MotoAventuras New Year's Meeting - Valle de Bravo, Mexico
I step off the train,
I'm walking down your street again,
and past your door,
but you don't live there anymore.
It's years since you've been there.
Now you've disappeared somewhere
like outer space,
you've found some better place,
and I miss you like the deserts miss the rain.
Back in the days I used to drive to Albuquerque to see Lizbeth, this was playing on the radio often (it had just been released, and it was popular...:deal). I love driving/riding in the southwest desert, and often Missing gets stuck in my mind as I drive through it. It was playing in my mind (OK, I admit I was singing too. Luckily, the drivers around me couldn't hear me, so nobody was harmed in the process of keeping myself entertained on the road :lol3) as I was heading east from Palm Springs, having gone past the large wind turbine farms, suddenly the floor drops, and the wide open spaces of the SW desert are spread in front of me. The sun was getting low, the desert had these beautiful golden brown colors. I was not missing the rain... :nod
Hey, dude. You're hyped right now. :D
Where are you ahorrita?
Portland to Phoenix
Backtrack one day. Itís Saturday morning and Iím headed out to Phoenix for a work trip that I am about to combine with a trip to Mexico to see my MotoAventuras buddies. I have been watching the forecast every day for the last two weeks. Will the Siskiyou Pass be passable by motorcycle or will I have to ride down the coast? Two weeks ago, it would have been the coast, and maybe not even that. It has been dry for a couple of days, it started raining today, but itís warm enough not to snow in southern Oregon today. Straight down I-5 I go.
Ready to leave Portland:
It wasn't that bad, surprisingly. It rained a bit, but nothing heavy and there was light traffic on Saturday morning.
Still a bit wet on I-5 south of Salem:
As I get to Roseburg, the skies clear up, and the ride through the pass seems like it's going to be a piece of cake.
Going up Siskiyou Pass:
There was almost no snow at the Siskiyou summit. Very surprising, but I wasnít complaining, that section of I-5 is much more fun than any highway has the right to be.
Where is the snow? :huh
Compare to last year :eek1:
Then I start to descend into CA and the skies look thick and black. I was hoping this would be the case only until I got past Mt. Shasta.
Looking into CA :bluduh:
No such luck. There was a short break around Redding and then the skies opened up... As I was approaching Sacramento, the rain was coming sideways, it was gusty and the spray from other cars and trucks around me made it difficult to see the road.
Just when I was thinking it couldnít get any worse, I see the tach going nuts. At first I thought the engine had a problem, but it was quickly apparent that it was just the tach, not the engine. I guessed something got wet and it's shorting out. What I didn't think was that soon thereafter, all my instruments will short out too... :eek1 So, I'm now around Stockton, my instrument panel is dead, it's pouring rain and I canít see a place to pull over to look at this. Well, I know I can make it to Tracy on the gas I have, the bike is running fine, no reason to stop and get any wetter than I already am :deal. Push on to Tracy.
Motel 6 doesnít have covered parking or private garages (boy, am I disappointed :evil). Should I try to identify the source of the short in the rain? No, I donít itís a good idea. Knowing how fast you are going is way overrated :lol3. Knowing when to stop for gas, OTOH, could be useful. Did I mention that the instrument panel is dead, i.e. I canít see the odometers or the fuel gauge? This could be a problem. :scratch
Well, it could have been, but knowing how far the V-Strom can go on a tank of gas, I just highlight on my map stops at ~150 mile intervals (to be on the safe side, strong winds and fast CA traffic will decrease the range). Sunday morning dawns with just as much rain and wind as Saturday. The local forecasts donít give me too much hope either :waysad. The only place where itís not raining in their forecast is south of LA...
Both in Oregon and NorCal, where the weather was not SW-like, and I know it's not scientific or statistically significant, the only other bikes I saw on the road were Harleys. Say what you will about Harley riders, but not all of them are RUB posers. :deal
There's something wrong here...:scratch
Did I mention Californians drive fast? :evil I pick rabbits to pace and help me keep out of trouble (I really donít need an HPDA), but by the sound of the engine, they are not going the speed limit. :lol3 I have to let a couple go, as I am not willing to risk that HPDA. :deal It must have been entertaining, because before I knew it, I was climbing into LA. And the forecast was right. I could see the blue skies on the other side of Tejon Pass. :clap I was so excited to see clear skies I stopped at the pass to enjoy the sun while I had a snack.
Finally, some blue skies...
I did the usual loop around LA through Pasadena, and as seems to be the case every time I am in LA, I got buzzed by a CHP moto cop. I saw him coming in the HOV lane to my left, next time I look in the mirror, he is behind me, and closing fast. He must have been going 90 (65 MPH zone, mind you :deal) when he went by. Traffic was heavy for a weekend, but not anything like you see there on a weekday, so I quickly made my way out of LA and east towards Indio.
Wind turbines near Palm Springs:
And there I was, looking at this beautiful, wide open, golden brown desert, thinking to myself it was worth it. After those long miles of putting up with cold and rain and suddenly here I was singing in my helmet - like the deserts miss the rain Ė even though I wasnít missing it at all...
and I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain...
How about you? Still wandering around Mexico?
I thought your sorry ass was still down this way....:dunno
Don't I wish...
How far are you planning on going this trip?
My sorry ass had to get back to work. :(: I think that I was on may way back when you started your trip. I need to go pick up my bike in March, so another mini-trip then.
I spent the week in Phoenix for work, not much to report on other than long meetings.
I havenít figured out what was the cause of the short in the instrument panel, but it does look like it's the panel that bit it. I was going to get a bicycle computer to replace it, but couldn't find anybody that was willing to splice 18" of extra wire on one to make it reach it's location on the bike. I tried several electrical and computer repair places, and nobody would even look at it. "Sorry, we don't do that kind of work" What kind of work do they do? :scratch Are people that afraid of liability that they wont take on simple job like that? :dunno You'd think that a guy that repairs computers and I can see has a soldering iron on his bench could do this in less than 10 minutes. I wasnít asking for favors, I made it clear that I was willing to pay for his time, but heíd still rather surf the web (thatís what he was doing when I walked in to that shop) than try to do it.
I posted on the West regional forum, and got some great offers to use grange space of several gracious inmates that live in the area. Many thanks again to all that replied to my post about that. :thumb
Luckily, I can always count on my friends to bail me out. I was talking to Tony and he offered to buy one, splice the extra wire and is mailing it to me tomorrow. On Friday I get back on the road towards NM, where I am going to pick up my new bicycle computer. I think I owe him big. :bow
Phoenix to Las Cruces
After a hard week at work :knary, it was time to hit the road again :ricky. On a beautiful Friday just before noon, I get on the bike and continue the trip south. It's warm enough to only wear a long sleeve shirt under the 'Stich. After the previous days' ride getting to Phoenix, I have a hard time believing I wont be cold, but as the miles accumulate, it seems I made the right decision. Welcome to the southwest. :wings
Traffic south of Phoenix on I-10 is incredibly heavy. I am guessing it's not moving at more than 55 and sometimes even slower. A bad combination of 18 wheelers and paisanos making their way south and blocking traffic from making progress. "Paisanos" is what Mexicans call the Mexican ex-pats returning to visit (and most typically go back for the holidays). You often see then caravaning, 2-5 cars/trucks heavily loaded, bringing back everything and the kitchen sink. :eek1
Back to the paisanos. For reasons I don’t fully understand :dunno, they tend to drive in tight formations (no one ever heard of safe following distances here), typically well under the speed limit (on I-10 in AZ where the speed limit is 75 - and effective speed is actually quite a bit higher than that - these caravans were going about 55) and unfortunately, almost always in the left lane. Now imagine one of these caravans trying to pass an 18 wheeler going, oh, 1 MPH slower then they are. No wonder traffic wasn’t moving going south. But, if you drive as if you were in a RHD country, there is always a passing lane available. :evil
I finally manage to find some clear road and start making progress. It's a still a beautiful day, and I can't help but enjoy the ride. When I stop to get gas in Benson, AZ, the road to Tombstone is calling my name. Never been to Tombstone, this is the day to go check it out. The road is OK, I was hoping for a bit more entertainment, but certainly better than an interstate.
Tombstone was a bit of a disappointment (Wyatt Earp wasn’t there to greet me :lol3). Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a tourist trap today.
Not much trading going on today:
It's not obvious from the picture, but these two gents were ready for a gunfight of their own...
Bird out of the cage :D:
I continue on to Bisbee, the road will take me over Mule Pass. Finally some curves.
Curves? Not yet:
...like the deserts miss the rain...
Not quite as steep or twisty as I expected:
Unfortunately, they decided to put a tunnel instead of going over the mountain, so the curves didn't last long.
You go through the tunnel and you are in the great metropolis of Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee is also the name of a huge copper mine on the east end of town, you can see much of the open pit mine as you drive AZ-80 towards Douglas. Douglas is a border town, and if you weren’t paying attention, you couldn’t tell when you are downtown on which side of the border you were :cromag. I followed the main downtown street all the way to the border. It's strange, you run into a dead end and a fence, but the street seems to continue on the other side of the fence. Only the Border Patrol truck parked by the fence clues you in to the fact that this is an international border.
After that short detour, I got back on the highway and started making time. I calculated that I could have made the whole loop from Benson back to Lordsburg, NM on a single tank, but as I was making my way NE from Douglas I started second guessing my estimate. Not sure why, but I decided to stop and fill up before I got back on I-10. I found gas in Rodeo, NM.
Rodeo, NM. Yes, this is IT:
A few miles after Rodeo I see a sign for New Mexico Hwy 9. NM-9 runs more or less parallel to the border, and it’s a shortcut to Deming, NM. I figured there would be almost no traffic, so it’s probably as fast as using I-10. Turned out to be much faster :evil and it had some nice curvy sections (everything is relative) for entertainment value. :ricky
NM highway 9:
As I was getting to Deming, the sun was disappearing fast and the temperatures dropping even faster. It was getting really cold really fast :vardy. I went from thin long-sleeve shirt to long-sleeve shirt, heated jacket, fleece and Heat-Troller cranked way up in one gas stop. Welcome to the SW. Hey, at least it wasn't raining. :D
Which reminds me. Yes, I spent most of the day singing - and I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain...
P.S. tell us more about the ride.
Two months next winter? Man, that's going to be tough. I'll have to think about how I manage that... :scratch
It turned out that most of my friends were not in town that weekend (hey barko1 :wave), so I used the time to see some family and visit Mesilla.
Mesilla used to be the county seat of Arizona and New Mexico territories. It has an old historic center that has been going to waste for years. It has the potential to be a really interesting attraction for tourists ($$$) if they were a little more flexible, sort of like a nice Mexican town in the US...
This used to be the courthouse where they tried Billy the Kid:
I love this section of Hwy 28 where it goes through the pecan farms:
And it was time to finally get south of the border.
Las Cruces to Chihuahua
As usual, I left really late, and I started to worry that this would be a problem at the Mexican border.
As I was making my way to Mexico, I saw this sign and I wasn't sure Emily, Martie or Natalie would agree :evil:
I usually cross at the Santa Teressa-Jeronimo border, as it's a lot more convinient than going through Juarez (plus it avoids the city traffic completely by taking the cuota bypass). The parking lot was rather full on the Mexican side of the border, but it didn't take that long to get the tourist visa and even less time to get the bike registered for temporary import into Mexico. I am not sure if this is a universal change, but they asked for my driver's license to give me the FM-T form. Not clear to me what the concern is, that you'll run off with a form that doesn't have the stamp on it? :dunno Anyway, it was quick, and the ITV (temporary vehicle import - Spanish) permit even quicker. On a side note, I had made copies of everything - passport, driver's license, registration and title (just in case) - in advance. The only thing I needed a copy of was the FM-T form (hard to make a copy of that in advance :deal) but there was no line at the photo copier (cheaper than last year, but still a rip-off at $0.50/copy) so it took practically no extra time.
In less than 30 minutes I was blasting south on the Pan American highway.
Finally, a working trip meter - Thanks Tony! :clap:
Sand dunes of Samalayuca:
Given the time, I figured I'll bite the bullet and take the toll road, at least to Sacramento. Actually, riding the cuota roads in Chihuahua often makes a lot of sense. The distances are significant, the alternatives usually longer, much slower and the State of Chihuahua is enlightened enough to charge motorcycles half the rate cars pay :thumb. This is not the case in the rest of the cuota highways, and a source of an intensifying battle between Mexican motorcycle assosiations and the government. Made a pit stop in El Sueco, the sun was shining, it was a very pleasent day to ride.
I took the libre section that bypasses the Sacramento toll plaza. It's a really nice (and twisty :clap) section of road that is a very welcome change from the mostly straight highway from Juarez. I got to Chihuahua just in time to go to dinner with friends.
The weather forecast for the rest of the week looked very questionable, especially for the Sierra, so I decided that there is no point in waiting, and went for a day ride to check a road I had not been on in a long time. On Outer Darkness Lone Rider said he heard it had been paved (it was dirt last time I rode there), so I figured it was time to verify the road condition (the stuff I put myself through for you guys... :lol3). The fact that this road starts at the Basaseachic falls didn't hurt, as the section between La Junta and Basaseachic is a fantastic motorcycle road (actually, Mex16 is a fantastic road all the way to San Nicolas, some 120 miles further west from Basaseachic). I left Chihuahua around 9 and it was still chilly. It only got chillier as I climbed up into the mountains. Good thing I had brought a fleece in addition to the heated jacket.
I went through Cuauhtemoc, the sun was shining, but it was still cold. After La Junta (or more precisely, after the Creel turnoff) the road starts to get very interesting. It's about 110 kms from that intersection to Basaseachic and it keeps you busy the whole time with just about every combination of curves you can think off (and some you can't :eek1). A lot of tight curves with varying pavement quality and it makes for slow progress, especially when compared to what you get used to before you get to La Junta.
I love the Sierra Tarahumara:
You go through several smaller towns along the way, and you can basically count on have a warm and excited receptions from all the kids you see on your way.
Before I knew it, I was in Basaseachic. If you are wandering how to spot that turnoff, it's where the army checkpoint is.
The road from Basaseachic to San Juanito is about 60 miles and it is definitely not paved.
This is the road I was going to explore, on the Basaseachic side:
This is a picture for my friends in the PNWet. That blue thing above me is called "sky" :evil:
I'm not sure these guys get a lot of business at this location:
Not only is it not paved, in some sections it caused me to wander if the Givi top case would still be there next time I looked in the mirror. Of course, those sections usually came right after a nice and smooth one in which you pick up the speed to something that way out of line with the bumpy and rocky sections. If you are riding something like an XR/DRZ, it would probably go un-noticed, their suspension would just eat that stuff up, plus, you more than likely don't have any detachable hard luggage to worry about.
This is one of the better sections:
There was little traffic, but once in a while I'd run across a truck coming the other way whose driver seemed to be practicing for next year's Baja race :eek1. I managed to avoid becoming a hood ornament on those trucks. Some drivers were a lot more considerate, moving over and slowing down a bit to reduce the amount of dust they kicked up as they went by.
The road follows this valley for quite a while, fantastic scenery:
Then it starts climbing up into the mountains:
The Copper Canyon is on the other side of that ridge:
It turns out that there is some construction going on on the San Juanito end, but it looked like they were re-grading the dirt, not preparing it for paving.
As I was getting gas in San Juanito, there was a small group of kids that was very interested in the bike. But they wouldn't come close or talk to me. They just stood there, hiding behind a column and stared, fascinated, at the bike and the guy with the astronaut suit (you see very few people riding in full gear in Mexico).
Bikes always attract kids, even when they are very shy:
Unfortunately, those 60 miles took a little over 2 hours, which meant I was running out of daylight (and nice temps) when I got to San Juanito. I decided against going up to Creel, opting instead to start making my way to Chihuahua. The section between San Juanito and La Junta doesn't suck either (although it's much faster than the one going to Basaseachic) so I had a nice ride down from the Sierra towards Chihuahua. :ricky
Traffic in Cuauhtemoc is chaotic:
I took the toll road back into the city (it saves over 30 minutes driving time). Technically, toll plazas should have services for the paying motorist, but in many states the services were limited to a dirty bathroom (you want paper or towels? Not even if you pay extra :deal). In Chihuahua (as has been the case in previous trips) not only do they have the cleanest facilities I have ever seen on the road (anywhere that is open to the public), they often offer free coffee, maps and info. And, as I mentioned earlier, they give motorcycles a 50% discount over car rates only state to do so, AFAIK. :thumb Almost makes me want to use highways more often.
Plus, those Tombstone pics are annoying. I went there when I lived in AZ and never saw the main Wildwest drag. I was convinced it was a sham. Hmmnnnnn.
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