Crossing the border at Ojinaga was a breeze. I only had to deposit 400 US dollars for the temporary importation of the motorcycle, which will be returned to me when I leave the country. This deposit detours a person from selling vehicles in the country rather than legally importing them.
There were no conditions for Butch. I and the motorcycle were granted a six-month stay.
Mexico has a reputation as a dangerous country for many, especially for U.S. citizens. Areas near the border have a particularly bad rep, and travelers are more than frequently advised to get away from these areas as quickly as possible.
If you hear something often enough, you tend to take it to heart; hence I was a bit nervous.
Up to this point, everything had worked well with Butch and motorcycle, but Latin America is undoubtedly in a different league.
Consequently, to be on the safe side, we rode the first 400 kilometers on the tollways. After that, however, I naturally wanted to get back onto small roads as quickly as possible. Mainly to avoid the heavy traffic in Mexico, but also to pick up my travel style again.
But as I would soon learn, all this would not be so easy.
Still riding in Chihuahua, the big state in the north where the dog breed got its name, we turned off the highway to get into the backcountry.
I met an amiable Mexican in a small village who took me to Robyn.
“Robyn is an American lady. She and her family are delightful people, and I’m sure she’ll be happy to have visitors,” he said to me, and I had the impression he was happy to be able to help me.
“Follow me; you won’t find it otherwise,” he called to me.
Robyn married a Mexican man many years ago. She is a horse lover and cowgirl, can cook super, and has raised her three children here on the farm.
We got to spend four interesting days with Robyn, and as we said goodbye, she told me, “You are welcome back anytime.”
Robyn’s Frijoles recipe (the best I’ve ever had in Mexico).
Two cups of red beans
One chili jalapeño cut in half
Four cloves garlic
Boil for 35 minutes in a pressure cooker along with water.
Two cloves of garlic
Chop everything and fry in a pan with olive oil.
Add beans, bring to a boil, season with salt, and blend.
The rainy season was in full swing, so we were unable to ride some roads but still made it to the town of Creel via minor roads.
Creel is one of the 132 Pueblo Magicos to be found in Mexico.
Pueblo Magico is an award given by the board of Mexican Tourism, designating magical cities, towns, and villages that are particularly worth seeing. This designation benefits the pueblos, spotlighting them for the tourist trade.
In Creel, what is worth seeing is not the village itself but the surrounding countryside. Located at an altitude of 2000m, Creel has a pleasant climate and is bounded by beautiful rock formations. Creel also benefits from its proximity to the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre), which is said to be bigger than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
In an inexpensive vacation rental, Butch and I were able to get used to Mexico. The street dogs were friendlier than expected, and the hiking trails were super, so we were out all day.
With its touristy cannibalized viewpoints, the canyon got on my nerves within five minutes, especially since I’ve been there before and couldn’t get excited about it back then either.
Butch has a lot of trouble with the heat; this had been my biggest concern heading south during the summer. Instead, it rained frequently and often heavily, keeping temperatures low to the point of being cold.
We had other problems instead—quite a bunch. One of the most serious was that we had nowhere to camp.
Fences, fences, and more fences, the whole country seemed to be one endless fence. The only break in the fences were locked gates, and farmhouses were far from the road, making it impossible to ask for a camp spot.
So, we had to rely on hotels time and again. With many of the hotels not allowing dogs, my otherwise spontaneous way of traveling became an almost pre-planned route.
Suddenly, the journey was no longer the destination – but the destination was the destination.
I started downloading apps like Airbnb and Booking.com to look for accommodations that allowed dogs. I, who have never ever in my life, booked accommodation in advance.
I’m used to pitching my tent at the end of the day or paying to stay somewhere if I have to, but planning anything in advance? So yes, this was new to me, and admittedly, I had difficulties with it there!
Compensating, I searched out beautiful Pueblo Magicos and headed for them unerringly. Our rides between Pueblo Magicos took us through beautiful landscapes, varied and exciting, but unfortunately, we had no access. Again, the barbed wire barred us from setting foot in the world where we like to roam.
Stopping and pausing along the way? Admire flowers, say hello to any people, romp in the meadow, take pictures in peace – no, unfortunately, also missing.
The roads we traveled had no shoulders and, at the edges, nearly always fell off at steep pitches into the bushes. Ranch and farm roads ended in gates. Rarely could I find a flat spot where I could safely park the motorcycle.
Butch and I are used to spending two to three hours, if not more, hiking in nature every day. That was seldom possible here. Instead, we were forced to walk in cemeteries or around gas stations or, worst of all, along the road, among the garbage and broken glass, making it difficult to get anywhere.
The further south we got, the more the traffic increased, and the less fond I became of vehicles overtaking us at high speed. Scary, to say the least.
I belong to the slow variety and keep to the speed limit. Mexicans, on the other hand, see things a little differently.
I rarely ride much more than sixty kilometers an hour. Often it is not possible to go faster even if I wanted to because of the many potholes. Riding slowly is not only good for the environment but also for my wallet. The Himalayan only needs 2.5 liters / 100 Kilometers with my riding style. Remarkable.
Speed bumps are another big negative in Mexico. They are everywhere and come in all varieties. Mexico has a notoriously bad reputation among travelers for this absolutely idiotic system. If I don’t see them in time, we are shaken up pretty badly.
The speed bumps are tarmac waves of all sizes or flat hats of metal. With a car, they are already annoying, but with a motorcycle, they are a real imposition and not harmless—a non-stop stop-and-go. Yet, funnily enough, there are vendors taking advantage of this weird system to sell their goods exactly where you need to cross.
The Himalayan performed impeccably.
Unfortunately, with the load I’m carrying, it hasn’t taken much to drop the bike. Since the first day I got the bike, I haven’t been able to get it back on its wheels when I fall. No matter how many YouTube videos I watched that others sent me explaining how to get the motorcycle back upright.
However, you often see that their bikes are nowhere near as low to the ground in terms of angle as mine. Either they have more oversized crash bars or aluminum boxes that stick out further. In addition, the dog box makes it very difficult for me to find a suitable handle to put the Himalayan back on its wheels.
Sure, maybe it is also due to my inability – but – up-righting two hundred and fifty kilos is no small feat for anyone.
In the long run, this is a huge problem. Here in Mexico, you can almost count on someone coming by all the time because Mexico is heavily populated, but my goal is South America.
I have to say, I find the prospect of waiting two or three days for someone to come by to help lift the motorcycle because I am in the middle of nowhere more than a little disconcerting, especially if I had an accident and am possibly injured.
Fortunately, we’ve always found help pretty quickly.
On our hunt for small roads, we ended up in the small and sweltering town of Viesco.
Often arriving at hotels, we were not very warmly received, sometimes feeling like we needed to apologize for being there, despite the fact we were paying customers.
And unfortunately, there were often problems with where to park my motorcycle safely, so there had to be a courtyard, so the bike wasn’t gone in the morning. Finally, I’m on a budget, so the hotels have to be affordable and dog-friendly. Three conditions that often make my accommodation search take a long time.
On the other hand, in the small Pueblo Magico of Viesco, people were lovely and pleased that we were visiting their village. Butch played with the mostly friendly street dogs, and I tried to use my Spanish. We really liked it there.
A cozy place. No hustle and bustle, hardly any cars, quiet and absolutely safe. The village center was clean, colorful, and well-kept. But to complete our morning walk through nature, we, unfortunately, had to walk through the garbage that the villagers simply dump in the desert at the edge of their beautiful town.
Like almost everywhere we had been so far in Mexico.
We had found a small private accommodation, where the owner and her children spoiled me with Full Board and interesting conversations. We sat for many hours with her in the kitchen and talked about their lives, their concerns, and thoughts. Of course, as far as my Spanish allowed.
When we rode off, the whole family said goodbye to us very affectionately. We had a great time there.
Butch thinks riding a motorcycle is cool. He sits way up high and has the best view. He snuggles up to me during the ride, or sleeps when he gets bored. Even when we fall over, it doesn’t seem to irritate him much.
The next big destination for us was Real de Catorce. Another Pueblo Magico that I had been hearing about for many years and was now eager to visit.
The famous 24-kilometer-long cobblestone road that winds up the mountain to 2700m and that was almost reminiscent of Roman times was, let’s put it this way: very hard to get used to. Just like the pitch-black tunnel that led into the town and the small, narrow, and super steep alleys. I’ll admit, I was sweating profusely just getting there.
On the other hand, it was quick and easy compared to what it would have been on a bicycle. On the Himalayan, I don’t even really realize anymore that we are gaining elevation so fast. Everything is so easy to reach. A mountain has almost no fascination any longer because you don’t have to work your way up it. The cobblestone road was an exception.
We found a nice room away from the village center and had our peace there because no one lived there except us. However, with no courtyard for the bike, I did have to take off all the bags, untie and carry everything in turn into the room.
Again, I thought back to the good old days when I just rolled the pushbike into the hotel room with the panniers still attached and didn’t have to worry about anything. As I always say so beautifully? The more you own, the more trouble you have.
However, I would not have ended up here with the bicycle at all guaranteed; that is the other side of the coin Real de Catorce is far away from everything, too far out of the way for most cyclists.
As always in life, everything has two sides.
We explored the pueblo in short order. But, on the other hand, the surrounding countryside was magnificent, and we spent many hours every day exploring it and the ruins from the days of the past mining boom.
The variety of plant life in the area was fascinating; I was happy to breathe the fresh mountain air and enjoy the silence.
It was also lovely to be free from the noise and cares of where to park the heavy motorcycle. I could walk off and not think about where to leave my helmet and boots, a little freedom.
We soon knew the whole place. Butch had made lots of street dog buddies, and I was glad we had a good handle on the street dog problem in almost each place we had visited. We both had learned a lot.
We stayed a full eight days, and I left with renewed vigor, as my energy seemed to have been lost a bit along the way.
Next stop was San Luis Potosi. Via Couchsurfing, we found a place to stay in the city center. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to use the Warmshowers community anymore since I am no longer cycling, at least not at the moment.
A gay couple took us in warmly, so Butch and I were able to spend three days in the city. Unfortunately, the city was just a city and didn’t blow me away. But the food there was delicious and cheap.
Many Mexicans are afraid of dogs, which was also the case in San Luis Potosi; sadly, many gave us a wide berth.
A few more not-very-interesting Pueblo Magicos were still on the route before I decided to switch to the Trans-Mexico Trail. The traffic was getting to me, especially since I had had a couple of dangerous brushes with motorists who didn’t see me or didn’t care for my safety.
My motto for many years has been and remains: The most dangerous thing about traveling is the traffic; this counts even more now traveling on a motorcycle.
The Trans-Mexico Route is a bikepacking trail that winds its way south and about which a few cyclists had raved.
Supposedly 50% dirt road and with the asphalt portions running on quiet roads; that sounded good. The rainy season was still in full swing, so I didn’t know what to expect on the route, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The beginning was made, and everything went better than expected. Incredible scenery and relatively quiet trails until I tried to find a tent site in the evening and asked a couple of guys if they might know someone where we could pitch our tent, perhaps in a backyard.
“Just follow us,” said the one on a moped. So we drove through a small village after many alleys, curves, and ubiquitous cobblestones; we came around an unexpectedly sharp turn, and down we went.
I hadn’t expected the sudden change in the road surface and was completely surprised by the sand. We landed softly and, fortunately, had been going slow, but my foot was twisted and badly stuck under the saddlebag. The heavy motorcycle weighing about 250 kg (with Butch) was on my foot, and I could not free myself.
Panic set in, and I feared for my right foot, which was stuck in a very crappy position. I couldn’t shift my weight to the right; I don’t know why I think Butch’s box was in the way. However, everything happened so crazy fast it’s unlikely my mind will ever sort it out.
Butch immediately jumped out of the basket. Normally I always harnessed him, only at that moment he was free; for whatever reason, I forgot, I don’t know.
I yelled after the boys, and they came running immediately, but that scared Butch. So he barked and ran at them and scared the hell out of them, so it took a while longer until I had Butch under control, and I could assure the boys that he wouldn’t bite them.
Finally, it didn’t take all that long, but it seemed like forever before they got the bike back up, and I was able to free my foot. Of course, I immediately elevated my leg and asked the boys if they could get some ice.
It hurt properly, and I hardly dared to take off my motorcycle boot. Luckily, I had good sturdy boots. My saddlebags are heavy-duty but still soft, not an aluminum box; otherwise, this could have been much worse.
Thanks again, Giant Loop, for providing me with these super awesome motorcycle bags.
There was nothing I could do but lay there in the sand. The guys tried hard to find someone where we could spend the night. But unfortunately, there were no hotels in the town, so they phoned back and forth until more and more people were standing around me, and in the end, even the mayor came.
Finally, the mayor contacted an American lady who lived not 500 meters from the accident site, and she picked us up with her truck. The guys rode my Himalayan up the mountain and helped me into the house.
The American lady immediately provided me with more ice and pillows and made me something delicious to eat.
“You can stay as long as it takes to get fit again,” she said, and I was pleased about that great offer.
The next day at the clinic, x-rays showed no broken bones; the doctor seemed to think I had stretched a ligament and not torn one. I don’t know how he knew that, but it sounded better than expected, so I wanted to believe it. I got splint support, crutches, and Voltaren, and now I have to wait until I am fit again.
Six dogs live here, so Butch has enough variety, while I, unfortunately, can hardly offer him anything at the moment.
The question that now stands in the room is, in any case: “Can I get my now existing fear under control? Will I be able to sit on the motorcycle again at some point with confidence?
Is motorcycling the right thing for me?
In any case, one thought won’t let me go. What would I have done if I had been riding in my favorite remote terrain? There where fox and rabbit say good night to each other and nobody passes by for days? This thought does not sit well with me!
Nothing for me now but to be patient and wait until I am fit again, and use the time to think about what’s ahead.
Butch and I make our living with this blog.
If you would like to pay for our pasta or bones we would be super happy about it.
As always you get a postcard in return.
Thank you very much 🙂
This way please….
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Big thank you to Giant Loop for the great motorcycle panniers and bags