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.
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