THE MUTZ IN MEXICO
By Rick Waschek
February 21: We depart Minneapolis with the following array of borderline adequate equipment:
1978 DR 370 Suzuki, purchased for $200.00 from some traveling minstrels in the Renaissance festival. Yes its for real, you canít make stuff like this up! It had gone all of 2.5 miles prior to the 15 degree 25 mile test ride taken a week before the trip. No need to question the reliability of this bike, right????
1981 XT 550 Yamaha, purchased for 250.00 2 years ago, leaned up against Bobís garage wall for all of those 2 years. A used and dry rear tire and a luggage rack that looked like a platypusís bill and Bob is bandito bound! Total mileage prior to departure 12.
1982 CX 500 Honda, yes itís a street bike, what about it? Isnít that a fine bike for Mexico back roads?
1984 XT 600, bought 11 years ago and used for ice racing, flat track racing, trail riding, touring bike, and shop rag clothes line. It was an impulse buy, like every other bike I own which translates into an overpriced, well worn, dented tank clunker. Then I performed all the above abuse. I reckoned the motor might need some freshening up, so might as well put a fresh piston in her right? Oh yeah, 11 Ĺ to one sounds like the premium compression ratio for 23 octane Mexican gas. Total miles on fresh motor prior to departure 98. Total miles with out oil gushing out the new (all 3 of them) counter shaft seals 2.
One Triumph sidecar rig, I wont try and BS my way through what kind of Triumph or side car. It was black. Bringing Zachís pride and joy from Minnesota to his new home in Marathon, TX was our payment for the accommodations and storage of the transport vehicles. As it turned out it was also payment for the 200 miles he had to drive to recover equipment that wasnít happy south of the border.
199ish KLR 650, this bike like all the other bikes on the trip was a modern reliable comfortable bike with lots of miles left in it. What fun is all that security?
We timed our departure from Minnesota perfectly. The temperature was dropping like a rock, controversy swirled like the falling snow as to why we all got sick the day before our vacations and we were positive all the winter would be gone upon our return 10 days later. Forget about what the calendar said. By the time we reached the MN border, unbeknownst to Paul, he had earned the nickname: The Laughing Man.
February 22. East of Monahanís, TX we discovered that when you drive a 1999 GMC Diesel 1 ton van into a west Texas head wind at 85 mph for 240 miles that is as far as a tank fuel will take you, 240. Problem is Monahanís, TX is 242 miles. This brought thoughts of the previous evening when we had regularly gone close to 300 miles on a tank. Being a former truck driver with a bad sense of how far 1/64th of a tank of fuel will take you, I knew immediately what to do when the engine started to sputter like it was out of fuel. That is assume the engine is out of fuel and shut off the key immediately. Only do this if you like the taste, smell, and feel of diesel. You will experience all of these while you are purging all the air out of the fuel system. An executive decision was made to yank Chrisís CX 500 off the back of the trailer and ride to town to get diesel. The executive is who ever is driving at the time. After unloading Chrisís bike and looking at Chris looking at Chris for 10 minutes it sunk in that Chris had no intentions of riding to town. I guess part of making executive decisions is riding the bike. Great! I enquired as to weather the CX was gassed up and was assured by Chris that was the case. I took off down the road and immediately assessed that forks with the oil on the inside handle way better than forks with ALL the oil on the outside. Seems Chris needs a little remedial fork seal changing class. Oh well, new fork oil smells way better than old. I love Texans. They donít give a shit if you fill up washer fluid jugs with moonshine, gas, urine from yourself or another animal, or diesel. Moments later I was back on the CX with 2 gallons of diesel, a six pack of Lone Star and a big smile on my face. The morning was one of those you dream about even in the Midwest summer. Not a cloud in the sky, temperature was at about 65 degrees and on the rise and it was the first time I had ridden a motorcycle on anything other than ice in 34 months. If Chris didnít want to ride, it made total sense to me to ride his bike the last 120 miles to Marathon, TX rather than putting it back on the trailer. As I approached the exit for our stranded van, the thought of riding vanished faster than the oil gushing out of Chrisís forks. I coasted off the freeway, through the underpass and pushed the last 150 yards to the van. 2 vehicles sucked dry in less than 20 minutes. There was no way I could run out of gas in Mexico. After we dumped the diesel into the van, Bob and Paul were sure you had to bleed the air out of the fuel system. I was sure we didnít need to do this. I was also sure the thing for me, Skamp, and Chris to do was set up the lawn chairs (the beauty of lawn chairs are they are what ever type of seating you need them to be. In college they are living room furniture. At family they are the way of telling your in-laws you donít want them to get too comfortable sittin in your house. And in a cargo van bound for TX they are seats) in the ditch and start drinkin. 10 minutes and 2 Lone Stars later Bob asked me ďWould you know a bleeder screw if you saw itĒ? My reply was ďNo but I would know a key if I saw itĒ. I hit the ignition and away we went.
††††††††††† Much to our disappointment that little incident caused us to loose the bragging right of how we left 2 hours later than Dan and Marty and still beat them to Marathon. We rolled into Marathon 24 hours after leaving winter and MN behind, defeated by losing the all night 4 lane GP but happy to be in t-shirts and riding on tar and dirt. Most of the day was spent unloading, riding around with the gear on for the first time to see what would fall off and a failed attempt to drink all the Lone Star in Marathon. Later that night we had supper at The Gauge Hotel Courtyard. If you eat supper in the courtyard after sundown and donít get a spot within 2 seats of the huge fireplace, you are reminded that you may have left MN, but you didnít leave winter. The temperature drops like a dotcom stock after sundown. The food was excellent and the service great.† How can you have great catfish in a place where there is no water? We returned to Zachís to divvy up sleeping arrangements. This was split up much the same way the whole trip was. Snorers together and non-snorers together. 7 people slept in vans, 3 wussed out and got a room at the Gauge Hotel for 50.00 each, thatís 50 each for ONE room. I guess when you are the only hotel for 100 miles you can charge that. And 2 big grown men in a Ford EXP (think Ford Escort). This must have been some sort of Jedi mind conditioner. No matter how uncomfortable one becomes on a dual sport bike it cant be worse than sleeping in an EXP.
††††††††††† The next morning we woke to a beautiful desert sky and true to my vow to myself, chorizo every morning for breakfast. If you have never had it, it is the sausage of the gods. Breakfast at the Marathon RV Park is a great experience as long as you donít show up in a group of 12. When that happens the ladies that work there get kinda cranky and you end up eating the wrong burritos. That was fine because just as I was finishing what I thought was the blandest chorizo, egg, and potato burrito I had ever eaten, the real chorizo burrito showed up. It was very good and the first burrito was kinda free.
††††††††††† Off we rode down US Highway 385 to Terlingua Ranch Road and Big Bend National Park. If you want to spend some time searching your inner thoughts, this is the place to do it. It is the largest National Park in the U.S. and is a place you donít just stumble on, but a place you decide to go to. The park consists of lots of dirt roads to discover, mountain vistas, the Rio Grande, beautiful desert landscapes and a whole lot of quiet and solitude. If you are looking for rugged, subtle beauty, this is your place. If you are the kind that needs things more obvious and presented to you, Yellowstone National Park is only 1291 miles northwest. Hang a right on Terlingua Ranch Road and you get to see the slightly greener northern border of the park. This road takes you somewhat directly to US Highway 67. Hang a left (south) and you 40 miles later you are in Study Butte. Knock off the ďeĒ and try saying that with a straight face. Take some Dramamine and turn west on TX Farm road 170, also known as The River Road. This road is the closest thing to a roller coaster that you can drive yourself. Up, down, and around and around. You begin to think you are Nicky Hayden exiting Laguna Seccaís Corkscrew every few miles. This continues for 85 of the 90 miles to Presidio, TX.
†As we pulled off the highway to begin our off-road adventure, we discovered Skampís DR 370 had a great reluctance to idle down, accelerate, or do anything in-between. After much poking and prodding, we discovered DR 370ís run much better with the choke turned off. While discovering this, we also had our first in a series of failed Cordura Nylon high heat tests. Luckily Skamp had declined my reasoning of preheating the gas and decided to carry his spare gas tank in the saddlebag away from the exhaust. Just as we got the DR running again, Dan doubled back to make sure we were ok. All was well so Dan took a leak and away we went. This lasted 10 miles and the DR died again. We fiddled with the ignition advance for a while, Dan took a leak and away we went. For exactly 10 miles. The DR died again. We looked at the spark plug and drained the float bowl, Dan took a leak and away we went. This lasted the ENTIRE day. 8 times the DR went 10-12 miles. 8 times the DR died. 8 times we tried different things, including trying to increase the main jet size by auguring it out with a spare cable. 8 times Dan took a leak. On the 9th time we replaced the condenser with a spare Skamp had brought with. By this time Dan was finally whizzed out. We decided that due to the fact you could see Ojinaga Mexico from where we made our last repair we should see if it would run for, oh I donít know, maybe 15 miles. So we continued towards the Chianti Mountains. If you have an extra day, take the trek to The Chianti Hot Springs. A great hot springs, with cabins and camping, in the beautiful Chianti Mountains that reminds us of every thing that was good about hippie communes.
Much to our and Skamp's delight it ran great for over 40 miles and we turned south to the foreign land of Mexico. I would like to interject here that without Mr. Skamp the trip would have not have been any where near as fun. He was the only one that had more of the kid before Christmas giddiness of this trip than I. In my 20 plus years of ridding, I have seen everything there is to see by blacktop and a good chunk of what you can see on dirt roads in the USA. This was definitely going to be more of adventure than a trip.
We were greeted by most of the group waiting patiently at the Mexico side of the border crossing. You go inside the immigration building, show them your passport or birth certificate, receive your papers with instructions to visit a bank and get it stamped for 205 pesos (20.50 US) and you are done personally. Then you go to another window to get your vehicle temporarily imported.† Here you learn lesson number one. In Mexico there is only one speed for doing everything. Everything doesnít move at the same speed, but there is no variance as to what speed each thing moves at. If you canít wait patiently, go to Disneyland, Mexico is not your place. While we were waiting in line, unbeknownst to Charlie, he earned the nickname ďThe CommandantĒ. This was due to the fact he would ride up on his DR 350, dismount gracefully, come over to us (the troops) address us with a tidbit of information and then ride away. In the 90 minutes I waited in line this occurred numerous times.
††††††††††† You present the man behind the window with your drivers license, ORIGINAL TITLE for you vehicle, and your credit card. If you want to save $1.00 US make copies of all the above. I donít know how many copies because it seemed to vary from person to person. He will give you a very fancy temporary import sticker that is carefully made just the right size to NOT stick on any part of your bike unless you have a fairing. Most dual sports are lacking this so just stick it in your jacket pocket. Mexico puts a charge on your credit card based on the value of your vehicle. When you exit Mexico the charge is removed provided you have your bike or a statement from a judge as to what happened to your bike. More later on how we know this later in the story. If you donít go beyond the tourist zone (approximately 15 miles south of the border) you donít need to do any of this.
Next step is to buy Mexican insurance. 55,000 dollars worth of coverage for 7 days for $27.00 US. Pop for the extra 74 cents to get the legal assistance. In Mexico when you get in an accident all parties go to jail until they decide who was at fault. So 3 hours later you are an official foreign tourist.
Hotel Diana is on the south end of town and a very clean, cheap hotel. Here I observed my second lesson. Lamp shades and wooden trim do not exist in Mexico. Lights are just a bulb sticking out of the wall and trim is just a waste of money. Thatís fine by me because every hotel room looks like the penthouse of the Bilaggio when I close my eyes. This was also the first of many double rooms for $20.00 US. Lesson # 3, Mexico is very cheap.