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Monday, December 29, 2014

What is an Adventure Bike? - Part 2

Years ago I taught a Photography 101 course. Every new class was filled with eager students, each one with a Canon or Nikon and a special lens that was sure to take spectacular photos. They were shocked when I made them do the first few assignments with cameras I had picked up from yard sales for about fifty cents each.

The point I was trying to teach them was that it was the eye and the heart that takes the picture. The camera is merely an electro-mechanical device to record the moment.

It is exactly the same with adventure biking. It is all about your eyes, and ears, and spirit.
The motorcycle is merely a contraption to carry your stuff for you.

The gorilla in the room is, of course, the BMW R 1200 GSA. A 573 pound gorilla to be specific. The thought of picking up this huge bike with another 100+ pounds of gear attached is right up there with visions of a root canal! Maybe if you're a Teutonic warrior or Vin Diesel, but I would need a crane and a winch. Not that this is likely to happen to most of them. These are for people who need to show how cool they can afford to be. At $30,000 fully loaded this bike is not something you want to get scratched up. It's for going to get a latté and letting people admire it.

The Yamaha Super Ténéré ES is the same weight and size as the BMW but around $10,000 cheaper. Long ago this bike started out as the XT600Z Ténéré. Maybe it wasn't that Super, but it was 300 pounds lighter and Chris Scott described it as “the best of the lot” for desert travel in his 1995 book “Desert Biking”.

If you must have a BIG bike the KTM 1290 Super Adventure is the pick of the litter. A dry weight of 503 pounds and deep suspension travel make this a serious contender if you want a bike to go around the world. However, add fifty pounds of fuel in the tank and 100 pounds of luggage and gear and you're right back into jumbo jet territory.

The Triumph Tiger 800 XCx is a more reasonable adventure bike for the rest of us. The $12,000 sticker price is more reasonable, and with the five gallon tank topped off it weighs in at a more reasonable 473 pounds. This is a bike that will be a comfortable commuter and with a change of tires take you anywhere you want to go in the world.

The BMW F 800 GSA is an alternative that costs $2,000 more and weighs about the same. For the extra money you get marginally better dirt performance and give up some on-road comfort and ability.

The Kawasaki KLR 650 is the Rodney Dangerfield of adventure bikes. It's been around forever. It has been ridden everywhere. It is fun, reliable, light, and cheap. And it gets no respect!Right from the factory it has a 6.1 gallon tank. It weighs only 432 pounds. It has over 7” of suspension travel. There is a huge aftermarket industry that supplies inexpensive parts and accessories for it. Kawasaki has been making it for so long there is nothing left to go wrong. And it only costs $6,600! Compared to the BMW GSA you can buy a new one every time it needs new tires and still save money.

If the KLR is the Rodney Dangerfield of adventure bikes, the Honda XR 650 L is the ugly duckling. It is the punchline of every dirt bike joke. Until you ride it. Yes, it is too heavy for woods single track, but it will go through anything if you work at it. Yes, it has an old school air cooled engine and steel tube frame, but there is no radiator to smash or hoses to leak. The steel frame can be welded back together by anyone in any third world country. Try that with an aluminum forged frame.

It's $100 more than the KLR650 and really needs a bigger after market tank to give it any range, but the weight is only 346 pounds fully fueled. If you trade the stock exhaust for an aftermarket pipe you can save another 25 pounds. Suspension travel is 11” front and rear. This is only a fair commuter bike but when the going gets rough the XR650L turns into a beautiful bird. Making it even better, good used examples can be found all day for $3,000 and under.

Transalp in Baja

I'm including the Honda Transalp (XL600V) because it was and is my favorite bike of all time. If I was to choose only one bike of the several that I own it would be this one. The V-twin 600cc engine is powerful enough for any task. It is smooth on the highway and torquey in the rough. The XR suspension soaks up the ruts and bumps and keeps a steady line.

Once accustomed to the 400 pound weight, the rider is rewarded with a virtuous, comfortable bike that goes anywhere with Honda reliability. It's like a Swiss Army knife; it doesn't do anything perfectly but it does everything pretty darn well. Too bad it was far ahead of it's time and Honda didn't promote it properly. Not quite a cult bike, examples appear from time to time for ~$3,000.

Those are some examples of adventure bikes now on the market. I don't have the room or time to list everything. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 Adventure does come to mind, but it's pricey (~$10k), heavy (~500 lbs) and I wouldn't take it anywhere until I got a decent skid plate to protect that exhaust pipe. The KTM 690 Enduro R is another great bike that has always suffered from the high price and lack of promotion in the KTM lineup. The Suzuki DRZ400 deserves an honorable mention as well.

Remember, no matter which you choose, the bike is nothing but a pack mule. If you want an ego extension go buy whatever you can afford. If you want to go for a ride know what you really want to do and be realistic about your choice.

Got a favorite bike you would like to recommend? Or a comment on one of my choices, good or bad? Let me know in the comment section.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is an Adventure Bike?

When I was twenty-one I took my first cross country adventure trip. I had a 1965 305cc Honda Super Hawk, an army field jacket, a Boy Scout sleeping bag, and a plastic sheet to sleep under if it rained. I had a great time riding the TransCanadian Highway, but I have to admit that you would have to hold a gun to my head before I'd try that combination again.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a BMW GSA. Selling for over $22,000 with options to make it a two wheeled Winnebago that will go around the world doing wheelies - if the BMW brochures are to be believed. Of course most owners will not take them farther than the nearest Starbucks and think busting the rear wheel loose on a gravel driveway is just so darn cool.

Somewhere between the wing nut and the leviathan is a sweet spot for real riding. However, let's stop and remember that adventure riding is all about exploration. The journey can be as important as the destination. Whatever gets you off your butt and down the road is the best bike in the world.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine graduated from college and was moving to San Francisco. He came to me and asked about the best way to get his bike to the left coast. I gave him a dope slap and told him to put his butt on the seat and head west. His bike was a Honda CB550 that was manufactured the year before he was born. To make a long story short, he rode that bike from Boston to Anchorage and then down to San Francisco. I'd say that 1976 CB550 qualifies as an adventure bike.

Lois Pryce rode a Yamaha XT225 from Anchorage to Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina. Solo! Not the largest person on the planet, a bigger bike would have been too much for her. Since any path you choose implies an occasional tip over, you need to be sure you can pick the bike up. In the mud. On a hill. In the rain!

So an adventure bike is any bike that will take you where you want to go and carry the stuff you want to take with you. And one you can pick up when it falls over. That's it!

All that other stuff like metal panniers and multiple lights with lens guards is just bling so you can look butch and keep the Chinese economy going.

Here's a list of what you really need:
  1. A reliable engine
  2. Reliable electrics
  3. Good wheel bearings and seals
  4. A big gas tank
  5. Something to hold your stuff
  6. Appropriate tires

That's it. Notice that engine size is not on the list. Electronic traction control is not mentioned. Neither is integrated engine control mapping or ABS.

Ted Simon went around the world on a 500cc Triumph T100.

One of the greatest motorcycle videos of all time - Buy It!!
I know some riders in India who think that a Royal Enfield 350 is a great bike.

In the next post I'll show you some examples of different bikes and discuss the pros and cons of each. Stay tuned.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

To Darn Cool Not To Pass Along

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. This video of a real person's house and display blew me away!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

References - DBAJ & Road Classes

I'll mention these as references that I'll refer to later. 


It's my mantra when traveling solo.

Don't Be A Jerk

My check on myself to take the long view and not take stupid chances. 

Road/Trail Classes

These are what I came up with over the years of trail riding and organizing the New England Transalp Rally. They are obviously subjective and subject to interpretation. Your mileage may vary.

Class 0 - Paved road
Class 1 – Graded dirt or gravel - eg county road – Yo momma in a Corolla.
Class 1.5 Rutted dirt road – Yo momma with bad language.
Class 2 – Dirt road that would damage a car but not a pickup truck
Class 3 – Two track – rocky or muddy single lane suitable high clearance pickup
Class 4 – 4 wheel drive due to loose rocks and/or slope
Class 5 – 4 wheel drive due to rock faces, sand, or jungle
Class 6 – Single track – easy
Class 7 – Single track – moderate
Class 8 – Single track – hard

Class 9 – Single track – extreme – expect damage and pain

W1 - water crossing easy - puddles and mud
W2 - water crossing moderate - streams and small rivers - axle deep
W3 - water crossing extreme - fast rivers, swamps, bogs

Most adventure travel is on Class 1 & 2 roads with the expectation that Class 3 may always be lurking around the next bend. W1 is expected and W2 is a possibility. Beyond that I invoke the DBAJ mantra. When traveling solo I'll do it if I have to but will look for a viable alternate route. Still, sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it.

Photo from the TransAmerica Trail

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Adventure vs Dual Sport Riding

The last Christmas present has been wrapped and the last package posted. Now it's time to relax and reflect on the recent events. As I've mentioned before, I'll be presenting a seminar on adventure travel at the NETRA Expo. In the next few posts I'll be exploring some of the topics I'll be covering. This will have the dual purpose of clarifying my thoughts and sharing them with those of you who can't attend.

Adventure riding and dual sport riding are terms that are often interchanged. It doesn't help that the marketing wonks, having found a new market, enthusiastically embrace both terms in an effort to confuse the public into thinking that their products are suitable for every form of travel. They want to narrowly define the market for their new models as anyone who has seen a dirt road and has a wallet thick enough to support their delusions.

Here in New England dual sport riding is essentially an enduro without the timing and competition. Single track through the woods with 250-525cc bikes that have somehow become street legal, either from the factory or with a conversion kit. A KTM 350 EXC or a Kawi KDX 220 with a Baja kit are examples of this. There is usually a defined course with a route sheet to guide the way. There may be hero sections for the more skilled or foolish. It is generally a loop that starts and ends at a parking lot where the transport vehicles can stay while the riding is done.

If that is dual sport riding, I would define adventure travel as being much the opposite. The bike can be the same but the course is vastly different. The start and end points are generally far apart and the course is only generally described. It may be a combination of paved and dirt but is rarely single track. It is a trip rather than an event.

However, saying that does not mean that adventure travel is limited to cross-country or trans-global trips. It might mean no more than going out for a weekend and exploring local roads. This is the essence of adventure travel – Exploring!

Dual sport riding follows route sheets calibrated in 0.10 mile increments.
63.5 L DR
64.8 L DR
65.3 S DR
67.6 BL @ Y
The challenge is to follow the course without getting lost and to overcome all obstacles in the path. Roots, rocks, and mud are only some of the challenges along the way.

Adventure travel is more about the destination and finding an interesting way to get there. Getting lost is often a bonus because something new is discovered. You are riding along and see a road sign, Higgengottem Hollow. Ever wondered what a “Hollow” was? Turn off the path, ride down a dirt road, and an hour later you have a good idea. When you get to the end take any road from there and keep exploring. Eventually you will find your way back to main road and if you don't, stop and ask somebody. They will undoubtedly be happy to point the way and will probably tell you anything you want to know about the history and activities of the area.

Adventure traveling – Often misplaced, never lost.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mexico - Day 10 - The last day in Mexico

I woke up knowing this would be my last day in Mexico. It had been a great experience but I was missing being home.

As I left town I passed this statue at the top of a hill. It celebrates Don Carranza who founded the town. I had to ride the bike up two wheel chair ramps to get it into position for this shot but Don Carranza didn't seem to mind. You can see the white seat pad I had received from Lupe. It made all the difference in the world.

Back on the highway I ran into another Army roadblock. This one had one of those Cold War/East German wooden barriers across the road to prevent anyone from driving through. The soldier came over and started questioning me but I wasn't sure what he was saying. I said I was going to Tejas (Texas) and was coming from the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon). He didn't seem to understand that.

The more he didn't understand the louder and faster he talked which made me even more confused about what he wanted. No comprendo, was my only response. A couple of other soldiers were gathering around and I was thinking that this might get sticky when the commanding officer came over. He gave the first soldier a dope slap, literally hit him upside the head, and said something I couldn't understand but I'm sure wasn't complementary. Then he nodded to the soldier to lift the barrier and told me something that I took to mean Get out of here. I was down the road before he had a chance to change his mind. In retrospect it was pretty funny.

After that it was just like the day before until I got to Piedras Negras. There was a 28 peso toll to cross the Rio Bravo and then an hour wait in traffic to get to U.S. Customs. Three minutes was all it took to check that I was a legal citizen and then I was clear to enter Eagle Pass, Texas.

My plan had been to ride north and spend the night in La Pryor TX. What looked like a small town on the map turned out to be one Dollar General store and one gas station. When I inquired about any places to stay the night the girl looked at me like I had two heads.

Needing a place to stay before dark (still no headlight) I headed north and tried to cover as much ground as fast as possible. This was all ranch country so the road was straight and had little traffic. It also had little in the way of civilization.

US 57 joined I-35 as I approached San Antonio. It was getting dark when I came upon the sign above. Kinney Road is the street I live on in CT and in many ways I was ready to just be home. However, a couple of exits past this I found a motel for the night and was rescued by a hot shower.

This is the last of the retrospective posts. You can rejoin the original thread I posted here.
The next few posts will be summaries of what I learned and the thoughts I've had looking back on this trip.

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Stocking Stuffer

This is rather last minute but here is the one thing I wish I had on my last trip. After days of riding across the prairie and along the super slab the muscle that runs down my neck and across my shoulder cramps up. The left side is fine because it is not constantly holding the throttle open.

There are cheaper plastic versions but this one is the only one that looks to be fully adjustable. I won't mind it being late if anyone wants to send me one.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Vaguely famous

This is an article I wrote for the NETRA newsletter. I'm no Hemingway but I was happy to see it all in print. If you've followed this blog you will recognize the narrative.

I will be presenting a seminar on Adventure Touring at the NETRA Expo on 10 Jan. The Expo and seminars are free and open to anyone who wants to attend. Come join the fun and say Hi.

Attainable Dreams

Everyone who rides a bike wants to take a road trip and everyone who rides a bike with knobbies wants to take a dual-sport road trip. It's a dream, it's on their bucket list, some day … However, as we all know, the road named Someday leads to Nowhere.

Last summer a friend of mine had an Africa Twin that he decided to sell me. The only problem was that it was near San Francisco and I live in CT. OK, not much of problem since I was due for another cross country trip. I have done US 50, the White Rim Trail in Moab, Baja California, and the TransAmerica Trail. Now it was time for something really serious.

This is the Grand Canyon in Arizona
This is the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico – Four times bigger and a whole lot deeper!
I got out the maps and there it was, not too far south of the border and pretty accessible on a bike. I told my friend Eddy I would fly out in Sept to pick up the bike and ride it home.

On 3 Sep I flew out and picked up the bike, checked it over, visited some family and friends, and then hit the road. My original plan had been to ride the length of Baja and take the ferry to the mainland. However, a couple of hurricanes changed my plans and I decided to hit Yosemite, Death Valley, Mojave, the Grand Canyon, and then cut over to Tucson. I crossed the border at Nogales without any trouble. I stopped to change dollars to pesos within a half mile of the border and was on my way again.

This brings up the first misconception about Mexico – It's very dangerous! I'm walking around with US$500 in my pocket and couldn't have been safer. The people who run the exchanges (which admittedly look pretty seedy) do not allow any crime or corruption. When I asked I was told that they operated on trust and if people didn't feel safe they would all be out of business. No where in my 2 weeks in Mexico did I ever feel the least bit of apprehension!!

I'm heading south and the weather is delightful, the road is pleasant, and I'm having a great time. This is when I find out why they have no radar traps in Mexico. Instead, they have killer speed bumps. These will soak up all 8” of suspension travel and still throw you into the air. One learns very quickly to be ever vigilant. Every little village has them and nobody speeds.

They also have shrines to people who have lost their lives in accidents. Multiple shrines means Muy Peligroso! (Very Dangerous) On the other hand the No Rebase (No Passing) sign seems to actually mean No passing unless you really want to and don't let the blind curve bother you. This was a bit exciting the first time or two until I realized that it's just the way it is and nobody gets upset. If somebody is coming straight at you in your lane you just slow down and pull over if necessary so that they can slide through. Nobody blows their horn or makes finger gestures, maybe next time it will be you that needs a little help.

Camping is easy, just pick a spot, any spot. One night I pulled off the road into a clearing and pitched my tent. Another night I took a side road and found a place I thought was secluded. It turned out to be the road to a village and several people passed me in the night. I was ignored except for one person who wished me Buenas Noches. So much for desperate thieves who are waiting to rob you.

Continuing south I stopped in the town of Arizpe. I wondered about the town checking out the church and plaza. Returning to the bike I met Senora Carmen Puente who runs a small museum. She was a direct descendant of Colonel De Anza, the man who founded San Francisco California. The museum is unmarked and it was just good luck that I found it. Our knowledge of each other's language was minimal but we understood each other well enough. The first of many gems I found on this trip.

South again I stopped in Hermosillo for a liter of oil at the Honda dealer and then started east. I was stopped at a Policia roadblock who wanted to know where I was coming from, where I was going, and what my purpose was. Again, another myth evaporated. They were not interested in bribes, transit fees, or anything else. They were just doing their job and I was quickly on my way.

To be clear, my Spanish is not very good. However, with pointing, a phrase book, and patience I never had a problem. The Mexican people I met were warm, generous, and very helpful. They are proud of their country and wanted me to enjoy it. You could think of it as Very Southern Hospitality.

Heading east on Mex 16 I entered the Sierra Madre Occidental. These are mountain roads that would make any sport bike rider delirious. Think of the Tail of the Dragon but 100 miles long with spectacular views. Oh, and a few cows, horses, and goats to keep you focused.

Where I should have turned south on Chi 22, I goofed and turned right into the Cascada de Basaseachi. This was another of the gems I collected along my trip. It is one of the highest waterfalls in North America.

Once on Chi 22 I was quickly into the town of Creel which is the gateway to the Copper Canyons. I spent a day relaxing and touring the town on foot. There are a few tourist shops but the main activity is logging and mining. I found a room at Casa Marguarita that was very nice and included breakfast and dinner in the price of the room.

I left Creel with the intention of visiting Urique but I missed a turn and ended up in some unfinished construction. I backtracked and decided to go straight to Batopilas. Good choice!

These are switchbacks that will rival any in the Stelvio Pass in Italy.
While I was having a great time, I was beginning to wonder where the adventure was. I had ridden on some class 1 & 2 roads but most of the route had been paved. Well, I soon found out. The canyon walls are very steep and there were multiple massive rock slides. So much so that when I got to the construction area I had to wait for half an hour while a Cat D-9 carved a notch through the rubble so I could get through. I was riding on TKC-80 knobbies and it was still a challenge. You can see the route 

Batopilas is a wonderful step back in time. If it were not for the new pickup trucks I could easily believe it was 100 years ago. I stayed for a couple of days to soak it all in. Batopilas is an old mining town in the bottom of the canyon at the edge of the river. I rode the bike with no luggage to the next town Satevo and had a blast sliding the rear around the corners on this class 2 road. Keeping in mind that a trip over the edge of this one lane road might be fatal ...

Me with my NETRA t-shirt at the bottom of the canyon
Leaving was tough because it meant that I was now heading north and back to CT. On the other hand it was now getting late and, as warm as it was in the canyons, I knew cold weather was waiting for me in New England.

I made it back through the construction after a 3 1/2 hour wait while the bulldozer again the cleared road. From there it was more mountain roads to Hidalgo del Parral. This is a big city but luck was with me and I found the hotel I was looking for. Breakfast was good and I stopped to fill the tank. The attendant at the PeMex station pointed out the correct road for me to take north and I was on my way home.

The border crossing was a hour of waiting to show my passport and then 3 minutes of checking to make sure I was legal. After that it was just a normal road trip through Austin, Memphis, Nashville, and Pennsylvania. I wanted to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway but the weather report was forecasting cold and possible snow so it was time to make some miles. As it was I caught the last two 60F days of the year on my ride home.

The Mexico part of my trip was only two weeks. Doable by anyone that wants to do it with an understanding spouse and boss (is that redundant?). Add 3 days each way to get to Eagle Pass TX and the rest of the times is all south of the border.

The cost was only gas, meals, and hotels. Gas is about the same south of the border but meals are much cheaper and hotels generally ran 300 pesos (US$25) a night. I camped out about 50% of the time so it was really cheap for me.

Any bike from a KLR650 to a BMW GS could have handled all the roads. I would ride road tires to Austin TX and then have them changed to TKC-80 or Dunlop 606 tires with the understanding that they would save the old tires and switch them back when you return if you want. Order them in advance! Throwing the bikes in the back of a pickup and driving down with a buddy is also an option.

Don't just sit there wishing you could go, make a plan, set a date, and just do it. Remember: The dread is always worse than the deed!

Want to know more?
My blog is – go back to September 2014 and you can read about the trip day by day with many more photos.

Mark Walker – Mexico Maps - 805-687-1011
Mark has all the best maps and was unbelievably patient when helping me get everything sorted out.

Noel Gonzalez – Guide - +52 635-199-1161
Noel can help you with everything from reservations to actually arranging side trips. A great resource in Creel. He speaks very good English

Casa Real de Minas de Acanasaina (Hotel de Minas for short)
This is the only place to stay in Batopilas. The hotel is inexpensive, clean, and has a secure place to store the motorcycle for the night.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

John Penton Movie at Twisted Throttle

Twisted Throttle will be showing the John Penton Movie this Thurs (12/11) at 6p for free. Malcom Smith got all the glory because of On Any Sunday. John Penton was his equal in every way and Malcom would agree. 

Twisted Throttle is here:
570 Nooseneck Hill Rd 
Exeter, RI 02822

See you there. I think you have to bring your own popcorn. ;(


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Friday, December 5, 2014

Mexico - Day 9 - The long and (not very) winding road

The hotel had a much better than average breakfast and I was packed and ready to go earlier than normal. I stopped at the PeMex station to fill up and the attendant saved me some hunting around by pointing out the correct road, which was not the one I was going to take.

Along the way I stopped for more gas and found this motorcycle. Why anyone would want to name a motorcycle after one of the worst cities in the U.S. I have no idea but there it was.

This was a day of just riding and stacking up miles. The Sierra Madre was long gone in my mirrors and I was looking ahead to endless prairies. In my journal I noted that,
"This road is about as exciting as driving from Winnemucca to Elko Nevada."
For a while there was more road construction with little oncoming traffic so I was able to let the AT pull ahead and have some fun but otherwise it was just sit and ride.

At one point I pulled over to check my luggage straps (code for I had to pee) and met a rancher who was taking this road. We chatted for a while and I should have asked to see his ranch. I missed a few opportunities like that on the trip. I'll know better not to be so shy next time.

And on, and on ...

How boring was it? Watching all the digits on my odometer line up was one of the high points of my day!!

But it was beautiful as the sun was setting and I wound through some hills. I arrived in Cuatro Cienegas de Carranza while there was still plenty of light and was able to locate a hotel for the night. Modernish with WiFi, I was able to pick up my email and catch up with the world. 

Across the street was one of the ubiquitous open air restaurants and I sat down to enjoy my meal. We started chatting and one thing led to another. I whipped out the Fuji instant camera and once again we were all instant best friends. I knew this was going to be my last night in Mexico and couldn't think of a better way to spend it.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mexico - Day 8 - Out of the canyons

Lupe and the Africa Twin
I got up in the morning and was ready to hit the road. It would have been nice to have stayed a few more days but it was time to go. I may have mentioned how hard the seat on the AT was. I had a lot of riding ahead of me and thought that maybe a fluffy bath towel might make a decent seat pad. I asked Lupe, the manager, if I could buy the towel I had used but she said no. Then she hurried off and returned with a freshly laundered one for me. When I asked how much she refused anything and said it was a gift. Could there have been a better send off?

I filled my tank at the local gas station. I have no idea where the gas came from but it didn't give the engine any problems.

Here I'm heading out on the road along the river and decided I wanted a picture of me with my New England Trail Riders t-shirt. We ride anywhere and everywhere.

Another picture of the canyon landscape. I'm winding back through all of the construction to get to the highway.

And I get to wait. 3 ½ hours to be specific.

That is the same Cat D-9 clearing the road again. This is their biggest model and you can see how tiny it looks next to the drop off the cliff. I'm glad he knew what he was doing because it looked pretty perilous!

Finally past the construction it was a look back at what I was leaving.

And a look forward to where I was going. 

It wasn't until later that I realized that I had lost my tent in all the bouncing around. The tent, in its slippery nylon bag, had taken the opportunity to jump free and stay in the canyons. Lucky it!

The rest of the day was spent riding down out of the mountains and onto rolling prairie. There was no excitement until the engine coughed, sputtered, and died. I flipped it to reserve but that was no help. I rolled to a stop and tried the starter and got nothing. The battery was too low to even turn the engine over. Arrgh! The regulator had died again!

I turned off the headlights and let the bike sit for a couple of minutes. Then I rolled down the hill and tried bump starting it. I caught on the second try and ran fine without the lights. However, I had lost so much time waiting at the construction site that it was late afternoon. Since I had lost my tent camping was not really an option so I hurried to Hidalgo del Parrall without stopping for any more photos.

Hidalgo del Parral is a big city, it was getting dark, and I only dared turn on the parking lights so that people could see me. My guide book suggested the Hotel El Camino Real as a good place that was clean and cheap. However, this was no small village and my chances of finding it were slim and none. I just kept following the flow of traffic through crowded streets trying to find any place to stay for the night. It seemed to be going on forever and my anxiety was growing by the mile.

Then, once again, luck smiled on me. There, on the corner I was about to turn, was the Hotel El Camino Real. It was with much relief that I pulled in and inquired about a room. 550 pesos for the room with breakfast in the morning. I would have paid twice that to get off the road with no lights. I was a very happy camper as I laid my head on the pillow.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mexico - Day 7 - Batopilas

Having arrived and taken a hot shower I was ready to hit the town. This consisted of walking out my door, across the central courtyard of the hotel, turning right on the street and walking two blocks. The town is very small.

I immediately got lucky and met a couple of other travelers, Anna and Carlos, from Madrid. They were traveling with a guide, Noel, who drove them down from Creel. They were leaving for dinner and invited me to join them. We walked a couple of blocks to Resturante Carolina. A tiny place where we were the only patrons. However, the trout we ate was obviously swimming in the river that morning and was quite tasty. They politely tolerated my Spanish and corrected my pronunciation when it implied another word that didn't fit. There was a lot of smiles and laughter.

This is the place I was hoping to find when I first started planning on visiting Mexico and the Copper Canyons. If not for the modern Chevy pickups it would be easy to imagine that I was transported 100 years into the past. I stayed for a couple of days to soak it all in. Batopilas is an old mining town in the bottom of the canyon at the edge of the river. 

Town Plaza with Gazebo
Church across from plaza
In the morning we all went out for breakfast and then Anna and Carlos went for a hike while I walked around town and poked into things without any plan.

Women washing clothes on the rocks in the river
I ran into Noel later and he pointed me towards the abandoned mines.

I never found the mines but I did find an empty house that I was thinking would make a nice winter home.

I walked back to town along a canal built to supply water to the town when the mine was in operation.

I met these teenage boys who started to tease me a bit until I whipped out my Fuji instant camera and took their pictures. Immediately I was their best friend and welcome to hang out with them any time. This camera is the best ice breaker in the world and I've used it often in my travels.

After a siesta I rode the bike, with no luggage, to the next town of Satevo. I had a blast sliding the rear around the corners on this class 2 road. Keeping in mind that a trip over the edge of this one lane road might be fatal ...

I ran into Anna, Carlos, and Noel at the church in Satevo and we explored the interior.

It looked as if it were little used any more.

The bell tower was a temptation not to be passed up although the ladders to the top were pretty shaky. The upper one merely rested on a ledge with nothing to hold it. I trusted that today was not the day God would be calling me.

While the others went back I wanted to explore a bit more and continued down the road to see where it led. 

It wasn't long before I found out. I would have to cross the river if I wanted to continue. Either ride it across the foot bridge or take it swimming. I decided against both.

It was with a certain melancholy that I realized that I had arrived at the apex of my trip. This is as far as I was going, everything from here on out would be heading away from Mexico. I had a long way to go but now I was heading home to Connecticut.

At least I was leaving on high note. Sunday night at the plaza was a treat. Women were selling homemade food from tables around the edge while music played from the gazebo. This was small town Mexico at its best. Couples walked around chatting with families who sat with their babes in arms. Children were running around like children will, shouting and playing with energy I could only envy. 

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