It’s been a long last couple of months. My Dad passed away in December, then I got sick in January, (like the kind of sick where you don’t get out of bed much for three weeks), then on my first day of feeling relatively OK, my stator gave up the ghost, and I waited patiently for three weeks for the part to arrive. It arrived about a week ago, and I installed it. Then tentatively rode around the general area on some day rides and around town till I gained confidence that my installation was working as planned. It's time to book on down the road from San Miguel de Allende
My girlfriend had gone to the US on business, and I was on my own. One night after about a week of these local rides and decided I was due a mental health ride. A long one. On curvaceous roads. At about 9 PM, I Emailed a few friends who weren't sick, or attending weddings or such, and whom I thought might want to join me, and whom I thought would ride hard and fast, as I wanted to do, that I was leaving the following morning at 9 AM. I was pretty sure I would have no takers, but dutifully stopped at the local super market at 9 the following morning to be sure. In some ways I was relieved to be riding solo. I haven’t done much of that in the past year and a half. So now I was free to ride wherever I wanted, and for a s long as I wanted, and had no one to consult about the route, the gas stops, or the breakfast lunch or beer stops, or the hotel to spend the night in. I lubed my chain, and when my clock struck 9:02, I cast off for the Sierra Gordas, a wonderfully convoluted piece of topography that begins a mere 45 minute ride from my home town.
That first 45 minutes is rather flat, straight, mundane riding through broad, flat, agricultural valleys surrounded by scenic mountains. After you pass the town of Dr. Mora to the East, the ground drops out from underneath you, as you begin a serpentine road that hugs a cliff face as it descends to a desert valley below the agricultural plain that leads to it. It’s truly a spectacular vista as you begin the descent to the town of Victoria below. From Victoria you begin a slalom course as the road hugs one desert valley wall after another as it snakes its way through the town of Santa Catarina, then Penamiller, and finally intersecting with Federal Highway 120 near the town of Pena Blanca.
Somewhere between Santa Catarina and Penamiller, I rounded a curve just in time to see a burro tumble down a 15 foot cliff into the middle of the road. He lay there struggling to get up, and I was feeling pretty sorry for him when I saw him finally pop up onto all four hooves, shake himself, and glance around as if to see if anybody was watching his pratfall. First time I ever saw a burro drop out of the sky. I suppose Mexico really can be dangerous.
The road surface deteriorates between San Miguel de las Palmas and Penamiller especially, but it’s scenic, and heads up riding with enough diminishing radius curves to keep you honest, and focused on your riding.
Once you hit Hwy. 120, you’re in the puddin so to speak. Most of the curves are constant radius, the pavement is good, and they are continuous for the nest 60 miles or so till you reach the town of Jalpan in the next valley.
It’s been a hotter than normal day, and as you climb to the summit, you can feel the air cooling, and I even thought about stopping to put a sweater on under my mesh jacket, but thought better of it, and rode on to the mountain town of Pinal de Amoles where I stopped for a really nice steak in a habanero sauce with potatoes before descending the rest of the slalom course to Jalpan where I stopped for gas, then headed out immediately for the town of Xilitla a bit over the next mountain range, and through a corresponding series of continuous twisties.
I think this ride, which I’ve made several times heretofore is a world class motorcycling road, and there are few passes in the US that I’ve found that can compete with it for the plain fun you will have riding it.
As I climb up the mountain toward Xilitla, I’m throwing the bike around as I have been for the past 4-1/2 hours when I notice it’s getting a little squirrelly when I lean into the corners, so I stop to check it out. The axle nut is tight, and the air pressure is spot on, and there were no striations in the road surface to cause that kind of “walking”, so I saddle up and continue on out of the desert biome of the west side of the range into the more lush Huasteca to the East. They get more rain here from the gulf, so they have more plant life, and seemingly more people.
Xilitla, (pic taken on a previous trip, it wasn't rainy foggy this trip)
Xilitla was the home of British aristocrat and eccentric Edward James, who in his thirties was one of the world’s richest men when he inherited his parent’s and his uncle’s fortunes. He retired to this corner of Mexico in the 1930s and began a labor of love building a jungle castle with follies abounding. All in all a rather creative guy, and worth visiting his estate which is now open to the public, and run by his caretaker’s family. I’m not gonna visit this trip however. This trip is only about the ride. No tourist attractions for me.
I arrive in Xilitla relatively early in the day, but between the heat, and throwing the bike around corners for 5-1/2 hours I’m exhausted, so I check into the Hotel San Ignacio with their own covered parking lot, hot water, and a free bottle of water for 200 pesos/night, or about $16 US. After joking around with the owner, Elena, I went to my room and showered before venturing forth for food and cervezas. I ended up at a place I’ve eaten before called Cayo. The food is good, and they have a nice broad patio overlooking the hills and town, but the service, like the time I’d eaten here before is abysmal. After waiting for them to come and check on me, ( I was the only person in the restaurant at that point), I finally got up and carried my bottle inside, and left it on the table next to where the one waitress was sitting. She never looked up, so I interrupted her daydream, and asked for another. She dutifully delivered another and never showed her face on the patio again. I decided I was gonna stay here and drink a lot of beer just to annoy her and here compadres, and began a routine of banging my bottle on the stone topped table whenever I was ready for a refill. And so it goes.
I was vindicated when I stopped into another restaurant bar, Casa Vieja on the plaza and met Jorge. When I told him where I’d eaten, and how lousy the service was, he laughed and said I was the first gringo he’d met who’d expressed what he and the rest of the town apparently knew quite well. In his own words: “They act like they’re doing you a favor when they wait on you”. Amen. I hung out with Jorge for a bit longer than I expected to as he began buying me drinks, and then I would reciprocate. He’s lived in the US as an illegal alien for seven years, but had made the decision to return to Mexico, where the quality of life is better even if the pay isn’t so good. He introduced me to his friends, and eventually I wandered the block and a half to my hotel, where I slept the sleep of the dead.
Tomorrow, I’m heading down the east slope of the mountains to Tamazunchale, then up Rt. 85 which is new turf for me, and looks really twisty and windy, and when I met with ADV rider kennyanc, he said it looked like an awesome ride, (although he had the misfortune of riding it during a cold/rainy/foggy spell), so “Yay!”, (for me).