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Old 01-22-2007, 08:31 AM   #16
Gustavo OP
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Chihuahua to Durango

I spent a week in Chihuahua, working and taking care of family business, and it was time to get back on the road and continue with "the plan."

The plan?

The plan was I would ride to Puerto Vallarta, pick up Jose Luis and Lety and we would ride along the coast to meet Johan and co. in Lazaro Cardenas, on the Michoacan coast.

I got off to a late start, a long list of honey-do stuff that had to be taken care off before Lizbeth would let me take off for the trip. No problem, my first overnight stop was Durango, and it’s an easy ride there, only 660 kms away...


There used to be lots of these vendors by the side of the road in northern Mexico. On the way to Durango, this was the only on I saw, I kind missed them:





The roads in the northern Mexican highlands are mostly straight and very fast.

Hwy 45 to Parral:



Slow traffic:



Of course, like most Mexican roads, they are built to a very low budget, so when you reach any sort of elevation changes, they always follow the contours of the terrain and this makes for some entertaining curves that suddenly show up after long stretches of mostly straight roads . As I observed in previous trips, the roads in Durango aren’t quite as well maintained as they are in Chihuahua.

Driving in Mexico is always an interesting change from the US. Traffic laws are used in a very lax manner and there is a lot of tolerance for bending the rules as needed. This is a benefit when you are trying to make time, but also means you have to be ready to react to all sorts of driving maneuvers you would almost never see in the US .


Parral was a regular stop for Pancho Villa's Division del Norte, it's also where he was murdered, so he is an important figure in the town's history, you'll see many references to Pancho and his men there.

Pancho Villa in Parral:




Interestingly, I saw more police presence, especially Policia Federal Preventiva (PFP, which is sort of a federal version of our state police forces) on this trip . I remember seeing a news article about a road safety campaign started by the new president, Calderon, just in time for the holiday season. They were showing off these new Dodge Chargers (same as many US police forces got), and sure enough, there were quite a few on the road, in places I had not seen them before.

Back to driving. Mexicans will pass anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Most drivers of slower moving traffic will help you by turning their left signal on when the road is clear ahead. If they are about to turn left, they will usually make a hand signal as well, to be sure you understand the difference. Whether you want to trust those signals, is really up to you...


Mexicans pass just about anywhere they can see and sometimes in places they can not...




I noticed something new on this trip - drive through liquor stores. I first saw them in Cuauhtemoc, and then started noticing them everywhere. Lizbeth tells me that's not really new, but I really liked the convenience. You simply pull into the store, load up on all your favorite drinks (might as well have one while you wait) pay and take off without leaving the comfort of your car. What a great idea.

Drive through liquor store:



Between Parral and Durango, there was some free entertainment provided by the Durango DOT :




Hwy 45 through Durango - Note no paint stripes of any kind...


It wasn't all like that, but there was a long section that didn't have any markings. That's one of the reasons it's not recommended riding at night in Mexico.


These two must have been on a long ride. There was nothing on this road for the next 60 kms.



I couldn't see much either...



Lots of these adobe houses in small towns along the way:




I made it to Durango in no time, the GNS took me straight to Hotel Roma (where I stayed last time. It's quickly becoming my favorite place to stay in Durango, it's clean, well located and about $25/night). The drive through the city was a bit slower than I expected, and with the heavy traffic and narrow streets, it was hard to split my way to the front of traffic lights.




Avenida 20 de Noviembre from Hotel Roma:




Interestingly, I found Durango more appealing this time than I did on the last trip. Strange how you go to the same place and get a different perspective on it. On my way to find an Internet cafe I passed a taqueria that was packed with dinners, I figured if it’s that full, I has to be good, so I had dinner there too after I finished checking my mail. By that time, most people had gone, so there was no wait to get a table. An order of mixed tacos and one soft drink set me back $2.50. They were very good too.

Taqueria DoŮa Maria:



The main plaza was full with families (and later young couples who can't afford a motel... ) out enjoying the evening, it's also lined with vedors - everything from food carts to shoe shinners - trying to get some of their spending money. It was much nicer than on my last visit last January (maybe they all ran out of money after Reyes , the city center was dead on that visit), so like I said, I liked it much better this time.


Gustavo


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Old 01-22-2007, 11:11 AM   #17
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Laugh Very Nice

You've got a great ride ahead of you. Makes me want to go back down there.
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Old 01-22-2007, 12:48 PM   #18
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Great write-up, Gustavo

Keep it coming

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Old 01-22-2007, 02:13 PM   #19
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Durango to Puerto Vallarta

Last year, when I tried to leave Durango early, I froze my butt off for the first 100 miles or so . I decided there was no rush to get going this year (who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? ), especially given the weather reports on TV, claiming a cold front that was affecting Mexico was responsible for record setting low temperatures. I know it's hard to believe from the pictures, as the skies were completely clear all day the last few days, but those cold fronts in Mexico only cause precipitation in high elevations, mostly in the form of snow. The rest of the country, around this time of the year is just colder than usual. They mentioned the Durango sierras and some towns I quickly found on the map as being right off the road to Mazatlan. It felt really cold last night as I was walking back to the hotel after dinner. This can't be good.

I woke up at 6:30 anyway. Damn internal clock. Took my time and decided to go out for breakfast, but it was too early and the only place I found open was an Oxxo (convenience store). They had warm coffee and some pastries. I guess thatīll have to do. Walked around the plaza, were shoe shiners were setting up their stalls and city workers were cleaning up the mess left by visitors the previous night.




Durango is cleaner thanks to this woman and her coleagues:



As an aside, My friend Balam tells me Mexico is the dirtiest country in Latin America. He should know, he has traveled most of it. It's harder for him to accept, since he is Mexican and an environmentalist by heart, hearing him rant about it is both entertaining and sad. But he could right from what I've seen. It's not uncommon to see people roll down their window as they drive and dump whatever junk they have out the window. Often when you pull over at any lookout point on a highway, the first thing you see is trash. It is especially annoying when there is an empty trash can right next to that pile of trash. And it's not just poor uneducated people. I followed a new S-Class Mercedes out of a Pemex station only to have to dodge a Coke can that came out the passenger's window less than a mile down the road. Why they couldn't have thrown it into a trash can at the station is beyond me. Money may buy an S-Class but no class.

Back to Durango. Like I said, there weren't too many people out at this time of the morning, a few "early" risers walked into the Oxxo for coffee and left in a hurry to get to their work place.



Durango's cathedral:




These guys are among the last to leave at night and the first to show up in the morning:




The road out of Durango starts up with a nice climb into the sierra. I was wearing all the warm gear I had, and it was the right choice. The air was crisp, clear and the sun was shinning (but not providing any warmth ). I wasn't cold, but I knew it was the gear, not the air temperature.

The main industries in this region are cattle ranching and timber. Almost all towns I passed through had sawmills. Most towns were scattered on both sides of the highway, in a way that looked like not much planning happened before construction. They simply grew as more people moved there and they built their houses just about anywhere they found a piece of land. Needless to say, the only paved road is the main road, everything else is dirt.

Typical sierra town:




Spot the tope. Shrewed vendors take advantage of the topes to sell their stuff to vehicles that have to stop to get across these speed bumps:





Fantastic road, and it's not even El Espinazo yet:




When I stopped for gas in El Salto (a huge sprawling, dusty, sawmill town), more or less at the top of the sierras, it was still rather chilly. From El Salto it's about 100 miles to Concordia, and I was really looking forward to this stretch of road. This is where the Espinazo del Diablo starts (not that the section between Durango and El Salto wasn't fun, but the next section is even tighter and with less straights). Last year I had a great time, but there was more traffic than I would have liked to enjoy it. This time, going in the opposite direction, I was there a lot earlier, and I had not seen that much traffic so far. It was looking rather promising.


The road climbs a bit more from El Salto and there I started to see snow by the side of the road. Hey, what happened to that warm weather Mexico I was going to ride through for my vacation? I guess keeping all that cold weather gear on was the right choice. I stopped to take a picture of a snow covered mountainside and went on my way. A few curves down the road there was some ice on the road. Not a lot, there were clean tracks to ride through, but still, it got my attention. I made a mental note - Remember to not blindly charge through curves on the "dark side" of the mountain (northern facing sections that get almost no sun in winter).


Yes, that is snow. Actually, I wasn't so worried about snow, but the ice that started showing up on the road was more of a concern :


Sure enough, there was some more ice on some other "dark side" curves. No big deal.

After a while of not seeing any more ice, I figured I had passed the coldest sections and went back to the usual pace. And then I come to this relatively mild left hander that's on the "dark side", it takes me a couple of seconds to adapt to the light and when I do all I see in front of me is ice. Pretty thick, whitish, slab of ice on the road and no clean tracks that goes on for about 20 meters.

All I could think off at that moment was "oh shit, there goes my trip". I am not sure I can come to a complete stop before I hit the ice, so that's not a good option. I pick a line that looks cleanest, move forward in the seat, keep a loose grip on the bars, steady throttle and one deep breath. About half way through I hit a bump left by a truck's tire in the melting ice (likely the previous day, it wasn't melting today) and the bike moves sideways a bit. Suddenly it got really warm, even in the shade . I think American Super Camp just paid for itself, as I managed to keep the bike up. I owe thanks to Tony again for talking me into taking it.

There was another "dark" curve that had some ice after that, and then as the road descended, the ice patches disappeared. I kept a slightly slower pace for a while, until I was sure it was warm enough to find no more ice. I took advantage of the slower pace to snap some on board pictures.


Now we are really warming up:



And it only gets better and better:



But as the road got tighter and more fun, the camera went back into the tank bag and I concentrated on the job at hand - keeping a good, entertaining pace, while avoiding becoming a hood ornament on an on-coming truck .


It's all fun and games until you run into one of these guys at the worng moment:



Mexican truckers like to drive fast too, and they use the whole road to do so on tight roads like this. If you ever had any doubts about the safety value of running well within your limits and not counting on using both lanes to negotiate a curve so you can change your line as needed to avoid an obstacle, El Espinazo del Diablo is going to make a believer out of you. Or a hood ornament.


Traffic was significantly lighter than last year, and it was a lot of fun . I only stopped once, to take a picture and peel off the cold weather layers, as it was getting warm.


El Espinazo del Diablo:




I made good time to Concordia, but good time here means I averaged only a little over 40 MPH on this 100 mile stretch. It's one of the best 100 miles of curves I know, though. It's fun, it's challenging, it's exciting and it requires absolute concentration, can't day dream on this road, if the road conditions don't get you, an oncoming car/truck will. Maybe I can find a job in Durango...

It was more than just warm in Concordia. I took everything off (OK, not everything ), drank a lot of water and promptly got back on the road only to get stuck behind two large trucks that were using every inch of the road to negotiate the last tight turns before reaching the coast.



I'd rather be behind him looking for a chance to pass than meet him head on around a blind curve:



Given this delay, I decided to take the toll section south from Villa Union to Tepic, but it turned out that most of that road is under construction, so after a short 30 mile section we got diverted back to the libre road. That is a narrow two lane road that serves as the main north-south road on the pacific coast side, traffic was very heavy and passing opportunities limited, at least so I thought. I would slowly make my way around long lines of cars, pickups and trucks only to get stuck behind another long column of slow moving vehicles a few miles down the road.


Traffic on Hwy 15 was heavy:




I took the detour to San Blas, I figured even if it's not any faster, at least there will be less traffic and I'll make a stop in San Blas to see the town.

The town turned out to be a disappointment, not what I was expecting at all. Never mind, the road was nice and twisty, there were no trucks to follow, so I didn't have to inhale exhaust fumes like on Hwy 15 and when I got near the coast, the views were really nice. Good choice.

When I re-joined the road to Puerto Vallarta traffic was even heavier than on Hwy 15. Not as many trucks, but obviously, a lot of people going to the beaches for the New Year holiday . In Bucerias traffic wasn't moving when the lights turned green, as there was nowhere to go. Luckily, you don't have to wait in line on a bike, and I made my way to the front of every traffic light rather quickly. I got to Nuevo Vallarta around 7 PM and found Jose Luis' new house without a problem (GNS works ).

It was fun to catch up with Lety and Jose Luis, I had not seen them since last New Years (even thought I "see" JL online a lot ). Lety had a wonderful dinner ready, and it was very well timed, as I was starving by the time I got there.

It was a 500 mile day, and I only averaged 50 MPH between the tight curves of El Espinazo and getting stuck in traffic on Hwys 15 and 200, but it was a really good day.

Tomorrow we continue on our way south.


Gustavo


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Old 01-22-2007, 02:42 PM   #20
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Hola Gustavo! como estas? me da gusto averte encontrado aqui tambien estado viendo el relato en motoaventuras.net. me dio gusto ver rutas y personas que conoci el ano pasado. aver cuando nosotros nos conocemos en persona! gracias por el relato y fotos!!
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Old 01-22-2007, 02:45 PM   #21
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Enjoyed the report! Nice ride.
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Old 01-22-2007, 03:37 PM   #22
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aver cuando nosotros nos conocemos en persona! gracias por el relato y fotos!!
Sal, me da mucho gusto que estes siguiendo mis aventuras aqui u en MotoAventuras. Lo ultimo que lei, estabas en Santiago y saliendo de Chile parece. Donde es la siguiente parada????

Saludos,

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Old 01-22-2007, 06:40 PM   #23
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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.
You see, you have to travel with me to find the right places...

But not in this case. You are right, it is a sham, nothing more than a tourist trap.

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Old 01-22-2007, 07:06 PM   #24
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Puerto Vallarta to Lazaro Cardenas

The plan from Puerto Vallarta was that we were going to ride south, along the coast to meet Johan in Lazaro Cardenas and ride with him to his place in Valle de Bravo, south east of Mexico City.

It’s only about 400 miles to Lazaro Cardenas, but Hwy 200 along the Pacific coast is anything but a highway in any sense we know it in the US or straight. Since we were on the north end of Vallarta, we thought it would be good to leave early before tourist traffic made progress through the city very, very slow. It seems early at the Doc’s house means before 9 AM...


Ready to leave at the break of dawn, about 9 AM or so...




I followed Jose Luis and Lety through Vallarta’s streets at a break neck pace. To say that JL has a way around city traffic doesn’t really explain the pace . He finds holes in traffic that I didn’t even think existed, and he was riding a loaded R12GS with expanded Vario bags. It’s not much different out on the open highway. If Mexicans pass just about anywhere, JL passes in places most Mexicans wouldn’t. But, riding two-up and loaded, he didn’t manage to get away from me for too long, even if I waited for a more reasonable (in my eyes) location to make the pass.


Downtown Vallarta:




Hwy 200, south of Vallarta:



As the hours went by and we got further south it started getting really warm, even Lety who likes hot weather and is used to coastal Mexico was saying it was warm in her riding gear.


Ventilation testing:




We made a few hydration stops in addition to the gas stops, but not much more. JL was worried that it would get dark before we reach Lazaro Cardenas, and he said he really, really, didn’t want to ride that road after dark.


This works much better to cool you off than any vents in my jackets ever did:



Yeah, I was there too :




Mexico can be challenging to drive in, you never know what you'll find on the road:




The concept of ATGATT is not well understood in Michoacan. By the way he was riding and crossing the center line on the exit of curves, she is going to be sorry about that sooner rather than later.




But, as we made good progress, we decided to stop for a late lunch in a small town called Maruata. We made our way through the dirt streets to get a beautiful beach lined with restaurants under palapas. We had excellent ceviche, shrimp cocktails and fish tacos there.


Lunch stop, on the beach, in Maruata:



Making piŮatas:



This kid was selling really nice hand crafts. Unfortunately, I couldn't even fit an extra toothpick in my bag...



In Maruata, most people still seem to wash their cloths in the river:





Michoacan is one of the poorest states in Mexico and it was rather painfully obvious by the state of the roads. In some sections, there was no pavement left, only beat up dirt from the heavy traffic (did I mention that Hwy 200 is the main coastal route in southern Mexico?). I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with Hwy 200. It runs painfully close to the ocean, yet most of the time it runs just far enough inland and/or behind thick enough vegetation that you can't really see the ocean. At least not as I expected it based on the way it follows the coastline. As we got closer to Lazaro Cardenas, the road quality improved, as did the views of the ocean. It was hard to keep my eyes from wandering from the road to looking at those picturesque beaches.


Beautiful Michoacan coastline:




When we got to LC, Johan was already there, but on his own. Turns out all the Mexico City area crew that said would ride with him to meet us bailed out in the last moment, leaving him to ride there on his own. We found the hotel with help from a local kid on a scooter that stopped to look at our bikes as we were calling Johan to see where he found rooms for the night. Given that we were on the coast, dinner was (excellent) seafood again.


Enjoying dinner in Lazaro Cardenas:



The plazas of Lazaro Cardenas were lined with outdoor eateries:



Tomorrow, we head to Valle de Bravo.

Gustavo


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Old 01-23-2007, 01:37 PM   #25
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Lazaro Cardenas to Valle de Bravo

Johan insisted on an early start, because he wanted to have breakfast in Ixtapa. I had no problem with that, and Lety was a good sport and made an effort to be ready early. We left around 7:30, which must be some sort of record for JL and Lety.

The border between Michoacan and Guerrero is right outside Lazaro Cardenas and as part of a campaign to fight organized crime and drug trafficking, there are plenty of police and military check points along most roads, especially around the borders between states. They typically check for arms, drugs and stolen property. Johan was leading, and he must have looked suspicious, because we got pulled over. They even asked to see my temporary import permit, which is a first outside of the customs checkpoints near the US border. Jose Luis was in the back, but as the officer looking at my permit turned around he recognized him and they started chatting. Last year I realized Jose Luis knows everybody in Vallarta, but I didnít realize he knew everybody in Mexico! Obviously, at that point, they lost interest in us, as Santiago, the PFP officer, told them that if we were with El Doc we were OK, proving once again that itís not what you know but rather who you know that is important.



The federal police was out in force for the holidays. They must have gotten reports of that dangerous biker gang going to Valle...



Crossing into Guerrero:



Johan took us for the $0.25 tour of Ixtapa and quickly to the restaurant he was planning on having breakfast. Breakfast in Ixtapa was very good (Johan knows his restaurantes... ), itís also a very nice (even if a bit too much made for gringo tourist) resort town.


Two GS's and one good bike in Ixtapa:




From Ixtapa you get on Hwy 134 which leads towards Toluca. Itís about 250 miles to the Valle de Bravo turn off, but the straight sections on this road are few and far between. Itís tight, itís twisty and pavement quality varies greatly (so, itís a normal Mexican road).


Yes, more curves. About 250 miles of them. I love Mexico :



Luckily, traffic wasnít very heavy, but it didnít matter much with Johan. If Jose Luis makes most Mexicans seem relaxed in their passing habits, Johan makes JL look like a little old lady . Although, I have to admit that I learned a lot from watching his technique. It's not always about speed, it's about finding those elusive gaps between on coming traffic or the gap between the traffic you are passing and on coming traffic, so you can split lanes, only with one lane of traffic coming in the opposite direction. Not for the faint of heart. I figured out it would be best if I rode in the back, at least it would be easy to catch up after I cleared traffic.


Great elevation changes brought different scenery, but no less curves:




My burro is faster than your burro:




Some of the views on the road to Ciudad Altamirano:



This guy was so loaded (and the truck was so old...) that he was barely making progress up the hill:



More views from Hwy 134:



In some places the pavement was almost gone:



I counted 8 passengers in the bed of that Nissan pickup:



Ciudad Altamirano was a big surprise. I didn't expect it to be such a large, bustling city. Traffic was heavy, the streets narrow and it was hot. We tried to find the gaps in traffic that would allow us to make a bit faster progress. At one point, Johan and Jose Luis went to the left lanes to split traffic, but i decided I'd be better off on the right side. I lost track of them in traffic only to suddenly see familair headlights in my mirror.

I guess going right was the right choice:



Do you guys think there is a bit more room on that trcuk for a few more tires?



It was hot, so it was time to take a break. Nothing like fresh squeezed orange juice served with a smile:




Outside of Ciudad Altamirano Johan went by a SES checkpoint, but they pulled JL and me over for inspection. These guys were looking for drugs and arms. There was a team of reporters taking pictures and talking to the police and travelers. They took our pictures and I asked if I could take some too. The young officer wasnít sure so he referred me to the post commander. I walked over and we chatted for a while as he was standing there with a reporter and photographer . He asked where I was coming from and how I was liking my trip through Mexico. He also asked if it was as bad as reports make it to be (there have been some serious confrontations between one of the cartels and police forces in Michoacan). I told him I was having a great trip through Mexico, really enjoying myself, and that I had not run into any issues at all. And as we were standing there with the reporters I told him you canít believe anything they say in the news, all they are looking for is sensationalism and they exaggerate all their reports to make them seem more interesting. He cracked up (so did one of the younger reporters) and after a few minutes, when he caught his composure he said I could take as many pictures as wanted. If it hadnít been so hot in my riding suit I might have spent more time there, but I really wanted to get moving, so I snapped a couple of pictures and we quickly departed.


Another check point, but that notorious R12GS gang eludes police again:



We made good progress after that, save for one tope incident I had leaving a small town. I was sure we were clear of the topes, so I picked up speed to catch up with Johan and JL, only to realize there was one more tope (of the nasty unpainted or signed type) as I was about to hit it. Going 50 MPH, I rolled off the throttle and snapped it open again to get the front over the tope. It worked, I hit it lightly with the front and caught some nice air (much to the delight of the locals, I am sure ). A quick check showed everything was still there (especially the top case - kudos to Givi for making a very good latching system ), so I continued on my way.


Johan and Jose Luis enjoying the curves on our way to Valle:






If it runs, it's street legal. What you can't see that well from this angle are the bent bars (and I mean - bent) and the treadless tires:




We got to Valle around 5 PM, where Johan had prepared a very nice late lunch for us.

Johan not only knows restaurantes, he knows food. The house was OK too



More on the Valle experience later.


Gustavo
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Old 01-23-2007, 03:47 PM   #26
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Just beautiful!! Thanks again for the pics and updated report
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Old 01-23-2007, 07:52 PM   #27
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photo set up

Great report. I'm heading down the opposite coast in the near future. How did you set up you camera for all the great shots?
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Old 01-23-2007, 10:14 PM   #28
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Great report. I'm heading down the opposite coast in the near future. How did you set up you camera for all the great shots?
Thanks. Which way are you going and when?

The camera support is rather special. You could say custom made.

It allows shots above the windscreen:





side of the bike:



or perpendicular:




It's my left hand.

Yes, really. No fancy support, just shooting pictures free hand. A small camera (I use a Canon SD450) and some practice help, but that's about it.

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Old 01-24-2007, 11:10 PM   #29
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Valle de Bravo

Let me start by saying that Johan and Juanita are simply excellent hosts. We spent 3 days in Valle de Bravo with them and had a very good time. Johan had some sight-seeing ideas planned and some new ideas that appeared as we sat and chatted made for an excellent visit.

We started the day (the day starts after breakfast, at around 11 AM... ) with a visit to Enrique’s place where he wanted to show off his new seat to Jose Luis who has been complaining about the OEM GS seat being too soft and uncomfortable for long rides. The "short" visit turned into several hours as we enjoyed Enrique’s lovely garden, the discussion was lively and he constantly brought more drinks and food out, so no one was in a hurry to leave...

Hanging out in Enrique's backyard:



Our most exellent hosts:




But, Johan had a plan, and we had to leave. We went to La Torre, a mountain with an observation tower which also serves as a launching spot for gliders. The views of Valle de Bravo and the lake are spectacular, and seeing all those gliders over boats on the lake makes it as if it was out of postcard. Life in Valle is obviously rough.


MotoAventuras goes to La Torre:



Valle de Bravo:



Oh, yeah, in Mexico, we travel like Mexican do - in the back of a truck:




Of course, by the time we got down from La Torre, it was time to eat again, so we stopped along the way back into town at a very nice restaurant where we tried some local specialties. We had barely made it back to Johan’s and it was time to leave again. Johan had gotten tickets to a Valle benefit concert that is held annually before the New Year. This year it was Dos Guitarras, a guitar concert, given by a very talented local musician who had studied in the Music Academy of London and his guitar teacher from the academy. I really enjoyed it.

After the concert, we went to hear Balam give a talk about his motorcycle travels through South America at the KTM shop. Balam started his trip as a short vacation and it turned into a 3 year adventure, covering most of Latin America (http://www.motoquimera.com). He is a friend of Jose Luis’ from their KLR days and happens to live in Valle now. Unfortunately, the KTM guys didn’t have a covered spot for this, so the talk was in their back yard. I say unfortunately, because Valle is rather chilly at night and people didn’t really want to hang out for a Q&A session after the presentation.

Balam suggested we go see some prehistoric rock paintings that had been discovered near Santo Tomas (he was involved in the restoration and setup of the site) the next day and offered to be our guide.


Couldn't end the day without some good Tequila, could we?





The next day we went to Santo Tomas and had a great tour of the rock paintings site with Balam and his family. It turns out I "knew" Gerardo, his brother who came along on the tour, from ADVRider. Very small world.


Bird of Paradise:




Balam leads the expedition to see the prehistoric rock paintings:




He is so excited you'd think he actually drew these, when he "only" helped restore and open up the site for public viewing. :



He is so good at it, even the local kids who would typically ignore tourists were facinated by his explanations:





We also went to see what’s left of the old Santo Tomas town. The original Santo Tomas sat in a valley which was flooded after the construction of a hydro power damn system in the area. The only part that is visible in the lake that was formed is the top of the church tower. Very conveniently, there are some restaurants along the lake shore, where you can sit and absorb the views while eating tasty treats.

Restaurant on the lake:




After the valley was flooded, all that remains visible of the old town of Santo Tomas is the church tower:




We finished the day with an excellent New Year’s paella and cochinita pibil dinner with Johan and his family at their house (do you guys spot a trend here? Johan likes to eat well ).

New Year's dinner:



My plan was to ride up to some spot in the Sierra Gorda on New Year's day. Johan had other plans . We went out for breakfast (do I have to mention it was good Mexican food? He hasn’t disappointed yet, has he? ), then he took us to show off a house his company is working on. This house is perched on top of a cliff called La PeŮa, and has breathtaking views of Valle and the lake. I could live in a shack like that.


Feliz 2007 - Johan and Jose Luis downtown Valle:



Mercado de Artesanias - Strange mix of Chinese made plastic junk and local crafts:



Catching some rays:



The views of Valle and the lake from La PeŮa:




OK, it's almost 2 PM and I am getting anxious . We slowly make our way though Valle traffic (everybody and his brother was out today, after all it is New Years day) to Johan’s place. At about 2:30 we get there and in no time I am ready to leave. A quick goodbye and I am off to fight Valle traffic again (I am going to a road that’s on the other side of town. Luckily, the bike makes it across town much faster than a car. Johan suggested a shortcut to Tequisquiapan, and I find it without any problems. The road out of the city is fantastic. Valle (valley) is surrounded by mountains, of course, and as you may remember, these guys don’t know how to build a straight road...


The PFP's latest road weapon - most of these are equiped with radars - they don't use them often, but they will eventually...:



At 6 PM, after doing my best imitation of Johan on Mexican roads (no, I am not even close to the master ) and just as it's getting dark out there, I roll into Tequis.


Gustavo

Gustavo screwed with this post 01-25-2007 at 09:38 AM
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Old 01-26-2007, 10:59 PM   #30
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Tequis - Zacatecas

Where were we? I had made it to Tequis right as it was getting dark, I found the hotel I was looking for, Posada San Francisco, which was listed in the Lonely Planet as budget hotel. When I walked in I was greeted very nicely by the manager, but she had a much higher price in mind than I thought it would be based on the LP listing. Not a big problem, everything is negotiable, so we ended up agreeing on a "special" 33% discount. Now it was a much more appealing place to stay.


Tequis became what it is thanks to hot springs that were used by Mexico Cityís rich and famous as a place to cure what ills them.


Tequis' plaza:







This included a long list of presidents as well, and since in countries like Mexico you needed (many say you still have) to be close to the source to land lucrative business deals, everybody else followed. Now Tequis is a well established weekend resort town and it shows. It has that look one imagines quaint Mexican towns do, but still retains the feeling of a real working town, not a tourist resort, such as those you find on the coasts.


The courtyard at Posada San Francisco:




I had a long day ahead of me, so I got up around 7, and went out to find something to eat about 30 minutes later, only to find out again that in Mexico, the saying "no por mucho madrugar amanece mas temprano" is always true.


Tequis is not a town of early risers:











It took me 20 minutes to find someone that already had something that would pass for breakfast close to 8 AM. Not a town of early risers. Breakfast ended up being a warm cup of atole de fresa and sweet Mexican bread. I had my breakfast sitting on a bench in the main plaza, across from church, watching people coming out of the morning mass. No wonder there was no one in the market. Market starts only after mass ends...


This is where you get your atole early in the morning:




One of the early riser walking to the market after mass:




I really liked this building:




Tequis streets:







It was time to get on the road. The road east out of Tequis doesnít start out very promising. If you donít know where you are going, youíd be forgiven if you think you are about to spend the day riding mostly in a straight line and down these mild hills. Once you get near the San Joaquin turnoff, the road starts to get more interesting.


Climbing into the Sierra:




Still very arrid and desert like:




As I had never been up to San Joaquin, I decided to go check it out. 20 miles each way, over an hour to do it, with only one short stop. Now this is more like it.

Back on the main road to the Sierra Gorda, the road takes a nose dive into a valley, then starts to finally climb into the mountains.


Finally a straight strech to let you rest...




At one spot in the road, as you are climbing further into the Sierra, a sign proclaims this to be the Gateway to Heaven. If you are a motorcyclist, they are not exaggerating. OK, they actually meant it in the sense that this is a natural reserve, but I couldn't have agreed more anyway.


No, they are no exaggerating:



More curves, different background (like you have time to notice ):



Still climbing...




Looked like quartz stones:




At one point I looked over the valley, and saw a beautiful cloudy carpet completely filling the space between the peaks. The sun was shining, the temperature very comfortable for riding, and I couldnít help but think about that sign again. This was the roadway to heaven.


Riding above the clouds in the Sierra Gorda:






Stuff you find on the road (part.. oh, I lost count already ) - Someone lost a load of something that used to be made out of this nice dark glass:



Now I'm "officially" there:



Pinal de Amoles:




Remember those clouds? Of course, about 30 minutes later, I was riding in those clouds, as I was descending to Jalpan. Visibility very limited, and since I couldnít see through my heavily misted/fogged face shield, I had to ride with it up, getting wet and cold in the process. So much for heaven.


Curve? What curve?




The ride through the clouds didnít really last as long as it seemed at the time, and I quickly found myself in Jalpan. Since we visited Jalpan last year, I decided to skip the town and go on towards San Luis Potosi.


This has got to be the most creative use of Sch 40 PVC I have ever seen:




After some short straight sections in the valleys near Rio Verde, the road climbs into the mountains again but this time, as the road to SLP is a major access east, there was a lot more traffic. Luckily, it was all dispatched without too much trouble using the techniques of Johan the master of Mexican traffic.

San Luis Potosi is a very large, industrial city, with a lively colonial/historical city center. It may not be a tourist destination, but if you are on the road and need a place to crash for the night, it may make an interesting overnight stop. Zacatecas is more interesting, IMHO, and that was my target for the night.

I have usually stayed in the city center, but parking is a hassle (none of the places I can afford have onsite parking) so I decided to try a hotel a bit further out. I picked Hotel Colon out of the LP budget list, since it listed parking was available. That was not the case, no parking is available, but they didnít mind if I left the bike in their reserved loading/unloading area, just in front of the main door, which I figured was just as good.


Zacatecas has some really steep streets:



Downtown Zacatecas:



Zacatecas' cathedral:



One of the problems of shooting with a timer dealy - Hey, how did that bus get into my frame?



Much better now - The main entrance to Zacatecas' cathedral:




I went to have dinner at DoŮa Juliaís (excellent gorditas), but as is often the case, it was packed and there was a long wait for a table. I was really hungry, so I decided to go have dinner at Acropolis, a restaurant recommended by Gourmet Magazine (it was Lizbethís suggestion, I was talking to her on the phone as I walked around the city, she remembers those kinds of details).

The place was nice, the food tasty, but for some reason, it didnít agree with me at all . So much for Gourmet Magazine recommendations... To make a long story short, it was a very long night , which was really bad timing, as I was looking at an 880 km trip then next day to get to Chihuahua.


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