11-23-2012, 08:27 AM
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Somewhere....I'll look for a road sign
Here I go...again
This trip started as many do, a year in advance with plenty of thought put into it. In this case, as many trip plans, things get all screwed up for one reason or another and in the end it is almost nothing like the original plan. This grand plan all started when I visited my friend Julio, aka Guaterider, in Guatemala last summer on my most recent Central American motorcycle trip. While I was visiting Julio he was planning his own trip that would take him and his wife Luisa to Alaska and back. A trip that I was very envious of! The fact that he was going to take nearly a year to complete it was what made me so envious. I can only dream of a trip like that at this point in my life. While I was visiting he was considering many aspects of this trip. One of the things he was pondering was pulling a trailer behind his GS to take all the things he thought he would need for the trip. After he told me how much a trailer was going to cost I told him I could build a trailer for him and meet him somewhere in Arizona with it. The idea for a trip to meet Julio on his great adventure was hatched! We discussed many other things about his trip while I was there and all the while he treated me much like many of the other riders he had hosted while they visited Central America. With the hospitality a King would appreciate!
Over the months after my visit we stayed in contact. Like I mentioned earlier about planning a trip like this many of the plans you make change. Julio’s plans were no different! The trailer was no longer in the picture. Julio had found a larger top box to meet his needs. I still had this idea in my head for the trailer so I built it anyway but tailored it to my personality and with materials I had laying around in my garage. I’ll revisit that topic later. I still wanted to meet Julio on his great trip at some point. We initially arranged to meet I Arizona even though I was no longer going to deliver a trailer. I followed along on his ride report and picked April to meet him in Arizona. Well with my work schedule and Julio and Luisa’s travel pace, leisurely, Arizona was no longer going to work. We then talked about Colorado. He said that he was going to visit an inmate in Bolder and that I could possibly ride out with another friend of his, Dave, that had recently moved to Kansas City. I thought that would be great! Bolder is only 10 hours from Kansas City and an easy day of riding. Well again due to work I couldn’t get more than two days off in a row when they were in Colorado and neither could Dave. So now I was looking at when they would be coming south again. I was going to be in Seattle for a conference in August on my Harley with the trailer that I had designed for Julio but changed it a little to work behind my Harley so I thought that may be an option if timing worked out. We would also be hosting Julio’s daughter Isa at that time while she did an internship with my wife. As it turned out timing did not work out for meeting in Seattle when I was there either.
So while I was in Seattle I was planning a return trip to Oregon a few weeks later with the possibility of riding out with Isa so she could see him as well. Since I have two motorcycles and Isa is a very good motorcycle rider herself it would not have been real difficult to make that work. But in the end it was cheaper and quicker for Isa to fly out. This was at that same time Luisa had to fly home for her job so it worked out for Julio and Isa to spend time together and they only needed one motorcycle to site see. I was still trying to figure out how to make my plan to meet up with Julio and Luisa work. It was getting to be late in the year and looking at my work schedule I was now looking at November being the next available time to take a trip. Living in Kansas City you never know what the weather is going to do that time of year. Julio and Luisa were also on the west coast. No matter how I went I would have to cross the mountains and face the possibility of snow and bad riding conditions. As time continued to tick away we talked more and I was now shooting to meet them in San Diego. I had the time scheduled off from work and set aside the concerns of crossing mountains and cold weather. That would just add to the adventure…right.
Since I was not going to be doing any back roads riding and the fact I wanted to show Julio the trailer that I built I prepared my Harley for the trip and not the GS. As time got closer, less than a week away from leaving, I let Julio know for sure that I was going to be able to make it this time! He was happy that I was going to be able to meet him. I asked him when they were going to be crossing into Mexico. He told me “Thursday”. I then told him I was going to leave on Saturday to be there, San Diego, on Monday. But since they were going to be crossing into Mexico three days before I was even going to leave that plan was not going to work either. We originally discussed Durango as a meeting place when I told Julio my NEW plans. Now I had to figure out where Durango was, get Mexican Insurance; figure out what border to cross, if I had enough time to make the trip and if there were any safety issues in Mexico along the way. Then convince my wife to let me take another trip to Mexico plus see if I had time to get the GS ready. The GS needed two new tires put on. They were in the garage so a couple of hours I could have that done. Plus it needed to be serviced. I have not taken the time to learn how to do all of this yet so that meant a trip to the dealer.
This conversation took place on October 27th. On October 30 we had another conversation after I had time to do some research on Durango. Zacatecas was now in the picture not Durango. With a quick search on my phone I found it and it was only 1350 miles from KC. That’s doable I thought. I continued to get things arranged for the trip. We even discussed my wife and I flying to Oaxaca Mexico when they got there but with kids and work that was not looking good either.
This was it! If I didn’t do it now it would not happen! So I made my mind up that I was going! This was on a Tuesday and I was leaving on Saturday for Mexico! I did research on the route to Zacatecas and emailed some friends about border crossings and all that stuff. Many of the things I do over a period of 6 months I was now doing in 5 days! Since I made up my mind to go the destination was just a formality at this point so Julio and I discussed some more places to meet and I told him I could wait to see where he was on Friday and just go from there.
On the 31st Julio asked if Creel, Copper Canyon, would work. I had no idea where Creel was and asked Julio if the roads were good for the Harley since it was Copper Canyon. I knew about where Copper Canyon was and that it was on my bucket list but that was it. He said the roads were fine for the Harley. I tried to do a search for Creel on my phone while we were texting back and forth but I couldn’t find it. The Iphone gave me two different locations for some reason, surely not operator error. Just so happened that I was at work and had access to a computer. A few clicks later I found it. It was about 1400 miles from Kansas City. That was a doable distance for the time I had to make this trip and still spend a couple of days with Julio and Luisa. I spent the rest of the night at work on the computer researching Creel, Presidio Texas border crossing and making reservations for hotels going down and coming back and many other things! Julio was going to make the arrangements in Creel so all I had to do was find them when I got there. Julio and I text me later and said to just go to the Best Western when I got there and he would check for me every hour if they stayed somewhere else. Now I just had to get through my crazy work schedule on Thursday and Friday so I could leave early on Saturday.
Finally it was Friday! I had worked a rough schedule through the week. I got home from work at around 4am on Friday morning and got up at 8am and started loading the Harley and getting it ready for the trip. One of the things I had to change on the Harley was my foot pegs. Not because they were uncomfortable, just the opposite, not because they were broken or old. I had to take them off because they are custom made with real, spent, .38 special shell casings in the end of them. They are designed to look like a revolver cylinder. I really didn’t want to explain that to the Mexican Policia or military. I really didn’t want to ride all the way there just to have them tell me I could not enter the country or even worse get thrown in a Mexican jail. So I bought a new set of front pegs and just took the passenger ones off. The trailer that I wanted to show Julio was also not an option any longer. It is not registered due to being a homemade trailer so I also took off the trailer hitch I had on the bike. After only four hours of sleep and working to get ready most of the day I had to go back into work at 3pm. I got home late Friday night. I was exhausted but I had planned it that way so that I would sleep well that night. I set my alarm for 5am so that I could be on the road early.
My first day was going to start in Kansas City and end in Midland Texas, 800 miles away. When the alarm went off I was still exhausted from my work schedule so I slept another half hour and then got up. I was on the road by 6am. The temperature when I left was a balmy 36 degrees F! (2 C) It was still dark with daylight an hour and a half away. I put my insulated riding gear on. I was wearing a half so helmet a balaclava was a must with no windshield on the Harley. I was also going to miss my heated grips on the BMW. I may have to invest in some for my Harley. I took off and soon realized it was going to be a cold long day! My first stop was just south of Emporia Kansas on the Turnpike. I was just barely able to get my leg up and over my seat when I got off to put gas in because I was so cold. It hurt to even get my wallet out. After putting gas in I went in and warmed up but I only stopped long enough to use the restroom and log my gas and mileage in my phone.
By the time I got to my second gas stop in Gutherie Oklahoma it had warmed up some but I was still cold. Two more gas stops and a conversation with a Texas Trooper about my speed just outside of Wichita Falls I was in Midland for the night. I got there just before 7pm, almost a 13 hour day. I found a local place for dinner next to the hotel. While having a couple of beers I continued my research on my route to Creel. For some reason the phone was now able to find Creel.
I think the operator wised up a bit on how to use it. I was a little concerned about getting through Chihuahua and making it to Creel before it got dark. I was also concerned about how long the border crossing was going to take. I also had to find an ATM to get Pesos. I only had 400 Pesos on me from an earlier trip. I got back to the room and made the mistake of telling my wife that I was concerned about the roads and making it through Chihuahua and to Creel before dark. I could sense a change in her tone when I mentioned that. Some things wives just shouldn’t be told. One of those things is that you concerned about your route in Mexico! I had my SPOT tracker so that helped with her not getting too stressed out… I think. I then called the front desk and requested a 3:30am wakeup call so that I could be on the road by 4. I also set my phone alarm as a backup. When I finally got to bed I don’t think I even remembered my head hitting the pillow!
My second day started an hour sooner than I wanted. I was awakened by the wakeup call from the hotel. The only problem was that daylight savings time change had taken place at 2am. The hotel did not change the time in their wake up system. My wakeup call was received at 2:30am not 3:30am! Being in the dazed and confused state of getting up that early I looked at my watch, that I hadn’t changed, I looked at the time on my phone that had changed and then called the front desk and asked, without yelling, what time it was. He told me 2:30. I then told him that I had requested a 3:30 wakeup call and to call me back in an hour. I do remember lying down but I swear the phone rang two minutes later! I got up and got around this time.
When I got downstairs the desk clerk found some breakfast for me. I was at a Courtyard by Marriott. They do not have free breakfast but he found me some food for free. That made up for the early call I guess. It was almost warm outside and I was hot with all of my riding gear on while I was loading my bike and standing outside. I almost took some of my gear off but decided it was on and I needed to get on the road. After about an hour on the road I was very glad I had left all of my gear on. It was almost 3 hours before the sun came up and even in Texas it was in the low 40’s. I reached Presidio around 8am. I wanted to fuel up before I crossed because of the lack of Pesos I had. I figured there would be a station before I reached the border. I was wrong. I had to back track a little ways to find one. I filled up and grabbed some breakfast.
While I was eating an older Hispanic man greeted me and asked how my day was. He was a very spry young man of 87. He asked me where I was from and he then told me that he had spent time at Fort Riley Kansas while he was in the military. He had served in Korea. He was a very friendly man and I enjoyed talking to him. I sent a txt to my wife after the young man went about his day and I then headed to the border.
On the U.S. side they just waved me through. The line coming into the U.S. was pretty long. When I got into Mexico there were only three vehicles in the inspection area including me. The inspection took all of two minutes and then off to Migration. That took another 5 minutes. The longest process was aduana. That took maybe 10 minutes. All I had to do was give them my paperwork and they completed all the forms. I had to pay 10 pesos for copies and then I was on my way.
The border was one of the things I was worried about and it was all for nothing. It was less than a 20 minute process. I continued into Ojinaga and looked for a Banamex or any other bank that had an ATM with no luck. I had enough gas to get to Chihuahua and even enough money to get to Creel so finding an ATM was not a high priority. I made my way west on Mx 16 libre towards Chihuahua. The road was much more fun to ride than what I had been riding on the last thousand miles. I was almost immediately in the small mountains just outside of the city.
As normal I had to stop at the aduana check 20 miles in and then a military check a few miles later. No problems at either one of those checks. I got the normal questions about my bike, how fast will it go, how much was it. My Spanish really sucks but I can pick up on some of what is said and reply with a 4 year old, ok maybe a 2 year old level of Spanish.
I got into Chihuahua with no problems and it was a good thing I had studied the maps well and wrote down the names of the streets I had to take to get through town. The first turn I had to make was just before I got into the downtown area. I had the normal hand written notes that I could read from my tank bag. They read “Cross river in Chihuahua take rt on Av Presa Techomatlan R Blv PAntonio Ortiz Mena L Anillo Perifenico De La Juv L Av Silveitre Terrazan” That’s all I needed as it turned out. I also found out that if I programmed my route on the map app on my Iphone before I lost service the little blue dot would always follow me and I would know the way and if I was off track I could get back on track relatively easy.
As I was making my way through Chihuahua I looked for a Banamex again. I even stopped at a Pemex gas station to ask where one was. The kid at the Pemex gave me directions to a bank a few blocks away. As I was driving towards the bank I saw a small blue sign on the front of a grocery store that said Banamex Cajero (ATM). This was strange to me because I had not seen many ATMs that were not in an actual bank in Mexico. I walked in and asked the man at the door where the Cajero was and he pointed me in the right direction. 3,000 peso later I was back on the road. I was able to make all of my turns getting through the city without having to make any U-turns. A first for me! My navigation skills were another reason I wanted to start early that day, so far so good!
I stopped on the other side of Chihuahua for gas. It had warmed up nicely and I was soaking in the sun. While talking to the gas station attendant he asked me where I was from and then asked if it was cold there. I told him it was. He then asked me where I was going. When I told him Creel he said it was cold there too. Not what I wanted to hear! He could see that on my face I guess and we had a good laugh over that.
My next challenge was going to be Ciudad Cuauhtemoc. It looked like an easy drive through the city on the map and it pretty much was. I did come across a Can Am Spyder in that town that had all the extras on it. It was a nice ride. I had to laugh though because the couple riding it was wearing all Harley Davidson gear from the boots to the helmets! The woman on the back was also wearing high heal boots, Harley Davidson, high heal boots!
Another pleasant surprise of the day was that there were road signs for Creel almost the entire way there from Ojinaga. They were also in Cauahtemoc which helped navigate the through the city. The only time I had to make a U-turn on my way to Creel was a few miles later. The highway went straight and turned into a small narrow road. I quickly realized the change and consulted my phone. Sure enough my blue dot was no longer on my route. An easy U-turn and I was back on my route. Just after I got back on the highway I had to exit onto another road that led to Creel. A short time later I was on a winding road with pine trees lining the road. This was a very different type of scenery than I had been riding in most of the day. I had really enjoyed the ride since crossing into Mexico and it was only getting better!
I reached Creel around 3pm with plenty of daylight left. I stayed on the main road through town and looked for the Best Western. I had seen signs for it for several miles leading to Creel When I reached the round a bout on the other side of town I figured I had gone too far so I turned around and took a side street that ran along the main road. I saw a small sign for the Best Western on a pole so I knew I was on the right track. I then saw the hotel and pulled into the parking lot. I knew I was in the right place when I saw Luisa talking on the phone in the parking lot and Julio’s GS parked near her. I had arrived! Luisa stopped talking and said “Shawn?” with a smile. I said “Hi Luisa” and then parked.
Somehow Julio knew I had arrived. Maybe it was the distinct sound of my bike rolling into the lot. I was greeted by Julio with a hug and a handshake. They had arrived at the hotel a couple of hours earlier and had time to get checked in and settled. We talked a few minutes and caught up. Julio gave me my room key so that I could put my stuff in the room.
When I tried it the key did not work. There was nothing special about the key. It was a normal magnetic strip plastic key like many of the hotels back home. I tried again and nothing. Julio then realized he had given me the wrong key when his did not work on his door. I got my stuff put away and we then went and grabbed a late lunch. It was nice to catch up with Julio and to finally meet Luisa. The two times that I had been in Guatemala I was not able to met her. It didn’t take long to see that Luisa was a very kind and caring person. Julio made a suggestion for the meal because they had eaten there before. Luisa thought that the meal Julio had suggested was too much food so she got some tacos. When our food was brought out our meal was half the size of what Julio remembered it to be and twice the size of Luisa’s! No worries though we helped her finish her meal after we finished ours. We then made our way back to the hotel. I finished unpacking and got connected with the internet so I could talk to my wife and kids. Another great feature of an Iphone, Facetime! I was pretty tired and laid on the bed with the TV on. When Julio came knocking for dinner it took me a few seconds to realize what the noise was. I may or may not have fallen asleep in my relaxing room with a gas fireplace. Luisa stayed in the room and we went for dinner to different restaurant. It was another great meal and conversation with Julio. Not as good as the meals he prepared for me in Guatemala but still good. We made plans to see copper canyon and other sites in the area the next day. It was another long day but I had finally met up with Julio and Luisa on their great journey!
Have Kegs will travel!
nailit2em screwed with this post 12-05-2012 at 06:49 PM