Gustavo's Mexico Adventure 2006-2007 Page 6

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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 there.

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 picturesque beaches.

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 traffic.

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 for us.

OK, time to go have breakfast. More on the Valle experience later.

YNewYearísRideMV,

Gustavo


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