It started with a conversation with Shawn at TJ’s KTM in Austin, I was ordering a part.
“It’s been real hard to go through all of Macks stuff. His mother asked me to get all of it together and sell what I can. Hey, John, I have a pair of riding pants that are in good shape but used. No one has been interested in them and he would have wanted you to have them. I am sure of that. I am going to send them to you.”, said Shawn. I thought to myself why would I want my deceased friends pants? This is really morbid; I am trying to put this behind me.
A couple of weeks later they arrived and I thought what am I going to do with these?
I put them in the closet.
Justin Lopez from Rosen's Rides called a few days later and said they were doing an advanced trip that circumnavigated the Copper Canyon area that included some new trails he had discovered out of Chinipas.
As the time grew closer I grabbed Macks riding pants, leaving my usual duds on the hangar before headed to Douglas Az. to start the trip.
I don’t know why I took them, it just felt like the right thing to do.
When I arrived at the border I met some of the others that had signed up for the tour, I knew this was going to be an aggressive ride. About 8 years ago I had ridden most of the trip except the Uruachi roads.
(my trip with Dan and the rest of the Austin crowd in 99)
We got our paper work together including a “get to know each other” during dinner. The next morning we made a run for Creel from Douglas with the bikes on Justin’s trailer. All the bikes but one had knobby tires. If we rode this leg the three hundred miles of pavement would definitely eat up a good chunk of them and it was cold.
We settled in Creel for the evening. The ride started the next morning without a hitch. Dennis was definitely waiting for us to get our act together.
That windshield lasted almost 4 days, I would have bet money it was going to bust off the 1st day, a tribute to Dennis smooth and steady riding ability. He rode every thing this trip dished out, he never complained. Dennis is definitely one to take the “road less traveled.” This bike was lowered at least 6 inches in the back with what I would call a touring type seat, complete with a small computer so he can do computations on the fly while navigating the many very un improved roads on this trip.
We finally launched our ride to Batopilas for the shake down run, an easy 45 miles of pavement, then an easy 45 of dirt to the wonderful little town of Batopillas.
(David Gale without a doubt the fastest rider in the group)
David was riding his specially prepared Honda 650 converted to 770. Bret the guy with the 525 KTM put this bike together for him.
Bret is a suspension guru for many of the top KTM factory riders; it was a real treat to get to know him. Bret is the real deal race mechanic with credits including many of the top riders as a mechanic for the KTM factory team including their Dakar effort, Kawasaki research and development, Yamaha factory efforts and many others.
We arrived without incident.
Every one was twisting the throttle a bit much, getting some angst out of the way before the real tour started the next day.
Being the first day out throttles were twisted a bit. Most of the riders were testing the bikes and the terrain. We were all having a little fun, the exuberance of finally getting the wheels on the dirt.
After arriving in Batopila we took a walk around town. I got to know my roomie Mark… Dave and Bret joined us. Mark was about to find out how restless I sleep, I didn’t have the nerve to warn him. He never complained during the trip.
We saw the usual sights you would see in any Mexican village. We loved every minute of it.
That night after a good meal and after settling into Martins we walked around town. Batopillas is full of cantinas and pretty happening place we downed a few beers before bed. The electricity is only on for a few hours each day and relaxing in front of the TV is not an option, hence the nightlife.
(finishing off the last of my good bottle of rum)
I had made a promise to myself to at least get plenty of sleep. That included an alcohol reduction. I wanted to bear down on the riding more. That went out the window on the first day. I was on the biggest bike by far of the bunch. Justin was trying to keep the trip lean as the tour was billed as a DRZ 400 or equivalent trip, I was on this big 640 cc adventure. The group instantly nick named my bike the Valdez, it had a 6.2 gallon gas tank.
I didn’t get many comments after gassing up a few of the riders a couple of days later.
I also had some Ortlieb bags on the Valdez with tubes and things needed to fix a flat, something else that came in very handy for several of them.
Did I say we had flats? With all the talent on this ride and the amount of dirt stirred up by spinning rear wheels we had a record number flats, I lost count. There were 10 bikes and we had at least 1 flat per day and sometimes more. I did get my flat fixing time down to 20 minutes.
The next morning we started with a group shot in front of the old mission on the outskirts of Batopilas.
Then headed up the road taken in the advanced canyon ride, the first rough part of the trip.
Heading up a road that was on the way to El Fuerte we encountered the first rough part.
With a full tank of gas I made my way up the road wrestling a bit with the weight.
I loved how the bike took the rocks and ruts. The KTM suspension is light years ahead of anything I had used before. On my second set of rims with a nearly new bike I added my first dents navigating the ruts and rocks. I had turned the original Behr rims into stop signs in a month of riding the trails in Idaho. The new Exels were taking a beating too.
I was doing what I wanted and hoping that others were enjoying this too.
Our first of many water crossings…
Off we went through a number of dry creek beds. I would get my chance to ride some terrain like that later in the trip. We arrived at what looked like a dirt super highway. I took the lead and pushed the bike a little harder than I should.
There were many hairpin turns and lots of traffic. Near the end of this section I came around a corner and surprise a new Ford truck barreling down on me with the Nascar number 24 on the window. I gassed the bike and just barely missed this knucklehead then realized this is not a race. I slowed back down and enjoyed the rest of the day riding a good steady clip and keeping it safe.
We forged on to the lodge on Huetes for the night where we had a good fish dinner. bench racing followed on the patio that night. Nick never passed a chance to screw with a picture?
My Michelin Desert after two days. Ouch…
The accommodations were 3 to a room, so I spent the night with the two Canadians, Dan, and Rob. They were great guys… who snore too. It was quite a trio that night. Rob woke me up finding his earplugs, I did warn them about my snoring.
From what I am told my snoring is world class. Complete with ramblings.
I even rated pictures a few days later in Chinipas
But here is the real master, Raul.
The trip was just getting started, things just got better.
Later that night at Huetes we changed Dennis’s tire with a spare knobby from the truck. He had reluctantly decided we might be right about the knobby tires being better than his trail wings or death wings as Mark called them. I probably offended Dennis the first day by trying to tell him those were not going to work very well. With most riders it’s kind of like kids, they tend to not listen when you start to criticize bike setup.
We got a “good night's sleep”, I got to know the two Canadians better.
It’s probably time to meet some of the guilty ones on this trip, starting with the two Canucks.
This is Rob and Dan. Rob is a millwright for the GM plant in Ontario. Dan is an investment banker from Ontario. Every Canadian rider I ever ridden with is just plain fast. I don’t know if that’s just by chance but these guys didn’t ruin my batting average. They were blisteringly fast. In fact they were so good that Justin didn’t have a problem renting them his old KLR’s for the trip. I don’t know if I am up to wielding one of those big bikes through those roads at the speeds we were traveling.
This is Mark my roomie, it was like talking to Wilford Brimley. He is a former Marine and Viet Nam veteran. Having gone, served and sacrificed like he did, makes him a hero in my book.
If that wasn’t enough he was a damn good rider too. Full of opinions and good wit made him a necessary part of the team. It’s always a little awkward riding with strangers because of the unknowns. That’s what I like about these tours. Meeting some great people I normally wouldn’t traveling by myself.
We started the morning with a good meal then I left early to try to get some shots of the team. This is a few miles down the road towards El Fuerte.
We had a 30-mile pavement ride and stopped for gas and to fix our first flat for the day. I am seeing a new coffee table book, "The girls of PEMEX"
Bret showed us how to change a tire and do it in style.
Dennis was always chatting up the locals. This included the cute ones too.
With everyone gathered up in El Fuerte we headed to Alamos. We made an early morning stop along the road to get rid of our morning coffee and take a few pictures.
I accidentally put regular gas in my bike at the Pemex then it started pinging real bad. 640’s make a nasty sound when they ping. My 05 has an alternate ignition mapping for low octane fuel, I had put a switch on it for quick access and it worked.
It didn’t work as well as advertised but it did help. It’s supposed to drop the required octane from 94 to 85. I noticed some difference but not a lot.
The roads were alternating hard pack with lots of dust and occasional sand. We stopped in a small village to regroup.
David and Bret always had bubble gum and stickers to give out to the kids.
This character showed up.
We think there is some resemblance to Danny, Nicks friend and a cop from California.
More dust, and I got some time to wait at an intersection. We rode on what Justin called the buddy system. At each intersection, you wait for the one behind you.
The day was still young. I took this leg and a pretty fast pace for me.
Bret told me over dinner that evening you could replace the cactus with the trees in Africa, “Its just like a lot of the Dakar route.” He was Larry Roessler's Dakar wrench in 04. He said its no picnic.
I haven’t looked at the track log yet but I would have guessed we did it in about 3 hours. Speaking of the GPS, I purchased the Bici maps and they were wonderful. Overall the Bici collection was a huge success. Well worth the 39 bucks for this region. I also bought the Baja portion too.
I had time to look over the bike waiting for the rider behind me. The rear tire was looking pretty tired. With the pinging problem, I was forced to take it easy on the throttle today. Interesting how I seemed to keep the speed up just fine by riding smoother.
On the last one intersection, I waited with Ron from Houston. We rode together for a while. Ron’s a metallurgist and works for an oil company.
As we approached Alamos we stopped at the outlook for a break and a bite to eat.
They were serving coconuts with hot sauce on them. It was pretty disgusting sounding and tasted about how it looked.
Our ambassador Dennis struck up a conversation with some locals. We asked middle mom if she had ever been on a bike and wanted a ride she jumped at the chance.
We put our best rider up to the task. Her daughter and mother were waiting. I asked her mom if she wanted to ride and got this enthusiastic nod, yes! She was using a cane and when it came her turn the cane was tossed on the ground and we lifted her onto the bike. She was grinning ear to ear.
4 generations of this family. Nice people.
We waited for Raul and the truck. With the day still young we headed off for the Hacienda Justin had secured for the stay in Alamos.
We had time to do some maintenance on the bikes and laundry too while relaxing. Cleaned the air filter for the second time. It was very caked and proved how totally inadequate the 640 air box system is.
Justin moving at light speed trying to keep it all together.
This looks like trouble
We went in for a great dinner in town. After we walked around enjoying the nightlife.
There was a festival happening where we ran into Maria and her daughter again.
Then Raul wanted to take us to some Mexican bar.
What a dive. Danny found a new hat and was busy impressing one of the locals.
We went back to the hacienda and retired for the next day. Chinipas awaits us.
Breakfast was a little tough the next morning but we got underway?
To my delight, the road to Chinipas was on the bicimap and it was a real delight to ride.
There were fast sections and some reasonably technical areas for a 640 and rider.
A few hours later we gathered at the lookout over the Chinipas river time for some good shots.
Dave and Bret never passing up a chance to hand out treats to the kids.
This road was a full day's ride 6 years ago. It seemed to be ending too soon this time.
This is a bike we discovered on that ride in 2000
This was just an afternoon ride now.
The bikes are so much better and we are better riders too.
As we approached the river Justin wanted us to go to the bridge crossing. I remembered the area that is upstream where we crossed the first time in 2000
(2000 trip with the Austin crowd)
I just couldn’t resist, taking off across this old memory. It got deeper and deeper finally the exhaust sounded like an outboard motor. The bike was struggling for traction then it finally died. I put my feet down in the water and filled my boots of course and I hit the starter. To my surprise, it started and off we went for the other side. I guess that air box I had been complaining about did its job and kept enough air to start the bike and get it running.
The Valdez didn’t let me down! I rode around town a few minutes, then down to the crossing with everyone else.
The stragglers made the crossing with ease and there were no spills.
The hotel Centenario.
This was our least comfy hotel for the trip. The water was out. They let us even drive the bikes into the hotel for the night.
Taking the low road out the day before and having it just roll by like an easy afternoon's ride. Very satisfying.
My first run back in Mexico since 2000.
This is the hook that got me on this trip to start with, the town and the road to Uruachi. We just finished up of most of the three trips that Rosen’s offers. Now we are going into new territory.
The trip to Uruachi and back.
the new part of the trip starts in Chinipas.
We left early and started where we crossed the river the night before.
Justin decided to take a shortcut and travel down the river bank of the Chinipas river.
I lost count of the crossings…
but I think there were about 7 of them, not including a round trip to a dead end on the second one, so we did about 9 crossings in the first hour.
Nothing like a steam bath and boots full of water, to get your blood going in the morning. Some of them were deep.
After about 5 crossings the water started to soak into my pants, then down into the boots filling them up. waterproof boots are great until they get full, they hold water all day.
Amazingly everyone did fine except for a lot of wet feet. We were driving in and out of sand washes and then hard pack. I was loving it and even forgot about how my feet were starting to prune. The bike was running superb, all is well.
This is an awesome front tire, I wish I could say the same for the rear.
Ouch, less than 600 miles on it.
The Nickster, someone forgot to tell him that we were not in a race. One of the few times I was able to get a picture. Dave kept him on his toes by passing him from time to time.
I believe he is on the gas right now. The front wheel is starting to show the signs of a surge.
We had about another 90 miles of this and I was in heaven. I got into a groove hitting my stride, things were about as good as they can get. I do a lot of aerobic exercise and had a good runner's high working with about a heart rate of 135. I could go on forever like this. This is what it's all about.
The roads were ever changing, with ruts and rocks jutting out. The scenery was awesome, it was like my first trip into Batopilas canyon in 98.
The 640 kept bottoming out, I had added about 4 clicks of compression the night before. Bret had suggested that I raise the level of the fork oil to about 100 mm the next service. These forks are so much better than the ones on my 01 adventure, but still, they were getting flogged badly. I heard that nasty crack at least 150 times today. I knew this bike is tough and just kept going.
This was our normal break. I had to start packing more than one tube front and rear in the Valdez every day, I was actually starting to get comfortable with this.
As luck would have it, and that luck is due to Rosen's screening this bunch carefully, a tour group it doesn’t get any better than this. They were all very good riders.
We climbed and descended many times, each time we got a little higher.
The biggest danger in Mexico, the oncoming vehicle and in this case a big one.
Head for the bushes boys.
I got to document a rare breed, the dreaded Mexican logging truck.
Notice the tight lips on the cig, I bet that wasn’t all that was tight.
The drivers, well the ones over the age of 13, all look very intense. That’s probably because only the serious ones survive.
The trucks look worn out, the tires are always gone, I give these guys a wide berth. They are not to be messed with.
I was following the Canadians and rounded a corner when I saw Dan on the ground. He was in real pain. I was afraid he was really hurt. It looked like he washed the front end out on one of the wash outs. It was one that sliced across the road diagonally, the worst kind in my opinion. If your front tire doesn’t hook on the side you are going to take a nasty little fall that will usually pitch you over the high side.
We stopped for gas down the road a bit, he was afraid to take off the boot. He was in real pain. Later he wrote me that there were 3 bones were broken.
We rode on
I was loving every minute of it.
Slick Nick talked this guy out of his license plate.
We finally crested a hill, there was a gas station, off in the distance we could see Uruachi. It was late in the day.
Dave said he was worn out. What a day… We got settled into the hotel for the night, and there were a few whines but hey, it’s an adventure.
We got Dan’s foot looked after
We were told the water was going off for the night. I scrambled for a shower, we didn’t have water in Chinipas the night before, it felt good to get the grime removed. The water kept working and we found out they left it on for us. Now that’s hospitality.
Dinner was great, I slept well. We had an early start the next morning.
I blew off putting a new air cleaner in my bike that night.
That was two days and about 200 miles. I thought I could make it to Justin’s moto lodge the next day.
We started off with the same type of roads we had the previous day, one water crossing.
I have to say this is one of the best dual sport loops I have ever ridden. It made this huge hassle of driving from Idaho to Mexico completely worth it. Did I mention that we had some flats?
Dave and Danny.
What a bunch of numb skulls. You would think they were in a foreign country having fun or something.
We were ripping along I was in my grove again, starting the biggest climb of the last two days.
I stopped to get a picture of Dave.
Getting back on the trail my bike started missing when I gave it some throttle. I noticed we were at about 7500 feet, the highest yet. It started running worse as we climbed, I was down into 1st gear barely able to keep it going. Drove up on Justin who was nursing a flat of course. Dennis even passed me.
Having to ride at a snails pace was frustrating.
Bret helped me lean it out a bit with the adjustable idle mixture screw.
Justin asks me to catch the group since I was the only one that could recognize the turn to the lodge.
The bike kept running worse and worse. A few times it just about fouled the plug. I was starting to worry, and for sure couldn’t stop and take any pictures. We crested the top and it had just rained.
Ego dirt and a great road, and here I am limping along.
The views are awesome.
After a few times of almost fouling the plug, a couple of my neurons cycled giving me a brain fart. Why not turn the petcock off and on to regulate how the bike ran, it worked. I was convinced the jetting was off.
I noticed how the bike was running worse as we were dropping in elevation. A mental light bulb lit, the air cleaner. Ohhhh. I know what this is. I finally caught up with the crowd, we made the turn I was going to limp on in, finally, I had enough. Broke out the toolkit and within a few minutes, the air cleaner was out.
Used a water bottle with a little gas in it to drench the filter, then slung out what seemed to be two pounds of mud. The dirt was about ¼ inch thick all the way around the filter.
With the slightly cleaned filter reinstalled and back on the bike, it started up fine and off I rode, missing the faster part of the whole day. I love the ground right after rain. Perfect traction, my courage goes up considerably.
Maybe it was fate keeping me upright for another day. Na, just a bad break. The bike was running great and off we went towards the Mmoto lodge. We logged over 100 miles this day; everyone was really getting their pace down.
Amazingly, the pace for all of us was pretty much the same.
The flats were just a way for Dennis to catch up with us, we all ended up at the end of the day in the same place at the same time.
We passed the OSO and…
Then a mile or two later Justin’s Moto lodge.
I had been anxious to meet Orillia.
I was with Justin Lopez his first visit the Copper Canyon area, back in 97 I believe.
He is the upper left on the bed of the truck.
You can see the red r100 gs in this picture. I rode this bike into the area 3 times in the late 90's. Yes, I am a slow learner. It was a real pig and when I got my first KLR it was like a light turned on.
Justin is like one of our kids now. I have been getting updates on his new family and lovely bride, when we pulled up I was just speechless. I was just blown away seeing his two daughters run up to him, then meeting Oralia.
Easily amused I am.
The wind down at the end of the day.
It was a great feeling to be there with Justin and his family. When Dan passed away several of us pledged in private that day to see that Rosen's survives, we also pledged to watch out for Justin. It feels good to see this.
Everyone gathered at the moto lodge for dinner
and the crowd that had checked into the Oso came out of the truck feeling pretty good. They had a bucket of margaritas waiting for them, and they were kind of funny.
We had a great dinner that night then a campfire.
Great time. Raul treated us to some of his roadkill on a stick. It was pretty tasty. It was kind of like jerky that he then tossed into the fire for a few minutes then let us all tear a bit off while still on a stick. People pay big bucks for a wild man weekend, to do this kind of stuff. Had a blast.
We planned for the next day; it was an open day for the group. We were going to Urique, with a stop at Cerochuai on the way.
The mission is always worth a few pictures and a "walk through."
Nick being the cop wanted his picture with the local law enforcement. We bought them all Gatorades and they seemed pleased.
We then stopped at the overlook for a view of this very neat place.
Then on to the overlook for some pictures.
Oh, almost forgot. We passed the Beer Bunker on the way. You shove money in the slot on the door and cases come out that rectangle hole to the left. Just like a vending machine.
And down to Urique.
Since the first time I went there in 98 we stopped at the same restaurant every time to eat the road kill of the day. And with some beer and tortillas, it was great.
We entertained some more kids or specifically this kid for a while,
then off to the suspension bridge. There was a very interesting looking road on the other side. I couldn’t resist and entertained the rest of the crowd with a display of stupidity by riding over
then getting stuck in the sand.
Rob the Canadian did it on a KLR of course, without difficulty.
I managed to make it more difficult.
I did have a full tank of gas and about 20 lbs of tubes, tools, and what-not's in the bags.
Got the bike unstuck, and back across the river, burying the wheel again in the river bottom. I had to walk it across. Boots are full of water again.
We had a relaxed ride back to the overlook and decided to take a siesta. What a great place.
More pictures then a few miles back down the road another flat. We couldn’t go all day without one.
We had this down. In 20 minute we were ripping down the road back to Cerachoui
More good food, campfire, and beer. Maybe it was beer, food than a campfire. Oh and drinks at the Oso before dinner. I drank a lot that night. It’s a ritual for me on the last night. And more of Rauls roadkill on a stick.
I woke up early; it’s the last day. A bittersweet sight, the view from the Motolodge front porch with an electrical line running across.
The electricity was on and off, and I was relieved every time it turned back on, but it reminded me of my past adventures to the area. I loved getting up and seeing the sunrise. Seeing the locals walking to their job for the day.
The gear is loaded quickly as everyone has the process down. It seems like my trips are always ending about the time things start running smoothly.
We ride the low road this morning.
It was like a super highway compared to the Uruachi loop, blasting along with a few easy stream crossings. This road was a big deal to me my first trip in 97, on my GS. It’s so easy now. Just a nice morning ride. This marker has been there for years and is where the low road and the high road meet.
The ground still had moisture in it and traction was good until we hit the silted area. There is silt down there that can gag a maggot. It's thick, fine and for anyone but the first through, is like a thick fog that hangs in the air. There were a few easy water crossings.
My rear tire is gone, and so is the traction. The 640 spins the tire up worse than ever, and I am having just as much fun as if it were new.
We made it through this part then to another overlook
Then 40 miles of pavement back to the Best Western in Creel. We loaded the bikes up and made time to our hotel for the evening a few hours outside of Douglas. Man, this is over. What an adventure.
Dan with his busted foot rides out with us.
It’s a trip for the experienced rider with good equipment for sure. A nonstop rip through some of the best riding in Mexico with first rate support. And you get to meet guys in pink cowboy hats.
I would like to do this trip again next year with a group of 640 riders. It’s a good ride for this bike and gives the rider some challenge. Matching the bike, rider skill, and terrain, that's the key. Pushing the envelope a bit further.
I was so surprised at how the 640 handled the sand, most of the other riders were struggling but the stabilizer and with the tires down to 14 lbs., I was in great shape and having a blast. The front end bottomed out all the time now. I just kept going.
I pulled my boots off every chance and tried to get some drying action going. I have got to get some of the bib overalls that fit over the boots. Those that had them were nice and dry as the water just shed on the outside of the boot.
We even got into some single track.
Following several of the forks of the river and running into some excellent riding, the most technical yet. I live for this. If I was on my 250 this would be no challenge at all but on the 640 and keeping a 15 mph clip; it was loads of fun. The bike tracked well and was very forgiving. The enduro comp 3 was awesome. I could stuff the front end into a turn sliding the back end into a tight apex, gas it for the last half and on to the next. I practiced squaring off the corners as I learned from Scott Hardin, it made a lot of sense. You get a lot of weight in a slingshot and around a big turn, you lose a lot of time and control. Square it off, hit the gas. I was getting a great rhythm going.
We started one of many climbs for the day.
There was many them and they were spectacular. The riding that makes the trip worthwhile. Here I am at the end of the trip in Tuscon.
In my room and the trip is over.
I had Dinner with Rob and Dan. We paid money to listen to histories worst rock band a totally depressed Ricky Lee Jones She couldn’t hit a note if her life depended on it. Welcome back to US.
Rob was taken by the waitress. She was flattered and a very sweet looking lady. She is younger than my daughter. Yikes
Back to the trip.
o Mexico worth while.