From Puerto Vallarta we
were going to ride south, along the coast to meet Johan in Lazaro Cardenas
and ride with him to his place in Valle de Bravo, south east of Mexico City.
Itís only about 400 miles to Lazaro Cardenas, but Hwy 200 along the Pacific
coast is anything but a highway in any sense we know it in the US or
straight. Since we were on the north end of Vallarta, we thought it would be
good to leave early before tourist traffic made progress through the city
very, very slow. It seems early in the Docís house means before 9 AM... I
followed Jose Luis and Lety through Vallartaís streets at a break neck pace.
To say that JL has a way around city traffic doesnít really explain the
pace. He finds holes in traffic that I didnít even think existed, and he was
riding a loaded R12GS with expanded Vario bags itís not much different out
on the open highway. If Mexicans pass just about anywhere, JL passes in
places most Mexicans wouldnít. But, riding two-up and loaded, he didnít
manage to get away from me for too long, even if I waited for a more
reasonable (in my eyes) location to make the pass.
As the hours went by and we got further south it started getting really
warm, even Lety who likes hot weather and is used to coastal Mexico was
saying it was warm in her riding gear. We made a few hydration stops in
addition to the gas stops, but not much more. JL was worried that it would
get dark before we reach Lazaro Cardenas, and he said he really, really,
didnít want to ride that road after dark. But, as we made good progress, we
decided to stop for a late lunch in a small town called Maruata. We made our
way through the dirt streets to get a beautiful beach lined with restaurants
under palapas. We had excellent ceviche, shrimp cocktails and fish tacos
Michoacan is one of the poorest states in Mexico and it was rather painfully
obvious by the state of the roads. In some sections, there was no pavement
left, only beat up dirt from the heavy traffic (did I mention that Hwy 200
is the main coastal route in southern Mexico?). As we got closer to Lazaro
Cardenas, the road quality improved, as did the views of the ocean. It was
hard to keep my eyes from wandering from the road to looking at those
When we got to LC, Johan was already there, but on his own. Turns out all
the Mexico City area crew that said would ride with him to meet us bailed
out in the last moment, leaving him to ride there on his own. We found the
hotel with help from a local kid on a scooter that stopped to look at our
bikes as we were calling Johan to see where he found rooms for the night.
Given that we were on the coast, dinner was (excellent) seafood again.
Johan insisted on an early start, because he wanted to have breakfast in
Ixtapa. I had no problem with that, and Lety was a good sport and made an
effort to be ready early. We left around 7:30, which must be some sort of
record for JL and Letty.
The border between Michoacan and Guerrero is right outside Lazaro Cardenas
and as part of a campaign to fight organized crime and drug trafficking,
there are plenty of police and military check points along most roads,
especially around the borders between states. They typically check for arms,
drugs and stolen property. Johan was leading, and he must have looked
suspicious, because we got pulled over. They even asked to see my temporary
import permit, which is a first outside of the customs checkpoints near the
US border. Jose Luis was in the back, but as the officer looking at my
permit turned around he recognized him and they started chatting. Last year
I realized Jose Luis knows everybody in Vallarta, but I didnít realize he
knew everybody in Mexico! Obviously, at that point, they lost interest in
us, as Santiago, the PFP officer, told them that if we were with El Doc we
were OK, proving once again that itís not what you know but rather who you
know that is important.
Breakfast in Ixtapa was very good, itís also a very nice (made for gringo
tourist) resort town. From Ixtapa you get on Hwy 134 which leads towards
Toluca. Itís about 250 miles to the Valle de Bravo turn off, but the
straight sections on this road are few and far between. Itís tight, itís
twisty and pavement quality varies greatly (so, itís a normal Mexican road).
Luckily, traffic wasnít very heavy, but it didnít matter much to Johan. If
Jose Luis makes most Mexicans seem relaxed in their passing habits, Johan
makes JL look like a little old lady. I figured out it would be best if I
rode in the back, at least it would be easy to catch up after I cleared
Outside of Ciudad Altamirano Johan went by a SES checkpoint, but they pulled
JL and me over for inspection. These guys were looking for drugs and arms.
There was a team of reporters taking pictures and talking to the police and
travelers. They took our pictures and I asked if I could take some too. The
young officer wasnít sure so he referred me to the post commander. I walked
over and we chatted for a while as he was standing there with a reporter and
photographer . He asked where I was coming from and how I was liking my trip
through Mexico. He also asked if it was as bad as reports make it to be
(there have been some serious confrontations between one of the cartels and
police forces in Michoacan). I told him I was having a great trip through
Mexico, really enjoying myself, and that I had not run into any issues at
all. And as we were standing there with the reporters I told him you canít
believe anything they say in the news, all they are looking for is
sensationalism and they exaggerate all their reports to make them seem more
interesting. He cracked up (so did the young reporter) and after a few
minutes, when he caught his composure he said I could take as many pictures
as wanted. If it hadnít been so hot in my riding suit I might have spent
more time there, but I really wanted to get moving, so I snapped a couple of
pictures and we quickly departed.
We made good progress after that, save for one tope incident I had leaving a
small town. I was sure we were clear of the topes, so I picked up speed to
catch up with Johan and JL, only to realize there was one more tope (of the
nasty unpainted or signed type) as I was about to hit it. Going 50 MPH, I
rolled off the throttle and snapped open again to get the front over the
tope. It worked, I hit it lightly with the front and caught some nice air
(much to the delight of the locals, I am sure). A quick check showed
everything was still there (especially the top case - kudos to Givi for
making a very good latching system), so I continued on my way.
We got to Valle around 5 PM, where Johan had prepared a very nice late lunch
OK, time to go have breakfast. More on the Valle experience later.