6-24-06 start 48,154 end 48,737
Left Stanley on ID hwy 21, a great road that goes over two big mountain passes
6-24-06 start 48,154 end 48,737
Left Stanley on ID hwy 21, a great road that goes over two big mountain passes on its' way to meet I-84 near Boise. Lots of 25 mph curves so slow going. Realy makes me realize I live in the wrong part of the country for remote exploring. As big as Texas is, there is very little public land. From S. Dakota al the way to Oregon there is unlimited oportunity for dirt road exploring. Of course I haven't been able to do too much, since I'm on a road bike, and although it seems like I should have all the time in the world, I do have places I need to be. With that in mind, the rest of the day was pretty much just a high speed blast west on I-84 to my brother's place in Portland. Nearly a 600 mile day, and the first 150 was slow.
6-25 to 7-2-06
For the motocentric reader, there isn't much to tell here. I spent a week at my brother's place, and my Mom and my 11 year old nephew flew out from WI to meet us. Spent the week visiting with my 14 month old niece, who I had never met. Went bicycling, went to the beach, went to some waterfalls, to the movies, out to eat, to some brew pubs, to a rodeo, and all that kind of thing. Moto content: I washed my bike and changed the oil. But speaking of the bike, I don't know how it could have performed any better. All I have done to it, in 4400 miles, is put gas in it and check the oil and tire pressures. There was about 4600 miles on this oil, and it used maybe 1/2 a pint in all that time. Maybe I'll get 100,000 miles out of this one.
7-3-06 start 48,767 end 49,248
Left Portland about 10, after my brother took my Mom and nephew to the airport. Went south on I-5 to Salem, then east on OR-22 to Bend and south to Klamath Falls. It's been really hot out here and I was trying to stay up in the foothills of the Cascades to stay cool. I'm wearing a 3/4 length First Gear Cordura jacket, and that is OK till mid afternoon, then I have to take it off. Up to now I would have been OK with my mesh jacket, but Colorado is still to come, so I might be glad yet that I took this one. I gravel rashed my calf and palm of my hand trying to show my nephew how to wheelie a mountain bike, so I got a little reminder of why we wear protective gear. Right now I am southeast of Lakeview OR, probably very close to where OR, CA, and NV meet. I know, if I had a GPS I would know for sure. Anyway, I left OR hwy 140 that I was on to go up a gravel Forest Service road to find a campsite, when I started seeing ribbons and arrows from what I assume was a recent mountain bike race. I kept going, thinking there might be an after race party with naked mountain biker chicks dancing around a bonfire or something, but at the end of the road there was just an empty camp ground. Bummer. 12 miles of dusty gravel put the kibash on the wash job on the bike, but at least I got a free campsite out of it.
7-4-06 start 49,248 end 49,879
Rode the 12 miles back out to the paved highway, Oregon 140. This is a great road that goes over several 6,500 foot passes before dropping into Nevada. This country is dry, with hills and views I would think of in Utah or Arizona, not Oregon. Having seen "The World's Fastest Indian" recently, I wanted to stop by the Bonneville Salt Flats, and see what I could see. I have driven through on I-80 before, but never stopped to see the racetrack. I ended up talking to a guy riding a Guzzi California at a gas station, and he convinced me to go south to US 50. Besides, I am going to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which is supposed to blow the doors of Bonnevile. He was right, this road goes through the Great Basin, which is a bowl maybe 250 miles in diameter that doesn't drain to one of the oceans. Naturally in a wetter climate this would be a huge lake, but now there are lots of dry lakebeds in the bottom. Be prepared out here, there were several stretches where it was 120 miles or more between any significant civilization. Around 7 I took a dirt road on some BLM land to see if i could find a campsite. After a few miles, I could see a dry lake ahead, so I kept going till I got to a place I could bushwhack out to the lake surface. The lake had to be 4 or 5 miles in diameter and hard packed. Not completly smooth though, the way it cracked when in dried left it about like a cobblestone street. Easy to ride on though. I resisted the urge to open up the Concours and see what it would do, but I went 60 or so and I'm sure I could have gone 120 no problem. There is the matter of being by myself, miles and miles from anything though. I camped near a probably 50 foot high rock "island" in the middle. I know, I know, I need to post the pictures.
7-5-06 start 48,879 end 50,264
I am now 4 for 4 with Moab, I have been here 4 times and it has rained 4 times. It is raining now and raining hard. This is supposed to be a desert.
I rode US50 to I-70 and then took Utah 24 through Capitol Reef Nat. Park, which I had never been to. Similar land forms to the Moab area, but higher elevation and therefore greener and cooler. Lots of riding areas around Torrey that look like they would be good for mountain bikes or dirt bikes. The trouble with these trips is you come back with too many ideas for where to go next time.
I now appreciate how much time the Interstate system saves. It has taken me 3 full days to get here from Portland. Well, I got here at 3 today. Obviously I have taken some detours and indirect routes, but this type of trip easily adds 50 % to my travel time. Not that this is bad or good, just something to consider when planning. I thought I would have time to rent a mountain bike on this leg of the trip, but the Horizons meet starts tomorrow, and I'm still 300 miles away, so I will have to hustle tomorrow too.
A few pictures with comments. They're not too big, but could take a little while to view.
It's not the Virgen of Guadalupe, you'll see some of those once I get 2,000 miles south, but this is what those Norskies in Wisconsin build for roadside memorials.
Southwestern Wisconsin has some of the best motorcycling and bicycling roads anywhere. Seven months out of the year, anyway.
Somewhere in Wyoming. These things bug me for some reason. A painted on cattle guard. Are cows really so stupid they look at these lines and think they can't walk across them? If they are, I will never feel guilty about eating one again.
Portland Oregon, my niece Ursula, biker chick in training. Notice how much cuter she is than any other baby you have ever seen. Smarter, too.
South of US 50, near the Nevada/Utah border. This was cool. A dry lake a few miles long, miles and miles from anywhere. Out in the middle it was totally flat, with nothing to hit. I bet you could close your eyes and pin the throttle. Didn't prove that myself though.
Shrine Pass, near Leadville, CO. All motorcycles are dual sportable, it's just a matter of degree.
Leadville, Colorado. A very soggy campground at the Horizons Unlimited meet.
It rained a litle overnight, so I had to pack up soggy gear to get going in the morning.
7-6-06 start 50,264 end 50,675
It rained a litle overnight, so I had to pack up soggy gear to get going in the morning. Headed south on 191 and east on Utah 46. I was trying to find a low traffic route east into Colorado, and this one went just south of the LaSal mountain range. You climb up out of the valley 191 runs in and at the CO border the road turns into CO 90. This road runs through a huge valley beside a river, with red rock cliffs on both sides. I tried to take what my map showed as old 90 over a mountain range, it was shown as gravel on my map. I met some guys running graders, doing road maintenance, and they told me the gravel turned into dirt a few miles up the road and I wouldn't make it. Being stubborn, I ignored that warning and went ahead. When the gravel ran out, I didn't make it a quarter mile before the dirt/clay packed up between my front wheel and fender and locked the wheel, which made for a very interesting couple of seconds. So I turned around and went back, about 20 miles to the paved road. I think the road grader guys laughed when they saw me come back through. I then crossed the mountain range on the paved road and came out on 550 just south of Ridgway. Took 550 north to US 50, then east through Gunnison, and over 2 more passes and past a huge reservoir, formed by a dam in the Black Canyon. Turned north on CO 24 to Leadvile and the Horizons rally site.
I found the place without any trouble and there were probably 20 tents set up and a MASH syle tent for a pavilion. Within 2 hours I had met a couple people who I had met at HU Mexico meets in the past. Jeremiah, who left Mexico last fall and headed south. He left his bike in, I think Brazil, and is currently planning when he can get back to finish his trip, as he came back to the States to work for the summer. Also, Chris who had done a multi year round the world trip with his wife Erin (ultimatejourney.com). Chris and Erin had made some stickers up to give to people they met on there trip, and I had seen one on the toolbox of the BMW mechanic at the dealership in San Jose, Costa Rica. It didn't mean anything to me at the time, but a year later in Mexico at the HU meet, I met Chris. Erin is here with him this time in Colorado.
An American guy did a hilarious slide show of a trip he took on his Harley to the mid east in '05. Started in Germany and went through Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and I forget where else. No serious problems, except for almost getting run over by Porsches on the Autobahn.
7-7-06 start 50,675 end 50,874
Got a little rain over night, but nothing serious. Went to town for breakfast and came back to figure out what to do for the day. There was a ride over Mosquito pass, which I have never done, but is supposed to be pretty hairy. Another, less severe but still rough ride was going over another pass, while Erin, who was leading a women's only ride tomorrow wanted to scout the route ahead of time. Since I am here on my Concours, I was relegated to the girly ride. (Oooh, I'm in trouble now..) We reasoned that if I could make it on the Concours, beginning riders on dual sports should be able to do it. It ended up being a great ride over a pass and through an old mining town, with some views of 14,000 foot peaks on the way. I wouldn't have wanted to do anything real much rougher, but it ended up being totally doable on a street bike. After we got back, I decided I would ride over Indenpendence pass to Aspen, and see how the beautiful people live. The ride over the pass is incredible (I keep saying that, don't I), it's asphalt, but at times goes down to one lane with wide spots for passing oncoming traffic. Aspen is about what I expected it to be. I have been to Jackson Wyoming several yimes, an it reminded me of that. The town is in a beautiful spot, but is restricted from growing by the valley it sits in. Naturaly, this drives up property values to the point of ridiculousness. Lots of Range Rovers driven by good looking women, in a high maintenance, trophy wife kid of way. Unfortunately, I had to come back the same way, and it was raining by that time. You have to expect to have some rain in the afternoon in the mountains, but this was turning into an all day soaker. I was going to take some pictures on the way back, but the rain ended that. Got back to camp and did the normal picture show, and beer around the campfire thing.
7-8-06 start 50,874 end 50,884
It rained. I sat in my tent and read a book. It rained. I went to town and ate breakfast and did my laundry. It rained. I went back to the camp ground and stood under a tarp and talked about motorcycles. It rained. Did I mention it rained?
Ok, I copped an attitude for a while there, but the weather has just sucked. Now it's later and it's not raining. We had a presentaion by Chris Jones tonight, who is doing the Dakar rally as a privateer in January. For those that don't know, the Dakar is the Indy 500 of desert racing, held in northern Africa every year. Really fascinating insight into what really goes into preparing for something like that. For instance, the event is so grueling that 1/3 of the support trucks routinely fail to finish. Watch for him in the results.
This was followed by Lawrence, an Irish guy who is on a round the world trip, who did a little show on the portion of his trip across east Europe and the former USSR. He is probably in his 60's and rode all the way across, including the Zilov Gap, which is the part Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman took the train around in "Long Way Round". And he did it on a Honda ST1100 which is very similar in concept to my Concours.
7-9-06 start 50,884 end 51,551
Got up in the morning and guess what? No rain. Spent an hour or 2 helping tear down the big tent, and then the rain started again. I figured I had done my civic duty by that time and packed up and left. As I was leaving the Ryder truck they used to haul all the gear out wouldn't start, but I left anyway. I assume they got it going one way or another. I'm not sorry I went, but I have to say, I prefer the set up for the Mexico meeting better. There you at least have a real meeting hall for presentations and a bar to sit in if the weather isn't cooperating. Here you had to go to town if you wanted anything, and I think there was more interaction between rally goers in Mexico.
Rode south for hours in the rain. I'm realy sick of that word. I was going to take a route through Taos and southeast from there to meet up with I-40 at Tucumcari, but the cops had the road to Taos blocked off. I stopped and asked the sheriff's deputies what was up, and they said there was 8 feet of water on the road up ahead. Needless to say I didn't go to Taos. I was peretty disgusted, so I just got on the bike and rode all day, hardly stopped for anything except gas, and made it al the way to Pecos TX, where I got my second motel room of the trip. At least I got a chance to spread out al my gear inside and let it dry. Oh, the rain did quit as soon as I crossed I-40, so it didn't rain all day, at least.
7-10-06 start 51,551 end 52,032
Not too much to say today. I was on the home stretch, and pretty much just slept late, gassed up, and rode home. Took US 90, just to stay off the interstate. The Pecos river had more water in it than I have ever seen, although I haven't been here that long. Stopped in Langtry to take a look at the Judge Roy Bean tourist trap. The judge sounded almost corrupt enough to fit in with todays politicians. Got home about 6 pm.
It seems hard to believe, but Iím almost ready to pack up and head south of the border.
I have spent the last week or so doing fun things like putting money in escrow to pay my property taxes at the end of the year. It is surprisingly hard to give people money ahead of itsí due date. ďBut Mr. Tiegs, we donít know what the rate for your homeowners insurance will be until October.Ē As far as I know, Iím done bleeding money for the time being. Just have a few little things to do, like forge a couple copies of my driverís license, since personal experience has shown that it is wise to not give out the original to local cops down there, but thatís another story.
On a trip of this length, you need someone back home minding the fort, but Iíve got these guys watching my stuff, so Lord help me. Thatís Blake Berlin and Andy Snell on the left. I have had to go several hundred miles to West Texas to retrieve crashed motorcycles for both of them, on separate occasions, in the last couple of years, so if they ask you to ride to Big Bend with them, be afraid, be very afraid. Hopefully I wonít be calling them from Bolivia or someplace and asking how much gas they have in their truck. But seriously, thanks guys.
This is pretty much what you need for a trip like this. If you have your docs in order, everything else can be had with time and money. But Iím carrying 150 lbs. of other stuff, just to be safe.
Readers that are on the ball will remember that a couple of installments back I went off on painted on cattle guards. One of my vegetarian readers (probably my only vegetarian reader) informed me there is some science there, due to the way cattle brains process images. Thanks Jody. But just between us carnivores, I'm going to keep chowing down those burgers.
Real de Catorce
7-24-06 start 29,055 end 29,348
Made it through the Tortilla Curtain today (that would be the Mexican border, stolen from a TC Boyle book) without any trouble. Crossed at Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass, the actual paperwork station is about 40 miles into Mexico. It always feels weird to me to just ride across the border and keep on going, but that is what I did for 40 miles. The smaller crossings the bureaucratic thing right at the border.
I got a late start today, because as I was packing up yesterday, I discovered I couldn't find my proof of insurance for the bike. It isn't good outside the US, but at least it has the VIN of the bike and current dates, and I'm guessing some town cop in Peru or someplace won't know the difference. So that meant waiting until my agent's office opened and getting them to have the underwriter email them a form, so they could print it out for me. By that time it was 11 am, so then I thought, might as well have one last American fast food hit, since i hope I won't see any of those places for a while. So Burger King it was. Anyhoo, that meant I didn't get to the border till 3pm, so I just rode 3 hours into Mexico to the little town of Sabinas.
Now I hate to say this, but one of the first things I saw when I crossed the border, was one of the angle iron trusses that cross the road and support the overhead green highway signs. The thing was installed upside down, so the diagonal members were in compression, instead of tension the way God and any decent engineer would want them to be. It looked like it was designed properly, just installed upside down. Makes me think about things like that when I get on a cable tram, or an elevator down here. I suppose after designing machines for 20 years, I'm cursed with noticing shit like that, for life.
I have to look at the map, but I think I'll get on the road early tomorrow and try to get to Real de Catorce. I'm reading a book called "Behind the Mexican Mountains" I bought for 4 bucks at Half Price Books. I only started, but if you are planning to visit Copper Canyon in your future, as any good Horizonista should be, check it out. Written back in the 1930's by a guy from U of Chicago, it's an anthropological study of the Tarahumara (Indian tribe) from the Canyon region, but gives you a good feel for what it was like back then, as well as description of the landscape.
I could have stayed at this place for $55, with guarded parking, free access to an internet terminal and cooked to order breakfast from their swanky looking restaraunt, but alas, I'm on a budget.
So, I stayed at this dump. If I can, Ilike to get a hotel in the middle of town, so I can walk around for dinner and a beer or whatever without hassling with the bike. No parking? No problem, that's what lobbies are for. This where a relatively small bike is really handy. I think the Concours would handle most of the roads I'll see this trip, but I would have smashed the exhaust if I would have tried to get it up the steps into here.
This is what you get for your $13 in Sabinas, Cuahuila.
Like most Mexican towns, Sabinas' downtown is centered around a square with a church on the
7-25-06 start 29,348 end 29,555
Didn't really sleep very well, and I think I allowed myself to get dehydrated, so I wasn't a ball of fire in the morning, but I had a fairly short riding day planned. I rode south to Saltillo, this started out in the northern desert country and climbed pretty much the whole way there. So I hope I am in the cooler weather for a while now. It sounds counter intuitive to go south to find cool weather, but elevation is everything. Quite a bit of industry in this area, both in Monclova, which was a city on the way here, and in Saltillo. GM has a plant here and I saw coils of steel on the back of semi trucks headed north, so I assume there is a steel rolling mill nearby.
Saltillo's old town is built around the traditional plaza with a cathedral on one corner. Ths one was but by Jesuits in 17 something. As i was walking around the church, I met a guy who asked me where I was from, in English. I told him and he wanted to practice his English on me. It ended up that he knew quite a bit about the church, and he showed me some literature about a children's charity he worked on through his church. He then said if I would make a small donation, he would get me in to climb the bell tower. I still do't know if I got conned or not, but it was worth a few bucks to me regardless to go up the tower. We wound up this circular staircase to the level the bells were at, It was quite a view of the city from there. We went into the organists balcony and took a look at this 1897 German pipe organ they have, which was quite a thing on its' own. The exterior was made out of mahogany or something and lots of very intricate mechanisms, and you could see how they had cobbled little baffles and things onto each pipe to get the exact tone they wanted. It happened to be high school graduation day as well, and the ceremony was held in the church, so I watched some of that from the balcony. It looked like a beauty pagaent, with all the girls dressed to kill. I suppose the guys were dressed up too, but I didn't notice them.
It also happened to be the 429th anniversary of the towns founding. They had a festival in the plaza at night where they set up quite an elaborate stage and sound system. Some woman singer was backed up by a few guys who played all different instruments, from guitar to piano, sax, trumpet, bongos, concertina, and I don't know what all. My favorite part was when they did a real stripped down jazz tune, with just sax, piano and drums. It was a little strange, since I had never heard that kind of slow, smoky jazz song sung in spanish before, but it really sounded good. I have no clue who this woman was, but the crowd obviously did. She did a call and response song, and everybody but me knew what to say.
I moved up to a $26 hotel for tonight, because I wanted to stay in the old town and needed a place with secure parking. Ayway, i had a real interesting night just walking around town checking out everything that was going on.
06-07-26 start 29555 end 29735
I got up at a reasonable hour and got on the road by 9, after a quick breakfast. I then spent half an hour riding in circles trying to find the free road south. Finally gave up and took the cuota (toll) because I knew where it was. It really was a pretty good deal, at 52 pesos from Saltillo to the turn off to Real de Catorce. The road was not quite up to US Interstate standards, but it was close. The thing that struck me was the number of semi trucks headed north. Mostly enclosed trailers and a lot of the same freight companies you see on US roads, JB Hunt, Roadway, Schnieder, and others. The were trucks going south as well, of course, but northbound was easily 2 to 1. The road went through a lot of irrigated farmland, there were always mountains in view, but the ranges are spread out enough that the road can go between them. It rained, sprinkled really, a few times on the way down, but once I turned off the main road it was raining for real.
I realize this is only the third day of the trip, but this is already a highlight for sure. To get to Real, you have to go about 20 miles on a cobblestone road, where the cobbles have been polished smooth by traffic for who knows how long. We are not talking about formed bricks here either, these are just rounded river rocks set in the round. Kind of what I picture the Appian Way, from ancient Rome looking like. Not fun in the rain on a motorcycle. You climb most of that time, and I haven't seen a sign, but I bet Real is at 8-10,000 feet. You then have to go through a 2.3 km (~1.5 mile) tunnel to finally get to the town itself. Once I popped out of the tunnel, I was immediately acosted by 3 kids who wanted to be my agent in finding a hotel room. I let them lead me around town, first to a place that was out of my budget, then to another place where i got a fine room for $18. I gave the kids 15 pesos to split between them, but not before I taught them how to say "do you need a hotel?" in English. A bargain, as I would never have found this place on my own. Once again, i parked my bike in the lobby, but I wouldn't be afraid to leave i on the street in this town, as long as it was locked up.
Real de Catorce was a silver mining town, whose heyday was in the 1890's. After that the price of silver dropped for some reason and the town dried up. The place was more or less forgotten until 30 years ago, when it was rediscovered by artsy types, who they claim make up a good portion of the population today.Most of what I've seen so far is the same t shirts and crap that every tourist destination sells, but I'll walk around tomorrow and see what I can see. There are tourist buses that come here, most people seem to day trip out from Matehuala, the nearest town of any size. I got here in the afternoon, when they were leaving, so tomorrow I'll see what it's like with more tourists, as I've decided to stay another night.
This place attracts a very hip, upscale crowd, lots of 20 and 30 somethings with piercings and carrying guitars. It's an easy weekend getaway from San Luis Potosi or Monterrey, and all the private cars I've seen have Mexican license plates on them. There is no night life to speak of, no internet cafe, and no mountain bike rental. So I'm picturing a Hostel/Brew Pub/Restauraunt/ with internet access and bike rental. And while I'm in my perfect world, it would be full of Swedish backpacker girls with low moral standards. Potential investors, please contact me. I will be back to this place for a romantic getaway with a lady friend some day. I don't know who that will be right now, but whoever she is, she has a big treat coming. Oops. I lied about the internet cafe. There is one, which is why I was able to upload this entry. Iīm having a heck of a time with pictures though.
This is gonna get ugly....
Roosters crowing, donkeys braying, church bells ringing, now that's the way I want to wake up in a Mexican town.
7-28-06 start 29,735 end 29,735
Roosters crowing, donkeys braying, church bells ringing, now that's the way I want to wake up in a Mexican town. You appreciate the simple things in these places, like when I took this hotel room, they told me there was hot water. Well they all say that, you don't know for sure until you try it. It took a long time for the cold water to get flushed out of the pipes, but finally, glorious hot water. When I got out, I stepped fom the bathroom into the bedroom, and Wham! Down I went on the slick tile floor. I caught myself on this kind of curb that seperated the rooms on my right forearm. I immediately had visions of my arm in a cast, having to come home, and tell people what happened.
"Did the bandidos beat you up and steal your bike?"
"No, I did an endo in the shower at my hotel."
That would be the definition of humiliation. Luckily, after a few seconds it was clear my arm wasn't broken, but I have a nasty bruise and two fingers are still a little tingly.
It was actually pretty darn cold last night, and I'm only 50 miles or so north of the tropic. Unfortunately it has been cloudy and drizzly most of the time I have been here. I could see where this place would really be beautiful in a late afternoon light, if there was any sun. I stayed off the bike, and must have walked 12 or 15 miles today, all of it up and down, just checking out the area. there are several roads that lead out of here that look like they merit exploration by motorcycle or mountain bike, but it rained and I am still feeling little beat up after falling getting out of the shower this morning.
I am writng this in a really posh Italian restaraunt, by Real standards, just to give myself a little treat. I have been doing OK on my budget. I could economize a little more, but I'm not in competition with anyone to see how cheap I can travel. I expect the next 2 days to be mostly riding, the next stop I think is Guanajuato.
On my last night here, I thought I had to get a little of the local flavor, so I went to the local bar/pool hall. This was clearly a local crowd, I recognized a few guys that were doing construction work around town during the day. They were playing a version of stripes and solids, but instead of racking the balls to start a game, they would line the balls up against the long bumpers, stripes on one side, solids on the other. The table was so worn, the varnish was mostly gone from the wooden rails, and there were actually depressions in the areas where they got the most use. The felt was in good shape though. Now, I used to play a fair stick in my day, but I wasn't sure if they were playing for money, and didn't trust my spanish to keep me out of trouble, knowing how seriously some people take their pool. I just drank a couple beers (Carta Blanca, a cheap working man's beer) and tried to make a compliment when someone made a dificult shot. All this while Tejano music played and Urban Cowboy was on TV with the sound off and spanish subtitles.
All in all a very interesting couple of days. Real de Catorce has elements of several different places I have been in Mexico, but here the gringo's haven't arrived in force yet, but maybe I am just out of season.
7-29-06 start 29,735 end 30,009
Wel, I'm trying to figure out how I rode all day and only went 200 miles. Actually it's pretty easy. I was packed up and moving by 9, but when I got to the tunnel, I had to wait there a while. there is only one lane and a guy at each end with a telephone to the other guy tells you when to go. Keep in mind this is a mile and a half long. So, he told me to go, and I went. Everything was rosy unil I got past the only turn and saw headlights coming at me, so I dove for the widest spot handy, and a dually truck went past at about 30 mph. He never even lifted. Then down the 20 mile cobblestone road, at least it was dry this time. i could have taken the autopista as far as San Luis Potosi, but that would not have been in the spirit of this trip, so I found a squiggly line on the map that looked like it crossed a mountain range and took it. The mountain pass was no big deal, but it was nice to see some back country little towns, although I got lost in one for a little while. The pavement ran out in the little town of Cerro Prieto, and I continued on the gravel for a while, but after I crossed a river a couple times, through concrete vados (that's a low water bridge to a Texan) and could see it was raining in the direction I wanted to go, I wimped out yet again and backtracked to where I could hit the highway to SLP, where I could conect to a highway going Southwest, where I wanted to go. I was afraid if it rained enough I would be trapped between river crossings until the water went down.
Anyway, I got to SLP and just rode around the outskirts on a ring road to my other highway. SLP is really a hapening place, judging by the southwest outskirts. There were new houses and condos going up, along with concrete and glass office buildings. Also the Monterrey Technologico something, which I took to be a university. Very prosperous looking area. Almost makes me forget the last time I went through here I had to line a cops pocket to keep my drivers license. Almost. At least it is the only hassle I've ever had with Mexican cops. Speaking of the law, I have yet to be stopped at any kind of checkpoint. I think this is a record for miles with out one. Not that I'm complaining.
So I found my road, and wouldn't you know it, it started raining. By this time it was about 6:00 anyway, so I stopped at the first motel that looked to be in my price range. 100 pesos, with hot water and TV. Looks like most of the other people here are truck drivers or construction workers. I'm not even sure what the name of this town is, but I am warm and dry. So that's how I spent 9 hours going 200 miles. Should be an easy ride to Guanajuato tomorrow though.
7-29-06 start 30,009 end 30,110
Today is one of those small world stories that only seem to happen to me on a motorcycle trip. I rode the 100 miles or so from where I stayed last night to the city of Guanajuato. As I was riding into town, trying to get my bearings, I looked in an open mechanic shop door and saw a motorcycle rigged up for travel in a state of disassembly. I pulled a quick u turn and parked on the sidewalk. Inside were 2 Ecuadoran guys, Xavier and Enrique, who are on their way to Alaska, from Ecuador. It turned out that Xavier spoke excellent English, and we told each other about our trips. The small world part is that we have a friend in common. If you recall, a few thrilling episodes ago I told about a guy named Jeremiah, who I met in Mexico and then again in Colorado just last month. Well, Jeremiah stayed with these guys in Ecuador last winter, as Xavier's family has a hotel there. What are the odds? After they got the fan straightened out on Enrique's bike, I followed them to where they were staying, and we got me set up in a hospedaje close to where they were staying. Pickings are pretty slim in lodging as there is a festival of some kind going on. We spent the afternoon walking around taking pictures, doing the tourist thing, and talking about the things that motorcyclists talk about. You know, tire selection, what country has the most beautiful women, road quality, what age are women the most beautiful, that sort of thing. I have about 15 years on these guys, so my number was different than theirs, but I'm not telling.
Guanajuato is an old mining town, that is built in the craziest little canyon you ever saw. In the old town, every street is crooked, narrow, and steep. Of course that is it's appeal. Many of the buildings date from the mining boom, and most are in really good shape. Makes me think of Real de Catorce, only much bigger and not having spent most of a century as a ghost town, in lots better repair. A fair number of American tourists here, lots of people seem to come here for language courses, and it's just a cool place to hang out while learning. I'm going to spend 2 nights here, and visit some of the museums tomorrow.
7-30-06 start 30,120 end 30,120
I stayed off the bike today and went to several of the museums that guanajuato is known for. The most bizarre that I have ever been to is the Museum of the Mummies. Space is at apreium here, so in the 1860's they dug up a bunch of bodies in the cemetery to make room for more, and instead of skeletons, they found mummified remains. Somebody must have thought, hey, let's make some money off of this. So they built a museum to display them. Now, I have been in Mexico on Day of the Dead before, so I at least had some clue about the fascination with death here, but this was waaayy over the top. The mummies are displayed in glass cases, their shrunken skin distorting the faces into grotesque expressions. The whole tour was in spanish, but judging from some of the clothing styles, I got the idea that some were a lot fresher than 1860. They had a pregnant mummy, the world's smallest mummy (must have been a premie baby), mummy this and mummy that. Too weird. Please cremate me when I die.
Next on the list was the Diego Rivera museum, at what was his house. He must have done pretty well, judging by the house, all 4 floors of it. Rivera was known as a communist sympathizer in the 30's and just recently has he been kind of officially recognized by the state. He painted in a lot of different styles, there were some Van Goghish impessionist landscapes, cubist portraits, and some almost photorealistic still lifes. There were more styles, but I've exhausted my ability to describe them. Knowing a little of his reputation, I expected more political content in the subjects, but they seemed pretty benign, except for one of a worker at his forge, and a strange mural of a column of soldiers with larger faces superimposed that I thought looked very soviet like. I interpreted one of the figures to be a mild caricature of Lenin, but no one there could tell me anything about the subject or even when it was done.
Next on the list was the Museo Iconigrafico, dedicated to art inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixote. Mostly paintings and scultures of Quixote and his sidekick Sancho, as one would expect. This was realy a good display, even for me , who has never read the book. I suppose I'll have to now. If I was really ambitious I would learn spanish well enough to read in the original spanish. Probably won't happen. They also had popular articles on display, like chess sets, playing cards, and coins from various countries with Quixote as a subject.
Guanajuato should definitely be on the list of anyoneīs must see places in Mexico. You feel like you are on a movie set or something, the way the streets and alleys snake around between all the brightly colored buildings, and the ever present cathedrals are always in view.
The Ecuadorans left this morning for points north. Adios, amigos, I will see you again in Ecuador. Miah, if you are reading this, I told them you live in Durango, and they should contact you. I will be sending them an email with your email, but figure I might as well mention it here too. They will be going through Colorado, but not sure what route yet. They have a date they have to be in Seattle by, so they may have to by pass you.
Pictures to come, if I can quit having this upload fight me.
Real de Catorce: The view out my hotel window on a misty morning.
View of the main Cathedral in Real.
Looks a little better inside, no?
Iīm told this is where Julia Roberts, et. al., stayed while filming "The Mexican" here. I saw that when it came out, guess Iīll have to rent it sometime and see how much I recognize.
Real: Prickly pear in bloom with yet another cathedral in the background.
Some little town: Nectar of the Gods. Cuban rum and coke in a can, what a concept.
Guanajuato: Los tres motoqueros, Xavier, Andres y Enrique. My Ecuadoran friends
Street scene in Guanajuato. The colors are unbelievable here.
Guanajuato: Another cathedral? No, inside itīs a huge flea market.
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