Into Mexico!

It’s 142 miles from Silver City to the Mexico border, or about two and a half hours riding. We left in the cold, about 48 degrees F with all of our warmest riding gear on. I felt like a wimp on my cushy new BMW when I flipped on the heated seat… geesh. Soft or what?

By the time we reached Douglas, AZ it was almost noon and had warmed nicely into the low 70s. We searched for a casa de cambio to change our money and filled up the bikes one last time on the US side. Never sure what to expect at border crossings, this one was really easy. We were the only people in the aduana building and were processed and out in less than 15 minutes. No other tourists going south and no bands of migrants going north… nothing.

This would be an easy day, our destination was Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora, 135 miles south. A nice hotel run by a expat motorcycle rider. We’ve stayed there before so it was an easy known quantity for our first day.

The first section of road was mostly highway riding but soon we turned south on the two lane Sonora 89 and we were riding into the remote part of the state. This part of Sonora is mountainous with nice curvy roads and virtually no traffic.

The border crossing is at about 4,000 feet and we soon climbed to over 6,000 feet before dropping into Banamichi. Right away we made a two rookie mistakes… I was out of practice looking for topes (ubiquitous speed bumps on must rural roads) so the first one we came to I rammed at 50 mph. I saw it too late and hit the brakes which made the impact worse because it compressed the front suspension. With all the weight of the big BMW compressed forward when the back wheel hit it launched the rear wheel off the ground leaving me riding the motorcycle on it’s front wheel for a short while. Deby was far enough behind that she managed to slow enough to keep both wheels on the ground. Lesson learned….

The second rookie mistake was just a few miles later when I was distracted and didn’t see a rather deep pothole. Bam, the front wheel took a beating as I crashed into it at speed. Those two incidents were a keen reminder to always pay attention looking out for the endless obstacles on rural Mexican roads.

One thing I like about riding motorcycles is being able to smell everything around us until things start to stink. Something was smelling really bad, cattle ranch? Chicken ranch? Me?? It’s a little game between us to identify the various smells we encounter. This one we couldn’t identify until we caught up to this truck around a corner.

Little piggies on the way to market! We were glad to get around those guys.

Like most hotels in Mexico, Hotel Los Arcos looks unassuming from the outside.

But the inside has a beautiful courtyard with fruit trees full of birds and a nice fountain. An excellent place to hang out.

Motorcycle parking is around back is in a gated area with a pool and a nice pizza oven that has been added since our last visit.

With the bikes tucked in and dinner reservations made (we were the only guests so they wanted to know what time we were going to eat so they could bring in the chef), we went for a walk around the sleepy town and made the third Mexico mistake of the day. We went into a tienda to pick up a couple of snacks and after walking in the door were sternly admonished, “Cubre su boca!” Dang, I forgot my mask and there was no entry in any buildings without one. We learned they take mask wearing Very Seriously in Mexico.

Our goal for the next few days was to visit the city of Alamos, a “Pueblo Magico” city a little further south in Sonora. According to Google maps it would be too long a distance for one day on the back roads so we opted for a stop in the port city of Guaymas on the Sea of Cortez. Booking.com was showing limited availability at most of the hotels which I think is suspect so we ended up at Hotel Playa de Cortez.

It was early Tuesday afternoon when we found the hotel and rode on the cobblestone road through the rusty gates onto the property. We continued looking for the oficina as we rode past a sign for “luxury RV camping.” Hmmm, looked like a gravel lot to me. We found a sign pointing to the office and made a long trek through a sprawling complex that was clearly a nice resort – a long long time ago. Masks on, we found the desk and asked about food. Food was becoming an issue once again on this trip. We had breakfast at Los Arcos and nothing really after that. The restaurant was closed. The bar? The bar was closed. The pool? The pool was under repair. Deby was not very happy when she repeated to the young lady at the reception desk, “No restaurant? No bar? No Pool? What do you have??” She calmly looked at Deby and with a smile said, “we have the mar.” Ok, the sea….

We did manage to score a room right on the water with a nice patio. Here is the view from our chairs.

I went online and there wasn’t any restaurants nearby so we would have to take a cab, Uber or ride the bikes. Something we didn’t really want to do.

I choose to walk to the nearest Oxxo (a local convenience store) for beer and chips. It ended up being chips and pork chops for dinner on the beach. (For those who don’t remember, our friend Michael says “Porkchop in every glass” about beer. Of course, there is zero truth to his claim of equivalent nutritional value, but nonetheless, we seem to have a lot of porkchops for dinner.)

We did have fun watching the pelicans out our door. This craziness went on most of the afternoon and evening.

We went out for an evening walk around the premises and someone took a nice picture of us as the sun set over the bay.

One interesting side note for my family in Wisconsin….. The hotel was decorated with a number of elaborate wood carvings. This memoriam was hanging in a prominent place of honor in the hotel lobby.

The artist was from Milwaukee and has sculptures in the Milwaukee brewing company, Milwaukee Athletic Club, University Club and the fountain at the Journal Company and more. Random… how did his work end up in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico?? Those cheeseheads are everywhere!

Off to Alamos

It seems like everyone we’ve met recently, and told about our trip, said we should visit Alamos. We even have a book called “Motorcycling Mexico”, that calls it out as a must see place to visit. Looking at a map, it’s out of the way for any north-south travel and would have to be a destination in itself. Our friend Kim who we stayed with near Yosemite lived near Alamos as a kid and has fond memories of the town square and going to boarding school with the kids of the prominent townspeople. Other people told us it’s like San Miguel de Allende before all the gringos took it over. Ok, off we go!

In keeping with the slower pace of the trip we found a “hotel” on booking.com and booked three nights at the Casa Loma de Guadalupe.

Wow, we are hit or miss on hotels…. this was a hit. The above photo is from their website. We had the whole house on the right by the pool.

Getting there was tricky… it’s an old colonial town with narrow, steep, curvy cobblestone roads. We tried Google, Garmin and Apple Maps and neither could find the place. We kept coming to dead ends or steep stone walking paths that we couldn’t take the bikes on. Here is a shot from my GPS with our route.

Eventually we were reasonably sure we were close but stopped when the pavement ended and the road turned into an impossibly steep cobblestone hill climb. I had to just stop, could that be it? Really? I looked to my left and a whole family was on their porch literally 5 feet away looking at us on our giant motorcycles in amazement. “Donde esta la casa loma de Guadalupe?” I asked in my best Spanish. “está arriba de la colina” they responded. Yes, that was it up this steep hill. By this time more kids and family showed up to watch us attempt the ascent. I took this picture from the top looking down. It never looks as steep in the pictures.

The road was made of big stones that grabbed the tires and only added to the challenge.

I told Deby in our helmet radios that I was going for it and blasted up hoping it was really the hotel and not just another dead end. I came to a gate into what looked like a big house. Could this be the hotel? There was no sign, nothing. I saw a worker on the street and asked for Casa Loma and he pointed to the big house. This must be it. I radioed to Deby and she blasted up the hill and into the gate with no problem. The bikes would stay parked for the next four nights.

It was a short walk everyday down the steep grade to the main square. We did it multiple times a day and each time the family that encouraged us to ride up the hill was on their porch waving, yelling out greetings and smiling at us as we walked by. They almost felt like our new best friends. Hmmm, maybe I can get a picture. This guy watched us carefully walking up and down the steep hill every day.

Here is the main square.

Some things really don’t change in Mexico. Here is mom with a grocery bag in her right hand and the baby in a front-pack picking up her son with his backpack after school. He’s drinking a beverage but at least he has on a helmet, many sizes too big….

We came across a Tesla charging station at one of the hotels.. Interesting since we haven’t seen any Teslas at all. But good to know.

Did I say they take mask wearing very seriously here? I bought some milk and checked the expiration date, this is what it said.

Utliza El Cubrebocas means Use the mask. We saw these notices everywhere, but I never saw a date code send a message.

Here is what was on a wine bottle….

A picture of a steak and a piece of pizza. So, what does that mean???? A steak or pizza in every glass? Huh? I suppose we can now add steak and pizza to porkchops in our meal planning.

We walked around some more and saw this on a BMW G650GS motorcycle parked on the main square.

This was the first motorcycle traveler we came across on this trip. She wasn’t around but we found her on Instagram and coordinated a meeting time at a coffee shop on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is low key in Mexico as it’s not a Mexican holiday. The city was normal as we walked and explored. We had breakfast at our normal tiny restaurant with three tables and we spent most of the day hanging out by the pool and reading books. In the afternoon we wandered down the hill for some street tacos. Yum, really good, and real Mexican Coke which is the only soda I will drink anymore.

Deby took a picture of the cook and kitchen.

We walked around some more exploring the local market. This dog was guarding the entrance like he was collecting a toll. He wasn’t as lucky as the dog assigned to our table at the taco stand.

Just then we got a message that Mindbodymotogirl was at a nearby coffee shop so we walked over to meet her. We hung out for the next four hours talking about motorcycles, motorcycle travel and we realized we had many friends and acquaintances in common. Her real name is Tammy and she had recently been in San Miguel de Allende where she met our good friend Art and hung out with the Motoclassico gang. That is our destination in a few weeks. It was a blast getting to know her and hearing about her adventures, I recommend checking out her out on Instagram if you are on that platform. The barista took a picture of us.

Fully caffeinated and not very hungry for Thanksgiving dinner we started back to the casa in the dark. We walked past a nice restaurant that we knew had a small bar frequented by gringos so we decided to stop for a glass of wine (I mean steak). There was a lively ex-pat group of retired couples and one came over to talk to us. Suddenly we were deep into a very long story with details I will leave out about how he met his first true love at a girl scout camp in Wild Rose Wisconsin! (Cheeseheads everywhere!) He was a camp counselor….her name was muffy…. really??? He insisted it was true. They had to break it off when “Muff” as he called her went to Milwaukee to become a nun.

So that was our Thanksgiving, not too bad. Nice day, good food, fine friends and a lot to be thankful for everyday.

I’m going to stop here and will continue when we get back on the road. Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

5 thoughts on “Into Mexico!

  1. Love the stories and the details Donn. Can’t make this stuff up……. seeing Tammy’s logo on her bike, connecting with her, ex pats talking of Wild Rose, Wi and Muffy who left for the convent to serve others.
    Never heard of Dick Wiken before now. Awesome…. looking forward to your next blog. Happy for you and Deb and these experiences you’re having.

  2. Your adventures are amazing and I love the friends you keep meeting along the way. Thanks for sharing the story on the MKE artist Dick Wiken I will share this fun story with the MAC Staff, as we are working with them right now as we plan Becca’s wedding reception there. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you both. Enjoy your trip and stay safe!!!

  3. Donn and Deby: Terrific stuff. Sounds like a great trip so far. Thanks again for this wonderful blog. Enjoy the ride!!! Norm Leopold

  4. So cool that you took me down memory lane of my childhood town, thanks for the info & pics. I’m sure my dad will love hearing about your time in Alamos. I didn’t think to tell you about those hilly cobblestone streets, I remember those, glad you got the bikes up it. Cool you met another rider too. Loving the blog as always, nice you have time to write in live time on this trip.

    Hasta la próxima!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *