Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mainland Mexico

Daryll writes:

We spent 2 days in old Mazatlan and most of the 2nd day was spent on bike maintenance.  We had done just over 5000km by this point, so the bikes needed an oil change and some TLC.  It was still in the high 30's, so wasn't the most comfortable working on the bikes in the heat; however there was the ocean across the street from our hotel to cool off in as well as the hotel pool to relax in, so it wasn't all that bad.  I had to find some oil first though and I could only find 15w40 instead of the 10w40 that I would normally use.  The bikes seem to be running fine with the new oil though.

Hotel Belmar courtyard
 We stayed at Hotel Belmar in Mazatlan and got to meet the owner (Hector) who even though was really busy doing lots of renovations to his 200 room hotel, found the time to sit with us and give us some route suggestions as he is a rider as well.  He suggested that we take a trip to Durango, leaving the coast and into the mountains to Zacatecas, on to St Luis Potosi, to Aguascalientes, to Guanajuato and after some research found that these were really old towns and UNESCO World Heritage sites, so decided to leave the coast and the heat behind and head into the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

Sunset over old Mazatlan
As we leave Mazatlan, the terrain and vegetation changes as we head up into the mountains.  From the dry desert like landscape that we were used to, to lush green vegetation with the odd waterfall.  The road to Durango, 320km that meanders through the Sierra Madre Mountain Range climbed to around 9,000ft and about 150km was twisty mountain roads with continuous switchbacks were trucks would literally have to swing onto the oncoming lane to make a turn.  Still need to get to the video of that as well.  During the day, we would stop and take pictures, military vehicles would pass us by, I would wave and they would wave back, we passed several military checkpoints and they would wave us through.  By now, we have passed through a dozen or so military checkpoints, and were only stopped once where the guy wanted to look inside our panniers.  Guess he needed something to do that morning as he barely looked in them and just felt around, but was more interested in where we had come from and where we were headed.  It  was only after we get to Durango, did we learn that we rode through the famous "Golden Triangle" of Mexico where all the drug crops are grown.  Guess ignorance is bliss after all.

We spent 2 days in Durango which was a lovely small town with some amazing architecture and churches.  Yet again, our trip is not about the ride or the destination but more about the people along the way.  We stayed with an amazing couple (Frida, Jorge Luis and their pug Yoda).  They lived in the heart of the Zona Centro (downtown) and had an amazing rooftop patio.  They are the most adorable couple.  Frida is a lawyer and Jorge Luis is a Vet who offers the most incredible care and service to his clients and literally works 24/7.  We tagged along on our first night there as he picked up a dog that needed care and had dropped off a golden retriever to her owner after being in his clinic.  This golden was a lot more calmer than our Echo.  They had also confirmed a few of our destinations plans and offered up a few more.  We miss you guys already!

Jorge Luis, Yoda & Frida with some yummy tacos for dinner.
After Durango, we headed south to Zacatecas and then on to St Luis Potosi, both UNESCO World heritage sites.  If we are staying in a hotel for the evening, our usual routine is that we will read up on 2-3 budget hostels/hotels and map them out on the vague Lonely Planet map and then try to navigate our way into the bustling city and now the ones we were going to be in are all cobblestone as you enter the downtown area.  Not so much fun riding a heavily laden bike.  We park outside the hotel that we had selected, I normally wait outside as Angela goes in to find out the price, see if there is hot water, wifi, safe bike parking and take a look at the room.  This takes a few minutes and as she is doing this, I start talking to the 2 policia standing outside the hotel.  With the few Spanish words that I have and the few that I can understand, they ask the usual, where we are from and where we are headed and take interest in the bikes.  They are super friendly and a few minutes later 2 more arrive riding bicycles.  Ang. comes out giving the thumbs up, so we unload the bikes to make them lighter so that I can push them up the sidewalk, into the hotel lobby and into the courtyard for the night.  In order for me to get them facing in the right direction, I would have to push them out into traffic, pull them back, turn them around and push, probably with some help up the sidewalk.  Yes, I could ride it up; however the embarrassment of falling over on a busy street didn't appeal to me, so decided to do it the hard way.  The 4 cops are now watching and realized what I was planning on doing and figured they should help.  One steps out in traffic, stops the vehicles coming down the one way street so that I can move the bike out onto the street, turn around and push the bike back up the sidewalk and into the hotel lobby.  Once the first bike is in, the same policia helps stop traffic the second time around as well.  Even the police are friendly.  The next morning, as we head out of town, I take a wrong turn and head in the wrong direction down a one way street.  As soon as I take the turn, another policia is sitting in his vehicle watching, Oops.  I immediately stop, he shakes his head and I point in the direction of the gas station which is another 10meters away and head down anyway.  He wasn't too concerned.
Sculpture in Zacatecas
 We end up filling up at a gas station outside town, so that we can beat the morning traffic and as we fill up that morning, another rider on a fancy little Yamaha pulls up to fill gas as well.  Once he is done, he comes over and introduces himself (Alfonso) and we talk about his bike and he invites us over to his house a few minutes away for breakfast.  it's about 8:30am now, and he obviously had to get to work, but took the time and wanted to spend time with us and learn about where we were going.  Alfonso is a musician at night and works at a Toyota dealership during the day.

It wasn't a long ride that morning and we get to Aguascalientes by early afternoon and meet Luis Manuel who we stayed with for the night.  Luis is a professional photographer and also lives in the Zona Centro area of town.  He has his studio on the ground floor and lives upstairs.  His attention to detail and customer service to his clients should be in a Customer Service Training Manual.  In between his client appointments, Luis makes the time to give us a walking tour of the downtown core and together with his wife Marie, treat us like family. Luis is planning a trip in 3 years, for his 50th birthday, to buy a touring bike and travel around Mexico over 40 days and do his photography as well.  Hopefully I can come back and join him for apart of this trip. Luis has a coffee shop/bar next to his business and as we were outside taking pictures, the owner Marisol and her bartender (Eduardo) come out and start talking to us as and invite us over to her shop for a drink.  These acts of kindness that are leaving the memories.

Marisol, Eduardo & Luis
In Aguascalientes, we visit the Museo Nacional de la Muerte (Museum of Death) for some amazing paintings, carvings and sculptures depicting death.  We are in Guanajuato at the moment and staying with Kay, an American who now calls Guanajuato home and who has offered for us to stay an extra day so that we can kick back and relax.  Kay has been wonderful as she found us secure motorcycle parking at her friend's place so our bikes are safe.  Guanajuato is situated in a valley, extremely steep cobblestone streets, lots of one way streets and lots of tunnels, so it helps not having to ride for the next few days.

New Mexico photos uploaded and I'm hoping to get to some video later this afternoon as well.  Thanks Colleen and Joey for the Skype call this morning.  I was really nice seeing and talking to you guys. 
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  1. It was great to chat to you guys - I didn't know Joey was connecting and I walked in wondering who he was talking to! What an awesome surprise!! I hope you love Guanajuato - I have been there, and it's very cute! The tunnels and roadways are sure interesting. You should go up to the top of the mountain and you can see, and go inside, the big statue of El Pipila.

    Have fun!

  2. Thanks for the tip. Probably tomorrow as we haven't wondered out yet.

  3. Hey buddy! read your entire postings and am quite jealous of your adventures...Glad to see your having such a great time.Stay safe buddy, miss you lots...Can't help but lmao now as I think about Ang's cell phone...

  4. Hey Martin,
    Glad that you are enjoying it. Hope you are not doing this at work!