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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mexico - Day 6 - Part 2 (the hard part)

Humming along, singing my song, thinking that everything was going a little too well to stay that way, I wondered where the adventure was. My friend Kevin had visited Batopilas a couple of years before and told me that the road was complete paved now.


Crap! How can I be a rough tough biker guy when the road is so smooth and curvey?


OK, make that a lot of curves! Suddenly I'm faced with switchbacks to match anything the Stelvio Pass has to offer. It drops like a rock and is as tight as a drum.



Fun. But also a lot of work on knobbie tires.


Then I met Daniel. He was the flagman on the construction project I hadn't expected. His guess was 30-60 minutes to wait until I could pass. Since I was the only one on the road we wisely decided to wait in the shade until the All Clear came through. It was a great chance to practice our Spanish and English on each other.


This is what lay around the curve for me. All that adventure I was yearning for was waiting for me in vast quantities. Massive rock slides had totally wiped out the road.



You can see me following a Cat D-9 that was punching a notch into the rubble so I could get through. I followed him a little too closely and missed the cutoff for the switchback that would take me down to the river. Trying to make a U-Turn by skidding the rear wheel without launching me over the edge was a bit nerve wracking.


Crossing the bridge I found more of the same going up the other side of the canyon. The Africa Twin and the TKC-80 tires dug in and gave me as much confidence as was possible in the situation.


When I finally rolled into Batopilas I was tired and it was getting dark. I had expected to have time to walk through the town and look for the hotel that my trusty guidebook recommended. What I got was a tour of the town behind a pickup truck full of the local police militia. They were friendly and waved to me but I wanted to make sure they took no special interest in me so I followed meekly behind them. I took a turn that I hoped looked like I knew where I was going and ended up in a dead end.

It was getting dark and I was not happy. As I retraced my path an old woman yelled, "Do you want a hotel?" I stopped and said I was looking for the Hotel Minas. She replied that this was the Hotel Minas. My gringo suspicion kicked in for a moment before I looked up and realized that I was about to drive past the very place I was looking for.

I asked, "Agua caliente?" She replied, "Si" The gods had smiled upon me. There would be a hot shower tonight.


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Friday, November 28, 2014

Mexico - Day 6 - Part 1

Note: I've been back in Connecticut for about 10 days. The recent posts are to back fill and expand the spaces where I wasn't able to post pictures or complete reports while south of the border. Some people's comments implied that there was some confusion about this.


Breakfast at Margarita's was good and I packed up and hit the road. My plan was to visit Urique for the night and then bushwhack over to Batopilas the next day. As usual, my plan was long on imagination and short on reality.



Everything went well as far as El Divisadero. It was a pleasant road on a warm morning that paralleled the railroad tracks. I was hoping to see one of the trains but was disappointed. I would have checked the schedule if I had known how close they were.



At El Divisadero I paid my 20 peso fee and entered the Parque Ecoturistico Barrancas del Cobre. This is somewhat amusing as the Parque is composed only of a few viewing points into the canyons. 



However, the view is worth every peso!! This is four photos stitched together and it doesn't begin to convey the immense size and scope of the grandeur before me.

I walked from point to point trying to take it all in. I couldn't. At the Grand Canyon there were defined edges, this is the south rim, that is the north rim, those are some pinnacles sticking up. Here it was just too big. No matter where I looked it just kept going, on and on. If my eyes focused on one thing they lost something else.

So I got back on my bike, more than a little humbled by the landscape, and headed for Bahuichivo. There were plenty of signs and a brand new road. An easy ride today, What could go wrong?



In the U.S. they pave the roadbed, then they put in the guard rails, then they paint the stripes, and finally they open the road. It seems in Mexico they do it all at once. The pavement just stopped. As you can see the guard rails are in place, and the stripes are only a hundred meters behind me. I cautiously moved forward thinking that the knobbie tires would take me through the construction site but there was nowhere to go. They hadn't dug out the route yet and there was only the hills and cliffs on the other side. Not that anyone cared. If I had given it a try I'm sure they would have cheered me on and laughed when I tumbled into the canyon below.


What seems to have happened is that there was a sign that diverted me over to a detour. This was up a pretty sketchy single lane road that had loaded dump trucks coming down. They would have considered the mighty Africa Twin no more than another bump in the road as their brakes squealed in protest all the way down the hill. In this confusion I seemed to have missed the road for Cerocahui which would have led me to Urique. 

Now it was past noon and I had used up a lot of gas. I wasn't expecting to find more along the way so I decided head back towards Creel and then directly to Batopilas. I refilled my tank at the PeMex station where I turned off towards Cusarare. I was surprised to find Lago de Arareco (Lake Arareco) so close to Creel. There appeared to be cabanas for rent and it is something I will definitely investigate when I come back.

I named this Beauty Break Point
The road was filled with more of the same beauty that I was becoming familiar with. A wonderful ride on a wonderful day. The only problem was, Where was the adventure?

More about that when I return next time ...


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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

I haven't gotten anything done lately because a wicked cold has taken me off the grid.

Against all the platitudes of today, and all the madness that will follow tomorrow, I will post an article from James Clear who I have a lot of respect for.

How to Be Thankful For Life by Changing Just One Word

My college strength and conditioning coach, Mark Watts, taught me an important lesson that applies to life outside of the gym…
As adults, we spend a lot of time talking about all of the things that we have to do.

You have to wake up early for work. You have to make another sales call for your business. You have to work out today. You have to write an article. You have to make dinner for your family. You have to go to your son’s game.
Now, imagine changing just one word in the sentences above.
You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.
You get to wake up early for work. You get to make another sales call for your business. You get to work out today. You get to write an article. You get to make dinner for your family. You get to go to your son’s game.
I think it’s important to remind yourself that the things you do each day are not burdens, they are opportunities. So often, the things we view as work are actually the reward.
You don’t have to. You get to.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Mexico - Day 5

I arrived in Creel after dark and it looked like a scene out of American Graffiti. Seriously, there were all these cars and pickups driving up and down the single main street. My first thought was, "Wow, what a lot of tourists!"

I had a map in my guide book and was looking for Casa Margarita which was described as a "bustling backpackers scene". It sounded like my kind of place. However, after a couple of ventures into the area where it was supposed to be located I gave up. I was tired, it was dark, and I was losing hope. This was not a sleepy little logging town anymore.

So I found the Hotel del Centro. Simple enough, it was off the main street, had parking for the bike, and looked clean. I had to go around the corner and ask in the grocery store about a room. They asked 350 pesos, I told them I would pay 300 peso, they agreed. Score!

Only one problem, the two handles in the shower were Cold and Not Quite As Cold. It made for a very refreshing shower. And a very quick one. I went out on the street for a while but it was too hectic and I was too tried. Off to bed.


In the morning I had breakfast at the Cafe Veronica and walked through town to get my bearings. My impression was much more positive in the daylight. Much more colorful and much less touristy than I thought.
NEW RULE: When entering a new town, park the bike and walk through the town. It's the only way to see and learn anything.

I found Casa Margarita right where it was supposed to be. I had missed it in the dark the night before due to the lack of any prominent sign. I went in and found that it had gone upscale since the guide book had been written. Still, it was a destination I'd been looking for and it had a hot shower. I took it for the night. This gave me two rooms but I didn't have to move the bike or my gear so I chalked it up to experience.

The day was a rest day to relax and explore. I took my time wandering around and found an internet cafe to catch up on my email and post a couple of pictures.


The train station is off the plaza and runs once a day in each direction. It's the famed El Chepe that runs along the canyon rim providing spectacular views.

Stolen from the internet
I bought some postcards and sat in the plaza writing notes while watching the world go slowly by. There were people selling native crafts and things but I had no room on the bike to store them so all I could do was offer my admiration.

At the post office I made a bit of a fool of myself. I walked up to the door and pulled on the handle to open it. It seemed locked and didn't budge. I looked at the schedule posted and it should have been open. I stood there for a few moments wondering what to do when the Postmaster came and opened the door for me. I should have pushed rather than pulled. We both laughed and shrugged it off. I got my stamps and beat an embarassed retreat. Oh well, I've done dumber things ...

Dinner was included in the price of my room at Margarita's so I went there to eat. Curiously, nobody asked if I was supposed to be there. It was a fixed menu and when I sat down they brought me food. It was a different staff so they didn't know me from when I rented the room, they just trusted that I should be there. Try to find that north of the border.

The evening traffic seemed much less frenetic than the previous evening and I went to bed early. Tomorrow, the canyons.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mexico - Day 4

When we last left our intrepid aventurer, he was casting about for a place to pitch his tent for the night. As we listen in we hear him say, "Dang, it sure gets dark when the sun goes down!"

Hmmm. Maybe I've been listening to too many old time radio shows.




I took what appeared to be a road to nowhere and went about 4 miles before selecting a wide flat spot for the night. It must have been a road to somewhere because several cars and pickups, plus a person on a horse, passed by in the night. On person yelled Buenos Noches but the rest just ignored me. So much for the dangerous Mexican outback.




In the morning I found that the low bushes on the side of the road were, in fact, the tops of tall trees anchored to the side of a steep slope. One missed curve and ...   As always, ignorance is bliss.



Meson D'Lucy
Inside with a real fireplace and shrine
Lucy
In Yecorra I stopped for gas and was determined to find a real breakfast in a local place. The first place I stopped at was closed but they told me how to find another place. This turned out to be Meson D'Lucy.



With surprisingly little fuss I ordered breakfast and it was great! I'm getting much better at this.





Mex 16 turned out to be a wonderful ride. I am out of the flat desert and begin winding through beautiful hills.



In any mountains there are falling rocks, in the Mexican mountains they don't clear them out very often. Just something to keep you on your toes. Along with dodging the goats and cattle, skirting the potholes, and avoiding the sand on the road.




I was heading for Creel today, the gateway town of the Copper Canyons. My plan was to just ride east on Mex 16, take a right at the big road, left at the next big road, and cruise into town.




Fortunately, I took a wrong turn. The road seemed odd and then I ended up in a parking lot. I was at the Cascada de Basaseachi.




I was ready for a break so I hiked the 1.5 km trail to the head of the falls.




This was pretty spectacular. They have viewing platforms for you to look over the edge and stairs down to the stream in case you want to get really up close and personal. Including falling off the edge if you want to. Those little green things at the bottom are fully grown pine trees!





I was thinking that it would be nice to see this from the other side but didn't see any path around the canyon. Besides, I needed to get going if I was to get to Creel soon. So I backtracked and found the correct right turn.



However, my luck held and the road to Creel took me past another sign that said Cascada de Basaseachi. Seven miles down this road took me to the far wall of the canyon and the view I had wished for. Wow! To think that this was October and the water was 1/10th of the flow in the spring. How spectacular that must be.

After lingering for a while I got back on the bike and headed south. More about that tomorrow.



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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Triumph Eye Candy

Something fun while I work to get the BritIron newletter out. More Mexico tomorrow.

TriDays is an annual week long celebration of all things Triumph in Austria. 21-28 June 2015. I'm thinking that a ride from London to Neukirchen could be my next adventure. Anyone want to join me?


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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mexico - Day 3

After leaving Arizpe and Senora Carmen I went south on Route 89 until I got to Rt 14. This was supposed to take me east until I could cross over to Mex 16, the main highway. However, some road sign, that I don't remember now, warned me about this path so I decided to head west to Hermosillo and take the long way around. I ended up spending the night in Ures, a small town with a main street about 15 blocks long and about 6 blocks wide. 

I got there early enough that I was able to ride back and forth a couple of times to get an idea of what the town was like. It had one hotel next to a PeMex station so I got a room for the night for 300 pesos (US$25). It was neat and clean with plenty of hot water so I was happy.


After a shower I ventured out to get something to eat. This sign had attracted my attention previously so I went there. Another open air restaurant with an grill. I asked for a hamgurguesa which is a baby step toward ordering native food. That went fine until the girl asked me what I wanted on it. She could have mentioned arsenic for all I understood.

I motioned that she should follow me over to the sign which was a few feet away and we played Point and Speak. Lechuga = lettuce, onion = cebolla, tomato and tomate are pretty close, but queso had me stumped until she pointed to the cheese. We both smiled and laughed and I learned new words. Plus, it was a great hamburger!


The next morning I got on the road and headed into Hermosillo. Quite by chance I came upon the Honda dealer. I found that I needed some oil and after some references to my phrase book I got a liter of oil (aceite) and borrowed a funnel (embudo). Life is good!

Trying to find Hwy 20 to the east was a challenge but with the maps and gps I was getting there. Then the dreaded Policia roadblock appeared up ahead. Remember when I mentioned that I didn't get the vehicle papers for the bike? Now was the time to care about such trivial details.

However, not to worry. Whatever or whoever they were looking for, I wasn't it. They questioned me about what I was doing and where I was going. They asked if I was "Americano" which seemed kind of obvious considering the American flag patch on my jacket but I merely replied "Si". They poked at my bags and then waved me ahead. Bullet dodged.

Hwy 20 wasn't much to speak of. Two lanes through farm and ranch country. I came to the turnoff for Soyopa and took the cross road to Mex 16. This was a very new road and I was thinking that I would be able to make some good time. Which I did until I got to Soyopa. There the road just ended. 

I rode through the village a couple of times thinking the road might continue on the other side but no luck. This presented a problem since I would lose a day if I had to backtrack to Hermosillo. 


The map showed a finished highway all the way through but the gps showed only a path that continued on. However, the path did appear to go all the way to Mex 16 so I decided to give it a try. I had nothing to lose and could always turn back if it got too difficult.


Some places were worse than others but it was pleasant and I stopped here and there to take pictures.


The cattle guards were challenging since they were just wide enough apart to trap the front tire and send me over the handle bars. The trick was to swing wide and cross it at a 45 degree angle.

Moto Muerto!
Then tragedy struck! The engine stopped and wouldn't restart! 

Don't panic! was my first thought. Even though it was 20 miles back to the village I wasn't hurt and had plenty of food and water. A moment of reflection suggested that maybe the engine had overheated. It was hot and I had been trolling along enjoying the day and left the engine running each time I had stopped to take a picture. Maybe letting it cool off would restore its motive powers.

So I sat down and waited. Now, like I said, I was 20 miles from Soyopa in (you guessed it) the middle of nowhere. So along comes this family out for a stroll. A 20-something mother with an infant and a 6ish child plus her mother and father. They asked me questions which I didn't understand and I responded in ways they thought were hilarious. The older woman seemed to think that leaning closer and speaking louder would make me understand but it didn't. It only made the rest of them laugh louder.

Finally I decided that the 30 minutes were up and put on my gear in the hope that the bike would start and I could be on my way. It coughed to life and, with a wave to my new amigos, I headed on down the road. My best guess is that I was a victim of good old fashioned carburetor vapor lock.


Getting to Mex 16  was one of the happiest moments of the trip. From that time on I turned off the engine whenever I stopped for a picture or nature call.


Mex 16 may be the main east-west highway in northern Mexico but it is far from the boring super highway I had feared. It turned out to be a joy to ride most of the time and very scenic. It was getting late because of the time I had lost so I began the hunt for a camping spot. More about that tomorrow.


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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mexico - Day 2

You can find Day 1 here and here.


It's just as well that I didn't make it to Cananea on Day 1. I wasn't prepared for what I would find which was nothing like I would have expected if I had expected anything.
In U.S. cities there is a line of motels on the highway with bright neon signs exhorting you to stay with promises of Free WiFi or Free Hot Breakfast or something. In Mexico there are hand painted signs saying Hotel leaning against a building. Maybe just the word Hotel painted on the side of the building itself.


The areas I was going through were not tourist spots and the hotels catered to truckers and itinerant workers. No TripAdvisor ratings here. It was not easy to tell a flop house from a hot spot as I rode along. Since I had camped the night before it was a problem I could defer for the moment.




The problem I did have was trying to get out of town. I must have passed this statue of a miner 5 or 6 times. It wasn't a big city but I certainly got to see all of it.


Which brings me to another point, food. It was early and I was hungry. There are no Denny's or Mickey D's here, just places that said "Taqueria" or maybe "Burritos". One place looked good, a small joint with a few local workers eating in the open air but I passed it by. Here's what I wrote in my journal,

I'm not afraid of bandits or scorpions but I am terrified of making an ass of myself while ordering food in a restaurant.
With the help of the gps I finally found my way out of town and headed south. I had wimped out and ate a granola bar rather than confront my fear. I vowed not to do that again.



This is the road I intended as an interesting shortcut from one highway to another. Hmmm, deep sand and lots of running water. DBAJ alert! There would be lots of places like this along the way. Places I could attempt if I had to or if I was not traveling alone. However, I decided to take the path of caution and went back to the road I was on.



This is Mexico's way of saying, "Caution, danger ahead!" These memorials are for people who have lost their lives on the highway. In this case they might have missed the curve and went sailing off the cliff. The bigger the memorial, the greater the danger. In many places there were multiple shrines just to warn you that some people are slow learners.



Arizpe is a small town that was once the capital of most of northern Mexico and what is now Arizona, Texas, and California. Some time ago the capital moved to Hermosillo leaving this a quiet farming community. In 1775, a year before the Declaration of Independence, Capt. Juan Bautista de Anza led the march from Arizpe north establishing missions along the way and ended by founding the city of San Francisco, California. His remains are interred in the floor of the church under a glass panel. That was just a bit creepy for me so I moved on.



The rest of the church was beautiful and I sat for a moment to enjoy the art and majesty of it.



When I went back to my bike I hit the jackpot, Senora Carmen Puente. She maintains a little two room museum of the town's history. Her English was little better than my Spanish as she showed me the artifiacts but we managed to connect and understand each other well enough.



There was a little of everything including Carmen herself. It seems she is the great-great-granddaughter of De Anza. It was a lovely experience all the more exquisite because the museum is unmarked and our meeting was purely by chance.

After that I was on the road to Hermosillo where I found an internet cafe to write this post.



I headed east on Mex 16, the main east-west route through northern Mexico. I had avoided it earlier because I didn't want to drone along a freeway. How wrong I was. Once I got past the flat area it was a 2 lane mountain road that was a motorcycle delight. Plenty of curves, great scenery, and COWS! Nothing like a few cows wandering about in a blind curve to get your heart pumping.

Between the cattle, rock slides, and tight curves I was averaging only about 40 mph but I was having a ball!!

I've finally got the pictures (all 1,987 of them!) sorted out now so I'll be able to post more every day. See you tomorrow.



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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Warm Welcome Home



I'm back. I arrived home about 4:30. It was forecast to be chilly but once past Allentown PA it was clear blue skies and warm weather. Even the Merritt Parkway coopperated and was free of traffic jams.

7,000 miles in 70 days. It was a great time and I'm looking forward to the next one.

I'll be back to Day 2 and the rest of the Mexican retrospective tomorrow. Right now I'm just sitting back and relaxing.

Thanks for the great support from all of you.



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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Everything has a cost

I left Nashville after joining my friends for breakfast. Nothing is better than spending time with old friends and making new ones. My plan was to super-slab it to my reservation in Kingsport TN. But plans, like rules, are made to be broken.

The trip from Austin to Nashville was under cold and gloomy skies. To break it up a little I skipped over to US 70 that ran parallel. The old US numbered routes are a hidden gem for motorcyclists. They go through the real America that the Interstate system so studiously avoids. They cling to the landscape, twisting and turning along the hills and rivers. They pass through the towns and villages and you'll find much better food at Alice's Dine Inn than you'll ever get at Speedy's On The Highway.

Through Arkansas the road was straight and flat. Before long I noticed that the road was on a levee, 10' above a continuous array of rivers, creeks, swamps, and flood plains. Where it was dry, it was cultivated fields that must get enriched with the nutrients spread by the periodic floods. The towns I passed through were farming communities that exhibited the full range of farm activities. You can't find a panorama this rich on the interstate. The curious thing is that the alternate route isn't much slower than the freeway. 


So today when I got on I-40 the sun was bright, the air was warm, and I had a smile on my face. It was too good a day to waste droning down the highway. So I jumped over to US 70 again and enjoyed the slower pace. There were fall colors in the trees and the traffic was light.


Then I hit the jackpot. Ever wonder what they are talking about when they mention the hollow in the southern mountains? While I was trying to line up a picture I realized that I was at the junction with Brinley Hollow Road. Adventure calling!!

It was a one lane road that went down the side of a ravine into a linear valley wedged between two ridges. It went along for a few miles. I didn't know where I was going but what could go wrong? I could always turn around and retrace my tracks but my road dead ended at a junction with Stanley Hollow Road, another one lane road going somewhere ...


So, of course, I took it. This led for many more miles and then blended with a 2 lane road. Finally it came back to US 70 and I headed headed east again. 


The cost of this adventure was going to be a late arrival at my hotel. An extra hour on the road with the sun down and the temperature dropping. It would be cramped muscles and a sore fanny. 

It would be totally worth it. This is why I ride a dual sport motorcycle!!


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