Saving the best(?) for last

Subtitle: Twisting the days away

We left Durango heading north with a good feeling of conquering one of the longest twistiest most dangerous and highly rated motorcycle roads in the world. It’s hard to ride a motorcycle and not think of all the great roads we’ve been on and how they compare. Deals Gap, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Cascade Highway, Beartooth Pass in Montana and Spearfish Canyon near Sturgis, SD  are some of the more famous roads we’ve traveled. We were content that the best was behind us and the next two days would be a relatively uneventful ride back to the border. Nothing could be more untrue.

The four amigos recommended a route from Durango to Nogalas through the central highlands, they guaranteed it would be fun.  Deby and I spent the night before going over the roads on our maps and GPS units. As usual, two different maps and two different GPS units with different map sets all disagreed on the route or road names. Some maps showed a road, others showed no road and it was unclear if any or some of the roads would be paved. Sounded good to me.

The original plan was to get from Durango to Creel, a small mountain town in  the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Interesting, Google Maps can’t find a way between Durango and Creel.

We never did get to Creel that day. The Mex 45 from Durango north was supposed to be paved but was under construction for many miles, maybe 50? so in typical Mexican fashion we rode on the dirt track along the road dodging semi trucks, dump trucks excavators and bulldozers. Sort of fun but slow going. Finally we escaped the construction and found ourselves in the mountains where the twisty road started. Miles and miles of turn after turn through the mountains. Wow, this was fun. There wasn’t much traffic but every couple of kilometers there was a tourist sign for Cascada de Basaseachi, a waterfalls. For almost 100 miles we kept seeing these signs. It was like driving on I-90 in the US and seeing signs every mile for Wall Drug. The amigo’s said be sure to see the waterfalls which are just outside Hidalgo del Parral so when we finally twisted our way to the cutoff we turned down the narrow access road to the view point.

Well worth the stop, the second highest falls in Mexico at 807 feet.

At the parking area there was a little kid enthralled with our motorcycles. We let him sit on mine, he loved it.

It was a fun stop and it felt good to be off the bikes but we had a way’s to go to Creel and it was getting late in the day so back to the twisty road.

We reached Hidalgo del Parral about 3:30 in the afternoon, a quick check of my GPS showed 200 miles to Creel and nothing but twisty turns on the road the whole way. Not too impressed with Hidalgo we switched from MX 45 North to MX 23 East in hope there would be a small town with a place to stay. The road was fantastic, nothing but turns through the mountains. Fun, yes. Speed, no. We were averaging about 35 MPH around the continuous switchbacks and I was rarely out of third gear.

At 6:00 PM with the sun getting lower we arrived at the small town of Balleza and stopped at the first hotel we saw, maybe the only one in town. Total miles for the day, 347. Average moving speed, 48mph, total moving time, 6:48 hours. Whew, no wonder we were tired. Balleza was a little ways south of the famous Copper Canyon park in Mexico. Our route for the next day would take us through the eastern edge of the park so we were glad to do that section while rested.

We walked into the front door and an older woman who I assumed must be Silva let out a huge gasp when she saw Deby. Silva looked 100% like a German frau and sternly negotiated the habitation details for the night. The room wasn’t much but it only cost about $20 USD so we weren’t complaining. Silva didn’t speak a word of English or German it seemed and made zero attempt at trying. It would be interesting to know her story, something was there.

The hotel had secure parking but I found out they never actually closed the gate or locked the big gate.

It didn’t matter we were just glad for a place to park among the clothes lines.

And a place to sit with a cool beer and review the maps.

Silva’s husband came over to talk. He looked like a rough and tumble Mexican ranch hand, maybe in his later 60’s with leather skin under his big cowboy hat. He spoke just a few words of English so between my faltering Spanish and his English we chatted for a while. I asked if they had many motorcycle travelers at his hotel. He replied – never.

The small room had an even small shower which actually was a shower head sticking out of the wall almost directly above the toilet and aimed at the bathroom sink. A shower meant spraying down the toilet and sink with the water going into the floor drain in front of the toilet. I decided to skip a shower for the first time of the whole trip. Deby, who is more hygienically predisposed braved it and reported it “wasn’t actually that bad”.

Silva told us breakfast was at 7:00, we were in the lobby/kitchen/restaurant at 6:45 AM ready for coffee. Coffee of the day was Nestle instant, yum.

On the road, the day rewarded us with fantastic riding through the mountains. Turn after turn after turn after turn….We skirted through Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) and the riding was fantastic. Definitely somewhere we want to go back and explore.

We ended up riding 330 miles in 8 hours, all twisty turns through the mountains. It was crazy, we were so punch drunk with turns that we were actually laughing in our helmet communicators, not believing that we could go over 300 miles without a straight section for more than a few feet and almost never getting out of third gear.

We rode a solid day of turns, and the day before at least another 150 miles of turns and didn’t know what the next day would bring.

Eventually we had enough and had to stop. There were very few towns in this section of Mexico and we found ourselves in Yecora, There were three hotels in town but only one advertised WiFi on the sign so we round ourselves at the El Durango hotel, $20 USD for the night.

Not as small as the last hotel with walls made of some kind of varnished flagstone, no windows. It did come complete with a bano and dangerously scary lighting above the shower that flickered trying to stay illuminated.

Tired and hungry we walked a short distance to the only restaurant in town. They didn’t serve beer, bummer. Our disappointment transcended the language barrier and after a few minutes the server came back with 4 Tecate Light beers from a nearby tienda. Nice. Not our favorite beer but it didn’t really matter.

We cheerfully downed the light beer and reflected on the day starting with instant Nestle coffee and ending with Tecate light and the hotel rooms meant for the road workers and not tourists. A big change from the JW Marriot resort in Tucson only a few weeks ago.

We were cold in our room that had no heat source, typical for the price range hotel. The next morning frost on our bikes confirmed that it was indeed cold.

Breakfast back at the same restaurant was great, our last Mexican breakfast with beans and rice. On the road we were back in the mountains with laughingly twisty roads for another 100 miles before we dropped into the lower elevations of Hermosillo where we jumped on the Quota for the blast across the border.

So, I haven’t put together all my GPS tracks but according to Google Maps we rode over 500 miles of nothing but twisty roads. 500 miles!!!!  So for now, in my book, the best motorcycle route anywhere is the  814 KM (505 miles) between Parral and Hermosillo Mexico. Wow.

Crossing the border was easy and we stayed at a Holiday Inn along the interstate just south of Tucson. It was a fantastic three weeks in Mexico, exploring the central highlands and discovering some of the best places. We felt safe everywhere and eventually forgot that this was supposed to be a dangerous place which added to our enjoyment of the trip.

For the second half of the trip the weather was wonderful, the bikes ran fine and everything was a lot smoother than the beginning. We covered around 4,000 miles.

We are ending the journey with a short stay with our Seattle friends Ted and Megan who recently relocated to the Phoenix area. This weekend we’re meeting my sister and dad who are here for spring training and have tickets for a Mariners game tonight, fun.

What’s next???

Sunday we are meeting GPS Kevin for a week long offroad ride to see the sights of  the Grand Canyon and Red Rocks (LINK HERE). Should be fun. I’m ending the Mexico part of the blog here and won’t be bringing the laptop on the offroad ride so probably (maybe?) no blog posts about it.

If you really want to know were we are click on the FOLLOW US link above for my SPOT tracker.

Thanks for following, it was really fun. We both appreciate all the comments and words of encouragement.

Donn and Deby

 

 

Espinazo del diablo

Our stay in Zacatecas was too short. Someday it would be fun to return and explore the city and surrounding areas. We were starting to get down to our last days available in Mexico and I was determined to check out one of the best motorcycle roads in the Americas, Espinazo del diablo or in English, the devil’s spine. I’ve heard about this road from many people over the years and always wanted to check it out.

Our launching point for the spine ride would be the city of Durango, the capital of the state of Durango. Our new four amigos on the BMWs recommended we stay at Hotel Pasada San Jorge. The hotel was right in the heart of Durango and the street in front had been converted into a pedestrian mall. We were told that the process was to double park on a nearby cross street, ignore any complaints by police and walk to the hotel to inquire about a room. We arrived in the early afternoon and the hotel staff instructed us to ride the motorcycles into the front door of the hotel and park in the Brasilian steakhouse restaurant. For those of you who haven’t traveled out of the US on motorcycles this is actually not that unusual. I made a short video of the ride into the hotel.

We had time to explore the city a little on foot before getting back to the hotel when the four amigos arrived.

Sorry all the good parking spots were taken, they unloaded in front of the hotel and parked around the corner.

Amigo Steve bought a guitar and was transporting it home on the back of his bike……

We ended the day together eating at the hotel’s Brasilian steakhouse, it was fantastic. In true Brasilian steakhouse style the servers came around with various cuts of meat and slice some onto our plates. Someone said they have over 20 selections and they kept coming and slicing until we couldn’t take it anymore. Content with one of the best meals on the trip and another fantastic night of motorcycle and travel talk we made it to our room to rest up for tackling Esainazo the next day.

RIDING THE SPINE

According to dangerousroads.org this 180 mile long road has over 2,000 curves. I believe it. Nowadays, there are actually two roads, one is the old road winding through the mountains between Durango and Mazatlan and the other is the newer Quota, or toll road that roughly parallels the old road. The original plan was to ride to Mazatlan and spend an extra day on the beach but after some research and talking to people I was told the old road is all about the twisty roads and the new road is an engineering marvel. Wow, engineering marvel? As an engineer myself, I had to check that out, so which road to take? We decided to skip the wimpy beach stop and embrace the Adventure Riders we were and ride both roads. That would be 180 miles and 2,000 turns down to Mazatlan and then 180 miles of engineering marvel back. We couldn’t think of a better thing to do on what turned out to be the day of our 35th wedding anniversary.

For the first leg we rode with the four amigos. Out of the plaza in the morning with all six bikes.

Through town trying to keep all six bikes together. It brought back fond memories of the MotoRaid trip….

Finally onto the open road.

The roads and scenery were fantastic, turn after turn with light traffic and beautiful weather made for a memorable day.

Here is the track from my GPS.

With the elevation plot.

Almost 9,000 feet max elevation on the way down and then somewhat less on the improved road on the way back.

Here are a few more pictures I gleaned from the internet. My camera and photography skills were woefully inadequate to capture this road.

Google Earth view of the old road.

One of the engineering marvels, suspension bridge on the new road.

Typical road section.

We stopped for lunch about halfway down at this typical roadside restaurant.

All in all one of the best days on the trip. Every motorcycle rider should endeavor to check this fantastic road off their to-do list. I’m really glad we rode it both ways to experience four hours of twisty fantastic turns and the return trip with the views, bridges and tunnels. This is one trip I’ll do again one day.

More to come.

Donn and Deby

 

The People We Meet

You may remember when we were stuck in the city of Patzcuaro waiting for the rain to reside that I mentioned we meet a couple from California. We were sitting at a sidewalk cafe and they were walking by. We exchanged a few words and didn’t think much of it. A few days later Deby and I were at an out of the way restaurant in Guanajuato when the same couple sat at the table next to us. Amazed at seeing each other again we talked and found out we were staying in the same hotel,…. small world. The next day was Deby’s birthday so I told them we would be having a bottle of wine on the rooftop deck if they wanted to join us so Thursday night our new friends Jeanie and Bo (hope I spelled that right) joined us with wine and a small birthday cake. We had a blast drinking and laughing until at about midnight when the security guy came up and told us we were too loud and someone complained. Ha! Busted for partying too late and loud, how about that for old age!

Bo and Jeannie were travelling Mexico by bus which sounded like a great way to travel.

We ended the day wrapping up a fantastic birthday, thanks guys.

The next morning it was time to leave Guanajuato, we had a fantastic time and the city is on my list of places to visit again. Did I mention that I counted the stairs to our room? Did I mention that there was exactly 100 stairs? Do you remember that since we have a rule not to leave anything on the bikes we haul around a bunch of luggage?

Here is our pile of stuff that needed to get dragged up and down 100 stairs.

Do you know how heavy bags of rocks and copper can be?

Here is a short video of the trip up and down the stairs at the El Meson de Poetas hotel. I think it’s worth watching, the place was like a Hogwarts maze with hallways and stairs everywhere, there were at least three ways to get to our room. Needless to say we had the doorman help us with our bags and we were very generous with our tipping.

 

The motorcycles ended up being parked about a half mile away in a secure(?) parking lot. Here is a picture.

We decided it was easier to take a cab with all our stuff than negotiating the tight streets back to the hotel. When we got back to the bikes everything seemed ok but we soon found that when I (my fault) locked the forks on Deby’s bike I inadvertently set the locking ignition switch on the position that locks the forks and leaves the tail light on…. the battery was dead.

Good thing I now carry one of these things to jump a battery, it worked great. Microstart XP1.

Eventually, on our way we wanted to visit a giant art deco Christo Rey statue built in 1944 on the top of a road a ways outside of town. The cobblestone road weaved up this hillside for about 10 miles.

We were not disappointed, it was pretty cool and worth the detour.

There was a slight commercial aspect to the place but mostly it was a church and convent on top of this remote mountain.

You can read a little more about it HERE.

After spending some time walking about we walked back to the bikes and there was a car with the hood up and the guy was walking around with jumper cables looking for someone to help him out. Ah Ha! Microstart to the rescue. The shaggy, smelly gringo whipped out this little magic box and performed a miracle on his car at this holy site.  A small crowd gathered to witness the feat and were suitably impressed. Good deed for the day…. done.

With that we bumped back down the hill and continued our 212 mile trek to Zacatecas a historic mining and colonial town in the hills. We didn’t really have an exact plan or place to stay so in our usual fashion we programmed my GPS for El Central and then we would look for a hotel. We were wandering the confusing, twisty, cobblestone roads working our way into the city when a guy on a scooter catches us and yells to Deby in English, “…are you lost? Do you need help?” Huh? Well, we were sort of lost and I suppose we could use some help so we pulled to the side of the road to see what this was about. That is when we met Fredrico (sorry again if I have the spelling wrong). He said he knew of a hotel and if we followed him he would lead us there but first he would take us on a tour of his town which he was very proud of. After wandering the streets of Zacateca for a while he guided us to the Hotel Meson de la Merced. A great place with underground parking. We were just getting checked in when four additional guys pulled in on BMW 650 GS bikes. They were from California and every year spend a few weeks in Mexico exploring the back roads. Fredrico who himself owned a big dual sport, a Honda African Twin, was excited to get to know us all and talk about motorcycles and motorcycle travel. He knew a restaurant we just had to go to so we arranged the time and and met for the long trek in the rain to his favorite place.

I have to say Zacateca is a beautiful city. Many of the buildings are built with a pink color stone and at night they are all illuminated. Here are a couple of pictures walking to the restaurant.

We had a fantastic meal and over beers and food the seven of us made quite a spectacle of ourselves carrying on in boisterous English in the crowded establishment.

Eventually we made our way back to the hotel on the crowded streets, it was late which made for another night without a blog post, sleep seemed more important. The next day we were headed for Durango, in preparation to ride Espinazo del diablo (Devil’s Spine) which is listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. You can read about it here on dangerousroads.org (Espinazo del diablo)

More to come.

Donn and Deby

 

Fixed moto, sunshine and Deby’s Birthday

So what’s so bad about being forced to hang out for a few days and read books? The hotel had a covered walkway to the restaurant that had great food and beer so we made the best of it. By Sunday we were a little stir crazy so we braved the elements and rode the collectivo (small city bus) into El Centro for  a day of walking in the rain. Patzcauro is not really a tourist destination and was mostly filled with locals. We did talk briefly to a couple from California.

We came across a market covered in tarps.

Always fun to wander through these places.

Especially looking for “Popular” Art.

Had fun looking in all the nooks.

Stopped in one place and saw this…. They’re everywhere!

Finally settled in for some coffee, cake and people watching on the main square. A little kid about 9? stopped to sell us this pot. 70 pesos, we paid full price…..

View of the square from our table.

Why driving gets a little crazy when you need to follow the signs.

Monday we were determined to go, rain or shine…. It was raining.

If the weather was better we would have rode all the way around Lago Tzintzuntzan to visit the artisans around the lake but we decided to stop only in the city of Tzintzuntzan (try to say that even one time fast…) to view the pottery.

The destination for the day? Back to San Miguel. My fuel filter was supposed to arrive Tuesday at the nearby KTM dealer so we decided to spend another couple of days in San Miguel. We ended up at this rooftop spot for beers above the main square.

Had more time to leisurely explore the city.

Tuesday I got a call that the part was in and I should be there at 4:00. Here are some pictures of the old filter (this IS a motorcycle blog after all).

Fuel pump assembly

You have to disassemble the whole thing to get at the two filters.

Here is the pre-filter that was pretty black.

Anyhow…. after about three hours it was all back together and I was riding back to San Miguel well after dark. I always wondered exactly why motorcycle travelers are always told never ride after dark especially alone. To be honest I was enjoying the ride, it was warm and dry and once I was out of town the traffic was pretty light. My biggest fear was that I would hit one of the huge potholes that would easily swallow up my front tire and probably flip me off the bike onto the side of the road. When oncoming traffic permitted I had the LED aux lights blazing bright to watch the road and made it back with no problems. Deby and I had a relaxing dinner and the next day it was off to Guanajuato, someplace I really wanted to visit.

In the morning we were really glad for these guys with cart for all our baggage, jeesh, do we really need all that stuff? Actually I think we travel relatively light but we have a rule that nothing stays on the bikes at night so we end up lugging all our extra riding gear and now bags of art treasures into our room every night.

Here was our first view of Guanajuato, it’s nestled into sort of a ravine surrounded by higher peaks, almost like the center of a volcano.

One of the things about this city is they have tunnels that were built to protect the city from flooding, as people started using cars instead of tearing up the city to make wide enough streets they widened the tunnels under the city for vehicular traffic. Smart move. Here is a short video I made with my GoPro trying to navigate to our hotel using my GPS. Never mind that GPS’s don’t work under ground…..

Today is Thursday, Deby’s birthday. We started the day on our hotel patio with a great  view of the city.

We visited the Diego Rivera museum, Contemporary Art Museum, Museum of Natural History and others including Museo de las Momias. As you might expect we couldn’t take pictures at most of the museums except for the museum of mummies. I only took a few since it was pretty creepy… ok just one here….

This inscription was by one of the other mummies….

On that cheery note, I need to wrap up, birthday dinner tonight and wine on the patio….

Donn and Deby

 

 

Mexico Monsoon

Has it rained every day we’ve been in Mexico? No, there was one dry day. I wanted to get this post out yesterday but the power was out at the hotel due to the storm, eventually the power came back but it took some time for the internet to start working. Where to start……..

Last Wednesday I got a call from Fabian from the KTM dealer, there are no fuel filters for a KTM in all of Mexico and it might take weeks to get one from Europe. The “good” news was that they removed the fuel pump and cleaned the filters so, according to them, I should be able to make it home. Deby and I doubled up on her trusty BMW and rode the 30 miles to pick up the bike. We rode back to San Miguel in a complete downpour, heavy rain with hail and parked the bikes securely in the Bat Cave.

Here is a picture Deby took from the back of her bike one day when we rode two up into El Centro of San Miguel. Nice typical street scene.

Below is a picture from Facebook a friend posted (thanks Kim) of a nearby street with all the rain.

Thursday morning it was time to say good bye to San Miguel and ride towards Santa Clara del Cobre in the state of Michoacan. Deby had been wanting to go there for years as it is the mecca for copper artisans. We decided to stay at the slightly larger town of Patzcuaro Thursday night and then ride to Santa Clara early Friday morning. Sure enough after about 80 miles the mighty KTM lost power, worse than before. Almost zero acceleration which made passing challenging, hill climbing slow and passing on a hill impossible. Riding a motorcycle in Mexico is challenging enough without lacking a grip full of power to get out of a bind. We limped into Patzcuaro and checked into Posada de Don Vasco.

Friday we were excited to get an early start to Santa Clara del Cobre where we spent most of the day walking around and exploring the copper art. My bike ran ok since it was less than 80 miles and we were riding relatively slowly.

Here is a video I made of our day in Santa Clara

We met some BMW riders in San Miguel and they thought we might like a place called Lago Zirahuen, when we were at the Copper Museum in Santa Clara they recommended the same place and gave us the name and brochure of a place called Cabanas del Bosque. I checked out the map and it wasn’t too far from Santa Clara so I thought we would ride over and check it out. The road around Lago Zirahuen was high up on a cliff with drop offs down to the water. When we got to the Cabanas the narrow road zig zagged steeply down the side of the cliffs. By this time it was raining harder and the cobblestone track was getting pretty slippery so we slowly made our way down the slippery rocky road with sharp switchbacks until we saw the sign for Officina. I was maneuvering into a parking spot when my bike died with the computer flashing “Fuel Pump Failure”, great……

This picture is of the road from the cabana website, it doesn’t show how steep it was or how slippery it was when wet.

Unfazed at the possibility that I might have to leave the KTM, and ride with Deby to Patzcuaro I went to the office to see about renting a cabana for a few days. She spoke zero English and so in my limited but improving Spanish I determined they were full for the upcoming weekend. Dejected, I walked back to my bike in the rain and amazingly it started. That was a good sign but there was almost no power to make it up the slippery road. Clutch slipping and good karma eventually got us to the top and the 10 mile cobblestone ride back to the main road.

By this time the rain was coming down steadily so we opted for the libre, (not toll road) back to Patz. It would have been a wonderful ride on a dry day but in the increasing downpour the smooth very twisty blacktop through the mountains was challenging to negotiate.

Before dark on Friday, in what had become a deluge we parked the bikes at the hotel. Little did we know they wouldn’t move for days as the storm seem to sit over us like a black cloud following someone in a children’s cartoon.

Having plenty of time on our hands I made this little video about our stay in Patzcauro so far.

I took this picture of one of the hotel staff doing a little roof repair in the rain.

It’s Sunday afternoon and still raining, we’re getting antsy to leave so we may ride in the rain tomorrow, perhaps back to San Miguel.

With the continued problems with the KTM I called the dealer again and asked about getting a fuel filter. They recommended I call a US dealer and try to get one shipped to us. I called my friends at I-90 Motorsports in Issaquah and Brent recommend AZmotocity in Arizona. I talked to Mark and he was very helpful, we made arrangements to get a filter sent to my friend Fabian Tostado at Motopremium KTM. I’m told it should be there on Tuesday…. we’ll see.

So as usual, an adventure is never what you might expect. It could be worse, we are at a relatively nice hotel, we are getting to be friends with all the staff, we are having forced down time to read, relax, plan and wait for the rain to dissipate. I hope you like this post and the videos.

Donn and Deby

San Miguel de Allende

Deby and I were checking in at the front desk of the Best Western in El Centro, Las Mochas, once again, two dirty, tired, ratty looking bikers in a more upscale hotel lobby. The 20 something receptionist was very friendly and in reasonable English asked  us where we were from. When I said Seattle she turned beat red and turned to the young man next to her and asked him something in Spanish. He looked at her and then us and said in halting English “Fifty Shades of Grey”. She turned to us, still red in the face and said “….yes I know Seattle, famous movie….”. To funny, Deby and I burst out laughing, we said most people know us from the movie Sleepless in Seattle. They looked at us with blank stares, oh well.

I suppose that was better than the man at the reception desk in Tepic, when we mentioned Seattle he said he knew of Seattle’s reputation of having a very bad police force. He had a point given the problems over the last few years but I tried to tell him the city is working on it. It’s always amazing the impressions people have of Seattle, true or false.

We stopped for lunch on the way at a small roadside restaurant on the edge of a small town when a huge semi truck that was obviously newer from a large transport company stopped just outside the door. Very quickly a young woman ran out from the kitchen with a 5 gallon jug and a large diameter hose and within 45 seconds filled the jug with diesel fuel siphoned from the truck. I probably wasn’t supposed to see that but my chair was in the perfect angle with the door and the truck. Interesting, maybe the trucker is related? Just want’s free food? Something else? Who knows. Life in Mexico.

The KTM limped along and we made it to San Miguel, another long day at 349 miles. There is a lengthy discussion on ADVrider.com (click here if you are interested) on KTM fuel problems. Evidently anybody who knows anything about KTMs would never travel far without an extra set of fuel filters and even an extra fuel pump. How’s that for a great bike? I did find that if I kept the tank pretty full and didn’t exceed 4,000 RPM it would keep running. I was a little dismayed when I pulled into a Pemex and the engine died and the dash computer was flashing “fuel pump failure”.

Here is a picture of the casa we are renting in San Miguel.

Casa Gaudi, crazy huh? At least it was easy to find… Our host Steve let us into the bat cave where we had excellent secure parking.

Here are a couple of pictures on the inside. Below is the shower.

Here is the kitchen.

Desk where I’m sitting at this moment writing this

Yes, a little different but fun in a certain way…..

Part of the deal in renting Casa Gaudi was the use if a brand new Italika quad. We unloaded the bikes and Steve told us about a once a month art walk that was going on in town and would we like to follow him over. He was riding a cool 1964 Chinese military motorcycle with a sidecar that was a copy of a BMW R75, complete with machine gun mount. Sure… why not, so after a beer we followed Steve down the crazy highway and cobblestone roads in into town as the sun was setting.

All the ex-pats were there, and their was plenty of cool art. The place was huge with dozens of galleries all one indoor complex that used to house the town textile factory. This machine was still there.

We didn’t make it through half before it was getting late and they started shutting down. Since we hadn’t had any food since lunch we stopped to eat before riding the quad back in complete darkness.

Steve gave us some vague directions back so off we went bouncing over the cobblestone roads dodging crazy cars, motorcycles, quads and pedestrians. All a normal part of Mexico….. we made it.

Back at Casa Gaudi there was an e-mail from our friend Art Bone, did we want to meet him in the morning and ride with him and a friend to watch a international rally race in a nearby town. Sure! It’s an international event that has racers from all over the world LINK HERE.

Deby and I met Art some years ago at one of the International Norton Owners Association rallys. Art is a Norton aficionado, past INOA president and now full time resident in San Miguel where he runs the local Motoclassico motorcycle club. We had a fantastic time riding with Art last summer to and from the INOA Oregon rally.

The trek to the races ended up being an all day event which was perfectly fine, we had a wonderful time talking about motorcycles and travel with Art and his friend Carleton.

Saw some race action

Hung out with the locals

Typical road to the race site

On the way back we stopped in Santa Rosa for lunch

It was Sunday so all the locals were out

Every town has beautiful churches

After lunch we stopped at a local cemetery

There was a mosaic representation of the local mountain range leading to a giant hat that was the grave of some local famous person, Art told me the story but I can’t exactly recall it.

If you stand in just the right spot it looks like I’m wearing the hat. A local “guide” gave me the shaw to wear.

Eventually we returned to San Miguel and stopped at Art’s casa to check out his motorcycle shop. Wow, very impressive. Here is one of his garages

His actual shop is in a building a short distance away. Talk about shop envy….

Wow, what a fantastic day with Art and Carleton, thanks guys for the fun. Here is a great picture of them I stole from Art’s Facebook page. Art is on the right.

So what about my sick KTM? Monday morning for kicks I went online and found out there was a dealer only about 30 miles away, go figure. Deby and I rode over and dropped off the bike and returned two up on the trusty BMW. More to come on that.

Sort of a long post but I wanted to catch up, hope you enjoyed it.

Donn and Deby

 

 

 

 

 

Blasting through Mexico

It goes against my better judgement when travelling to actually have hotel reservations, but on the advice of friends, Deby and I reserved a vacation rental in San Miguel de Allende which included prepaying. The problem with that was having to estimate which day we would arrive which is very difficult when travelling on motorcycles, especially in Mexico. Anything can, and will go wrong. In our case it was the weather causing us to loose a day in Tucson. Now we are battling time to get the 1000 or so miles to San Miguel.

On Wednesday we crossed the border at Nogales. Based on advice from others on ADVrider.com we decided to spend the first night in Banamichi Sonora at Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora. Hotel owners Tom and Lynn are avid motorcycle riders, originally from Colorado. Tom used to run a motorcycle tour company and still arranges day trips in Mexico. Their hotel caters to motorcycle riders traveling through Mexico and is an excellent first day stop when entering the country.

Riding from Tucson to Banamichi made for a relatively short day which was perfect should there be any issues at the border. We crossed easily at the truck crossing as recommended by Tim and Lynn, as a matter of fact, as has happened before, nobody at all was on the Mexican side of the border. We were told to wait for the red light to turn green and then we could proceed but there was no red light. Maybe it wasn’t working? We stopped and looked around for a while and just left. Tom said pay the toll and continue to Km 21 to aduana. We didn’t see any toll so we kept riding. We didn’t see km 21 either as the km markers were in the 200 range. We just kept riding south until we saw a sign for Aduana and Immigration. We pulled in and were almost the only ones checking in. We easily navigated immigration and then Aduana with the usual back and forth and copies and payments at the military bank. In less than an hour we were on our way. It didn’t take us long to re-acclimate to the ways of travel in Mexico, missing street signs, crazy drivers, potholes, animals and all kind of craziness. Soon we were outside the city limits and following Tom’s route to the hotel. He directed us to a most excellent road that cut east from Magdalena to banamichi. We arrived in plenty of time for beers and stories with Tom and Lynn.

Thursday Morning Deby and I met with Tom to discuss our route to San Miguel and to access the probability of getting there on Saturday as planned. The prognosis was grim. The only possible way, and it was a long shot, was to ride back to MX 15 the main North South route in Mexico and ride hard and fast to Guadalajara. This meant we would have to skip some of the more scenic routes with the hope of catching them on the way back. Yikes. We loaded up on Tom’s coffee and headed for the toll road.

Thursday we rode 407 miles to Los Mochis and Friday, 418 miles to Tepic where we are tonight. These were long days on the Mexican version of the interstate system. While there were some decent stretches most of the road was is typical Mexican road condition. Our average speed was around 70 mph which was harrowing quite often especially passing trucks and farm vehicles. The tolls were expensive, I didn’t keep exact count but I estimate about $100.00 worth.

In an effort to save time we didn’t stop for many pictures but I managed to get a few.

Tom took this picture in the parking lot at Hotel Los Arcos

Route to Los Mochis

Today we stopped and a roadside restaurant and Deby handed out toy trucks to the kids, they loved it. Both little boys and their grandmother pulled up chairs at our table and we all played with trucks, plastic dinosaurs and bubbles that Deby gave them.

Bringing toys for the kids is a great way to make new friends and guarantees fantastic service and good food.

Here is the route to Tepic

On a mechanical note, the last 10km before Tepic we were in construction on a mountain road in stop and go traffic. It was hot and we had just spent 8 hours riding at 70+ mph. After about 20 minutes of stop and go the construction cleared and we found ourselves in Tepic rush hour traffic. Back to crazy riding. When I went to gas it  and zip around a truck instead of the usually blinding acceleration of all 150hp the mighty KTM just bogged and slowed down.  What? If I accelerated slowly it seemed ok but when getting hard on the gas is almost stalled. Just then Deby called out a hotel on the right and we pulled in for the night. So my mechanical friends….. overheating? Fouled plugs (all four?)? Fuel filter? Some computer glitch because of the heat? Bad gas?

So, if we hope to get to San Miguel tomorrow it will be another long day with no time for mechanical problems. The first challenge will be circumnavigating Guadalajara and then finding our way to San Miguel and the rental. Should be fun.

Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

 

 

 

Rain Adventure

Adventure. From Dictionary.com
noun
1. an exciting or very unusual experience.
2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises:
the spirit of adventure.
3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Adventure motorcycle riding is one of the fastest growing segments in the motorcycle industry. If you’re new to this phenomenon check out www.ADVrider.com and spend time with the home screen slide show to get a better idea of this sport.  True, most ADV riders search out the toughest, rockiest, remote back country tracks to explore with their giant adventure bikes that have been outfitted with armor to protect against the inevitable crashes.  Deby and I have done that plenty of times, it’s fun and challenging. Below is a picture I took of Deby on the 2010 Sasquatch ride, one of her first adventure rides when she started riding 5 years ago. Since then we’ve ridden crazy routes including Moab, Colorado, Death Valley, the Continental Divide Route, Baja and multiple sections of Backcountry Discovery Routes in WA, ID, CO and UT. Deby is on her second motorcycle which now has over 30,000 well earned miles on it.

Yesterday was just as big an adventure, well inline with the definition above. According to my GPS we rode 310 miles with a moving time of 5 hours.

The day started in Kingman Arizona, a historic place on the famous route 66 that is actually one of the cities called out in the lyrics of the popular song. A quick early morning look out of the window at the Holiday Inn confirmed what I suspected by the sounds through the curtains, it was still raining. I turned on the TV which by some strange twist of technology failure only got one channel, Fox News 10.

The big headline news was RAIN! I love it, “Weather Alert” in a red rotating banner. They had live coverage with reporters driving the local roads reporting on what seems to be one biggest stories of the day.

Well, we are Seattleites after all so what’s a little rain right? We donned our rain gear and braved whatever adventure (3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.) would come our way. Interesting side note, two years ago Deby and I rode 16,000 miles to Patagonia and I only put my rain gear on one time, for a short shower that only lasted about an hour. Deby decided to chance it without rain gear and as usual she was right, we didn’t really need it. The drumming rain out the window convinced us both that we better put on every bit of Goretex we brought since we would be in for a wet one.

Here is a picture from the gas station in front of the hotel, my thermometer said 40 degrees F.

According to my GPS I-40 east from Kingman started at 3500 feet and the interstate startes climbing from there. We merged onto the 70 mph super slab between semi-trucks and associated spray and joined the fun on our unprotected motorcycles. As we gained elevation the temperature started dropping. At 40 degrees a light starts flashing on my dashboard indicating possible ice conditions. At 34 degrees with over 4,000 feet in elevation it starts snowing. I was counting the miles before our turnoff to the south on US 93 where I hoped we would descend and the snow would turn back into rain. In our helmet to helmet communicators Deby and I were actually laughing at the craziness of what we were doing. We had been to our destination, Tucson, around 10 years ago on motorcycles and we were discussing in our helmets what was worse, the blistering 100 degree heat we had then or this rain and cold.

Here is a picture from the second gas stop:

 

We went inside for some warm coffee and someone took our picture.

We were laughing because the whole thing was just too crazy. At this gas stop we met a half dozen Harley riders who didn’t look as happy as us. They were riding from LA to Florida for Daytona Bike Week and were hoping to ride 1000 miles a day and get there in time for the rally. They seemed to have decent rain gear but the open face helmets didn’t protect them from the stinging rain pellets. We chatted about rain, bikes and routes and they left before I was sufficiently caffeinated and ready to go.

I have to make a small confession here…. our motivation to press on in the driving rain and cold was our destination in Tucson, a 4 star Marriott resort. We’ve stayed there before and it has become one of our favorite destinations. It is super indulgent and luxurious. Somehow over the course business travel with stays in the Marriott system I had enough points for a nearly free stay, how cool was that?

We arrived on the mountain side resort in a driving hailstorm and parked right in front, next to the Valet-only parking stand. Deby and I walked into the elegant lobby looking like a couple of drowned rats, which we were. Literally, we left a significant trail of water on the elegantly polished floor leading to the reception desk.

Our original plan was to leave the next day for Mexico but neither of us thought we would be anywhere nearly dried out enough so I asked for another night which we got and I even had enough points to cover the stay. Oh yea! Adding the extra night took some time at the reception desk and the dripping continued off both of us until we had a significant puddle under our feet making for a dangerously slippery condition. As we walked to the elevator we saw housekeeping arriving with mops and a “danger wet floor” sign. Perfect.

We had a small “gear explosion” in the room.

So are we having an Adventure? No, we didn’t ride offroad climbing a boulder strewn mountain on a single wide track but we did survive relentless rain, cold, wind and even some snow. We tested our bikes, gear and fortitude. Our reward? Two nights at a 4 star resort. Tomorrow we cross into Mexico at the Nogalas crossing, a place of some notoriety………hopefully, not too much adventure.

Thanks for following and we love the comments even if we can’t answer them all we read each one, they make our day.

Donn and Deby

Wind, Snow, Ice, Rain

I hear it’s been sunny and warm in Seattle the last few days. Not true in the desert southwest. We left sunny Seattle on Friday with the bikes firmly loaded in the trailer.

We chose to blast via Interstate highways south towards Vegas where we would park and ride to Tucson AZ.

We drove into Salt Lake city around 5:00 PM on Saturday and the snow started coming down. Finally after driving for miles in the dark in near blizzard conditions we decided to get a hotel room in Fillmore UT. We managed to get one of the last two rooms available and were glad to settle in for the night. The only restaurant was connect to the gas station next to the hotel.

Dinner……

At least the gas station sold our favorite Utah beer, I love the tag line… “why just have one.”

And here is something strange that was at the hotel…

A Complementary (paper) Guest Towel. In small print it says “Take this towel with you on your travels and use it however you like.” Wow, however I like? Imagine the possibilities for a paper towel. This is coming with me to Mexico.

We arrive in Vegas around noon under overcast but dry skies. It took us about an hour to unload the bikes and get some riding in before dark, hoping to make great progress towards Tucson AZ where we have reservations at my favorite hotel on Monday night. As soon as we left the RV storage center with the truck and trailer safely tucked in, it started raining. Harder, harder and harder…..

Fun, (not) we tested our gear on the first day. I will report that we stayed mostly dry but it’s just not that much fun riding in traffic, in the rain when it’s 42 degrees.

We ended up going only about 100 miles to Kingman, AZ where we found a warm hotel to warm our bodies and dry our gear.

There was a restaurant across the street with decent food and beer, it was the type of place with huge TV’s blasting all around us. We glanced up at one point and saw Terry, Sandy and Jack Borden on the news. We met them last summer at the Touratech Rally in Washington. They are a family riding motorcycles to South America. (Link here: http://adventuretrio.com/)

 

How strange that we should randomly look up at the news and see someone we know and then in the same day get a free paper towel that I can use for whatever I want. This should be a fun trip.

Some housekeeping… I updated the tab above that says “Follow Us”, the links actually work and I managed to embed a map if you want to check on our progress.

Thanks for following,

Donn and Deby

 

 

5 Days before we leave

Whew! It’s been crazy getting the bikes ready and making arrangements at home and work. I’ve been trying to ride the KTM as often as possible to make sure there are no gremlins lurking in the Austrian workmanship. On Monday it wouldn’t start! Yikes! Nothing including  giving it  a jump would bring it to life. I loaded the KTM into the trailer and dropped it off at the dealer. Great. I returned home and rode my trusty BMW to work, I’m glad I haven’t sold it yet (sorry Ted). I was ready to plan on riding the Beemer when the dealership called and said the problem was a faulty Power Distribution Module (PDM60, for those in the know). I replaced that and upgraded to a AGM battery and hope that solves the problem. I did learn that the KTM will crank fine at 10V but that’s not enough voltage for the fuel injectors and computer, bummer, but good to know.

Oh, I learned something new…. how to embed a video from YouTube into my blog. I’ll try it here for the first time. On this trip I’m bringing my GoPro so we’ll see what comes of that. Here is a video I made of me replacing the airbox on the KTM with a new Rottweiler system. I hope you like it.

Donn and Deby