Riding the Copper Canyon and the Baja of California - Part I†† by Tim Zierman
†††† The plan was for Pat Walsh and I to cover the Copper Canyon area of Mexico and the Baja California peninsula in one trip.† Pat is an excellent travel companion and a highly skilled on and off road rider so I was looking forward to the trip.† It would involve traveling through five Mexico states; Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Baja California Sur and Baja California Norte.† Iíd been to the Copper Canyon area and the Baja peninsula several times but had never combined the two into one trip.† Since Pat had done neither by motorcycle he was enthusiastic about the idea.† We took care of all the paper work the day before setting out on the trip at Bisbee for insurance and Naco, Sonora for our tourist visas and vehicle permits.† Interestingly, we traveled approximately 2000 miles in Mexico and never once had to show our documents to anyone!† Pat and I both have '03 DR650ís and since we anticipated a fair amount of this trip would be in the dirt, we chose the Suzukiís as the best vehicles for the trip.† It was also reassuring to have identical bikes which meant we didnít have to double up on spares.† It turned out the only spares we needed were inner tubes and air filters.† As it happened, we could have used a couple more front tubes!† I should also mention that Naco, Sonora is surely one of the best places along the entire Mexico border to cross.†† Everyone is laid back and really quite efficient.† Total time for all documentation was about 1/2 hour.
†††† DAY 1, NACO TO SAHUARIPA.† We traveled west on Mexico Hwy 2 to Cananea and then south on Sonora 118.† The weather was great and the roads were lightly traveled.† Heading south on 118 we went through several villages that were established in the 1600’s.† Cruising along at 60 - 65mph felt right and life was good.† We passed the hot springs at† Aconchi but didnít take time to check them out.† Iím told that theyíre a great place to camp and enjoy the pools of hot water created by natural springs.† 118 ends at the village of Mazocahui and intersects with Mexico 14.† Our plan was to travel south at that point on a dirt road which took us awhile to find.† We finally asked directions of some workers on lunch break.† It turned out that the so called road which, although shown on the map, was basically just a dry river bed with lots of soft sand for the first 15 to 18 miles.† It proved challenging even for the DR's primarily because of the weight of a full tank of gas (4.7 gals.) and our luggage.† After awhile we lost some of our tenseness and things became more enjoyable.† I damned near hit a cow though, which wouldnít have been fun.† After what seemed like about a 100 miles we finally left the river bed for firm, although rocky, ground.† It was a relief.† Another 10 -15 miles and we reached pavement and headed west to Mazatan and Sonora Hwy 20.† We headed east on Hwy 20 to Sahuaripa.† Hwy 20 was quite spectacular and somewhat scary for someone like me who doesnít like heights.† The road winds its way though mountains and the scenery was awesome.† About 50 miles before we reached Sahuaripa we stopped for something cold to drink.† We were in a remote area, definitely not on the well traveled tourist route, and were surprised to find a young woman behind the counter who spoke perfect English.† It turns out she was born in San Diego and spent part of her youth in San Francisco.† She returned to this spot to help her grandmother run the store.† Pat and I were running low on fuel and were anxious to reach Sahuaripa so we rode conservatively until we got there, our first nightís destination.† After gassing up we looked for and found a nice hotel in the heart of town.† The proprietor came out to greet us with an outstretched hand.† It was a fairly new hotel and the room was clean and pleasant.† After getting out of our riding gear we set out on a quest to first, find me a beer and second, to get something to eat.† We knew we werenít in a town frequented by tourists because it took us awhile to find a restaurant.† Iíd already had one beer but was looking forward to another along with the food.† The restaurant was in the proprietor's home and she said they had no beer.† I feigned anguish and settled for Pepsi.† A few moments later the womanís husband came to our table with a shot of tequila and some limes.† Compliments of the house!† As mentioned we had trouble finding the restaurant.† Pat asked at the local market and of course they told us directions in Spanish.† We only understood some of what was said but proceeded on our way anyway.† After walking a ways I noticed a young boy on a bicycle who seemed to be following us.† When we got to an intersection and looked confused the boy would come up close and point to the direction we should take.† When we got close enough to see the lights (there was no sign) he pointed and then disappeared.† I thought that if everyone we meet along the way were as nice as the people in this town, we were in for a great trip.
†††† DAY 2, SAHUARIPA TO CREEL.† We had to go back the way we came for a mile or so to find the road south.† We decided to ride for awhile before stopping for breakfast.† The road south was splendid.† Almost no traffic.† We traveled over 80 miles without seeing another vehicle.† One of the highlights for me was to witness a mountain lion cross the road 50 or so yards in front of me.† An especially neat village along this road was Arivechi which was established in the early 1600’s and had the most incredible town square for such a small village.† As we traveled south the road seemed to get better and better.† Lots and lots of curves and elevation changes.† As I rounded one such curve there was a man in a farm field waving frantically.† Something told me this wasnít a greeting and so I slowed way down.† As I rounded the next curve, in the middle of the road walking nonchalantly, was another man, a couple of dogs, two cows and a calf as well as the usual "piesĒ that cows randomly leave behind.† This brings me to state a couple of fundamentals while traveling in Mexico:† 1) If there are cow pies in the road, thereís a very high probability that around the next corner will be a cow in the middle of the road.† 2) Scenery can be spectacular but the roads require 100% of your attention so if you want to enjoy the scenery pull over and stop.† We eventually reached Mexico Hwy 16 which is a main east/west road.† After a short distance heading east we encountered one of the many military checkpoints that are in place in Mexico.† Since we were on bikes they waved us through which is usually the case (not always!) when youíre on a motorcycle.† Shortly after we stopped for breakfast at a small combination casa/cafe.† It felt good to get off the bikes at that point and to enjoy a cup or two of coffee and a hearty breakfast.† We traveled on Hwy 16 for about 115 miles heading east towards Basaseachic falls.† Of those 115 miles, probably less than five were in a straight line.† Some of you may have heard of the Dragoon in North Carolina.† Itís a favorite road for bikers because of its many curves.† Iíve ridden the "dragon" and let me say it doesnít compare to Mexico Hwy 16!†† Basaseachic falls is a national park and it is reported to be the second tallest waterfall in North America.† We stopped at the park and took a couple of photos for the record.† At this point we left the pavement and took a dirt road short cut to San Juanito and then pavement in to Creel.† It was on this dirt road which is about 70 miles long through some very scenic back country, that I got what was to be the first of several flat front tires on the trip.† The road was very dusty and is traveled by logging trucks.† I hit a rock that I didnít see and shortly after the tire went flat.† It took about 20 minutes to put in a fresh tube before we could resume travel.† We reached Creel about 3pm and promptly checked in to Margaritaís hotel.† The last time I stayed at Margarita's we could park the bikes right outside of the room.† Theyíve made some changes though and we had to park a couple of blocks away in a locked enclosure.† Very secure.† Included in the price of the room was dinner and breakfast for Pat and I.† Total for the two of us for a very nice room and the aforementioned meals was $48.† We wandered around Creel for a bit and noted that they are in the process of making some civic improvements.† Theyíre putting in all new sidewalks which, when done, will be very nice.† I needed to find a can of WD40 which is an excellent chain cleaner and lo and behold the first place we stopped had it.† On previous trips to Mexico Iíve had some trouble finding WD40 so I should have thought to bring some along but didnít.† To be continued...