Florida to Yucatan Highway
Marilyn (in the sidecar) & Gary
Near Veracruz, Mexico with Alvaro who is riding a beautiful BMW 1200 GS
Florida to Yucatan Motorcycle Travel Blog
Travel by motorcycle driving a Ural Sidecar, similar to a BMW, from Florida to the Yucatan in Mexico the Mexico highways. Touring include; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and various states along the Gulf of Mexico including; Mexico Gulf Coast, Pacific Coast, Copper Canyon and The Baja
This begins the 8th in my multi episode “Burro Has Three Wheels” DVD series tracing the roads of North, Central and South America, a circumnavigation the Americas. This blog will eventually become the movie "Mexican Highways" detailing a motorcycle sidecar road trip on Mexico's gulf Coast and a ride up the Pacific Coast to Mazatlan, Mexico.
After driving from Portland Oregon to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina in 2006, in June 2007 I again left Portland, Oregon ended up in Prudhoe Bay Deadhorse, Alaska thus completing my top to the bottom motorcycle tour of the world. From there it was off to Goose bay / Happy Valley Newfoundland Labrador and then onto Key West, Florida.
Now begins the Eastern roads of Mexico's Gulf Coast including the Western Pacific coastlines. I hope you enjoy this blog.
April 7, 2009
Marilyn and I left St. Augustine, Florida around noon arriving in Fanning Springs, FL @ 4:00 PM. This is the day has been spent evaluating our gear and load. Stopping at a truck weight station it was determined that Burro weighed in at 1420 pounds. That's a lot but not over gross and I've traveled with this kind of load before. I'm comfortable.
We went to Fanning Springs park along the Suwannee River but the water was too muddy to for swimming and the outside air temperature (OAT) is only 60 degrees F. The muddy water was due to rain runoff from Georgia.
We are spending the night in a motel across the street from the park called the Cadillac Inn. It's a wonderful place...there are silk flowers cemented into a vase which is glued to a table. I think the owner is hoping to make enough money to buy a Cadillac. Nugh said.
April 8, 2009
There was frost on Burro this morning. We cannot believe that we are riding in full winter gear in Florida this time of year.
We drove up the West coast of Florida taking highway 98. About noon I got tired and lay down on a old asphalt road near an airport for a warm rest. Five minutes later I was awaken by my own medical crew (not Marilyn). It turns out that someone drove by...saw me laying there and called 911. A fire department crew from down the road came to save me. We all had a good laugh about it. Moral...if you don't have the money to tour like Ewyen and Charlie (Long Way Round & Down), don't worry, 911 works great in the U.S.. LOL
Oh yeah...the wind blew all afternoon about 15-20 knts.
We are spending the night in Panama City, FL with lots of Spring Breakers packing testosterone and estrogen (muscles & bikinis) fueled on joy juice.
April 9, 2009
We didn't get much traveling done today. We messed around a lot checking out Seaside, FL and a couple of campgrounds. The Easter weekend is upon us and many campgrounds and motels are full.
Our day took us to Ft. Walton Bch and eventually Desdin, FL. So...not much to say. We may make it into Alabama tomorrow. I can't seem to find Greenbow, Alabama on the map. Nah...I really didn't think there was such a place. But I do believe in Forrest Gump.
April 10, 2009
We left Desdin FL for Gulfport LA this morning. Our route stayed along the beach into Alabama and Mississippi, Hwys 98 and 90. We took a ferry across Mobil Bay and road through Bayou La Batre looking for Forrest Gump. There were lots of Shrimpin Boats. We didn't see Bubba's grave. We decided we were classified as "stupid is as stupid does".
There is no such thing as a cheap hotels long this stretch. We had to settle for $69.00 including tax. That's way above our standard.
The weather continued cloudy with 15-20 mph winds all day.
Tomorrow will be a short day as we'll only be riding for a few hours into New Orleans to spend the night.
April 11, 2009
The ride to New Orleans was scenic on Hwy 90 as we got within 40 miles of the city. On a back roads detour it struck us as odd that a sign nailed to a tree advertised DNA testing. To top that off we heard several AK-47 magazines being unloaded at something.
Through the bayou country shrimpin' boats could be seen docked next to newly constructed stilt houses. At a small diner called Marty's we met the owner and his wife and were treated to a Marty's special Po' Boy sandwich. People are down right friendly.
We found a hotel called Canal St. Hotel just 6 blocks from the French Quarter. $59.00 per night with parking. I didn't wait to check out any others, we just wanted to get settled and enjoy the day down on Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street was a blast and a must for everyone. We enjoyed a meal of Jambalaya , Gumbo and Pralines (for desert).
This eve when we got back to our hotel we got a better view of just what the hotel was about. This is gangsta central. There are lots of pants hangin around the lower butt area. Riding up on the elevator after I had to go back down to Burro a young gangsta girl with a Jennifer Lopez trunk was shakin it all over and asked how long I was staying? I told her just the night and she said good thing cause this isn't a place you'd want to stay very long. She also said that it was a good thing Mar and I were staying on the fourth floor because someone just sprayed mace on the the third floor and it was getting into every ones eyes. Well I'm not checking it out but maybe I could find the person with the mace because so far we've found 3 rice sized roaches. One swimming in the toilet and the other two on the desk, I wonder if mace will kill roaches?
Oh...the carpet...yuk! There's got to be plenty of DNA in this room! Frankly, the LA health department should shut this place down. It's one of the least clean places I've ever stayed including all of the third world dives I've stayed in.
We're heading out early in the morning, roaches and all.
April 12, 2009
We left New Orleans this morn about 8 AM riding again on HWY 90 until we connected with LA 14 to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The back roads were nice but a little rough. Originally we had planned on making it to Port Arthur but weather played a factor. Early in the afternoon the weather system we knew was coming moved in with strong wind and rain. About 2 PM we rolled into Lake Charles and found another cheap hotel ($50.00). It is a palace compared to The Canal Street Hotel back in New Orleans.
By the way...In my opinion, New Orleans is well beyond Hurricane Katrina. I will state, "there are plenty of new roofs".
April 13, 2009
Departed Lake Charles, Louisiana at 8:20 AM. There was plenty of fog to contend with for a few hours due to yesterdays rain. It eventually cleared.
Our route was Hwy 90 to Orange, Texas. This include a portion of Highway 90 that is also Interstate 10. At Orange we took Texas 87 through Port Arthur, Texas taking us to the Bolivar Peninsula. There were quite a few oil pumps bobbing up and down through here.
This entire area was devastated by Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008. The wall of water that swept the area was 16 feet high, traveling at 75 miles per hour. To top it off the size of the hurricane was nearly as large as the state of Texas, all according to a local deputy sheriff I spoke with. Debris was carried across the Gulf Coast's "Inter-Costal Waterway" a total of 15 miles inland. Hardly anything was left standing.
It was a free ferry provided by the Texas Department of Transportation that took us across Galveston Bay. Here we met a German couple on a 1985 Harley Davidson. Their plan was to drive from Key West, Florida to Los Angeles, CA via Colorado.
Texas Farm Road 3005 runs the length of the beach in Galveston all the way to Surfside Beach, TX. The road was actually closed about halfway down but traffic continued anyway. We were told it would be very rough and portions we would have to drive on the beach. There were only a few mildly rough areas and driving the beach was never the only option.
At Surfside, Texas we turned onto Texas Highway 32 to Freeport, Texas. Afterwards it was up Texas 36 to West Columbia, Texas where we are spending the night.
Our plan is to run to Corpus Christi from here tomorrow. It looks like it will be Texas Highway 35 most of the way.
April 14, 2009
It was an early departure this morning that allowed us to reach Corpus Christi before noon. The weather was clear but cool for the early morning ride. We drove Texas Hwy 35 to Blessing, Texas then Texas FM road 1862 until it joined back with Hwy 35 to Corpus Christi.
The afternoon was spent exploring the city and nearby Padre Island.
I had a small muffler problem to work out. Just like on Tierra del Fuego at approximately 30,000 KM the muffler's side welded attachment bracket finally wore through. This is near the same KM's again (29,983). I was able to move the frame attachment arm and reattach the right muffler. It should hold for a while. A complete fix will require welding to angle pieces onto the muffler just like what was done in Argentina.
Tomorrow it is Brownsville, Texas with a slight chance of clearing Mexican Customs at Matamoros, MX.
April 15, 2009
It was warm this morning leaving Corpus Christi. The morning smells greeted us with the pungent odors of multiple road kill skunks. Highway 43 (Weber Rd.) and Texas FM 665 took us to Driscoll, Texas where we joined US 77 (The Tropical Trail) towards Brownsville. Early on we passed through a small town where all the buildings were for sale. At the end of the row of buildings finally sat the real estate office...it was for sale as well.
We decided to get off of US 77 and head to South Padre Island on Texas Hwy 100. This is a typical beach community with plenty to do. There is even a motorcycle rally here from the 17th through the 19th. We won't be staying for it.
Met a couple from Hood River, Oregon who are here to enjoy some of the best kite-boarding winds in the U.S.. Go figure...The wind has been blowing at least 20 knots all day. This really effected the fuel consumption. We ended up burning about 25 MPG and my shoulders were getting sore by the time we called it quits.
Tomorrow is definitely Brownsville, TX and the crossing into Mexico at Matamoros. Be patient if you don't read anything from us as we need to specifically use this computer to upload our ride reports. this means logging into a wireless system in Mexico.
April 16, 2009
Nice and warm out of South Padre Island and Port Isabel, Texas. taking Texas Highway 48 and U.S. Hwy 77 across the the Rio Grande River at Brownsville to the Mexican border. It was a piece of cake getting through the border at Matamoros. We hopped into the "Declaration" lane used by people like us temporarily importing our motorcycle into Mexico passing all the other vehicles. Everything that needed to be done could be done in one building.
First we went to Migartion and filled out our tourist visas. Then over to an Insurance window that made copies of our visas (I'd bought insurance before leaving the U.S.) Then...over to Banjercito providing them a copy of our passport, drivers license, title and visa. One copy each. All of this was paid for with a Credit Card. Visa $20.00, Temporary Import permit $30.00 for a total of approximately $50.00. All time spent was less than 30 minutes.
Wahoo...we are in Matamoras, (the state of Tamaulipas) Estados Unidos de Mexico (United States of Mexico).
Ok...I've nearly driven entirely around all of the Americas (North, Central and South) and never have I had to pay a traffic fine during my Moto excursions. Why? Well I've been a pretty good driver and try to be careful. NOT TODAY. 2 minutes from the border, in downtown Matamoras I drove right through a red light. The way the traffic lights work here is important. The green light will begin to flash seconds before it immediately goes yellow then red in a heart beat. I had forgotten that.
As soon as I realized I had run the red light I heard the dreaded sound AUNG....AUNG and to my left was a police officer in a pickup truck. Busted! Hey I've heard all the stories about cops jackin' tourists up for bogus infractions. Well I did the crime and I paid the fine. Right there on the spot, $35.00 U.S....funny thing though, I didn't even get a receipt. There is no doubt this money went right into his pocket. As soon as I offered the offending sum he grabbed it stating, "We're finished" and immediately got into his pickup and drove away and me with my mouth still hanging open.
Now you may ask why pay a cop on the street? Well, when I was about 28 years old a Chicago cop asked me to pay for an infraction on the side of the road. Now I'd never heard of paying a cop on the side of the road before and I dug in my heels. The short story is...I was then accused of assaulting a police officer, thrown in jail overnight, and spent $1000 dollars getting out of it. What did I learn? When a man with a badge wants money...It's better to cough up the little amount and forgo the more drastic amount if you fail. If you have a badge, and you want money it yours.
All said I did the crime and I paid a reasonable fine. Nuff said.
Some other things to remember are...if there is a stalled car or something in the road ahead of you, you may see a fresh branch, rock, plastic bag tied to a tree, red flag tied to tree and the usual safety cones or triangles.
We headed down Mexico Hwy 101 and landed in San Fernando for the night. We've got a good hotel with a pool for only $25.00
April 17, 2009
One of the things I like best about Mexico is the smell of the wood fired tortillas and everything thing else cooked over a wood fueled fire. Driving down the road, that smell will greet us every morning.
The road continues to be rough. Even newly paved asphalt is bumpy with the sidecar. I can't imagine it could be anything less for a two wheeler.
From San Fernando Highway 101, "The Mayan Road" (Route La Mayan) took us to Highway 180/80 eventually spitting us out into the traffic of Tampico. This is an industrial town with a large beach. If you work in Tampico you can play in Tampico. Though not a beautiful city, there seems to be a lot of opportunity for working Mexican men and women.
There were spots of light rain when we put the rain gear on but those lasted only a few miles. At least 5 times today people drove by us on the highways snapping our picture and hollering good will. We stopped for breakfast just before crossing the Tropic of Cancer. While eating our Huevos Rancheros small brown earwigs with 2 yellow stripes started crawling up our legs. We got them before they got us. Not entirely unscathed, later I had a small bee or wasp of some kind fly up my right arm and sting me. This was one of those pull off the road as quick as you can and apprehend the critter. I'll live.
In Tampico we drove around in heavy traffic for one and a half hours seeking a hotel. There are Holiday Inn Expresses, Best Westerns and the normal US type. We were looking for a typical local hotel though. The first one we tried advertised $25.00 per couple but he tried to charge us $35.00 so we moved on. Eventually tired of the city driving we couldn't take it anymore. Oh boy...now we are spending $50.00. There just comes a point when enough is enough!
Throughout the city's intersections jugglers, newspaper vendors, cold drink vendors and even a mime parlayed their skills. The mime pretended to be run over by vehicles. I wonder why!
After dinner we drove to the beach. The beach road is covered in Topes (speed bumps) and anti topes (dips)...anyway that's what I'm going to call the dips. Burro's exhaust set off at least a half a dozen car alarms increasing the stares we were already generating.
April 18, 2008
We departed at sunrise. Unknowingly I missed the turn off out of town. Immediately a moto-police officer flagged us down. I thought..."Here we go again" after my misadventure in Matamoras. Boy was I wrong. The officer just wanted to look at Burro and right away asked if we were trying to head south out of town. After describing Burro to him he cleared the way of traffic for us to turn around and proceed in the proper direction and across the Tampico Bridge (Puente Tampico). This bridge is an amazing architectural masterpiece. You have to see it to believe it. I hope the pics come out alright for the movie.
Down the road it was time for Burro's oil change. This was just a drain of engine oil as I only change the filter every other oil change. By the way...The SAE 20W-50 is red in color similar to hydraulic fluid.
The road is still rough (Hwy 180). We can only go about 40 mph if we want to keep our teeth's fillings. It is getting more tropical and the corn (which was only a foot high in Texas) is now 7 feet tall and harvesting is nearly over with. Vast hillsides of orange groves cover the landscape. Vendors sell fresh cold juice and bushels of oranges along the roadway.
Stopping at a Pemex station we are swamped with onlookers. We give kids a ride in the sidecar to every ones enjoyment. There are more thumbs up and picture takers as autos pass us.
Somewhere we switched to Hwy 135 and then back to Hwy 180 with an hour on a toll road which was a great ride through the mountains and...SMOOTH. We are in the state of Veracruz
At Gutierrez Zamora we cut off to Tecolutia a beach town. We found a hotel for $20.00 with a pool on the beach. The town is full of tourists from Mexico City and other pueblitos celebrating the end of the 15 days of Semana Santa (Easter). Local hoteliers have told us there are a few gringos here during the months of November, December and January other than that...only local tourists.
Though off of the beaten track, the beach is packed with lots of color and smiling families. it seems like the real Mexico. We like this place.
We have heard a 50KM wind is getting ready to blow in here Sunday night so we'll be heading out again at sunrise (Hwy 180) and hope to make it to the city of Veracruz.
April 19, 2009
This and every morning henceforth will be early wake ups as it is getting hot. It was back to Gutierrez Zamora 10 Km to rejoin Hwy 180. The road continues rough for our hack. 40 MPH is what we were forced to drive for more than half of our 8 hour day.
There were plenty of big rigs on this generally 2 lane road. Many of the big boys are pulling 2 forty-five foot trailers. Though Burro has more get up and go than other Urals I have ridden (I don't know why) I'm still waiting for plenty of room to pass on this road. There are quite a few twistys. Besides the double big rigs there are long bed heavy trucks hauling sugar cane which move incredibly slow. They are relatively easy to pass. There were also stretches of 4 lane as well and at least 4 times today we paid tolls.
We are starting to see indigenous peoples in local dress.
Veracruz was actually pretty nice though we pushed on. Being the end of Easter celebrations here the city was quiet. A well kept brick road took us through the center of town. Reading a sign entering the city it stated; 475 thousand inhabitants. Wow! It was hard to believe. A sign stated that Veracruz was "the first municipality of the Americas". There are other places claiming similar titles such as "settlement" or "continuously inhabited", nonetheless the town of La Antigua is near where Spanish explorer Cortez landed in 1519 and is only about 1/2 hour North of here.
IT IS HOT! Burro is running at 275 degrees C on the left cylinder which is the top of normal temperature and as usual with hacks the inboard cylinder is 30 degrees cooler. Also Burro keeps honking at real burros along the road. They bray...Burro honks.
We ended up in Alvarado, Mexico. What good fortune because today, being the end of Easter celebration, the town is having their version of Carnival. We found a cheap hotel one block from the festivities for only $10.00, less if you only need an hour. It's keeping us entertained. This is just a room but it has a bath and as usual in Mexico...there is no toilet seat. Even the big department store Bano's are missing toilet seats. You have to be careful to not fall in. If you do...it's call a bo'dae or how ever it's spelled. Anyway, there is a courtyard to park Burro that is safe.
This is a cute town that has a beautiful plaza.
We watched the parade, later we toured all of the normal carnival type rides available as at home and Marilyn took her chance at the shooting gallery. She had five shots and nailed everyone. Everyone was laughing and telling me to watch out. Not to be outdone I took my turns. I hit one target. Mar insists upon being called Deadeye now. And...I will watch my step.
April 20, 2009
Light showers of rain started before we woke up. I got lost trying to drive out of Alvarado and had to ask directions. A kindly fellow lead us out and it was back on the road again...Hwy 180 until we connected with Mexico Highway 175. This was a scenic narrow 2 lane road which took us through lake and farm land (sugarcane) eventually to the beautiful publito along the route, possibly called Acula. Here my clutch was acting tight, it was getting hard to shift (31000 KM approx.) so I adjusted the throw to the extent. I hope the clutch holds on at least until we get to Mazatlan.
An octogenarian with a catheter/bag hanging from his waist stopped us for conversation. Eventually he asked for some money to buy food. We parted with less change in our pockets.
Continuing along the route the sweet smell of sugarcane periodically passes our nostrils. It is growing all around us. We most pass farm trailers,loaded with the cane which are hooked together in multiples of 6-7, pulled by farm tractors.
Again we stopped this time talking to a milk farmer/rancher who was riding a three wheeled cart full of metal milk jugs. He told us we were headed the correct way (Carlos A Carrillo) and gas could be found there within 4 more kilometers.
Passing a garbage dump along the roadside a 30 something year old woman with 3 small (very dirty)children search through the trash. Arriving at the Pemex station we had to drive through water nearly covering the mufflers. Apparently last night's rain most have been heavy here.
Finished fueling I told Mar I wanted to return to the lady and kids at the dump. I told her I want to give her some money and she agreed. When we got back there Mar, true to form asked me to agree to triple the amount I had suggested. Only a woman could empathize with what this woman must be going through.
In Cosa-Matoapan we joined Mexico 145D. Augh...This is a toll road, Cuota (pronounced "quota"), but not just a 20 peso road, oh no, it's a 222.50 peso road ($20.00 U.S.). The road begins with newly paved, smooth asphalt. It was a joy to ride after the previous 3 hours we spent riding @ only 50 KPH. It was finally beginning to adjust to the $20.00 cost when only 30KM later it was back to a rough crappy road even if it was a 4 lane. Well, eventually it smoothed out and at only 100 KM total we came to an intersection and other toll booths. Well...no matter way we took, we would have to pay a toll.
Oh yeah, the autos were driving at least 80 mph (we were driving at 60 mph), well suddenly all I heard was something similar to a sonic boom when a Policia Federal went by doing well over 100 mph. He was gone in a flash and Marilyn and I were crutched low from the scare.
As it was 2:00 PM we figured it was time to quit for the day and seek shelter from the heat in the small town of Acayucan, Mexico on Mexico Highway 180. Heck we even had to pay a toll here ($20 pesos) to drive to town.
Taking this road we met Alfonso a fellow Adventure Rider, on a beatuiful BMW 1200 GS from Mexico. He had to take pictures of us and Burro. Burro smiled for the picture but you know how burro smiles are...huge lips with great big buck teeth and the BMW...Well it had the perfect body builder thing going with a glamour smile, all perfectly matched white teeth. Meeting Alfonso brings to mind that we have only seen 5 Adventure Riders (we don't know if the other 4 were gringos or not) but so far no gringos of any kind on this trip. The media (drug dealers killings) must be frightening them away.
Acayucan is a typical small town and so far we haven't explored it. However the hotel has A/C and free internet. Right now we are just recouping.
Tomorrow we will try for Villahermosa on highway 180
April 21, 2009
We are on the "Ruta Playa Y Sol". Right now I'm sitting in a folding chair next to our $22.00 hotel room with my bare feet resting on the cooled down cylinder head of Burro writing this evening in Frontera, in the state of Tabasco, Mexico 70 KM north of Villahermosa.
Frontera is 10 KM from the Bahia de Campeche. We had read that Villahermosa was good spot to hang out but when we got there the pollution in the air caused Mar's eyes to water none stop. We had to get out of there.
Again today we were stopped by multiple people wanting to admire the star, Burro. Again lots of thumbs up from motorists. Mar is getting better at filming and should have a good handle on it soon.
Before leaving Acayucan I added air to Burro's hooves and then it was onto the autopista (toll road) again (Hwy 180 cutoa). We wanted to cover some ground today. It was generally a good road this time but areas of the asphalt were paved in a course rock. Real rubber eaters. It's funny, even though this is a newly laid road it is already falling apart due to the heavy trucks. Really...brand new tarmac with big sections chewed up.
Leaving Villahermosa another motorcycle policeman came over to check out our ride. He was all smiles. Oh, have I mentioned...We have not seen what was normal when I road to Tierra del Fuego, a Military or Police check point South bound. They are checking on the North bound side though. Also we see troops everyday heading North.
Later just off of Hwy 180 we took a side road to Playa Miramar but found only private homes with no hotels, that's why we are in Frontera. There is nothing here to speak of.
I received a wonderful kindly worded email today from DK Stewart one of the musicians whose music has brought great emotion to our motorcycle adventure films. I was touched.
This evening across the street from our hotel in a home carport a local band was practicing. There were 5 drummers and 2 flutists. Wow...This is some great local music. I have plans for it in the next soundtrack as well as my previous incorporated favorite groups of the Pacific Northwest.
Tomorrow the plan is somewhere near Campeche. We are staying out of the big towns.
April 22, 2009
It was pretty good riding today and generally smooth single lane roads but with tolls. If you're planning on riding this route to the Yucatan...bring at least $100.00 (US) for tolls.
I spoke to soon about not having been stopped at the military checkpoints. Right off the bat we were stopped twice, but it was just a "We want to see your moto" kind of a stop. Marilyn took video and I hope it turns out good. I suspect the check points south bound will now become more common place as we are near Oaxaca and Central America. As I've stated on other days...we just can't get to far before people want to talk to us about the trip. We were even asked to stop crossing a tope in one small village. Lots of pictures taken.
We are now in the state of Campeche not to be confused with the town of also the same name.
Our ride was short (150 miles at the most) and we knocked off early for a small hotel with a pool and A/C ($40.00 U.S.)
The ocean is starting to get the turquoise color associated with the Caribbean Sea though this is still the Gulf of Mexico. However in the town we are spending the night (Champoton) the sea is darker due to sea grass. The bright side is that shrimp can be harvested right off of the beach as fisherman drag traingular shaped nets as they walk the beach. We had some good shrimp (camarone) cerviche this evening. Cerviche is raw fish or shrimp soaked in lime juice (this cold cooks it) mixed with celantro, onions and other spices.
We saw our first gringo today and a small residential compound being built here. He was just helping the local owner try and attract buyers from out of the country.
Champoton is just another large town but we've enjoyed ourselves non the less. It will be more of Mexico highway 180 tomorrow and we should end up near Merida.
April 23, 2009
The state of Yucatan.
260 Km is what we put on today including passing Merida. The road was great with lots of waves from local people. We are in Villadolid, Yucatan, Mexico. We've found a great hotel called San Clemente ($35.00 US). There is a nice pool with great restaurants nearby.
Our location puts us just south of Chichen Itza where we plan to return tomorrow and start what will become our Mayan Pyramid and ruins tours. There are a lot of these archeological sites throughout this part of Mexico and we will see many of them as we continue. Including on the ride back to the north and Mazatlan.
Besides Chichen Itza there are many caves and we'll be visiting some of them as well.
As we drove into town people lined the streets...they were watching a Latino movie being made. Some big stars were in town and it appears that Burro and us may be in this movie as well since we drove right through the set. Heck the cops told us to go that way.
Right now our plan is to stay here at least two days...maybe more before we head to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
April 24, 2009
Today was a busy day for Marilyn and I, Burro took a rest. We bought a bus ticket for $4.00 each round trip to Chichen Itza to view one of Mexico's most important Mayan pyramids. Chichen Itza is just off of route 180 on the way to Villadolid but we had passed it by in order to check into our hotel. We had figured we'd head back there today. It cost $10.00 each to enter plus $4.00 to bring a camera in. We had to leave the tripod because they wanted $35.00 to bring it in as they figured with it we most be professional film makers. LOL
Back in town we nearly succumbed to heat stroke as we walked 4 blocks to the Laundromat. Later we took a taxi back the same route to a cave (Cenote) call Dzitnup (Cenote Zaci). There was a natural pool to swim in but with bats flying over head we declined as histoplasmosis could be a problem. The heat continued to be debilitating.
Standing outside our hotel (including most of the other inhabitants of Villadolid) the previous day's movie filming was continuing when all of a sudden we were asked to be "extras". It turns out what was being filmed was a Latino soap opera called Sortilegio produced by Carla Estrada one of the most respected producers in Mexico. She tries to promote positive issues within her productions. There is even a statue of her in Mexico City. Sortilegio stars the Latino-Cubano Brad Pitt, William Levy (who immigrated to Miami), considered to be one of the top ten handsomest men in the world. He stars along with Mexican Starlet Jacqueline Bracamontes. Marilyn's and my role was to walk down the street about 20 meters next to William Levy and stop next to a Cathedrals entrance pretending to chat and then lean up against a fence. There was even a bad guy that jumped over the fence next to us. I can only imagine where the film will go from there. We had 3 takes and everyone seemed happy. Ms Estrada mentioned to us that we looked very tranquillo (relaxed, at peace etc.) If you want to get a hold of us now...call our agent! To top that off, later while having dinner, two young girls who recognized us from the earlier filming, snuck up on us and took our picture! We turned around because we heard them giggling. Oh the price of fame.
Well, that ought to about do it for today. More tomorrow.
April 25, 2009
First thing this morning I was trying to get a film shot of the nearby Cathedral's bell tower with the bells ringing. Every time I'd get the camera set up the bells would stop. This was one of those keystone cop maneuvers. I was running back and forth always to be denied at the last moment. You had to be here. Marilyn and others nearby were laughing. Marilyn was laughing so hard I thought she was going to fall on the ground. Me...I was out of breath.
We took the entire day off just reading and swimming.
April 26, 2009
The state of Quintana Roo. Road to Tulum was smooth. We bypassed Cancun and headed straight for Tulum. Before finding a hotel we stopped to eat and met a very interesting guy who does research for National Geographic. He has offered some pictures to me which I hope to use in this next video.
The hotel row on the beach is very quaint. There is no electricity until 7 pm as everything is solar powered. Prices are high. A pole framed (bungalow...I use the term lightly lightly) with a sand floor and crummy bed goes for $35.00. We found a beautiful room with a beautiful bath for $55.00. There are plenty of hotels charging way more than stated here. One was charging $300.00 that was no better than what we had. The bottom is line...expect to pay US prices for half of the service. This is all in the name of ECO friendly. Frankly I find this as a good excuse to provide nothing and charge a lot.
I hope this doesn't sound bitter because it is not...just facts. All in all we enjoyed our stay but I would prefer to pay reasonable prices for such accommodations. The Tulum hotel and restaurant charges are way overpriced. I'm sure people will continue to pay them while they go ga ga for the beach and warmth. I might in the future as well but probably not. By the way, I only saw 2 restaurants in the beach area who were not associated with hotels. One more thing, there is no store on the beach.
The ruins are terrific and of course the diving. If you want to stay cheap...stay off of the beach.
We are seeing a lot of European travelers. No U.S. or Canadian. The border drug scare has kept them all away from Mexico for the most part. Heck, if you are flying to Mexico...you don't even go to a border town. Now...the swine flu. We'll be staying out of Mexico City.
April 27, 2009
We got up early and went to the Mayan ruins just north of Tulum. It was enjoyable. Afterwards we headed south on Mexico highway 307 to Bacalar near the city of Chetumal and the Belize border. The road was smooth. Bacalar is a sleepy village on a beautiful lake. There are lots of ECO hotels throughout this area. We stopped at a nice ECO hotel prior to getting to town but decided we would like to have at least a fan and 110 volts to power the equipment back up.
We are at the hotel Parisio. It is a little hard to find but on the lake road just south of the old fort, and they have Kayaks to float the lake. Prices here are more toward the normal Mexican range. Again lots of Europeans only. Tommorrow we will head back inland to Pelenque. I had hoped to drive along the border with Guatemala after Pelenque but there is no fuel and we could not carry enough to run the road.
Besides quite a few very nice locals we met a couple of German/Mexican farmers (Old Believers) All of the men seem to be dressed in blue coveralls, the same color (sort of a yellow) shirt and all wear the same style cowboy hat. The one thing that bothered me though was a young man of this sect who wore no shoes and whose feet were very dirty. One of the most striking things about them were the color blue of their eyes. I suppose we will be seeing more of this group.
April 28, 2009
A very nice road greeted us today as we turned onto Mexico Highway 186 fifteen KM from Chetumal and back into the state of Campeche. We are heading toward the Pacific Coast now.
Today much of this road has new construction in order to widen it but there is a clear lane all the way. This is not to say that we didn't encounter any bumps. Somewhere, doing about 100 kph we hit a tope out of nowhere. This was followed by 19 more. It shook my confidence resulting in a drop down of gears as we approached a dark line across the road. Turns out it was a shadow. We just grinned.
We have stopped in Escarcega, Mexico about halfway between Bacalar and Pelenque. We only drove for about 250 KM today as the weather became hotter than what we wanted to deal with. So in Escarcega we got an air conditioned room to cool off. This town is simply a stop over as there is nothing of interest to be explored that we have not already seen. It's a town. By the way...high prices continue in restaurants, and motels are the normal $35-40 dollars.
Today we encountered a greater contingent of Military and Federales. This is the first time our bags and equipment have been checked. I showed them copies of our movies. Though friendly, it is apparent they are serious. We suspect this is due to our close proximity to Guatemala and the Belize frontera (border). Besides we have entered the state of Campeche and headed into the Chiapas were instability has been usual for the last few years.
We are seeing people wearing blue surgical masks due to the flu problem.
We will be getting up early tomorrow in order to reach the ruins at Pelenque before it gets to hot.
April 29, 2009
The state of Chiapas
Highway Mexico Highway 186 and 199 to Pelengue was sometimes good and bad. There were many unmarked topes. The bad spots on Highway 186 just seemed to sneak up on us. The road can be terrific when all of a sudden there would be a pothole nearly the diameter of the entire lane or just a tires width 4 feet long. There were also sections of asphalt in booth lanes 6 inches deep near the shoulder while the center was fine. On 199 I nearly took Burro over a 15 foot drop off caused by a mountainous buckle in my lane and a sink hole in the opposite lane. It was all I could do to stay on the road as the front tire skipped across the lanes.
Arrived at the entrance to the Pelenque ruins to find the area was closed due to swine flu. It will not reopen until May 7th at the earliest. We headed back into Pelenque town for a hotel and food. Prices are reasonable here. It is again hot as you know what.
April 30, 2009
Left again at sun up to avoid the heat. Hwy 199 out of Pelenque was a wonderful break from the coast routes we've been on. Into the mountains we climbed with twistys the entire way to Ocosingo the heart of the Zapatistas revolution of recent years in Mexico. If no moto rider has named this road, I will christen it "Zapatista Turns". The guide book says to not ride at night due to robberies.
Curve after curve for the last 100 km. Jungle all around highlighted the ride. There were plenty of obstructions to avoid including topes, broken asphalt, sunken lanes, buckled lanes and all combined many times. We had a lot of fun on this stretch of road.
Stopping for coffee at a roadside cafe an indigenous lady tried to sell me a rock or two from what was suppose to be from an ancient temple in the jungle. She started at $100 and then went to $50. I declined. They looked like rocks to me. Just another rock.
Near Ocosingo we met Peter on BMW Dakar 1200. He was from Sweden and had begun his trip in Buenas Aires, Argentina. From there he headed to Ushuaia and was now on his way to Prudhoe via Cancun. He had been traveling for 6 months and expected another 6 to finish. My calculations would mean that November would be his final'e. We offered a place to stay in Mazatlan and Portland if he comes through that way. I advised him that leaving Portland at the end of June would be a good time for arriving at Deadhorse.
Ocosingo is a poor town. Our room is basic and the sky is filled with smoke from burning farm fields.
While enjoying ourselves at various restaurants in town we play our normal game or two of cards. Every time we start playing indigenous people are curious as how we play our game of golf. Children and adults a like. I explain and they truly seem to understand.
Tomorrow, San Cristobal.
May 1, 2009
Well it was another 100 km of twistys accompanied by the pine forests of the high Madres de Norte Chiapas, smell of truck brakes, pot holes, topes, etc.. I have been having trouble distinguishing the difference between shadows across the road and topes. Even with Marilyn nudging me we frequently I tend to charge head long into an unmarked tope. There are even topes right in the middle of a curve. The dangerous part is signs labeled the curve dangerous...so why put a tope where it can't be seen in the middle of a blind curve?
San Cristobal is absolutely beautiful. The architecture is wonderful and there is plenty for tourists to see.
Prior to entering we passed a prison and there was a bill board across the road addressing something about the Zapatistas.
Hwy 199 is also 186 and 190. Anyway that's what the road markers showed.
Apparently it rains here in the afternoons quite a bit and today is no exception. We are having a blast amidst the thunder and lightning.
May 2, 2009
Into the state of Oaxaca.
We are starting off early today. As normal when I make my own coffee I screw it up. The posada here in San Cristobal has a public kitchen. Everything was going fine until I tasted my coffee. Augh! I put salt in it (2 tsp) instead of sugar. While I'm working on getting coffee correct in the cocina up stairs, Marilyn walks out of our room in her night gown and promptly locks us both out. So imagine, Marilyn in the hotel courtyard in only her nighty. We had to get one of the local boys of small stature to crawl through our bedroom window and open the door. I finally got the coffee right.
We left town with a stop to change oil/filter and tranny fluid (3000 km). Our destination is somewhere near the Pacific coast of Mexico in the Isthmus of Tehauntepec.
Down, down, down, we traveled. I'm not sure what the altitude of San Cristobal de Casas was but at least 5000 feet & possibly higher.
Passed through the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez which we found to be quite clean and modern.
About noon we met 4 fellows mostly from Chiapas on 2 KTMs and 2 BMWs headed for Veracruz. One guy was actually from Brazil working in Mexico City. He had just bought his BMW 800 this week. We chatted a few minutes and were on our way.
The ride today for Marilyn (in her own words) "was like being on a roller coaster". This was one twisty day on Mexico Hwy 190. We are in the Publando called Tapantepec. It was so hot by 2:30 we searched for room with A/C. Mar was nearly ready to puke. She immediately got in the shower to cool down and slept a little.
This village is the entry into what is termed the "Hot Zone". We feel it.
Tomorrow it is a short drive to Juchitan, Zaragoza, Tehauntepec Salina Cruz on the Golfo de Tehuantepec. I missed this the last time I drove south and I've always...for some reason...wanted to see the local indigenous ladies of this area who only ride around in pickups or carts standing up. After that we'll head up the Pacific coast with a planned stop in Zihuatanejo and who knows where else until we get to Mazatlan where we'll stay until the end of June.
May 3, 2009
On the road as soon as we could see. You could smell the fruit in the fruit stands we passed. In a small pablando about 20 km from Tapantepec there was a makeshift, sort of police road block. There was a pickup truck with flashing lights on top (no decals of any kind) and 3 men blocking the road. One had an automatic rifle, and they all wore normal clothing with pinned on insignias. The blockage forced us to stop and we did. We explained Burro and what we were doing and they were happy. We continued on.
The entire thing seemed bazaar but we have concluded that if it were a robbery or kidnap situation they would not have done it in town with so many witnesses unless the village was in on it. Besides there were army troops 20 km back the way we came and an immigration stop 10 km the other side of town.
We are on Mexico Highway 200.
Shortly thereafter the road became very quick and we made it to Tehauntepec in 2 1/2 hours. This is a short day for us. Also, we saw the strangest looking dog or coyote. It was taller than a normal coyote but with similar looks except it had black spots on it's hind top. It gave us an eerie feeling as it watched us drive by.
All afternoon a small group of teenagers are practicing drums and bugles. It adds a interesting part to the sounds of this town. In our courtyard, Marilyn whistles back and forth to the parrots.
We met a young U.S. man teaching English here. He was walking around with a red bandana across his nose. I got Mar to go up next to him and raise her hands as if she was being held up. The guy was pretty paranoid about the flu. He stated that is was a virus fest in the local market..."I didn't see anyone wearing masks here", he stated. He was upset and perspiring.
Tomorrow it will be Puerto Angel.
May 4, 2009
We got lost shortly after leaving Tehauntepec in the town of Salina Cruz. I have to point out that it was not Marilyn's navigating rather my instincts that caused the problem. Somewhere on the road a sign pointed in the direction we wanted to go, we both saw it. The problem was the traffic immediately all turned to the left and I was unable to see that a small road (which looked like it went into the barrios was blocked from my view by a bus. I followed the traffic. We ended up at the port docks asking for directions. We finally found the correct road. Of course Marilyn knew it all of the time. In one hour we only got 30 km.
At a great overlook we found an obviously cared for dog with a scarf guarding his dead friend (another dog). We gave him water and continued.
Lots of twisys. I kept imagining Marilyn riding in a small roller coaster car. I could tell when she was relaxed by watching her hands. Relaxed, the hands were on her lap. Concerned, she was holding onto the sidecar window bar, just like a roller coaster bar. She has to have a lot of faith in me to ride along. I'm overwhelmed.
Driving through one small town an obviously drunk indio weaved down the center line. he was walking. Wearing long pants with only one leg still attached we notice the side of his face was scared from a recent injury.
Stopped, a couple of adventure riders on KLR 650 zoomed by. They were to intent on cornering through the twistys to notice us.
We arrived in Puerto Angel about 1 PM. What a great little place this is. Beautiful water in a small cove. We were chased by locals down the street all trying to get us to come to the hotel they represented. For $30.00 we have a beach front room that is very pretty and meals are reasonable.
We may stay an extra day.
By the way...a Tope is a speed bump.
May 5, 2009
We decided to stay in Puerto Angel one more day. It is just a perfect setting.
I finished reading "Gods Middle Finger" named after a peak in the Northern Sierra Madres, written by Richard Grant. It is an eye opening account of his experience about the life within these mountains including history and the current drug trade. The book notes; Currently the narco bosses of this area are insistent that tourist not be molested. The reason is they need somewhere to launder the money. Hence all of the high rise hotels and tourist accommodations springing up in Mexico, especially Mazatlan and other areas. This seems to agree with a similar building boom that happened in Miami during the 80s and 90s due to drugs.
I have heard lots of rumors since spending time in Mazatlan that this is where the money really comes from. Just rumors. However the state of Sinoloa where Mazatlan is located is mentioned many times in Grant's book. He details Mexico's "Golden Triangle" the states of Chihuahua, Sonora and Sinaloa. Apparently marijuana and opium are grown within these areas. Anyway you can read the book and make your determinations from there.
The reason I mention it is because the Copper Canyon is located here. I hope to get there this year anyway.
I have been noticing brown road signs stating Ruta 2010 (Route 2010). I've actually seen them for over a week or two. In 2010, Mexico will commemorate the bicentennial of its Independence movement and the centennial of its Revolution with an extensive program of events. This route takes you through Mexico's history. You can find out more about it using this link http://www.bicentenario.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=94
May 6, 2009
Well we didn't make it very far today, only 60 km. We have stopped in Puerto Escondido. This is another great place especially if you are a surfer. Good beach, coffee shops etc. There is plenty to keep us busy or just hangin at the pool...$40.00.
We found plenty of travelers to talk to today besides hanging out at the pool. We met one couple on a moto and they told us there were two other riders. One on a Harley Davidson and the other on a KLR 650. Though I appreciated all of them I was really impressed with the Harley...the guy hadn't spent day after day cleaning and polishing it. He was really riding it and it showed.
May 7, 2009
Took a late start departing about 10 AM because we were talking to a 20 something Israeli who was spending 2 years backpacking around the world.
Only drove 140 KM but it took us 4 hours (topes). By 2 PM we were roasting. We found a nice hotel in Pinotepa National with a pool, internet, A/C and cable TV for $38.50 a night. During this short day we found that the locals did not smile towards us as much as we've become accustom to. Not to say that they did not...just not very much. We did see one rock painted graffiti sign that said "Greengos F You". Well one sign in 3000 miles. It's like that everywhere. We aren't taking it personally and you shouldn't either.
In town this evening we noticed that we were charged the normal local persons rate. Example...in Puerto Escondido a bottle of water cost 20 pesos, here 8 pesos. A coke in Puerto Escondido and other tourist areas,15 to 20 pesos, here 7 pesos.
Drinking that 7 pesos Coke, we watched high school kids in the town square practice folk dancing. It was beautiful and fun to watch. Teenage girls walked arm in arm past us. Still we looked as an oddity in this town. No different than anyone else who looks strikingly different if they came to your town.
Tomorrow it is somewhere near Acapulco...we're getting closer to the boat in Mazatlan. I can sort of feel that "horse heading toward the barn syndrome" but we are trying to take it easy. That should be evident as we are not putting to many hours in per day.
May 8, 2009
We crossed into the state of Guerrero today.
We are spending the night in Acapulco. We had a great ride through rolling hills and gentle curves. A nice older lady let me film her and the help as she made breakfast. Shortly thereafter on the road, Burro quit running due to a blown fuse. In Florida I had run an additional ignition wire in case I wanted to use a different ignition (which I haven't). The wire's plug had broken off and was shorting against the horn. We had it fixed in 5 minutes.
Arriving in Puerto Marques, just south of Acapulco, we were stopped by bunch of traffic cops at a road block. The cop assigned to us decided we were breaking the law since there was not seat belt in the sidecar. In Spanish I told him that Burro was a motorcycle and therefore only subject to motorcycle laws. He insisted again and I restated, saying "no es la ley" (that is not the law). I told him that I had driven through out the Americas and never has this been an issue. He finally backed down and asked me to leave. I took my time. I just wanted to let him know that I wasn't intimidated. Later I regained my sanity and decided that it is better to be happy than right. If he would have wanted money I would have given it to him. I think that if he would have been the only cop there he would have asked me to pay a fine (and kept it) but there were just to many cops.
Heck, he looked through all my documents and never looked me in the face to see if it was really me on the drivers license and passport. I kept my sunglasses on the entire time...helmet too.
The traffic was bumper to bumper from there and throughout Acapulco. We spent at least an hour making that short trip and to a hotel on the strip for $35.00. This is one hopping town. Lots of noise as well. We were going to go to a movie but all of the Cinemas are closed due to swine flu. Of course the shopping malls are open and everything else.
May 9, 2009
Left as soon as the sun provided some light on the road. Drove through Puerto de la Cuesta. It is next door to Acapulco. Beautiful beach and better place to stay if you are looking for a little quite.
Enjoyed a nice breakfast in a road construction workers camp. Three young kids wouldn't leave us alone to eat. It was like have our grandchildren with us. Their mom kept trying to get them to leave us alone to no avail. Turkeys, cats and kid goats wandered through as we ate.
More rolling hills and gentle curves with a few views of the coast. Lots of coconut orchards.
Arrive in Zihuatanejo about 1 PM and got checked in by two. Found a room with A/C and a pool for $38.50 Zihuatanejo is know to locals as Zihua, (pronounced Zi Wa). There is a gorgeous bay here and we've visited many times before. Ixtapa is located just north of here and caters to the normal time-share condo folks similar to what is found in Cabo San Lucas. You can drive through Ixtapa and feel almost as if you're in Southern California. It is very upscale while Zihua is a traditional Mexican town.
It is HOT. Spent part of the afternoon at the beach playing cards and trying to stay cool.
We aren't sure if we'll be able to make it all the way to Manzanillo tomorrow but that is the plan...380 KM because as you've seen...we quit when it gets to hot.
May 10, 2009
Whew...what a day. We made it all the way to Tecoman about 40 km south of Manzanillo before we couldn't take it any longer. It took us 10 hours to cover the 340 km. Initially the road was straight with rolling hills then it got into twistys through the mountains. The twistys lasted for 8 hours and we found ourselves in 2nd gear quite a bit and we hardly ever saw 4th gear. Oh yeah...lots of topes. Wow, the free (libre) roads are great in order to see all the villages but I'm looking forward to paying for some good road.
The real issues were more involved than the slow going. I had Montezuma's Revenge and Marilyn had a bad case of allergy type symptoms due to the many field burning in the area.
The road kill for the day were iguanas. I most of seen 100 of them dead on the road.
May 11, 2009
We slept in until 9 AM and then headed for Barra de Navidad just north of Manzanillo. Prior to Manzanillo there were white spots all over the road. Closer examination indicated that many of the white spots were moving. It turned out these were crabs migrating to the ocean a short distance away. I felt very fortunate to not have punctured a tire with on of their claws.
This was a short day. We scoped out Manzanillo which we found to be quite large with a deep water shipping port.
In Barra de Navidad (Barra for short) the first thing we ran into was a man telling us that this was "our" town and that it was the most beautiful town in the world. I think he's biased. It is nice however. At the same time we ran into a couple of cruisers (sail boat folks) who knew exactly what make of motorcycle Burro was. In fact the man owned two Urals. They were headed for the Galapagos Islands and then to Australia where they live.
We'll be staying here for a few days.
May 12, 2009
Enjoying Barra even though I'm still suffering from the Revenge. This is a great layover. We'll leave in the morning for Puerto Vallarta. This means only 3-4 days until we are in Mazatlan and the end of this trip for a while.
May 13, 2009
Last night Mar came down with the Revenge so we stayed another day. I'm healed. We'll try again in the morning for Puerto Vallarta.
May 14, 2009
Departed Barra about 8 AM. The road is rolling until about 100 KM from Puerto Vallarta then the twistys begin. Marilyn counted 218 curves in the last 44 KM into PV.
Puerto Vallarta has really changed since we were last here. The boardwalk goes all the way to the old section of town. What a party town. There is a lot to do here.
We are staying at the Rosarita where we've stayed many times. The cost is $46.00 with pool and air conditioning. We'll head toward Mazatlan in the morning but we are not sure if we will get there or not. It all depends upon the road.
May 15, 2009
Departed Puerto Vallarta for San Blas. The road out of town was busy and once clear of Nuevo Vallarta the single lane road climbed into the mountains toward Tepic. This road was backed with busses and trucks and the going was slow.
Arriving in the town of Las Vargas we turned north toward San Blas. The road was good with not much traffic. This area has a lot of farm and cattle ranching.
We were taken in like family. Invited for a late lunch by him and his two sons Alex and Daniel (terrific young men) we enjoyed shrimp, rice and salad. We visited all afternoon.
Pepe is a sculpture of bronze and other mediums. His does fantastic work.
The beach as before is very comfortable with a gentle slop into the water.
May 16, 2009
After coffee and cakes we left San Blas for Mazatlan. Most of the way was toll road (cuota) and we were thankful for the quick run to Mazatlan without topes. There was no gas on this road.
Arrived in Mazatlan about 2 PM to be greeted by our many friends at the El Cid Marina where we keep our trawler "Noyo Star". We are tired and will rest for a week or two at which time we'll return to Oregon.
I will begin the final legs in September including Copper Canyon and back around the top of Mexico with a ride again down the Baja to finish filming these Mexican Highways.
September; Mazatlan to the Copper Canyon
I had purchased a recent road map from Mexico's nationalized gas consortium Pemex. To my amazement it showed a new road just north of Culiacán heading east to Hidalgo del Parral. The previous year I had known there was no thru road but now there it was right before my eyes in a broad yellow colored band, snaking across the Sierra Madres. This would give me the opportunity to approach the Copper Canyon, El Barranca del Cobre, from the south not the north as most do and I wanted to ride from the bottom of the canyon to the northern rim top.
I knew the journey would be traveling within the dangerous region of “Mexico’s Golden Triangle” where most of Mexico’s marijuana and heroin is grown. This region is traced by drawing lines between the cities of Chihuahua, Durango and Culiacán.
Figuring that a new road would be a quick and safe way to travel thus reducing the need to backtrack into the canyon bolstered my enthusiasm. As Marilyn, my riding partner and wife, was spending time at home in Portland, Oregon I departed Mazatlan on my own. The plan was to pick her up in Phoenix, Arizona before completing our circumnavigation of Mexico’s coast lines.
About 40 km north of Culiacán I turned east joining the new highway for Hidalgo del Parral. An hour later I was dealing with heavy road construction as widening of a mountain pass was underway. The tarmac turned into gravel then simply a single dirt road with enough width for a small vehicle. What! Me worry? Not on your life because currently there were plenty of other vehicles climbing into the mountains, besides I had a new road map. I was confident the tarmac would reappear once we all reached the other side of the mountain. Sure enough it did…But not that day or the next.
One and a half hours later and seeing less and less vehicles upon the road I came to a village. There was Y intersection and next to it stood a small restaurant operated out of a home. As no road sign indicated the direction to take I asked the owner which way would take me to Hidalgo del Parral. Looking back on the scene I seem to remember a look of puzzlement upon her face before she pronounced I should take the road to the left.
One half mile later the road that was had turned into nothing but a trail. Stopping to consider my options a small pickup truck with passengers in the back bounced up beside me. Again I asked for directions and everyone agreed I was headed the correct way. I trust local knowledge but I have also learned that in many parts of the world people do not want to discourage you. I have to say that in the time I have spent in Mexico I have learned that Mexicans are nothing if not optimistic. This made me think of the map designers who produced my beautiful new road on their piece of paper. Was this just being optimistic? I was going to find out.
The pickup moved on and I followed. When they stopped to purchase cold drinks from a house next to the trail I stopped as well reaffirming the direction. There were plenty of smiles and the nodding up and down of heads. Departing I was able to keep up with them by following the dust left in my face. Eventually even that was gone and I suspected they had vanished onto one of the adjacent trails leading into the valleys to who knows where.
Nearing sundown I rolled into the village of Soyutita. I found a group of men standing outside of a store (tienda) that was also a home. I needed information, fuel, food and a place to set up camp for the evening. Everyone was surprised to see me. Though cautious they seemed glad to help this stranger who had arrived into their world. I had to order the exact amount of fuel I needed from the 55 gallon barrel behind the tienda. Once it was pumped it was mine. I had to estimate my purchase (per liter) any over estimate was simply a bonus for the owners. I purchased a can of sardines from the store as there were no restaurants in town. When it came to directions they all insisted it was as far back to the paved highway in the direction I had come as it was if I traveled forward.
There was one more thing left to find, a place to sleep. A young man agreed to take me to a place I could find shelter. Before leaving another fellow looked at me and in what must have been dialogue from a movie he had seen, in English he stated, “Good luck buddy”! They all smiled. I’m sure I heard a little chuckling as well.
My local guide aboard we headed for what I hoped was a good camp site. This required crossing a river about 60 yards wide. The water was about 1 foot deep and required a 7 foot climb up the slippery bank on the other side. The river was strewn with round river rock and larger boulders.
Burro has a shaft from the final drive unit to the sidecar wheel providing two wheeled positive traction. Even with the sidecar’s wheel engaged at one point we were both in the water pushing Burro over some of the larger rocks to slippery to grip. Keeping the engine revved up I hoped to avoid water ingestion. Climbing the rivers bank Burro slung mud from behind.
We arrived at what must have been the local Mayors house. Introductions behind us I was offered a bed on the front porch including linen. Burro was parked in his garage (no roof) and I fell fast asleep.
When the roosters started crowing and the donkeys began to bray, I boiled a cup of coffee on a one burner Coleman camp stove I travel with. The Coleman is great because I never have to search for fuel. I simply drain some out of the moto’s fuel tank. It can be a hassle looking for fuel if you have one of those butane or fancy camping stoves. Since lead has been taken out of gasoline it’s not a problem besides my brain has already been damaged beyond anything the lead could do.
Before daybreak I saddled up Burro and with sunrise barely a hope we were back on the trail.
An hour into our day, next to the trail, laid two withered cows. Sun bleached bones and skin were all that was left. If this didn't mean I was in the hinter-land, I don't know what did. Visions of crawling across a desert played within my mind. However it looked like a good filming opportunity so I set up the camera. Finishing the shoot a hombre on a 4 wheeler came out of the brush, stopping next to me to pee. I guessed he was marking his territory. Zipped up we greeted each other and immediately he offered beer and mota (marijuana). Generally it’s impolite to turn down an offer of sustenance but there was no way I was going to get into this. I explained I had epilepsy and could not partake. He seemed to accept it but remained suspicious to my reply.
The entire event makes me wonder what he had been attending to off in the bush. Don’t forget, this is Mexico’s “Golden Triangle”.
Pointing his finger down the trail he insisted I should proceed and he would follow. I don’t like having anyone behind me especially when I am walking down a street. Here in the mountains of who knew where I wouldn’t accept it either. I finally persuaded him to leave first, I would follow. Well that lasted for about 5 minutes before he found away to get behind me. I was forced to keep one eye on the mirror and one on the trail. Not a good situation.
Eventually we both rolled into a small village. We stopped at a tienda serving as the local grocery store and gasoline station. Asking for a restaurant a local fellow told me he could take me where I could eat. I followed, crossing streams and climbing steep trails with deep ruts carved into it due to the summer’s rain. From this point on these crevices would dog my progress throughout following days.
As it turned out breakfast was located at his house. Periodically his attention was interrupted as he gave orders over a two-way radio held by his side. I suspected he was in charge of a large ranch or farm of some variety within area.
We milked his cow; he showed me his garden and introduced me to his family. The wife made scrambled eggs with jalapeño peppers on the side and we drank the freshly available milk infused with chocolate.
After breakfast I tried to pay but was declined. Waving good-bye I returned to my journey.
Forty minutes later I was crossing multiple streams and climbing the steep terrain. While avoiding a boulder protruding the trail’s surface the front wheel of Burro feel into a deep rut immediately steering the moto into a ditch beside the trails wall. Hitting a large exposed rock the crash bar and valve cover with its single bolt were sheared off of the frame and engine and severed the valve cover gasket.
Though Burro has an empty weight of 335 Kg (739 lbs) her traveling weight is normally around 700Kg (1543 lbs) which includes my camera gear and spare parts. I knew there was no way to get out of that ditch unless I kept the engine running so I did. This would also require engaging the sidecar’s drive wheel. I worked like hell to get out. Oil was flying everywhere. It worked and I parked at a wide area nearby. A complete inspection revealed the valve cover bolt was broken off even with the head’s casting leaving an enormous problem
Taking stock of the situation I smoked a cigarette and considered my options. About 10 minutes later some locals walked by and told me there was a mechanic farther down the trail. Thankfully I was on the downside of the current mountain's pass so I coasted right into the front yard of the first house I saw. Five minutes later twenty people from this little pueblo had arrived to help and view the strange gringo and moto.
No tools were available to extract the broken stud; however one fellow knew his stuff. He began by taking a piece of poster paper, folding it in half and laid it upon the valve cover’s sealing side. With a small wrench in hand he began to tap upon the poster paper as it lay in place. Little by little the paper began to split along the valve covers face. Within fifteen minutes a new gasket had been formed.
Another guy found some heat resistant silicon required to complete the new gasket’s seal. Normally I carry gasket sealer but somehow I had left that part of my breakdown gear in Mazatlan.
One problem remained; how to attach the cover due to the broken stud? There appeared no way to hold the valve cover in place. Not to fear, another option was available and it was pure genius. The gasket maker found some heavy wire. Across the head and around the intake and exhaust manifolds he wrapped the wire. Proceeding perpendicular he threaded the wire thru a hole between the head and engine casing bringing the opposite ends of the wire together outside of the valve cover twisting it tightly with a pair of pliers. The addition of oil into the crankcase completed the project. Now looking like something out of a Mad Max movie, it made me proud. Would you believe it? I drove it all the way to Phoenix, AZ like that.
Earlier I had stated that Mexicans are nothing if not “optimistic”. Let’s add to that list “self-sufficient” as well.
As there are so many trails heading various directions through the mountains I was hoping to find a way to insure I was going in the proper direction. Before departing one of the locals told me to follow the power poles. Who needs signs when you have information like that? It would work.
During the next hour I became stuck twice in the trail’s deep crevasses due to the frame bottoming out. Fortunately I carry a small jack with me for situations like this. A moto with 2 wheels might have been able to steer around the ruts, but the sidecar addition definitely required a greater width of area to avoid.
The second time I became stuck was due to a climb up the steepest grade I have ever encountered. The height of this mountain was nearly 9000 feet. It was like climbing out of a Florida rock pit that I'd done many times before in my youth. But that was with a moto-cross bike.
Selecting first gear I began the process of navigating the multiple switchbacks. Burro’s engine soon began to lug eventually stalling. I realized that any attempt to summit would require a different approach. I backed down to a relatively flattened area. As I did so Burro’s drive wheel fell into a deep rut bottoming out the moto. Even with the sidecar’s drive engaged there was no way out.
A shovel was now required. I unloaded gear out of the trunk to retrieve the fold up military version I carry. The ground was like concrete but I chipped away it until the footing was deep enough to get the jack under.
An hour later Burro was freed. I loaded up and undertook a dangerous wild run with the throttle wide open. Twenty-five yards later the engine stalled once more under the load. Backing down for the second time I carefully avoided the ruts with success.
Third times the charm but this time it would not simply be throttle wide open but I would hold the clutch lever partially out, slipping it.
Burro and I were making progress this time. Bucking and jumping around boulders protruding the trails surface, over large rocks and ruts the moto twisted back and forth coming precariously close to the adjacent cliff. Halfway up the smell of the burning clutch plate filled my nostrils. With no choice but to continue I did. The front wheel leapt to the sky, twice the windscreen slammed into the bridge of my nose. If I wanted to get to the top, stopping was not an option I had to continue. Reverting to my long lost moto cross experiences were helpful but this time I was riding with a hack, quite a different proposition.
Finally reaching the summit I let Burro cool down as I rested. Departing I found one more similar grade to conquer. At its top while taking another break I notice important equipment was missing. In my haste to be underway I had strapped my bag with passport, title, computer passwords, birth certificate and all of my camping gear to the sidecars luggage rack. Now, only the straps remained. There was no choice but to return the way I come.
I dared to attempt the descent of this second grade searching the trail and its cliff’s edge but I found nothing. Staring down the original ascent I surrendered to good sense. I would go no farther. Due to exhaustion, walking was out of the question. I would return to my journey and deal with the missing documents later.
Later that day a small store in some unnamed village sold me gas in soda bottles. By nightfall I had reach a small town with a hotel. Out contact with my wife for two days, my cell phone finally indicated bars and I placed a call.
It would be another day before I knew what was needed to cross back into the U.S. but Marilyn would solve the problem. Explaining the situation to a supervisor at the Nogales, AZ border crossing she had secured my return home. I would spend this night on the mountain’s trails and half of the next morning riding before arriving upon a paved road.
Near Chihuahua I spent the next night followed by Creel and the Copper Canyon with a stop at Batopilias.
2 days later I crossed back into the US at Nogales and headed for Phoenix.
We are back on the road again leaving Phoenix for Mazatlan via the northern border region. The mountains in Northern Mexico are spectacular.
Our second day on the road brought us to Tijuana of on all days Halloween. We've found a hotel and moved in. Only one problem, this appears to be a whore house. There was a lot of noise all night long.
Today we have decided to spend 2 days in Ensenada. It's a nice place for us to sit back and enjoy.
The sixth day on the road left us at El Rosario.
The seventh day in Lareto. We'll head to La Paz early in the morning and catch the ferry to Mazatlan.
That completes circumnavigating Mexico by road.
Because I solely fund this independent film project, it is greatly appreciated if you'd forward or post this web site's address to others you believe would enjoy this "journey of a life time". http://burrohas3wheels.com or http://motorcycletrips.net
Temporary Import Permit Information
|Anos||Year of Manufacture|
|Tipo Placa||Type of vehicle (a motorcycle is called “Moto”)|
|License plate number followed by country of origin plus state/province|
|Fecha Permiso||Todays Date|
|No. Motor||Serial number on motor|
|No. Chasis||Serial number on frame|
|No. Puertas Color||Color of vehicle|
Datos del Conductor
Datos del Propietario
|Nombre / Empresa||Name|
Datos del Viaje
Dates of Travel
|Fecha Entrada||Date of entry|
|Fecha Estimada Salida||Estimated date of departure|
|Aduana Entrada||Customs border crossing name|
Aduana Esti. Salida
|Estimated departure border crossing|
Photocopies You Will Need
Copy onto separate pieces of paper
Title, International Drivers License (page with your picture on it and page with official stamp and number), State Drivers license, Passport (page with your picture and opposite page). Also write your vehicle frame, motor and license plate number on it.
Mexican insurance can be purchased before you leave by joining Vagabundos del Mar. 707.374.5511
Insurance in Central and South America can be purchased at the borders.
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