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And so the adventure continues...

Joined
Jan 1, 2005
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Location
Austin
For those who don't know him, Milton Otto, aka Trailblazer, is the original Renaissance Man of adventure riding in Mexico. Years ago, during my early days of dual sport adventure riding, I was searching the internet for information about the mountains south of Monterrey, Mexico. Despite my widespread efforts I could only find one person who had ever posted anything about riding that area - Milton.

Lucky for me Milton lives in Austin so I reached out to him and arranged to make his acquaintance. During our first meeting I discovered that the ride reports and pictures he had posted online were all from riding the Galeana area solo, many times on his Harley cruiser (aka the Green Hornet). Yes, you read that right - Milton was so intent on exploring the dirt roads in the mountains around Galeana that he initially rode them on a cruiser. It boggles the mind.

Milton very generously shared his advice and knowledge about the Galeana area and was instrumental in the establishment of the MexTrek rally. He warmly and graciously welcomed the dual sport adventure riding community to his little bit of Shangri-La in the mountains of Mexico.

Since those first days, I've ridden a lot of miles with my friend Milton. I tell people that if you don't have an adventure while riding with Milton that you aren't capable of having an adventure. Even the most simple of rides seem to somehow magically turn into an adventure when Milton is around.

Well, as luck would have it, I managed to schedule a few days off in mid-October and asked Milton, Tricepilot Bob, and Stingray Scott if they wanted to explore some new roads in Mexico. They all agreed and, so, our riding adventures with Milton continue and now we have a new chapter to share. And while it was only a few days long, I think it's a doozie. Epic Milton stuff. I hope you enjoy it. :sun:

Milton Otto, aka Trailblazer
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bwdmax

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Waiting for you to tell off on Milton is killing me. I'm sure it will be worth the wait.
 
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We converged at the Clarion Inn in Mission, TX on Wednesday evening with our game faces on. Okay, not really - we were goofy with excitement, ready for an adventure. Our plan was to cross the border early Thursday morning, make the two hundred mile freeway jaunt to the mountains near Santa Engracia, spend the afternoon exploring a dirt road loop in the area, and then overnight in Ciudad Victoria. Here's the dirt part of the route I had loaded in my GPS for Day 1.

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I need to point out that all of our proposed routes were just general guidelines, not hard-and-fast, we-gotta-get-this-done, plans. Our intent was 1) to have fun, 2) have an adventure with Milton, and 3) find some new roads. In that order.

So, with that in mind, we rolled west on Thursday morning, looking forward to future dirt. The pavement was boring, but necessary to get to the good stuff.

Tricepilot Bob and Stingray Scott ready for some dirt
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Joined
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Austin
Astute readers might recognize this place.
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Several years ago, during another adventure with Milton, we stopped at Pollo Asado Charly's (Charly's Chicken) place for a bit of lunch and found the food to be quite good. I knew we would be passing Charly's place around lunch time on this trip too so I suggested to the group that it would be a logical stop. Sure enough, the food was just as good as we remembered.

Our next stop was also at a place that some readers may be familiar with - the Hotel in Santa Engracia. Milton first showed this place to me in 2010 when we took a dirt road across the mountains from General Zaragoza to Santa Engracia. During that trip, after a long and somewhat mechanically challenging ride across the mountains, I was quite happy to have arrived back in civilization prior to nightfall. However, on this trip it was still early so we merely stopped for a visit.

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As I understand it, this place is about 300 years old. It started life as a hacienda and in recent years has been converted to a hotel.

Check out the ceiling of vines. How long does it take to grow something like this?
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While exploring the facility we entered this fascinating old room. There was a coat of arms on the wall and a mural of a warrior being knighted. Very cool.
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Our visit to the hotel complete, it was time for some dirt. We headed west toward the waiting mountains.
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Joined
Dec 16, 2009
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2,069
Location
Temple, Texas
Astute readers might recognize this place.
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Several years ago, during another adventure with Milton, we stopped at Pollo Asado Charly's (Charly's Chicken) place for a bit of lunch and found the food to be quite good. I knew we would be passing Charly's place around lunch time on this trip too so I suggested to the group that it would be a logical stop. Sure enough, the food was just as good as we remembered.

Our next stop was also at a place that some readers may be familiar with - the Hotel in Santa Engracia. Milton first showed this place to me in 2010 when we took a dirt road across the mountains from General Zaragoza to Santa Engracia. During that trip, after a long and somewhat mechanically challenging ride across the mountains, I was quite happy to have arrived back in civilization prior to nightfall. However, on this trip it was still early so we merely stopped for a visit.

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As I understand it, this place is about 300 years old. It started life as a hacienda and in recent years has been converted to a hotel.

Check out the ceiling of vines. How long does it take to grow something like this?
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While exploring the facility we entered this fascinating old room. There was a coat of arms on the wall and a mural of a warrior being knighted. Very cool.
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Our visit to the hotel complete, it was time for some dirt. We headed west toward the waiting mountains.
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That bottom photograph with the sun rays(they're called crepuscular or God rays) is beautiful.
 
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Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Messages
3,978
Location
Austin
Finally, it was time to ride some dirt.

I had mapped out a dirt loop through the mountains based on a map recon using the E32 map, Bici Maps, and Google Earth. I was fairly confident the first part of the loop was actually there and rideable but was much less confident about the second half of the loop.

That's the way it goes in Mexico - you never know if a road actually exists, what kind of shape it will be in, or if it's even rideable, until you actually see it for yourself. Some of the finest riding that we marvel at during MexTrek - routes like The Gold Standard, Potrero Redondo, and Agua Blanca- were, until very recently, not shown on any map. Milton, intrepid explorer that he is, found most of them while riding this area solo. It was my hope that we would discover a gem or two during this ride.

As luck would have it, we found part of one today.

As we rode west into the mountains the dirt road we were on got better and better. At the beginning it was a typical dirt road, used by the locals to get to and from. But as we rode west, the road climbed, and was clearly used by fewer and fewer people. The road travelled through a beautiful valley, next to a flowing river, and then began to climb toward the top of the mountains. We alternated between riding next to the river and riding through a forest as thick as a jungle.
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One section of the river was particularly beautiful. After crossing a small bridge...
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...we rode around a corner and found this stunning view.
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What a wonderful discovery this area was. It was enchanting.

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Beyond this point, the road turned up and we began a steep ascent. The road got much, much tougher the further we went, with bigger rocks and steeper inclines.

Look closely at the electric poles marching up the mountain in the next picture. The power lines parallel the road and give an indication of both where the road ahead lies and just how steep it truly is. Not for the faint of heart.
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You can also see a logging truck in the above picture. We spoke with the driver, who told us that the road went to a village at the top of the mountains but, beyond that, went no further. The problem is that we've been told many times in the past that a road doesn't go through when, in fact, it does go through. Or we've been told the road is there and passable but it's not. In other words, while we always talk to the locals about the roads in the area we don't always take their word. Sometime they really don't know much about the road ahead. The driver said the road didn't go through. What should we do?

We also had another problem - time was ticking away. We didn't want to get caught in the mountains after dark and we weren't making good time. While the road was difficult for all of us, it was particularly tough on Milton. Life happens to all of us, but the last year had been unusually challenging for Milton and he had not ridden his bike in over a year. Milton is a fine rider but even the best of riders struggle with tough riding if they are out of practice.

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Milton is tough guy and despite several drops of his bike, he remained positive and motivated to continue. But, eventually, time caught up with us, and we had a difficult decision to make. We all wanted to complete the route but eventually came to the realization that it wasn't going to happen. We just didn't have enough daylight remaining. With reluctance, we made a U-turn and abandoned our attempt.

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One day I'm coming back and am going to try this route again from the other end.
 
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Joined
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Austin
Once out of the mountains, we headed south via pavement to Ciudad Victoria intent on finding a place to stay for the evening. Victoria is a major city with all the stuff that comes with it - traffic, people, and urban sprawl. Since we didn't know our way around the city, Bob paid a taxi driver to lead us to the downtown plaza where we booked rooms in the Ramada Inn.

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The downtown plaza wasn't much to brag about - certainly not as attractive as the one in Galeana, for example. But, it was late and we needed a place to stay so instead of searching for a non-chain place, we elected to just stay at the Ramada. Rooms were about $50 a night and included a breakfast buffet. I would also note that despite being an American chain hotel, it still had the very distinctive flavor of Mexico, which was just fine by me.

The next morning I had a particularly good omelet.
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After breakfast, I wandered the plaza (which didn't take long), snapping a picture here and there.

Young folks are the same the world over - any chance to canoodle shall not be wasted. These two were following that maxim and were intertwined and oblivious to everyone else. Young love...
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Most plazas are anchored by a church and Victoria was no exception.
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One thing that was different about this plaza was the number of shoe shine stands. There had to be at least 15 of these guys scattered around the plaza. Normally you will see one or, maybe, two shoe shine guys working a plaza so seeing 15 or so was quite different.
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After I had walked past about 10 shoe shine stands I realized my boots could use some attention so I asked one of them if he could help me out.
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The man charged me a little extra but he did a great job and, to be fair, my boots were really dirty and needed lots more work than a typical pair of dress shoes.

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Bob decided to join in as his Sidi's also needed a little loving care.
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Once the normal morning ritual of eating, packing, getting your boots shined, and waiting on Milton (:-P) were complete, it was time to ride.
 
Joined
Jan 21, 2007
Messages
366
Location
Austin, Tx
A few picts from the ride.

The adventure actually began the night before the ride started:


Charly's Chicken is always a great place for lunch:




Milton keeping up with his social media demands:


Hotel in Santa Engracia, you can check out any time you like....






Bob and Milton checking out the music selection:


Some pretty large trees at the hotel:


A lot of effort put into this wall:


Richard and Bob cooling off:


The Famous Milton Otto video:​
[ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSr1OKyyeZU"]The Famous Milton Otto Mexico 2016 - YouTube[/ame]

Delivery Ciudad Victoria style:


 
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copb8

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Nov 27, 2013
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Highland Village (Dallas) TX
Oh my Gosh, what an awesome looking trip.Thanks for posting all the pics.

Hopefully y'all will have another trip in the Spring that my schedule will let me attend. I'm dying to get down there for another attempt.
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2007
Messages
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Austin
Well done, Rich. Your photos are fabulous.
Well, I guess you don't need me anymore.
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This was truly a 'find'
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The road was the service road for the power line. Stopping to admire the view I saw the powerline zig-zag marching up the hills before me.
Oh,.. fudge.

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Crew Chief

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Rendon TX
I'm pleased to see you guys getting out with Milton again. These trips are much of what has inspired me to get into dual sporting. I now have two Mexico trips and a couple of rallies under my belt with much still to learn. If I survive long enough to learn it, I'll go down and do some exploring too.
 
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Day 2- Miquihuana or bust

There is a big dirt loop running north around the town of Miquihuana that I've been wanting to ride forever but just had not yet gotten to. Actually, no one I know, including Milton, had ever ridden the entire loop. Note that I said entire loop - Milton started on the loop in 2015, solo, but got a bit turned around and then ran out of time, so was unable to complete the course. Earlier this year, JT and I made an attempt at the loop but bike problems with my XR650L stymied that attempt. Well, today was the day. We were going to ride that loop, by God, if it was the last thing we did (luckily, it wasn't the last thing we did. :)).
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To get to Miquihuana and the start of the dirt, we first had to ride west on a bunch of twisty pavement on the old section of Highway 101 from Ciudad Victoria. Darn. :)
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I've ridden this section of road a number of times and it is always a lot of fun. We took the opportunity to work on our paved riding skills. While Valentino Rossi has nothing to fear from the likes of us, it was fun anyway.
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Eventually we turned north, on the last bit of pavement to Miquihuana and encountered this beautiful field of flowers. I'm a manly guy and all but, hey, sometimes you have to take a picture of flowers.
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Finally, our goal was in sight. I could see the start of the loop ahead, climbing up, up, up, the distant mountains. Oh yeah! Time for some fun.
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The ride to the top of the mountains was typical for this part of Mexico - spectacular. :) The road was a normal, class 2, shelf road, clinging to the side of the mountain with a steep cliff on one side and a quick trip back to the valley on the other. Roads like this perfectly illustrate why Milton calls Mexico the Land of Personal Responsibility.
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The view of the valley below did not disappoint.
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The road in the picture below is the paved road leading west out of the valley. We would ride it the next day on our way to Aramberri.
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The loop proved to be as fun as I hoped it would be. It was all class 1 and 2 riding, with great views everywhere. Near the north end of the loop is the village of Aserradero. It seemed as good of a place as any to take a break.
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One of the local dual sport units checking us out.
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Aserradero is fairly typical of the types of villages we encounter on the high mountain backroads.
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Five kilometers after leaving Aserradero we rode through Valle Hermosa (beautiful valley), which is appropriately named. It was wonderful and I was really happy to finally be riding this loop.
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All too soon, the road started heading down, back toward the valley and the town of Miquihuana. On the last section of shelf road, Bob and I both agreed that this loop was a great find. Time for a fist bump.
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Joined
Feb 9, 2004
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Location
San Angelo, Tx
Great fotos and story. I too had an unforgettable time with Meeltone in that area and this report brings back fond memories. Saludos.
 
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Allow me enter the dialog here and try to catch up.
Two of my favorite riding companions.


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Historic Hotel Hacienda Santa Engracia.
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From the notes of my first visit to Santa Engracia, July 2001:
I met fair skinned Carlos Martinez on the front porch — 52 years old, the heir of Santa Engracia, a true aristocratic gentleman. He spoke English with very little hint of an accent and used big words like “anecdotes” and “sanguineous”. His grandfather had been governor of the state of Tamalipas,… until he was assassinated, and his father had been one in the series of owners of Santa Engracia. Old pictures of his father and mother were in the game room. He showed me the library/billiard room, with its display of authentic Spanish armor. I was impressed.
I think Carlos went to UT. I remember talking to him about Barton Springs.
Santa Engracia seemed like a logical place to stay. In my book at least. But Richard had other plans.

My ever patient wing-man Scott on what I'll call Richard's Pinche road.
Beautiful country, right?

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Here is the pinche part. Broke a rib on my first fall. Oh, what’s another rib at this point?
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Riding way out of my league.
Every time we stopped, I was the only one gasping for breath. Mis compadres acted like it was a walk in the park.

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Joined
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Sometimes you grow so accustomed to Mexico you don’t even notice the most obvious things. This photo, for instance, inspired by Richard, represents the Pemex station’s employee break room. (In Mexico you don’t pump your own gas, you know. There is always an attendant there to do it, take your money and make change.) Anyway. That broken two-legged table in the pic, would’ve been in yesterday’s trash back in the ‘States. Here it is returned to use, propped up against a wall. A three-legged chair? No problem. You’ve got balance. And the blue chair, the seat has been punched thru and is wired back together, reinforced with newspapers. Ahh….., Mexico. Nothing dies.

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We exited the mountains about 3 pm and decided to ride into Miquihuana for a late lunch. As we rode toward town I discovered I had a problem. Entering one of the many sharp curves on the highway leading to Miquihuana my bike failed to decelerate as I rolled off the throttle. I don't run hot (i.e. at 100% as fast as I can go) so the bike not slowing down as I entered a turn was not as big of a pucker moment as it would have been if I had been pushing the limits. Still, it was a surprise and I needed to react quickly or become a giant fireball of death. I grabbed both brakes and managed to slow the Husky down enough to navigate the curve. After that, I began to experiment with my throttle. It wasn't stuck wide open but it was definitely stuck open. With the judicious use of my clutch, gears, and brakes I managed to safely arrive at the outskirts of Miquihuana. In town, I needed a new procedure. So I allowed the bike to accelerate to an unsafe speed and then would simultaneously pull in the clutch and hit the kill switch. I would coast as far as I could then restart the engine and repeat the procedure. In short order I made it to the plaza without killing myself or running over an unsuspecting pedestrian or stray dog.

We decided to grab lunch at a nearby restaurant and then tackle my bike problem.

After a fine meal, we checked in to the El Presidente Hotel where we were made to feel like big shots (Presidents, actually. :)) I figured it would be the best place to disassemble my bike. :miffed:
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We checked into our rooms and unloaded our stuff. Once that was done I began the process of trying to figure out what was wrong with my Terra 650.

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I figured this was going to be a long painful job, but to my great surprise and pleasure I spotted the problem as soon as I removed the seat. My bike had been serviced right before this trip and the mechanic had left too much slack in an accessory power cable. The cable had gotten caught under the throttle body and was preventing the throttle from completely shutting off. I managed to pull the cable out, which fixed the problem. I zip tied it so it wouldn't happen again and happily celebrated the easy fix.

Now what should we do? It was 4 pm, relatively early. Should we go exploring south of Miquihuana? Ride somewhere else? Or just enjoy a leisurely afternoon and evening in Miquihuana. Decisions, decisions.

Ultimately, Bob decided to stay in his room and read the Bible, while Milton, Scott, and I decided to find a cantina and have a drink.

As we walked through town looking for a bar, we spotted these "fences" made of giant cactus. They were an amazing sight.
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A door overgrown with cactus.
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Initials carved into the cactus.
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Joined
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The cantina was tiny. It had two tables and a maximum capacity of about 20 people. Which was probably about right for the size of Miquihuana. It was early and we were the only patrons. The bartender wasn't sure about the three gringos who suddenly arrived as he was going through the process of opening, but he let us in and served us cold beer and good tequila.

After a few hours of drinking alone, some of the locals began to arrive. First one guy showed up and sat at the end of the bar and drank topo chico. Milton took the only other stool at the bar and made Stingray stand up.
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Then another guy showed up and started drinking beer. He brought his own blue bar stool with him, so now we had three stools for five guys.
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Eventually those two guys got together and invited the bartender to join the conversation.
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The more beer we drank, the better the tequila tasted. I'm not sure of the physics of how that works, but that's what happened. Honest.
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Eventually three other guys showed up and it turned into a party. The locals weren't too sure if they liked the gringos drinking in their bar but after we bought a round for the house and then another round for the house they decided we were okay.
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The locals were amazed at the size of El Gigante (Stingray).
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After way too much booze, we decided it was time to wander back to the hotel and check on Bob. When I asked the bartender what the damage was he did some math in his head and said "497 pesos". Using the current exchange rate of 20 pesos to the dollar I did some math in my head and realized that we had drank a case of beer, an entire bottle of tequila, bought two rounds for the house, and had a most memorable night for the grand total of just $25. I love Mexico.
 
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M38A1

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.....Using the current exchange rate of 20 pesos to the dollar I did some math in my head and realized that we had drank a case of beer, an entire bottle of tequila, bought two rounds for the house, and had a most memorable night for the grand total of just $25. I love Mexico.
That right there is priceless. :clap:
 
Joined
Jan 21, 2007
Messages
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Austin, Tx
A "behind the scenes" look at the guys working hard to capture the moment:







Sometimes it seems as if The Famous Milton Otto is the subject of a documentary or maybe on one of those reality TV shows.
Here the paparazzi are capturing the roadside repair of his riding britches......
Apparently he tore them while doing a stoppie on that Italika in the background... :rider:




Bob using his smart phone to figure out how much further to Valle Hermoso :mrgreen:


Not sure who here was the most excited about Richard fixing his bike....


Hanging out in this cantina with the locals really was a special night. Great memories!


Bob really does a great job communicating with the locals, I'm truly envious.


My favorite roadside snack


A few awesome examples of electrical work we found along the way




The downside of a $7 room, you learn to made do (no pun intended)...
 
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Early the next morning we were up and ready for the another great day of riding. Little did we know what lay in store for us ahead...

Our plan was to ride a back road from Aramberri to General Zaragoza. Milton and Jimmy Ridge had done this route about six years ago so we knew the road was there but had no idea of its condition since no one else had ridden it since. Milton's description of the route made our group want to ride it but it took six years for us to finally get the opportunity.
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First, we had to get gas. Miquihuana doesn't have a gas station but you can buy fuel from a 55 gallon drum at the local convenience store, which is a slow process at best. It took a while but eventually we were all topped off and on our way.

Waiting for our tanks to be filled
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The ride to Aramberri took close to two hours of mostly pavement riding, so we decided it was time for a short break. Milton took advantage of the stop to repair his riding pants with some new strips of duct tape. Note that this wasn't the first time he repaired this particular tear with duct tape - he had done previous repairs more than a year ago on another trip and the old tape was no longer getting the job done. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
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Bob and Scott patiently wait for Milton's repairs to be complete
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Once the repairs were complete, it was time to get dirty. The dirt road out of Aramberri got better and better as we headed up and into the mountains east of town.
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We passed a few abandoned houses/huts and went through a few gates but there was no evidence that anyone lived on this remote backroad.
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The road started as a class 2 but the further we rode the more difficult and steep the road became. It's always tough to accurately illustrate the steepness of a road in pictures so this was the best I could do.
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The steepness, the rocks, and the general disrepair of the road made me wish I was on a lighter bike. While the Terra 650 is a fine bike, at more than 400 lbs it was heavier than I prefer when riding class 3 roads.

Along about this time, Milton began to struggle. The steep, steep, steep switchbacks, in particular, were vexing him and he dropped his bike on more than one occasion. Each time, his carbureted DRZ400 would flood and refuse to start. In order to prevent killing the battery trying to restart the bike, we reverted to bump starting it - a difficult and time consuming process. By the end of the ride we informed Milton he would have to get a lighter, fuel injected bike before our next trip to Mexico.

Despite the challenges (or, perhaps, because of them) we remained in good spirits and were having a wonderful time.
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This is Bob's most sensuous pose
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A feed trough carved from a tree trunk
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The road ahead
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Just great riding
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At 2 pm we rode down the steepest section of road yet and hit a dead-end. The road was washed out and, as indicated by the overgrown vegetation, had been for some time.
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Now what do we do?
 
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Jul 2, 2007
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720
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Austin
Highway south of Ciudad Victoria
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Pemex station in the town of Jumave. Probably a nice place to stay once you're away from the highway.
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We crested at 10,000' elevation. Near the top of the loop, Asseradero. (which means saw mill in Spanish).
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That's the way you do it
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Valle Hermoso. Those specks in the distance are thresher machines harvesting grain, and waiting trucks to accept the grain.
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Fun, fun fun
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