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Old 03-26-2009, 02:11 PM   #46
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Old 03-26-2009, 09:41 PM   #47
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Molango to Zacatlan, 162 miles

Day 4, Molango to Zacatlan, 162 miles

Monday in Molango
Last night a dense fog rolled in and by daylight this morning mist and drizzle welcomed us. We were back in the soup again! Moisture materializing straight out of the atmosphere, once again. I chastise myself for not continuing on, last night. Though the hour was late, at least the skies were brilliantly clear. Well, too late for second guessing now. Must have faith that there is a reason. Lesson learned? If the sun's shinning -- keep moving. (???)

In retrospect, I'm glad we got to know Molango.

Monday morning, Molango plaza, back it the soup again


Our hotel, the Dios Mola.


The name of the hotel, Dios Mola, refers to an episode in history I discovered on the internet. Seems there was a prehispanic god, named Mola, and Molango even means "place of the Mola". Read about it here

The church in Molango, built between 1540 - 1550


So, we unpack all the stored rain gear and gear up. Once on the road -- south on Hwy 105 -- it soon became apparent that I had discovered my new favorite road in Mexico. From what I remember of Hwy 85 running south from Tmazunchale to Zimapan, this road seems even more spectacular and beautiful. The cold mist broke up from time to time, to present sections of dry road.

Hwy 105, my new favorite road in Mexico



Hwy 105 south of Molango


The weather deteriorated the higher we climbed. By the time we reached Zacualtipan (only 20 Mexican miles from Molango) we were pretty miserable. At the Pemex station in Zacualtipan everyone is smiling at us. The gas attendants, the other drivers, the drivers' passengers. All smiles. All looking at us gringos. Crazy gringos out in this weather, on motorcycles. We asked about a restaurant and a driver offered to lead us to one, a great roadside place some miles ahead, a hangout for local cops. You know you got a good restaurant when the police eat there.

Great roadside restaurant some miles outside Zacualtipan


The road quickly descended and shortly we were out of the clouds and drizzel and descending into a semi-arid desertscape.

Shortly we were descending into a semi-arid desertscape


At a Pemex station in the flatlands outside Atotonilco we have a reality-map check. We have taken too long to get from Ciudad Valles to here, and a night in Real de Monte or Chico de Mineral or Pachuca for that matter is out of the question, if we want to see Xalapa, Veracruz, and Catemaco. Three places that are not negociable on my agenda. We decide to make a push for Xalapa, 230 miles away. Tonight. We'll use all the cuotas and fast hwys. Xalapa? 230 miles away? What, that's 4-5 hours? It's 2pm now? We can do it. Right?

Well, we may as well go thru Huasca, an old hacienda town north of Pachuca. One of the Pueblos Magicos. It's on the way.


Huasca turned out to be a bad idea. Too many tourists. Too close to "Day-Effe" (=DF=Mexico City).


Well, I guess Huasca used to be a nice quaint little town. It was a little overrun the day we were there. I'm not sure about the process for getting the label of a Pueblo Magico, but one of the things it means is that you can jack up the prices of your land. Lots of land for sell.

Clayton, not a happy camper in Huasca. A vendor tried to sell him a leather belt, as he sat on his bike.



North on the autopista superhighway cuota (toll) road connecting Mexico City and Tuxpan, I see a huge gray massive weather system up ahead, blotting out a whole section of the sky. Surely we won't be going into that. But we do. The air turns bitter cold. It's a damn norte, a Mexican norther. Mist. And now fog. Heavy fog, gets denser and denser. Just follow the tail lights ahead of you. We are hugging the right shoulder, crawling. I'm fearful of oncoming traffic using our lane for passing, which they still do. (This is a two-lane cuota.) I can't read the road signs. Visibility is nil. This is the pits. We exit the Mexico-Tuxpan autopista, take the "Tuxpan Libre" exit, and hook up with another toll road headed south, signed Tlaxco. I've never heard of Tlaxco before. Do they mean Apizaco?

The Hornet & I in the fog near Huauchinango. We couldn't even read the highway signs.


I don't remember signing on for this. Slowed down by fog and bitter cold


We gamely push on. 20 minutes later I make the call to bail. It's only 4:30 but seems like 7 due to the darkness and fog. This is a severe weather system, and I'm not having any fun. We exit the autopista at the first toll plaza (
placeta), & motor to a place called Zacatlan. The guard at the placeta tells us its a nice place.

Trailblazer screwed with this post 04-28-2009 at 09:39 PM
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Old 03-27-2009, 07:51 PM   #48
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Milton is my hero!


Now I'm going to wash dishes.
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Old 03-27-2009, 08:27 PM   #49
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Quote:
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It's 1:30 (?!!) before we get off.
Another wet day. Hwy 85 at the Aquismon cut-off


Hey Trailblazer, next time try the "Sotano las Golondrinas" right at some 15 miles (dirt road) from Aquismon.
is a void with more than 1000 feet of vertical fall into the ground. Where every day at 6:00 pm, thousands of birds start flying into the deep for the night.



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Old 03-28-2009, 05:41 AM   #50
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:11 AM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arte
Hey Trailblazer, next time try the "Sotano las Golondrinas" right at some 15 miles (dirt road) from Aquismon.
is a void with more than 1000 feet of vertical fall into the ground. Where every day at 6:00 pm, thousands of birds start flying into the deep for the night.



Arte
There are a ton of things to do and see in Aquismon.
But you're right, Arte. The Sotano is one of the most amazing places on the planet. We visited it one madrugada in 2004.
Hey, and good shot of the Sotano, Arte. As you know, its rather difficult to capture in a photograph.

This is the best I could do


More seriously, here is a video my nephew captured at the same sotano. The clip is only some 20 seconds long. When the base jumper's chute is finally released, the loud report startles a flock of parots that begin circling up the long ascent out of the hole. You can see the jumper's parasail or whatever they call it circling down in the abyss.

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Old 03-28-2009, 10:01 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trailblazer
...
This is the best I could do


More seriously, here is a video my nephew captured at the same sotano. The clip is only some 20 seconds long. When the base jumper's chute is finally released, the loud report startles a flock of parots that begin circling up the long ascent out of the hole. You can see the jumper's wing, or 'chute or whatever they call it circling down in the abyss.
I gotta learn more about this place. I am a USPA Class C licensee and also have a USPA Jumpmaster rating. I was on a competitive sport parachute team for years. I also have mountaineering skills (Army Ranger Class 4-81) that I need to resurrect. Gotta go do this! Never heard of the place before. Thanks!

Mike
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:07 AM   #53
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Day 5, Zacatlán to Xalapa, 180 miles

Lots of advertizing for Casa Grande Hacienda hotel in Zacatlán so that's where we ended up, several blocks from the square. I really didn't care where we stayed, I just wanted the best. In hindsight the Hotel Zacatlán one block off of the square offered most of the same ammenities, at the same price.

Zacatlán's main drag


Zacatlán is close enough to "Day-Effe" (Mexico, D.F., aka Mexico City) to feel its influence. There is WiFi at several coffee bars. And one coffee shop was open after 11pm.

Zacatlán has several pedistrian only streets around the plaza




Sky clear today, but we've learned not to trust it. The morning is still early for this town






Day or night, the action always centered under the square's portales


Inside one of the state government buildings on the square


This looks like an all day job. Couldn't help but stop in at this doorway, on my way back to the hotel

Trailblazer screwed with this post 04-14-2009 at 12:20 AM Reason: spelling
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:23 AM   #54
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I need to stop reading these Mexico reports, I want to go back! Cool to see the Harleys down south too
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:24 AM   #55
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Now I'm going to wash dishes.
How does it go?
Before Nirvana - Wash dishes
After Nirvana - Wash dishes
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Old 03-28-2009, 02:19 PM   #56
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Gee thnaks Milton

Now you've done it. I'm seriously bike hunting for the next month or so. After your last few photos (BTW, you put Lonely Planet to shame) I've decided to move my bike to either AZ or TX, in late October '09 and head down for a month next winter and DO Mexico, south Texas and just generally see what there is to see! And it's YOUR fault! Screw the kids college fund (like I even have one!) I'm doing an odyssey! On a yet to be purchased motorbike! I'll be hunting you down, like the dog you are, and drinking some beer with you!
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Old 03-28-2009, 05:10 PM   #57
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Day 5, Zacatlán to Xalapa, 180 miles

This is our route today. It's the one we should have done yesterday, but didn't. Basically make for Xalapa (say: Hah-LAHP-pah) on cuota's and main highways. No goofin' around for days on end in the mountains. No scenic routes. I was pretty ok with this till I re-discovered a paved road north out of Zacatlán connecting with Zacapoaxtla. But we were well on our way before I dared la cuenta. Well, all I can say is, next time. And Clayton can thank his lucky stars I didn't see this until too late, or we'd probably still be out there.


Another view of the same route.


Left out of Zacatlán about noon, hey, why change now? Hwy 119D south, brand-new super cuota road to Tlaxco. Very nice. Very scenic. Very fast. Here we are blasting at 70mph on like-glass asphalt, and off to the side are farmers plowing fields with horses and mules. This is Mexico.

Ho-hum. Just another day on the Mexican plateau. ....Ahh, actually we are lost, but it sure was a kool road.


Two pals. Two styles.




Apizaco, Huamantla. We make all the connections. Another cuota north to Perote. Beautiful day, huh?


And then of course. Weather. As in FOG. There is a pass between Perote and Xalapa, and it was fogged-in big time. 'Cept now Clayton is having electical problems with the Ultra's headlights. Seems the passing lights are inop, and so is his extra jumbo high beam. He's on a slow burn.
I discover my tail light is out completly, the lens assembly half full of muddy water.
How long has my tail light been out?
Oh, a while.

Clayton, dealing with the Ultra's issues. He went into the Pemex station's bathroom and when he came out he couldn't find his bike in the fog!

I helped by staying out of the way and having a sandwich.

Over the pass the fog disapated. Winding road descending into Xalapa. Lots of truck traffic and crazy drivers. Lots of crazy passing. Mexican custom is to pass facing oncoming traffic and the other guy coming at you knows to get over to his shoulder and let you by. The guy you're passing gets over a little too. This works well with motorcycles as the oncoming traffic hardly needs to pull over at all. And you can usually squeeze back on your side of the center stripe even in the middle of a pass. Still, it's a little unnerving trying this on blind curves. There is always a chance that some idiot on the oncoming side is passing as well. And that is what's called a Mexican standoff. (I guess.) We were amazed that even with our advantage, a couple of cars felt the need to stay on our butts, and try to pass us back, and succeeded!

We got seperated when we got into town. No problem. We just met up at the plaza.

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Old 03-29-2009, 05:07 AM   #58
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Mexican custom is to pass facing oncoming traffic and the other guy coming at you knows to get over to his shoulder and let you by. The guy you're passing gets over a little too. This works well with motorcycles as the oncoming traffic hardly needs to pull over at all. And you can usually squeeze back on your side of the center stripe even while passing...
I've done that squeeze. Mikey no likey!
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Old 03-29-2009, 08:29 AM   #59
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Xalapa (ha-LAP-a), home of the jalapeño pepper

Xalapa, sometimes spelled Jalapa, always pronounced (ha-LAP-a), capital of the state of Veracruz, the City of Flowers, birthplace of Generalisimo Santa Anna of the Alamo fame, home of the jalapeño pepper (betcha didn't know that). This is where jalapeños got their name. The residents call themselves Jalapeños (hot stuff?). This town has always intrigued me because in spite of my formidable history of visiting Mexico over the years I've never been here before. With a population of 400,000 it is easily the biggest town we've seen since Austin, Texas. This is a university town, built on hilly terrain at 4650' elevation, with steep narrow streets, called by some the San Francisco of Mexico, by others, the Athens of Veracruz. I think I understand why it has taken me so long to visit Xalapa. Because it's not easy to get to. The main channel of traffic between Mexico D.F. and Veracruz is along the Orizaba-Cordoba corridor. You pretty much have to go out of your way to get here.

The streets are a chaotic jumble. Confusing, congested, sometimes steep. We are finally here, just in time for 5:00 traffic! So Clayton & me finding each other at the town square was not as easy as it sounds. Parque Juarez, the central park or plaza is terraced & huge, with a main thoroughfare running in a tunnel underneath it. We were pretty amazed to find each other at the entrance of the tunnel, with motorcycle parking to boot.

Feeling stupid, I pull out Lonely Planet tome, Mexico, and start looking for lodging. I hate looking at a guide book in public. We find our way to the author's favorite, Posada del Cafeto, nice but secure parking is several blocks away. Back into the mix of crazy angled steep streets and alleyways, some one-ways the wrong way. We eventually settle at Mesón de Alférez (run by the same outfit), one block from Parque Juarez, for 460 pesos each ($32.50) for two singles. Surprise surprise. The secure parking is still a block away. I feel a little duped about this but let it pass. It's a nice place. Can't get much more centrally located.

One note on this hotel. None of the rooms are alike, so if you plan to stay, be sure to look at what all is available rather than just taking whatever they give you. Some "doubles" have a double bed upstairs and the second one downstairs. Some have living rooms. All the singles are different shapes and sizes. I was a little miffed to discover that although our two rooms faced each other at the end of a short hall, Clayton ended up with a much larger room.

Interestingly, there is a big public parking garage next to the hotel charging 10 pesos per hour, that's about 70 cents / hour. Didn't seem bad.

This was our night to explore the "scene" of hip Xalapa. We couldn't find a "real" vegetarian restaurant, however, and truth be known, we were a little tired and when I lost my little map of all the hot spots after dinner, we just caved completely and went back to the rooms.

Mesón de Alférez, Our little hotel in the centro historico, the historic center of Xalapa


Singles $32 / night, but beware, not all singles are created equal



This is a view of the tunnel beneath Parque Juárez. Our hotel is to the far left





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Old 03-29-2009, 01:01 PM   #60
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That route between Zacatlan and Zacapoaxtla, although paved usually has very bad tarmac an many landslides due to the weather you know the area has (sun,fog, rain-repeat). If you start early in the morning you can beat the fog around mid day and the best months to travel that area are from november to april. For me, that road is one of the best MC routes you can get in Mexico, beautiful vistas and challenging twisties.

Be shure to ride it sometime in the future
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