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Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

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Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

Postby lgh » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:02 pm

Day One: After being delayed by a weekend storm which brought four inches of snow and temperatures of -4 degrees Fahrenheit, I departed my home in rural northern New Mexico at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday the 19th under overcast skies and a temperature of 41 degrees F, riding a 2011 BMW R1200R motorcycle with Parabellum Scout fairing, 16” clear windscreen, and PIAA auxiliary lighting (for safety purposes). The bike was loaded with factory side panniers packed to 25 pounds each with Kathy’s Journey Designs (bobsbmw.com) removable, zippered, contoured nylon inner bags, a large black RKA Hypalon zippered duffel bag strapped across the passenger seat weighing with contents around 50 pounds, a large black hard plastic hat carrier containing two Ecuadorian-made Panama hats attached to the top of the duffel, a liter-size water bottle in nylon carrier hanging from the rear exterior of the duffel bag, and a contoured, allegedly waterproof, black nylon zippered BMW tank bag strapped to the gas tank in front, weighing with contents perhaps 20 pounds, with road map visible through clear plastic window. BAD mistake which I discovered later was not bringing with me a sleeping bag. For warmth on the bike, I had an electrically-heated inner jacket by Gerbing powered by the bike’s electrical system, and factory-installed electrically- heated handlebar grips to warm my hands. As base layer, I wore Patagonia Capilene long underwear and heavy wool socks. Over that, the aforementioned electrically- heated jacket and a pair of cheap fleece pants. For outer layer, I wore a pair of gray Carhartt B01 12-ounce double-front canvas pants supported by 2” heavy duty suspenders, a good quality Marmot Gore-Tex jacket, Black Diamond Gore-Tex mountaineering gauntlets with fleece inserts, alternating with TourMaster Midweight lined goatskin motorcycling gloves, a Chuck Roast Polartec black fleece neck gator, a pair of Ariat Heritage Roper boots, a white Arai Quantum-II full-face motorcycling helmet, and Howard Leight Laser Lite ear plugs for hearing protection. High fashion or product endorsement? No sponsors involved.

That first day I rode south 250 miles through Vaughn, New Mexico, stopped in Carrizozo to gas up, and checked into Motel 6 in Alamogordo, disappointed to see that the Golden Corral buffet-style restaurant next door to Motel 6 had closed. I walked to Carl’s Jr. a few blocks away, could barely get my mouth around their least expensive ‘thick’ hamburger. Telephoned my wife from the motel using an 80-minute Family Dollar ‘Verizon’ calling card.

Day Two: I rode south from Alamogordo to Northeast El Paso, took the Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive over the Franklin Mountains into Canutillo, Texas. When I tried to gas up prior to reaching the border, the gas pumps all had some sort of rubber contraption which would not allow a seal with my gas tank and thus no gas dispensed. What? One cannot gas up one’s motorcycle for environmental reasons? In a bit of a panic, I set off down the Pete V. Domenici Memorial Highway, thinking that there would be a more sensible Pemex station at the Puerto Fronterizo San Jeronimo-Santa Theresa crossing. There is a new Pemex station under construction there on the Mexican side but not yet serviceable. I was forced to return some miles north to gas up in Santa Theresa. Satisfied with a full tank of gas, I returned to the border, was stopped and questioned insistently by US authorities about the purpose of my visit to Mexico — fascism at its friendliest — crossed and parked next to the Mexican Immigration office. With passport in hand, obtaining a tourist visa for 180 days was quick and easy, payment of $27.00 USD to Banjercito made at an adjoining window.

I carried with me photocopies of passport, vehicle title and vehicle registration, but not the original title nor vehicle registration as required by Mexican authorities. I was told by an attractive and apparently well-educated young woman that I could not obtain the temporary import permit without the ‘original’ vehicle registration and therefore would not be permitted to proceed into Mexico. I whined and whimpered. I shuffled my feet and looked forlorn. I sighed and made the most pathetic of excuses, much to the amusement of Mexicans in line nearby. I waited. One thing which she said I found highly amusing: “All Mexican border stations abide by the same regulations,” she said. That is patently untrue. Each interprets the regulations differently. Some are lax, some are strict. The early shift may behave in an entirely different manner than a later shift. It is that way all across Latin America. There is no uniform interpretation of laws or regulations, though that will inevitably change with better training and computerization. If she had ultimately refused me entry, I would have gone to the Columbus/Palomas crossing with some certainty of getting across.

In any case, I was made to wait some additional time as she left, ostensibly to consult with her superior, proving to all present that no American may trifle with Mexican national policy. I accepted my humiliation willingly. I was the picture of humility. I waited. Eventually, in true Mexican fashion, a compromise was reached: I could take my copy of the vehicle registration to Mexican Customs to have it authenticated by visual comparison with the vehicle’s VIN — an extraordinarily simple procedure, really — and then return to Banjercito to complete the process. This, of course, involved more waiting, two-and-a-half hours in all, as opposed to 30 minutes had I had with me the ‘original’. Finally, with $400.00 US in Mexican pesos charged to my credit card by Banjercito in surety bond (refundable upon exit from the country) and another $70.00 US in fees, I received my TIP (temporary importation permit), along with a stern warning not to attempt another crossing without the original vehicle registration. The irony is that New Mexico’s ‘original’ vehicle registration form is also a photocopy only difference being the owner’s original signature.

Hah! ... I was at last ‘on the road’ inside Mexico. Onward through the towns of Ascension, Janos, Nuevo Casas Grandes (how large it has grown!). Some confusion on my part at the intersection of Hwy 56D to Ciudad Chihuahua and Hwy 10 south just before Galeana, my road map not being quite up-to-date. In truth, even the authoritative 2014 Guia Roji is not up to date, highway construction proceeding as it is throughout Mexico. Traffic from the border to Nuevo Casas Grandes and onward towards Ciudad Chihuahua was heavy and continuous, but nonexistent after the turnoff to Galeana. I had hoped to make Buenaventura by evening, but in a state of fatigue encountered one of the new-generation cartel-financed minimal-occupancy American-style motels in the community of La Baron where I stopped for the night. 480 pesos for a sub-standard room. I asked about a ‘promotion’ or discount but was refused. I was too tired to argue or to continue on. A small home-based eatery down the road provided me one of the tastiest ham and cheese ‘tortas’ I have ever eaten in Mexico, warm and soothing. The blanket on the bed at the motel was inadequate and I experienced the first pangs of regret at not having brought a sleeping bag. 295 miles for Day Two, plus another 20 having to go back into Santa Theresa for gasoline, not to mention the mental stress of it all, gas pump sleeves which deny fuel to a motorcyclist. At least the rubber sleeves on gas hoses in California can be held up with one hand while one fills one’s tank.

Day Three: From Buenaventura, following Hwy 5 west and south, the riding is glorious: over mountains, across pristine ranch lands, through magical valleys and picturesque towns, with minimal traffic. South of Gomez Farias, I turned west on Hwy 15 to reach Hwy 16 (the highway to Madera where I spent Christmas one year, law enforcement frequenting one restaurant, drug cartel members frequenting the other, both heavily armed but with an ‘understanding’). I turned south on Hwy 16 to the Municipality of Guerrero where a kindly street vendor (who tried valiantly to speak English despite my passable Spanish) put me on the correct short cut (Hwy 31) to San Juanito. After gassing up in San Juanito, I passed through Creel without stopping (a place I have visited many times over the years as a professional wilderness guide), crossing the upper Urique River, passing the highway turnoff to Batopilas, arriving in Guachochi at mid-afternoon. These latter three high-Sierra towns — San Juanito, Creel and Guachochi — at the heart of the Tarahumara country, are all a little grim, depressingly dirty, poverty-ridden despite an economic base of tourism and logging for the Japanese market. Desertification has taken hold in the canyons with improved health care amongst the Indians, consequent over-population, and absence of an environmental ethos. It was very cold in Guachochi. 130 pesos for a barren room. The daughter, a teenaged school girl, seemed excited to have a foreigner with large motorcycle checking into their establishment, gladly showed me an enclosed space for the motorcycle, perhaps unaware of just how aged this foreigner is. The mother was unimpressed. My dinner was forgettable, supplemented with two Nature Valley energy bars. No interest in walking about in the cold to see the bleak streets. I went to bed early, slept poorly, with little icy fingers of frigid air creeping in around the edges of blankets. 300 miles +/- for Day Three.

Day Four: I awakened to the sound of rain, with massive black clouds moving in over the mountains from the southwest. I feared for a time that I might be snowed in and unable to travel on the motorcycle. I did not relish the idea of remaining another day in this cold and dreary Hotel La Mission. Neither did I wish to be riding in the rain at near-freezing temperatures with the limited reserves of energy I have at my present age of 75. I imagined having to hire a truck to transport me and the motorcycle as far as Hidalgo del Parral. I waited in the empty, unheated cafeteria area nursing a tasteless cup of Nestle instant coffee until around 10:30 a.m. when the clouds began to break apart with glimpses of blue sky above. Not to worry. I quickly loaded the bike, stopped at the edge of town to gas up, and headed east for the Municipality of Balleza and Hidalgo del Parral.

All the country I came through from Buenaventura to Parral is simply SUPERB riding: good roads, wonderful mountainous terrain, lovely countryside, nice people. It is strange that in all that distance I did not encounter one other touring motorcyclist nor notice a single US- or Canadian-licensed family-driven vehicle. I felt extraordinarily privileged to have the country to myself. So long as one has no involvement with drugs, minds one’s own business, keeps a low profile, and does not draw excessive attention to oneself, I feel quite safe traveling in these out-of-the-way places. Someone once commented favorably upon my apparent ability to blend in like a chameleon, though that is harder to achieve when riding a heavily laden BMW touring machine.

Balleza and surroundings are extraordinarily lovely, a fertile, watered valley closed in by mountains on both sides. State Hwy 23 connects to federal Hwy 24 which when completed will connect Hidalgo del Parral with Hwy 15 near Culiacan and the Pacific coast, opening up another spectacular crossing of the Sierra Madre. I sought to bypass Parral to the south by some secondary paved road connecting Hwy 24 with Hwy 45 through Santa Barbara to Villa Mariano Matamoras but was told — almost certainly incorrectly — that no such road exists. I ended up following the Periferico through the southern outskirts of the city with traffic pressing from all sides. Hidalgo del Parral is a difficult city to navigate: tight streets at odd angles, a city squeezed into deep ravines, climbing steep hillsides. After gassing up in Las Nieves, I encountered mile upon mile of highway construction along Hwy 45, all the way to El Casco. Very slow going, rough and dusty. One of the things I most like about Mexico is the basic assumption that one is accountable for one’s own existence, for one’s own safety. No pilot cars, no orange cones, no warning signs. Private vehicles wind their way through heavy equipment, past workmen in hard hats, over bumps and through low-water crossings, amongst the maze of destruction and reconstruction. If one strays onto a partially completed section of new pavement, one simply finds one’s way off again onto the designated detour. No one comes chasing after you with whistles, waving flags, or pointing a gun. It is all so common-sensical. The things I don’t like are a) the random order of construction: a section here, another section there, little continuity and seemingly little logic, and b) the overall poor quality of construction: one end of a project already breaking apart as the other end is just being completed. They need to send their engineers to Texas to learn proper road-building technique. I must say, though, that highways throughout Mexico are vastly improved in recent years. Vastly improved.

I arrived late in the afternoon — 278 miles on Day Four — at the basic but clean Hotel Camino Real (200 pesos) in the town of Rodeo where I had stayed overnight on several previous occasions. The proprietress remembered me, shakes my hand, inquires after my health, assigns me her best room. Entering town, I had been disappointed to see that the roadside chicken rotisserie which I had frequented was either closed for the day or had gone out of business. I walked up the street, made inquiries at an auto parts store and was directed to a nearby taco stand for my dinner. The lady was just opening her stand for the evening, starting a wood fire in the metal grill. She shyly suggested that I come back later. “In half an hour?” I asked, knowing better. When I returned, she was not much further along in her preparations, so I purchased a bottled CocaCola at the pharmacy next door, took down a plastic chair of hers from a stack and sat waiting patiently, watching pedestrians and vehicular traffic as the sun set behind western hills. At some point in time, her equally rotund husband arrived on a bicycle with additional supplies. He introduced himself, we shook hands, and he assured me that everything would soon be ready. I tried to explain with my marginal Spanish that it was rather pleasant sitting there watching their preparations and the town’s evening milieu. Once the fire was glowing, the grill scraped and heated, the husband began grilling meat and heating tortillas while she chopped vegetables. In time, I was called to a plastic table under the lights and served a platter with three small beef tacos with condiments. The tacos were not exceptional in themselves, only in the grace with which they were served and the eagerness to see one’s appetite satisfied. I wished privately for a spoon to clear my plate of remnants, but he seeing the dilemma brought me another tortilla with some additional scraps of meat and used his tongs to add my remnants, so in the end, despite his protestations, I paid for four tacos instead of three and was humbled by their service. The night spent at the Hotel Camino Real was another cold one but the sheets were clean.

Day Five: I calculated that I could safely reach the Pemex station at the turnoff to Ciudad Canatlan before refueling, so set off early, mindful only of the cold and of the wonderful scenery. There is some very nice riding on Hwy 45 from El Casco through Rodeo to Ciudad Canatlan and up Hwy 23 through Santiago Papasquiaro and Tepehuanes. There are Mennonite settlements in the area with their enhanced productivity, lakes which supply water to Ciudad Durango, I suppose, and of course drug cultivation and trafficking. Someday Hwy 23 will be completed over the Sierra into Culiacan, opening yet another spectacular cross-mountain drive. In the past I have always insisted upon fueling the motorcycle myself; this trip I allowed station attendants that responsibility and was each time impressed with the care they took to avoid spillage upon the motorcycle. Very well done. On the north side of Durango, I picked up Hwy 40, then transitioned to Hwy 40D, the new toll road between Durango and Mazatlan <Baluarte Bridge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia>, followed it west over the Sierra all the way to the exit for Concordia, Sinaloa. It was on this section that I encountered the only other touring motorcyclist on this trip, with a heavily laden touring machine and human form barely recognizable behind blazing LED lights. He was headed up and I down, highway divider separating us. The tolls on this highway are high — $20.00- $25.00 USD for a motorcycle as best I recall — but well worth it. Sixty-three tunnels and 32 bridges, more than halving the previous driving time ... a remarkable engineering feat. <Taming the Devil's Backbone: How the Durango-Mazatlan Highway will revitalize northern Mexico | Daily Mail Online> Riding the old Hwy 40 back in the day before eighteen-wheelers took over was an exhilarating experience. As heavy truck traffic increased, it became a deadly experience. With most truck traffic now diverted from the old highway to the new, the Devil’s Backbone may once again be safe enough for the dedicated motorcyclist or sightseer.

From Concordia I was headed back up the mountain to the village of Copala where an American acquaintance married to a Mexican woman from Culiacan has a home. When traveling long distances, particularly by motorcycle, I prefer to travel on an empty stomach, to eat only when I have arrived at my day’s destination. It is no fun when dressed in multiple layers to be searching for a suitable rest stop, with seldom a wide shoulder to the highway or safe pull out, all the while concerned about the security of the motor bike and its contents with one’s pants down about one’s ankles. I did not, however, want to arrive at my friend’s doorstep famished and in need of immediate sustenance, so I stopped at an interesting looking street-side palapa in Concordia and sat for a meal of breaded fish fillet with accompaniments. Here again, I was humbled by the graciousness of the proprietors and their genuine concern with satisfying one’s appetite. The food was excellent. The more fertile a region, the better the cuisine, it seems. Young boys gathered about the motor bike when I arrived in Copala, wanting to be of help. My friend was away from the house and they ran to tell him that he had a visitor. He already had a visitor, a Canadian motorcyclist from Mazatlan who had ridden up for the day on his KLR650. My friend’s wife was away on an outing with companions to Ajijic on the shores of Lake Chapala. We three males spent the afternoon visiting on the veranda, listening to birds in the garden. The Canadian departed for Mazatlan on his KLR650 before darkness. 243 miles for Day Five.

Day Six: I slept well in a comfortable guest room without icy fingers exploring the peripheries. My friend and I had morning coffee on the veranda. He showed me around the house and its lot. We climbed a tower he had built in back. I asked him to e-mail my wife on his tablet telling her of my location and safety. He then drove me by steep and marginal mountain roads to visit the moss-encrusted ruins of a church at a mining site near the isolated mountain community of Panuco. The mines, he said, are Canadian owned. It was apparent that the mining operation is doing great damage to the environment. Returning from Panuco, we had lunch at the only restaurant in Copala. Tour buses previously brought cruise ship passengers up for the day from Mazatlan, but reports of cartel-related violence in Mazatlan have diminished tourism and only a few of the small mini-vans now bring tourists to Copala, so the main restaurant and adjoining hotel have shut down. My friend is despondent at the absence of visitors, determined now to spend a greater portion of each year in his native state of Washington.

After lunch, we drove the 15 kilometers to Concordia to have his wristwatch band replaced — order placed, should arrive by Wednesday — and to attempt internet or cell phone contact with his wife who was in transit by bus from Guadalajara. Failing contact, we stopped for a bag of dog food and returned to Copala. He explained en route that his wife could catch a taxi the 15 kilometers up from Concordia for 120 pesos. Stopped on the outskirts of Copala, however, using the public school’s separate internet system, he finally was able to make contact with his wife. She asked that he pick her up from the bus stop, so back to Concordia we went. We drove with her back up the mountain to Copala in the dark. They had not seen each other in several days, so I retired to my room early. 0 miles for Day Six.

Day Seven: I considered returning to Durango via the old Hwy 40 for its sensuous, serpentine curves and breathtaking views, but decided instead to see the new highway, its tunnels and bridges, from the other direction. I also needed to gas up, so I thanked my friends for their hospitality and back down to Concordia I went on the loaded bike. The trip up to Durango from Concordia took me three hours, with one very brief stop to change to warmer gloves and to connect my electric jacket. The closer to Durango one gets, the worse the condition of Hwy 40D. Repairs are underway. There is a new bypass which takes one around the south side of the city, connecting to the Zacatecas highway and ultimately to the Gomez Palacio/Torreon highway. Highway 45 from Durango to Fresnillo is in very good condition, wide enough for passing, straight, smooth and fast.

Jerez de Garcia Salinas in the State of Zacatecas <Jerez de García Salinas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia> is one of my favorite towns in Mexico: clean, orderly and prosperous. I arrived there mid-afternoon, checked into a hotel at the center of town recommended to me by an American friend from Arizona who visited Jerez within the past month, Hotel Posada Santa Cecilia, 250 pesos for a single. I unloaded luggage from the bike, moved it two blocks over to enclosed paid parking (30 pesos), and went to dinner at El Camaron Loco, walls festooned with Charro pictures and paraphernalia. Since my last visit to Jerez, the central plaza has been enclosed by a high iron fence with locking gates. The young man in reception said the gates are locked at midnight to keep out vagrants who slept there, defecated in the bushes, and vandalized facilities. It is very odd for a central plaza in Mexico to be fenced off like that. I retired to bed early. Despite the extra blanket he provided me, I was still touched by icy fingers of frigid air. 340 miles for Day Seven.

Day Eight: Another cold morning. No coffee shop where old men comfortably gather. One of the things I most liked about Chile and Argentina were the cafes where old men in worn tweed gathered to drink coffee or the locally grown wines in shared comfort. The young man in reception had told me the previous evening that there are many ex- patriots — Americans and Canadians — who own homes in or around Jerez and live there either year round or for most of the year. I do not believe him. Everywhere there is any sizable ex-pat community, there is without fail a sports bar where they gather to drink and to watch Canadian or American sports. Even he admitted that there is no such locale in Jerez. No sports bar, no sizable ex-pat community.

I found my way out of the center of Jerez without difficulty but had no enthusiasm for travel, temperatures verging on freezing. I decided to make it a short day, look for a convenient hotel in Tlaltenango de Sanchez Roman <Tlaltenango de Sánchez Román Municipality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia>, have a look about town. An hour-and- a-half later I was creeping through the center of town at walking speed, traffic on all sides, stop and go, cars parked everywhere, sidewalks crowded with pedestrians, shop after shop, a very busy and congested downtown area. I noticed one or two hotels with narrow stairway entries and no parking, the reception area and rooms located above street level with businesses below. I recalled seeing a new ‘family’ hotel advertised on the outskirts of town, Hotel Adriana. Exiting onto the highway, I backtracked. Large, imposing hotel, nice quiet room for 280 pesos with secure indoor parking. The girl in reception explained how I might catch a city bus into the downtown area. The bus driver showed me where to catch a bus back to the hotel. I spent the remainder of the day wandering about town, visiting the city market, eating lunch at a popular chicken rotisserie. Strangely enough, where I normally pay 35 pesos in Puerto Vallarta for half a roasted chicken with a stack of tortillas and a roasted chile, 45 pesos if a generous serving of fried potatoes are added, in Tlaltenango, I paid 55 pesos for two surprisingly small pieces of roasted chicken — delicious, mind you — and a small portion of very good French fries, but the platter was mostly heaped, yes, heaped, with rice and chopped lettuce, a few slices of tomato and onion. Not good value at all. I wished for more chicken, but the printed menu was quite specific. The place was jumping, though. Afterwards I sat for a long time in the central plaza observing passersby, fending off beggars for the only time on this trip, and being struck once in the shin by a stone kicked in passing by a sullen young boy. His mother was quick to apologize, grabbing his arm in reprimand. The town had a unique vitality about it, not so sophisticated as Jerez, but humming. Despite the cold weather, I had an ice cream bar at the corner La Michoacana, pecan flavor but stale-tasting as though left in the freezer too long. For 6.5 pesos, a city bus delivered me back to the hotel by the highway. Despite its imposing exterior and multi-story construction, the Hotel Adriana was very badly designed: small, oddly-shaped rooms, triangular spaces, small and inconveniently shaped bathrooms with doors which struck one in the face when one tried to maneuver past them, acoustics which reverberated like a tomb, and another very cold night. I so wished that I had brought a sleeping bag. Only 72 miles for Day Eight.

Day Nine: Striving for an early start from Tlaltenango, the computer on my bike registered an outside temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit while gassing up at the Pemex on the edge of town. A few miles beyond, the temperature indicator had dropped to 27 degrees F. The computer was going nuts, blinking rapidly, warning me of hazardous conditions. I was concerned about possible patches of ice at those temperatures, but the highways had been perfectly dry since Guachochi and remained so. I turned up the heat in my electric jacket and handlebar grips, realizing that should the motorcycle quit for some reason, I would have to seek shelter with some roadside family for mere survival. As the road climbed out of the valley, temperatures gradually increased to a relatively comfortable 45 degrees F. Dropping down to El Teul or Teul de Gonzalez Ortega, one of Mexico’s designated ‘magic cities <Teúl de González Ortega - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia>, I was struck again by the beauty of the region, tempted to make another short day by seeking out the local hotel. There is, however, good mountainous riding from El Teul through San Cristobal de la Barranca to the turnoff for Mesa de San Juan. As a former river guide, I am always bothered by the sudsy foam and heavy pollution noticeable in the Rio Verde at San Cristobal. The condition of the river may have improved in recent years, but it is still sufficiently distressing to an old river runner and mountaineer.

To avoid the air pollution and nightmarish traffic of Guadalajara, I turned west into the center of San Francisco Tesistan, picked up Carratera la Venta-Nextipac (much in need of repair), intersecting Hwy 15 to Tepic at La Venta del Astillero, then veered off onto Hwy 70 leading southwest to Ameca. I had in mind visiting some remote and unfamiliar towns to the southwest of Guadalajara, so turned off at Tala onto the southern bypass through San Isidro Mazatepec to Hwy 80, then south past the towns of Cocula and Tecolotlan. Gassing up at a Pemex station in Juchitlan, the attendant assured me that the turnoff at San Jose de Avila was both paved and signed for Ayutla, Cuautla and Talpa de Allende. Very pretty agricultural country through there, lovely riding. I had read on some blog that Ayutla had one “seedy” hotel (?), but that Cuautla <Cuautla, Jalisco - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia> offered a choice of several. Not so. Cuautla, though a clean and attractive town, apparently has one hotel and few restaurants. It did not interest me enough to remain the night. A few miles further, the highway entered a broad and handsome valley with a town at the center not shown on my map, Los Volcanes. The town had one of those newly-constructed American-style motels with minimal occupancy — cartel-funded perhaps — with several informal restaurants lining the road through town. I checked in: 300 pesos for the room, no ‘promotion’. The lady did agree to place a telephone call for me to Puerto Vallarta to arrange for keys to the apartment which I would occupy — 5 pesos for the call — and she did provide me with an extra woolen blanket for the massive king-size bed. I walked to the highway and selected a restaurant at random for a simple meal of dried grilled beef, refried beans, sliced tomato and onion, with some extraordinarily tasty, platter-sized corn tortillas which I could hear being patted and pressed flat in the next room. Another cold night. Even doubling the spare blanket over me did not entirely erase a longing for my sleeping bag. 300 miles +/- for Day Nine.

Day Ten: My computer showed an outside temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit when I loaded the bike and rode out of Los Volcanes on the last day of this journey. The road climbed steeply into a small mountain range before joining Hwy 70 from Ameca and then dropping into Mascota. I am fond of Mascota, having stopped there overnight in the past at an interesting vintage hotel where I was allowed to park the motorbike inside the lobby for safekeeping, but the town’s narrow cobbled streets with inadequate signage resemble a maze to me and I always become disoriented. Walking or on the motorcycle, I dislike cobbled streets in any case. On the twisting mountain turns northwest of Mascota I was passed by a couple dressed garishly in red Harley Davidson motorcycling leathers riding a large, loud and brilliantly polished red and chrome late- model Harley Davidson motorcycle with small black leather panniers adorning the rear. They slowed to have a look at me in passing, then sped away in a glitter of reflected sunlight, pride-of-ownership permeating the dust as it settled. I later passed them stopped for refreshments at a roadside restaurant near the turnoff to historic San Sebastian del Oeste, but embarrassed myself by hitting the topes too fast, killing the engine, and having to restart it with traffic backed up behind me. Further on, I pulled off, stopped short of the El Progreso Bridge below San Sebastian to remove layers of warm clothing and repack the duffel as temperatures rose with the decline in elevation. I arrived in Puerto Vallarta in the early afternoon of Friday, November 28th, my fifteenth entry into the city, first by bus in 1969, by two-wheeled conveyance over several years, more recently by air. It is a city which I love and feel privileged to spend my winters in. The motorcycle has been washed at an autolavado and is parked for the winter safely away under cover. In March 2015, when I return north to the States, I am thinking of crossing to La Paz by ferry and going up the length of Baja California, the one region of Mexico which I have never visited. 93 miles for Day Ten, roughly 2,200 miles overall.

This trip was not unlike others I have made throughout Mexico and the rest of Latin America, only colder, and yet in some ways it was one of the more enjoyable. I passed through some incredibly beautiful countryside, traveled some of the most pleasurable motorcycling roads one might wish for, passed through a number of idyllic rural communities, and encountered several exceedingly kind individuals. The trip particularly highlighted for me the massive changes occurring all across Mexico: new infrastructure, improved highways, increased agricultural production, modern farm equipment replacing hand labor, sophisticated irrigation systems replacing ancient acequias, improved bloodlines of livestock, towns expanding and modernizing, car ownership increasing exponentially, reinvestment apparent all across the country. Along with all of that come problems of overpopulation, increased materialism and consumption, increased traffic and emissions, the long-term effects of climate change and water shortages. I suppose it unlikely that Mexico will find anymore of an answer for these issues than the rest of the world has.

I am deeply grateful for this trip, down and back, which may be my last major undertaking by motorcycle. In my experience, there is no other form of motorized travel which offers the immediacy and thrill which motorcycling does. Long distance travel by motorcycle has enriched my life greatly. Thank you the reader for your interest in this report.

Last edited by lgh on Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

Postby jrdwdw » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:22 pm

Sounds like you had an excellent adventure. Good on ya.


We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. --Ben Franklin
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Re: Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

Postby Georgia52 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:31 pm

Wow, very interesting report.
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Re: Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

Postby FUTURE-EXPAT » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:03 pm

I enjoyed reading this, and hope to have the opportunity to explore more of Mexico, and the world in general, in the future. I hope you do take the ferry over to Baja. I had the privilege of being able to attend the Baja 1000 in 2010 as a guest of BF Goodrich, and was completely impressed by the people, the food, and the scenery. In 2010 the race was a "peninsula run" leaving Ensenada, and finishing in La Paz. We departed San Diego by van, arriving in Ensenada the day before the race. I had a chance to explore the town a bit, and found the locals friendly, and the seafood fresh and plentiful. We flew to La Paz for the finish via a small private plane, and again had a chance to explore before departing to experience a pit stop 100 miles before the finish line. What impressed me most was the varied terrain in Baja. Mountains, deserts, swamps and bogs, tropical pockets along the shore, the peninsula has it all. For the first time in my life I was able to view a pod of migrating whales as we drove the coastal highway to Cabo San Lucas. I would be very envious of anyone who has the opportunity to tour that area at their leisure.

Thanks for the post, safe travels.
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Re: Trip Report November 19-28, 2014

Postby phoenyxx » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:22 pm

Great report - brings back memories of traveling through those areas a few years back. Secondary highways are where the real Mexico lives ! The road from Colima to Patzcuaro is particularly scenic once you turn east off the cuota a little north of Colima. I have wished many times I was on my motorcycle instead of towing a trailer.
"You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend."
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