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Dos Semanas En Mexico

SpiritAtBay

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Two idiots who don't know better than to stay out of Mexico.

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Through a set of unforeseeable circumstances, I have two consecutive weeks of vacation!
Two weeks feels so luxurious! Lots of possibilities for destinations. We can go further afield and spend more time at each stop…

John and I discuss possible destinations and the various combinations of transport. Of course every scenario involves motorcycles. It’s just the choosing between which bikes; all pavement? All dirt? A mix of the two? What about trailering to a destination? If we trailer the dirt bikes, do we want to camp (yes). If we ride the street bikes, do we want to camp (depends).

Mexico is always in the running and finally wins out. It just can’t be beat as a destination. Much as we both want to see the American West--Mexico is closer, offers a fabulous experience and the economics can‘t be ignored. (Kinda sad that we can’t afford to tour in our own country, but there it is.)


So, Mexico it is. With the destination in mind, we again consider which bikes. We settle on the Stroms. We can cover more ground quicker and more comfortably and the Givi cases offer more security than the soft bags on the dual sports.

Ok, we’ve chosen our destination (albeit writ large) and our conveyance, better get packing.

Our trusty steeds in Mexican countryside.


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Wife and i just got back from a couple weeks in the Monterrey/Torreon area. Waiting for the rest of your story.
 

SpiritAtBay

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Pre-trip Drama

A few weeks ago, I had to cancel a solo trip to see the solar eclipse due to a charging issue with my bike. I took it to a local shop and they diagnosed a bad regulator/rectifier. $300. later and the bike is home and apparently running fine. A week later on a day ride I am absolutely deflated to see the voltmeter dropping below acceptable levels.

With less than a week before our planned departure for Mexico, John and I scramble, trying to replace or repair the stator. We think we get it sorta fixed. We pack extra parts and tools “just in case” and decide to make a go of it.

Leaving Texas

With crossed fingers and a bit of duct tape (jk) we left Kerrville Monday, Sept 25 at 2:00 in the afternoon. The lateness of our departure doesn’t concern either of us as our first stop is Laredo, only ~250 miles away. We take secondary roads as much as we can. On one such road I see signs for Bigfoot, TX. I want to see the town with a name like that and decide it would be fun to take a pic of my big feet in Bigfoot. Alas, our route veers away from Bigfoot. Instead we roll into Pearsall and enjoy some tacos and a Blizzard at the local DQ.

First night away from home, we stay at the Red Roof Inn in Laredo. Have dinner at the Palenque Grill (walking distance from the hotel and was excellent.)


Best margarita EVER
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26sep, Tu

120 miles ridden today and no forward progress!

This morning we crossed into Mexico at the Columbia Bridge just north of Laredo. Mexican border agents warn us that heavy downpours have flooded the main thoroughfare (MX85), apparently stranding large numbers of tractor trailers. They show us cellphone photos of semi’s in 4 ft of water on the highway.

However, we are not deterred as we are planning to ride a secondary route. The agents let us park in a sheltered area out of the rain while we take care of the paperwork. Soon we are underway. In Mexico at last! My anticipation rises as the familiar sights and smells of Mexico roll by. This road is familiar to me as John and I traveled down it on my first two wheeled trip to Old Mexico. I remember the town of Anahuac as we come to it and note the hotel we stayed at on that previous trip.

About 60 miles in, we are flagged down by a couple riding two-up on a small Chinese adv bike. They tell us of long sections of road construction ahead. They talk of deep, sticky, slimy mud and of dropping their bike twice.

It doesn’t take much to convince John and I; no way could we make it through on our heavily laden street bikes. We turn around.

Back in Anahuac, we stop at an Oxxo, grab a quick snack, make another plan and head out again.

Lunch from the Oxxo
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Even Anahuac has gotten the "big letters"
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Now our goal is the city of Monclova. We get all of 20 miles down the road when we hit a section of chewed up asphalt. John didn’t hesitate, rode right out onto it. Immediately a stream of expletives came through my Sena as he struggled to keep the bike upright. The loose plates of asphalt slipped and sank down as his tires rolled across. He brought the bike to a halt, only to realize he wouldn’t be able to turn around without riding down even further, to an area which appeared to give better footing. As he worked his way back to where I waited, he reported that where the chewed up section ended, mud began. We were foiled again!

You can just make out the headlights of John's bike
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We headed back to Anahuac and the nice little hotel (“Alas Blancas”) we had stayed at in 2015. I was looking forward to the well kept courtyard and the clean, pleasant rooms there. But we were in for yet another rudeness. Once the woman working the office realized we spoke little Spanish, her demeanor changed and she told us the hotel was full. Neither of us believed her but whut cha going to do? (I did let her know of my displeasure as we geared up.)

We have no alternative now but to head back across the border, regroup there and figure out if we can save this trip.

So that’s what we did. We rode through Nuevo Laredo. (The city we had avoided just a day ago, now we negotiate our way through in heavy rain and heavy traffic. Crossed the border back into Texas and holed up at a lousy Executive Inn in Laredo. The rain (did I fail to mention it has rained most of the day?) shows no signs of letting up. So we order pizza in, spread our riding gear out to dry, take hot showers, try to find weather reports for Mexico and determinedly plot our escape. We might be stalled, but neither of us speak of giving up.
 

SpiritAtBay

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I'm assuming yours is the dayglo green one. Looks fine from a distance, at least. Decals or paint?
Tim, it's a peel and stick vinyl i picked up at a parts store. cut the shapes out free hand. Surprisingly, it is holding up well. (to everyone else's chagrin.)
 

SpiritAtBay

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27sep, We
In the morning (or was it late yesterday?) John had noticed one of the four bolts that hold his windscreen on, was missing. He now removes the windscreen, rides (in the rain which now is mixed with fog) to a parts store and returns with a suitable replacement bolt. We stand in the rain and bolt the thing back on.

By the time we have packed up and loaded up, the sky has lightened and the rain abates. Our plan is to ride to Roma, TX and use a ferry crossing there. We pass through an old section of Laredo, interesting to see the old houses and to muse that this is the city of my birth after all. (Not that I remember it.)

A stop in Zapata to enjoy a good, home-style lunch from D&E Foodcraft grocery store.
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We roll up to the Los Ebanos ferry crossing at 3:45 in the afternoon to find they have already closed for the day. John was surprised to see that the little crossing has been upgraded and modernized quite a bit. Here's a link to a brief article about the ferry.
http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Rio-Grande-s-hand-drawn-ferry-is-unique-in-the-1834361.php

Disappointed but undeterred, we go a little further east to Mission/McAllen and make our crossing at the Anzalduas Bridge, which lands us in Reynosa.

We are in Mexico! Again!

The purple is day one. Blue is day 2
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Evening. I'm writing this from a comfortable, dry hotel room. We barely made it here! Seriously. Threaded “the eye of the needle” between storms. Was dramatic, speeding along the highway, eyeing dark, towering storms on either side and looking at mountains straight ahead. Although we rode in light rain most of the day, we somehow managed to avoid the worst of it. We passed through more than one town where, judging by the flooded side streets, we had just missed getting drenched.

Here= Montemorelos, a medium sized city on our way to Real de Catorce. We are tired and wet. Neither of us feel like hunting around for a cheap, decent place to stay. We are at the nice Hotel Monte Selerno (~$55)

290 miles today. Sorry, no pix from today's blitz.

Tomorrow, the fabled city of REAL DE CATORCE!


 

SpiritAtBay

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28sep, Th
Before leaving Matamorelos, I needed to exchange some money. For the first time, this proved to be a hassle. I went into two different banks that had the exchange rate posted in a window, only to be told ‘no’. Walked into a third one, the busiest yet, looked at the lines for the tellers and walked out. John was waiting with the bikes. As we stood by the bikes a couple approached. The young lady explained that her mother works in the bank I had just left. She (the mom) told her daughter that it looked like I might need some help and sent her daughter out to see if she could assist us. I explained. She said that yes, the bank would be happy to exchange my dollars. We thanked her but by that time, John and I were beyond ready to be on the road. I was touched that her mom had been that aware and caring to send her daughter out after us. And it helped gloss over the rude treatment I had received at one of the previous banks.

Today's track,(yellow line) 232miles
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As we headed toward Real de Catorce, John began to worry that we might arrive too late in the day to take the tunnel into the city. Nothing to do but to press on and try our luck.

I had heard so much about the 20 mile cobblestone road leading to the tunnel that when we finally reached the turn off, I was nervous. People, including John, had warned me about how rough the road is, about the turns it makes, about the speeding buses crowding you. Doubts filled my mind. What if I couldn’t handle my 500 plus pound steed on this road? It was getting dark already. What if we got to the tunnel only to find it closed and I had to ride all the way back down IN THE DARK? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I dropped the bike? What if what if what if….. ARGH! “Stop right there” I told myself, “you don’t know til you try.” A small part of my brain was surprised that this little mini-lecture seemed to work. A larger part of my brain told the smaller part to shut up and not question it.

We turned onto the road and I got my first glimpse of it, I said to myself, “Relax, this is going to be a piece of cake.” And it was. Yes, it was really bumpy and yes, the tires wandered around a good bit. But it wasn’t narrow. It isn’t steep and there were few buses but they weren’t obnoxious.

Best of all, when we got to the tunnel entrance, it was still open for business! Yay!


Real de Catorce, Ogarrio Tunnel Entrance
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There is a short wait while traffic from the city exits the tunnel. Then it is our turn. My equanimity evaporated when John's voice in my ear warns me the surface in the tunnel is "slicker than snot." It was dry and smooth and had not worried me at all until this announcement. Now I tensed up and slowed down, staring hard at the ground ahead of me. In the dim light it was hard to see much. After a few minutes I relaxed a little and dared to look around at the tunnel itself. Amazing thing. It goes for a little over a mile and even hangs a right turn in the middle.

After what seemed like an extraordinarily long time to be riding under a mountain, suddenly we popped out on the other side. The scene is chaotic, people on foot, donkey and horse carts, dogs, trucks, autos and motorbikes all moving in random directions in a muddy, open area. Am so glad John has been here before and knows his way. A tense and hair raising few minutes later and we are in front of our hotel, although we are not sure where to park the bikes, and even have difficulty getting off of them! The streets are narrow and steep and all are cobble stone, rough and uneven.

What an introduction to this amazing town!




Beautiful Real de Catorce!
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SpiritAtBay

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Backing up a bit. Want to include a bit about the ride to Real.


Left Montemorelos about 10am. Rode to Dr Arroyo. Exchanged some dollars there. Ate grilled chicken. (We were charged the gringo price.)

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Our route took us through piney mountains and picturesque villages. Blue skies and sunshine. Temps were cool, the mountain air bracing. Felt wonderful. We reached 8,100’ in elevation.

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SpiritAtBay

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Images from Real
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We hiked the steep, coblestoned streets, our shoes slipping on the still wet rocks. We gawked at the goods set up for sale. We gawked at the vendors, the children, the townspeople, the world weary back packers, the horses, the donkeys, the dogs. And sometimes folks gawked at us.



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The town was readying for an onslaught of the masses. Festival for St. Francis of Assisi would begin in just a couple of days. Temporary vendor stalls lined the streets. Tarps were strung up everywhere.




We hired a guide and horses and rode out of town and up the mountain to see the ruins of the silver mines
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Emilio, our guide
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SpiritAtBay

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Hey Mr. Queen! (How's that eye?)

Yeah, I wondered if there was a story behind that frog being there. Alas, Emilio's English was limited. And my Spanish nonexistent...
 
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Enjoyed the trip report and the pics from Real. Very cool!

Been there a few times by car but never on the motorcycle... it doesn't seem to have changed much in 20 years!
 

SpiritAtBay

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Our hotel in Real is the beautiful, quaint, rustic Las Ruinas de Real.

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Made famous in some circles because it hosted most of the cast for the movie, “The Mexican” (which just happens to be one of my all time favs.) Julia Roberts apparently left behind a tank top in her room. It is now framed and hanging in a place of honor in the hallway. (Sorry, we lost the pic of said top when I accidentally drowned JT’’s phone. Judging by the top, she is a tiny woman.)
The desk clerk showed us around a little and said he would show me Julia’s room tomorrow, if it were empty. Alas, we were out all day.

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Julia's top is hanging in this hallway.
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I enjoyed the hotel. What it lacked in creature comforts, it more than made up in atmosphere. (The mattress may as well have been plywood with a sheet thrown over it.) We stayed two nights in here.
 

SpiritAtBay

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The ADV Donkey

Our 2nd evening in Real, we chose a sit down restaurant. A chance conversation there revealed that the tunnel would close that night. The only traffic allowed through would be horse drawn carts ferrying pilgrims in and out of the city. We would not be able to ride out in the am as we had planned.

We hotfooted it back to the hotel and confirmed the tunnel closing with the clerk. He assured us we could find secure parking for the bikes on the other side and he could arrange transportation for all our gear in the morning. So, we rode out through the tunnel and paid to park the bikes in a quasi-secure area. While waiting to re-enter, I struck up a conversation with a friendly vendor and his daughter and they gave us a ride back through the tunnel. It was after midnight when we hit the plywood, still wondering just how we would get 4 heavy, bulky cases, our riding gear and ourselves to the tunnel in the morning.

Come morning, I went down to mime with the clerk (It’s always the same guy, no matter the time of day or night, I’m beginning to suspect he lives behind the counter.) Of all the things he says this morning, there is one word I understand, “ cabellero”. “Bueno” I tell him. I’m envisioning a cart or perhaps string of ponies carrying us and our all our gear to the tunnel entrance. (One for me, one for John and probably 2 for our luggage, and another for the vaquero, right?) 45 minutes later an older gentleman arrives leading one donkey and two ponies. “Ah,” I revise the scenario in my mind, “my pony will also carry my gear. Poor thing, but it’s probably been asked to do worse.” John’s cases are larger and heavier than mine. As though he is thinking the same thoughts, John says, “I’ll walk, me and the cases would be too much.” I agree and say I will walk too. But the gentleman vaquero has already decided how this will play out. He begins to load all 4 cases onto the donkey. John and the hotel clerk help and incredibly they quickly tie two cases on each side of the staggering donkey. (He didn’t really stagger.)

Without preamble, the old man sets off, leading his donkey. The two ponies follow of their own accord. John and I fall in, carrying our jackets and helmets. We pause at an open stabling area, leaving the two ponies to join some of their buddies and we carry on. Although John and I find the sight more than slightly ridiculous, we hardly garner second looks as we make our way through town. The donkey scraped a case on a parked car once but after that he seemed to gauge his load quite well.

The charge? 100pesos (~5usd). When I paid the gentleman, he gave us a blessing.



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SpiritAtBay

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The previous day wWhen we rode up to see the silver mine ruins, we noticed a Brahma bull grazing in a walled enclosure. Who would have guessed he has a side job.
I grabbed this pic while huffing and puffing behind the ADV donkey on our way to the tunnel.


My, what long horns you have!
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And here's his little buddy

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The staging area in front of the tunnel entrance. These are the carts that will ferry festival goers in and out of the city.

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SpiritAtBay

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Why do they close tunnel ? Is it traffic during the festival? Enjoying the adventure.

Precisely, there is absolutely no room for parking inside the city during the festival.

We knew of the festival but thought we would be gone before the crush began.
 

bwdmax

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Looks like a great trip.

I love the culture and the people of Mexico. The skills they posses to survive are often simple yet lost in our country today. The luggage tied to the saddle horn with one piece of rope is an example. In the U.S. we would have used ratchet straps or bungee cords, most young people here can't tie a knot or secure much with just a rope. I am not saying that technology is bad and I often take advantage of it, but it does good to remember it is not necessary. The carts for the people are functional and serve the purpose well. In the U.S. people would be complaining of how shabby and dirty they were, but all I see is smiles of anticipation for the festival.

Thanks for sharing with us.
 
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Who would have guessed that one would ever have to load one's cases on a donkey? This is truly an adventure ride!

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
 
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Great pictures, Gina. Just great pictures. They really capture the story.

As to the ADV donkey, hats off to him. As Kickstand-Prophet can testify, I can barely handle ONE set of panniers without misjudging my width and doing a fall-down-go-boom. :lol2:
 

SpiritAtBay

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Great pictures, Gina. Just great pictures. They really capture the story.

As to the ADV donkey, hats off to him. As Kickstand-Prophet can testify, I can barely handle ONE set of panniers without misjudging my width and doing a fall-down-go-boom. :lol2:
Don't feel bad Tim, JT and I each had to make two trips to get all our gear down to the street.
 

SpiritAtBay

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Our plans are very flexible and are prone to change on the fly. Each evening and again in the morning John sets up his laptop and studies maps and the gps and we decide on a destination and a course.

Invariably something happens to change it. The rain slows us or makes changing the destination advisable. Sometimes, though it is because things just take longer in Mexico!

In any case, we got an early start (for us and considering the mode of our departure) from Real. Today’s destination is Jalpan de Serra with the option of stopping over in Rioverde if we don‘t make it to Jalpan.

Things go smoothly albeit wetly and we arrive in Jalpan in the late afternoon. Both of us are in desperate need of clean clothes. John spotted a lavenderia as we came in to town so we bundle up our dirties and walk over to it. 65p/less than $5 to have 2 loads washed, dried and folded. The lady is obliging about having it ready by 8:30am. (Like we would be ready at that time--but hope springs eternal!)

After dropping off the laundry, we walk the wet streets to Senor Rapido’s food stall and once again enjoy his awesome gringas. Senor Rapido was popular with the rally crowd a couple of years back and for good reason; he whips up the food hot and delicious. It rains while we are eating and some of the vendors in this informal food court scramble to adjust tarps to shelter their diners.

Rain has dogged us off and on. When we leave Jalpan the next day, it is sprinkling. The sprinkles soon become heavy rain. The ride through the mountains to Pinal de Amoles, which I had been really looking forward to, becomes a slow, tense, slog. Heavy rain, fog, slick roads and the occasional diesel spill in the road keep our speeds down and we keep a sharp eye on our six o’clock for careless drivers charging up from behind.

Did stop for this waterfall.
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Pano of the hairpin turn. What's John doing on the other side of that wall?
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With the rain unrelenting, there is no reason to linger in Pinal de Amoles. It’s a big disappointment for me, Pinal is a lovely little town and I was really looking forward to exploring it. We visited this town in 2015, the weather was perfect then but we were rushed for time. Now we have the time, but…

We continue west to Zimapan. We arrive in late afternoon and it is not raining! We choose the Hotel Central, right on the square, a lovely old building. As we unload, Andean flute music permeates the air, lending a surreal atmosphere.

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The town appears to be preparing for a holiday or a festival. We wander around, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds and, frankly, the lack of rain.


Anybody know more about the offset window in this church?
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Love it!
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The flute players are set up off to one side and we stand and enjoy the music for a while.

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Little girl enjoying the music

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I purchase a tiny llama keychain for a friend.
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