Leaving Saltillo, I rode Mexico 54 south to State Highway 62. Whereas 54 is much like our four lane median-divided Interstate, highway 62 feels remote. A two lane running east and west, 62 is straight as an arrow with a classic high sierra landscape. A few miles west of Cedral, a road leads south for 15 miles to the sleepy town of Real de Catorce. Pick up any guide book or talk to any local and this is the place to go. Situated at an elevation of over 9,000 feet and supporting a year round population of about 1,000, Catorce is an old ex-mining town set amongst stone buildings and mountainous ridges. Rolling about 50 feet down the road, I abruptly stopped and turned around. Imagine taking a billion or so rocks the size of a soup can and cementing them to a hard surface. That’s what I’d subject my Tiger and myself to for 15 x 2 miles to see this legend of a town. Not this trip.
Continuing about 7 miles east, I arrived at the small town of Cedral. Claiming a population of 10,000 the road into town ambles for a mile past a continuous row of concrete and cinder-block one story structures until the center plaza is met. Here, a wooded park is surrounded by two story structures with the skyscraper of the bunch being the cathedral next to my hotel.
Parking on the plaza, I checked into the Hotel Plaza for $15.15 and was given a room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the square. The room contained two full-size beds with a grey tiled floor and modern bath. Upon check-in, besides the customary key, I was also given a roll of toilet paper, a bar of soap, and a towel. Surprised to see a router hanging upon the wall in reception, I asked for the WiFi key. Good strong signal but none of my devices would pass or receive any data. Hmm? I asked for secure parking and the receptionist opened a large gate off the street where I was able to park my bike within an inner courtyard.
Before securing my room, I had stopped a few hundred meters away and had lunch at Pollos “El Pollo” where a man was cooking chickens over charcoal on a large grill. I settled into a white plastic outdoor seat and ordered a half chicken. It came with a simple salad and Wow, it was delicious. The proprietor’s name is Juan Carlos and he took great interest in my trip, looking over a map as I pointed out all of the places I intend to visit. Nice guy and a damn good grill master.
Naturally, I was a bit parched from the day’s heat so I ambled into the Salon Mexico for a beer… or five. Hell, at $1.14 each, why not? There, I made the acquaintance of a number of local gentlemen, most notably Eric and Ruben. Eric is a year older than me and did his best to teach me some Spanish while Ruben, in his mid-30s, sported an FBI cap and made strange facial expressions and hand gestures. I think he’s just a little crazy, but a nice guy just the same. I returned later in the evening to watch a table of men playing dominoes. Strangely, none drank, but all smoked like stacks.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of cooing pigeons roosting in the plaza trees. Looking out my open window, I noticed everything is immaculate. Any trash laying about had been collected and store owners were already sweeping and mopping their frontage sidewalks. I walked a block to a restaurant and ordered breakfast. I was served by a younger lady and we had difficulty communicating. I ended up with scrambled eggs with salsa and refried beans. Again, delicious. Coffee is not held in high regard here. I seldom see it and today, I was served a cup of hot water with a container of instant coffee crystals and powdered creamer. Blah.
When I had finished my meal, the cook and proprietor (a true sweetheart) insisted I allow her a picture of me. Seeming to indicate she would hang my mugshot on a vacant spot on her restaurant wall next to a photo of The Pope with Mother Theresa, how could I refuse? So the server took a shot with her camera phone and then I in turn got a picture of them. This is a really nice town with gracious and friendly people.