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Old 03-17-2015, 01:22 PM   #1
andyc740
 
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Talking Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

First part of October I went to see my neck doctor for my three-month checkup after my summer neck operation. He saw my riding jacket and asked what it was.

"That's my riding jacket."

"You've been riding again?"

"Yes. I rode down here."

"Have you been on any long rides lately...like San Antonio (150 miles away)?"

"Well, two weeks ago I was in Chihuahua, Mexico."

"And how did that go for you?"

So this is how it went.

--------------------

I spent the summer in a neck brace after having surgery for a herniated disk, lolling around on the couch, watching TV, posting self-pitying pictures to facebook.







When my neck started feeling better and I was released from light duty, though still wearing a soft neck collar, I was chafing to go back to Mexico (no pun intended), since I hadn't been since January (see Late Starts, Nice Days - Huatusco, Veracruz, Mexico). After asking Jorge for ideas (the president of CMA Mexico), he suggested a rally in September in Chihuahua, the Union Biker Fest. They had several new CMA members there that would appreciate having some fellow club members on hand, as well as the literature and materials we would bring, so we made plans to go.

My riding buddy, Goldfish, was now retired, so would have more time available for the trip, and Hombre wanted to go along as well. Chihuahua was a funny destination for us. Though it's 750 miles or so from Corpus Christi, only the last 150 miles would be in Mexico. Chihuahua is actually further north than Corpus Christi!

The plan was to leave on Thursday morning, spend the night in Alpine and ride to Chihuahua on Friday. We would head back Sunday morning, detour through Big Bend National Park, stop for the night in Del Rio, then get back to Corpus on Monday afternoon.
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:43 PM   #2
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Corpus Christi to Alpine

We met at the local Whataburger at a reasonable hour of the morning, spent some time talking and gearing up then headed out. We made for a diverse bunch. I was on the Moto Guzzi. Goldfish was riding his Goldwing and Hombre was on his H-D Road King.



Our route would take us from Corpus to Cotulla on FM 624, then back roads to Uvalde where we would pick up Hwy US90 and stick with it all the way to Alpine. The map came out a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea.



FM 624 used to be a very lightly-travelled ranch road running about 150 miles across brush country, Texas, but drilling in the Eagleford Shale has changed all that. When drilling started in the area, the road was overrun with oilfield traffic and got beat to pieces. Since then, drilling has slowed and the worst spots in the road have been repaired, so the ride was just fine.

We stopped for gas in Cotulla and were admiring a very nicely restored BMW in a trailer. The owner said he had it in a bike show in Mexico and was hauling it up to Dallas.





We ran into some road construction past Cotulla, but got by it OK, then stopped for gas and lunch in Uvalde before heading on. Reaching Del Rio, we gassed up again since there isn't much between Del Rio and Marathon, though there is a gas station in Sanderson.

At the Pecos River, we pulled off into the viewing area to get a few pictures of the bridge. I've always missed the picnic area turnoff on previous rides out that way, but this time we found it.







Getting to Sanderson, clouds and rain were beginning to move into the area from the north. We could see the rain and lightning off to our right and the farther we rode, the nearer it got. We did manage to get into Alpine without it catching up to us.

We got a burger in town, then had a shake before calling it a day. We were looking forward to getting back to Mexico again.
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Old 03-17-2015, 03:27 PM   #3
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Alpine, Texas to Chihuahua, Mexico

In the morning, we had a motel breakfast, then bought gas in Marfa before turning south towards our border crossing at Presidio/Ojinaga. Once we crossed the bridge, we took some time to get our papers, change some dollars and eat some lunch. We also topped off the tanks again before heading out.

Once again, it's a blurry map, but you get the idea. Less than 250 miles to ride.


Leaving Ojinaga, I was surprised to see one of those Libre/Cuota signs for Chihuahua. I didn't know there was a Cuota (Toll-Road) going from Ojinaga to Chihuahua. It didn't show up on Google maps. I settled for the Libre.

The landscape in the area just looked like it had been blasted, large mounds of dirt and rocks, we might've been on the outskirts of Mordor for all I knew. There was very little traffic and I wondered about the safety of the highway so I stopped at a small store and asked about the road. "Tranquilo" was the answer so we went on our way.

We climbed up and over the crest of the mountains, didn't stop to take any pictures, though there were some nice vistas, and went on our way. Civilization picked up as we got farther along. In the town of Aldama, we stopped to get our bearings and were checked out by a couple of curious ostriches. Guess they weren't used to seeing gringos.



We had reservations made for us by one of the local CMA members at La Posada del Sol in downtown Chihuahua. He said it was close to the rally site at Parque Palomar. We circled around downtown several times, getting caught up in one-way streets, roads with no access and getting fooled by the sign at the hotel, which had the name of an earlier incarnation on it. We gave up on checking in and decided to head to the rally site.

I had my GPS fired up with the Mexico road maps loaded and the hotel and rally locations marked before we left, so we were able to get to the rally, though the one-way streets made that a bit tricky.

The main feature of Parque Palomar is a very tall flag pole with no flag on it. There was a large paved plaza where the rally folks were setting up and a stage at the north end of the park.





It was nice to be there.



After locating the park, rally-goers told us the tall building downtown was the hotel we wanted, then the trick was finding the hotel garage entrance, which opened up off an exit from the main street downtown.



Checking into the hotel, we met Mo and Carmen, CMA members from west Texas who serve as Area Reps for CMA in New Mexico. They were also staying at the hotel. We were surprised at the hotel rates we were quoted and Hombre got busy and negotiated them down to their government rate, but with the fancy hotel breakfast buffet included. (Checking out, we found out the rates were for two nights, not one as we were thinking, so things turned out to be pretty reasonable.)

After that it was back to the rally to get the CMA canopy set up that Mo had brought and get our bibles and literature out that we would be giving away at the rally. We ran into Paul at the rally, one of the local CMA members, and the one who had made arrangements with the hotel for us.



Bikers were queuing up for the Friday night bike parade downtown. Though we usually ride along with those, we decided to skip this one. We'd seen more of downtown than we really wanted, trying to find the hotel and the rally site.





It seems we didn't miss much. The bikes were back pretty quickly. Things stayed busy at our canopy and the reponse to our literature and bibles was typical, sit down and start reading.



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Old 03-17-2015, 03:55 PM   #4
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Saturday Morning in Chihuahua

Saturday morning I had plans to visit a cousin of mine who lives in Chihuahua. Betty and her husband, Ken, are missionaries with New Tribes Missions and work at a training center in Chihuahua, training Mexican missionaries. It had been almost 15 years since I had seen them. We managed to find their house, thanks to the GPS, and spent a while visiting before heading back to the rally.

Ken and Betty:



A short time later, it was time for the rally's scheduled lunch ride. They weren't lining up at the park, but at a plaza downtown where they had taken group pictures of the rally goers. We weren't sure how many would show up for the ride. It was a rainy, drizzley weekend with temperatures in the upper 50's, definitely not the usual weather for Chihuahua.

We needn't have worried. Maybe a hundred bikes were on hand for the ride in spite of the weather. We headed out north of town, stopping at a gas station on the way. Some of these ride pictures with the logo were taken by the event photographer. I copied them off their facebook page. Others with the frame but no logo, were taken by another photographer, a red head riding up and down the line on the back of a friend's sport bike. Turned out her name was Janeth and she let me use some of her pictures, also.





(Yours truly in the foreground on this one)




Hombre:


and Goldfish:


The ride was out to an old hacienda about 20 miles north of town where lunch was being prepared for the group.



We waited a while to get fed, milling around in one of the side rooms where it would be dished up, trying to stay dry.







Janeth decided she needed to be in a picture with me.


Everybody has a smart phone.


This fellow's job was to hand out pop and sell beer.


Watching the rain.


Then it was time to eat. There wasn't any seating and the hacienda was being renovated. Almost everybody found a bucket to sit on.




Some of the bikes:




Then it was time to ride back to town. We did it in smaller groups. This time we took the toll road going back into town instead of the old highway. Riders were signing a clipboard at the toll booth instead of paying toll. When I asked what the deal was, I was told that the state of Chihuahua was one of the rally sponsors and they had made toll roads free for bikers all weekend coming or going to the rally. I thought that was pretty nice of them.
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Old 03-19-2015, 05:51 AM   #5
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

Excellent. I always like these Mexican RRs.
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Old 03-19-2015, 06:24 AM   #6
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

Andy,

The first three photos look very painful and uncomfortable, but you still managed to get some humor in there. I met you at the Smithville fish fry, and you have obviously recovered well from your surgery. Thank you for the great trip report! It is very interesting, and it is good to see that the CMA presence there was well received.

Robert
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Old 03-19-2015, 07:14 AM   #7
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by saikhan View Post
Excellent. I always like these Mexican RRs.
Wow, an Aussie! I'm glad you do, saikhan. I waited a bit too long before starting on this one, so it's tough dredging up memories out of the fog.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSer View Post
Andy,

The first three photos look very painful and uncomfortable, but you still managed to get some humor in there. I met you at the Smithville fish fry, and you have obviously recovered well from your surgery. Thank you for the great trip report! It is very interesting, and it is good to see that the CMA presence there was well received.

Robert
Thanks, Robert. Actually, the point of the surgery was to relieve pain. I was feeling much better already when those pictures were taken. Glad you're enjoying the trip report. I'll get back to posting now, though it may take a while to get this all wrapped up.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:03 AM   #8
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Goldfish's Photos

Goldfish was also taking pictures on the trip. I'll include some of his as I go along. His are the ones with the date stamp on them.

Radio towers outside town. Though Chihuahua is situated in high desert country, it was all green due to recent rains. I'd been through Chihuahua on a family car trip fifteen years earlier and didn't remember the landscapes looking like they did this trip.



The stage at Parque Palomar. Our canopy wound up being set up near the stage, away from everything else, but we still had plenty of people stopping by.



The city of Chihuahua is the capital of the state of Chihuahua, the largest state in Mexico. Sizewise, the state is a bit smaller than Oregon. Population of the state, according to Wikipedia, is 3.7 million. The city of Chihuahua, located in the municipality of Chihuahua, has a population of 825,000. It's largely an industrial town. So, given all this, Goldfish just had to take a picture of a Chihuahuah in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico.



Parque Palomar, getting set up for the rally:



Riders pulling in past the flagpole. A fellow told me the city had erected the flagpole and hoisted up a giant Mexican flag. After some time, the flag was shredded by the local winds and weather and the city found out they didn't have the money to replace the flag, so now they just have the flagpole.





A couple shots of downtown seen from Goldfish's hotel window.







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Old 03-19-2015, 09:16 AM   #9
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

Great ride report! Hadn't been to Chi City in a while and had forgotten a lot of those sights that your photos reintroduced me to! However, the bridge referenced in the early part is over the Pecos River; living near Waco I can only dream that the Brazos looks like that!
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Old 03-19-2015, 03:54 PM   #10
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

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Originally Posted by dandeldesierto View Post
Great ride report! Hadn't been to Chi City in a while and had forgotten a lot of those sights that your photos reintroduced me to! However, the bridge referenced in the early part is over the Pecos River; living near Waco I can only dream that the Brazos looks like that!
Oops. Fixed! Thanks for the heads up.

Glad you're enjoying the report.
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Old 03-20-2015, 08:33 AM   #11
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Saturday Afternoon at the Rally

We arrived back at the rally from the lunch ride about 2:00 in the afternoon. Things were in full swing. Jorge had shown up from Guadalajara in his pickup truck with a second canopy. It was still cool and drizzling, but there were plenty of people on hand.

Jorge and Paul spent some time talking with the event photographer.



We also met Howard with the Millenium Messengers, who was pastoring a church in Saltillo.



And two more of the Chihuahuan CMA members were on hand, Hector and his son, Hector.



This fellow wandered around all day with his kid. The kid stayed pretty quiet. I think it was some sort of club initiation thing.



Gil, the event promotor, was happy to have a picture taken with Hector, Sr. and I. He was sure a hospitable, friendly fellow. Treated us very nicely.



I thought this chainmail vest was interesting. On closer inspection, it was made entirely of beer can pull tabs. The wearer told me, "Puro Tecate!" Apparently, he had happily taken on the task of drinking enough beers to make the vest.





Mo and his wife, Carmen, had a local pastor and his wife and daughter with them as guests. Mo is part of a church building team that has built half a dozen churches in rural areas near the city. The pastor's daughter was happy to pose for a photo.



Dale had spotted the paleta vendor so we indulged in a couple of paletas (popsicles). The vendor wanted to get in the picture with us. No problem.

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Old 03-20-2015, 08:46 AM   #12
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Union Bike Fest - Saturday afternoon, continued.

There were some eye-catching motorcycles there at the rally. Though big motorcycles are uncommon in Mexico, they do show up at the rallies.





The medical team stopped by our stand and asked if they could borrow one of our canopies so they could stay dry. Jorge was happy to loan them the one he brought with him.



Though I wasn't wearing my neck collar, I figured I knew exactly how this lady felt. I pulled mine out of my tail trunk and showed it to her.



I don't think Honda sells this model in the US: an NX4 400 Falcon. What do you think? Looks like it would be a great bike for Mexico. I think it's the only one I've seen.



This fellow belonged to the Panza Grande (Big Belly) motorcycle club. I told him I was well-qualified to join, as well. Maybe they could make me an honorary member.



And in the meantime, we had a lot of traffic at our canopy.



The obligatory shot of my riding buddy.



And then there's the club that shows up in the Mexican wrestling masks.



As the afternoon wore on, the music from the stage got louder and louder. Dale and I finally gave up and headed off in search of some supper, winding up at a pizza parlor down the street from our hotel.

I'll post some of Goldfish's pictures from the rally.
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Old 03-20-2015, 09:02 AM   #13
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Union Bike Fest - Goldfish photos

Our bikes at the hotel entrance. We kept them in the hotel's small underground parking garage. They didn't charge us for parking, but asked us to park them on the lowest level. No problem.



Goldfish wasn't the only one admiring the Valkyrie.



Mo was in his red tennis shoes all weekend.



Paul and his wife with Howard and his wife. Howard and his wife were expecting their second child soon.



Hector, Jr. with Hector, Sr. and his wife. Jr. rides a sport bike, his dad a Harley.



A view of the rally from a rise above the park. There was a good turnout in spite of the damp, cool weather. There seems to be a lot of things going on with the bike clubs in Chihuahua. It was good to see the cooperation and the friendliness. I'm constantly seeing events popping up on Facebook now.



More views:







Back at the hotel, Goldfish got a shot of his room, then took some more pictures out the window. This was the weekend just before Mexico's Independence Day, September 16th, and decorations and lighting were going up.





It was a good rally. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Sunday morning, we were heading out, starting the ride back to Corpus Christi.
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Old 03-20-2015, 09:44 AM   #14
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Headed home on Sunday

Goldfish, Hombre and I enjoyed the hotel breakfast buffet and the omelet bar, packed up and said our farewells to Mo and Carmen and headed out. I planned to take the Quota on the way back to Ojinaga, but didn't see any signs and wound up on the old highway again.

A ways down the road, Hombre pulled over when his windshield started coming loose. While Goldfish and I parked and looked around, Hombre had his windshield off, the rubber seal positioned and the whole thing back together in short order. This turned out to be the full extent of mechanical problems on the trip.





About halfway back to Ojinaga, we came up on the intersection with the toll road. We'd been told it cut about 40 minutes or more off the time to do the trip on the old highway. At the only tollbooth, we told the toll collector we were coming from the rally and she just had us sign her clipboard. Nice!

Taking a bathroom break at the nearby restrooms, we wound up talking with other travellers and waited while they sat on the bikes and took pictures.

It was a lot easier ride to Ojinaga over the toll road and we were soon back at the border where we turned in papers, at least Hombre and Goldfish did, exchanged our pesos then went through the US border crossing. They apparently were on high alert and were checking everything closely, so it took a while.

Back in the US, we stopped for a hamburger, called family, then turned right on 170 heading for Big Bend. Hombre had never been there and wanted the 50 cent tour.

There was quite a bit of water in the Rio Grande and the green desert made for some nice views.



Every time I see one of these "Pass with care" signs, I'm looking for some that say, "Pass with abandon!" but I never see any.



The fresh chip seal on the highway didn't help matters any. That's the Rio Grande next to the highway.



We stopped at an overlook for a few more pictures. That's Mexico on the left side of the river, US on the right.





We rode through Lajitas and Terlingua, then took a rest break at Study Butte. I was all for skipping the run through the national park and just heading north to Alpine as we were running late (it was already past 4:00), but was talked into going through the park. At the park entrance, the office was closed and had a sign telling us to buy our entrance passes at Panther Junction. At Panther Junction, it was after 5:00 and their offices were closed, telling us to buy our park passes in the morning. Whee! A free trip through the park. We just headed north to 385 and Marathon.



I was planning to stop for the night in Del Rio, but it was dark and foggy when we got to Sanderson, so we decided to pause for the night there. While gassing up, I didn't have enough grip to pull the card back out of the gas pump and had to use my off hand. I decided it was time to put the neck collar on again. We asked at the gas station where there was to eat in Sanderson and they directed us to the Ranch House Restaurant on the far end of town. It turned out to be excellent advice. We enjoyed our supper quite a bit. They in turn recommended the Outback Oasis hotel at the other end of town, across the street from the gas station. OK.



We spent the night there, got some tacos at the Stripes in the morning and headed on our way. Weather improved from the night before and the ride back to Corpus went without incident. We stopped for lunch in Dilley, then hit 624 again for the ride home.

And that's how the trip went, Dr. Neck Surgeon.

Hope you enjoyed the ride.
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Old 03-21-2015, 04:27 PM   #15
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Re: Union Bike Fest - Chihuahua, Chih, Mexico

Thanks, Andy, I remember this trip and we did have a good time! Mexico has some great roads, beautiful scenery, and lots of friendly people.
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