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Old 03-29-2007, 04:13 PM   #61
srileo
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phenominal report! great story teling as well. i am jealous
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Old 03-29-2007, 05:11 PM   #62
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Those are terrific photos and a good story. Thanks guys.
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Old 03-29-2007, 05:58 PM   #63
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Obviously a fantastic adventure.

Almost makes me want to go to Mexico.

I had no idea you could get that many pics on one page.

Kudos and ratings.
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Old 03-29-2007, 06:25 PM   #64
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Durango

I must be a lightweight, in addition to not being able to cut it during the night-time charge into Durango I also didn't take many pictures. A whopping two all day, both at the gas station at Crucero La Zarca (about 120 miles North of Durango) where as Gusty mentioned there was no premium.

Gas was to be the one annoyance I had with the KTM all trip. The 950 is new to me, I got it a month before we left. I first had to pull the octane plug at Ignacio Zaragoza (a couple hours south of Casa Grandes) on the second day in Mexico. That whole area is a bit of a premium void. This was also where the attendant, realizing my Spanish was less than optimal, tried to short me 100 pesos on change from a 500 note. Fortunately my grasp of the decimal system is better than my grasp of Spanish but it was amusing. This was the one time it happened all trip, !#$%er

I couldn't tell if the bike ran badly or not on regular. Right after Ignacio Zaragoza we started climbing on Hwy16 and it ran like utter crap and was noticably down on power but there is also only regular gas at Samachique (there is a premium pump but it's locked and not been filled for years) and the bike ran like a champ on the return leg from Samachique to Creel and I was pushing it hard. There was maybe less pure climbing here than previously but the whole issue left me perplexed.

What was more obvious was the cost. All the gas stations in Mexico are like Pacific NW liquor stores, the product is state controlled but the stations are independantly owned. Prices were the same everywhere we went. 8.6pesos for 92 and 6.8 for 87. Thats over a 25% premium for premium combined with the KTMs less than stellar fuel economy meant that a 92 octane fill-up cost me about 150 pesos per 150 miles to Gustavo and Brians 75 pesos. In the end for the more pedestrian sections I ended up using regular and just retarding the timing but still this was 100 pesos to their 75. Oh well, I have better suspension

What I should have done and didn't was keep a fuel log with refil quantities, mileage, av speed and elevation. Would have been useful.

Anyways. now that I'm done with this tangent, here are the two pics (drumroll ....) from Crucero La Zarca:

The first is of a family of like 8 people packed into a tiny pickup:



The second is of the little blue shack where Brian and I got drinks. Brian was quite impressed by the full-service nature of this establishment. As we approached the owner turned back, went inside and put on his apron to serve us. He also had a little bucket of fresh water where he dipped the soda cans to clean them and a white rag which he dried them off with.



Soda is a bit of an odd thing in Mexico. It's even more prevalent than in the US and heavily consumed (though mostly it's all sold in glass bottles which get reused). Also, there are no 64oz BigGulps. Coke has the market hold, very little Pepsi products. I think I drank more soda in 2 weeks in Mexico than I have in the last 5 years in the US (no joke). The whole soda thing (plus of course the Nescafe tragedy) was to Gustavo's friend Noel, a large conspiracy being forced upon the Mexican population

Talking of consipiracies .... it's possible that I wasn't in the best of moods upon arriving at Durango. Tired after the Banzai night-time donkey dodging ride plus worried about leaving the bikes parked outside of the Hotel on a busy street (turned out to be totally unfounded). Gustavo decides that rather than find somewhere decent to eat, we'll go to Sanborns (a department store chain owned by Mexico telecom magnate and all around Bill Gates wannabe Carlos Slim). Lets just say that the Pasta Alfredo was't a fulfilling experience. If I ever run into Mr Slim I'm gonna have to ask whats the deal with canned mushrooms in Mexico. But Brian and I did get to rail on Gustavo for his riding so that made me feel a whole lot better.

After this we went outside to the square. I don't have any pics but it was busy and lined up on one side were a selection of the rattiest sportbikes I've seen in a while. If you've wondered why you don't see many Katana 600 and 750s in the US anymore, I can put you out of your misery and tell you most are living out their waning years in Durango.

After this Gustavo went off to call home and Brian and I wandered around eventually running into a truly excellent coffee shop called Cafe Brazil where we got talking to the owners (one Brazilian - who would have guessed - and one Mexican who met at the University of Texas at Austin). I loved this place. We'd return there in a couple of days on the way back from Mazatlan.

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Old 03-29-2007, 09:05 PM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustavo
[...off to Durango] Brian noticed that he had lost one of the screws that holds the right Givi in place. Luckily, he had a top case position he could mount it to, but that left the bike unbalanced, making him keep a constant pressure on the opposite bar end to keep the bike going straight
Actually, I noticed this the morning that we went to Divisadero. I was kicking myself because on the way to the restaurant for dinner after Batopilas I said something like, "I'm so happy with my 'new' V-Strom. Today was a day where, if anything was going to break, pop, or vibrate off, it would have." I felt like I had really tested the bike: dropping it in the rocks, riding 60 miles of dusty and somewhat rough dirt, then revving it fairly mercilessly through the twisty bits. I think I've only ever treated my race bike more roughly.
Well, the bolt holding the bar which crosses behind the rear fender did vibrate off. Fortunately the bolt on the other side, altho half-way backed out, stayed in long enough that the cross bar came home with me.
I had a spare M6 bolt that would hold the cross bar steady, but the part that was really hard to replace was the little "mushroom" that the lower part of the bag slides on to.
We went to the hardware store in Creel after returning from Divisadero to look for a longer bolt which could maybe be jury-rigged with some washers and spacers to act like a Givi "mushroom" but, , we found only SAE hardware. So much for the metric system being the standard everywhere except the USA.
Later I came up with other temporary bag mounting options, but the trip to Durango was a looong day, and having the bike always pull to the left really put a kink in my neck and shoulders.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustavo
There was this Wee-Strom that stalked me all the way there:
OK, I'll be the first one to say, "Awesome action shot!"

P.S. Clean your mirrors more often
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Old 03-29-2007, 09:57 PM   #66
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Divisadero, Flying Rocks, and more

Tony and Gustavo have pretty well covered our day with the MotoAventuras guys, but I have a couple of photos to add.

A panoramic view from Divisadero: (click for higher-res)


The Hotel Divisadero had a really cool entrance door:


Here's a picture Tony and Gustavo would have a hard time taking:


I bought two 10-peso bracelets from the girl on the left at the old cathedral in the very small town:


There was also a little boy who was very insistently begging for "un peso". This may have been the most poverty-stricken area that we actually stopped at (we drove by some very primitive places but didn't stop), and I felt a bit awkward showing up with a bunch of bikes probably worth $100,000 all together. (OK, the 2 V-Stroms don't contribute much to that total) I'm still not sure if there's anything I can do to help, but I am going to try to keep this in mind.

A couple related observations:
- I think Tony and Gustavo both mentioned something Noel talked to us about: CocaCola advertises extensively in Mexico, and Mexicans are, jointly, Coke's biggest customer. In the Valle de Hongos there was another boy who came over to beg after we parked. He obviously didn't have a lot, but I did notice when we first arrived that he had a big bottle of Coke. He probably doesn't have a source of clean drinking water, but he chose to spend what money he has on Coke instead of bottled water.

I'm not sure why I find this as disturbing as I do. Maybe it's because I have a 2-Dr Peppers-a-day habit (For any other Dr. P addicts, let me tell you, there is no Dr. P in Mexico.) But more likely, it's all part of my frustation with Coke, CitiCorp, and other big corporations using "free trade" agreements ... never mind, this is probably not the forum for this.

- The drive home from New Mexico in the truck was really striking because there are lots of new shops and homes being built near the interstate (to go with the many that are already there). I don't know why anyone would want to live in the oppressive heat of Phoenix or Tucson or Palm Hills, CA, or any of many other places we passed on I-10 and southern I-5, but it was clear from driving by these places that lots of money is being spent and shopping is The American Way. If you ever wonder about those statistics about trade deficits, disproportionate use of resources, and global warming pollution, just drive along I-10 for a while. I felt like I went from poverty and subsistence to the land of endless shopping.

OK, that's depressing and political... back to bikes, pictures, and food. Who says the R1?00LT isn't a dirt bike?


Again, there are lots more of my pictures here.

Dinner that night was at The Parador, a hotel and restaurant in Creel. I had the house special Molcajete. A molcajete is a traditional bowl that is hand carved from volcanic rock. In this case, the rock holds a bean and tomato soup with large strips of steak and cheese, plus slices of avocado. It was really delicious.
Jose Lois provided dessert for everyone. He brought stuffed, sun-dried guayaba (guava), a specialty of the Puerto Vallarta area. He gave Tony and I some extras so we could take them home to our sweeties.
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Old 03-29-2007, 10:13 PM   #67
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Creel to Durango

We got up early (yes, Gustavo, it was early) and had breakfast with a few of the MotoAventuras guys at the hotel restaurant. Hector bought breakfast for everyone as part of his bid to host the 2008 MotoAv gathering in Guatemala. Thanks, Hector, but the Olympic Committee doesn't accept bribes...
We were on the road before 9 -- OK, maybe it didn't turn out to be as early a start as hoped for, but there were a lot of people to say "goodbye" to.

The road to Samichique was awesome again. It stayed interesting for another 100 or so miles, then we hit Mexico 24 -- yikes! That may be the road in worst repair that I have ridden.
Nice lunch in Parral, then a long grind to Durango. I only took one picture the whole day, the cathedral on the main plaza in Durango:

I think it's very handy to have a clock on the cathedral

Tony had his first really bad meal of the trip at Sanborns, but then he and I discovered Cafe Brasil on Hidalgo St. wandering around after dinner, and it made up for the dinner.
Durango has some very nice old buildings. Usually my Spanish is good enough to parse out signs, but the plaque on the historic government building was way too much for me. I couldn't tell if the government had commandeered the building from a rich guy, or if they just liked the architecture of this guy's house so much that they made the gov't building look just like it. Either way, it happened a long time ago
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Old 03-29-2007, 11:08 PM   #68
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Durango to Zacatecas

This day was going to be a short day of riding, leaving us enough time to explore Zacatecas in the afternoon. We ran into some road construction on the road to Zacatecas, which slowed the pace in the first few miles, as they are turning the road exiting Durango into a four lane highway.

But, every day has to start with a good breakfast, and we found El Zacabon to be a good place to have breakfast. El Zacabon has been in business for 25 years (not sure all of them at this location) and is a favorite of the locals for some very good reasons.

Tony and Brian were happy customers too:



We made a few failed attempts at finding the bolt Brian needed (it was Sunday, all the "good" places were closed), and around 10:30 finally got on the road to Zacatecas.

As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of construction at the Durango exit:



The detours around the construction zones weren't always this nice or wide, you often had to wait for oncoming traffic to pass before you could use it:



We got to Zacatecas a little before 2 PM and quickly found the hotel. I picked the Maria Benita because it had parking (Tony was worried about street parking in Durango , I had parked the V-Strom on the street in front of Hotel Roma many times without any issues, and I was certainly not worried this time, since there was this shiny new KTM parked next to it... ), but it turned out that the parking garage is around the block without direct access to the hotel. The hotel staff suggested our bikes would be better off in the hotel courtyard, or today, in the shopping mall, since it was closed for the holiday.

There was only one problem. There were three stairs to hop over before entering the shopping area...

Getting ready to pick Brian's bike up the stairs:



It wasn't that difficult, but the bash plate hit on one of the stairs:



My V-Strom is a little heavier:



Tony, we could have really used your help here, buddy... :



Bikes parked away from the street:



Zacatecas was established in the mid 1500s. It was settled to mine the silver deposits that were originally found by indigenous Zacatecos in the hills around it. IMHO, it has some of the finest colonial buildings anywhere in Mexico, the historical center is nicely preserved without feeling like a tourist trap. It's a really nice working city that happens to have fantastic buildings and history. Since the city center dates from well before the automobile, it's a perfect city to explore on foot. Once you get outside the city center, it's sprawl central, but you generally have no need to visit those newer neighborhoods, even if you are a seriously cheap bastard (who me? ) you can find decent accommodations within walking distance of the city center.

Wandering around Zacatecas:






Tony and Brian with Zacatecas' cathedral and La Bufa in the background:



Teatro Calderon:



We were hungry, so I suggested Acropolis as an option that would probably be acceptable for Tony. I have to note that there was full disclosure of my "culinary adventure" there early in January, but they decided to brave the odds and try it:



There was no reason to worry. I didn't really think there was anything wrong with the food at Acropolis, it was just a bad combination that night. The food was very tasty.

We wondered into the cathedral next door:


It's pretty austere compared to some of the cathedrals further south (Santo Domingo in Oaxaca comes to mind).

The facade is magnificent:



Given that Zacatecas is a silver jewelery center, Tony used the opportunity to buy some souvenirs:



The end of Av. Hidalgo:



Newer neighborhoods on the hill:



I wanted to visit museo Rafael Coronel (the building used to be a convent - Convento de San Francisco), but it was closed by the time we got there:



Wandering around Zacatecas:









Teleferico La Bufa - the cable car to La Bufa:


We took the last car up and walked down the hill back into town.


Museo Rafael Coronel:



At the top of La Bufa there is a chapel for la virgen del patrocinio, patron saint of the miners:



Sunset from La Bufa:



Plazuela Francisco Gotia is sort of the communal living room of Zacatecas, there is almost always something going on there:






One of the nicest hotels in town is La Quinta Real de Zacatecas. It's built in an old bull ring, and they have done a magnificent job at it. It's certainly worth a visit to see the place. We decided to go have dinner there while we were visiting it.

Dinner at Quinta Real:






Tony enjoying his wine (at least until we got the bill ):



The place was very nice. The food was OK to good but the service mediocre at best. It started with the unavailable water. Well, I am not sure that it's not available, but repeated request to get three glasses (or even bottles) of water did not produce a single glass of water until we left. Then there was the wine bait-and-switch thing. It made for the final straw in our remarkably unimpressive dinning experience. Considering that we spent a lot more on dinner than we did on lodging in Zacatecas, it should have been a lot better than that.

I still highly recommend going to see the Quinta Real, The place is gorgeous. Go have gorditas at Doña Julia and later go have some drinks at the Quinta Real bar.


On our way out I noticed that the Quinta Real parking lot was at full capacity:


Man, can they pack them into those lots. I hope those parked in the back don't have plans to leave early tomorrow...


Gustavo

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Old 03-29-2007, 11:13 PM   #69
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Durango to Zacatecas

We had a nice breakfast at a place off the south-west corner of the main square. Here's the government building now that it's light again:


We also walked by Cafe Brasil again, but it's only open from 4P to 11P. We did see that it is housed in the former home of Delores Del Rio, who was the first Mexican actress to make it big in Hollywood, back in the 1940's


The road from Durango to Zacatecas is pretty boring, but at least I set up my luggage differently so that the bike wasn't pulling to the left all the time. It was Sunday, so the metric bolt place in Durango was closed when we stopped on the way out of town. There was a lot of road construction near Durango -- they are widening the road considerably.

Zacatecas is an interesting old town, now grown considerably. The old part of town is on some hills, and steep cobblestone roads make for some interesting riding. Some of the streets are just too steep, and they have stairs on them.


We had some fun checking in at our hotel. They let us park the bikes in a part of the building which is sort of a mini-mall. Monday was going to be a holiday, so the shops would still be closed then. I didn't take a picture, but I know Tony and Gustavo did. The interesting part was getting the bikes up one wide stair-step and two normal stair-steps with a ramp that only worked for one step. With the help of a couple of guys on the hotel staff, we got them up, but my bash plate or center stand hit their nice marble stair. The guys didn't seem too concerned.

After settling in, we walked around town in tourist mode. There are a few cathedrals in Zacatecas, and we visited a very nice one.


We ate a nice lunch in a restaurant called Acropolis in the near building.

My "artsy" photo:


Tony's colorful shirt seemed appropriate for the colorful houses in Zacatecas.


There is a museum in this old nunnery, but we were there too late and it was closed.

More of the nunnery


Cool statue on someone's roof with a view of La Bufa in the background.


Hmmm, between the Tony's shirt picture and this one, I am thinking that WebShots is darkening my photos. These are brighter on my computer. Darn free photo hosting services -- you can never get your money back!

Anyway, perhaps Gustavo can explain La Bufa better... on top of this hill there is a shrine and the tower you see, which looks more like some kind of fort. Which one is La Bufa? Maybe they both are, plus there are a few shops up there. You can ride a cable car up there, and we decided to do just that. Those lines in the middle of the picture above are the cable car cables, and it was a bit wierd to see the cable cars going overhead.

Before you can ride the cable car, you have to hike to the top of the other hill. This street was almost all stairs:


We arrived at 6:05, and the cable car was supposed to close at 6. They let us in, tho, to wait along with 30 or so other people, one of whom was a big fan of the soccer team that was playing on the TV in the waiting room. Luckily he rode on a different car. Here's the view from the cable car loading platform:


And the cathedral from the cable car:


Another "art" shot of the view back down the cable car cables with the sunset reflected on them:


My pics of La Bufa itself didn't turn out that well -- Tony and Gustavo probably have some.

We walked down the hill to our hotel while I used Tony's cell phone to call my wife. $8 for 12 minutes, what a bargain, eh? TelCel (I think), owned by the same guy that owns the Sanborns chain, Tony's friend Carlos Slim, has had pretty much a monopoly on cell phones in Mexico, and the prices tell the story. However, we did see some presence of Telefonica Movistar (MotoGP sponsor of years past). Apparently, their coverage is still very limited, but maybe they'll build up to being competition and bring the prices down.

At the hotel we washed up a little and spent a couple minutes checking email on the hotel computers. One of them had a keyboard where the b key didn't work. I, rian, had a hard time entering my name and password.
My dad had recommended we check out a couple of places, so we walked over to La Quinta Real for dinner. This is a La Quinta hotel built in an old bull-fighting ring. As if that didn't provide enough ambiance, there are some old aqueducts nearby. We arrived well after dark, but I tried a long-exposure shot while we were waiting for our table:

You can see one of the cathedrals through an arch in the aqueduct -- the view was very cool.
The food was pretty good, but didn't quite match up with the 5-star service they were trying to present. Unfortunately the whole appearance of good service was ruined for us by a controversy over the price of the wine we drank. Tony had selected a 270 peso bottle from the wine menu. The waiter, who didn't seem to be the wine steward, appeared with a tray with 4 different bottles on it, and said Tony's selection was not available, and the 4 bottles he had were the only other choices. Maybe they were the only similar choices. He did not bring the wine list back. Anyway, Tony picked the one that he understood to be 340 pesos. The check arrived with a charge for a 540 peso bottle of wine, and it took 15 minutes and 4 or 5 negotiation sessions to get the charge corrected.
Between the wine controversy, and us never getting any water despite asking for it a couple times, we were not happy with the service. It was a nice bottle of wine, though.
Back to the hotel pretty late, and we need to get an early start for the ride tomorrow.
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Old 03-30-2007, 09:50 AM   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottr
Obviously a fantastic adventure.

Almost makes me want to go to Mexico.

I had no idea you could get that many pics on one page.

Kudos and ratings.
Thanks. We certainly had a good time (like you couldn't tell by reading the report... ).

But seriously, you shouldn't even consider going to Mexico. Really. It's not good for you. Ask Pilot. Or, if you don't believe him, read this.





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Old 03-30-2007, 10:14 AM   #71
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Gustavo, are you going to talk about your new-found passiing strategy on the start of the ride to Zacatecas?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustavo
We got to Zacatecas a little before 2 PM and quickly found the hotel. I picked the Maria Benita because it had parking (Tony was worried about street parking in Durango , I had parked the V-Strom on the street in front of Hotel Roma many times without any issues, and I was certainly not worried this time, since there was this shiny new KTM parked next to it... )
I dunno how safe Durango is. As with all things, one night, probably no issue most places. Multiple days in the same spot is where the problem lies. I did have a crazy thick cable lock with me (fits nicely into the Gobi bags though) which was kind of a running joke -- since I brought it with me I felt obliged to always use it but the first 4 days in Casa Grandes and Creel were so safe I felt pretty stupid taking the thing out. In Durango it seemed a bit more sensible to lock the bike down.


Quote:
One of the nicest hotels in town is La Quinta Real de Zacatecas. It's built in an old bull ring, and they have done a magnificent job at it. It's certainly worth a visit to see the place. We decided to go have dinner there while we were visiting it.
This place was freaking amazing. Totally worth going to even with the comical wine bait-n-switch. Must see but I think I'd eat at the bar or just get a drink. Food wasn't that good. The next night in Durango was way better.

---

Anyways, these are the only two pics I have that are distinctly different.

Stopped into Tucky Tucky ice cream for an afternoon treat where I saw this sign. I guess discrimination laws are as common place as guardrails in Mexico



Cool aquaducts, this one not far from La Quinta Real
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:00 AM   #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazybrit
Gustavo, are you going to talk about your new-found passiing strategy on the start of the ride to Zacatecas?
What passing strategy?





Quote:
Originally Posted by crazybrit
I dunno how safe Durango is. As with all things, one night, probably no issue most places. Multiple days in the same spot is where the problem lies. I did have a crazy thick cable lock with me (fits nicely into the Gobi bags though) which was kind of a running joke -- since I brought it with me I felt obliged to always use...
Do we have pictures of the KTM locked to the different columns in Mexico? The funny part was not using the lock, but rather that we had to find a place to lock it to, so the parking choices had to coincide with light posts, big trees, etc. If I had a brand new 950, I would have locked it too.

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Old 03-30-2007, 11:04 AM   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustavo
If I had a brand new 950, I would have locked it too.
I'm still not inviting you over for dinner this weekend, no matter how hard to try and suck up
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:06 AM   #74
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I don't have much time to post, but there is a fantastic Hostal (small hotel, not hostel) in Zacatecas. It is owned by a family who has a couple KLRs (and other bikes), and they are Horizons Unlimited folks. They helped me get some missing parts on the bike, stored the bike in their courtyard (with their bikes) and gave us a great room at a reasonable price.

It's right in town, too.
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:31 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by tedder
I don't have much time to post, but there is a fantastic Hostal (small hotel, not hostel) in Zacatecas....
It's right in town, too.
I guess you are in such a hurry that you couldn't type in the most important info, like the name or where it's at, eh?

Sheeesh, some people's kids.

I think the place Ted is referring to is Hostal del Carmen, Av. Juárez No. 222, Zacatecas, Zacatecas. Tel. (492) 922-1430. I am not sure what rates he gives to motorcyclists (or he gave Ted and Tamara), but what I found online said MN$575/night for a double. Not really that cheap, but if you get other help there because they are riders, it may be worth the extra cost...


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