The Search for Copper Artesians

Time to leave PV, the sun, the beach and all the tourists. We were on a mission to visit the very non-touristy Puebla of Santa Clara de Cobre in Michoacan, Mexico. We loaded up our neglected motorcycles that had been sitting for 10 days and were almost ready to leave when during my routine tire pressure check Deby’s relatively new rear tire measured exactly Zero PSI. The stiff sidewalls of the MotoZ GPS tire held up the bike so I thought my gauge was faulty. I checked her front tire and it was fine…. hmmm. Yup there was no air in the back tire. How did that happen???

A careful inspection found this…

Technically that would be a split in the sidewall, the best way to fix that? There isn’t one. So, I dug out my fancy Cycle Pump to see if it would hold air.

Yes, it held – for a while at least, so we decided to continue on and see what would happen. It was a long way to Santa Clara de Cobre so we decided to make an overnight stop at Lake Chapala which is Mexico’s largest lake. We booked an overnight at Villa Armonia in Jocotepec. A really nice hotel with yurt style rooms. We walked across the street for food at one of the many lakeside restaurants and had just an average meal. The area around Lake Chapala was once very popular with the ex-pat crowd. Now, the lake is too polluted for fishing or swimming and the area seems to have fallen into disrepair even by Mexico standards.

The next morning we were anxious to get moving and when I checked Deby’s tire it was dead flat. Dang. We had a choice, ride the short distance to Guadalajara to a BMW dealer or pump up the tire and try our luck at Morelia, a smaller (relatively) city closer to our destination. Having ridden in Guadalajara a few times before we decided to skip the known madness and try the unknown madness of Moralia which only has just under a million people who it seemed like were all on the road at the same time.

By midday we were battling traffic and heat trying to find BMW Motorrad Morelia Talisman. Traffic was crazy but after a few wrong turns we found the place. We were dripping wet in our riding gear when we walked into their spacious showroom. In short…. Yes, they had a motorcycle shop. No, they didn’t sell tires. What?

After some back in forth in my only slightly better Spanish it was recommended that we stop in the town of Quiroga which was right on our way. Our new friend Carlos, at the BMW dealer knew a guy (of course) who could help us out. Just go to the Tire Express store on the main road in the small town of Quiroga, no problem!

So off we went back into traffic. At one particular busy intersection that was a mad combination of two three lane roundabouts we missed our exit and needed to circle back to try it again. I thought to turn on my helmet camera to document the craziness. Note, the wide angle lens on the camera doesn’t show how really close everyone really was.

Ha, we made it and finally came to the Tire Express in the very relaxing city of Quiroga.

So, what I didn’t know is that the place is also known as Moto Llantas Michoacan, and besides auto tires they sell and service motorcycles specializing in BMWs! And… they had a very well stocked inventory of tires in Deby’s size. Whoo, hoo. Before we knew it we had a new Continental TKC 70 mounted and another new friend in Mexico!

I was even given the honor of adding my sticker to those of other travelers to his office door.

Muchas gracias amigo!

We rolled into Santa Clara de Cobre at 6:00 PM and rode up and down the steep cobblestone streets on the hillside looking for our Airbnb. Lost again…. After about the fourth time going down the same little street some kids were laughing at us, one gave Deby the finger! What? Did the little guy even know what that meant? We finally found the address was a very nondescript gate which was, of course, locked.

By this time we were tired, it was getting dark and we had no food or beverages and knew that once off the bike we wouldn’t want to make the nighttime trek into town to look for a restaurant. We called our host and she said it would take 20 minutes. We decided Deby would wait and I would ride down the steep cobblestone road to look for an emergency dinner of pork chops and chips (ummm – you might remember pork chops = beer).

Inside the gate was a super steep cobblestone track with three or four sharp switchbacks to our rented house.

Ummm, wow. We had the whole place for $42 per night. Nice.

This would be our home for four nights, an amazing retreat from our days exploring the crowded and busy city. Here was dinner with some trail mix added in for more protien.

It was an older style house with wood heat and I soon became an expert at firing up the wood stove every evening and first thing in the morning before coffee.

However, the main attraction was the many copper workshops in the town. Deby read there was supposed to be almost 400 of them. We spent the days wandering around town. It was easy to find the copper smiths because all we needed to do was follow the sound of the hammers pounding. Most of the smaller shops would let us walk in and watch, often someone would talk to us and explain what they did in their shop. In Spanish. It really put my lingual skills to the test but we managed fairly well.

Red hot copper from a wood fire is pounded and shaped by hand.

Some workshops were big, others like this one were much smaller.

This guy let us into his shop and let us hang around for a long time, he stopped to explain how they were making copper bathtubs. Amazing stuff.

He had a nice well equipped shop that was well off the main part of town. We only found it because we could hear the pounding from our casa in the woods.

Here was another shop that we could only watch from the door, they were making very big copper pieces.

Needless to say, Deby was in copper heaven. In case you don’t know Deby’s “day job” back home is an artist making copper sculptures. Here is the last bit about the copper in Santa Clara de Cobre – last time we were there I made this video that I posted on YouTube that I think pretty much sums it up.

The day’s went by fast. We hung out in the square, there was a big festival that was something about celebrating the new babies in the city. The main square in town was still decorated from Christmas and there was a huge festive atmosphere.

Our friend from the Moto Llantas tire store told us we had to try the Tortas de Tostada, a traditional delicacy from the region. He was right, they were fantastic. It was a sandwich with some ham, a tortilla and some other special ingredients. Yum.

We even found a place to wash our very dirty laundry!

Our last night we built a fire in the outside firepit and watched a spectacular sunset that was glowing red from all the smoke from the wood fires in the copper shops. We were sad to leave but ready to get on the bikes and actually put on some miles. Santa Clara de Cobre will always be a special place for us.

I’m going to stop here. More adventure awaits and we put on many more miles and explore some new places back into the mountains.

Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

5 thoughts on “The Search for Copper Artesians

  1. Thank You again.
    Lots of rain here snow is gone in Seattle but most of the passes are all blocked with record deep snow. We are all fine and healthy.
    Happy New Year
    Tom Samuelsen

Leave a Reply

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