Category Archives: Mexico moto tour 2014

Day 10: The End

On the last day I left Ontario with destination San Francisco. It was hot, but otherwise pretty uneventful at first – just freeway riding, some gas and water stops, the usual. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until freeway 580 in San Leandro. I suddenly started feeling some vibration – I initially thought that it was due to the uneven road. Then it got stronger, and suddenly the bike started fishtailing a little. That’s when I realized that I had a flat rear tire. I changed to the right lane, and since an exit just came up, I took it.

I stopped at a nearby parking lot in front of a hospital, and tried pumping up the tire again. I was less than 30 minutes from home, so I thought I might be able to make it if it was a slow leak. But the inner tube was in shreds, so there was no way to fix it without taking the tire off.

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I had tire spoons and a spare inner tube, but without a motorbike stand and a tire changing stand, this would likely take 2 hours to complete. So I decided to call AAA. They said it would take up to an hour and a half, but I was ok with that. An hour and a half later the tow truck went to the wrong place and took off again. Another call to AAA, and another hour later the truck finally came. The hospital security came down a couple of times to ask what I was doing, but they didn’t send me away.

The driver was a biker too, so we had something to talk about and it was quite a pleasant ride home. I finally came home shortly before midnight.

The rear tire is about 2/3 gone, so I would have done another 1000-2000 km on it, but if I have to take it off I’m going to replace it with a new one. I’ll just ride to motoshop on the flat tire and do it there – I have to do an oil change and some other maintenance anyway.

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Day 9: Mechanical Problems

The new underpants and the touring pillow worked wonders – I don’t think I’d have made it without. The reduced amount of ass-grip I get on the bike would be a problem on curvy roads, but since everything in Arizona and southern California is flat, that was not an issue.

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I set off in Tucson with “somewhere near LA” as today’s destination. That means highways and freeways all the way. It was incredibly hot, and I had to stop half a dozen times to drink water and cool down.

At one point, the engine started stuttering as if it were running out of fuel, which seemed a bit premature given that I had fueled up not too long before. I pulled into the next gas station, and lo and behold the fuel hose had ruptured and gas was gushing everywhere. It could only have happened a couple of minutes earlier, otherwise I’d have run out very quickly. It was a little scary for a moment seeing gas run down a boiling hot engine while standing next to a gas pump, but it all went well.

Luck was on my side as there was a truck shop just next to the station, where I was able to buy some hose and a couple of clamps to fix the bike.

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Let it be said in defense of Suzuki that the broken fuel house was not an original part, but a different one which came with the larger tank that I installed. The hose was a bit too short, so I stretched it a bit, and that’s why it broke. I should have known better.

With the new hose in place, I made it until Ontario, where I’m staying at the Econolodge.

On a side note, I have been patently unsuccessful attracting girls with my motorbike (both on this tour and elsewhere), so I would not recommend a motorbike if that’s what you have in mind – a small dog will be much more successful.

If, on the other hand, you want to talk to random men at gas stations, particularly middle aged ones, a motorbike is exactly what you need. They will be very happy to give you many useful tips about riding white they board their SUVs, revel in the memories of their own motorbike adventures of days long gone, or tell you the story of how they went to Sturgis. Good stuff.

Day 8: Crossing the Border

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I brought several pairs of underpants on this tour – that’s the kind of guy I am. They are all of the same type, and that was a big mistake as it turns out.

Also, my riding gear is rainproof, all-season gear from Switzerland, so I’ve been sweating like a cheese in the sun for the past week.

And my DRZ, being basically a dirt bike, has a seat the design of which must have been inspired by a 2×4.

This combination has led to some very sore spots on my butt – I can’t ride for more than a few minutes without it getting painful.

So tonight I bought some different underpants, in the hope that they’ll have different pressure points, and a small pillow which I’m going to duct tape to the seat. I’m sure it’ll look very stylish.

Today I started out in Esqueda. As my last action in Mexico, I checked out an unnamed lake in the vicinity. It turns out that it’s an artificial lake, but it was still quite pretty.

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I'm a sign, not a cop

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After that, I crossed the border in Agua Prieta which was quite painless. Much to the joy of the drivers, I lane split to the front and was through in just a few minutes. They were very pleased to see such a nice motorcycle as a distraction during their long wait.

American highways are so smooth and the drivers so considerate and law-abiding. I have to get out of Mexico mode if I want to keep my license.

Due to my sore butt, I only made it to Tucson. Tomorrow I’m aiming for LA.

Day 7: Cucurpé, Arizpe and Esqueda

Today was a good day. I left Magdalena and took a small road towards Cucurpé – on the way I explored some unpaved side roads, rode through some cattle and horse farms, and finally came back to the paved road.

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But the fun started after that. 80 kilometers of perfect motorcycling roads – twisty, great scenery and just enough potholes and debris on the road to keep things interesting.

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Many beans were given that day

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I took a break in Arizpe, a very beautiful little town on the way. I had been there for maybe 5 minutes when a woman introduced herself as a journalist of the town newspaper and offered to answer any questions I might have. I told her what I was doing, and asked her whether there was any place I could east something. Everything in the town was closed, but she pointed me to a restaurant on the way I had come. I choose not to go there and ate a banana instead on a bench in front of this church:

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Church in Arizpe

After a while an old man came by and we chatted for a while. Apparently he has a friend in Oakland who used to visit Arizpe quite often. As most men in Sonora, he wore a cowboy hat, which the wind blew off his head while we were talking.

After Arizpe, another 50 awesome curvy kilometers. I ended the day in Esqueda, a rather ugly and dusty town, and ate some pretty good tacos.

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Tomorrow I’m going to try to check out a nearby lake – then I’m going to head north and cross the border in Agua Prieta. I’m aiming to reach some place in the Tucson area.

Day 6: Sleeping on Benches

Today I went down to Caborca (yesterday’s original destination). Nothing too interesting except some shot up trash cans.

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Then took a smaller road to Tubutama. On the way there, I decided to take a break and used the shadow and the bench of a small chapel in the middle of nowhere. For reasons unknown to me, there was a used pistol cartridge on the ground in the chapel. The people from Sonora sure like to shoot.

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I stayed there for an hour and a half trying to read the first few pages of Isabel Allende’s “Retrato en Sepia”, but my Spanish isn’t really up to the task yet. I only got to page two.

After checking out lake Cuauhtémoc I went on to Tubutama, hoping to get something to eat. Every single shop, bar and restaurant was closed.

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Lake Cuauhtémoc

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Tiny Jesus on a huge cross

I rode around a bit until I found an old man who told me tat they would open at four. It was already a quarter past three, so I just slept on a bench for a while. At for, a tiny grocery store opened, but they didn’t have anything except chips and soda, and the old woman running it was very unhelpful. So I bought Mexico’s most expensive water and chips and went on to today’s destination, Magdalena.

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Church in Tubutama

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Cafe in Tubutama, closed

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Weird statue in Tubutama

Here I’m at the most luxurious hotel of the trip so far (I see a trend here). Magdalena is pretty big and has a nice downtown, where I ate some gorditas – awesome, why did I never see that in SF?

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Main square in Magdalena

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The same guy from Tubutama, but in Magdalena. He must be important.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to find my way across the desert, but since I don’t have a map and the GPS doesn’t have the trails, that’s probably a stupid idea. I’m going to get some extra food and water later, just in case. If Google maps is to be trusted, it should be possible.

Day 5: Bad Planning

Back home, I thought I wouldn’t need to get a paper map of Sonora – there wasn’t any at REI and I thought I’d just get one at a gas station in Mexico. That was a huge mistake and pretty much cost me a day.

It started out pretty well – breakfast at a nice restaurant in Golfo de Santa Clara. It’s a fishing town so I had the omelette with camarones, which was excellent. The local fishermen and the fat town cop were also eating there – they spoke too fast for me to understand, but the fishermen were asking the cop for advice regarding some fishing permit or boat permit, and had quite an animated discussion.

I went back to my hotel and planned the day’s route by looking at Google maps. I wanted to make it to Caborca via some minor roads, set up the GPS and set off.

I didn’t even make it out of the town when the GPS started rebooting every 30 seconds. Very annoying because I didn’t have any other map. So I went to four different stores I’d expect to have maps, but lo and behold, Mexican gas stations, book stores etc do not carry maps, and nobody had any idea where to buy one.

So I headed in what I thought might be the right direction, but after a while I decided that was a bad idea, and decided to fix the GPS instead. It was noon and hot as hell, so I wanted to use the shade of this little chapel next to the road.

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I rode down to it, and got the GPS fixed after a while. Then I wanted to continue, but before I could get back on the road, this happened:
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I couldn’t get the bike out again, so I had to unload it and shovel sand with a pointy stick for about half an hour. Instead of putting it on the shoulder I put it in some harder sand, loaded it up again, and wanted to continue. Not 5 meters later I got stuck again and had go through the entire process once more. In the process the windshield for cracked.

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So when I was finally able to continue, I didn’t notice that the stupid GPS had chosen a terrible route – 100 km and an hour longer than necessary, and most of it on a highway along the Arizona border.

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Halfway there I tried three more stores for a map, and was finally able to buy the only available one – all of Mexico on one sheet. Not particularly useful (most of the places I’ve been to aren’t even on it), but at least it will get me somewhere when the GPS fails completely, which it probably will.

My butt was too sore to make it all the way, so now I’m in Obregon, a crappy border town. Tomorrow I’ll probably go to Santa Ana.

On the plus side, I’m in a rather nice hotel and used that to do laundry in the sink. Right now my clothes are hanging on chairs, the heater is turned up all the way, and the window is open.

Day 4: The Beach

I’m sitting at the beach as I write this. Eat this, workaholics!

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Today was another day on the highways. Nice scenery, but not much happened. I guess the highlight is that I “fixed” the problems the motorcycle had – as it turns out the petcock got half closed (probably by a bush while going off road) and so the engine didn’t get enough fuel at full throttle. I opened it and everything works fine now.

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Now I’m staying at a little hotel at the beach in Gulfo de Santa Clara, a small fishing town on the east side of the gulf of California.

I already got scammed out of $10, so I guess I’m really at the beach. The hotel guy didn’t want to say the price, then talked me into paying in US dollars (I should have seen it coming), and then obviously had no change in any currency. Oh well.

For some reason nobody goes into the water – instead, they just drive up and down the beach in very loud pickup trucks.

I don’t know yet where I’ll go tomorrow, but I want to head inland and hit some trails again.

Now I’m going to get some dinner. Remember: always pay in pesos.