El Gran Payaso
Joined: Apr 2006
Location: San Antonio
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Zumo XM and IPODs a blazin’, we tear across the desert, PEMEX – throttle, throttle – PEMEX style on Mex 85 – The Pan American Highway. I have the news pumping through my skull, which was not, as a former military boss of mine was fond of saying, an “optimized choice”. Budget this and shortfall that, economy in freefall here and doomsday there. I should have switched to XM channel 49, but there too, the XM people seem to have paid a commission on the same 50 tunes. At least I’m doing my part of the economic stimulus package, albeit in another country.
Ciudad Victoria and Ciudad Monte are dispatched with haste, and I’m feeling the pulse of the open throttle on the open road. Subcomandante is hanging in there, but I’m getting the feeling that these first few days are going to be a matter of him getting his “sea legs” , or in this case, “road legs”. Late afternoon and we pull into the PEMEX at Ciudad Valles, and pull out the Lonely Planet to read about accommodations. We select the “Hotel Valles” for its “beautiful tropical gardens and huge pool”, which we walk through to photograph, but pause only long enough to make it to the bar for a beer and some food.
Sterett showing the chill attitude only a Wing can provide
Ciudad Valles is the central jumping off point for what is known as the Huasteca region. Rain falls almost year round in the slopes of the Sierra Gorda to the west, and thus the area is famous for its rivers and waterfalls. Not-to-distant Xico was the site of the waterfall in Romancing the Stone. Sitting on the junction of Mex 85 and 70, which runs to the west to San Luis Potosi, you could do much worse than to make Ciudad Valles your target on a good day run from Texas.
The hotel gives us motorcycle parking right next to our rooms, which is every cyclist’s preferred method of keeping an eye on their bikes. We’ve brought along bike covers, when we need to keep the bikes out of the prying eyes of passers-by, but won’t need them this stop. IMHO, a bike cover does more to ensure the security of your bike, in the U.S. or elsewhere, than almost any other measure. What the eye can’t capture, it can’t covet. Or so I hope.
The run from Ciudad Valles down 85 through Aquismon is where the vistas begin. The verdant valley becomes jungle-like, and the walls of the mountains close in and give rise to the elevations and twisty roads that we all come to Mexico to enjoy. We are making great time, and the only deadline that is proximate is the appointment to be in Coatzacoalcos by 3 PM on Tuesday. We have 4 days to get there, so we need to choose a route – to the coast or to the mountains?
Since we’ll be on the coast to visit Veracruz and Coatzacoalcos, the vote is in. Choose a route through the mountains. But will it be Mex 120, 85, or 105? Mex 120 runs from the turn off from Mex 85 at Xilitla through the Sierra Gorda, via Jalpan and the area of the mission of Friar Junipero Serra and on to Tequisquiapan. Mex 85 continues south to Tamazunchale and bends southwest to Ixmiquilpan and eventually to Pachuca. Mex 105 connects Huejutla de Reyes to Pachuca, but requires an unknown route connecting Tamazunchale to Huejutla. We’re thinking. We stop on 85 at the turn off to Xilitla and 120. I turn to the Subcomandante and ask him if he’s ever been to the weird cement world of Edward James and Las Pozas. Sterett and I have been before, but since the Subcomandante has not, we can’t pass within a few miles of that wonderful place, and not show it to him, especially since its early in the day.
We turn right and head into the mountains for Las Pozas.
Between 1945 and 1984, when he died, James spent over 5 million on this surrealistic cement garden in the middle of the jungle. Two years ago, various organizations including Mexico’s cement giant CEMEX bought the site and are in the process of saving it from turning into decaying ruin. Already the road to the site, just two years ago a rutted climb suited for a dual sport, has be redone and was easily navigated by Sterett’s Wing.
A young family from San Luis Potosi. He actually works for an azbestos removal firm in Birmingham, Alabama, and only gets to spend part of the year home with his beautiful family.
Part of the decay the CEMEX and various tourism organizations are frantically trying to reverse after years of neglect.