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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Alamo

History as just another tourist trap. Get your t-shirts and postcards here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The last few days, since leaving Parral, have been nothing but chewing up miles. The landscape is generic high desert. If you have ever driven from Winnemucca to Elko Nevada you know all about it. It makes crossing Nebraska seem exciting.
The roads are designed with a straight edge and the sage brush is monotonous in its lack of scope. I waved at all the truck and bus drivers and they are only too happy to wave back. At least I'm able to roll along at 65 mph.
Tonight I expected to stay in a little town called La Pryor TX. Good luck on that. I should have done a bit more research. La Pryor is a high school and a Dollar General store. I ended up in Lytle just as the sunlight died.
Tomorrow I'll be in Austin with my friends Jennie and Daniel.
Time to order those new tires!

Welcome back

The beginning of the next phase in this journey.

Riding north

We all have our horses for our adventures. I'm hoping Don Carranza is bidding me Via Con Dias

The road that never ends

Some times you just want to ride forever.

My last night in Mexico

Out partying with the girls.

Out in the canyons

If you look closely maybe you can see where I lost my tent.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Race

Will I make it to Austin were new rubber awaits? Or will all the knobs finally fall off leaving me by the side of the road?

I'm going as fast as I can so that I get there before the tire wears out!

Best of bad choices

The electrical gremlins are back. I can't run the headlights and keep the battery charged. Only day time riding until I get it fixed. To make matters worse, my tent worked loose yesterday and got lost so I can only stay in hotels. It must have been all the rough road in the construction.

These two facts severely restrict my travel options. I'm in Hidalgo Del Parral now and will go for Gomez Palacio tonight.

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 24, 2014

At Creel Chihuahua - YEAH!!

Wow! I'm here! Finally!

I arrived last night to find quite the night scene. Isn't this supposed to be a sleepy little logging town? But let me back track a little ...

This is pavement?
The maps and gps files I got from Mark are great but, remember, this is Mexico. What is on the map or on the screen does not necessarily have anything to do with what's on the ground. I was taking a road to cross to Rt 16 which was shown on the map as paved. It as was, as far as this village halfway, and then it just stopped. I rode through the village looking for the road on the other side but nothing. A dirt road to the right where the original road stopped seemed to match a faint trail on the gps. Since it was a long way to backtrack I decided to give it a try.

I'm thinking that some politician promised a road to the villagers but never promised that it would connect on both sides.

So I'm going down the road doing OK. Class 2 & 3 and the AT is handling it well. I´m taking photos here and there and having a good time. Then the bike just quit!

20 miles forward or back and no transportation. I tried the starter a couple of times and then quit because I didn´t want to add a dead battery to my problems. I got off and took off my gear. I needed to relax and think clearly.

The AT has a big tank that hangs down on either side of the engine. My thought (hope?) was that the bike needed to cool off. I had been going slowly over rough terrain and then letting it idle while I took pictures. I decided that nothing was to be lost by taking a 30 minute break.

Then a family appeared. They were just out for a walk from who knows where. So they talked to me in Spanish and didn't understand a word I said in English. The older women seemed to think that if she spoke louder and more forcefully I would somehow get what she was saying.

Afet waiting 30 minutes I got my gear on and gave it a try. After a couple of false starts it caught and ran steadily. RELIEF!! Luckily, it seems that I was victim of good old fashioned vapor lock. The fuel in the carburetors had vaporized. Colling off was just what it needed. Needless to say I did not stop again until I got to Route 16. No problems since so I think I'm OK.

Route 16 is a major route across Mexico. I had invisioned a 4 lane freeway. What I got was 2 lanes of gorgeous beauty through the Sierra Madre but with a surface with more potholes than a Brooklyn neighborhood. I would upload pictures but they are too painful at this internet cafe.

I'll leave you with the Cascada de Bassaseachi. I made a wrong turn and ended up here. It appears to be bigger than any in Yosemite and I can't even imagine how big it would be in April or May. The rocks at the top looked like they were flooded in the spring which would mean about 10 times the volume of water.

So tomorrow I go down into the canyons. After a day or two there I'll turn north and begin the journey homeward.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

There are so many Middles in Nowhere

I'm in Hermosillo now after wandering around the state of Sonora a bit. I'm in an internet cafe attempting to deal with a Spanish keybord. I have no way to post pictures so that will have to wait.

What to tell you? So much seems to have happened in only 3 days. As you can tell from the nightly news I haven't created an international incident (yet).

First, let me say that everything in Mexico is different. Not better or worse, just different. The language is my biggest barrier but I seem to be managing. My biggest fear was not banditos or scorpions but going into a restaurant and making an ass of myself!

Second, this is not Baja. I'm totally off the tourist grid. No cute shops with t-shirts and postcards. And it's not the quaint Mexico of TV land. No colorfully costumed peasants parading for my benefit.

It's been simply ordinary people living ordinary lives that are much like our own - but different.

For instance, the No Passing signs on the highway are merely for amusement. It means "No Passing - Unless you really want to - And don't worry about the blind curve ahead!" Should you be faced with an oncoming pickup in your lane the custom seems to be to slow down and pull over if necessary to let the poor guy back into line. Nobody gets upset or mad, it just seems to be the way it's done on back roads. 

In Arizpe I met Carmen Puente. She is a decendant of General De Anza, the founder of the city of San Francisco! We could bearly understand each other's words but she invited me to see the museum she maintains. The remains of De Anza are entombed in the local church under glass, a bit creepy for me.

Señora Carmen gave me the grand tour of her 2 room museum carefully explaining each item. Suprisingly I understood most of it. I signed the guest book and offered a donation but she refused. Good things are happening on this trip.

I wish I could show you the pictures. The desert and mountains are beautiful. I've gotten off track but I'm so glad I haven't taken the main roads.

There is so much more to tell. I don't know when I'll get to post again but keep watching the SPOT train and you´ll know where I am.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Maps and More

Before I shut this laptop down I want to say Thanks! to Mark Walker at Mexico Maps.

Mark has provided me with all the paper maps and the gps files I'm using on this trip.

More than that, Mark has been infinitely patient with helping me get the files transfered to my gps. Far beyond the call of duty he has supported me directly. It's so refreshing to talk to a person who remembers my name and my problem. I wasn't just an incident number.

So if I don't get lost on my way through the Copper Canyons it will all be because of Mark's help.

There might be cheaper places to buy maps of Mexico but there are none better!! Buy them from Mark!

Contact Information

We welcome any and all inquiries about our products. Our offices are open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM Pacific Standard Time. Emails are answered within the same day whenever possible.

Mailing Address

World Map Source / Mexico Maps
3920 Maricopa Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93110-1414

Phone Numbers

phone/fax 805-687-1011
mobile 805-448-7273

Email Link

Mark Walker,

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South with the morning light

I'm heading into Mexico this morning and should emerge around the 1st of Nov. I was talking to a friend who is in the Texas Attorney General Office about my plans. She is going to check the latest narco-terrorist reports for me so I can come back through the safest crossing. Nice to have friends who care.

Yesterday was spent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. What an amazing place. The term museum does not do it justice. It's more than just a living museum, it's a living space! Desert flora and fauna all mixed into a 24 acre space. Here's a sample of some of the pictures I took.

Attacked by Whistling Ducks
A rare moment of repose
Almost packed up and loaded now. I'm going to shut my laptop and send it off. See you on the other side.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Life of an Artist

It's been a great couple of days here in Tucson. I can see that life is very easy and comfortable here. At least for those with A/C in the summer.

Everyone loves a Grom!
What's better than buying a new bike? Buying a new bike with somebody else's money! Greta has a nearly new BMW F800 ST in the garage but, for a variety of reasons, hasn't ridden it for the past 3-4 years. Although this normally would cause me to file criminal charges we've been discussing a re-entry program to get her back on two wheels.

One problem is that she is an artist who makes her living painting. You can see it here. She broke her wrist In a non-motorcycle accident and couldn't work for some time. No work, no income. Combined with some other factors the BMW got parked and then inertia set in. Then came the fear factor. She wanted to ride and couldn't bring herself to sell the Beemer but was burdened with what-ifs.

Greta is 5'4" and 110 pounds. She needs a smaller, lighter bike to ride around the area. One that she could handle in any situation. What better way to spend an afternoon than to go motorcycle shopping?

We looked at Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas, and even Triumphs. It quickly came down to CB300F, CB300R, and Ninja 300. No decision yet but she's thinking ...

In the meantime getting the cobwebs out of the BMW has been a work in progress. The battery is defunct, the gas is ancient, and who knows what is hiding beyond that. Today we'll find out.

So what's it like living with a working artist? Surprise, they work! It's not all brie and chablis gallery parties and glamorous openings. There is the day to day business of art. Frames need to be made, canvases mounted, showings planned. It takes discipline that most people who claim to be artists don't have. (Of course most people who claim to be artists are really just waiters with delusions)

We've spent plenty of time together but she also takes time each day to get the details done that allow her to support herself doing what she loves. 

I have to admit living amid so much art is inspiring. The self-portrait on the wall is amazingly vibrant when I stand in front of it. Say what you want about digital, nothing beats original art on the wall!

So today is my last day in Tucson. I have a lot of packing to do. I'm sending much of my stuff (including this computer) ahead to my next stop in the U.S. I want to carry only the minimum with me in Mexico. I don't want to repeat the problems I had with an overloaded bike when I get to the roads in the Copper Canyon.

I've picked out a route through Mexico and have marked the map but creating an exact schedule is difficult since I don't know what I'll encounter along the way. I might find something that captures my imagination and decide to stay for a couple of days. Or I might find the Sonora desert boring and just move along quickly. Time will tell.

I'll be looking for internet cafés along the way to continue to post my thoughts and pictures. That worked well in Baja a couple of years ago. Stay turned and check out the SPOT tracker to see where this trip is taking me.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grand Canyon

What's the point of traveling if you don't even know what you've got at home?

I've visited a lot of other countries and I have yet to get tired of the United States of America. I'm not being nationalistic but this is a great country. It doesn't just match anything elsewhere, it offers a lot more. It's a big country with any type of landscape or cityscape you could desire.

I like Paris. I love Buenos Aires. The Alps are nice and so is Mount Fuji. The Sahara is beautiful and the Mediterranean is too. Then I come home and realize that what we have right in our own back yard is the equal for any of it.

Sure I'm going to see Mexico's Copper Canyons but it's the variety and the chance to meet new people that draws me.

The sun came up and I admit that I dawdled as I packed my bike. I had a choice to make. I wanted to see the Canyon but I also had to get to Tucson in time for dinner with friends. Should I continue on the road I was on and hope it ended at the rim? Should I cut my loses and head back in order to loop up to the South Rim? What to do? What to do?

I decided to continue north and hope for the best. I passed back into the Hualapai reservation and then, finally, into a parking area at the rim. Lots of people gearing up to backpack down into the interior. 

This was the shocker - the camp marked on the map was not on the rim but is down in the canyon! If I had continued last night I would have been stuck at a dead end with no place to sleep.

The Canyon was a thriller as always but a quick look around and I had to depart. There were many miles to go to Tucson.

Now I had to make some time. The 20-30 mile side road turned out to be 60 miles so the first hour was spent just getting back to where I started last night.

At Seligman I stopped for breakfast at Westside Lilo's Cafe. People in this area like to eat well and they like to eat a lot. I asked for eggs and bacon and was served enough for two people. Tried my best but I couldn't finish it.

Now it was time for putting on the miles.

Prescott looked really interesting but I had no time to stop. I was in a hurry. Phoenix at rush hour was tempered by using the HOV lane. Then another 100 miles to Tucson. God, my fanny is sore!

Remember that my phone is dead and I had no WiFi in Yuma? I arrived in Tucson at 6p without the slightest clue about where Greta and Meyer Street were. I had expected to use my computer to get instructions but that didn't work out. Hmmm ...

I had the state map but that was way too general for any street names. I got off the freeway and looked for a store that might have a map. No luck.

I gave up and decided to head downtown. When I drove a cab in Boston the rule of thumb is to ask for directions at a fire house. If I came to one of those I could get help. Apparently they don't have fires in Tucson, I never found a fire station.

Randomly wandering around I found the Police station. Of course it was locked with no way to ask for help. What? No crime either?

I walked around the back and a guy came out in civilian clothes. I asked where I could get help and he asked what I needed. I told him I was looking for Meyer St and he said it was only a few blocks away and pointed the way. He looked at my gear and asked if I was on a motorcycle. I told him he must be a detective. We both laughed.

I pulled up to Greta's knowing I was late and wondered how long I'd have to sit on her porch before she came home. I found an envelope taped to the mailbox with an address to meet her and her friends so I was preparing myself for another quest when this SUV pulled up. 

"Hey, what are you doing over there?" 

It was dark and I couldn't see who it was. I was mentally preparing my defense when I realized that it was Greta!! She had gone out to the store and looped back on the chance that I had finally arrived. 

Long story short, I climbed in and we went to dinner where I met her friends, Deb & Mike. A great dinner in great company that lasted into the night. Then we returned to Meyer St and talked for another couple of hours to catch up. 

Old friends are the best friends.

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Yuma and Beyond

The Yuma Cabana turned out to be the usual mix of good and bad. It was clean and cheap with a great bed to sleep in. The bike was securely hidden behind the building, locked up to a sturdy steel pipe. However, the A/C didn't work and neither did the WiFi. Luckily it wasn't too hot and I was too tired for computing so no great loss.

In the morning I went out and bought an Arizona map. No small challenge in the age of smart phones. I wanted a big picture view of my destination and the ability to look at alternative routes. Something you just can't do on a tiny screen.

I had a day to explore before getting to Tucson and what jumped out at me was that our very own Grand Canyon was due north. And herein lies a problem ...

I'm from New England. Everything in New England is measured in inches. However, I'm now out west where everything is measured in miles. It looked as if the Grand Canyon was a good ride for the day but not a brutal trek. There was parts of the old Route 66 to explore along the way. What could go wrong?

A dollar a gallon cheaper than back home!
Heading north was easy and was just more land across the desert.

Dome Rock on the horizon
Lake Havasu City seems to be the retirement capitol of the U.S. west of Florida. What really surprised me was the number of nicely restored muscle cars being driven around. That and those side by side utility vehicles which are apparently legal to drive on the road. I drove over London Bridge but was extremely underwhelmed.

Further north and it was time to fuel the body and the bike. Silly Al's was just the place for lunch. I'm getting better at picking places where the locals hang out.

Then onto the old Route 66 to take a trip into the past. Frankly, I think too much has been made of the Rt 66 mystique. It's just a road. However, when there are no other cars around (and there aren't many) it's easy to imagine yourself in a '52 Hudson crossing the country before there were Interstates and chain restaurants.

The road flowed within the geography rather than cutting through it. Rolling through the mountains towards Kingman was a chance to see through other eyes and look back in time if I squinted a little. 

As it got later I was beginning to realize that the Canyon was beyond my grasp for the day. In Peach Springs I inquired about a local hotel but $120 for the night was beyond my budget. Plan B was to cut across the Hualapai reservation to a campsite on the south rim. I liked this better because it looked way off the normal path for tourists.

Once again I was fooled by my map. I guessed the campground to be about 20-30 miles up the side road. It was dark and cold and I was tired. At least the road was paved but at 20 miles I wasn't feeling confident that the end was near. 

I saw an Elk stag alongside the road which made me slow up a little. Then an elk doe and calf a mile or two further. An elk calf is about the size of a full grown deer. Nothing I want to hit at night. 

30 miles and it's not looking good. 40 miles and I run into a sign that says I'm on some ranch with a lot of restrictions. What?! However, luck was with me once again and some hunters stopped and told me where I could set up camp for the night. I was only to happy to accept their suggestion. Thanks!

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

San Diego to Yuma

I'm here in Tucson and I finally have a phone that works (for the moment) and a WiFi connection. I'll update this travel log in sections before I pack up and move on again.

The day had come to leave Michael, 'Nita, and Steven and hit the road. It was great seeing them but the snows of November are coming to Connecticut whether I'm safely home or not.

I wasn't quite sure where I was headed other than east. I was scheduled to meet Greta in Tucson but not for a couple of days. I had reduced my load again and packed more things off to CT. For some inexplicable reason I had put the California map into the box. 

But how tough could it be? Arizona is too big to miss and I was sure they would hand out tourist maps at the border visitor center. I'd just take this road (Rt 92) east and eventually something would magically appear.

Like a train museum in Campo. The road had dwindled until it was a rough two land through some hard scrabble ranch land, then this delightful little museum popped up and called for attention

It was simple and unassuming, and closed, but it was a chance to get off the bike and stretch my legs.

A metaphor for our lives?
The road basically paralleled the border and showed the harsh desert that separated the two countries. The fence that the U.S. has erected seems like a bizarre joke if you imagine crossing this landscape.

It runs across the desert and then has big gaps in it when it comes to the hills. I didn't get real close to it but it didn't look unclimbable. Maybe the point is to funnel anyone crossing into choke points where they are more easily apprehended.

Going on and on for mile after mile.
I can't imagine how many of millions of dollars were squandered on this.
In El Centro I met a guy who claimed ownership of Mad Maps. A pretty funny guy who had lots to say about just about everything. I had gotten a late start out of San Diego and it was time to pick a spot for the night. I really didn't want to camp where I might be mistaken for an illegal border crosser so I asked if he had a recommendation for a cheap motel in Yuma. He said the Yuma Cabana was a good place for only $40 a night so I jumped on the freeway and picked up speed.

In Yuma his directions were a little vague but it turns out there is a strip of inexpensive motels, all cheap, and all with vacancies. The Yuma Cabana was right in the middle and looked as good as any. Just give me the key and let me put my head on a pillow.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mr Beth meets Mr Honda

If you're into vintage Honda's from the '60's and 70's you know the name, Bill Silver. Bill writes a column for the San Francisco Examiner about his adventures, trials, and tribulations with old bikes.

He is rightly known as Mr Honda and is the #1 authority on vintage Hondas in the U.S., if not the world. He has written several books and restoration guides on the subject. Check out the Classic Honda Motorcycles for a sample of the authority he brings to the subject.

Last night I caught up with him after his return from the Barber Vintage Festival in Alabama. We hadn't seen each other in a couple of years so, over some excellent Thai food, we caught up on each others activities. Five hours of chatting and story telling that made me remember a lot of good times with old friends.

But it wasn't just the old days that we talked about. Frankly, that's a subject that causes me to glaze over quickly. Been there, done that, had a salad.

We talked about current state of motorcycling and motorcycle collecting, contemporary motorcycles (good and bad), and some of the people we know and what they are doing now. We looked into the future of motorcycling and what the manufacturers are up to. So it was a little of looking back and gazing forward. In all, a most enjoyable time.

Beth at the track on her Ducati 900 SS FE
And who is Mr. Beth? That's what I'm known as at the track. Beth races and I'm her pit crew. Everyone knows Beth and I'm just, you know, Mr. Beth ...

What else have I done while I'm here in San Diego? Went to the beach of course!

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Death Valley to San Diego

It's hard to do justice to the country I'm riding through. Words and photos just seem pale by comparison. The desert is subtle to begin with. You need to be quiet and wait for it to come to you. 

Then you notice the little things; varying shades of color in the sand, a tiny lizard scurrying across the rocks, a bird soaring high on unseen air currents. 

I sit to the side and watch people flying by in their air conditioned cars, occasionally sticking a camera out the window to take a picture of what? Something to prove they were here to their friends back home? Don't forget to buy the t-shirt too!

On the road south I passed out of Death Valley and headed toward the Mojave desert. 

Along the way I passed the Dumont Dunes and the Kelso Dunes. Way to soft for me to do anything but approach cautiously and then turn back before I got stuck.

In Kelso I found this restored train station.

It's a National Park Service site now. The lunch counter is ready for use and they are looking for someone to run it. A retirement opportunity?

Crossing Rt 66 was totally unexpected. I took a chance that nobody was coming to grab this picture.

And everyone loves a train.

After that I continued into the Joshua Tree desert and later the Anza-Borrego desert. By this time it was getting late and I was more interested in getting to San Diego than sightseeing. 

I made a tactical error in heading west through Julian rather than staying on Rt 86 south to El Centro. Julian is a nice little mountain town that I remembered from days past. What I had forgotten was how tight and twisty the roads were getting to and from there. Lots of fun in the daytime, a real pain in the dark. I might have saved some miles but I lost time from my slow pace.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!