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Blazing Saddles - a hot ride in Mexico

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I just finished a fantastic 6 day ride with 7 riding buddies to Galeana, Mexico.  For those not familiar with Galeana, it is located in the mountains of northeast Mexico, about 85 miles or so due south of Monterrey.  The riding there is fantastic and for Texas riders, essentially in our backyard. 

 

Three of us - Milton, JT, and I - were on DRZs (actually 2 KLXs and 1 DRZ but they are all DRZs in my mind). 

 

This ride was the first real test of my 2003 DR-Z440w.  What is a DR-Z440w you ask?  It's a DRZ with a Cylinder Works big bore kit and an ACT wide ratio transmission. 

 

I bought the DRZ last year with the intent of trying to make it into a significantly better dual sport adventure bike by adding a wide ratio transmission, big bore kit, a fairing, and a few other modifications and accessories.  The build was completed just a few weeks prior to this trip - in fact I had just finished the 500 mile break-in of the new engine the week before leaving for Mexico.

 

I thought I would share the ride report and some additional info on how the DR-Z440w performed.

 

Here's a teaser video courtesy of my riding buddy Stingray Scott which explains how I came up with the name of this ride report.  This is my buddy JT, on his e model.

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Trailering to McAllen

Milton, Racer John and I all live in Austin, TX so we decided it made the most sense to trailer to McAllen, TX together.  We loaded our bikes on a borrowed trailer (Thank You, Robert Krull!) Tuesday afternoon and drove the 315 miles or so south to McAllen.  An uneventful six hours later we arrived at our abode for the evening - one of the three Motel 6's in the area.  The other 5 - JT, Scott, Chuck, Steve, and Brian - had arrived earlier and were all checked in.

2 DRZs and a KLR ready for a Mexican AdventureThe DR-Z440w is on the right.  I'm running a Lynx fairing with a Maier fairing.
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Meelton (as it is pronounced in Spanish) rides a DRZs model.
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Racer John on his first real international motorcycle adventure.
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Chuck - Head Mechanic.
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Stingray Scott unable to contain his excitementThe Mexicans kept asking him if he was a WWE wrestler 'cause he's so big.
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JT - always ready to ride. He is on the e model DRZ.
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Brian - he made his big GS1200 earn its pay on this trip
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Steve - raced the pro class in the Baja 1000 but agreed to ride slow enough on his Wee Strom so that we could keep up with him.
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And, finally, this little guy.  He wasn't riding with us but he made sure to keep a close eye on us while we were at the Motel 6.
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Rider error.  The aftermarket pipe he was running was melting his side panel.  So he decided to try and shim the panel away from the pipe with a piece of wood (they were deep in the woods at the time and he wasn't able to find anything else that he could make work).  It actually worked very well for about 8 hours of riding off-road in the mountains.  But at the end of the day when they finally made it to a highway and started running at highway speed the wood either shifted or the heat was too high.  The wood ignited and the results are what you see in the video.

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i saw the pics brian postedon FB  looks like a good time. wish i had long distance riders where i live. no one wants to ride more than 150 miles a day here.. i need new friends!

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i saw the pics brian postedon FB 

I'm going to pick on Brian and Steve a little.  Interestingly, both of those guys have a DRZ and a big adventure bike in their garages.  This was their first trip to Mexico and as part of their planning process they asked which bikes they should ride.  I advised them that the DRZ was, by far, the best choice.  However, both felt more comfortable riding their adventure bikes (GS1200 and Wee-Strom) on this first trip to Galeana.  Unfortunately that decision limited their riding options, keeping them off the harder stuff the rest of us rode.  My guess is next time they will chose the DRZs over the adventure bikes.

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The z is old reliable. . I threw my drz into a tree and it took the hit and was still running. Any other mx bike would have crumbled. only take my strom on pavement and fire roads. . The Z Does all the grunt work. I'm a suzuki man for sure. 05 z -13k

05 1400 s83 intruder 8k

07 strom 5.2k. I'm thinking about trying another brand.. Some day

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Rider error.  The aftermarket pipe he was running was melting his side panel.  So he decided to try and shim the panel away from the pipe with a piece of wood (they were deep in the woods at the time and he wasn't able to find anything else that he could make work).  It actually worked very well for about 8 hours of riding off-road in the mountains.  But at the end of the day when they finally made it to a highway and started running at highway speed the wood either shifted or the heat was too high.  The wood ignited and the results are what you see in the video.

Its a stock pipe,  looks like his bags were pushing on the plastics against the pipe/wood and thats what caused it,  thats why many install bars there or a heat shield on the exahust,   you can tell he was getting pissed when he noticed it was maybe messing up his Seat Concepts seat,  lol

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The z is old reliable. . I threw my drz into a tree and it took the hit and was still running. Any other mx bike would have crumbled. only take my strom on pavement and fire roads. . The Z Does all the grunt work. I'm a suzuki man for sure. 05 z -13k

05 1400 s83 intruder 8k

07 strom 5.2k. I'm thinking about trying another brand.. Some day

That's the bonus from having a strong ( Heavy ) bike

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How did the 440W perform.???...Of course we expect a full ride report..... :D

 

Your buddy was damn lucky there no fuel drips coming out the carb breather pipes... :eek:

 

But still a nice little fire nevertheless..... :applause:

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Day 2 - Trouble, trouble, and more trouble

Unfortunately the bike issues that started on the afternoon of day 1 continued, and even multiplied, into day 2.  John's KLR had electrical issues but he was able to solve the issue on the evening of day 1 in the hotel parking lot.  My DRZ battery was giving me fits and I was hoping to find a replacement in Montemorelos.  JT's DRZ was dribbling oil from somewhere on the head and he needed to find and eliminate the cause.  So day 2 began with bike repairs and maintenance in the hotel parking lot.

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With his KLR fixed, John mostly watched the action.
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Once we determined that a battery for my DRZ could not be procured locally, we decided to ride over to Linares and continue the search.  In accordance with our luck for the day, Scott's KTM690 quit running a few miles down the road.
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RacerJohn, Milton, and I left the fellows on the side of the road working on Scott's bike and rode on to Linares to source a battery for the DRZ.  After several dead-ends I finally determined that I would not be able to get a properly sized battery for my DRZ in Mexico so I bought a slightly larger one and stuck it in my saddle bags just in case.

While I was buying a battery the fellows completed a make-shift repair of Scott's KTM and were able to ride it to the Auto Zone in Linares...


...where we spent the rest of the day fighting bike problems.

With a few parts sourced from the Auto Zone Scott's bike was ready to go after about 2 hours.  Finally!  We could ride!!!  With enthusiasm we all geared up, ready for more adventure when someone pointed out that Milton's DRZ was dribbling gasoline.
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Dang it.  Off came the gear, out came the tools, and for the next 4 hours we tried to get Milton's bike running.
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During this same time period my battery finally gave up the ghosts.  I installed the new, larger battery but, of course, it wouldn't fit.  So I made it fit with zip ties.

 

Finally, about 4 or 5 pm all the bikes were running.  At this point 5 of the 6 bikes had required some level of repair.  Hot, tired, and disappointed with the way the day had gone, we decided to ride directly to Galeana for a cold beer or three.  Blessedly, other than JT's small fire, we didn't have any other significant bike issues the remainder of the trip.



We met up with Steve and Brian in Galeana.
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Milton doing what Milton does.
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JT and RacerJohn
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This little guy was having a ball riding his bike on the plaza in Galeana.
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There's a new store on the plaza in Galeana.  And it's really nice.
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The Galeana Plaza at blue hour
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And that's the way day 2 went.  For those keeping score, five of the six bikes in the group needed some level of repair today, which is the most I've ever experienced during a trip like this.  Luckily, we got all the problems out of the way in one day and the remainder of the trip was mostly bike repair free.

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Day 3 - The Good Stuff and a Near-Death Experience

After the disappointment of yesterday we had high hopes for today.  We were headed south to ride the Agua Blanca route, one of the prettiest rides in the area.  The threat of a bit of rain was not enough to deter us.

The guys looking for some breakfast
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Not breakfast.  But somebody's lunch cooking on the street.
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The rain arrived before we got out of town
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We headed south toward Cuevas and on to Camarones.  Ahhh...finally...the good stuff.  I had ridden this route several years ago and knew it to be one of the most beautiful routes in the entire area.  It starts off in a valley between the mountains, following a river.  Then the route begins to climb up, eventually going over the mountains and on to the edge of the desert to the west. 

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How do you fix a collapsed bridge?  Simple, just add a little dirt.  Yep, that'll do it.  This bridge was new in 2008 but a hurricane or two since then has taken a toll.
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After some really fun riding it was time for a short break in downtown Camarones.
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Francisco Villa, Tienda Proprietor
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Downtown Camarones
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The road beyond Camarones is just so beautiful.  I tried but was unable to fully capture the beauty.




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The road was quite steep in many places.  Here is an example.

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At this point things took a decided turn to "much more difficult".  A heavy rain or hurricane in the near past had washed out the road ahead for an unknown distance, presenting us with an unknown number and difficulty of obstacles.  

The biggest challenge was that where there used to be a road there was now only a narrow path about 12 inches wide that veered dangerously close to the edge of the cliff in multiple places.

We had 2 choices - a) turn back or B) work as a team to overcome each obstacle until we got to one we couldn't get by or we made it all the way through.  After a bit of discussion, we elected to press ahead.

The first obstacle was the easiest.  It involved navigating around some larger boulders while crossing a small washout.





Obstacle #2 was much more serious than the first.  A short, steep, boulder filled hill was setting in the middle of the "road" and the trail around it skirted the edge of a 100 foot drop-off.  One little error while trying to negotiate the trail would result in a long fall and either serious injury or death.  We decided to push the bikes across the trail but then decided that it might be possible to ride over the hill.

Group discussion at the 2nd obstacle
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RacerJohn conquering the 2nd obstacle



Stingray goes up and over




Milton's turn
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After Milton rounded the corner in the above video, the trail narrowed, clinging to the edge of the cliff for a short distance.  As Milton attempted to negotiate that section something knocked him off tracked and he and the bike toppled over the edge of the cliff.

Milton landed in a conveniently placed tree and was able to scramble up the cliff, safe and sound.  Several of the fellows managed to upright his DRZ.

Too close for comfort.




The next section was more of the same - a rocky narrow trail at cliff's edge, where one mistake could be extremely costly.

Scott walking along the edge of disaster



JT gives it a go.  He is both a better rider and braver than me.

http://youtu.be/DxPAtQNCEaI'>http://youtu.be/DxPAtQNCEaI

 

 

 

More scenes from the edge

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Shortly after rescuing Milton's bike, bees showed up and started stinging us.  Scott got hit in the neck, I took a shot in the temple, Chuck got nailed on the scalp, and Milton got stung in several locations.  We quickly made a bee-line for safer surroundings.
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It would be extremely difficult for just 1-2 average riders to get through this section by themselves - it was very tough.  With all 6 of us working together we made it through, but, candidly, it was quite taxing.  After clearing the last obstacle, we were soaked in sweat and highly fatigued.  
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Luckily, the remainder of the road was in good shape and no other serious obstacles presented themselves.

The views after Buena Vista were beautiful.
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Milton and Scott happy to have overcome some bad road.
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Buena Vista
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A meeting of 2 worlds
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Scott says we are all loco
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Nearing Agua Blanca
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We reached pavement at San Juanita de Solis.  RacerJohn and I headed north for Galeana while Milton, JT, Scott, and Chuck headed south for Aramberri.  They planned to ride east across the mountains to Camerones the next day, while RacerJohn and I were planning on riding a northern route with Brian and Steve.


The end of the road
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The Gang of Six
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Edited by SlowMotion
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Saturday

The next morning I woke a little earlier than normal and spent some time walking around the Galeana with my camera, grabbing street scenes that caught my eye.


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There is a new hotel in Galeana, just three blocks from the plaza.
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Most of the restaurants in Galeana don't open until 9am and we didn't want to wait that long to head out.  We decide to get on the road about 8am and eat when we arrived in Rayones, an hour north of Galeana.  Steve, Brian, RacerJohn, and I were riding together today with the intent of riding the dual sport double dragon route and then riding to the top of Mount Potossi.  

A short distance out of Galeana
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A local directed us to this little place for breakfast.
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Our faithful steeds waiting for us to finish breakfast.
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The views on the dual sport double dragon are arguably the finest of all.
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This beautiful high plain is just outside of Cienaga del Torro.
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After navigating our way through Cienaga we took a new-to-me route to Mimbres.  The riding was easy class 1 and the views didn't disappoint.
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We took a short break in Mimbres.  It was Saturday so the kids were not in school.  These young fellows took a keen interest in the 4 gringos and their motos.
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Unfortunately, the afternoon rain was starting to catch up to us (it rained most afternoons).  We could see it raining in the distance and the clouds were heading in our direction.  So we cut our visit short, saddled up and tried to out run the rain.  We had a small window of opportunity to do so.
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At the cutoff to Mt Potossi we stopped to discuss the situation.  The top of the mountains was shrouded in clouds so it didn't make much sense to ride to the top for the views.  Instead, we decided to ride up as high as we could go and still see the horizon.  I warned the group that it was the bumpiest road they will ever ride.  Words don't do it justice.  After riding about 3 miles up the group decided the payoff (the views) weren't going to be worth it - the road was just too jarring on man and machine. A new group decision was made to head back to Galeana and call it a day.  Unfortunately the rain caught us shortly after we got off the mountain and followed us all the way to the plaza in Galeana and the end of our riding day.

The other group arrived in Galeana a few hours later with stories of mud, closed roads, and JT's bike catching on fire.  Luckily the fire didn't destroy anything essential and the bike ran fine all the way back to Texas.
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It had been a great trip but all too soon it was time to head back home.  Tomorrow we had to begin the trek back to Texas.

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Reluctantly Going Home

Sunday morning was beautiful.  There were just a few clouds in the sky and the temperature was pleasantly in the high 60s.  The weather app on my phone was predicting a chance of afternoon rain showers, which was no surprise - that had been the weather prediction every day of this trip.

Our plan today was to ride north on the Gold Standard route and then head east for McAllen.  With a little luck we would be back in Texas before the sun set today.  If we ran into issues we were prepared to stay another night in Mexico.  

We wanted to get a somewhat early start so we decided to ride an hour north to Rayones and grab breakfast there.

A last view looking back toward Galeana
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Milton knew of a fine little restaurant in Rayones, so that's where we went.  I was surprised to see a couple on a R1200GS when we arrived.  Then, during breakfast a number of other riders showed up.  They were riders from Monterrey out for a Sunday ride and this restaurant was one of their normal ride-to-eat destinations.
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The owner and his wife.
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After breakfast we rode north toward Las Truncas and the turn-off for The Gold Standard route.  As was my habit I stopped frequently to grab a picture here and there.
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Cabanas are a popular lodging option in this area.  These particular cabanas are owned by the guy who owns the restaurant in Rayones.
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The views never fail to satisfy.  
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In Las Truncas we stopped to take a short break.  Three young locals swimming in the river decided we were more interesting than swimming and decided to hang out with us.  With a little urging we were able to get them to sing a song for us.  Very cool.  
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