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Old 01-07-2008, 02:19 PM   #16
BCRides
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Great Report Gustavo! Keep It Coming!



Oh, and give me a call next time your passing through. El Paso Westside 915-526-2404. Maybe we can set up some rides in the future.
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Old 01-07-2008, 02:38 PM   #17
DireWolf
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You keep forgetting the "Do Do Do Do - Do - Do - Do - Do....." part of the chorus.

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Old 01-08-2008, 01:01 PM   #18
Gustavo OP
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Durango to Mazatlan

By the time I checked in to the hotel and changed to go out to dinner
it was after 8 PM. Most restaurants were closed due to it being
December 25th, but my favorite taqueria was open and didn't disappoint.

Two deshebrada burritos, two soft drinks - $3:



Since we are on the topic of eating, I had breakfast at El Zacabon,
which is a great breakfast spot:




As I was walking back to the hotel I saw these guys ride by on their
blacked out GS500s, wearing exactly what you see in the picture.
Nothing like the local police leading by example of using a helmet
as required by law:




This guy gave me a run for my money out of the traffic lights:




It was actually a pretty nice morning, I seemed to squeeze in between
two different cold fronts, so at around 9 AM I was comfortably making
my way to the Durango sierras, on the way to one of the world's best
roads. Forget the Alps, the Rockies, whatever. It's a little over
300 kms from Durango to Mazatlan. About 200 of those kms are insane
curves flowing into more insane curves and it includes a stretch
called el Espinazo del Diablo (the devils spine) for a good reason.
It's also one of the main east-west roads that link a major port
(Mazatlan) with the central highlands and the northeastern Mexico-US
border, so it has significant truck and other traffic. Back in the
old days, when cars had mediocre brakes (and poor driving skills -
that hasn't changed that much), people would regularly overheat their
brakes and run either into oncoming traffic or off one of the 500
meter drops into a canyon. There is a significant Mexican folklore
surrounding traveling El Espinazo. Even today people will look at
you funny when you say you are going to drive that road.

I call these the "warm-up" curves:







Tope by any other name:




As you climb into the mountains, you run into small towns that center
around the main highway. Typical small convenience store:




Two years ago, a very ambitious road construction project was launched
to create a highway that links Durango to Mazatlan. It currently takes
most car drivers almost 7 hours to cover these 310 kms. Trucks often
take all day. A highway that cuts through the mountains and would
shorten the travel time significantly would be well worth the toll
money to both private and commercial drivers. And hopefully would
leave the good parts of El Espinazo del Diablo clear of traffic for
us to enjoy.

The it's-going-to-be-finished-any-day-now toll road to Mazatlan:




The signs are already there, but I prefer the "libre" road anyway:




Just before El Salto, there is this large army training base:




El Salto is probably the largest town up in the Durango Sierras. It's
like a case study in everything that is wrong with uncontrolled
sprawl. People just seem to have built houses anywhere they could -
no planning, no streets and sometimes no services. The main
industries around here are cattle ranching and timber. Almost all
towns in this area have sawmills.

El Salto:




Timber is a major industry in the sierra:




I decided to take a side trip to Mexiquillo. It's sort of a nature
reserve that offers interesting hiking and biking activities, they
rent (nice looking) cabins for reasonable prices. This could be a
great spot for summer, when it gets really hot in the valleys.

Mexiquillo has interesting rock formations that reminded me of those
around Creel:











Typical wooden houses in the sierras:





Puerto Buenos Aires:




These mountains go on for ever:




This is what I came here for - 200 kms of motorcycle nirvana:




I rode 50 kms after that other mountain range pic and there is
still no end in sight:




Legend has it that when Hernan Cortes went back to Spain he was
asked to describe what the country was like. He took a piece of
paper, crumpled it in his hand and put it on the table, pointing
to it and saying - it's like this. Granted, not very likely -
paper in the 16th century didn't crumple like its modern relative
we use today, but a nice story to explain what this country looks
like anyway.

El Espinazo del Diablo:




Blind, cresting, right hander. I love this road:




One of the biggest problems with truck traffic is that the road
is so tight, it's almost impossible for an 18 wheeler to keep a
decent line through these turns at anything faster than walking
speeds. As a result, you often run into trucks (and some lazy
car drivers) that use the whole road to negotiate turns. Job
No. 1 here is avoiding becoming a hood ornament on the grill of
an oncoming truck.

Excuse me, I think you are in the wrong lane:




This is what it looks like from the other side (archive photo,
the camera wasn't ready when I ran into oncoming trucks on this
trip):



Talk about potential for becoming a hood ornament:





Tropic of Cancer:





Did I mention I love this road?




I stopped for lunch in Copala. Walked into Daniel's just before
two tour busses arrived. The poor guys working there could barely
find enough place for people to sit (and it's a big place). I
was sitting at a large table by myself, so I invited a family of
4 to joining me. Nice people from Vancouver Island. We had a nice
lunch together.




Got to Mazatlan earlier than expected, and I found the apartments
we were going to stay at easily. We stayed at Fiesta Apartments
and I am here to tell you they are highly NOT recommended. The
website is a lot nicer than the actual thing. At half the price
it would have been a so-so choice. There are much better options
in Mazatlan for less money. I need to send the Lonely Planet a
note about that recommendation. I would have walked out, but I
had reserved that place with a significant (non-refundable)
payment. I usually don't make reservations, just for that reason,
but when you are traveling with your family in the peak holiday
season, I thought it would be better to make a reservation...
Maybe next time we'll do without reservatiuons on family vacations
too.

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Old 01-08-2008, 03:13 PM   #19
tricepilot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustavo

We stayed at Fiesta Apartments and I am here to tell you they are highly NOT recommended.
I had a photo of those apartments from my trip through there but I didn't include it in my last ride report:



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Old 01-08-2008, 05:37 PM   #20
Gustavo OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tricepilot
I had a photo of those apartments from my trip through there but I didn't include it in my last ride report:



Bob
I think they showed you only the good side of the property...


Very well done.


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Old 01-08-2008, 06:08 PM   #21
JMead11
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Enjoying it!!!! Can't wait to see more!!!!
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Old 01-08-2008, 07:02 PM   #22
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keep going!
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Old 01-08-2008, 08:44 PM   #23
Gustavo OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCRides


Oh, and give me a call next time your passing through. El Paso Westside 915-526-2404. Maybe we can set up some rides in the future.
How come all you guys tell you me you're there up after I've been through?

Must be a hint...




Good to know there are ADVRider inmates in the border area. Next time I'll give you some advance warning, so we can meet and maybe go for a ride.


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Old 01-08-2008, 08:52 PM   #24
Gustavo OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DireWolf
You keep forgetting the "Do Do Do Do - Do - Do - Do - Do....." part of the chorus.
Sorry, I'm no Christopher Cross, I guess...


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Old 01-09-2008, 09:26 PM   #25
Gustavo OP
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Mazatlan

We didn't let the apartment get in the way of having a good time,
it's not that significant in the grand scheme of things. The
kids wanted to hit the beach as soon as they got there, so we
were off to the business of sun bathing, surfing and having fun
in the sun.

Mazatlan is a real city, not a made up resort town, so it has
some interesting contrast between the port and downtown areas
and la zona dorada (the golden zone) where the large hotels and
resorts are. I much prefer the downtown area, but the beaches
off the zona dorada are nicer for, well, beach activities, so
we stayed in that part of town.

This little girl was watching her baby brother while her parents
worked on selling stuff to tourists:



Being that this is a major tourist spot, there are literally
hundreds of people walking back and forth trying to sell their
stuff to tourists. The offerings vary from fresh fruit cups to
some nice handcrafts to some real questionable stuff. Everybody
has to make a living, but it gets really tiring when you can't
even read a short magazine article in one reading.



We had lunch at this taco stand. Excellent food, fairly cheap
for Mazatlan's zona dorada:



In the afternoons we went into town. Took the bus to the market
(~$0.70/ticket on the airconed one, ~$0.50 in the cheaper one)
and walked around downtown.

Mazatlan's market area:



Mercado Pino Suarez - indoor market. Not as cheap as you'd think:



On one of our walks to the malecon we stopped at El Dengue. I was
thinking what could be so special about a juice bar in a tourist
area? Well, it turns out these guys know how to make a great juice
or yogurt based fruit drinks. The damn thing was so big it could
easily make you skip a meal. I had a mixed tropical fruit and
yogurt drink that was truly excellent.




Fishing in Playa Norte:



Baja anybody?



One of Mazatlan's claims to fame is el Faro (the lighthouse). It's
said to be the second tallest lighthouse in the world (after the
one in Gibraltar) and if you are in good shape, you can climb to
the top of that rocky peninsula and take in the views of the city
and ocean.

Mazatlan from el Faro:



From the lighthouse, you can take Paseo Olas Altas, a winding road
that goes from the port area to downtown Mazatlan. It is a popular
hangout for locals as well as tourists:



I got a bit tired of all that walking, so I asked Pedro for a ride
into town, but he wouldn't go anywhere as I was not really ATGATT:



We spent some more time on the beach:



It's the second time I visit Mazatlan this year. It's not quite
as warm as some of the beaches further south are, but it's a nice
low key place you can enjoy for a few days and still find
interesting stuff to do for people with very different interests.
Good place to spend a family vacation, but it was almost time to
get back on the road...

Gustavo
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Old 01-09-2008, 10:00 PM   #26
biketherapy
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Old 01-10-2008, 12:56 PM   #27
Gustavo OP
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Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta

Family vacations are great, but his is about motorcycle trips, right?
Lets get back on the road...

Family vacation was over, the wife and squids took off back to
Chihuahua and I headed south to spend New Years with Jose Luis,
Lety and maybe some other MotoAventureros in Puerto Vallarta.
The road to PV isn't that great. You have the option of a new
cuota road (only part of the way, it's not complete yet) or the
old libre road. Both have a lot of traffic, but it's easier to
pass on the better designed cuota. If you want to make good time,
that's the way to go. I was going to avoid it, considering that
I was on a Por la Libre ride, it seemed like the thing to do.
Of course, the Libre road goes through many of the towns along the
way, it makes progress even slower, but more interesting. On this
trip I explored several small towns. Some not in my original
plan...

Street market in Esquinipa:







What a difference subtropical weather makes:



As I was leaving Esquinipa I ran into Glen (StrikingViking)
Heggstad. He was running low on gas. Yes, one of the problems
with many of these new cuota roads is that there are no services
on the roads. Most often, you can't even find a sign directing
you to the nearest gas station off in some town. So, I chose
the libre, thinking I didn't have to worry about that.
Right were the old and new roads split there were two trucks
that looked to have had a physics problem - both tried to occupy
the same space at the same time and it turns out that's not
quite possible without some plastic deformation...
The line looked long, I decided in a moment to avoid that mess
and turned right to the cuota highway. A lot of these new highways
are not 4 lane divided highways, rather, to save money, they build
2 lane roads with wide shoulders. When you want to pass, traffic
you are passing moves over to the shoulder, often so does oncoming
traffic and you go on your merry way. For most part, Mexican
drivers are right on it, and as soon as you show up in their
mirrors, they move over, even if there is no oncoming traffic.

Lane splitting, Mexican style:



When I got to the toll booth, I almost got a heart attack. Without
flinching, the young lady at the booth said MX$160. What? This
stretch was not even 80 kms long. What a rip-off. To put it into
perspective, the toll on the A1 between Charles de Gaulle and the
Belgian border (Lille actually, so just before the border) was only
€13 for 180 kms.

OK, so I'm about $15 poorer, unexpected, but not a big deal. But
I am starting to run low on gas, and I am not sure I can make it
to Tepic. Hmmmm.... The next exit is for Estacion Ruiz. I take
it - another toll booth. Really, this is a bit much. MX$25 this
time. I ask the guy at the booth - Is there a Pemex in Est. Ruiz?
Yes, it's about 5 kms, he says. I go into Estacion Ruiz, no gas
station. I ask a guy in a truck, he points west, says it's on the
other side of town, go straight, across the railroad tracks, past
the plaza.

Looking for the elusive gas station in Estacion Ruiz:



Seems pretty straight forward. At least until I got to the tracks.
There's no crossing. I mean, there are tracks, but they are
elevated, the road ends there. There's what looks like a pedestrian
crossing (some dirt piled up next to each track, so people can push
carts across), I figured, it's good enough for the locals, it's
good enough for me. Sure enough, the gas station was at the exit
of Estacion Ruiz to the libre road.

As you pass Tepic and start heading to the coast, the scenery
changes, becomes a much deeper shade of green:



Traffic on the tight, twisting two lane road that goes to Puerto
Vallarta was heavy. Trucks that, like on el Espinazo, cut across
the opposite lane to make the turns couldn't use all the road. I
had a rig behind me whose driver was working extra hard to stay in
his lane.




There lots of opportunities to stop and sample the local produce:



I made it to Puerto Vallarta late in the afternoon. Had a great
time catching up with Jose Luis and Lety. Lety prepared a fantastic
dinner for New Years - beef, chicken and shrimp main dishes along
with the obligatory side ones (sorry, I wasn't thinking - no pictures),
I even managed to stay up until the last of these crazy Mexicans
decided to call it a night. Man, these guys party...

Of course, the hardest one to keep up with is Jacinta:



This crazy bird never stop yakking...

Gustavo

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Old 01-11-2008, 05:00 PM   #28
Kodanja
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Nice Trip Report! I'm planning on a similar route this spring. Good to know about the road from Mazatlan to PV...I appreciate your comments on this! Hope you had a nice time with your family.
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Old 01-11-2008, 09:56 PM   #29
Gustavo OP
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Puerto Vallarta to Jocotepec

It was fun hanging out in PV, but I had a few more people to see
before I got back to Chihuahua, so I took my New Years ride as a
one way to Jocotepec. There used to be only one way to Guadalajara
and beyond from PV - back the same way I came. The alternate road
wasn't all paved, the bridge that connected the road to Mascota
regularly got washed out in the rainy season, most people avoided
it, so it was perfect for us. Well, it turns out there is a new
bridge and it doesn't wash out anymore, so it has become quite the
popular alternative to the main road through Compostela. Still,
it's a nice ride, so well worth it.

You still see a lot of livestock based transportation in Mexico:



I think they've exceeded the loading capacity:



So, there is a new bridge, but the road that goes down to the
river isn't completely blocked. I figured going down to the river
was required, for old times sake...

This is the "good road" down to the river crossing:



You get a really nice view of the new bridge on the way to the
river:



This innocent looking tributary of Rio Ameca gets higher than
those yellow I-Beams in the rainy season, and has been known
to take full size trucks down the river if they didn't give it
the respect it requires.

Those yellow posts are there as a depth indicator. Yes, they
do disappear some days:



Churros, hmmmm:



Your future Tequila:



The road gets better and better:



Before you know it, you are in Mascota:



Mascota is a small town in the western Jalisco mountains,
cobble stone streets, very tranquilo pace of life.

The old mission in Mascota has seen better days:



This place was a real find in Mascota. Excellent lunch.



Town plazas are still a popular place for people to hang
out in Mexico:



The Mascota road has been "discovered" - lots of traffic
that needs to be dispatched to make good progress:



Typically overloaded truck:



I was looking for a short cut through San Martin de Hidalgo, but
never found the turn off so I kept going to Tala and used that
shortcut. That dropped off on the road to Guadalajara, where
everybody in Mexico seemed to be trying to go. And I thought
traffic coming into Mexico, at the border, was heavy. There must
have been a 20 mile bumper to bumper line of traffic moving at
snails pace towards Guadalajara. Remind me not to make driving
plans for January 1st near any large Mexican city. It took a bit
longer than expected, but I made my way to Joco just as it was
getting dark.

Called Kiko, but he was out. Figured I'd start looking for a
place to stay. While I was checking out Posada del Pescador,
Kiko showed up and recommended Casa del Chante, which was closer
to his place. Checked in, asked about parking. The lady at
the desk, in typical Mexican style, said, just ride it into the
lobby...

Secure parking, Mexican style:



Had a great sopes and fried tacos dinner with Kiko. He is
really getting into this living in Mexico thing. This place
was run by a woman out of her house, with a small dinning
area that had 4 tables. Not the kind of place the Ajijic
crowd would go to, I am guessing... It was great hanging out
with Kiko and meeting some of his family. Hope I get another
chance to go visit that part of Mexico again soon.


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Old 01-11-2008, 09:59 PM   #30
Gustavo OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodanja
Nice Trip Report! I'm planning on a similar route this spring. Good to know about the road from Mazatlan to PV...I appreciate your comments on this! Hope you had a nice time with your family.
Thanks. Glad to see it's going to be useful to somebody. If you have any other questions, I'll be happy to help.

Mazatlan was great, I think we all enjoyed that part, so the wife is happy, the kids are happy and I got to go on a nice trip after that, so I was very happy too. Perfect!


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