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Old 04-11-2011, 12:51 PM   #31
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Excellent ride report. I am enjoying it thoroughly. Keep it coming.
I don't know! I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I enjoyed it, and I don't know why I'll do it again!

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Old 04-11-2011, 12:55 PM   #32
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i kept up with this report on the "other" adv site and its great. i sold my klr since i thought it wasn't enough power .

you did an epic journey 2 up on a 250
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Old 04-11-2011, 01:23 PM   #33
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The 250's are amazing little bikes...a very capable sport tourer.
Great minds think alike;small minds seldom differ...
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Old 04-11-2011, 01:31 PM   #34
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hi amigos!!! if you come to zacatecas, let me know, i w`ll pay the dinner ok??? be my guess.......
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Old 04-12-2011, 05:02 AM   #35
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Hat's off for going two up on a 250, minimalist touring for sure.
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Old 04-12-2011, 05:10 PM   #36
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Michelle's best friend is Karla Luna. Karla's family is from a little town called Union Del Tula, about 2 hours Southwest of Guadalajara. This year they were having a huge family reuinion, first in 25 years, and we were invited to stop by for the tail end of the festivities. We packed our bags and left early, only taking an hour to find our way out of Guadalajara (good luck finding street signs in Mexico).

We ate Tacos Dorados on our way. Note: Tacos Dorados are fried tacos. Sometimes they have toothpicks still in them from when they were held together for frying. I didn't realize this initially, and I'm probably still digesting one or two.

We find Karla at the Cathedral with her family. It wasn't difficult to find the Cathedral, it's the tallest building, and there is only one for the whole town.There are a good 80 to 100 family members at the church.

Those are all part of the Luna family. They are celebrating her cousin Alex's first communion.
Karla and Alex:

The Cathedral interior:

We head to Karla's grandmother's house to change into clean clothes for the upcoming fiesta. It's a beautiful, clean, bright house with incredible hand-painted tiles, each one a little bit different.

During my time here I wear borrowed "Cubavera" shirts, very comfortable and fashionable here.

We head to Alex's communion fiesta. The hosts all sit at one table, the youth at another huge table, and the adults at their own tables. Everything is fully catered, with free cervezas, plates of tacos and cucumber with chile and lime for appetizers, birrea (beef dish local to the area) with rice, beans and tortillas for entre. We are treated to a VERY LOUD brass band. Everything is very loud here. The party is huge. Dancing, moonwalk for the kids, drinking, eating.

We jump out for a minute with Karla to see her family's villa. This is a little ranchhouse outside of town, with a room for each of the 8 sub-families that make up the Luna family. It is built on an old 19th century hacidenda, and there are remenants everywhere.

"Villa Luna"

Inside, the villa is beautiful. Lovely little gated courtyard.

Behind the villa there is a huge stable holding a good 20 prized dancing horses, worth up to $50,000usd each. Two of Karla's uncles ride and train them. Too dark for pictures.

We return to the communion party and eat churros rellenos. Later that night, we hit the town with the rest of the youth. At the first bar I learn that the moon (la luna) is the womens restroom, the sun (el sol) is the men's bathroom. My bad.

The next bar could easily been any bar in the US, minus the occasional accordian over the speakers. We danced, drank and had fun till closing time. Karla's little sister also showed up, who is 16yo but looks no more than 14. Carding isn't enforced like it is in the states.

Next day we wake up late and head to grandma's house for breakfast. Menudo (tripe soup), southern style with no hominy). Delicious. We come back and wash clothes.

... and hitch a ride to another party. This time at Villa Luna, with mariachis. We go in the back of an uncle's truck.

(Union de Tula is named for Union de T.V.L.A, the initials of the four founders)

This party is great as well. Again, fully catered. This time with sheep and chicken cooked over an open flame. Delicious.

We are also treated to a horse dancing perforamce.

Karla's uncle brings a horse into the courtyard and it trots around in step for a few songs. The whole family crowds around and takes pictures. Afterwards parents line up to have their children's pictures taken with the horse and rider.

Horsemanship is a big deal here. The next day we saw a young woman arrive at the Cathedral for her quincera in a flamboyant blue dress on a huge black horse. After the cerimony she rode away and her father danced along side with another horse.

That night we went to the plaza. We drank "calientitos", a delicious hot drink of boiled fruit, and ate Mexican hotdogs (wrapped in bacon, with chile and katsup). We also observed the tradition of "la vuelta" (turn). The plaza is a big square. Various food vendors lining the edges, with trees and a big gazebo in the middle. Young single women walk clockwise around the square, young single men walk counterclockwise slightly outside them. If a man fancies a woman, he'll stop and ask her if she wants to walk around with him. Couples walk counterclockwise with the men. This is how courtship happens in Union De Tula. Karla's p�*rents met this way decades ago, and still walk around the plaza to this day. Young and old participate. I found it very charming.

The next morning Karla left back to the US to return to her work as a nutritionist. We spent one more day with her family. We went to the Cathedral and were blessed by the priest, who rubbed oil on our open palms. Karla's dad spent the afternoon chatting with various people in the plaza. He is very outgoing and has many friends here. We at posole (menudo made with pork instead of beef) and retired for the night.

Union Del Tula is the opposite of Guadalajara. Though I love Guadalajara, you can't deny it's filthy, with massive amounts of poverty plainly visible and a somewhat lawless feel. Union Del Tula feels like a very small town, though apparently it has 28,000 residents. For the first time I was instructed not to park my motorcycle on the sidewalk. There were people sweeping the streets and the main center. It was very clean, very traditional. People take pride in their city and their traditions. I never felt ill at ease here, never suspected I was being ripped off because I was a tourist.

Many thanks to the Luna family for allowing us the opportunity to participate in their reunion fesitivities. It's one thing to view a culture from the outside, as an observer. It's quite another to be able to participate and be immersed in the culture. It was an incredible experience, both in Union De Tula with the Luna family, and in Chihuahua with Michelle's family. Living within the culture was a fascinating experience, and I will never forget the hospitality I was shown.
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Old 04-12-2011, 06:27 PM   #37
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Bravo! Wonderful narrative and comments. Se me parece que descubriste el Mexico verdadero. Mexico lindo!
"Confiar es bueno, pero no confiar es mejor." -- El Tejano en la pelicula "El infierno."

"A cheeseburger, a tank of gas, and the hell out of here!" -- Graffiti, Men's Room, Fontanelli's Tavern, Norman, OK c 1974
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Old 04-12-2011, 10:13 PM   #38
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Love your ninja adventure , small is beautiful .
I'm 240lbs and ride my wife's ninga 250 when I can grab the keys.
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Old 04-17-2011, 08:27 AM   #39
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Eduardo (Karla's father) insisted we accept his gift of a Mexico atlas. Up until that point, we were relying on a compass and a tattered 4-page map of mexico we printed off the internet.

Hadn't had any problems with our current method, but we graciously accepted the atlas anyway. We tool the Luna family advice and went east to Colima via the backroads, then down to Tecoman. It was twisty, but covered with potholes. Very fun anyway. We got confused and accidently went 40km North to Manzanillo before we stopped. Manzanillo is a tourist town, and since it was the holidays everything was very expensive. We found nothing less than 400pesos. I didn't like it here. We camped on the beach for free.

Next day we headed South along Mexico 200 towards Acapulco. Twisty highway that goes along the mountanous coastline. My new favorite of the trip. The scenery expansive, picturesque beaches.

The motorcycle limited our camping options, since we couldn't just leave it on the side of the road overnight. We eventually found Playa Tunel, which was an incredibly picturesque little cove with a road going down. It was 50 pesos per person, per night to camp there, but the view was worth it. We had our own isolated, private stretch of beach, and a short swim north there was a few little beachside restaraunts. Perfect.

I was feeling a little ill the next day, so we decided to stay another day. I layed in the shade all day and recuperated. I felt better.

Next day we went exploring. You can see there is a cave going through the cliff into the open ocean. Michelle grew up in landlocked El Paso, and has never learned to swim until this summer. She bravely swam into the cave with me and hung around for a few minutes before turning back. In the cave there are crabs and sea urchins all along the walls. The cieling is a good 10 feet above you and the waves crash all around. Surreal. Later I swam all the way through via a different route and into the open ocean. The waves are very strong and threaten to dash you into the rocks. The cliffs are lined with more caves and I explore a few more before I lose my nerve and come back to the cove.

Michelle and I are both stung by a jellyfish at one point.

We climb along the rocks to get dinner. We play cards with some teens while we wait. My spanish is good enough for that at least. For are joined for dinner by a domesticated parrot and kitten who belong to the hotel kids. My Caldo de Pescado is served with the fish tail still sticking out of it. Fantastic. We buy some bottled water for the night and head out. By this time it's dark, and we've got a wallet, cellphone and leftovers, so swimming home around isn't an option. We have to climb around the rocks separating the beaches blind. Amazingly, we only lose one waterbottle in the process, and neither of us gets soaked or steps on a sea urchin. Tomorrow we leave for Zihuatenejo
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:32 PM   #40
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12/31/10 Zihuatenejo to Oaxaca

We got into Zihuatenejo and immediately began searching for an ATM to pull out some more money. We had only a few pesos left at that point. We found a Santender and pulled out money, which cost $30 pesos from that bank and then $1 from my bank. About $3.50 to pull out cash. Meh. However, the rate was good, I calculated 12.25 pesos to the dollar. We would find that Santender banks always had the best rates by a good margin. I guess because they are a sister bank to Bank of America.
I did an illegal U-Turn (was going to make a left into a one way, then noticed and corrected myself). Traffic cop told me I could get a big ticket, then laughed and said I didn't know better, waved me on my way. We had good luck with the autorities in Mexico. Only a few times were we actually stopped at the military checkpoints, only twice were we actually asked to open our bags for a quick peek. Michelle always answered their questions with her usual inate friendliness and we'd be chatting like amigos in a few seconds.
We searched around to find a decently priced hotel room, it was clear that Zihuatenejo was going to be very expensive, a little touristy nowadays and new years eve. Hotels near the centro were going for $50+usd, near the beach would be even more. Eventually we found Hotel Krystal, for $350 pesos, shared bath. We thought it might be the best we could get, so we took it. DO NOT RECOMMEND. The whole place smelled of rotting food, not a very clean family ran it. Bathrooms, rooms and towells were dirty. My standards are very low, but this would have been a stretch for $100 pesos. It's funny that the most we spent on a hotel room was also the worst.
The next day we found another hotel called Hotel Washington, just a little bit off the main highway. Clean, $100 pesos cheaper, big room with two beds and private bathroom. Didn't smell of rotting food. Recommended.

I wish I had stories about a crazy new years eve celebration. Unfortunately, me and Michelle were both feeling pretty poorly. I went to the Farmacia Similares. The big pharmacies here (Similares y Ahoro) have a room next door which houses a doctor which will give you a basic checkup for little or free and perscribe you what you need. I was perscribed some antibiotics for my fever and throat infection. We both wanted to go to sleep early, but all around Zihuatenejo there were gun-shot like fireworks, starting at 8pm, including on the roof of our hotel. Michelle fell asleep and I watched shitty American movies in spanish.
Michelle also got a stomach flu at some point. Strange I didn't, because me and her had literally been splitting single plates of food the past few days. We stayed three days in Zihuatenejo, but didn't see anything outside of the few blocks of our hotel because of our illnesses.
We headed South for Acapulco, knowing we couldn´t afford to spend any time there, but wanting to see it anyway. We got there around 3pm but it took an hour to get through. Probably the worst traffic of the trip so far. Tons and tons of little VW Bug taxis in gridlock. We were sweating like crazy. There were huge hotels everywhere, just like we expected, and totally different than anyplace we'd been so far.
Acapulco beach:

The bay:

Eventually we found our way out of Acapulco and went to a little town called San Marcos, about 50 kilometers away. Got a little hotel with WiFi on the main road, $200 pesos. It was pretty much open to the elements along the top of the walls, the only climate control was a fan. We were now in a climate where enclosing the walls was not necessary.
We continued heading down Mexico 200 to our next stop, Oaxaca. We camped in a lime Orchard near Rio Grande. Simply asked some folks working on their house if we could throw our tent back there. It looked like it would rain soon, it was dark and there was lightning. The woman laughed and said it wasn't going to rain. It didn't.
The Orchard

The bike after 3000 miles of Mexico

Next day we woke early, expecting a quick dash to Oaxaca. Not exactly. Started off well enough, nice wide road, only the occasional donkey in the road.

Sometimes a lane was missing because it slid off the mountain, but no road is perfect. Soon we were in the Sierra Madres Del Sur though, and it turned into a dirt road through the mountains.
A little hairy, but very fun. My first time riding dirt roads for more than a few KMs.

Eventually we hit a long line of cars. We went to the front to see what was going on. Apparently the road was closed for construction. We waited about 40 minutes for the tractors to finish clearing the road. We chatted with folks about the road ahead and our trip.
After we were cleared to pass, we went a few more KMs and hit a donkey fight in the middle of the road. It was hilarious.

We hit Juquila, a little town at a fork in the roads. It's built onto the side of the mountains.

Here, we had trouble. The roads were all very steep and highway went right through the center of town. You might remember I had put modestly lower gearing sprockets on my bike back in Texas for the highway, and then a slightly oversized rear tire in Mazatlan because I couldn't find the original size. The result was ambitiously low gearing. No problem for most of Mexico, but big trouble here. When traffic stopped on a hill, I was unable to get going again. I was reving the engine, working the clutch, but she wasn't moving with her huge load. I stalled and the bike started going backwards. I grabbed the front brake, but the front tire had no traction and I was still sliding backwards towards the traffic behind me. I picked up my foot and did the rear brake too, finally stopping the bike just in time. Michelle jumped off and I nursed the bike up, full throttle but barely moving. Michelle ran up and jumped back on. I'm sure it was quite a spectacle. Two fully geared Americanos on their yellow motorcycle unable to go up the hill.
The traffic:

This happened again, and Michelle had the presence of mind to take a picture of me nursing the bike up the steep hill, using both legs to keep the bike alive.

I think stock gearing would have had no trouble, even slightly lowered gearing would have been fine. But be careful if you've got a torqueless bike and low gearing.
We ended up doing a loop of the city before we found the road out. Very confusing. We continued through a very rough, potholed road. Kids were on the sides of the road filling potholes with dirt and asking for donations. People would throw pesos out the window for them or they would run next to the car windows with open hands

Bizarre scene.
View from the road to Oaxaca.

Beautiful. Once we get out of the mountains it's straight as an arrow and we get to Oaxaca before dark.
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Old 04-21-2011, 07:33 PM   #41
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: QRO, Mexico
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Fantastic adventure guys. Love the simplicity of the preparation and route. Seems that you just went more or less in the direction you wanted and let the wind take you there. Keep the updates coming....
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Old 04-30-2011, 08:03 PM   #42
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Great trip so far. I look forward to reading more. Your map printed out from the internet was great! I think I need a GPS to go a couple hundred miles from home and you are off in another country with a few printouts. I love it!.
Mark A.
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:49 PM   #43
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We got to Oaxaca and headed for el centro. Oaxaca's historical district is the nicest we saw in Mexico. It's like a little slice of Europe. The road is cobblestone, the buildings are clean, old and colonial. Michelle wants to move here.

There are tons of little trendy coffee shops everywhere. New cars, new BMW motorcycles, art galleries. Definitely a more affluent part of Mexico.
Most hotels in the historical center were very expensive. Eventually we found Hostel Mayflower, which had dorm accomadations for about $11usd per person. Free purified water, a kitchen we could use and free Wifi sealed the deal.

We meet other travellers and generally enjoy our time here. We go to the grocery store and eat mostly home-made meals (a la chez Jordan) to save pennies while we're here.
We go around the corner to Farmacia Ahorro (free doctor´s visit!) and get Michelle a few perscriptions for the stomach thing she picked up in Zihuatenejo that was still bothering her.
We spent three days running around seeing the sites. All the museums are within walking distance from our Hostel.
Museum of Oaxacan Textiles

Michelle was in heaven here. Her degree is in Textiles and Apparel Design.There was a small library upstairs with textile books. We spent a good amount of time here.
Museum of Oaxacan artists.

Museum of Contemporary art.

Monte Alban, huge Zapatec ruin minutes outside Oaxaca. Took 2.5 hours to walk around.

Major tourist sunburn.

Tried the local fair. Mole, Oaxaca cheese (delicious!), fried crickets.

Michelle was not hungry for some reason. I thought they were too salty.
Michelle in fabric heaven:

One of many busy plazas:

Pochote theater. Ever night at 7pm there's a free movie or set of short films.

Don´t see a theater? Yea, we walked past it twice before we found it. Go through a little door under the arch and enter a courtyard. See another little lit door and you're there.

That night they were playing a set of films by Chiapas film-makers interpreting poems. Very indy, very cool. That's something we would expect to find back in Austin, TX, not Mexico. I could live here.

"Italika" is the most popular motorcycle brand. They are the most common, and I just had to check out the showroom. A brand new 150CC FT150 motorcycle, $1200usd. 125cc's are $1000usd.
Website: Untitled Page click "Venta de Refracciones" to see the lineup. Very cool.
While doing my routine maintence and bike check, I notice the nastier topes (speedbumps) have done a number to my centerstand.

There's a little metal piece sticking out of the exhaust which is supposed to keep the centerstand from coming up too high when it's in a resting position. Bottoming out multiple times on the centerstand have bent this bracket way up and now the centerstand is rubbing on the chain! I bend the bracket back in place and vow to keep an eye on it.
We leave Oaxaca for the Mexico/Guatemala border. Although we heard interior Chiapas is very nice (and cheap!), we're anxious to not spend more money in Mexico when there is so much more to see. Maybe next trip...
We head out of Oaxaca to Tehuantepec. Roads are twisty but fast. We make great time.

We also stop at Matatlan, a town famous for Mezcla, the alcohol of the indigenous made from fermented corn. I buy a small bottle for $18 pesos (no typo). As our Hostel friend Shawneee put it, it's a very smokey taste.

Apparently every little town in Oaxaca has it's own unique Mezcla factory. They fill gallon gasoline jugs every week and take it to the big cities. Middlemen buy the jugs for a few pesos and fill fancy bottles which they sell to bars and the US for 50x the price. Unfortunately we're both recuperating so we haven't had a chance to enjoy our cheap bottle.
It starts to get dark and we're unable to find a suitable camping spot. All along the highways is fenced. While we desperately search I have a moment of sheer stupidity and nearly cause a wreck with another motorcyclist. He turns around and urges me to be more careful. He is right,
A few minutes later my headlight goes out. It's dark, we're never supposed to ride at night, and now this. I go a few more miles with the brights blazing, much to the annoyance of the other drivers. Just as we hit the next town my brights go out as well. We pull into the first hotel we see. Very nice rooms with hammocks outside at $250 pesos. Not bad, but he says he'll charge us 50 pesos to camp in the back so we opt for that. We camp next to the empty swimming pool with a bunch of decrepit looking dog statues all around. A little eerie. Forgot to take pictures, or even get the name of the town. There's also an abandoned restaraunt next door that hadn't been open in 2 years. A woman cleans one of the bathrooms (hadn't been used in 2 years) and we can use that while we stay. We fall asleep soon.
I get a high fever that night for no apparent reason, but in the morning I feel OK so we continue to Tapachula. The roads from Oaxaca to Tapachula are mostly toll roads according to the map. We were going to suck it up to make good time. We were pleasantly surprised to find not a single toll. Just long, divided, 80mph road with almost no topes and few towns. We make it to Tapachula before 1pm.
Tapachula is the big border town. Very dirty, but cheap. Tortas, 12 pesos, tacos, 5 pesos, room with private bath, 150 pesos. Nothing to see, but we're not here to sightsee. We need to update the blogs, fix the bike headlight, change the oil and do a general maintence of the bike. It's at 22,250 miles now, so it's covered nearly 4000 miles since I did the last major service before we left. She is a champ.
I try to get an oil filter for the bike, but no luck. We check at least half a dozen motorcycle shops and none of them sell oil filters. Nobody changes filters here? The bikes don't last long enough to bother I guess. In our search we find an Autozone, which is exactly like an Autozone in the states. It's surreal walking into someplace 4000 miles from home and the layout is exactly the same as the one down the street from your house. Same products, same employee uniforms. Prices were higher than the other shops though, and they didn't carry motorcycle oil filters.
We do find a replacement headlight bulb (Nikko brand?) for only $1usd from an awesome autoparts store. Old man owned it, parts on the shelves were dusty. Just an honest, old fashioned auto store. Price was honest right out of a book (and 1/4 what others wanted to charge). Plus, he sold white bulbs. Everywhere else only had the blue bulbs that are in style here. No word on how good that brand is yet, but we're not supposed to drive at night so hopefully we don't find for a while.
Work day in Tapachula!

Adjust and lube the chain. Air the tires. Check all the bolts for looseness. Adjust cables. Replace headlight bulb.
Would have changed my own oil, but the place I bought my oil did it for free, so I saved myself the hassle of finding a pan and a place to recycle the oil. The cost was about $9usd for an oil change with motorcycle specific 15w40 of a decent brand.
Tomorrow, 1/11/11, we cross the border into Guatemala.
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Old 05-03-2011, 05:28 PM   #44
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Location: northern Arkansas
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"Sometimes a lane was missing because it slid off the mountain, but no road is perfect."

Jordan, you can't just throw around lines like that. I hope I'm not the only one to notice.

re your sprockets, I think the (us) gearheads would say you are geared too high rather than the too low as you posted, but is of no matter, we know what you're talking about. Do you still have the original 'gears'? I would think they may prove useful.
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Austria '08
Back to the Alps in '11
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Old 05-03-2011, 05:42 PM   #45
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Stunning trip and a great report.
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