A Brutal Ride

Lots of delicious candy from the festival street vendors

February 15, 2015 | Posted in Mexico, Places, Sinaloa, Sonora | By

We spent a week in the “Pueblo Magico” of Álamos, Sonora. Luckily our Warm Showers host, Paul let us stay a preposterous amount of time during the FAOT music festival when we would have had a hard time finding reasonable accommodation. I think he secretly welcomed the excuse to sit around drinking coffee and talking instead of working. What a strange festival! It is in honor of a famous opera singer, and much of the music is oriented as such, but there are also random acts such as an American blues singer and whomever wants to get together in the streets to play. The old ladies and classical music students rule the week, but on the weekends the squares are flooded with youths carrying bags of beer. The final weekend is especially crazy as every youth in Sonora pours into town to party. Rock bands headline and the uniquely Sonoran cyclone mosh pits grow. Rather than just running around slamming into whomever you can hit, everyone skips, jumps and prances in a smooth counter-clockwise circle bouncing off one another, forming linked bands for others to attempt to destroy and throwing beer around. The hardcore moshers run in the opposite direction to get thrashed. Drunks roam the streets singing joyously and Norteño bands blast their Polka in the arroyo until the full light of day.

One of the two main plazas in Álamos, filled with revelers for the Festival Alfonso Ortiz Tirado

One of the two main plazas in Álamos

Lots of delicious candy from the festival street vendors

Lots of delicious candy from the festival street vendors

After over a week of this, it was finally time to move on. Paul convinced us to go back to our original route plan and take the back roads to El Fuerte, another “Pueblo Magico” in the neighboring state of Sinaloa. He told us it was very challenging, but had been the best part of his ride from Álamos to NYC. There are no direct routes between the towns, only a web of unpaved tracks connecting small villages. I drew out a detailed paper map including mileages and villages gleaned from Google and we set out midday after a leisurely breakfast.

We immediately became confused. There were far more intersecting roads than had appeared on the map and the couple people we met were of no help. Eventually we came to a road that was probably our turnoff and we left the pavement to climb a steep hill into the bush. As we continued, I was more and more convinced we’d made the correct decision and it was confirmed when we flagged down a truck full of drunk old men. They all talked at once giving conflicting directions on how to get to El Fuerte, but the one thing their flailing arms all agreed upon was that straight ahead was the way to go.

Brandy riding cobble stones to a bridge on the road to El Fuerte

Shortly after flailing arms guys

The road serviced a huge mine, so it was well maintained, and despite being gravel, we moved along at a good pace for the rest of the day. Although it was a mine road, traffic was very light and without trucks so we had a tranquil cruise through some fantastic scenery. Late in the day we came across some ranchers working on their fence and we got to enjoy the same silly colloquialism we have met throughout our travels. When I told them we were going to El Fuerte, which is in the neighboring state of Sinaloa, they asked if I was scared.

“Of course not. Is there something I should be scared of?”

He made the universal machine gun gesture.

“Is the rest of Sonora safe though?”

“Oh yes, absolutely.”

Right. Duly noted.

It’s always the next place that’s scary and dangerous.

As we cycled off, “regresa vive! (return alive!)”

We decided to set up camp while we were still in the totally safe Sonora rather than the bullet-ridden warzone of Sinaloa. Well, the fading light made the decision for us. Fortunately the sun painted yet another brilliant swath of color across the sky just as we came across one of the only places we’d seen all day where the fence was not right against the road. We had a nice space in some bushes above an arroyo where we cooked dinner over a fire. We sat into the night watching storms pass by the neighboring mountain and just as we were thinking of heading to bed, the skies above us opened and drowned our fire for us. We slept beautifully under the patter of heavy drops on the tent fly.

It was a good thing we got our sleep because the next day would be a monster. We had somehow passed the turnoff I’d plotted, so we were into the unknown for distances, but luckily we’d picked up a rudimentary map from the tourist point in Álamos so we weren’t completely lost. We would also be crossing into the notorious Sinaloa where we would need all our energy to dodge ambushes from machine gun and machete wielding maniacs. Knowing how overblown dangers can be, we were not too worried.

As it turns out, we had plenty to fear.

: Jaw-dropping mountain vistas threatened to take our attention from dodging potholes and washboard.

Jaw-dropping mountain vistas threatened to take our attention from dodging potholes and washboard.

A cow stares at us as we pass

Angry local casting menacing glances

Getting bogged down in sand

Getting bogged down in sand

A pink abarrotes in La Quintera

Cute pink tiendas diverting our attention

A couple kids with a donkey

Kids with their silly ass and piercing questions about our origin and intentions delayed us for minutes.

Lewis chatting with a cowboy and some dogs on the road to El Fuerte. Mountains line the horizon.

This guy was surely up to no good with all that smiling and friendly banter.

The secondary road was in poor condition and undulated up and down steep grades that sucked our energy dry. The sun was searing and I’d lost my sunglasses again, so was reduced to squinting and the rare passing car filled my eyes with dust. I figured the road would improve past El Chinal because that town was printed in bold face on my map, and the road was shown as a thicker line. Nope. El Chinal was nothing more than a collection of homes and a pretty church.

The church of El Chinal, Sinaloa

This is it

The road actually managed to deteriorate, but on the plus side, the traffic was nonexistent. Only two cars and a donkey passed us in three hours. We followed a massive dam for several miles, but rather than provide relief, the road would tease us by following the grade for a bit before dipping back down a steep drop in FRONT of the dam so that it could return up an equally steep climb back up, again and again. On top, a headwind pushed us back. I had picked up some bug along the way, which was odd considering we’d made our own food that day. I was feeling worse and worse as the afternoon heat bore down. My stomach was tensing up and I felt I would vomit at any moment. It was the kind of nausea of the athlete who has pushed too hard. It kept coming in waves, each worse than the next. I thought I might have heat exhaustion or dehydration, but I’d kept up with the water and electrolytes and I didn’t have the typical piercing headache. In fact, the homemade sports drink that usually satiates an afternoon sapping made me feel even worse. The bouncing of rubble and surprise washboards shook my bones and rattled my mood. I became angry. I take this anger out on my bicycle like a stupid asshole. I bomb the hills and take the holes hard. It makes me feel better, but I know I’ll be even more furious if I break something.

Lewis slumped in the shade not looking at the vista behind

Demolished

Flying down hills I should not be flying down. Lots of ruts and stones and washboard.

Flying down hills I should not be flying down

By the time we reached the actual sluiceway of the dam about ten miles from town, my life was flashing before my eyes. I begged for pavement. I needed pavement, or at least a graded surface. There is a junction, so presumably the road should be better, but the road should have been better after El Chinal. Why the hell would they pave a road out to some dam?

Not only was the road paved, it was beautiful. Silky smooth and new and there was no additional traffic! As the sky deepened into the now familiar orange and purple, we climbed long gentle hills onward. On each climb we dreamed of the top opening into a wide-open valley with El Fuerte shining beacons of light at the bottom. Each ridge provided a view of the road sinking down to a stream and rising back up yet another hill, until… stuff!

We finally pulled into the central plaza of El Fuerte and slumped into a bench. Darkness descended and we stared up through the palm trees at the twinkling stars overhead, unable to move. It was 6:30. We had left our camp at 9:30. That netted us 42 miles. My energy was gone, the sickness was overtaking me and it required everything I had to get back on the bike to find a hotel. Brandy wanted to shop around, but that was impossible. So we paid too much (500 pesos), but it was nice and it was a bed. I spent the night rolling around in pain and running to the toilet to do horrible things you don’t want to hear about. I was still feeling ill the next day and couldn’t make the effort to find another place.

The ride was hard. Very hard. It was also completely worth it. I would recommend it in a second, although I would suggest not getting dog-ass sick.

Current status: We are in Mazatlán for Carnaval. Tomorrow we will take a bus back to Culiacán to get our bikes and make a quick ride down to the state of Nayarit where there are supposed to be some great little beach towns. We plan to spend a couple weeks not moving around much before catching a bus to Mexico City for a music festival.

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Churches of La Ruta Rio Sonora

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January 19, 2015 | Posted in Mexico, Places, Sonora | By

Most of the towns along the Ruta Rio Sonora were built in the 17th Century and each has a beautiful plaza and cathedral. Here are some photos of a few of them. Click here to read about our experiences riding the Ruta.

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La Ruta Rio Sonora

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January 19, 2015 | Posted in Mexico, Places, Sonora | By

Our first day of cycling into Mexico was so inspiring that I felt the need to make a photo post that night. The ride just continued to get better. We started our day out of Esqueda with a completely unnecessary hill up to get money at the only ATM in town. It was at a store in some sort of weird, almost gated suburb. I say, “almost gated” because they had a security guard at the entrance, but he was posted just past an intersection where you could have turned left and gotten into the neighborhood anyway. We had to go to this ATM because we were running dangerously low on cash, which can be quite a problem in rural Mexico where you are rarely able to use a card, and cash machines are few and far between. Luckily this town had one, albeit at the top of that aforementioned hill.

After scoring our cash, we continued on that wonderfully lightly traveled highway south for a few miles. We had been told of another route, the Ruta Rio Sonora, a bit further to the west, which follows the Sonora River and passes through about a dozen small and lovely villages. I had scouted on Google a connection to that route that crossed over a small mountain range, but it appeared from the satellite view that it was gravel. We have done this before, so we decided to make a go for it. I had been expecting to need to do a bit of sleuthing on the go to find the turnoff, but was pleased to find a huge sign for Bacoachi pointing down a paved road.

A terrible road surface in Sonora

The massive holes were easy for us to avoid, but meant that car drivers would need to be on their toes – good for us!
You can see a little shrine on the side of the road for a dead motorist, right on the other side of the somewhat new guardrail. There are very few guardrails in Mexico, many of them are at locations where there is also a dead guy shrine, rather than in places that are exceptionally dangerous. I’m glad to see the knee-jerk safety measures are a universal human trait.

As we rolled up and down the grassy hills, we kept expecting the pavement to end at every corner, but it never did! It often deteriorated to a point that reigned in our downhill speeds, but it never lost the surface. The few cars we did encounter were courteous, as usual, although we were reminded of the dangers of the curvy mountain roads as we encountered this on our way up the pass:

A wrecked truck on a curvy mountain road in Sonora

Nobody was inside, so hopefully there were no injuries, but this is a distinct warning to heed the sounds of approaching trucks on the hills.

The fun thing about passes is that you wind and wind and climb and climb. When you have a view, it gets way better way faster than seems reasonable. You keep going and going. It’s hard work and you take breaks and feel really cool whenever a car goes by and sees how badass you are. Then all of a sudden, you break through and are staring at a completely different country. Everything changes, your view, your effort, your temperature, and sometimes even the entire climate. Wow.

This pass was steep enough that we had to employ the switchback method, but it didn’t last too long and soon we were presented with a sweeping view of the Sonora Valley.

A magnificent valley of lumpy land

It seems we have again taken a pass in the correct direction as we coasted downhill for a blissful seven miles as the road swung around tight curves and ran ridgelines all the way down. The landscape had looked rather rumply from the terrain view and I had been worried that would mean a lot of useless ups and downs. I have to hand it to the engineers because they kept that road consistent, even if it meant a million tight curves. Never fear though, we’d get plenty of useless ups and downs a couple days hence.

We pulled into the sleepy plaza of Bacoachi and asked some older locals who were lounging around where we could find a hotel. This led to the typical questions, which led to an invitation for coffee, which soon led to us inside their home eating some hearty soup and chocolate flan. Soon Jaime took our visit as an excuse to bust out the accordion and play some tunes. Jaime and Elodie have been living in the United States for decades, but come down to this house Elodie’s parents built whenever possible.

After spending some time with them, Elodie took us over to the hotel. The rooms were big and lovely with handmade wood doors, windows and a roof from local trees, but it was a bit more expensive than the previous couple nights (like three bucks) and had no internet or heat. Elodie told us there was going to be a dance later and that she would be going. I also gathered that her daughter was in the band, which seemed odd because the daughter we met did not seem like the type to play in a band.

We happily took our showers and theeen … the beeeed … seeeeeemed … soooo … comf……

We awoke with a start and were horrified to find that something had happened to the sun causing it to vanish entirely. It was suddenly almost time to go to the party! We made some quick couscous (our secret cyclist fuel) using the coffee pot and followed the music to the party. We were obviously too early because there were about six people there sitting around awkwardly with insanely loud music. We decided to go back over to the house and see when they would be coming. It turns out that they were not going, and the daughter was not in the band, but rather the daughter was going to the party. There wasn’t really anyone around and it seemed like there was a bit of an argument going on. We were sitting at the table looking at each other. We were just getting up to go and Elodie told us, “no, no! Don’t go yet. I’m making hot chocolate,” so we sat down and right at that moment another couple came in. It was her sister who’d just arrived from LA and another fellow. We ended up talking with them for a couple hours while we waited for the kids to get ready for the dance. The guy, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten, gave us some of the local mescal called bacanora, which was delicious (from what we’ve since gathered, we must have been very lucky to have tasted the only remotely palatable bacanora in the country). He was really excited about our trip and had a huge warm smile on his face by the time we left. I could tell we were doing something that touched his heart deeply, and it made me feel really good. Perhaps he’d dreamed of such a trip long ago and it made him happy to see it happening to someone firsthand, or was just a similar wandering type.

The three kids drove us to the dance, which was ridiculous considering it was about three blocks. To be fair though, they did go to the gas station to buy drinks first. The party was in full swing when we arrived. The place was really just a big room mostly taken up by the open dance space in front of the stage. There were a few tables around the outside that were filled with people who were sitting around watching the dancers. The band was on break when we arrived and it was funny that everyone kept the dance area completely clear and packed in around the outside. After the band started up again we stood around for quite a bit watching and being shy about dancing. We both like to dance, but have never really done much partner dancing, so it took us a bit to get going. Eventually we got out on the floor and had a ball. At first tons of people were bumping into us and I was thinking, ‘I must be doing something wrong. There must be a flow.’ We both realized at the same time that the entire group of dancers continuously moves in a circle, and we started looking slightly less foolish, and had a gas twirling around and laughing. We finally got out of there at 1 am because we were planning to, ya know, bike over a mountain the next day. At least we didn’t get hammered.

We had been invited over to breakfast the next morning and didn’t want to be rude and skip it, but were also worried about when we would be able to get going. We also had a really difficult time getting up thanks to the late night and the fact that the room was downright frigid, but went over nonetheless. Jaime was the only one up when we got there and he heated up some coffee while we talked more about his love of motorcycling and the work he has done in the States. Elodie came out and cooked us a delicious breakfast and eventually the kids shuffled to the table looking very much like they had closed the party. We did indeed get a late start and weren’t on the road until 11 am, but we had a wonderful visit and everyone saw us off with well wishes. They invited us over for New Years, but crossing mountains is always a one-way trip for us.

Bigger than my head. Ok, not that big.

A fatty grasshopper shell we found

We had been told that it was flat for 40 minutes driving before it the big mountain comes up. Of course we all know that means you have several miles of ups and downs. They really weren’t all that bad and the scenery was very nice. It was also noticeably warmer than yesterday. At the base of the climb is a small town called Buena Vista. This was not at all a misnomer as it and some bucolic farm fields sat in a small valley of bubbly walled cliffs within the larger valley we’d been in all day. There really was a lot going on with the scenery around this particular hamlet, but we weren’t concerned with the scenery for long because the road got right to it. Without any foreplay, the road dropped steeply down to a bridge and then cranked right back up the other side. The shadows made it look less severe, so of course we didn’t downshift quickly enough as our speed tanked from 25 mph to 3. No matter, at least we wouldn’t have to think about shifting again for the next two hours as we carved our own switchbacks all the way up. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic so we were able to take over the road for the most part. Some more luck came our way when we happened to be on one of the rare straightaways when a truck came down carrying one of the widest loads I’ve ever seen. It was a massive cylinder that could have held a house. Memories of the wrecked truck from the previous day swam through my head and I was grateful not to have met it on the wrong side of the road at the bottom of a tight curve. We were false summited once, but the real summit could not be mistaken. We broke through at a junction with a small road to a TV tower. I had actually seen the tower road from below and had been horrified as I thought that even steeper piece of crap was the future of our road. The junction had incredible views of both valleys and we took that opportunity for a much needed break. The maddening part is that the same river flows through both valleys, which begs the question of why the hell the road goes over the mountain. The connecting section of the river must contain some insane topography. There was a bit more climbing before we saw with rejoice the sign that said, “Frene Con Motor,” which means “Brake with Motor.” The downhill was just as steep and we blazed down in a matter of minutes. At the bottom we had to ford what appeared to be a fairly deep river fraught with dangerous potholes. We watched a sedan go through and almost upend itself as it dropped into a massive pothole, but then the water turned out to be clear and the crossing was shallow and easy.

Dropping down from the pass into this valley next to those bubbly cliffs was simply incredible. We would have photos from the better vista next to those cliffs but we were smoking down that hill and there was a krr on our asses.

Dropping down from the pass into this valley next to those bubbly cliffs was simply incredible. We would have photos from the better vista next to those cliffs but we were smoking down that hill and there was a krr on our asses.

The cliffs changed entirely within a couple miles. The view to the right was insane as this was where the valley opened up, but the photos were simply garbage.

The cliffs changed entirely within a couple miles. The view to the right was insane as this was where the valley opened up, but the photos were simply garbage.

Two horsemen riding into Arizpe, Sonora, Mexico

Sonora is cowboy country, and the Ruta Rio Sonora, as everyone later told us, is the “real” Sonora. We came across these guys coming into Arizpe. There are horsemen everywhere but somehow this is the best photo we got.

We were exhausted when we got to Arizpe and checked into the hotel at the edge of town. I just wanted to get dinner and crash, but this is the point where we realized that we only had 100 pesos left, and there would be no ATM before Baviácora, which we would not reach for two days. Yup, that meant more couscous. Of course, I didn’t feel like cooking outside, so I set my JetBoil in the bathroom so as not to fill the bedroom with fumes. I set the dry couscous on top of the toilet, which happened to have a slight, invisible slant. I caught it before the whole thing hit the floor, but there was still a massive spill of couscous all over the toilet seat and floor. Cleaning up thousands of granules of pasta in a bathroom without a broom was exactly how I wanted my evening to end. Well, we did have warm beds and good internet, and after a beautiful day of riding, I cannot complain.

A view of the town of Arizpe and mountains in the background

Arizpe, Sonora

We got up with the full intention of going to Aconchi where we’d heard there were some thermal baths and camping. We no longer had Google cycling directions since we passed into Mexico, so we had to resort to looking at the terrain view and kind of guessing what the road was doing in those parts. It appeared as though the bulk of the climbing had been done coming to Arizpe, and after that we’d be in a broad valley following the river downhill. While yes, we were trending downhill, there were a lot of, how shall I say, depressions in the road. You know the type; the terrain looks pretty flat, but then the road dives into a deep, narrow ravine with a waterway of little note, and then goes right back up the other side just as steeply. These are the ones where when going down, the surface of the road on the other side appears to be pointed straight at you. Well, today was pretty much just a continuous series of these. As soon as you crested one, you’d instantly see one or two more right in front of you. The scenery was nice, but damn, here were those useless ups and downs we’d avoided the other day.

A steep, useless hill awaits

Oh, not again.

As we were taking a break on this shockingly long half-mile flat, a couple SUVs with gringos whizzed by waving. The second one screeched to a halt and Gil and Izzie came out with big smiles on their faces. Gil said he’d seen us and knew he had to come talk to us. He had done his fair share of cycle touring, but mainly supported tours, so he was excited to talk to people doing what we were. We chatted for a bit and they invited us for a beer at the posada where they were staying in the next town. This sounded like a great idea to me. The town was only a couple miles away.

I looked at my odometer and saw that it was actually more like eight miles. Drat! We rode on ahead and found a couple more of our pals, those lovely ravines. Eventually it straightened out a bit and we had a nice ride and we triumphantly saw a sign for the posada indicating it was 2 km away. Yes! Almost there! No!! Two more steep hills!

We pulled into the beautiful Posada del Rio Sonora and Gil told us they were planning on getting us a room there and then taking us to the hot springs. Sweet! It was especially cool because the blog of the owner of the posada had actually been one of the sources I’d used to find info on the route, and I’d loved the look of the place, but it would have been way out of our price range.

Sunbeams filter into the colorful dining room of the Posada Rio Sonora in Banámichi, Sonora

Morning at the Posada Rio Sonora. The place is beautifully and uniquely designed with a lush and colorful inner courtyard, rooftop patio and interesting rooms.

The springs were some of the best we’ve ever seen. They had been developed long ago with the construction of a bunch of pools and complicated aqueduct network, but it had all been left outdoors and the combination of natural and built really worked. The water was a good temperature when we were there and had no odor. We unfortunately did not take any photos because we foolishly believed we’d be camping there later and could get better ones in improved light. Oh well, we passed a lovely evening with our new friends there.

Over dinner at the posada we met another buddy of theirs, Steven, a Mexican/US citizen who grew up near the border and now had a small off-grid farm just across the river where he was building using natural materials techniques.

Gil and Izzie took us out to see the farm the next morning and we immediately worked out with Steven that we would stay for a few days and give him a hand preparing the place for some new construction he’d be embarking on shortly.

The nice thing about only going two miles in one day is that you can leave whenever the hell you want, even mid-afternoon! The bumpy and sandy road to the farm was actually much easier than expected and we only had to push about a quarter of the way. There recently was a disaster at a mine upstream and millions of gallons of water and chemicals burst forth from a dam and flooded the area. The flood washed away some of the road, which doesn’t have a bridge, so the new tire tracks across the dry river were especially loose. People were talking about this event quite a bit here because it impacted them severely. They were still not drinking the water and the government was shipping in clean water for the villages along the Rio Sonora. There were lots of arguments about whether or not the drinking water sources had been contaminated and the villagers didn’t really trust anything at this point. The government was trying to wring as much money out of the mine as possible, so some people were saying that they were extending the period of hassle for the villagers. It was a big deal. Funny we didn’t hear anything about all this business in the US while being warned against getting our heads chopped off. Nope, didn’t hear anything about this really big, really real, right across the border event. An event that, ya know, just actually happened, as in for real, 30 miles from the border. In fact, some of the spill actually entered the headwaters of the San Pedro River, which flows north into Arizona and is an important migratory bird corridor.

The dirt road was a perfect country road through farms, mud brick houses and along fence lines. It’s one of those little roads that make you feel like you’re in some other century, or a book about hairy-footed little people. The village of Banámichi looked particularly lovely up on its little hill with the white church tower poking above palm trees and low white buildings. Steven’s property has a little irrigation canal running through a small woodlot on the end, and his first mud brick building sits with a view of the village in the distance over a field of dried corn stalks.

We spent two full days on the farm helping out. We didn’t actually do any working of the land, but I do recall a lot of sanding of some shelves he’d had milled from a black walnut limb from his woodlot. We also moved a lot of stuff around.

A sandy track to cross the Rio Sonora

The Sonora River crossing

Off-grid cooking was done in the sun oven

Off-grid cooking was done in the sun oven

Of all the modern appliances I would miss living off-grid, a washing machine is at the top. It wouldn’t be so bad though if there was some sort of mechanical wringer. Wringing them out destroyed my hands. This canal was also the bathtub.

Of all the modern appliances I would miss living off-grid, a washing machine is at the top. It wouldn’t be so bad though if there was some sort of mechanical wringer. Wringing them out destroyed my hands. This canal was also the bathtub.

Morning on the farm

Morning on the farm

In the evenings we’d sit and watch the bird life circling around doing what they do. There was one really annoying squawky species that was pretty prevalent. I don’t think it was a parrot, but it was close in sound. My favorite was the vermillion flycatcher who sat on top of a nearby bush and would dart to and fro catching bugs. Check out this little beauty: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Mexico#mediaviewer/File:Vermilion_Flycatcher.jpg

We took a different gravel road away from the farm and passed through a village that clearly didn’t see too many touring cyclists, from the looks on the faces of the people. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful and without surprise as we were riding on roads we’d already traversed in krrs.

Most of the towns along the Ruta Rio Sonora were built in the 17th Century and hadn’t grown significantly since. They all had a nice central plaza and a large cathedral surrounded by colorful buildings lining the narrow streets. Our short day gave us plenty of time to arrive in Baviácora and have a nice stroll around.

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The last several miles on our little side highway were uneventful and filled with more beautiful valley scenery. We rejoined the highway we’d left after Esqueda and began climbing into a little set of mountains. The grades were much more manageable on the more major road and the traffic luckily had not picked up too badly. We pulled into Ures in mid-afternoon and were starving for a taqueria. Ures is a bit larger than the other towns we’d gone through and there were plenty of people on the streets. We were also getting a lot of cheers and encouragement. The main square was really beautiful with lots of big trees. We went there to see if we could find a restaurant. Alas, there was none, but we did have several groups of people come up to talk to us about the trip, including three teenage girls who wanted to take their pictures with us.

After finding our tacos we had to decide what to do about lodging. Brandy wanted to take a chunk out of the 50 miles we had left to Hermosillo and camp someplace. I was a bit reluctant because the sun would be going down in front of us, but mainly because it would be cold and I have been spoiled by all the hotels we’ve been in.

As we were wandering around some non-descript residential neighborhood where supposedly there was a hotel, some guy came running out of his house to stop us. He was very excited and wanted to see our bikes and show us his huge courtyard filled with fruit and nut trees. We left with our arms loaded with citrus, but that wasn’t enough, German was going to take us to a hotel and show us around town. We checked into the hotel, but declined to remove our gear because we don’t like to unload much when we stay in hotels so we can make a quicker exit in the morning. That, and we look way more cool cycling around town fully loaded.

Chatting with our new buddy, German (Herman)

Chatting with our new buddy, German (Herman)

Ures is a nice little town filled with colorful buildings and just enough crumbling ones to give good contrast to the rest. German knows everyone and we got tons of waves and shouts of encouragement. He even chased down a guy on a motorbike who goes around selling his sweet breads and bought us empanadas de panocha. Panocha is this thick, sweet substance made from sugar cane in Ures. Incidentally, it is also a slang term for vagina, at least in Sonora, which provides the obvious joke, “would you like some panocha? Of course!” As we ate the breads at his house he told us much about the sweets of Ures and then took us to a candy shop to show them to us. Naturally we bought some jamoncillo, which are local candies somewhat similar to maple syrup candies, but smoother and a bit less sweet.

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The old mill in Ures

The old mill in Ures

Our ride out of Ures the next day was fueled by a strong tailwind and general downhill grades. We had one more little mountain range to cross that seemed to go on and on, but the grades were better on this larger road, so we still managed to make great time.

All that wind pushed us out of Ures.

All that wind pushed us out of Ures.

Our Warm Showers/CS host, Daniel (I’d actually conversed with him separately on both) and another WS member, Rocio met us just as the road was starting to get busy on the outskirts of town. We had some delicious carne con chile burros which promised massive heartburn, but failed to deliver.

The highway into the outskirts of Hermosillo is lined with tons of great (presumably) food shacks. Mexico was starting to look more and more like the Mexico I remember.

The highway into the outskirts of Hermosillo is lined with tons of great (presumably) food shacks. Mexico was starting to look more and more like the Mexico I remember.

Daniel & Rocio took us into town on a dirt back road that avoided the highway and through some of the underbelly of town. Beauty finds a way everywhere.

Daniel & Rocio took us into town on a dirt back road that avoided the highway and through some of the underbelly of town. Beauty finds a way everywhere.

As soon as we walked in the door of his place, we were presented with plates of food prepared by his mother. After relaxing for a bit we somehow still had the energy to go out to a CS meet up at a coffee shop. Here is where I met my match for Spanish. There were about 12 local CSers all in a group speaking rapid Spanish. I can usually hold a somewhat intelligible conversation with one or two people, but a group is still beyond me. Fueled by caffeine, we all went downtown to a cool little bar called Verbana. It has three rooms. There is a small front room with some tables (actually, they all had some tables). Our group took over half of the room. There is a middle room with a band. The room is small, so the band was basically standing up against the wall and you had to walk right by them to go to the bathroom or the large rear room where smoking was permitted. There is a single bar that was accessible from each room. I remember this type of bar from lots of other countries we’ve visited, so the layout really put me in a mood of nostalgia for travel in general. The band was great. They were doing a lot of covers, including some Manu Chao, but naturally I knew very few of the songs they played. My favorite part though was that they had a trombone, which is pretty much my favorite instrument. Oh, and the beer was about $3 for 1.2 L bottles (caguamas). We had come to the end of the Ruta Rio Sonora. Hanging out in that bar drinking beer with our new friends centered me in this place of travel and everything felt perfect.

We have several photos of the many beautiful cathedrals of the Ruta Rio Sonora. For the sake of page loading speeds, they are included in a separate post here: http://www.rudimentsofgruel.com/churches-of-la-ruta-rio-sonora/

Mexico Summary: Agua Prieta to Hermosillo
Miles cycled: 258.7
Cycling days: 8 (including the 1.5-mile day to the farm)
Days off: 2
Initial impressions of Mexico: Fantastico!

Almost forgot the obligatory sunset photo ending!

Almost forgot the obligatory sunset photo ending!

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Mexico Delivers

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December 27, 2014 | Posted in Mexico, Places, Sonora | By

Wow! Our first day riding in Mexico, after being benched by a windstorm on Christmas was simply fantastic. We were expecting 10-20 mph crosswinds, but all the wind was way up high where the low hanging clouds were racing by just above the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The moving clouds entertained us all day long with a continuing display of shadows and sun and rain spots. It may have been chilly, we may have gotten wet, and we might even have gotten a bit of hail, but the incredible scenery and downhill riding more than made up for it. The dozens of waves from the friendly Mexican drivers were a warm welcome to the country, and the courtesy and caution of the drivers (especially the semis) catapulted them into the upper echelon of the driver quality list. The enthusiastic fist pumping we got from a semi driver as we were going over a speed bump together was simply over the top awesome. Ending the day in a $16 warm, comfortable hotel with WiFi in a cute and colorful town was icing on the cake. These pictures won’t do justice to the beauty we experienced today, but they can give a taste.

Breakfast in Agua Prieta

With such cheap and delicious food, it will be tough to cook. The handmade tortillas were super.

Rays of sun filling the valley

This is pretty much our morning

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End hassle free zone

I’m glad bicycles aren’t on that sign – no hassles for us!

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Lunch out of the rain. Two teenage boys came and talked to us. When I told them we were riding to S America, one asked, "won't you get tired," or something like that. My Spanish is terrible.

Lunch out of the rain. Two teenage boys came and talked to us. When I told them we were riding to S America, one asked, “won’t you get tired,” or something like that. My Spanish is terrible.

Random water tower, cuz it looks good

Random water tower, cuz it looks good

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There were actually several rainbows today, all spotted in the rearview first.

There were actually several rainbows today, all spotted in the rearview first.

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These are all the same one though. It was just so vivid!

These are all the same one though. It was just so vivid!

Some well-distributed cows

Some well-placed cows

Hmm, maybe they should have used 'via' instead of 'ruta'. It's just too obvious.

Hmm, maybe they should have used ‘via’ instead of ‘ruta’. It’s just too obvious.

Same view, different tasty meal.

Same view, different tasty meal.

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