Days 8, 9: into the highlands!

Based on some excellent advice from the well-traveled folk on advrider.com, I decided not to proceed any further South, even though I really wanted to see Oaxaca. If I had, the ride back North and eventually home, would have been way too fast to be enjoyable.

I left Puerto Vallarta in the morning, intending to take route 90 (aka Donkey Road), but missed the turn, and ended up taking the same route out, that I’d taken in ­čÖü

Then, was the turnoff for Guadalajara.

The road (libre option) was amazing. It started rising off the coast into the highlands, on twisting, winding, smooth, non-congested roads with wonderful scenery. The temperature and humidity both dropped 30%, thankfully.

I rode straight through the city, not sure where I was going to stop for the day. I must say, Guadalajara is a very modern, beautiful city; while riding through, I kept thinking “this is nicer than many American cities.” And the surrounding area – wow – so beautiful:

I kept riding through, because I’d only gone 200 miles, and didn’t really want to stay in such a large city. I’d head for Zacatecas, not sure if I’d go the entire distance this day.

About this time, I started feeling a bit sick. Perhaps brushing your teeth with tap water isn’t a great idea.
To give a preview: it lasted the entire rest of the trip, but wasn’t too bad. Montezuma’s Revenge most commonly takes the form of e.coli, norwalk virus, or dysentery. More on that later ­čÖé

I arrived in Zacatecas, toured through the town looking for a hotel or hostel, and discovered they have a real live aquaduct!

And if you  look at the cars in that image, you get a sense of the income level disparity in Mexico.

I found a hotel on the edge of town with secure parking, got a room, and stayed on the toilet for a while. In the morning, I headed out toward Durango, and by the time I arrived, I truly felt like crap, so I grabbed a hotel at noon. Started getting a fever and severely sore muscles, so I went to the pharmacy to get some drugs.

Rubbing my stomach, I asked the staff for some medicine. One guy sought clarification, and made the universal “stuff shooting out your ass?” gesture, which I affirmed. He gave me a box of 10 pills for $1, instructed me not to take more than 4, and said I’d be good by tomorrow. He was right! In the morning, I headed up North.

Days 10, 11, 12: we have a better canyon, but we’re not telling you about it.. (lots of pictures!)

After leaving Zacatecas, I made it up to Hidalgo Del Parral (or, Parral) – the “most European looking town in colonial Mexico,” I read somewhere.

On the way, was this weird thing:

And this cute little village:

And by the way, there are plenty of prayer station along the road, in case you’re feeling sketchy about the traffic, road conditions, or your own soul:

I was feeling much better, and was able to happily walk around town (twice, in fact). I ate (smaller amounts of) street food, including churros and gorditas. By the way, gorditas, in Mexico, don’t resemble Taco Bell’s adaptation. They are basically really thick corn tortilla discs, with a pocket cut in the middle and stuffed with various goodies (think: taco fillings). Quite good.

Anyway, it turned out to be a wonderful day for pictures in Parral, with lots of altocumulus clouds creating a great sky backdrop:

In case you didn’t know.. Coke has won Latin America – it’s very rare to see anything but Coke and Fanta:

Now, on to the cute little city.

Pretty town, right?

Unfortunately, the palace was under construction out front, and closed inside.

The surrounding areas (to tourist spots) were kept in great shape, compared to the rest of the city:

The next day, I headed toward Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico (yay!).

Turns out, there’s a system of canyons (6, I believe), called Copper Canyon – which is deeper and wider than the Arizona Grand Canyon in many spots.

To get to Creel, I headed Southwest out of town, looking for highway 20. At a military checkpoint, my GPS was really confused, and didn’t tell me to turn. The soldiers told me I should turn, but the signs said it was route 25. Quite confusing. So I went straight, and then turned around after 10 miles. They were laughing when I returned, and turned the correct direction they had previously indicated. Oh well.

That road, however, winding up toward Creel, is marvelous. Smooth, twisty, and scenic. What a great ride! It’s also a beautiful transition to higher-altitude pine forest.

I rolled into Creel around 4pm, and 1 mile out the thunderstorms opened up. This was the first and only time I’d get rained on, the entire trip ­čÖé

I found a lovely hotel for $20/night, and walked around downtown in search of food and sights.

I like my shadow in this image ­čÖé

The next morning, I head out of town, South, for a day trip to the Copper Canyon viewpoint.

On the way, I kept seeing little dirt roads leading to villages, historic sights, and swimming spots. So I took one…

It was a lovely road, more sand than dirt:

Which led me to some lovely rural settings. I’d love to live like this:

Near the end of the 12K road, it got really steep and rough. Rough, because they combat the steepness of the road, and inevitable slippiness, by pouring concrete and setting in stones. This is a lot rougher than the image depicts, and quite difficult on a motorcycle:

I turned around and finally made it to Copper Canyon around 9am, which unfortunately meant the sun was shining directly at me for all photos. But here’s a few..

Another reason I like it better than the Grand Canyon, is that it’s not completely barren desert. Trees!

I headed back to Creel, and saw some ass:

I couldn’t resist stopping for a picture of this, either:

And this:

Once back in Creel, I wandered around the town square:

…and a museum:

…and then decided I should hike to the top of this, for a better view:

…which, I definitely found:

along with some weird, red trees:

This guy kept following me, hoping for food:

Ok, one more scenery picture:

And finally, there was this disturbed Native American lady sitting in the street, blocking traffic:

The next day, I headed North toward the US…