Well, as they say, "the best laid plans...." ! I'm still in Montreal after missing the best weather window on Monday because I wasn't as ready/prepared as I thought I was. So as of today, the next "window" appears to be this Friday, and this time I will be ready!
Here I am in Waynesville North Carolina, just W of Ashville. My good sailing buddies, Dick and MaryAnn Brashler are both "putting me up, and "putting up with me", in their beautiful summer home high up in the Smokey Mountains.
I arrived here, in NC, Wednesday afternoon after a 2 day ride from Boston where I spent Friday night (after a freezing ride down from Montreal), Saturday, in the cold, and Sunday in the cold and rain, with my other sailing friends Glenn and Laurie Myette on their beautiful new sail boat. Thanks to Glenn's triathlete daughter, Tracy, we attended a real fun live performance of "Hootie and the Blowfish". I left Boston early Monday and rolled down to Waynesville over 2 sunny and warm days.
Yesterday, I rode with Dick (behind me on my bike) through the fantastic back roads of the Smokies to a really neat little German town of Helen, Georgia...you'd think you were in the German alps. This ride with Dick meant a lot to me because we talked about riding together like this over thousands of miles of blue water sailing on Dick's boats, and now I was able to take HIM for a ride. We had a great day.
Tomorrow we are going to check out "The Tail of the Dragon" with Bob, a biker friend of Dick. It's about a 3 hour ride from here.
Legend says a Dragon lives in the mountains of western North Carolina. He tests your skills on US129 with 318 curves in 11 miles. Everyone who comes to ride the Dragon will always remember it.
Check out the Dragon's web site...it's amazing...
I should be leaving Waynesville early Sunday (13th) and try to make 500 miles to Memphis TN., and then Monday another 500 miles to Dallas TX., where I will do a major service on my bike. Then it's SW to Presidio TX. where I will cross into Mexico.
Sorry for the delay but the internet supplier was down where I was staying in Dallas, TX. of all places.
I´m now in Chihuahua, MX., and leaving for a little village called Creel in the "Copper Canyon" where I will stay for approx 3 days.
Every thing is fantastic. I´ll add more details when I get to Creel tomorrow.
It's finally time to fill in the details since my arrival in Dallas.
Through the Horizions site I met Les Hall who lives 5 minutes from downtown Dallas. He offered me the most incredible hospitality by allowing me to share his home for three days. Dallas is a beautiful young city, and for me the highlight was visiting the infamous "Book Depository" and the "Grassy Knol". For those of you who forgot, or, are to young to remember, this is the place where JFK was shot. The 6th floor from where Lee Harvey Oswald "supposedly" fired on JFK has been turned into an amazing museum, and on the street below, a big white X marks the "spot". I spent a few hours there and found it to be quite moving. Another day was spent at "Dallas Honda" where I put on 2 new tires as well as a major inspection of the bike. Service was excellent...(but Phillip Cantin from my Montreal dealer, "Alex Berthiaume", is still the BEST....don't let this go to your head, Phillip!). Before leaving, I treated Les to a fine dinner at "Texas dos Brazil"(Jody, check out it's web site), my friend, Jacques McCabe's recommendation. For a prix fixe of $45 per person you get the most amazing salad bar and all the charcoal grilled meat and chicken you can eat. The food, chicken, lamb, ribs, pork, sirloin, etc., is continuously brought to your table by roaming waiters carrying "spits" of freshly BBQ'd meat where they slice off as much as you want!
From Dallas I went W to Abilene TX., then S to Big Bend Natl.Park, and then W to Presidio TX., a dusty boring border town, where I spent the night. The next day I had a relatively painless 2 hour border crossing into Mexico to Presidio's sister town of Ojinaga, MX., from where I continued SW to Chihuahua. It was a beautiful 7 hour drive in sunny, 104oF weather. Chihuahua is a big "non descript" city of around 600,000 people. After spending the night there, I continued 200 miles SW to Creel, a real pretty small village which just a few miles N of the Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) National Park, where I am now. I spent the night at a great hostel, Casa Margurita's, where for $150 (read 150 pesos ... 7.5 pesos = $1.00 CAD) you get a clean private room with shower and a full breakfast and supper, served "mess hall" style.
Here I met 4 great guys, Xavier and Andreas, both Swiss, and Peter and Anders, Americans. We rented a pick-up truck for 2 days from "3 Amigos", a super tour company here in Creel. They loaded it with a picnic lunch for all of us, and we threw our packs in the back and headed DOWN to Batopilas, a tiny village at the very bottom of one of the deapest canyons in the Park, where we spent the night. We returned to Creel last night after a great 2 days of good times with new found friends.
Now Creel is at an elevation of around 8,000 feet where the day temps are in the high 70's and nights in the low 60's. As we decended the 5,000 feet into the Batopilas Canyon we left the pine trees of Creel and entered the tropical climate of desert, cactus, mangos, and 95oF weather. In the decent to Batopilas we dropped almost 5,000 feet over a distance of 6 miles over 1 lane (barely) dirt roads with NO guard rails, carved into the almost vertical canyon walls. This has to be one of the undiscovered wonders of the world. This beat any amusement park ride by miles! We hit the bottom around 4pm after a 6 hour drive. The guys hiked to a small mission 3 km away while I filled up un Margaritas, and then drove to the mission to meet them a few hours later. The next day..yesterday morning.. we hired a guide to take us part way up a steep canyon wall trail with some amazing views of Batopilas below, to see some abandoned copper mines. Then it was back in the truck for the 6 hour climb to Creel and much cooler weather. But before leaving the heat of the canyon we found a neat swimming hole in the bottom of the canyon where we skinnied in the warm rushing water of the river.
Today I hang loose in Creel, the guys are leaving around noon to Los Mochis by train. Tomorrow I will try to make the 300 miles W to Guaymas, where I will take the ferry across to Baja where I will spend a few days ay my sailing friends, John and Priscilla's eco lodge "Danzante" (google it).
Since my last entry as I was leaving Creel, MX., I crossed the Sea of Cortez which separates mainland Mexico from Baja, by a 12 hour ferry ride.
My first day on the road was from Creel, at 8,000 feet in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mts. (that run almost all the way down central MX), all the way to Guyamas, on the MX side of the Sea of Cortez. It was so far my toughest day on the road so far. The road winded and turned, up an down as I crossed the mountains to the coast. 9 hours on the bike and could go no faster then an average speed of 50 km/hr. The first 3-4 hours were at around 18oC, but as I wound my way down to an altitude of around 2,000 feet, the temp. quickly rose to 35 - 40oC ! Even on the bike the wind was HOT. I finally reached Guyamas as the sun was setting on the 24th. Heading west into the sun for 3 hours was no fun either. G is a city of around 300,000 people with nothing special.
On the 25th I went to the ferry office and found it didn't sail till the nite (2000h) of 26th. So I booked the ferry - first class ( which meant I was in a separate cabin of only 16 aircraft seats vs. economy which had over 100 seats for $15 CAD more - total cost with my "old age "discount of 20% was around $150 CAD).
By the time this was done it was 1100h and the temp was close to 42oC - YES that's the low 100's - and I went 30 kms. north to San Carlos, a really neat quaint beach resort and spent the rest of the day and the following day on the beach with the most beautiful warm turquoise water. By 1500h at 44oC I couldn't take it any more and retired to a beach side palapa and enjoyed a "few" marguritas, and then had the most fantastic jucy, fresh, garlic grilled shrimps I've ever eaten ! (sorry Jody). I repeated this the next day too, and then returned to Guyamas for the ferry on the eve of the 26th. Just as boarding started another motorcycle pulls up with a Swiss guy, Dieter Wyler, a mechanical engineer, who's been on the road for the last 17 months (he had shipped his bike over to Argentina from Switzerland). Now the amazing thing is that when I rented the truck in Creel with the 2 Swiss guys and the 2 US guys, we passed Dieter while we were almost at the bottom of the canyon and he was coming up. He had just crashed his bike in one of the turns and was surveying the damage... none to him, but a bit on the bike. He was going to stop in La Buffa in the canyon for repairs. We chatted a while ..., now 3 Swiss guys, 2 Americans, and a Canadian in the middle of nowhere....then moved on. He was riding a specially customized BMW for riding a combo of hughway and back dirt roads. I was glad I chose to leave my bike in Creel and take the truck to the canyon.
I'll continue this tomorrow, I off to dinner...Buenos noches
Well something always happens.....I was supposed to be leaving La Paz, Baja for Topolambampo/Los Moches, MX. this afternoon...bought the ferry tkts. this morning...when I noticed one of the saddlebags was loose. I found one of the bolts holding one of the luggage racks had cracked. The local machine shop could not deal with it in time for me to make the ferry, so for 100 pesos ($12) I changed my tkt. for tomorrow. That also meant another nite in La Paz at 200 pesos ($25....8 pesos to the $CAD).
But not so bad, since La Paz is a beautiful small seaside village with nice beaches almost near the bottom of “Baja de California Sur” . ….95% Mexican and 5% American.
Baja de California is “funny”…...the northern part, or “Norte” is “sort of” Mexico. This makes it easier for Americans to come/drive to B de CN without much paperwork, or military checks, but half way down, you cross the real border into Mexico. ( When I took the ferry from Guyamas, MX. to Santa Roslalia, I came right into B de C Sur…..got it?
Anyways, back to getting on the ferry with Dieter.
Once we got on board I suggested he try to get into the first class section with me since he bought an economy tkt. We pretended we “owned” the boat and it worked. We were the only two, with TV, video, and air conditioning. When the boat began to sail we went up on deck to the slightly cooler evening air, and when we returned to our first class cabin an hour later there must have been at least 10 people sleeping all over the place, but mainly on the floor….oh well, so much for “first class”. D and I talked for a few hours, and then we tried to sleep. D was out like a light but I couldn’t sleep in the seats (remember Hong Kong Jody??) and there was no more room on the floor. So I went up on the upper deck and slept on the floor there under the stars. The next thing I knew was D wakeing me up at 0530h to watch the sunrise. We chatted another few hours and I got a lot of riding and hotel tips from him since I was heading to where he came from. We landed in Santa Rosalia at 0830h, had breakfast together and D headed North to Alaska, and I South to Panama.
The ride south to 50km south of Loretto and the resort of Danzante was as hot as it was beautiful…amazing desert and 45oC….the wind in your face was like a blast furnace….it was actually hotter when you exceeded 100k/h.
I arrived at Danzante around 1400h and was greeted by the most fabulous owner/hosts you could ask for, Mike and Lauren Farley. They have only 9 beautiful rooms, and only one other was occupied since this was “low season” because of the heat. In fact Mike said in August the temp. hits the 50’s.
This is real desert with scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, and all the other critters we only see on TV. Lauren added it only rains two or three days (in November, I think) a year, but when it does, it dumps 20 inches at a time.
I can’t describe Danzante, but you MUST check it out at www.danzante.com ˇ
It’s an all inclusive “Eco” resort that I found out from my sailing friends, John and Pricilla Baldwin, who are investors, and even with my special rate, I could only afford 2 nights. I relaxed a few hours in the 43oC heat and then headed down to the pool for “happy hour” and some of the best marguritas with home made salsa and taco chips I ever had (eat your heart out, Joanne), and then a great home made dinner. The next morning, they packed me a lunch and I kayaked alone about 2 hours to a deserted island and swam, snorkled, climbed its 800 foot steep peak, and slept in the sun until 1600h when I headed back for my second and last happy hour and dinner at Danzante. After breakfast the next day I left the luxury of Danzante and Mike and Lauren, and headed down the 5 hours to La Paz.
After I get my bike fixed tomorrow it’s the ferry to Topolombampo/Los Moches and from there probably down the coast to Acapulco, and then inland to Guadelajara, Taxco, Cuernavacas, and Mexico City. (Please excuse the spelling of some of these city names. The next time I’ll have my map with me !)
A short note on what’s it’s like to ride in Mexico.
So far I covered over 8,000 kms. (including about 2,000 in Mexico) and since leaving Quebec I have NOT hit one single pot hole…whether autoroutes, interstates, toll roads, main roads, back roads, or dirt roads….well actually there was ONE near Guyamas, but you had about 5 warning signs BEFORE you came to it!
You never go more than 2 hours of riding without coming to military check points (most frequent)…looking for weapons on drugs, immigration checks…checking papers, and agriculture check points…where if you are carrying meat, veggies, or fruit, they will fumigate you.
They are all very professional and even the military (all carrying machine guns and even a few with rocket launchers) go “ga ga” when they see the bike…I have yet to see anything that big here in Mexico. They rarely search me, and the odd time they do, it’s very brief. They are more interested in checking out the bike and where I’m from and where I’m going, and it usually happens that they teach me some Spanish and I teach them some English. When leaving they all like to say, “hasta la vista, BABY” and wave me off with “Buena suarte” (good luck). While this is happening the cars are waiting in line to be searched. While I’m usually done and out in 5 minutes, each car normally takes 10 – 15 minutes!
Most trucks and cars wave at me when we pass, and pedestrians shout, wave, or whistle… so far it’s been really great and EVERYONE has been so friendly.
There worst thing about the roads are the “topes” (the bumps they put across the road to make you slow down…like Westmount does). You have 2 – 4 of these in every village and town, and most of the time there are NO warning signs, nor are they painted. They are at least a foot high and only a foot wide.
They are not easy to see especially when the road is very dusty, and I’m busy looking everywhere except the road. I hit a few of these at 60 – 70 k/h…I thought I broke my front fork in half…but no damage. Now I always keep my eyes peeled when I approach any town!
At the coast the temp. is usually in the 30's by 1000h and the 40's by 1400h....despite the fact you don't have the humidity that we have in Mtl., it's still HOT, but I love it! The nites are usually in the upper 20's.
I hope this gives you some flavor of what it's been like for me so far. If you've got any special "requests", just ask.
Well, that's it for now...addios.
It's now 1600h and guess where I'm going now !....To the beach with a margurita or two in my hands............
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