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Old 02-15-2010, 05:05 AM   #226
tricepilot
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Here's The Low-Down

Traveling in the backcountry, whether its within 300 miles of the border or not, is not dangerous in Mexico per se. The narcos, narco gangs are not looking for you, nor do they want you to come looking for them or give them any trouble.

There is almost a "code" among the narcotraficantes - don't mess with the tourists. A few years ago, there was a Swiss man on El Chepe, the train that runs from Chihuahua to Los Mochis. A couple of rouge gunmen boarded that train near Divisadero and started robbing the passengers for money. The Swiss man, with a video camera, thought it was part of the entertainment, and refused to stop recording. They shot him. A week or so later, the gunmen were found shot to death themselves. The message: don't screw with the tourists. (1) It's revenue and (2) It brings unwanted attention, military and federal, to areas of operations.

Take a look at this map - you'll see that the major pot producing areas of Mexico are along the western slope. That fact and the fact that the largest trunk routes between Mexico and the U.S. are through Sonora state. You can extrapolate that the backcountry highlands there might have hidden in them a percentage greater of ranches and ejidos where "things are going on". But the critical thing is, is this: it's scattered and they don't want to be found, they don't want to talk to you, and they want you to go away. It's remote, and even the bad guys are surrounded and vastly outnumbered by normal folk. Just like in the U.S. It might not be unusual to come across a guarded gate to a ranch, and be encouraged to head the other direction.



Here's a map of the major trunk routes into the U.S. from south of the border. Remember, these aren't necesserialy Mexican routes. What I mean by that is this: tons of drugs coming into the U.S. are from states other than Mexico. It's just that Mexico happens to border the U.S., ergo the drugs from Central and South America, and elsewhere, have to cross the Mexico/U.S. border. If a backcountry bike rider were to get smacked by a cartel for some odd reason (and give me one example of that happening to date), it would invite too much scrutiny and get too much press, things the cartels don't need. These guys keep a low brow, they're too remote, they know you aren't out there looking for them (you're not in big green trucks with lots of buddies in uniform) - they want you to continue down your own path. Chances are, you'll never know they're there. I live 1.5 miles from I-35, one of the major U.S. routes for illegal drugs north into the U.S. I never hear of or see any crap going on between the general populace and the bad guys - if it happens, its between state troopers and the drug runners. Same idea in Mexico.





British Journalist Richard Grant went poking into the backcountry in the Sierra Madres, on horseback, looking for a story about the inhabitants. These rugged mountains begin their rise about 20 miles south of the border. He found the wild country he went looking for, remote pockets of interesting people, and more. Its a good read and an idea of what you can find if you go looking for it.



IMHO, legions of motorcyclists venture to Mexico and points south. Are there stories of the occasional rider getting into a situation? Yes. Are they statistically significant? No. Does what is reported in the news bother some people? Yes. Does it bother others? No. Doesn't matter if you've ridden around the world or around Milwaukee, it boils down to doing your homework, figuring out what the actual risks are, mitigating those risks, and then making a decision. Kinda what we do when we decide to ride a motorcycle in the first place.

Now for the real reason to ride to Mexico. I've said this here a thousand times: IMHO, the most beautiful, magical place to ride a motorcycle on the planet. I love the Mexican people, their customs, their language, their history, their food, their celebrations. I love the way they think of the concept of family, and how they make you, the traveler, a part of theirs almost right away. My prayer is that riders in Mexico respect her and her laws, remember that they are guests in another nation, travel with a sense of awe and admiration, and a low profile. Please don't pat Mexico on the head like some third-world little nephew, because its a big planet out there, and the U.S. isn't some smack-daddy, thumbs-in-the-armpits know-it-all uncle.

It's a good thing I didn't discover Mexico in my 20s, I never would have finished college, if I went at all. I probably would have moved down there, to some Oaxacan beach town, started writing and open a small hotel. Everytime I pack the bike and get ready to head south, my wife gives me that wry smile and she asks "are you coming back?" I smile back and say of course I am, but in my heart, when I go to Mexico, in strange ways I can't fathom, I feel like I'm going home.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:46 AM   #227
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro Navaja
I'm warming up to GPS myself. My wife has one and sometimes I borrow if for my car while city driving.
Want adventure? Then use a Garmin GPS with the factory mapping. It's so seriously inaccurate in some parts of Mexico that it's worse than no map at all.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:59 AM   #228
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Originally Posted by bmwktmbill
Anyway,if you have traveled east and west on the Mexican side of the border in the borderlands I'd like to hear about it or just point me to those who have. Pictures, maps and scant reporting allude to a beautiful land.


The girlfriend and I go out to dinner and have drinks in Mexico typically 2-3 times a week. We have a favorite bar with adjoining restaurant that is right down in the Centro of Reynosa, and every so often hit a couple of other places (a sushi place and a seafood joint) in Reynosa for variety.

And Nuevo Progreso is so touristy friendly that a gringo would have to work at getting in trouble there.

So it's safe to say that those mean ol' border towns have their pros and cons.

The big reason why people don't stick around the border areas isn't so much safety-related as it is that they simply are on the way to see something else. But it does simplify the discussion a bit to say that if you are worried about trouble around the border, then get the hell out of there ASAP and that takes care of your concerns.
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:02 AM   #229
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buenos dias PJ **sip**

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Old 02-15-2010, 07:47 AM   #230
Pedro Navaja
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bmwktmbill,

Not sure what you are looking for. You say you want to trace the border, but then you say you want to be 150 miles south of it. Which one is it? Or is it both? Or you want to do this traverse on dirt from East to West? One, two, all three?

For the sake of your inconsistencies:

1. If you want to trace the border than just cross into Mexico at Matamoros and take MEX2 all the way the way up to Cd. Acuna. Want dirt? Then from Cd. Acuna there are various unsealed roads that will take you all the way to the Gulf of California. I mean dude get a map out.

2. Want to do a parallel trace 150 miles south of the border, then get a map and do the same.

Since you are a "cut your way in, shoot your way out" type of dude, you should have no concerns about safety. However, keep in mind that when you get off-road you are then either crossing private land or ejido land. Probably wise to get permission from the owners and/or check with the local, state or federal police. I've been on ejido land before with no problems. Or you could just take a chance and hope your head doesn't wind up in a barrel with eleven other heads. Up to you macho.
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Old 02-15-2010, 07:48 AM   #231
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Originally Posted by tricepilot
buenos dias PJ **sip**


Good morning Amigo!

Sitting here in the office now. This work thang is horribly over-rated ... at least until the bills come due. I can't wait for the weather to get just a bit warmer.

Oh, and back on topic. SWMBO'd and I are planning to have dinner en N. Progreso tonight. She recently discovered what I discovered last fall, which is that there are some excellent dining values there.

Here's what $8.45 will buy you:



At this place:







Now this is within walking distance of the border crossing. That dreaded Frontera.

Touristy? You betcha!

Fun? Definitely!
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Old 02-15-2010, 07:59 AM   #232
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro Navaja
....get a map.....
Maps give me wood...
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:14 AM   #233
Arte OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PirateJohn
Good morning Amigo!

Sitting here in the office now. This work thang is horribly over-rated ... at least until the bills come due. I can't wait for the weather to get just a bit warmer.

Oh, and back on topic. SWMBO'd and I are planning to have dinner en N. Progreso tonight. She recently discovered what I discovered last fall, which is that there are some excellent dining values there.

Here's what $8.45 will buy you:





Now this is within walking distance of the border crossing. That dreaded Frontera.

Touristy? You betcha!

Fun? Definitely!
Jeezz John, you are having more fun than we locals..!!!

I did not about this place, now I will need to stop by next time.
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:50 AM   #234
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Originally Posted by Arte
Jeezz John, you are having more fun than we locals..!!!

I did not about this place, now I will need to stop by next time.

Arte, you need to let me know when and where your club is meeting. I need to find some new bars ... I mean "expand my horizons."

There are several nice restaurants in N. Progreso. One of my favorites is a seafood place called the Red Snapper; it's owned by the same family that owns one of the motels in town and several members of the family are riders. They are Harley folks rather than ADV-types, but nice folks just the same. The first time that I went into the Red Snapper they had a bunch of posters up trying to get a group together for Daytona Bike Week, and I thought that was hilarious since I was on the way back to Florida (and Bike Week) myself.

Deb ate at Angel's last week and thought that was great.

There is also a La Fogata in Nuevo Progreso. (For the traveler's reading this La Fogata is a local [Mexican] series of fine dining restaurants; they have guarded parking and usually a couple of Range Rovers in their parking lot every time I drive by. Not real cheap, but VERY good food and service).





Once again for you lurkers, this is all within walking distance of the border. That dreaded Frontera.

And yes ... there was a shoot-'em-up in Nuevo Progreso a few months ago. I have heard conflicting stories about what happened, except that some soldiers got hit and possibly killed. All the businesses quickly closed their doors (roll down garage-type doors for most of these places) and the tourists stayed inside until the shooting stopped. Then they were all asked/ordered to cross the bridge and get out of town ASAP.

The next day things were back to normal.

I've hung out in N. Progreso pretty late at night and never felt like I was in any danger.

There is an element of common sense here, however. The town may be geared for tourists, but if you look really, really hard on some of the side streets you can find a truck bypass and some trucker's motels. I doubt if I'd go down there well after dark, where there are no street lights, flashing a wad of bill$.
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:56 AM   #235
tricepilot
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Originally Posted by Lone Rider
Maps give me wood...
I can see why

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Old 02-15-2010, 09:15 AM   #236
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro Navaja
bmwktmbill,

Not sure what you are looking for. You say you want to trace the border, but then you say you want to be 150 miles south of it. Which one is it? Or is it both? Or you want to do this traverse on dirt from East to West? One, two, all three?

For the sake of your inconsistencies:

1. If you want to trace the border than just cross into Mexico at Matamoros and take MEX2 all the way the way up to Cd. Acuna.

...

Since you are a "cut your way in, shoot your way out" type of dude, you should have no concerns about safety. However, keep in mind that when you get off-road you are then either crossing private land or ejido land. Probably wise to get permission from the owners and/or check with the local, state or federal police. I've been on ejido land before with no problems. Or you could just take a chance and hope your head doesn't wind up in a barrel with eleven other heads. Up to you macho.

Just for grins and giggles, I've ridden or driven all of Rt. 2 from Ciudad Acuna/Del Rio, TX down to Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass, TX and from Laredo, TX/Nuevo Laredo, TAM to Matamoros, TAM/Brownsville, TX. And all that I can say is that the traffic is likely to get you long before the banditos do.

Some of those roads are pretty narrow and have a lot of high speed truck traffic on them. When we drove between Ciudad Acuna to Piedras Negras a few months ago they were widening the road. Eventually it's going to be a huge 6 lane wide road or some silliness like that, but right now there are some stretches that are NARROW two lane with some serious drop off's if you screw up.

Now, in the interests of honesty and advice to travelers, we have had some discussion both among the riders here and among some guys that I know at my office, and the feeling is that it's fine to ride through on Rt. 2, but to hang out in some of the small border towns along the way might not be a smart idea for a gringo nor for Spanish folks. Ciudad Mier has been discussed a few times as a place that it might not be wise to be bar hopping after dark. There is a fair amount of smuggling in the Falcon Lake area, even if the US side is a big RVing and fishin' recreational area.

Your mileage may vary.
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:29 AM   #237
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tricepilot
A couple of rouge gunmen boarded that train
So they were transvestites?



(sorry, couldn't resist)

This thread has really blown up... mostly by folks coming to the defense of Mexico. Well, kudos to ya'll... I'm with ya 100%. What a wonderful country!

To you paranoid handwringers... stay home. You'll be safe there.
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:36 AM   #238
tricepilot
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ooops, I meant gunwomen, the rouge part was correct



Good attention to detail, though
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:53 AM   #239
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When I was in Gonzaga Bay last time, I roll up to Alfonsina's and there's an elderly man in a skirt getting something from his car. Come to find out, he's Scottish, now living in Arizona but touring all over Mexico and he was on his way back up from the mainland via the ferry at La Paz. We ended up in the dining room at the same time for dinner and he proceeds to regale me with some pretty interesting stories.

He told me one about being in Sinaloa (major drug area) and was in a small, rural town and stopped at the only sit-down restaurant in town and there were two nicely-dressed gents there as well. He struck up a conversation about their boots as he was admiring the quality of the leather work and eventually felt it was ok to ask them what they did for a living. Without flinching they say "We grow marijuana" as though it were the same as you or I saying we're plumbers or electricians. One thing leads to another and the next thing he knows, he's in their pickup getting a guided tour of a Mexican marijuana farm, of which they were dos jefes - neither of which even carried guns (that he could see)!

I was naturally skeptical and asked a ton of questions and this guy was either a natural liar who had worked all the details out ahead of time, or he deserved an Academy Award for his acting performance cause his story was very plausible. The Mexicans told him that there was literally no pressure at all from law enforcement since they were paying them protection money and that as long as their crops were well-guarded there was almost no outside threat since the warring was really between the traffickers, not the wholesale suppliers. Their only pressure was to fill orders on time and count the cash!

Maybe it was all bullshit or some urban legend that I'm the last to know about, but like I said, he was totally believable to me.
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Quote:
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you are safer in 99% of Northern Mexico than you are in 99% of Jacksonville, FL.
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Old 02-15-2010, 10:01 AM   #240
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TemeculaRider
When I was in Gonzaga Bay last time, I roll up to Alfonsina's and there's an elderly man in a skirt getting something from his car. Come to find out, he's Scottish, now living in Arizona but touring all over Mexico and he was on his way back up from the mainland via the ferry at La Paz. We ended up in the dining room at the same time for dinner and he proceeds to regale me with some pretty interesting stories.

He told me one about being in Sinaloa (major drug area) and was in a small, rural town and stopped at the only sit-down restaurant in town and there were two nicely-dressed gents there as well. He struck up a conversation about their boots as he was admiring the quality of the leather work and eventually felt it was ok to ask them what they did for a living. Without flinching they say "We grow marijuana" as though it were the same as you or I saying we're plumbers or electricians. One thing leads to another and the next thing he knows, he's in their pickup getting a guided tour of a Mexican marijuana farm, of which they were dos jefes - neither of which even carried guns (that he could see)!

I was naturally skeptical and asked a ton of questions and this guy was either a natural liar who had worked all the details out ahead of time, or he deserved an Academy Award for his acting performance cause his story was very plausible. The Mexicans told him that there was literally no pressure at all from law enforcement since they were paying them protection money and that as long as their crops were well-guarded there was almost no outside threat since the warring was really between the traffickers, not the wholesale suppliers. Their only pressure was to fill orders on time and count the cash!

Maybe it was all bullshit or some urban legend that I'm the last to know about, but like I said, he was totally believable to me.


I doubt its a BS story as I had pretty much the same experience in the canyons. Still good friends with those farmers actually and they said they occasionally get their crops dusted just so the federales can send US footage showing that they are doing something about the drug production
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