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Motorcycle Trip North - Feb 28-Mar 6, 2015

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Motorcycle Trip North - Feb 28-Mar 6, 2015

Postby lgh » Sun Mar 22, 2015 6:05 pm

After a 2,200-mile trip down the eastern flank of the Sierra Madre in November 2014 on my 2011 model BMW R1200R and a three-and-a-half month stay in Puerto Vallarta, I departed for the US on Saturday morning, the 28th of February, packing my belongings the day before -- some items for storage where I stay annually in Colonia Buenos Aires and some to take back with me on the bike -- transporting my luggage early Saturday morning in a taxi from where I was staying down into Colonia Emiliano Zapata where the motorcycle had been safely stored for the winter.  After loading the bike and saying my farewells, I followed Federal Highway 200 north to Las Varas, Nayarit, turned off there onto the coastal road through Zacualpan and Playa de Los Cocos, followed State Hwy 76 to San Blas, continuing north from San Blas on State Hwy 54 through Villa Hidalgo until joining northbound Federal Hwy 15D (toll road).  The first few kilometers out of Las Varas through Zacualpan are badly potholed, but the roadways beyond there are in very good condition, though with numerous ‘topes’. Highway 54 between San Blas and Guadalupe Victoria passes by numerous artificial ponds used for shrimp farming. I wondered how they feed and harvest the shrimp, as the process was not self-evident in passing.

The toll-collection system along Federal Hwy 15D within the State of Nayarit and further north around Culiacan, Sinaloa, with toll booths located every few miles, is exceedingly trying for a motorcyclist.  One strains to pay at the toll window while balancing a tall, heavily laden motorcycle, groping blindly by feel with motorcycling gloves on for cash in the zippered tank bag. Communication is difficult with ear plugs and motorcycling helmet in place. All the while, one is conscious of the cars and trucks lined up impatiently behind.  The current collection system is inefficient and enormously frustrating for a motorcyclist. But at least tolls have been reduced to half that of four-wheeled vehicles. It was not so long ago that motorcyclists paid the same rate as automobiles.

I had intended to reach La Cruz de Elota, Sinaloa, that first day, where I have stayed twice previously at the Hotel JR, east end of town, 300 pesos per night. But with a relatively late start and my preferred leisurely pace, I asked at the toll booth outside El Rosario about accommodations. The lady toll collector suggested the nearby Hotel Las Glorias as moderately priced and acceptably clean, with other more costly hotels located on the far east side of town along old Hwy 15 Libre. So I spent a peaceful night in a family-operated brothel -- by-the-hour motel -- in El Rosario, Sinaloa, where the daughters took turns cleaning rooms after usage.  Discretely set back from the road, the vintage Hotel Las Glorious had no mirrors, no bright lights or gaudy colors as is typical with these erotic retreats.  My room, named ‘Jasmine’, was a simple, dark room with air-conditioning, motorcycle parked on the verandah directly outside my door, 200 pesos per liaison or 350 pesos for the entire night.  I asked the patriarch for a couple of blankets, explaining that I did not have a woman to keep me warm. He laughed, gave me two blankets, but did not offer me one of his daughters to ward off the cold.  I was awakened only once in the night by male and female sounds of passion -- squeals and grunts not unlike pigs quarreling in a barnyard pen -- and by a nearby neighborhood dog barking voraciously in response to the sounds of coupling.  I went immediately back to sleep, managed a 7:00 a.m. start the next morning minus breakfast.  Three-hundred-plus-miles later, in Ciudad Obregon I stumbled upon a pleasant hotel in the downtown area: Hotel Galerias, 5 de Febrero #424 Sur, tel 644-415-04-77 or 413-59-26 for 499 pesos with safe interior parking.  The receptionist recommended an economical restaurant called 'Cafe Cafe' within walking distance, but I found a Chinese restaurant immediately in front of the hotel, dinner for 55 pesos, more food than I could eat.  It rained in the night into the following morning, causing me to consider staying another day, but partial clearing by 9:00 a.m. set me in motion.

From Ciudad Obregon, I took Federal Hwy 15 north to Esperanza, turned off in Esperanza onto State Hwy 117 to Hornos, turned off in Hornos onto State Hwy 12, headed northeast into the Sierra. Sonora Hwy 12 from Hornos through Rosario de Tesopaco is exceedingly remote and as spectacularly scenic as all but two or three of the national parks in the United States or Canada.  The road unfortunately is comprised of a checker board of pot holes, broken pavement, rock fall, and landslides.  I thought I might be forced to turn back at some point, but no, it was passable and well worth the effort.  I passed one gas station in the town of Rosario de Tesopaco, no other.  Rain and cold temperatures prevailed all day, but I encountered no flooded low water crossings as might have happened to impede my progress, no stretches of mud or deep impassable sand.  I did encounter an occasional truck or isolated rancheria but no bandits.  For the most part, this is exceedingly rugged, wonderfully scenic, little-inhabited mountain country.  I threaded my way through rock fall and landslides to the junction with east/west Mexican Federal Hwy 16 (Hermosillo to Ciudad Chihuahua), zigged to the left for one kilometer, continued north on Sonora Hwy 20 to the town of Sahuaripa.  State Hwy 20 begins in the south as badly as Hwy 12 but improves in condition gradually as one travels north, passing through remote and appealing-looking towns of Cajon de Onapa, Tacupeto, and Santo Tomas before reaching Sahuaripa.  Near Cajon de Onapa, I encountered three new Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans coming in convoy from Hermosillo with a full complement of tourists, so the road from that point north is in significantly better condition and there are apparently upscale tourist facilities in the area.

In Sahuaripa, I stayed two nights at the very attractive Hotel El Molino, waiting out all-day rains and resting up a bit -- 450 pesos per night despite my asking for a 'promotion' -- purchasing random food items at the modern OXXO convenience store around the corner or at the more traditional 'Super' half-a-block in the opposite direction.  For some indeterminate reason, I did not choose to eat at the restaurant on hotel premises, entering only once for morning coffee and conversation with the middle-aged lady doing food preparation.  I read from a novel I was carrying, looked at the sky often, and watched television in my room, tried to stay warm and out of the rain.    

The entire mountain route from Ciudad Obregon to Agua Prieta is named 'Ruta de la Sierra', its small, isolated, and quite appealing colonial towns being promoted for tourism by the State of Sonora. But first they MUST to do something to improve the condition of the roads.  I felt most fortunate in not experiencing a flat tire, given the isolation of the area and all of the loose shattered rock on roadways.  Rough pavement knocked out my running lights -- maybe a blown fuse -- but the bike ran exceedingly well after sitting idle in Puerto Vallarta all winter.  Between Ciudad Obregon and the US border, I suffered considerable discomfort from the wet and the cold despite ample layers of clothing and rain gear, feeling the physical limitations of my age (75) more than on previous trips.  Most notable from my journey was the utterly stunning mountain scenery in eastern Sonora, especially along Sonora Hwy 12.  Fantastic trip! Mexican Federal Police had told me that the Sierra is exceedingly dangerous from drug trafficking and banditry, but the people I encountered were all pleasant and most helpful. I am glad that I took the risk.
From Sahuaripa, it was one day’s travel north through Moctezuma and Nacozari to the border crossing at Agua Prieta, Sonora/Douglas, Arizona, half the route of which I had traveled before on the motorcycle.  US immigration authorities in Douglas exercised the usual Gestapo-type tactics now employed by US Homeland Security.  When I asked the guy finally, "Does someone my age truly merit all this inquisition?", he responded rudely, "Well, I could make it a lot worse for you, if you wish."  To myself, I thought, 'And to what purpose?  To prove what an asshole you are?  Or to illustrate how power corrupts?'  

In Douglas, Arizona, I stayed the night at Motel 6, $35.99 USD with senior discount, had a dinner of Church's Fried Chicken for $4.65: two large, crispy chicken thighs, one delicious honey-baked biscuit, one juicy corn-on-the-cob, tall glass of water ... good tasting American food and surprising value.  The next morning, I took New Mexico Hwy 9 east through Columbus, NM -- freezing my butt off on the bike despite an electrically-heated inner jacket -- to the outskirts of El Paso, TX, followed the Transmountain Expressway Loop 375 over the Franklin Mountains to connect with US Hwy 54, then north through Alamogordo to Carrizozo, New Mexico, where I found a large, comfortable, well-heated motel room for $54.00 USD, Four Winds Motel, which I would recommend to anyone, very comfortable room for the price. Nice cheeseburger with onion rings and a glass of water for dinner, a full night's rest, then homeward bound on the final day of my journey in sunny and significantly warmer weather, all the mountaintops en route glistening under a blanket of snow.   

It feels good to be home again, tired but comfortable in my own bed, at the conclusion of a 1,600-mile ride over six days’ time with one additional rest day, weather-delayed. Three weeks after arriving home, the motorcycle sits still in need of a good washing and minor electrical repair.

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Re: Motorcycle Trip North - Feb 28-Mar 6, 2015

Postby rafter » Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:07 am

Congrats and thanx for the write-up. What an experience. And that one part was very well written and very funny.
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Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 1:12 am

Re: Motorcycle Trip North - Feb 28-Mar 6, 2015

Postby rafter » Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:08 am

Posts: 397
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 1:12 am

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