Despite not crossing into the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras until mid-afternoon, we had a remarkably uneventful border crossing. No passport check, no search and a big smile from the border patrol made our day. Wanting to keep things that way, I decided to get out of the border town straight away and do our customs and registration paperwork somewhere else but Cynthia kept yelling out of her full face helmet that we had to stop to do the paperwork in town. She kept on relaying all the information she heard regarding Mexico and the dangers of travelling there and I was getting annoyed. I was tired, hungry, and had virtually no sleep for 3 days, so I told her she can walk if she doesn’t stay quiet. That did the trick. We rode out of town without stopping for at least 20 miles and stopped to ask some policemen where to go and they joked that we actually came to them instead of them stopping us and gave us directions to La Garita, the custom and vehicle control office to take care of our paperwork.
From the very start of our time in Mexico we met friendly and helpful people. At the La Garita, a local, Dr. Luis Farias approached us to ask about our trip. He turned out to be a part of Amoden, one of the largest motorcycle clubs in Northern Mexico and kindly offered to arrange accommodations for us in Saltillo and show us around. We explained that we had to be on the same travel schedule as the rest of the Racing Green Endurance team, but were grateful for such a friendly welcome and his kind offer. We also met Rodolfo Velz and his family who recommended that due to the time, we would do better to shoot for Monclova instead of Saltillo to avoid traveling after dark. They also kindly offered to put us up for the night if we couldn’t find a place. There was no boogie man in México, no gun toting gang and no one who treated us with anything but respect and friendliness.
We knew that the team was planning to stop in Saltillo, Coahuila for the night but that stopping in Monclova by dark would be safer. Besides we were completely spent from being on the go for two days with no sleep and little water. The heat was killing us to boot. Temperatures were in 100’s and we were beyond dripping with sweat. It felt like we were shrink-wrapped and stuck in a sauna. All of our clothes and motorcycle gear were damp and sticking to us. Time to rest.
Mexico is a beautiful country. We decided to go on toll roads (Cuotas) as we were warned that the free roads (Libre) were ungodly dangerous and if we ever dared to go on them, we would suffer an agonizing death! So $8 later, we were cruising along on the toll road to Monclova but one gas stop and a drink later, somehow we ended up on the regular highways of Coahuila. To be frank, the toll roads are no different than the regular roads. They are all excellent and beside, venturing off the toll roads gives the opportunity to see the real México since it goes through the little town and villages along the way.
Speed bumps in México are legendary. They are called Topez and they are a mile high and hard hitting. They are mostly well signed or if there’s no sign, you can see them coming as everyone else slow down to a crawl to go over these giants. The biggest road problem is the potholes and they are not just native to free highways, they are on the toll roads as well with no warning. The Mexican drivers are excellent drivers. And courteous too. I don’t remember a time that a slow moving vehicle didn’t go out of his way to give us room to pass. Even the cars on the other lane would go to the shoulder to make room for us. I’m loving it here.
At 7:30 pm, we finally reached Monclova and wandered around trying to find a hotel where most importantly the bike would be safe. The first place we encountered was a ritzy hotel that was completely sold out. The manager, Gorge Carballal came out and helped us with some directions. In the meantime, some friendly guests started talking to us and taking pictures. We eventually settled into a hotel around the corner from the main strip which surprisingly had about every American brand store and restaurant you could imagine: Auto Zone, Burger King, Chili’s, you name it, it was there. I was starving and upon the recommendation of the hotel, was pleased to end up with one of the best burgers in my life. They assisted with ordering from one of the few places that was still open, and although I almost never get take-out, was so exhausted from riding for two days on no sleep, that this called for an exception. As I walked out of my room, I saw two Mexican guys hovering around the bike and long story short, we got to talk and drank beer out of a cooler in the back of their truck to cap of the amazing welcome. We like México. Don’t believe a word you hear on the news, it’s no Baghdad. Next: Monclova to Saltillo and meeting the rest of the gang.
Well, so far so good, or so it sounds. It’s strange, because the one Mexican guy in our office (well he’s actually a US citizen, but his folks still live in Mexico) is always telling us about the horrors of living/traveling in northern Mexico. He’s also an ex-cop, so that may be largely an issue of perception.
Anyhow, good hunting, and don’t keep us in suspense too long.
Yes, we need to be brought up to date!
I’m sure that he’s somewhat right, but people back in States tend to be more paranoid than usual. We traveled at night (yes i know it’s stupid) pretty much the whole length of mexico. we stopped at some of the shadiest places and to sum it up, we rode with an electric race car which is as flashy as it come. Besides cows and donkeys on the road, mexico is much safer than NYC in my opinion.
My Fuji camera broke hence the reason for not too many pictures but after this blog, we have a million picture as i bought a new Pentax Camera. New blog is ready to post in 5 hours, stay tuned.
P.S. we are stuck in Cartagena Colombia at the moment as the bike is missing. I hope they figure it out and get it here soon.