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Old 01-25-2008, 04:05 PM   #31
haggeo
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wow, nice trip report. keep it up....
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Old 01-25-2008, 04:47 PM   #32
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Man you are hitting every turn. Excellent report.
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Old 01-25-2008, 05:17 PM   #33
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Great report . Now off to your blog.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:19 PM   #34
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great stuff - really feeling good about sitting in New Jersey working 6 days a week I'm just jealous, keep going!
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:48 PM   #35
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Super report!!! will continue to follow, will be crossing into Mexico on Feb. 03-08, for a 6 to 8 week adventure to Yucatan, Belize and back, will look for some of the places you have pointed out.... Have a safe fun trip..
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:46 PM   #36
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Old 01-28-2008, 01:33 AM   #37
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Thanks all! I have a backlog of posts because it's hard to find an internet connection good enough to upload all the pictures to flickr.
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Old 01-28-2008, 01:37 AM   #38
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Guadalajara



Did I say that Puerto Vallarta was big? Guadalajara is staggering. Yes, I've been to Mexico City, but not long enough to appreciate it. I'm sure I will come up with some new superlatives when I get there.

Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city. It takes a long time to get anywhere here. Partly this is because the city is big, and partly because of the (predictably) INSANE TRAFFIC. It's so bad that when I first rode into the centro to find lodging, I fled back towards a hotel I saw previously in a more easily navigated part of town. I continued on this route for about ten minutes before I stopped, kicked myself in the ass for being a pussy, and dove back into the centro with renewed determination.

[This is where I should insert a pic of the traffic, but I didn't take one - oops]

I came to Guadalajara seeking the KTM dealer. Like any good quest, I had was a cryptic direction obtained by sacrificing a virgin chicken on their website: "Av. Patria Pte No. 2128 int. A. Colonia Colomos Patria" WTF?!? The GPS refused to help me so I had to ask directions from two guys who kept going on about golondrinas. Eventually I figured out that the actual address is Patria #2128, but I still have no idea what the other words mean.

The next two days were a blur. I have been unable to piece them into a coherent narrative, so I'll just race through my impressions just as I experienced the city.

Guadalajara is WAY COOL.

* The KTM dealer is awesome. They knew the LC4 well and performed the service in one day with no advance notice for less than $100 (most of that was parts). They even washed the bike! Finding it is the hard part: Patria #2128, cross street Acueducto. It's on this block, just a short distance from the BMW dealership.

Yeay, pretty again!


* Guadalajara is as modern a city as anywhere in the world. In the United States there is a gross tendency to think of Mexico (especially when debates about immigration come up) as a third-world slum full of wannabe Americans, with isolated citidels of tourism where brown-skinned people survive by groveling for your American Dollars (in San Francisco, this is followed by ", you rich white multinational corporate oppressor!"). Yes, there is poverty in Mexico, but it's easy to overlook the homeless people in every city of the US. I also don't think that campesino life would seem all that strange to anyone who has driven through Appalachia or, for that matter, Montana. Guadalajara has technology parks and universities and skyscrapers and fancy hotels and malls and cineplexes and hip, urban young people and fancy cars and expressways and traffic and everything else you would find in, say, San Jose (California). It's just assembled with the traditional amount of Mexican chaos - road rules are more or less optional, trash pickup is erratic, and graffiti is disappointingly common.

* Taxis are *everywhere*. I never needed to wait, even outside the town centers. Cab rides are cheap and exciting.

* Guadalajara has a huge english-language bookstore, Sandi Bookstore. I finally acquired the Lonely Planet for all of Mexico. It was a terrible mistake leaving the US without this book (or the impossible-to-find Footprint guide, which is reported to be better). I also acquired a book of short stories with spanish on one page, english on the other, which I am slowly plodding through.

* The Hostel de María is a great place to stay. It was the first time I've ever stayed in a hostel, and something I wish to do more of. Cute place, friendly staff, close to the centro, cheap, and many fellow travelers with interesting stories. They have bunks (with lockers) for 160 pesos and private rooms for twice that. I was sorely tempted to stay several extra days.



* The tendency for the same kind of store to group together on the same block is taken to a radical extreme by Tapatíos (as Guadalajarans call themselves). There is the printing district, with dozens and dozens of typesetters. There were several blocks with nothing but stores selling toilet fixtures. Here is a whole plaza (and a couple blocks beyond) composed entirely of stores selling wedding apparel:



Of course, shoe stores are consuming the city like a tumor. I am concerned that Guadalajara may be approaching the Shoe Event Horizon.

It would be a fun project to map these districts out on Wikimapia.

* Guadalajara centro reminds me an awful lot of a dirtier version of Prague. There are plazas and cobblestone streets and 300-year-old buildings and fountains and statues and throngs of shoppers on foot - everywhere! I walked for hours and barely scratched the surface. How many 300-year-old churches does one city need??

















This is the public library, sadly "closed for inventory" for the week:


* It's hard to get a good picture of Guadalajara. There are plenty of giant open plazas with fountains and beautiful buildings, but the plazas are full of tall trees. The only great place to take a picture way to get a good picture would be from a roof.

* The Palacio de Gobierno has some spectacular murals painted by José Clemente Orozco. This one is of Miguel Hidalgo looming down at you as you climb a set of stairs; it covers the ceiling and the walls so it's impossible to get perspective without a fisheye lens. I will try valiantly anyways:







* There is a huge population of Chinese immigrants in Guadalajara. Chinese food restaurants (especially of the all-you-can-eat buffet variety) nearly outnumbered taquerias in the centro.

* The Museo Regional de Guadalajara and Mercado Libertad warrant their own journal entries.
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Old 01-28-2008, 02:04 AM   #39
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Mercado Libertad

I stumbled randomly into the Mercado Libertad, the world's craziest shopping mall. I've never seen anything like it.

There is no way to capture the size of it with my camera, so I will resort to satellite imagery.



The building is three stories tall and packed *densely* with shops selling nearly anything you can imagine as long as it's cheap and 500 of them can be stacked against a wall. Thousands of shops, some no wider than an arm's length. The corridors would give Noreteamericano fire marshalls coronary attacks; rarely were they wide enough two walk two abreast and so wandering around involved a lot of stopping at intersections to let people pass.

It was hard to photograph. Remember, the open area was less than half of the total area of the building.





The food court occupied most of the second level and had at least a hundred options... although it was pretty much all "Mexican food". Go figure.



The rows of butcher shops were the most amusing. This, I think, captures the whole experience:

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Old 01-28-2008, 02:21 AM   #40
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Museo Regional de Guadalajara

The Museo Regional de Guadalajara has remarkable artifacts relating to Jalisco dating from prehistoric ages (including a Mastadon skeleton), through the colonial period, into the founding of Mexico and the modern day.

Odd typewriters:




Multi-hundred-year-old globes are always amusing:


I was surprised to discover that I could read most of the placards, only occasionally looking up words in my startrek translator.

This painting from the colonial period I found especially amusing:


Here is the placard:


Translated, more-or-less this says "San Antonio de Padua. Anonymous. Oil on canvas. Religious franciscan from Portugal. He is always represented with the child Jesus in his arms, the staff of white lilies signifies chastity. He lived from 1195 to 1231."

I like how they went out of their way to point out that no, the priest is not sodomizing the baby Jesus!
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Old 01-28-2008, 08:07 AM   #41
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Melaque and Dead Hotel #2



I played tourist in the morning so I didn't leave Guadalajara until 3pm. Highway 80 southwest of Autlán is a hoot (lots of twisties) but it was dark by the time I reached the coast, so I stopped in the first town I found.

Melaque is a typical retiree beach town; cute and lots of not-too-expensive hotels. I've stopped taking pictures of places like this, except Melaque also has a huge dead hotel. Casa Grande, which once hosted 1,000 tourists at a time, was severely damaged in a 1995 earthquake:









Yes, I have some sort of fetish for civic decay.
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:09 AM   #42
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Zihuatanejo



The road between Melaque and Zihuatenejo is perfect motorcycle fodder. I finally got to wear down the outer edges of my about-to-be-bald rear Sahara. Plus some of the views are spectacular:



My near-term goal is to hole up somewhere pleasant for about a month to take Spanish lessons and let the seat-shaped deformation in my ass reinflate. In choosing a location, my criteria was:

* Early enough in the trip so that I get some utility out of my freshly acquired skill
* Late enough in the trip so the location feels exotic
* Relatively cheap
* More Mexicans than tourists
* Cute but enough excitement around to keep me from getting bored
* Must have an airport so 1) friends can visit me and 2) I can visit friends

Oaxaca is my prime candidate, but Zihuatanejo was in the running. On paper, Zihuatanejo looks good - reported to be the "genuinely Mexican alternative to Ixtapa", coastal (I suffer from seafood addiction), and plane flights to & from SF are cheap - less than $300. Oaxaca's airport is domestic-only, so with the extra hop flights tend to be about twice that amount.

Zihuatanejo was disappointing. It fails the "more Mexicans than tourists" test and really isn't all that cute. It's also rather expensive - everything is priced for tourists. In almost every way except one, I'd rather be in Puerto Vallarta. However, there is one thing... it's HOT HERE! Somewhere south of Guadalajara the climate became "sleep naked on top of the sheets at night with the fan on" weather. I stayed in a cheap hotel on the beach without hot water and I didn't miss it. For two nights in a row.

Also on the plus side, I had wifi and piña coladas under a palapa:



For some reason I felt a little concern about parking my bike on the street. I ended up wedging the bike behind a tree right up against the window of my room:

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Old 01-28-2008, 09:26 AM   #43
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Ixtapa

Ixtapa is a government-planned resort community, designed to be the Pacific-coast equivalent of Cancún. It was only 8km out of my way so I had to ride through to check it out.

Ixtapa is not part of Mexico. I feel fairly certain that Ixtapa is actually a suburb of San Diego. I leave you with a few pictures that capture the essence of Ixtapa, but the most important thing is to imagine the strong smell of freshly cut grass on a hot day:









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Old 01-28-2008, 10:39 AM   #44
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Mexican Advriders

On the road to Acapulco I caught up to a pack of BMW 1200GS riders in full gear with Jalisco license plates. "Caught up" is probably not the right term; I stopped for a beverage and when I got back on the road, there they were in front of me. If the timing had not worked out exactly this way I would have missed them entirely since they were riding 90mph+ and passing cars the way that you can when you have 1200cc engines and the Mexican constitution for vehicular risk. Incidentally, these were the first local riders I've seen with what I consider proper motorcycle safety equipment; rarely do I see helmets, let alone body armor.

They were actually great riders and the roads were straight so I had to seriously flog my poor lone 600cc piston to keep up. When I finally saw three digits in my (still reading mph) speedometer I decided to just catch up when they stop for gas.

It continues to be my experience that motorcyclists, especially adv-type riders, are the nicest people on earth. This group (six riders and four pillions) was part of a large (60+) club in Guadalajara that takes two-week trips every couple months. The leader is even on advrider (hi Guillermo!). We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. They're planning a trip to Alaska in the spring, maybe I can arrange to have them meet my SF riding crew. I'll still be in Central America.

I rode with this group for a while but then sanity (and the lure of a dirt detour) set in and I broke off. Of course, immediately I started riding 80mph on a rough dirt coastal road... so much for sanity.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:00 AM   #45
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Took a similar trip

Bringing back some old memories. Took a very similar trip about 6 years ago on my first bike (honda shadow 600) which I bought on ebay 3 months prior. learned how to ride in those 3 months and than took it down to Costa Rica.
I see you're looking for a cool hip place to learn Spanish. Guatajuato is a great place. Its a university town full of young people so the party seen is one of the best in Mexico. Barely any gringos so its pretty cheap. Also the town is absolutely stunning. Oaxaca is really cool but I think you'll get pretty bored. The ride from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido is a great one however so if you need to get your party on it'll give you a excuse to ride some seriously technical twisties. There are 2 routes and one is in real bad shape so make sure that you travel on the right one. I believe its the one that is more north.
Another option is to wait and take the course in Antigua, Guatemala. Place stunning, weather spring like year round, great english schools, dope party seen and close to a international airport. There are quite a bit of travelers going through but they are generally of the shoestring, international, adventure type.
If you have any questions about places down to Costa Rica shoot me an email. I've travelled extensively all over Mexico and Central America so I know the place very well. However, stumbling upon gems on your own is half the fun so i understand if you never write. I'm also running mototours through Mexico
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so if your spanish picks up maybe we can work together in the future.

Via con Dio amigo
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