Pictures 2

Sunset from my room with a view in Hidalgo del Parral.

Cowboy boots in Parral. They were only like $75, not bad.

Crazy fog on the Espinoza Diablo (endless twisties for about 100 miles).

Filete Zarandeado in Mazatlan - grilled fish with peppers, tomatoes and onions. Mmm mmm good.

Having a Mango Magarita at the Bar Playa in Sayulita...

Sunset on the Pacific from my seat at the beach bar.

My palapa (beach hut) for two nights in Sayulita.

Birria de Barbacoa - stew with barbequed pulled pork. Really tasty. Went back for more stew.

Tequiiila! Touring the Jose Cuervo factory.

In Guadalajara

Hola from Guadalajara.
From Hidalgo del Parral, I went down to Durango and rode the Espinoza Diablo. Wow! What a road. That road and the ride down to Batopilas alone is totally worth coming to Mexico for, besides all the good food and great people.
I think they wanted to call Hwy 40 the Tail of the Dragon, but that was already taken. Amazing, it was just like Deals Gap, but about 10 times longer. My knees really started hurting after so much peg dancing. The scenery was like from a movie set or something.. thick fog with steep rocky cliffs jutting out, I was thinking of Gorillas in the Midst...

Spent the night in Mazatlan and then headed down to Sayulita (near Puerto Vallarta). I got a palapa (hut) for $20 a night and spent two nights there, taking a day off from riding yesterday to rest the bones. That town has a nice vibe to it, everyone was just so chill.

Am in Guadalajara now, hoping to get my rear tire changed tomorrow and then am heading back down to the coast towards Zihuatanejo. Oh, and I stopped by the Jose Cuervo factory today. 3 year aged Tequila sure does taste nice... :)

Puerto Vallarta

I am near Puerto Vallarta. Staying in a hut on the beach. Its beautiful. Taking a day rest today.

Pictures 1

The infamous road down to Batopilas. The scenery is very distracting.

auDRey and me taking a break before plunging down into the canyon.

Real de Minas, my hotel in Batopilas. $35 por noche.

Riding up from Bato. Hope no one is coming around that blind turn.

Awesome tarmac twisties heading into Hidalgo del Parral.

Hidalgo del Pärral

Hola from Hidalgo del Pärral.
Went down to Batopilas yesterday, a 40 mile dirt road down into a canyon, dropping about 6000 ft. Wow. Just Wow. Is that some crazy road or what. I was mucho happy with myself that I didnt die going down or coming up. It was great fun with only a few pucker moments. And the highway from Creel to Parral was also great fun to ride, good tarmac. The twisties are so nicely set in these mountains. The DR is doing fine.

Heading to Durango and the Espinoza Diablo (road called the Devils Spine) tomorrow.

The scenery these past two days was just amazing. Totally enjoying it here...

Cant Send Photos

Ok, looks like I can´t send photos through picture messaging when I´m roaming. Oh well, will at least send a few text updates and post pictures later.

Ride is going well so far. Rear tire is wearing faster than expected, will change it in Guadalajara this weekend. Bike is doing good.

The food has been good and people are very friendly. Riding down into Copper Canyon today.

Almost feels like riding in India.
In Creel, Mexico. Border crossing no problem. People very friendly. Tire doing good.

auDRey... in Mehico-mode

Getting the bike ready and starting to pack all the luggage

Picture taken with my camera phone, a Motorola Z6. Quality isn't the best, but it'll do.

My Dashboard

That's going to be my view for the next 18 days...
From left to right:
Digital Camera - Canon SD400 5 MP
Radar Detector Remote Mute Button (at base of camera mount)
GPS - Garmin 60Cx in a Touratech Locking Mount
Video Camera - Canon Elura 100
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
BarPack Folding Map Case

And yup, I can still see my speedo through all the clutter, plus I get a speed reading on the radar detector.

My Packing List

Here's everything that I'll be taking with me to Mehico:

Motoport Riding Suit
Under Armour Shirt (x3)
Under Armour Pants (x2)
Bicycle Shorts (with padding)
Dry-Fit T-shirts (x2)
Regular T-shirts (x3)
Thermal Top
Jeans (x1)
Shorts (x1)
Swim Trunks
Boxers (x3)
Silk Riding Socks (x3)
Neck Gaitor
Rain Liners
Aerostich Rain Glove Covers

Toilet Paper (small roll)
Eye allergy drops
Mosquito repellent
Nail cutter
First Aid Kit
Eye Glasses
Spare Contacts

Lonely Planet Mexico
LP Spanish Phrase Book
Meixco Guia Roji Map Book
GPS Users Manual
Sudoku Book, Pencil
Journal, Pen
Passport, Title, Insurance and copies

Digital Camera - Canon SD400 5 MP
Video Camera - Canon Elura 100
Helmet Camera - Twenty20
GPS - Garmin 60Cx
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
iPod nano with Etymotic ER-6i earphones
Cellphone - Motorola Z6 and spare with extra batteries
SD Cards (2 GB in camera with spares: 1 GB and 512 MB)
microSD Cards for GPS (2 GB with US maps, 1 GB with Mexico maps)
Chargers for all devices
3-into-1 Wall Socket
iPod Speakers
LED Head Lamp

>Bike Related:
Spare Tubes (Front and Rear)
Tire Irons (in Tool Kit)
Tire Plugger Kit
Slime Air Compessor
Chain Lube
Siphon Pump
Vice Grips (x2)
Socket Set
Epoxy Bond
JB Weld
Clear Helmet Shield
Electrical Tape
Duct Tape
Digital Multimeter

With all that set, let the journey begin!

Next: Day 1 - 3, Chicago to Creel, Mexico

Ride Report Index

About The Bike

Her name is auDRey and she's a 2004 Suzuki DR650SE. She has about 7000 miles on her and I picked her up in Tucson last November.

The reason I chose this bike for the Mexico trip and future international bike trips is:
- Dual-Sport capability > meaning it can handle dirt and gravel roads as well as cruising on the highway
- Tube Tires > easier to patch/repair a tube tire than to repair a tubeless tire like sport bikes
- Spoked Rims > can absorb the shock of poor roads better than alloy rims
- Expandable Gas Tank > this bike's design is such that the original gas tank (3.4 gallons) can be upgraded with a 4.9 gallon one (which I have) or a massive 7.9 gallon tank for crossing the Sahara desert.
- Air Cooled > the bike's engine is cooled by moving air with no water-cooling (radiator), meaning less parts to worry about failing
- Carburetion > this bike has carburetors instead of fuel injection because it's easier to work on incase something goes wrong while traveling

Modifications to the bike from stock:
- IMS 4.9 gallon gas tank
- FMF Q2 exhaust
- Jet Kit
- Happy Trails Skid Plate (to protect the engine)
- ProTaper SE Handle Bar
- Side Rack for soft luggage
- Rear Rack

Farkles (Functioning Sparkles: electronic add-ons)
GPS: Garmin 60Cx with Touratech Locking Mount
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
Digital Camera: Canon SD400 5 MP
Video Camera: Canon Elura 100
Cigarette Lighter for running air compressor

Next: My Packing List

Ride Report Index

The Route Plan

My Rough Route Plan

For all my previous trips in the US and the one in Canada, I've had the benefit of using Microsoft Streets & Trips to plan the trip in great detail. Some people might say planning trips in great detail doesn't allow for that "adventure" factor that comes with trying to find a hotel after arriving in a city, or turning on the wrong road and discovering something interesting, etc. My mind set has been that if the simple details like route and lodging can be taken care of, then more time and energy can be spent on the actual riding and seeing the local sights. I prefer touring this way also because the number of days for my trips are usually very limited and this allows me to maximize the experience of the ride. However, for Mexico, even though I have the auto-routing GPS map for the country, I'm going to try touring without having all the details nailed down and go with the flow. I still think this kind of adventure-touring is more suited when the trip is a month or longer, as opposed to a few weeks.

With 12 days off from work, I hatched a plan for an 18 day ride from Chicago to Mexico and back. I'm taking 2 days to get to the border, with 14 days in Mexico and 2 days to get back. The run to the border and back will definitely be a bit strenuous with 800 miles a day, but I've done quite a few 700 mile plus days before, so not too worried about stamina. The last leg of the journey from the border back to home will most likely be the hardest part, as I might be sore from the previous 16 days on the bike. I'm giving myself 3 days from Monterrey back to Chicago.

Once in Mexico, I plan to ride around 200 to 250 miles a day and see where that gets me. I figure my tires will last about 6000 miles, which are Kenda K270 on the front and back. With 3000 miles taken up with riding to and back from the border, I have about 3000 to wander around Mexico. With that in mind, I planned a rough route taking me through the Copper Canyon region, down towards Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, going around Mexico City to the ruins of Teothituacan and then up to Guanajuato and ending in Monterrey, where I'll be meeting my Mexican friend from work, Cesar at his home.

I did all my research about where to go and what to see by reading ride reports of other motorcyclists that have gone to Mexico on, an adventure touring motorcycle forum. Most of the ride reports focused on an area called Copper Canyon in the north-west part of Mexico. This is a canyon system similar to but much larger than the Grand Canyon. The views are supposed to be amazing along with some nice dirt riding down into the canyon to a town called Batopilas. That will be my first real destination. From there, I plan to stay in the mountain region and head down to Durango to ride the famous Espinoza Diablo (the Devil's Spine) road to Mazatlan. It's supposed to resembled Deals Gap back in the US; a tight and twisty road with corners upon corners.

From Mazatlan, I'd like to spend a night in Sayulita, which is a small town just north of Puerto Vallarta, without all the crowds of the big tourist town. Then, I'll be heading inland through the town of Tequila (where the drink comes from) and then visit Guadalajara, known for it's colonial architecture among other things. Not having sufficient time is going to restrict heading inland more as I really want to ride down the Pacific coastal highway from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo. Again, I really wanted to ride down and stay at the little beach town of Zipolite before turning back, but I don’t think I'll have enough time. So, from Zihuatanejo, I'll be heading straight for the ruins of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City. I'm hoping to avoid going through the capital as it's known to have very bad traffic. From there, I want to swing by the colonial towns of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, before ending the trip in Monterrey. I wanted to visit the mountain town of Real de Catorce, but there's a very big festival taking place during the month of October where the town is engulfed with people making pilgrimages to the holy site, and I was warned that going into the town would be limited.

I think this should be doable in the time I have allowed for this trip. I'm planning to get an early start each morning and spend the late afternoons and evenings at my destination for the day. If the above plan doesn't work out, I'll just go with the flow and turn back when I'm about half way through my trip.

After all, it's the journey that's the destination...

Next: About The Bike

Ride Report Index

Story Behind The Trip

Whenever I tell someone that I'm riding to Mexico on my bike, I usually get asked, "Why?" I'd like to respond with a "Why not." I have a motorcycle capable of riding to and around Mexico and I've never been to Mexico, so why not.

This trip was actually spawned by my ultimate desire to ride around the world on a motorcycle. Again, why... because it's an interesting way to travel and see different places. But before I can venture on a trip like that, I figured a short trip to experience riding in a less-developed country would be necessary experience. I also wanted to get experience with crossing international borders by land on a motorcycle, regarding customs and importation, etc. Another reason Mexico is a great warm-up destination is getting practice with being immersed in a foreign language. I know French from school, but have only been learning Spanish through language CDs. On my ride around the world, I won't be able to learn all the different languages, but learning the basics and being able to use them will be key to having a good time.

A riding friend of mine from Chicago, Tim and I hatched a plan last year to ride to Honduras. I figured this would be great experience, especially riding with somebody else. However, something came up and Tim couldn't go, but I decided to stick with it and go solo. I rode 10 days solo through Canada in my first real year of riding, so I'm not too concerned about riding solo. There's actually some benefits to it, as well. The locals and other tourists are much more likely to approach and help a single person as opposed to a group. But then again, there's also some risks involved; such as, what if I break down in the middle of no-where, get into an accident or worst-case, get mugged or kidnapped. Let's just say I have faith in human-kind and have tried to be prepared for most situations that might arise on the road.

As this would be my first dirt-bike, I prepared for this trip by tagging along with Anna and Mike who went to ride the Trans-America Trail in Mississippi in April. I think I got some good experience riding gravel roads, tight forest trails, open fire roads, dried lake beds, sand and even getting stuck in some clay. And I also got Mike's approval that I should be fine (he's been riding dirt for many years).

One of the concerns of non-riders is "What's happens if you break down or get a puncture in the middle of no-where?" Well, I learn how to fix those myself. Mike showed me how to replace the inner tubes and change the tires on the bike, which can be done by one person out on the trail. I'll be carrying the tools required to fix a flat or other small mechanical problems. I also always carry with me a siphon pump in case I run out of gas and need to siphon from a passing vehicle.

Small Tool Kit to carry some wrenches and sockets along with spares for the carbs.

Tool Bag to carry JB Weld, some rubber silicone, zip-ties, small roll of duct tape and the Leatherman all purpose tool.

Slime Tire Repair Kit: mini air compressor and slime to fill in punctures. I'm also taking a tube patch kit.

Tire Irons stashed under the bike, needed to remove the tire from the rim to repair punctures.

Regarding safety gear; in case I have an accident, I'd like to protect myself the best I can to reduce injury so that I can keep going. I always wear my Arai RX-7 Corsair helmet, Spidi Penta gloves, Sidi Vertebra 2 Tepor boots and my new Motoport Air-mesh Kevlar Riding Suit. The gear is no good if it's not comfortable and besides performing well in a crash, good gear has to be comfortable and functional. My Motoport riding suit is tailor-made as my previous gear was always a little loose here or too tight there and made for discomfort while riding. Having gear that fits perfectly goes a long way in making the ride enjoyable. I'll also be carrying the rain liners for the riding suit, rain covers for my gloves, cold-weather gloves, thermal under-liners and cooling vest. Another simple touch to adding comfort on the bike is wearing bicycling shorts that have a foam pad in them. That will be resting against my beaded seat cover, which is the best solution for me for long distance riding comfort.

Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Jacket

Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Pants

In case I get into an accident where my gear could not protect me and I have to be hospitalized, I bought Medical Air Evacuation insurance from MedJet Assist. Their program will fly me from any international destination to a hospital of my choice (preferably close to home) if I need further hospitalization for my injuries and they'll fly my bike back too. It'd be better to spend a few weeks or months in a hospital close to home rather than in a foreign country.

My First Aid Kit, which comes pretty loaded with lots of bandages, antiseptic ointments, splint, common pills and also instructions on what to do in different scenarios.

So, as one can see, I've tried to best prepare myself for all contingencies. With all the time and money that's gone into preparing for the worst case scenario, I hope I never have to call on any of them. It's like they say, "Carry an umbrella and hope it doesn't rain."

All this preparation is so that I can enjoy the actual experience of riding through Mexico.

Next: The Route Plan

Ride Report Index