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Old 11-08-2008, 10:45 AM   #1
sp4ce OP
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2up to TDF (San Francisco to Ushuaia)

This ride report is probably going to be a little different than the typical ADV report. First, it's not necessarily written for a purely riding audience - it's all a ride report, but it will focus on destinations and locales as much as motorcycles and riding. Secondly, both myself and my passenger (wife) will be authoring posts. It is actually a travel blog but in the hope that it is interesting to the inmates I am going to mirror posts into this thread.

As for background, the exec summary is that we are riding a KTM 990A, two-up from San Francisco to Tierra Del Fuego over four months, departing Oct. 20th.

Hope you enjoy the report, and we'd love to hear from and meet other ADVriders along the way.


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Old 11-08-2008, 10:57 AM   #2
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And they're off

San Francisco California, Oct. 20 2008, 0 miles

Off like a herd of turtles. It's a long established tradition that all my motorcycle trips must begin late. Typically well after dark and with several hundred miles to go. I broke with tradition slightly in deference to my passenger and left only slightly late - 6pm instead of 10am.

Fully loaded, the bike feels like my old GS (without luggage). She's a pig, but manageable. I do somewhat regret not having James at Super Plush do the rear shock along with the forks. The forks are brilliant, but even with the pre-load cranked, the rear could stand to be slightly stiffer. I'll probably try dialing out all the fork pre-load just to get the suspension a little more balanced.

Leaving San Francisco, we crossed the central valley and took Hwy 99 south. Motorcycle trips originating in the Bay Area inevitably seem to involve a slog on I-5, the most miserable highway in the state. Hwy 99 proved to be a good alternate. It's still a crappy multi-lane truck route, but at least there is a curve or two and some towns. We stopped outside of Bakersfield at midnight and got a hotel.

We are heading to Tucson to drop in on my brother and thought we might make it in two days. Bakersfield to Tucson is a little over 600 miles which is feasible, but it was in the 90s, we were feeling lazy and we wanted to make a detour through Joshua Tree National Park. We got to the park a little before dusk and were treated to an amazing desert sunset over the spikey trees and the towering alien rocks. On the way out, the bike's dual HIDs turned the night into day and scattered owls and Kangaroo Rats from our path. We rode for 50 miles through the silent night desert and didn't see another soul.



We made for Blythe, CA to get a motel for the night, but still managed to have a little adventure by running out of gas. A helpful sign on the freeway had noted that the next services were 40 miles and the fuel light was on, so I exited to gas up, but the services there hadn't been operational in what appeared to be decades. Time to move that sign. Not having run the KTM out of gas yet, I didn't know exactly how much was left after the light came on. It has a 5.5 gallon tank and I had been putting in right about 4 gallons if I filled up at the light. We'd been getting around 40 miles to the gallon on the freeway and the light had only been on for 10 miles, so it seemed like we should make it and continued on. The bike sputtered and died about 10 miles short. We had just passed the local correctional facility and a large sign warning against picking up hitchhikers. Luckily I remembered an old BMW trick - mid 90s 'R' bikes (and probably others) had a high frame backbone that split the gas tank into 'lobes'. The fuel pump was on one side and when you ran out of gas you always had a half gallon or so left in the other lobe. All you had to do to get a few more miles up the road was to pull onto the shoulder, lie the bike on it's left side, and drain that gas over to where the fuel pump could get at it. The KTM has two tanks, one on each side, linked by a crossover. I don't know exactly where that crossover is, but I figured it was likely that there was still fuel left in the right side tank, so we stopped and laid the bike on its left side on the shoulder while the trucks roared by and then picked it back up again and bingo! it started right up and ran. For a mile or so. We repeated this 5 or 6 more times to make it the last 10 miles. No one stopped to see what the two motorcyclist on the shoulder were doing with their bike on its side. It was still in the 80s and we were soaked from heaving the pig up and down by the time we got to the gas station. For some reason situations like this are always uproariously funny to me and luckily it was contagious and Nina didn't get grumpy about the predicament. The tank took 5.2 gallons. Fucking KTM. Who cares if you can put 5.5 gallons INTO the tank if you can only get 5 OUT.

We got a hotel 8 miles up the road and ate at Taco Bell only to avoid a third meal at Dennys. It's sad not being able to find anything that isn't a cheap, fast, chain restaruant. A lot of the independent businesses we have seen in the last few days have been boarded up and long out of operation. Like the gas stations 40 miles back.
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:13 AM   #3
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Keep it coming. I hope you post more photos though. I guess you are waiting to get out of familiar territory? I'm looking forward to following your ride South! I can't wait to hear about the ride from the pillion perspective. Maybe I can get my wife excited about doing this someday.
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Old 11-08-2008, 12:01 PM   #4
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Old 11-08-2008, 02:12 PM   #5
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Awesome! I'll be watching you all the way. Good luck and ride safe.
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Old 11-08-2008, 05:08 PM   #6
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Another great adventure to subscribe to! Best wishes for a safe journey
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:02 PM   #7
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Mexico

Saltillo, Mexico, Oct. 25 2008, 1927 miles

I’m losing track of the days already. That’s a good thing. I think it was Wednesday that we arrived in Tucson. Even with an unscheduled stop at Cycle Gear (replacement knee pads for me - mine never got replaced when the pants got washed), we still made it to Ethan’s in great time. We spent the afternoon chilling out and then had dinner with him and his friend, Dar. Thursday, Trevor replaced a missing rubber spacer on the top box and adjusted the chain. Inspired by the fly leaf in Ted Simon’s "Jupiter’s Travels", I decided we should take a picture of all our gear.



Of course, that took longer than we had reckoned, and by the time we had taken pictures and repacked, Dar had arrived and it was time for a late lunch. Between one thing and another, we didn’t end up leaving Tucson until 4 pm. On the way out of town, we drove right by a military aircraft graveyard.



3 hours later we were in Douglas. Dar had lived here for a while and had recommended the Gadstone hotel: just a few dollars more expensive that the ubiquitous Motel 6, and full of character (although that might also be “characters” judging by Morticia the barmaid and the singing clientele!)

First thing the next morning, we crossed into Mexico. The Douglas crossing is very quiet and pleasant and getting our tourist cards and motorcycle permit on the Mexican side of the border was similarly easy and unofficious. After dawdling in the US, we wanted to make up some miles in Mexico. Our goal was Chihuahua, but we decided to keep going as far as Delicias. Neither place would I recommend as a “destination” but both are on the path to the quick central route through Mexico. We ate delicious street food (chile relleno, jacket potato and cheese and avocado quesadillas for me) and ended up in the Hotel del Norte which had a hilarious bar. The bar was complete with burlesque mannequin, a stripper pole with a carousel horse, English hunting prints, and American boxer posters!



We hit the road again early today and continued to ride through the Mexican desert. We took the cuota (toll superhighway) much of the way, and I have to say, the first 1000 miles all look very similar.



We are in Saltillo tonight. Since we are exhausted, we decided to eat at our non-descript hotel restaurants (Hotel San Jorge). The food was amazing, and far too much for us to eat. Consistently, the Mexican chefs I have met seem to find my vegetarianism an exciting challenge and go all out to provide for me. Tonight’s was a large bowl of garlic mushrooms, corn tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and green chiliquilles. YUM!! Tomorrow we should make it to Real de Cartorce, our first tourist stop: the old silver mine.
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:09 PM   #8
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Real de Catorce

The drive to Real de Catorce was uneventful, we tore off a mere 300 miles before lunch. The last 30 miles are on a large cobbled road winding slightly up into the mountains and we had to drive through both the tiny villages “San Francisco” and “Potrero” to reach the mine.



At it’s heyday around 15,000 people lived in the area and worked the silver mine. Now there are just a few left and the mine is preserved as a tourist and pilgrimage destination.

We had heard that tourists took big buses which transferred to smaller buses at the mouth of the mine. However, when we got there, we were surprised to find it was a total zoo. Almost literally. There were hundreds and hundreds of people, many dozen horses, and a few donkeys sprinkled in. We hadn’t realized that from October 4th and for the rest of the month, thousands of the San Francis of Assis’ faithful congregate to make a pilgrimage to visit their saint in Real de Catorce. Whilst this Catholic pilgrimage is taking place, there is also a secular one carried out by the Huicholes that arrive in the valley of Catorce to collect peyote during October and deliver the holy offerings to their gods. The mines were overrun. We had hoped to drive the motorbike though the 1.5 mile mine into Real de Catorce itself and stay at one of the hotels on the ridge. However, with so many people and horse-drawn carts choking the entrance this was impossible and we were waved off by a policeman. During the month of October, motor vehicles are only able to enter the mine after 6 or 7pm at night. We had arrived at 1pm and didn’t feel like waiting that long. We parked up the bike, secured it, and hoofed it in to the mine on foot. It was a very peculiar feeling walking through the mine shafts and looking at all the closed off tunnels while trying not to be run down by trotting and cantering horse carts loaded with Mexican tourists!

The town itself is beautiful, and there are spectacular views.



We wandered round for a couple of hours taking pictures...







... before succumbing to our laziness and the lateness of the hour and hopping on a horse-drawn cart for a race back through the mines to our own trusty steed. The fast metal orange one, which we rode into the sunset :)
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:15 PM   #9
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Pinche Tráfico

We raced a storm front to Guanajato, probably the remnants of the tropical storm that had just put a lot of the Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala under water. The last section in to Guanajato is a series of mountain curves that was only slightly spoiled by the stiff winds pushing us around. Once we got into the town we started off with the Nissan tour.


(click for full effect)


Guanjato is nestled into a valley and stacked up on itself like the towns in Tuscany. A network of tunnels run below ground where a river used to flow and up above a snarl of narrow, mostly one way streets snake between the tall, colorful buildings - cobbled, throughout.



We had a hotel recomendation from friends and in attempting to find the place saw most of the town.



We circled high above to an old fortification overlooking the town, drove up one way streets (on the advice of the locals, of course) and finally after finding the hotel, rode up a set of steep steps to the secure parking - a building courtyard.



We had dinner and drinks with friends in town and begged off early having been up and riding at dawn.





The next morning the mountain curves exiting Guanajato were blanketed in thick fog and the ride out was much less spirited, although equally exciting. We were heading to Puebla and had budgeted enough time to do it in daylight (don't forget, kids, Never Ride At Night In Mexico!™), but then Mexico City happened. We hit El Cuidad in time for the evening rush hour. I thought I had figured out the freeway bypass that would whisk us around the madness, but I was foiled by poor maps and a city pushed over the traffic brink by pre-"Day of the Dead" revelers. We ended up in the center of the third largest city on earth in complete and total gridlock. Fireworks exploded occasionally over the cacophony of horns and sirens. We emulated the local motos when we could - in between the lines of cars, through the gutters, over curbs, up on the sidewalks, but their bikes were a fraction as wide and heavy as the KTM and we often couldn't follow. It took us 2 hours to go 4 miles. Eventually, the KTM got hot enough that the EFI lost the plot and the bike started running rich, back-firing and bogging, so we parked up on the sidewalk and watched the scene unfold for a bit to let the bike cool down. The Federales were out in force and hundreds of black pickups with flashing lights and beds full of assault rifle toting cops swarmed to and fro. Traffic control was clearly below their station, however, and their sirens and lights were ignored and they were bound up along side everyone else as cars, trucks and buses ran red lights right in front of them and locked intersection after intersection up tight. After a bit, traffic calmed slightly and we made our escape. It still involved a lot of riding that would be considered "anti-social" in most places. At the edge of the city at a tool booth, Nina pulled out her last peso note and as she extracted it from her pocket, it tore. The toll collector wouldn't accept it. I finally had had enough and after shutting the bike down, digging through my pockets and paying the toll, bid the toll collector "Buenas noches, pendejo" and we roared out of Mexico City.

Mexico had the last laugh, though, as it will. 50 miles up the road the Federales had the freeway closed and everyone - buses, cars, trucks was herded off an exit ramp. This was a problem, as we were on the cuota (fast, straight, multi-lane toll road) and they have very infrequent entry or exit (to thwart circumnavigating the toll stations). We joined in the procession of mostly trucks and buses creeping along the libre (slow, winding, single-lane, free road). I cursed the buses the whole time as they belched diesel exhaust in our faces. Right up to the point that they led us off down a dirt lane, under a narrow overpass, the wrong way up an exit ramp and back on to the CUOTA! YES!

We finally made it to Puebla around 11 pm, checked into the first hotel we found and crashed.
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:19 PM   #10
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Escape to the beach

In Puebla we woke up late and walked to the zocalo for breakfast. Nina hadn't slept well and I felt like I had a cold coming on. We were pretty shot from 9 straight days of riding and close to 3000 miles. We had been planning on making tracks for Guatemala, but sitting there in the sun in the pretty town square, I had another idea - let's go to the beach! After we decided to change course and take a little break in the sun, everything seemed better. The food looked better, my cold seemed more like pollution irritation, and Puebla looked even prettier.



(^ that's mole - a spicy chocolate sauce, one of Nina's favorites)







We lazily finished our breakfast in Puebla and then went for a quick burn down the cuota to Oaxaca.



We reached Oaxaca just after dark and once again got bound up in Day of the Dead traffic in the center of town. This time, however, we were trying to get in to the center of town, not out of it, so we just parked the bike and I checked out hotels on foot. We found a good place, unpacked and headed out for a wander and dinner. Oaxaca more than any other place we had been was full of tourists. Contrary to what I had read, the 2006 riots (and death of an American documentarian) hadn't hurt tourism and the gringos were out in force. We ate next to a couple having pepperoni pizza. Seriously? You flew to Mexico to eat pizza? We bought a bottle of the Gold of Oaxaca (mescal) and retreated to the room.

The next morning we got up early to catch the good light and because we had reports that the drive to the beach was long. We took some pictures and had breakfast on the square.









Leaving Oaxaca we got a bit turned around trying to find the road we wanted. We stopped for gas and luckily ran in to a group of guys from Puebla on BMWs. They came over for a bike chat and we asked them where the road was, and we were off. Onward! To the beach!

We had been warned by an article online that the drive from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido was "an 8 hour, white-knuckle drive". Most of the people we asked said 5 hours and didn't mention white knuckles, so we figured that was bourgeois tourist hysteria. The truth was somewhere in the middle. It was a narrow single lane road which snaked violently back and forth, up and down, over mile-high mountains and back down into tropical valleys. The paving varied from pristine to mostly pot holes to occasional gravel patches - sometimes within a few hundred yards. We shared the road with rickshaw taxis, 18-wheel trucks, buses, cars, horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep and dogs. None of which could be relied upon to be on their correct side of the road. The donkeys were the worst and we almost hit a pair engaged in violent intercourse in our lane. Sadly, urgent avoidance maneuvers prevented a photo.





It was tiring riding, and four and half hours later we rolled into Puerto Escondido, worn out and dripping sweat. We headed straight for the water and found a little working beach covered in small fishing boats hauled up on the sand, and a hand full of ragged restaurants clustered around a small bay. It looked like paradise to us, and a Pacifico and fried shrimp never tasted so good.



Revived, we set off to the more tourist-oriented section, found a great laid-back beach-front hotel, checked in and watched the sun set.

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Old 11-10-2008, 03:23 PM   #11
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Beautiful!!

Your pics could stand to be larger! You can select a larger size from your smugmug account and we'll enjoy them even more!

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Old 11-10-2008, 03:31 PM   #12
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Life's a beach

I don’t think either of us realised how tired we were when we started this trip. Trevor had been shouldering all the responsibility for getting the bike ready, and I was insanely busy at work right up until the very last second. What we needed was a break. A vacation. For some reason, as we started the trip of our lives, burning 400 a day through Mexico was not providing the relaxation we wanted. Peurto Escondido did just that.

This is the view from our balcony.


During an amazing, lazy breakfast right on the beach (strong, fresh-brewed coffee, granola, yogurt, fruit and a huge smoothie for me; Spanish omelet for Trevor), we watched the surfers catch waves on the “Mexican pipeline”. More by luck than judgment, we had taken a hotel right opposite the breaking waves on Playa Zicatela - widely regarded as the best surfing spot in Latin America.

We were fully refreshed and ready to face our grueling day. This is how I spent the next 6 hours (interrupted only by a brief dip in the ocean).


Puerto Escondido is a cool town with beautiful beaches and a hippy, surfer vibe. There isn’t a single chain restaurant or business in town. There are a lot of ex-pats (and a distinctly Italian influence). A lot of people choose to drop off the map here. I can see why.









Yesterday, we took a leisurely drive 75 miles down the coast to Huatulco. We had been trying to hook up with our friend, Jeff (also motorcycling from SF) for a few days – and it looked like Huatulco was going to work out.

The Mexican government had planned Huatulco to be a large mega resort area, on the scale of Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. Unfortunately, due to political squabbling and lack of infrastructure, it never really took off. The result is 9 stunning white-sand bays (only 4 accessible by roads), luxurious hotels, a 4-lane freeway, and a distinct lack of tourists!

Whereas the drive from Oaxaca to Peurto Escondido is a grueling one (and encompasses barren cacti deserts, pine tree ridges and finally jungle), the drive from Peurto Escondido to Huatulco is an easy one, with slow curves and lush vegetation.



We got to Huatulco shortly after noon, and started checking out places to stay. The upscale hotels are clustered around Tangolunda Bay. We seriously considered the Camino Real Zaashila, but decided we could justify the $125/night when it was already afternoon and we planned on leaving early. We didn’t waste any time taking advantage of their stunning pool and beach bar and wolfing down a beer and shrimp tacos each, though. The next 2 pictures are taken in different directions from my bar stool.




Fed and watered we left the Camino Real Zaashila and checked into the Princess Mayev hotel in Santa Cruz and cooled off in their lovely infinity pool (with a new little friend).



After a couple of hours on Santa Cruz beach, we were ready for dinner at the Quinta Real. The cold avocado soup with tequila was amazing!


By the time we got back to the hotel, Jeff and his friend Nir had arrived. We spent the evening with them in the centro of Crucecita and then all crashed out.

This morning’s journey to Tapachula wound through some of the thickest and most lush jungle I have ever seen. Tomorrow we will cross the border into Guatemala.
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:34 PM   #13
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Sign of the Times

A final word on driving in Mexico, the Mexican government LOVES road signs. They post one at least every 50 meters. They warn that every curve, entrance, exit is “peligrosa” (dangerous). They actually even inform you when truck “Contents No Es Peligrosa” (contents are NOT dangerous). Er.. right, okay. Well, thanks for letting me know! Signs range from the patronising “Reduce Speed When It Rains” to the terrifying “Drive With Care If You Value Your Life”. There are plenty of signs telling you to "Obey" or "Repect" the signs, and "Don't Mistreat the Signs". (Isn't that a bit like the redundant "Don't Throw rocks At This Sign"?) They warn of rain, ice, winds, tornados (yes, really), but I think one of my favourites is “Boring Road. Please Stay Alert”! With an unerring lack of irony, there are a number of “eco” signs: “Please Do Not Cut Down Trees”, “Respect Nature”, “Take Care Of The Plants”. These are to be found on the multi-lane freeway cut along through the jungle to a multi-acre planned mega resort ;-)



Leaving Mexico went smoothly, except for one little hiccup. We had to temporarily import the bike into Mexico in order to drive south. Mexico does not require a carnet, but it does require you to leave a deposit or credit card and sign the vehicle out when you leave. (This is to stop vehicles being imported into the country and then illegally sold. Trevor knows of several examples of people not checking their vehicle out in this way, and it can serious impact your ability to enter Mexico again. We definitely wanted to check out.) With a fresh tank of gas, we were at the border nice and early. Except it turned out that Customs (the “Aduana”) isn’t actually at the border. It’s a 45 minute drive back the way we had just come. Doh! Well, at least the view was great.



A relatively-painless 2 hours later and we were in Guatemala.
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Old 11-10-2008, 05:46 PM   #14
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Lovin' it

I'm diggin' your report. Getting two different perspectives on the same report is a fun twist. Keep it coming and be safe.
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Old 11-10-2008, 08:15 PM   #15
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Ah, my dream trip - all the best, I'll be listening & watching intently!

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