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Old 01-11-2008, 11:21 PM   #31
Loud Al
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A Quick Trip to Big Sur


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Old 01-11-2008, 11:25 PM   #32
SgtNapalm
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Thanks for all the neat pictures and writings Gustavo, great shots, you really are a "Rey" of the ride report.
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Mexico ride report
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Old 01-12-2008, 09:51 PM   #33
Gustavo OP
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Jocotepec to Durango

It was a little colder than I had hoped for in Joco. Didn't
give me too much incentive to get out on the road early with
these near freezing temps. I knew I was in trouble when it
was after 8 and I was still at the hotel. I had a very
ambitious riding plan and I was afraid it required more
daylight hours than were available even without this delay.

But you can't ride on an empty stomach, so I stopped in
downtown Joco for some chilaquiles con huevos at this place:



It was still early for Joco, it looked like they had just opened
up and I was the only one there, so I had all their attention.
Looked like a family place - father and daughter were there to
open up, and as I was ready to leave the mother and grandmother
showed up to help before the morning "rush" started.

I asked if they had coffee, they said "como no" and brought Tony's
favorite coffee:



I had to take that picture, I know how much he loves his Nescafe.


Across the street, the hat shop was opening for business as I
had my chilaquiles. Didn't look like there was a morning rush:




On the way out of town I saw an accident. There was this van
way off the road. It's surprising that you don't see that many
accidents as people think happen in Mexico, but sometimes just
driving off the road can have really bad consequences as most
roads have no shoulder to speak off, so if you are off, you are
really off the road.





I took the road to Guadalajara, got on the periferico (ring road)
and went looking for the old road to Fresnillo. Technically,
this is the short route to Chihuahua. Although, if you are in a
car, I suspect it's faster to loop around through Aguas Calientes
using the cuota highway. If you are on a bike, it's a no brainer,
the road to Fresnillo is 10 times more fun to ride.

Sierra de Zacatecas:




Great scenery, fantastic road:




A lot of westerns were filmed in this region:




Of course, as usual with the libre roads, they go through every
little town and you get to play spot the tope:




Vaquero:




Gotta watch your closing speeds with some of this slow moving
traffic:




I've been meaning to shoot a picture of the Army trucks driving
around, but never seem to be quite ready:




From Joco to Durango it's probably about 700 kms. It's a good
day's ride. If you go straight to Durango, that is. That wasn't
my plan, though. There is this region in northern Jalisco/south
western Zacatecas which looks like crossed fingers - each state
has these narrow sections of land that intertwine, mostly
inexplicably, not following any obvious geographical reasons other
than one section that follows a river. I always wanted to see
what it was like. Today was the day to find out.

I wasn't sure what the road (if it's a road, not obvious from
looking at the Guia Roji atlas) would be like, I figured it would
be best to start with a full tank. Huejucar seemed like a large
town, but, my side trip through town yielded nothing, the gas
station, I was told, is on the main road... Filled the V-Strom
up and asked the attendant about the road to Monte Escobedo. He
says - don't go back into town, take this side road here, it's
under construction but open, it'll loop you around town and out
to the road that goes west. Construction wasn't bad (the road
was), and I got to the road to Monte Escobedo in no time. At
least so I hoped, as there were no signs when I got to what I
assumed was the main road... A few kilometers down the road I
saw a sign that said Monte Escobedo, so I figured we were in
business.

The road started out twisty as it climbed up to this plateau, but
then became rather flat and fast. I ran into a crew doing
repairs:




Around 2 PM I was in Monte Escobedo. Larger town than I imagined,
lots of people hanging out around the plaza, so were it seemed all
the policemen in the county.

This is not their transport:




I stopped to have lunch at this taqueira:




Two carne asada tacos, one Coke - $2. Pretty tasty, fast service,
just what I needed.

The road climbs out of Monte Escobedo onto another ridge, then seems
to go down to a valley. And just when you think you are all the way
to the bottom of the canyon, you come around a corner to see this:





The road was of the chip-seal kind, but ran into a lot of sections
that made me wonder if it was really paved. Maybe it just had more
chips than seal... As usual, you get to those sections after a
stretch of relatively good pavement, the kind that lulls you into
this misplaced confidence that the road will take a bit more speed.
Coming around a nice left hander I saw a weird change in pavement
color, I thought it wasn't right, so I backed off a bit before the
corner. Not enough, apparently. The front slid, I got back on the
gas and the rear started sliding. I was thinking - don't break
Rule #1, don't break Rule #1...

No, I didn't break it. Bike stayed on it's wheels, and I continued
on down to Mezquitic. At a more relaxed pace.

Rio Bolaños valley:




There was some event in Mezquitic's plaza, I saw many men and women
in traditional indigenous outfits gathering there, but I was really
starting to get worried about the time, so I decided not to stop and
look around. Next year?

As I was leaving town, the road crosses Rio Bolaños:




IIRC, this is the San Antonio school. Some rural schools are connected
to a satellite network that allows then to have remote classes on TV:




School pet?




I think these are Chichimec people:




I know there is love/hate history with Spaniards, but putting them in
corrals? That's just mean...




It was getting late. The sun was dropping over the horizon, and the
temps were dropping even faster. I have never been so happy to see a
straight road:




I decided that it was time to take advantage of that straight road
and pick up the pace. Every mile you cover during day light is one
less mile to ride at night...

By the time I got to Sobrerete, it was already getting dark. It's
about 120 km to Durango. I decided to carry on to Durango. Might
not have been the best decision, but that's the one I made.

The astute reader may remember that in March, when Brian, Tony and I
were on our Trailer Queens ride, we ran into lots of road construction
leaving Durango. They are still working on that road. Riding it at
night probably was not the best idea. Mexican construction projects
aren't always that well marked. There were several detours, that had
very limited markings; kilometers of new, unmarked pavement that in
the dark was all but impossible to distinguish the paved from the
unpaved sections, etc. etc.. Did I mention it may not have been the
best idea to ride this in the dark? When I got to the newly finished
sections, it was huge improvement. They used so many reflectors, it's
like riding in daylight...

By the time I got to Durango I had been on the road for 860 kms and
11 hours. An average of less than 80 km/h (50 MPH for the metric
challenged), which is probably typical for Mexican roads.

Last time we were in Durango, Tony and Brian "discovered" Cafe Brazil.
It seemed like a nice place, so I figured I'd have dinner there.
Turns out it has been "discovered" by the masses too. When we were
there in March, there was almost nobody at dinner time. This time,
it was really hopping. I am glad for these guys that they are doing
well, but waiting 40 minutes for a drink and a reheated pizza is a
bit much. At least the scenery was interesting...

Cafe Brazil:






BTW, the pizza and coffee were rather good. I might give it another
try next time I'm in Durango.

More later,

Gustavo
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Old 01-12-2008, 10:11 PM   #34
PirateT7
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I love the Mexico rides
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Old 01-14-2008, 11:16 AM   #35
Gustavo OP
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My original plan was to take at least one more day to get to Durango,
but the Boss requested my presence in Chihuahua earlier, so I got to
Durango a little earlier than planned. Usually it makes little
difference, but I was trying to meet Dan (dtop1) in Durango and he
was only coming to Durango that day. I knew he was coming from
Cuauhtemoc, we figured we'd probably run into each other on the road.

People often ask me where to stay in Durango. I found Hotel Roma to
be a very good budget option. Even though they raised their prices
an outrageous US$2 a few months ago, a room is still no more than $25
per night, a block away from the zocalo and close walking distance to
many good eateries, cyber cafes, etc.. The only possible downside to
staying at Hotel Roma is that their parking is about a block away and
only available from 8PM to 8AM. I always park on the street, never
had a problem while staying there one or two nights.

Hotel Roma:



I had breakfast at El Zacabon (where else?) and took a little stroll
through the downtown area before getting on the road.

Old timers in the zocalo:



Shoe shiners are among the last ones to leave and first ones to show
up in the morning:



Around 9:30 I was ready to hit the road. The plan for today was fairly
simple. Run straight to Parral, in order to meet Dan somewhere along
the way.

Copperware for sale on the road:



There are some long, lonely sections on this road:



But, no need to worry, entertainment is not far on any Mexican road:



Vaquero Duranguense:



It's common to burn the weeds by the side of the road, but this didn't
look like controlled burning:



The good thing about burning the weeds is that you can see potential
hazards. Stay, stay...



The road to Parral:



Mexican people are very friendly, always wave back:



Typical - small town (if you can call it that), big church:



Approaching town, slow down. If you don't slow down, the topes will take
care of that:



Topes are a great place to pass slow moving traffic:



More topes:



Hey, I know that guy...



As expected, I met Dan on the road to Parral:



We spent about half an hours catching up, but since we literally met
in the middle of nowhere, there was no convenient place to stop for
lunch or anything like that. Instead we had power bars, drank water
from our water bottles and then continued on. Real shame I didn't
get to spend the night in Durango. Would have been great to spend
more time with Dan. Maybe next time?


As I was getting to Parral, I remembered an important detail. No
trip through Chihuahua and Durango can be complete without at least
one picture of Pancho. Pancho Villa and his Division del Norte played
an important role in this region's history, and you can find them
immortalized in many of the towns - statutes, museums, not to mention
streets named for them.

Pancho in Parral:



Stuck in traffic. Not for long...



The guy in the VW Pointer at the end of the line had a lead foot. He
caught up to me after I stopped to fill up the bike. He was going 150
km/h in the sections I saw him. Damn, these Mexicans like to drive
fast...


I'm guessing somebody forgot to check the sign installation contract
to see that it included removal of old signs. The road to the was
full of duplicate signs...



I think there is still some room on this truck:



Welcome to Tijuana, con el coyote no hay aduana... (M. Chao). Sorry,
wrong song/town. Welcome to Chihuahua:



Made pretty good progress today, got to Chihuahua fairly early, in time
to have a late lunch at home. It's fun being on the road, but it's
good to be home too.

After a few more days in Chihuahua, it was time to hit the road to take
the V-Strom to its home in Las Cruces. Looked like a nice day when I
left the house, but as soon as I got to the highway I realized the wind
was blowing hard today. What a bummer, it's over 500 kms to Las Cruces
and I was guessing it would be like this the whole way there...

Leaning left to go straight:



Moctezuma used to be the gas/food stop on the road between Juarez and
Chihuahua for years. Suddenly, the gas station closed, later the
restaurants. Now it looks like a ghost town:



As I was entering Villa Ahumada I ran into these guys. They were not
waving at me, rather their own camera...



One of the more unfortunate "recycling" programs I know of. Mexicans
buy all manner of junk cars in the US and take them to Mexico where
they are often not really fixed before being let loose on the road,
filling the roads with basket cases.

Junker towing more junk into Mexico:



Military check point going north:



No, weeds do not grow out of the pavement. Tumbleweed flying by the
road:



Goodbye old Mexico, it was fun:



Hello New Mexico:



The line at the border was longer than I expected. By the time I
returned all the relevant permits (which took absolutely no time),
the line to US immigration was almost all the way across the
international border.

What do you do with 45 idle minutes:



Made it to Las Cruces shortly after that. Changed the oil, put some
Sta-Bil in the tank and put the V-Strom away. Hopefully not for a
full year.




For those who like statistics, I logged 2950 miles (4720 kms) in
8 days of riding. It comes out to an average of ~370 miles/day
(or 590km/day), which doesn't sound too bad, but many of these
days were way too long, especially if you are traveling back roads,
not major highways like I did on this trip. It would have been a
much better trip if I could have broken those long days into two
segments. It would have also given me more time to explore some
of those little towns along the way. Unfortunately, I have to
balance my vacation time between riding, visiting friends in far
away places in Mexico and family obligations.

Quique and Hector invited me to Guatemala. I don't have enough
vacation to do a trip like that on the bike without, again, doing
crazy long days to make time on the way down and then back up.
I think I need a sabbatical sooner rather than later...

See you guys on the road - buen viaje,

Gustavo
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Old 01-14-2008, 12:13 PM   #36
tricepilot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gustavo
I think I need a sabbatical sooner rather than later...
Great report and great photos as per the usual standard, mi hermano...

You are right about a sabbatical.

If you take one, how about a run from the border to the Panama Canal and back? I'm looking to put together a small posse of riders to make such a trip. Plan that sabbatical, and think about it....

Bob
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Old 01-14-2008, 04:24 PM   #37
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Great report!!! Great Pics!!!

When's the next one?

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Old 02-03-2008, 01:13 PM   #38
Big Single
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Great stuff

I hope to be in the same neighborhood in a few weeks. Can't wait...
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Old 02-03-2008, 06:15 PM   #39
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Great Report Gustavo!

A lot of your pics appear to be "on the fly". Are you using a helmet cam or are you just very good with the camera? If a helmet cam, can you give a few details about your set up? Given that most of my rides are limited by time, I'm constantly torn between getting a lot of good pics at the expense of a lot of good riding and vv.

Thanks
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Old 02-05-2008, 10:16 PM   #40
Gustavo OP
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On-the-fly pictures are free hand (with my left). I wouldn't say I am very good, but I am definitely getting better with practice.

It helps to have a small and easy to operate camera (think thick winter gloves... ). I have a Canon SD450, which would be perfect, if it wasn't for the on/off button that is too small (and recessed) to be easy to manipulate with gloves. Next time I buy a camera, I'll take a longer look at that on/off button. If you go this way, make sure you secure the camera to either yourself or the bike. I have yet to drop it while handling the camera, but I've had the camera "jump" out of the tankbag when I hit a tope a little too hard...


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