I’m writing this on New Year’s Day 2020. A new year and a new decade ahead, wow. Last year at this time Deby and I were getting ready fly to Patagonia and ride with Michael, Dee Dee and Chris for another visit to some of our favorite places in South America. I brought my laptop and managed to live-post on that trip from the road. Since then there hasn’t been much activity on this blog but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy!
In 2019 Deby and I rode motorcycles in Chile, Argentina, Mexico (twice), Canada, Spain and Portugal. That’s five countries and lots of miles, smiles, fun and good times. We didn’t start the year with that plan but it sort of just happened. We’ve met many friends along the way, new and old and everyone keeps asking if I’m going to keep up the blogging about our trips. Well, Yes! Let’s get caught up.
Mexico – March 2019
I might as well pick up where I left off because it somehow all ties together….. On our return from Chile we landed in Seattle on February 7th, in the snow.
This is highly unusual for Seattle, even in winter. The snow was turning into blizzard conditions as we drove home from the airport. We made it home just in time because the next morning we awoke to a true winter wonderland.
Weren’t we just riding motorcycles a few days ago in warm weather? Well, back to reality and on to the chore of digging out. I turned to Deby and said, “at least the power is still on”, and you guessed it.. just then the lights went out and stayed off for three days. Great…
Flash forward a few weeks….. Deby informs me she booked a week at a beach Airbnb in Mexico. We need to be in La Penita de Jaltemba, Mexico on March 20th! How we going to get there?? I wanted to know. Without skipping a beat Deby said “ride, of course!”
We watched the weather for break when we could escape the Northwest and ride south. It looked like we had a shot at riding out without snow or too much rain on March 11th. If we could ride fast enough south on Interstate 5 and over the mountain passes in northern California we could just possibly make it. We only had one thing stopping us…
We had to dig our way out of the shop….
We had 10 days to ride the 2,600 miles to La Penita but we were determined to escape the cold and wet winter upon us. Day one only got us as far as Portland but then we picked up speed and made it to Redding, CA the next day and the weather started warming up on the south side of the mountain passes. Successive nights were in Fresno, Lake Havasu City and finally a well deserved two night stay at our favorite resort in Tucson.
From Tucson it was south into Mexico at the Nogales border crossing. We crossed the border without a hitch and blasted 402 miles to Ciudad Obregon in the Mexican state of Sonora. The weather was perfect and the roads nice as we rode south. I could smell the beach and almost taste the beer as we rode the last leg to the resort city of Mazatlan. We decided to stay two nights in Mazatlan at a hotel on the beach to celebrate Deby’s birthday (not say’n which one).
Well relaxed and having totally forgotten about the frozen north we made the last 250 mile push to La Penita and our beachfront Airbnb. The roads were great through winding mountains and the bikes were running great… until they weren’t. Well, at least mine. Last time we were in central Mexico I had a fuel filter plug on my new KTM1190. This time, I was on a new Honda Africa Twin, surely it couldn’t be the same problem?? Coming up a mountain road my bike suddenly lost power and stalled. I pulled over and re-started the bike and everything was fine for the rest of the day’s ride. Hmmm.
We arrived at the small remote beach town and parked the bikes and soon forgot all about it. The next week was perfect. Long walks on the beach, walking into the small town for groceries and lots of time relaxing and reading books in the sun.
All too soon the week we had reserved was over and it was time to move on, but where? While we were on the beach, on a whim, I e-mail our friends Art and Carol who live in San Miguel de Allende in the central highlands. I thought if we ended up going that direction we could meet for dinner. To my surprise I got a reply that they were leaving the next day for a week long motorcycle trip with another couple touring the hacienda’s of Jalisco. Would we like to join them?? Heck yea!
The first night was at the Defranca Hotel , we arrived just in time to meet Art, his wife Carol and friends Carlton and Carol as they were heading to their massage appointments. Now those are some hard-core bikers!
This was an excellent hacienda hotel perched on the side of a cliff overlooking a huge canyon. I would come back here anytime.
The next few days we had fun riding with our friends. They have an easy riding style with not to long days and nice places to stay at the end. We stayed at the Hacienda el Carmen, Quinta San Carlos and finally back to San Miguel where we spent another night before heading north.
San Miguel de Allende is a touristy place full of gringos but it really has a lot of charm and keeps growing on us.
All too soon it was time to leave our friends and head north again. We had a blast with Art and Carol and our new friends Carlton and Carol and hoped we would get to ride with then again soon. Little did we know….
Sooo, it’s something like 3,000 miles from San Miguel to Seattle, that’s just a long way home no matter how you look at it. The mighty Honda was giving me grief during the whole hacienda tour. Fortunately it would come back to life after stalling, by pulling in the clutch, shutting off the kill switch and re-starting the bike. It became clear I was loosing power and was having to perform this maneuver more and more often. Art and Carlton are competent mechanics and we seriously considered pulling apart the fuel tank to get at the filter to try to clean it out. A replacement part was not to be found in Mexico. Right or wrong, we decided to not try to “fix” it and continue on.
Time to put on some miles. On Monday April 1st my Honda fooled me and ran great most of the day. We took advantage of that and rode over 400 miles to the city of Durango which is at the upper terminus of a famous motorcycle road called Espinazo del diablo or Spine of the devil.
This road is documented HERE on dangerousroads.org.
We had a blast riding the road south out of the mountains towards Mazatlan but the Honda started acting up again and we decided to continue as far as we could that day riding 550 miles almost without stopping to Ciudad Obregon. Wow that was a long day in the saddle. We caught a news station at the hotel and found out President Trump was threatening to close all the boarder crossings with Mexico. Really? We better move!
The next day was only 260 miles to the Sonora city of Banamichi. We’ve stayed there before and always stay at Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora, a nice little hotel in the small village that is run by Tom and Lynn Matthews. (A good article about Hotel Los Arcos and Tom and Lynn is HERE in BMWOA magazine).
We weren’t sure about the best place to cross the border heading north and Tom had a great recommendation, the small town of Naco. This border crossing it tiny and there was only one car in front of us as we waited out turn to cross.
We crossed without incident and were maybe a little surprised we didn’t see hoards of refugees trying to cross to the north. We did see a bus on the US side letting out a group of seniors who were walking south across the border heading to the nearby pharmacy bags in hand.
There had been so much in the news about Trump and his wall that we decided to visit it.
I suppose it is really more like a fence, or whatever. We took a few pictures and decided we better move on before someone suspected a couple of old gringo bikers of trying to pull off something illegal.
Well, it had to come to this….
We crossed the border and I spent an hour on the phone trying to find a fuel filter somewhere in Tucson or Phoenix, nobody had one, and to order one would take at least two weeks. Geesh. We continued on but only made it to the outskirts of Phoenix when the motorcycle finally just died. My attempts at restarting were fruitless and it was time to give up. Thanks to cell phones and the internet we found a local UHaul place nearby and rented a truck.
Where to??? I called a friend of mine from the Northwest Norton Owners club who has recently moved to California. Kris and Kim are great friends who we’ve ridden with many times. Kris told me he would make some calls and get back to me, within an hour he called back and said he would have a filter the next day. Wow! Way to go. We got in the truck and started the 650 mile drive to Ahwahnee, CA.
Kris’ well equipped shop was a welcome sight as we settled into their mountain home. In no time we had the Honda apart and started in on the filter-pendectomy.
Soon the problem was clear as dirt
Soon the Honda was in tip top riding shape and after a great evening of hanging out with friends and a leisurely morning we were on our way, full speed ahead! Not quite ready to get home to what was left of the Northwest winter we exited the interstate outside of Sacramento and rode west towards Redwood Valley and the iconic highway 101. After 386 miles we were in the small town of Garberville where we checked into the Best Western just as it started to rain.
Just a quick note about the Best Western Garberville. This was definitely the off season and the hotel seemed to be mostly filled with loggers working in the area and other construction types. In the evening they have a reception with snacks and all the free wine you can drink. Really? Well, that attracted a very interesting crowd of locals, loggers and two soggy bikers. Needless to say we had a great evening and slept right through the pounding rain that continued all night long.
Tuesday morning we looked out the window at the downpour. We were still 650 miles from home and the ride didn’t look like fun. We buttoned up our waterproof (supposedly) riding gear and waited a little to see if the rain would let up, it didn’t. We were on the road by 9:30 AM but it was not good.
It wasn’t just not-good, it was UGLY. Driving, cold, blinding rain. The kind that seeps through all the zippers, drips off your helmet and down into your waterproof jacket and soaks through the buckles of your boots. Every breath fogged our face shields and then it started raining harder! We communicate with each other via helmet radios which are an important safety feature, especially in this weather. I was reminded that the radio units on the outside of our helmets are simply “water-resistant” and with a fizz and a few pops they quit working. Bummer. We were on a dark two lane section of Highway 101 through the huge Redwood forests and got so bad I couldn’t see the road.
Finally, I saw a sign on the side of the road and not even sure what it was I signaled and pulled into a parking lot where I found it was a big gas station and convenience store with a small restaurant attached. Right next to the road and I didn’t even know it was there. I checked my GPS, it was noon and we had only rode 130 miles. I didn’t care, I was about done for the day. I found out later we were in the town of Klamath on the Yurok Indian Reservation.
We dragged our sorry selves in and took off our dripping jackets and helmets at a McDonalds style booth at the restaurant. Fortunately we were the only customers because the staff had time to immediately get a bucket and mop to follow after us and put up a sign warning of wet floors.
My fingers were too cold and wet to work my phone so I was about to ask about lodging nearby when I saw a sign out the window for a Casino, well of course! I verified the Casino had a hotel and we braved the rain for a short ride around the corner to the new looking Casino/Best Western. They were still serving breakfast in the lobby when I asked for a room, well before the normal check-in time.
We spent the day drying out our gear, taking hot showers, reading books, and watching TV (Deby had never seen the Jerry Springer show before!!). I hit the slot machines and won $10 and decided to quit while I was ahead. I checked the map, 528 miles to home in 9 hours.
It took us 10 hours to ride home because we stopped for lunch. It rained off and on but was drier than the previous day. We did it!
Epilogue: When we were in Mexico riding with Art and Carol they were telling us about a motorcycle trip they were planning in September in Portugal. Would we like to join them? Heck yea! More on that to come.
I hope you liked the return of the Donn and Deby Motorcycle Blog. It’s actually fun to write and relive some of the adventures that I pasted together from photos, notes and GPS files. Stay tuned for more!
Donn and Deby