Mar 032014

Don’t look down

I just completed a 90 mile run of what is undoubtedly one of the best motorcycle roads in North America. With more curves than 100 issues of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, this route is not for the faint of heart. Most of the road is designated Mexico 120 and the fun starts immediately upon leaving Jalpan. Here in Jalpan, I’m on the rainy side of the Sierre Madre so the scenery is lush with foliage. The traffic’s light and the road is solid, well maintained. Starting at 2,500 feet, the road will eventually crest at 8,400 before dropping off into the arid Antiplano in the southwest. The majority has no guard rail and no shoulder. Misjudge and it’s A Dios. Scan ahead, pick your line. Downshift but hold, lean left, feather the clutch, revs climb, motor sings, lean more, gently squeeze as the faint hydraulic whine of pads on steel signal the brakes doing their job, tires bite, lay a little lower, carve the apex, accelerate, upshift into the straight. Now right. Then left.  Repeat, repeat, repeat… Add a distraction, like incredible vistas and it’s a ride not soon forgotten.

After about 15 miles, I shot past a sign indicating a waterfall to the left. Needing a breather from the constant twisties, I hit the brakes and backtracked to a 2 1/2 mile dirt road dropping off into the woods. Arriving at the parking area, I paid a small fee to an elderly gentleman for the opportunity to walk about 2/3 mile along a level, hard-packed, dirt path to Cascada El Chuveje. The falls themselves seem to spring directly from the rock face, the water landing in a clear pool. If you’re willing to haul your gear, a very private camping area is near the falls with additional pools formed from man made retaining walls. Nice for swimming.

Back on the road, I continued my thrill ride. The track remains curvy as hell, but the grade is now a constant rise. Soon, I’m in a thick, enveloping fog. The outside of the visor is saturated and with the drop in temperature, I’m fogging on the inside too. No choice but to lift the shield. Seconds later my glasses are dripping wet. Near sighted or not, I had no choice than to push my glasses to the end of my nose. Peering over the lenses through the cloudy soup, I slowly managed the curves. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I glimpse a brown object racing towards me. It’s a snarling canine from Hell, eager to drag me to its abode in Hades. Escaping the first assault, I’m confronted by another just a few hundred yards later. Crazy shit.

Thankfully, a town materializes. I stop to dry my lenses and carry on. At 8,400 feet the road begins its decent into the arid Antipano. With a warm wind blowing from the valley floor, the fog soon lifts and the sun appears, radiating clouds wistfully caressing the rocky heights. Looked like heaven. Dropping lower, a barren grey moonscape takes over, scattered plants clinging to life.

Upper deck view of San Joaquin

Arriving in San Joaquin for my overnight, I had reascended to 7,800 feet and was once again bathed in the dreaded fog. Like San Francisco, California on steroids, the streets of San Joaquin are quite steep. Hardly able to read building signs through the haze, finding a hotel was a bit of a challenge, traversing UP and DOWN the city streets. In the morning, all was clear, with a rich cloudless blue sky. I was now able to actually see the village. Its structures painted bright colors approaching florescent, it almost looks like a Caribbean beach town.

  3 Responses to “A Mexican roller coaster thrill ride”

  1. That ride sounds amazing. You would not have enjoyed it so much with me behind you pounding on your back.

  2. A great ride with no backache!

  3. Looks like fun riding. Great views.