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Old 02-03-2014, 10:06 AM   #1
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
Oddometer: 15
Mexico central RR: Mexico DF - Oaxaca - Chiapas - Veracruz - GTO

After many years on this Earth without ever having crossed the Rio Grande, I decided it was finally time to visit Mexico. Original plan was to do a proper border crossing. Fly to DFW or AUS, buy a barely roadable bike there, and ride it down to the capital, then around the country, and finally selling it or abandoning it shortly before departing home on a jetplane.

After doing some research, this plan wasn't looking so great. Listings for bikes on Texas CL were slim pickings, and I wasn't confident about doing a roughly 3000 mile ride on an old Goldwing or XS1100 that could leave me stranded. Then, there is the TVIP, an import duty that you have to pay when bringing a vehicle over the border. It's a $300-400 deposit when all is said and done, which I would not recoup unless I returned to the border. So, cost of ratbike + TVIP was approaching the cost of a rental.

Instead of doing the border crossing I decided to fly to MMMX and rent from Oscar Calderon at MEXICO MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES:

He came recommended on ADVRider and seemed reasonable, and so I reserved a DL650 VStrom which was $105/day. Route was Mexico DF - Puebla - Oaxaca - Salina Cruz - San Cristobal de las Casas - Tuxtepec - Tehuacan - Mexico DF- San Miguel de Allende. About 2900 km total.

The bike came with panniers, topcase, and a Garmin Nuvi 30 GPS. All of my stuff fit in the topcase Which pretty much left the panniers to fill up with booze.

Traveling on the Cuotas by motorbike was fine - you pay half price at the toll stops (MX$32 vs MX$65 for a car).

First day out was a day trip to Puebla.

Stayed in a hotel near downtown called Hostal Casona Poblana. Was about US$30 a night for a nice room with moto parking in the courtyard.

Stayed there over Christmas Eve and the the Christmas Mass. The zocalo area was really decked out for the holidays.

Just outside Puebla there is an archaeological site for the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It's a huge site that has only been partially excavated and restored. By volume it's the third largest pyramid in the world.

Next day I started out for Oaxaca...

This cuota takes you into some gorgeous mountain roads:

In Oaxaca City I stayed at La Leyenda Hostel, I think $15 a night. Not bad.

Downtown churches in Oaxaca:

Tree of life on the ceiling of a cathedral in Oaxaca:

Oaxaca is known for its chocolate, mescal, mole sauces, and delicacies like grasshoppers. It was cold at night so ladies were walking around ladling the hot chocolate into styrofoam cups for MX$5. It was spicy sweet chocolate with a lot of milk. Delicious and warming. Had I really thought hard about posting this ride report to the forums, I would have taken more pics of the food. But I didn't. By the time I thought about it, it was already the next morning, when I was having breakfast at the hostel:

Woke up early and headed south on cuota 190. Along the way I took a few canyon detours through the blue agave to sight see:

Somewhere a few hours south of Oaxaca City you start to find more of the topes. If you don't know what topes are, they're speed bumps, which may or may not be painted, and may or may not be really fucking tall. Sometimes they're in the middle of a curve as below. Regardless, if you're touring on a motorcycle, be aware of them.

Sometimes they go ahead and call it out for you

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Old 02-03-2014, 08:44 PM   #2
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
Oddometer: 15
The first half of cuota 190D, from oaxaca to salina cruz, is epic. Almost worthy of tears. Road begins in the highland scrub, then drops into an arid valley of painted rocks and saguaros and plantation tracts of blue agave, a crazy quilt kaleidoscope of sandstone and ochre and turquoise and azure skies with smokestack puff clouds hovering above Seussian mesas.

Objective was to reach San Cristobal de las Casas, which took me through Salina Cruz on the Pacific Coast. Here you cross the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, where along the highway route is La Ventosa, a huge complex of wind farms. Gusts of 50 mph wind blow randomly and suddenly at a 90 degree angle to the road, and this was very sketchy on the WeeStrom. Could not count how many 18 wheelers and trailers were in the ditches through here.

After La Ventosa, riding up from Salina Cruz towards Chiapas, you get a few views of the Pacific Coast that are amazing. This one was just outside of San Pedro Tapanatepec as you cross the mountain pass. I had struggled to pass the lines of 10-15 cars and trucks crawling up the hill when I caught this view, so I just snapped it with the helmet cam. But it's like a view of the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, from orbit.

From there, the rolling hills and subtropical forests of Chiapas come into view. Then I started hitting my groove. Bézier twists and turns of asphalt that hypnotize the frontal lobes and tantalize the precambrian brain, a four hour sustained assault on the adrenal glands, a tantric session of lean angle that intensified as the light god went to sleep and I switched partners with the golden moon. I did the ride from Oaxaca City in one day, roughly 660 km, and celebrated with some refreshments.

I stayed at the Rossco Backpackers Hostel where the owner offered a free night to anyone crazy enough to ride a motorcycle there. It's a hostel, and there were indeed backpackers. In a former life I might have had issues with that. And sure enough, after I settle down, skinny white guy with those round Lennon eyeglasses, Baja hoodie, and filthy dreadlocks, picks up his guitar and I start to get up. Then he starts playing Even Flow, and... It's not bad. I stay seated. It was the song that almost caused Pearl Jam to break up. Well, it's been 20 years, yes? It's okay, son. Keep playing.

San Cristobal de las Casas is a well kept and clean "magical town" with amazing architecture that combines Colonial Mexican style with native motifs.

All night long the town was full of performers and other costumed revelers in the traditional outfits.

During the day I walked around a little to explore...

Delicious food was all over the place:

El Cartel brand cowboy hats with blood spatter on the tag:

Before I knew it, it was time to ride off again!

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Old 02-03-2014, 08:45 PM   #3
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
Oddometer: 15
Next day started off with a visit to *bucks in Tuxtla Gutierrez to pose:

Then I was riding through a swampy wetlands of Veracruz, lands that look at times like Louisiana or the deep South.

For this leg I left the cuotas and decided to detour to a smaller town with no tourism presence, and to explore some local roads. Compared to the cuotas which were in excellent condition for the most part, the local roads were a mixed bag. Nothing that couldn't be handled.

Traffic on the roads was far less homicidal than in other countries I've ridden. Truckers, for example, actually help you out. See here, the white light under the trailer?

He's flashing me to let me know it's safe to pass. And it was. Actually, I'd have to say, the truckers in Mexico were far more friendly to moto traffic than what is typical in the USA.

Now a word or two about navigation. I like doing solo rides, and have done more than one with only paper map or road sign navigation. Here I had GPS with the Nuvi 30, but the built-in maps were shit. For example, Garmin wanted me to cross the river here on this bridge:

I started to cross the gate when the local people stopped me, saying that the vehicle bridge was a half mile further down the river. In 99% of the times when Garmin utterly failed, the smartphone with Google Maps came through. More accurate position wise, street names, businesses, faster than the GPS unit. This has been the case so many times, in so many countries. Getting lost in the jungle in Cambodia, Google Maps on RIM was the only thing that knew where we were.

And yes, I still snap pictures with the trusty Blackberry.

Made it to Tuxtepec, a small to mid-size river town in northern Oaxaca. Had delicious tacos el pastor on the street and walked around to enjoy the night air.

It was getting close to New Year's Eve, so many street vendors were selling fireworks. These are the old, dangerous style, remember those (if you're old)? The kind that people said could blow your hand off, but meant it for reals. You can still find 'em in Mexico. The ones wrapped crudely in newspaper with a fuse stuck inside - I bought one for seven pesos and lit it and dropped it in the street. Everyone jumped back like I had thrown a grenade. BOOM! like a 12 guage shell. I felt the shockwave on my face. Later on, someone set off one of the round ones that looks like a tiny anarchist's bomb. He threw it on the riverbank, and took off RUNNING in the opposite direction. When it went off, it sounded like an artillery round and echoed for 5 seconds. Windows rattled, dogs started barking, and an old man shirtless in a nylon woven deck chair on the sidewalk cackled with glee.

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Old 02-03-2014, 08:46 PM   #4
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Joined: Feb 2011
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The next day I set off into the mountains to ride back to Oaxaca City. This was on HWY 175, still a federal road but not a cuota, so conditions were variable. This road takes you from the riverbank up into the mountains through a jungle that the road can barely beat back. It's around 200 km between the cities and I might have passed 15 vehicles going the opposite direction as I traveled across. What an utter gem of a road.

It was cold and wet on the Gulf side of the mountain - starting to cross through the cloud layer:

HWY 175 climbed to something like 2500-3000m at the highest point. Certainly nothing like the roads in the Karakorams, but air temperature near the top was fairly brisk.

I had only packed one water bottle and a bag of Japanese peanuts, and was hungry, cold, and needing caffeine. About halfway to Oaxaca City, near the mountaintop, I spotted a little brick hut on the side of the road saying Comida. It's super smoky inside but there are tables set up and I managed to order some food. They brought me some huevos, jamon, and frijoles with cotija cheese, salsa, and a huge cup (or small bowl) of hot coffee:

I drank three bowls of that coffee and then hit the road, riding straight to Monte Albán to see the ruins there. At Monte Albán there was a huge line for parking cars and tour buses and basically if you came late in the day (as I did), you had to park more than a mile down the hill and walk uphill to the site. But not moto travelers! We get to park right next to the gate.

Monte Albán is one of the most amazing sites in Mexico if you like the history of Mesoamerica:

After sacrificing a few virgins on the South Platform, I got back on the bike and rode until I was starving, and then wolfed down some carne asada tacos at the first roadside place I found:

Stopping place for the evening was the Hotel Mex Mar in Tehuacan. This place sorta reminded me of the hotel of Llewelyn Moss from No Country, the one where he gets capped by the drug lords.

But it was basically a trucker hotel, people were checking in later at night and happy to be off the road. The joint next door served Micheladas for MX$20 and mescal for MX$30 and I enjoyed a few drinks and then hit the hay. These places and many ladies bars line the main drag of Tehuacan, and here you realize you are very far away from the tourist-friendly cobblestone streets of San Cristobal de las Casas.

The ride back to Mexico DF was framed by the many volcanoes like Citlaltépetl, roads I'd like to return and ride someday. After the magical tour of HWY 175 I imagine many less appreciated beauties are found on those volcanic slopes.

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Old 02-03-2014, 08:46 PM   #5
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
Oddometer: 15
After New Years Eve in Mexico DF, it was on to San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is about a 3 hour ride from the capital, basically a colonial style old town that is nestled in the hills of Guanajuato. Super tight streets with tall cobblestones makes for a rough and bumpy ride:

So lots of people get around using quads and dirt bikes, or Beetles with knobby tires and tough suspension:

Check out the look on this girl's face:

It's very charming here, very clean, and fantasy land beautiful.

It is very much like a trip to northern Italy or Extremadura in Spain, like a little cosmos of Europe preserved, or replicated in Mexico. Like this charming doorway with paint still almost wet, well not quite. But it is nowhere near as old as it might seem, had I not been able to touch it with my hand. Made to look much older and more weathered than it actually is.

Prices in San Miguel match or exceed SF prices, but hey - it's a vacation, right? Disneyfied or not, one thing I could not quibble with was the fantastic selection of alcohol. The best tequila I've ever had, so good. We drank copious quantities and never got a hangover. Isn't that one of the hallmarks of quality booze?

After San Miguel I went back to Mexico DF and got stranded by the snowstorm-pocalypse-mageddon and had to stay an extra four days while the airlines sorted out my return flight. I guess there are worse places to be stranded :)

All in all I would highly recommend Mexico for a riding holiday - had no problems whatsoever on the road and ate/slept/partied well the entire time. Please let me know if you are interested in renting from Oscar and I'll refer you!
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Old 02-04-2014, 06:01 AM   #6
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Well done!
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris Bueller
Baja 2012, my first moto tour
Oaxaca, Estados Unidos Mexicanos
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:40 AM   #7
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very nice...thanks!
2012 VSTROM ADV 650
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:54 AM   #8
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On the bucket list - thanks!
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Old 02-04-2014, 06:40 PM   #9
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Great report! Many thanks. Gave me good ideas for my next ride.
No bribes or bandits - My initiation to Mexico:
Back Roads To Bama ride:
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Old 02-04-2014, 07:47 PM   #10
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very nice.
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Old 02-04-2014, 07:57 PM   #11
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On my list, after reading your report.
"The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday"
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Old 02-05-2014, 08:54 PM   #12
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Location: Ciudad Catedral
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Great report. I've spent time around the DF, but didn't have access to a motorbike. I'd love to get back to the place and ride someday. Good to know I can rent a decent moto there. Thanks for taking us along!
Los Tres Chaquetas Ride Baja 2013 -

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Old 02-10-2014, 08:27 PM   #13
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
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Thanks guys - doing research here on ADV and the PMs people sent were all a big help.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:49 AM   #14
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Nice report. Did you have much trouble with traffic in DF ?
I got tired of being here, so now I'm there
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Old 02-11-2014, 12:56 PM   #15
protokultur OP
Joined: Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by acejones View Post
Nice report. Did you have much trouble with traffic in DF ?
Not really - riding out of town before Christmas time was the worst, and that was only 45 minutes or so. And that was with me being fairly tame on the lane splitting. The cars don't leave much room to lane split and I don't usually ride with panniers. It could have been a lot faster.

Between Xmas and mid-Jan it is really dead in DF so you have little or no traffic.
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