I left for the Mexican west coast town of San Carlos for a week or two. One I got down there and having no obligations that required me to be in the US, I decided to extend my stay, and lengthen my ride. Here’s a brief summary with some pics.
My first stop was Bisbee, AZ, an old mining/hippie town. Had a nice evening in town and left for Nogales, AZ where I would cross the border.
I decided to detour through Cortez National Monument, which entailed about 60 miles of dirt road, which was well maintained. By the time I made it to Nogales, a cold front was moving through most of the southwest, and there were reports of snow in Tucson
. It was drizzling in Nogales, and I decided to stay an extra day, which turned into two days in the end.
Here's the WALL at Nogales. That's Mexico on the right and the US on the left.
The ride south to San Carlos was cold, (relatively anyway, I hear you guys up in Canada grumbling…). I arrived in San Carlos and it was more beautiful than I remembered it from my last trip here, although more developed. The food was great, (I recommend Rosa’s for breakfast/lunch), and the scenery is fantastic here in this town where the Sonoran Desert touches the Sea of Cortez.
The view from the hotel in San Carlos.
Next I left for the Spanish colonial town of Alamos. What a beautiful little town. I befriended the proprietors of an excellent hotel/restaurants, (Charisma/El Tesoro), and was treated to some outstanding cuisine here in this small town in the Sonoran Desert.
Alamos's town plaza.
And some street scenes.
The Alameda , where most of the everyday business and shopping take place.
This is what the typical courtyard of the houses in Alamos looks like from the inside.
Here's the courtyard of the hotel I stayed in while in Alamos.
I went for a couple of day rides on some dirt roads in the neighborhood of Alamos.
The locals told me later that the road toward San Bernardo isn't exactly the safest in the area, as there are some drug operations in effect out that way, after I returned to town, (safely).
If you would like to read some more detailed impressions of mine about Alamos, you can go here
and also here
I could have stayed in Alamos a lot longer, but decided it was time to move on, and began a long days ride south to Mazatlan, the Ocean City, Maryland of Mexico’s west coast. Part of the last hours of the ride brought thick coastal fog, which fortunately cleared up eventually. I got into Mazatlan late, barely breaking my axiom, to never ride in Mexico after dark. My butt was sore from the long days ride, and I ended checking into a more expensive hotel than I would have preferred, but my body was telling me to not sweat it, and get off the bike ASAP.
Next I left and crossed the Sierra Madres heading toward the Spanish colonial town of Durango
. This included a wild 80-120 miles of a twisty two lane road, switchbacking over the mountainous spine of Mexico. This stretch included large trucks coming around hairpin turns in the opposing lane, and dead stops when two semis happened to meet in those opposing lanes. I crossed the Tropic of Cancer this day. The ride was scenic and fun.
Eventually I reached the lumber town of El Salto on the east side of the mountains, where I stopped for a bite to eat and watch some locals shoot pool. Nobody seems to have pool racks in Mexico, so the local game of choice, involves placing the balls in numerical order and equally spaced about the edge of the table, and then the sequential sinking of those balls.
The rest of the ride to Durango was pleasant, and uneventful. Once in town I navigated to the downtown area and looked for a hotel. Unlike in the US, Mexican hotels don’t always have bright marquees announcing their presence. As such I had to tool around a bit before I spied one. Durango is a beautiful town, although fairly large. I spent most of my town in el centro, (the center of town). There were some very picturesque moments here which I didn’t catch on film. The street sweeper walking down the street in front of the hotel with his cart, and his pet dog dutifully trailing him comes to mind, as does an evening spent in an open air pool hall on the alameda. The pool hall reminded me of National Geographic pictorials I’d seen as a child about Mexico and the American Southwest.
The plaza and cathedral in Durango where the local families and friends met in the evening to enjoy each others company and share the details of their day.
Eventually I left Durango and headed toward Zacatecas. The ride was beautiful with some nice sweeping turns and little traffic.
Upon entering this town of narrow, winding, one way streets of Zacatecas, I quickly parked the bike and sought a hotel on foot. I was lucky to find one right in the center of the old town for about $24/night. When I enquired as to whether they had parking for my bike, they replied that they did not, but the manager/owner happened to be passing through the lobby at that moment, and invited me to bring my bike into the lobby and park it by the nonfunctioning water fountain. Astounded at his generosity and my good luck, I thanked him and brought the bike inside for a rest of its’ own.
The beauty of taking a trip like this, (largely unplanned, and un-researched), is that your days will be filled with surprises. Zacatecas was one of those surprises. This beautiful colonial hill/mining town took my breath away. Every street corner I turned brought some new visual delight. People here as everywhere I travelled in Mexico were generous and interested in this gringo’s life and what he was doing in some rather un-touristy parts of Mexico.
I turned north from Zacatecas toward home. I made a dash toward Palacio Gomez, a unremarkable town in the plains of the Chihuahuan Desert. Even so, the locals were friendly when I stopped into a small cervezeria upon my arrival, and the locals began buying me drinks. Eventually I left to find a hotel, they had directed me to and checked in. That night I was treated to some elders of the town, taking turns getting up from their tables at the seafood restaurant I’d chosen to sing along with the keyboard player and his drum machine in a Mexican version of karaoke night. Most of the singers took the time to thank their audience, and graciously acknowledged the Americano in their midst this evening.
The following day I left on secondary roads tor Hidalgo del Parral, the Chihuahuan desert town which is home to the Mexican revolution, and its man of the people hero, Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa was a commoner, who killed the son of a wealthy landowner who had tried to rape Pancho's sister. Wanted for the murder, Villa fled, first turning to robbery and eventually to revolution. He was the first General in the Mexican revolution, and became governor of Chihuahua. He lived and was assassinated in the town I'm in right now. I met one of his followers here, who at first told me he didn’t care for gringos, but we ended a remarkable cross-cultural evening claiming each other as brothers. This was the common thread which bound most of my adventures on this trip through Mexico; a desire on both the Mexicans and my part to understand each other, (sometimes literally), and a consequent friendliness that I couldn’t have predicted prior to making my journey.
That's Villa's tomb on the hill in the background.
If you would like to read a detailed description of an interesting evening I spent in Hidalgo del Parral you can go here
Eventually I left town and headed north along a desolate stretch of two lane road, which again instilled an anxiety as to when the next gas station would appear. I made it with about ½ gallon to spare. After a relatively quick wait in line to cross the border, I crossed back into the US at Presidio, TX.
I road east towards Big Bend National Park along what has to be one of the most dramatically scenic roads in the US. There was a sign just out of Presidio, stating that the road was closed 6 miles ahead, ‘local traffic only). I decided to investigate, and found that there was an unpaved detour road of about 6 miles which eventually brought me back to the pavement. I was able to take a couple of pictures here before my camera battery finally gave up after 5+ weeks of documenting my travels.
I spent the night in Terlingua, TX, where it drizzled rain all night. Had a nice evening with the locals in a restaurant in the old mining town. Left the next day in drizzle, which became cold fog. I stopped after about 80 miles of this and checked into a motel in Alpine, TX. Waking up the next morning I found my bike and the surrounding grasslands coated in about 1/8 inch of ice. Although it hadn’t rained all evening, apparently water molecules were coalescing on the bike nonetheless. I chipped away what I could, Started the engine once the locks were de-iced, and eventually set out on a cold morning’s ride. It was hard to believe that I’d been in a tropical climate just a few days before. As the day progressed, the sun eventually broke through, and I was back in New Mexico before the day was done.
The trip was a great adventure for me. I think traveling by myself allowed me to have many experiences which wouldn’t have happened or would have been quite different had I had a traveling companion. I took away with me a genuine fondness for the Mexican people, and a reinforced admiration of their cooking. I can recommend this trip to anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the Spanish language, a sense of adventure, and an enjoyment of other cultures.