abandoned and in ruin. Incredible structures built with no "beast of burden" or metal tools. Just fascinating history if you like history! DSC00042.JPG
    The Metropolitan Cathedral adjacent to the Plaza de la Constitucion in Mexico City

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    Inside the Cathedral.
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    Carol and our guide, climbing the "Temple of the Sun" pyramid. We learned that all of the names for the place and structures were those given by the Aztecs - there is no record of what the original builders called the place.

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    On top of the Temple of the Sun, with the Temple of the Moon in the background.
    #39
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  20. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

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    You mean you swapped from a 17 tooth front sprocket to a 16, right? Because if you went from a 16 to a 17 that'll make the bike cruise on freeways better, at lower rpm but commensurately worse on dirt, with less grunt down low.
    #40
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