Riding fast down Mexico Hwy 15 at sunrise on Christmas Eve

Heading south on Mexico Hwy 15 at sunrise on Christmas Eve

My man cave has been looking more like a storage cave lately, so I decided to put a motorcycle in it to get back on track: )  My plan was to ride Broken Arrow, my 1995 Honda Pacific Coast, south to Puerto Vallarta over the holidays, accomplishing both a Man Cave and Man revitalization in one stroke. This was not as easy as it might sound as:  (1) All the necessary paper work to get Broken Arrow over the border would need to be completed ( a weeks-long process that was only solved at the last minute by the One  Mexican Bureaucrat Who Wants to Do His Job ); (2) BA would need some mechanical love if he was to be reliable for the 1500 mile trip and (most importantly), (3) I would need a tune up as well since I’d not ridden BA for at least three years and was pretty worried that he wouldn’t “feel good” versus my newest child, Now Voyager.

I’m aware that most of you are probably thinking, “Is Fred crazy?  Riding anything short of an armored tank into Mexico is a sure death wish,” but honestly, the issue of safety was never a major concern.   Mechanical breakdown?  Ya, that kept me awake.  And the thought of being stopped south of the border with the wrong paper work resulted in a couple sleepless nights.  But the threat of being caught up in the Narco Wars wasn’t troubling to me: )

I’ve felt guilty about casting BA aside for NV’s hi tech version of an adventure tourer for years.  After all, BA — and his exact twin

Ready to go

Broken Arrow already to go

predecessor “Ruby” — was responsible for all of our motorcycle trips prior to South America. We’ve ridden him to Alaska, throughout Mexico, and lots of places in between.  But frankly, at 41,0o0 miles and over 17 years of riding, I was worried that BA would be up for another trip.  Was he too long in the tooth to make it?  Was I?

For those of you who are not motorcyclists, you can skip this paragraph, because all motorcyclists form a bond with their machine that is very, very strong — but probably unimaginable by non-motorcyclists.  And this bond, or more importantly, its renewal was the key question about this trip.  Would Broken Arrow and me get our groove back?  Would we become one?  Or would I yearn for the newer, faster, lighter, more electrified Now Voyager?

The route was pretty simple:  haul east past Palm Springs to Indio, then make a sharp right heading south to the border at Calexico, cross into Mexicali, where I’d spend the first night. Mexicali is a dump of a down, but a familiar dump as I’d crossed it several times and knew where the Immigration and Customs offices were.  More importantly, I wanted to get across the border the first night so I didn’t have to wait for the Immigration office to open on a Saturday.  From Mexicali, I’d run east paralleling the border on the Mexican side to Sonoyta, then head southeast into the north Mexican desert.  Three or four hours later we’d hit Santa Ana and catch the major toll road, Hwy 15, dead south.  Night Two was spent in Guaymas, a small port town in the state of Sinoloa.  Day Three was an all day straight shot  of 440+ miles south through Ciudad Obregon, Navojoa, Los Mochis, Culiacan and eventually Mazatlan, for night three.  The last day would be south along Hwy 15 until turning sharp right into the mountainous jungle to the coast at San Blas, which is about 120+ miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  A couple of more hours and I’d be at La Corona:  two full days, two half days and 1500 miles later.

Easy.

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The border crossing at Calexico/Mexicali was pretty crowded on this Friday night.  Two mile long line on the US side was eased as I followed a fellow motorcyclist splitting the lanes, riding on the sidewalk, and basically doing whatever was necessary to get to the front of the line.  Pretty standard protocol for motos.

 

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Gouging those who can’t afford it.  This is an ATM on the Mexican side of the border, which is used by lots factory workers, immigrants and generally people who don’t look well-off.  Which, of course, makes it the perfect place to put the World’s Most Expensive Cash Machine that charges $7.00 to withdraw your money.  Outrageous.

Wimp.  I hit the nearest decent-looking hotel in Mexicali, this Crown Plaza.

Wimp. I hit the nearest decent-looking hotel in Mexicali, this Crown Plaza.  Mexicali is a dreary, rough, factory-infested city that gringo motorcyclists don’t want to spend more time than necessary.

 

sthen

Typical immigration or customs inspection station, this one just outside Mexicali.  Line of Mexican bus and trucks waiting for inspection was a couple of miles long. Not sure what they were looking for — illegal cargo or immigrants.

 

I waited 1 1/2 days  to reach  this Starbucks in Hermosillo.  Hermosillo is probably the most cosmopolitan of the towns I went through, although its all relative when you’re in Mexico.

This cup of OXXO coffee (OXXO is the Mexican equivalent of Seven Eleven here) tasted better than the Starbucks as I’d been on the road for more than an hour by the time I got to Ciudad Obregon before 7:00AM.  Generally speaking, OXXO has the best coffee this side of a Starbucks — maybe even better if you don’t mind standing at a plastic counter to drink it.  I didn’t.

Weather for the first three days was surprisingly cold and cloudy.  Ride was pretty boring, with little interesting to see or experience.  Curves were few and far between and worth taking a picture of.

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Rain, rain go away.  Just outside Hermosillo, it started to rain, causing a major deja vue moment for me. More than twenty years ago, in the same place, at the same time of year, and same time of  day, KR and I got rain on our first real motorcycle trip together.  It was late enough at night that I told KR we’d have to go much faster than the 55MPH limit that KR liked till then to make Hermosillo before dark.  So, I cranked Ruby up to 85+ and KR and I sang our first song over intercoms on a motorcycle.

 

There’s nothing like having a piece of red meat for dinner after a long day on the road…especially if the walls are decorated with previous dishes… As you can see it was tough getting a table at this “steak”house in Guaymas, but I tipped the head waiter.

Hwy 15 is a divided four lane highway in which drivers pay to use.  It’s worth the $5 every 45 minutes if you’re trying to make time.  Toll booths can be crowded, though.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the studliest biker of them all?

Best hotel by a long shot was the $500 peso (less than $50) Bungalows Mar-Sol in Mazatlan.  Great location, huge, clean room and setting that’s right out of the 60s.

The inn keepers were (I guess) two sisters.  Nicest folks.

The place was immaculate and looked like it was freshly painted.

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Bridge over the marina bay in Mazatlan at sunrise.

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Road Dude.

There aren’t many cars on the highway early Christmas Eve.  You can tell I’m getting close to PV as the terrain has shifted from the deserts of the north to the mountains further south. A couple of hours after this picture I turned into the mountains, heading toward the ocean.

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The mountains surrounding PV are dense forest and still brilliantly green from the rainy season

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On the Coast about 120 miles north of PV, San Blas is a popular tourist town big enough to get lost in, which I momentarily did.

But I found a little restaurant on the beach just south of town.  Notice tents on the right for campers.

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Huge beach that was unfettered by fences or obstacles.  It was big, flat and beautiful.

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Travel tools:  beach, helmet, map and Blackberry…

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Happy camper in the jungle above PV.  This was the first day it got even remotely hot.

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Every little village has topes (bumps in the road to slow down traffic) and along side each tope is some kind of roadside stand.  This is a typical fruit and vegetable stand.

Off the main highway has way more advantages than its one main disadvantage:  slower speed.  One of the best is driving through little villages/towns that populate most of Mexico.  This was a relatively big one as noted by the impressive church and wide streets.

1500 miles later I pull into my Man Cave to deposit one of my Man Toys.

KR is all ready to go to dinner when I arrive.  A quick shower/pool dip and we’re off to the beach.

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Quicker than you can say “Hola, mi Epousa!” I transform from Motorcycle Adventurer to Beach Bum.