Day 18 – San Juanito, Mexico

I am pleased to report that we are riding again.  Ted has been recovering nicely, although his shoulder is still in pain.  We left Hermosillo two days ago en route to Copper Canyon along ruta 16.  The ride from Hermosillo east to Yecora has got to be one of the best rides anywhere.  I would even say that it rivals the California coast highway (“the one”).  The mountain scenery is spectacular and the terrain changes from sweltering desert to alpine pine forests.  The road winds right over mountain ranges.  The views are dizzying.  I did not expect such vast stretches of unspoiled wilderness in a country as populated as Mexico.  I was pleasantly surprised.   Best of all, there’s no traffic.  Only hundreds of turns.  The road was designed for motorcycles.

Yesterday we turned onto a rough gravel road to take us south into the Copper Canyon area.  The road had pot holes, loose rocks, boulders, water, hairpin turns, and steep drop offs.  It was a fun ride.  We decided to stop and film a little video clip of Ted tearing his way up a steep twisty section.  Unfortunately he managed to get a nail right through his rear tire.

Our attempts at fixing the tire on the side of the road would have made a humourous video clip in itself if anyone had been filming.  We had to raise the bike to get the rear wheel off.  Our solution was to support the bike over a log spanning a ditch.  With the rear wheel successfully removed, the real drama began.  We could not break the bead on the tire no matter what we did.  Part of the problem is that we didn’t have proper tire irons.  We had given our tire irons to the Kid when he went his own way in Hermosillo, thinking that we could easily replace them.  This turned out not to be the case: despite an afternoon of searching (and miming removing my tire from my motorbike over and over again because I couldn’t figure out the word for “tire iron”), the best I could find were some chisels.  Although I did have a chance to buy a real tire iron from the Kawasaki dealership in Hermosillo, but I turned it down because it wasn’t very good and I thought I could find a better one.  This decision would come back to haunt me.


The chisels proved woefully inadequate when put to the test on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere – which is of course just when you really need things to work.  After sweating and grunting in the sun for awhile, we decided to take the wheel to the next town and have them repair it for us.  On the map it looked like the next town (San Juanito) was about 30 km away.  (It turned out to be more than 60 km away over some of the roughest road I have yet ridden).  We strapped Ted’s tire to my bike and off I went.  We thought the whole thing would take about 3 hours.  (Insert laugh track here).  The road turned out to be horrible.  It was under construction and was a slow, tough ride.

At one point they had put down a layer of loose soil and rocks about a foot deep.  I lost control of my bike and crashed into the ditch, hitting my ankle on a rock in the process.  I would complain more about that, but under the circumstances I don’t think I’d get any sympathy.  It was a struggle to get the bike back up because I couldn’t get any traction in the soft ground and my feet kept slipping.  Finally I got the bike righted.  It would not start.  No matter what I did, I could not even get a whimper.

I sat down on the side of road, wondering what to do.  I was in the middle of nowhere with a non-working bike.  Ted was 30 km behind me with his bike perched over a log, with no food and only about a litre of water.  Just then some construction workers drove up in a truck.  I said the word “moto” and made a sideways gesture across my neck.  The got the idea: my motorcycle was dead.  Soon I had about 5 guys trying to get my bike started.  They took off the side panels and checked the connection on the battery.  I knew it wasn’t the battery because my battery indicator showed full power and you could hear the starter trying.  But I coudn´t communitcate this to the guys with my rudimentary Spanish, so I just let them do their thing.  Eventually they got my bike going by giving her a bump start.  This involved two guys pushing the bike with one guy riding, starting it will in gear and in motion.  I was so relieved when the engine roared to life.

San Juanito turnito turned out to be 60 km away, and the road was horrible the entire way.  Large sections were under construction with gaping holes and piles of gravel.  By the time I finally arrived in San Juanito and found an auto shop, it was already late afternoon.  It turned out that the guys in the autobody shop struggled as much with the tire as Ted and I had.  In the end two guys were jumpíng on it.  Eventually persistence paid off and they repaired the tire.  It was now almost 6:00 PM.  The sun goes down at promptly 7:10 this far south.  I knew I would be riding in the dark.  I drove around looking for food because neither Ted or I had eaten anything that day except for a cereal bar in the morning.  I found a woman cooking whole chickens on a grill and bought two half chickens before setting off on the journey back to Ted.

The ride back was an adventure.  I got caught in a dramatic thunder and lightning storm.  There was torrential rain, and lighting striking right beside the high mountain road.  Soon it was pitch black.  My headlight did not illuminate the road well, and I had trouble seeing the ruts and pot holes in the dark and rain.  Several times my rear wheel slid out on the mud, but somehow I managed to keep the bike rubber side down.  I´m not sure how.  At one point I was sliding sideways down the road.  It was a real adrenaline rush because I knew that there was no coming back from a trip over the cliffs at the side of the road.

Finally I made it back to Ted, who had built a nice fire by the side of the road.  We ate the chicken (delicious), pitched our tents under some pines on the narrow space between the road and the cliff, and called it a day.  This morning we fixed Ted’s tire with the help of a couple of guys who stopped right about when we were discussing how we needed an extra pair of hands to help life the bike.  Ted Simon wrote in “Jupiter’s Travels” (his account of his round the world trip by motorcycle in the early 1970s= that help always comes along.  So far this has been true of our trip as well.  The Mexican people have been so warm and helpful.  Over and over again they gladly give us a hand, and expect nothing in return.

2 thoughts on “Day 18 – San Juanito, Mexico

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