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The Wild Bunch In The Remote Backcountry of Mexico's Sierra Gorda

Joined
Jul 2, 2007
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Austin
So in Ejidio San Francisco we turned around. About face.
Now we had to backtrack some miles to reach more established roads.
The terrain and ecosystems in Mexico are incredible.

Headed down to the hot lowlands
Looking west. Tula is somewhere in the haze to the right, or north.

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The desert
We were truly blessed with good weather on this trip.
This part of the country can be suffocatingly hot most of the time

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I remember this
I was here with Rich several years ago.

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Joined
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Reality check
Once on pavement it was time for the inevitable reality check.
Where are we, where are we going, and what time is it?

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Day 3 - Good roads



Aquismon was muy caliente. Hot. Burning. Blistering. You get the picture. It's at 500 ft elevation and it was baking when we arrived at the end of day 2. We all got rooms with air conditioners but they weren't particularly effective. The hotel doesn't run the air conditioners at all to pre-cool the rooms so my room must have been 100 degrees when I first walked in. I turned on the AC, got out of my riding suit, took a cold shower, and then, after getting dressed, headed outside where it was cooler. Yep, it was cooler sitting outside than in our rooms with the AC on full blast. i had one of the better ACs and it took hours for my room to cool down enough so that I didn't sweat just from being in the room. Finally, about 1:30am, it cooled off enough in my room that I could lay under the sheets instead of on top of them. The lesson from this experience - pick a hotel with a better air conditioner (better option) or stay in towns at higher elevations (best option).

On Monday morning we had a decision to make. Our plan was to stay in a different town every night but Milton was in no shape to ride with his bad elbow. Do we leave him behind and continue on with our tour? Or do we adjust our schedule and come back to Aquismon each night until he can ride again?

We finally decided that we would do a day ride today and re-evaluate the situation tomorrow morning. It seemed clear Milton's arm wasn't broken and, with any luck, he might be able to ride tomorrow. So we studied the maps and came up with a modified route that included most of the stuff we had planned to ride that day but had us returning to Aquismon that evening.

We also moved to a new hotel, the "Hotel La Mansion" because it had noticeably better air conditioning. It wasn't really a mansion but it seemed like one in comparison to the other place. See the sign "banos y regaderas" painted on the wall? It is advertising that they have toilets and showers. Two options that are always a good choice, don't you agree? If you are in Aquismon, this is the better choice of the two.


The normal morning ritual unfolded as expected. Wake up at 6am. Search for coffee while taking pictures of stuff. Yes, that's a picture of a couple of young'uns riding their horses into town. It's very common to see horses being ridden in town. You get used to it pretty quickly and forget that seeing horses being ridden in town is not a normal thing in most American cities.


Walk around looking for a restaurant for breakfast while taking pictures of stuff. Then eat while looking at the maps and occasionally taking pictures of stuff.


Finally, figure out the day's route in between taking pictures of stuff.


Our plan for the day was to cross the mountains west of Aquismon passing by the Cave of the Swallows. From there we would take a dirt road almost to the city of Jalpan. Finally, we would ride the exquisite Hwy 120 east back to Aquismon, stopping at Edward James' Las Posas on the way.

With our route finalized we headed back to the hotel to pack the bikes and kiss Milton goodbye. :mrgreen: Adventure is waiting.
 
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SpiritAtBay

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Yay! Great read.

It was interesting, following TricePilot's not-Spot satellite tracker thing.

The bee line late in the day to Aquismon. Then hearing via FB about Milton's mishap. Then seeing yall leave Aquismon the next day. ("What are they doing? Is Milton riding? Surely not. Did they leave him? Will they return to the same city today?) Watching the day's loop route slowly unfold, the return to Aqui. A text from JT 'splaining the new plan...

It was great, following along, saying things like, 'They must be on a good dirt road, speed is 40-something.'
'The going must be tough, they've slowed way down.'
'Oh, they're having to back-track.'
'Look at the twists and turns this paved road makes, 64mph. wow!'

Thanks for sharing your journey, and making it possible for others to "armchair adventure."
 
Joined
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Location
Austin
Reality check
Once on pavement it was time for the inevitable reality check.
Where are we, where are we going, and what time is it?

150524_176-XL.jpg
Yeah so during this map check I made the comment that at one point we would be crossing a main hwy and at that point we’d be 15 min from Ciudad Valles where there was a first class motel. I mentioned this, as a bail out option.
I don’t want to go to Valles was JT’s reply. I want to stick to the plan.
So the pavement to El Naranjo was full of wonderful twisties much of the time under trees with turquoise waters flowing along side the road.
I’m loving it but I’m 67 and I need to rest more than these young'uns I’m riding with.
I pull off to at a pop stand to have a refresco.
“El Naranjo is just up ahead, we'll stop for gas there”, Rich says.
I know it is, I don’t want to wait. I’ll be right along.
(I like riding these twisties by myself anyway.)

So in El Naranjo the gang’s all waiting at the Pemex and Rich informs me that since I don’t want to ride anymore dirt --- “What? I didn’t say that.”
“Well Bob doesn’t have a headlight so you go with Bob on pavement to Aquismon so he can get there before dark. We’ll get there by dirt.“
My mind sees Hwy 85, aka the Pan American Hwy, between Valles and Aquismon as heavily congested and full of twisties.
Humph. Ok. One for the team.
Now I’ve been broke down in El Naranjo with a bad Harley transmission some years ago. I was stranded there for some 10 days before I could arrange transport back to Reynosa. I spent my time seeing everything in the vicinity so I knew all these roads pretty well. At least the paved ones.

So off we go, Bob & I, racing thru cane fields on two lane blacktop with an eye towards the golden sun lowering to the West.
Soon we are on Hwy 85. There have been many improvements since my last pass thru here, but it’s still congested.

Milton's little get-off
8:00 pm 10 km from the Aquismon cut-off it began to sprinkle, then rain. no glasses or goggles I'm holding my left hand to my face peering thru the fingers. And I'm thinking,.... one of Dan Rosen's group went down on this same stretch of treacherous hwy, under similar conditions "and here I am".
The bike slips right out from under me and as I go down I'm thinking "and here I go".
Up ahead the bike does the slo-mo sliding spin amid sparks and sickening Uuuughhh of metal scraping against concrete.
Just like in the videos my gloved hands rest on the pavement wait for the slide to end.
I check the road behind me, I’m lying on the pavement. The car behind has pulled off to the shoulder. Bob is up ahead dismounting.
None of my clothes are torn. The bike is intact! Nothing even bent. I get up, pat myself down and ride into Aquismon. Totally snakebit.

Rich and the rest of the group pull up behind us. So much for the dirt, I guess. Oh wait, I crashed.
We look over the hotel by the plaza. My seasoned eye is telling me “Dump”. The desk guy is a crippled night watchman type and I can’t communicate with him.
I’m feeling discomfort on my forearm like an abrasion.
Its night time, hot, sweaty and confusing. And I think shock is beginning to settle in.
I remove my jacket to see one heck is a hematoma on my forearm. It's huge. About the size of half a small watermelon. Sucks!

I bail on the hotel. Go down the street where the rooms are refrigerated.
Now its raining. This hotel doesn’t have covered parking.
The woman at the desk orders the boys hanging around to move my bike and cover it with plastic.
Then she drives me to the free clinic in town, that would be the only clinic in town, where giggling nurses, one with a lollipop hanging from her mouth, put a hard splint on my arm.
As goofy as it looked my arm felt better supported like that. Besides, it gave me street creds.
Back to my room I take a much needed Vicodin and relax.

I’m instructed to return to the clinic in the morning, Bob shows up at my room bright and early with a taxista that he has befriended but the lady who does the X-rays is on vacation, I must go to Valles. Well screw that. I'm having breakfast.
 
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Joined
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The posse​


The next morning the boys wisely decided to change hotels. Then suited up for a day ride.
I stayed home and slept. Walked around town. Back to the room drenched in sweat.
Found lunch. Bought a belt. Back to the room drenched in sweat.
Don't remember much of Day3
Musta slept a lot.
 
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Joined
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Austin
That night after the guys returned from their day ride and after dinner, Richard and I carefully removed my splint.
There was full function and mobility of fingers, wrist, and elbow.
Apparently no fractures. Well that's a relief. Just a huge hematoma.
The question was, "Would I be able to ride?" Tomorrow.
Tomorrow seemed too soon. Rich and I talked of splitting up for a while.
I would ride as was appropriate. Feeling sure I could catch them somewhere down the trail.

After a shower I replaced the splint.

Red,bruised and swollen but not broken
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Vinny

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It will look rough for a while but you'll be fine.

JT is the common denominator on both our trips.
 

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Day 3 - Good roads

With a goodbye wave to Milton, we headed out.



We rode west across a pretty valley and then turned north and started climbing the mountain. Near the top is the Cave of Swallows, which at 1214 feet deep, is the largest known cave shaft in the world. It's so big that you could fit a skyscraper in it. A youtube search will reveal guys base jumping into the pit.


Our goal during this was primarily road exploration so we elected to not spend riding touring the cave. It will have to wait for another visit to the area. We settled for a 15 minute break to admire the scenery from the top of the mountain.


Our maps indicated that the road was dirt from here all the way southwest across the mountains. Having looked at the terrain closely on Google Earth I was anticipating that this would be a really excellent dirt road. But, alas, the road has been entirely paved.


The road was a fun ride but, candidly, was a bit of a letdown for me because I was ready to ride more dirt. We hadn't ridden any dirt on day 1 and though we found some excellent dirt on day 2 it wasn't enough for me. Oh well, these things happen when you are exploring new territory.

On the western edge of this particular set of mountains we encountered a fantastic panoramic view to the west and of the road switch-backing down to the valley below.


The next road on our list to explore was also shown on the map to be dirt. And, sure enough, that's exactly what it was. Not only that, it turned out to be particularly good riding. The first section was wide, well groomed, and nothing special. But as we road west, the road got better and better.


Imagine the amount of manual labor that went into building these two stone walls.



How did we feel about this fine road? Scott is giving you the answer in this picture. This section of riding definitely makes the "recommended" list.





There isn't a lot of flat ground in this area of Mexico. So the locals build there houses wherever they can, which means they build them on the sides of mountains. We routinely encountered small villages and towns as we road, many looking a lot like this.



 
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Re: Day 3 - Good roads

Near the top is the Cave of Swallows, which at 1214 feet deep, is the largest known cave shaft in the world. It's so big that you could fit a skyscraper in it.
Actually, you could drop the Empire State Building into it. Bell shaped, as big as the Astrodome on the bottom, as deep as the Empire State Building is tall.
 
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Joined
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Re: Day 3 - Good roads

So which is the paved and which is the dirt you found on this (or any) map?
The red highlighted section is all pavement now. It's a nice road that runs mostly through a valley as it makes its way southwest to the main highway (the gold/yellow roads on the map are major highways). As it nears the main highway it climbs up and over the mountains, providing the fine views I posted earlier.



The black section is all dirt. We were riding from east to west (toward Jalpan). You can see that we originally rode north and then backtracked. We were trying to loop west across the mountains but the road to the west has been abandoned and was not passable. Hence the reason we backtracked and took the road west shown on the map. It was a very good road. :clap:
 
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All too soon (for me) we were back on Hwy 120 and riding west toward Jalpan, a city of 9000 located in the heart of the Sierra Gorda. At 4000 or so feet in elevation it was noticeably less hot than the temps back in Aquismon.

In the mid-1700s a Franciscan friar named Junípero Serra built 5 missions in the area, one of which is in Jalpan. According to Wikipedia, " The mission in Jalpan was constructed between 1751 and 1758 and dedicated to Saint James the Greater, as defender of the faith." Since we were in town, it made sense to visit.



The detail is amazing. All the more so knowing it was built 250 years ago without any modern construction equipment.



It was haircut day and all the trees in the courtyard were getting a trim.



One more artsy shot



After a fine lunch in the Mission Hotel restaurant (coincidentally the Mission Hotel is directly across the street from Mission Jalpan - how convenient) we hung out on the square watching the ebb and flow of humanity and taking a few pictures.

This nice lady showed up and gave us all a flyer for the Serendipity Spa. I have no plans to go there but if I ever bring Mrs. Trail Boss to Jalpan I would certainly pay for her to enjoy a day of beauty at the spa.
 
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Day 3 - Good roads

Our plan for the afternoon included riding Hwy 120 east to Xilitla for a visit to Edward James' Las Pozas and then back to Aquismon for the evening.

Before we start discussing the madness of Edward James, lets talk about Hwy 120. Gents, I'm here to tell you that Hwy 120 is an amazing road. Exceptional. Superb. It's worth riding all the way to this part of Mexico just to spend time on this road. It's as good or better than any road you've ever ridden. Really.


The map doesn't do the road justice - the road isn't as straight as the map indicates. In fact, there aren't many straight sections of road at all. It's just curve after curve after curve for hours. We ended up riding Hwy 120 three times during this trip, though not all the same sections. As much as I like riding dirt I also like riding good pavement too. This road qualifies.

So, after a couple of hours of pretending to be road racers we finally arrived in Xilitla (He Lit La) for a visit to Las Posas.


According to Wikipedia, "Las Pozas ("the Pools"), near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, more than 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico, is a garden created by James. It includes more than 80 acres of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering Surrealist sculptures in concrete. Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls. Construction of Las Pozas cost more than $5 million."

It was 5:45pm when we arrived and the site closed at 6pm but they told us we would have more than 15 minutes. The closing time appears to mean they don't let anyone in after 6pm but don't run anyone out who is in before 6pm. There certainly wasn't anyone rushing us out after 6pm.



We spoke with a young lady from Canada (I think that's where she said she was from) that was really impressed with this place. When asked her how long she had been there she replied "a week". As a point of comparison we spent about 40 minutes here and that was plenty for me. Surrealism isn't my thing, but I did like all the water falls and would have liked to have gone swimming.








I found it very difficult to photographically capture the essence of the place so after a few tries I gave up. You'll just have to go and see if for yourself.

A short time later we were back on the road to Aquismon and the end of day 3. The riding tally for the day was a superb dirt road and an exceptional paved highway.
 
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Joined
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Re: Day 3 - Good roads

According to Wikipedia, "Las Pozas ("the Pools"), near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, more than 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico, is a garden created by James. It includes more than 80 acres of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering Surrealist sculptures in concrete. Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls. Construction of Las Pozas cost more than $5 million."
The story I heard was that Ed James was contemporaries and buddies with Salvador Dali, and tried to re-create in architecture what Dali had done with oil and canvas.
 
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Edward James' Las Pozas

The Pools


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I'm pretty happy with this capture. I used a Canon G15 (handheld) at the main lower pool.

I've been here quite a few times, so this time I didn't even bother going into the main part (concrete fantasy land) of the site. I just was content with walking along the "left" side of the site, along the river falls, and the pools.

Be sure to check it out:

fondo xilitla

 
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The%20Wild%20Bunch%202015%20094-L.jpg


Our "Geddy Lee" of The Wild Bunch, Scott Stingray, bass player exquisite, in front of the main falls area at Las Pozas. A bunch of you might have been to this same spot, deep in the Huasteca, off Mx 120 and just south of Aquismón.
 
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The%20Wild%20Bunch%202015%20091-L.jpg


Copy this plan. Your move is to get into position actually on the falls by climbing behind the first flume. Then, your buds get into the pool for the money shot.

We had no such balls.


:lol3
 
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The%20Wild%20Bunch%202015%20101-L.jpg


I have a similar shot as Rich does.

This little kid climbed the jungle wall up to a rock precipice, way above the walkway, and leaped with (minimal) trepidation into the water. Off all people, her dad egged her on. It was quite the jump, but the slick, slime covered rocks and algae encrusted steps should have been the warning sign.

Fun to think this happens every day at Las Pozas.
 
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The%20Wild%20Bunch%202015%20078-L.jpg


Junípero Serra

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"Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988 and Pope Francis expects to canonize him in September 2015 during his first visit to the United States"

Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro

"The five missions are: Santiago de Jalpan and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol in the municipality of Jalpan, Santa María del Agua de Landa and San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco in Landa, and San Miguel Concá in Arroyo Seco."

If you're going to ride the region, you will need to understand and appreciate Father Junípero Serra and make it a point to add to your bucket list all five missions in the area. I still have a couple to check off.

Then discover why this man from Mallorca, Spain, came to Mexico, then to California, and why he is to be canonized by the Pope himself this year.


 
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damper-M.jpg


All the good looking riders (that includes me since I'm the author of this post) on this adventure had this piece of kit.

You DO NOT want to be without this piece of kit in sand, silt, rocks, baby heads, and in deep(ish) water crossings.

I don't care if you fail to keep your HVAC system up and running for your pregnant wife and 2 year old twins, you MUST get a Scotts Damper.
 
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Looking for "The Hole" ???

Hole-L.jpg


Here it is:

21°35'57.0"N 99°06'09.0"W
21.599167, -99.102500[/COLOR]

LINK

LINK

We stopped at the roadside parking area, but didn't have time to make the hike since we were exploring roads in the area.

Milton, Jimmex, and others have been to the site and made the hike down AND BACK UP to the parking area.

No worries, Trail Boss and I are going back in April 2016, and little does he know, we're not just going to the location, we're rappelling to the bottom with Stuntman Jeff.
 
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RIMG0071-L.jpg


So close (CeeBee and Trail Boss at the parking area of Sotano) yet so far. We had roads to do that day. But we're gong back. Richard promised me.
 
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That was Richard's "I love you" message to his fan base

CeeBee is saying "If we're not jumping into the Sotano, let's get on out of here..."

:lol2:
 
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While lurking around the E32 mapset website, Cartografía GPS, I stumbled upon this little gem of a link:

E32%20three-M.jpg


Find it on their landing page (link above) and click on it. It leads to a long and intriguing list of free track downloads of different, and interesting, routes in Mexico. Some of these can be combined, either simply while out riding (riding successive, separate .gpx tracked files in succession) or via actually combining these tracks in Basecamp.

Here's what a typical thumbnail preview looks like.

E32%20one-M.jpg
 
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Then discover why this man from Mallorca, Spain, came to Mexico, then to California, and why he is to be canonized by the Pope himself this year.

Keep in mind that this dude walked from Veracruz to Mexico City. And from the Sierra Gorda, when he was sent to California? He WALKED.
 
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In the mid-1700s a Franciscan friar named Junípero Serra built 5 missions in the area, one of which is in Jalpan. According to Wikipedia, " The mission in Jalpan was constructed between 1751 and 1758
Wow ! I can smell a 5 missions trail trip in the future. That building is beautiful. The others must be amazing too.
 
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Day 4 - It keeps getting better

On Tuesday morning, day 4, Milton's arm was doing a little better. He could bend the elbow, the arm didn't hurt too bad and actually seemed okay without wearing the splint. So the decision was he would ride with us for a ways and see how the arm held up. Unfortunately, Milton's bike wasn't happy and refused to co-operate. The large puddle of gasoline beneath the bike alerted us that there was a problem.



In a remarkable show of DRZ Solidarity, JT's DRZ join in the protest with it's own puddle of gasoline.



Hmmm, the two DRZs in the group leaking fuel from their carbs? What are the odds? The guys theorized that it was aged O rings in both their gas tank petcocks and carburetor float bowls and the lack of Ethanol in Mexican gasoline that was at the heart of this mystery. As I understand it, ethanol makes o rings swell more than pure gasoline. Neither JT or Milton had new O rings in their carbs and, perhaps, they weren't as pliable as new ones. So, with no ethanol in the fuel, the o rings in both the petcocks and the carburetors shrunk and lack of pliability prevented them from then being able to maintain a tight seal. The petcock o ring allowed gas to leak down from the gas tank into the carb. The float seal in the carb was not able to seal and stop the the flow of fuel and, viola, gas was running out of the carb overflow tube and, in Milton's case, filling up his cylinder with fuel and hydro-locking it (as it did back in Tula).

The short term solution was to pinch the fuel line from the gas tank to the carb whenever the bike wasn't running. JT had a couple of hemostats in his tool bag for just such a use.

Unfortunately, Milton's bike was hydro-locked again. It wasn't a hard problem to solve but it would take time. Milton had the tools and know-how to solve the problem so the decision was made for the group to head out and for Milton to catch up to us later in the day once his bike was working again.

We suited up, waved good-bye to Milton, and rode out of town, unaware that fate had different plans for us and that we wouldn't see Milton again for three days.

Our plan for the day was to ride west to a small town called Agua Zarca and then search for a dirt road that would take us to the town of Pisaflores. The dirt road we were looking for was one of those roads that we weren't entirely sure actually existed. It was shown on two of our maps but not shown on the other two. Of course, there was only one way to find out if it actually existed so off we went.
 
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