Los Tejanos Bike Ride
Real de Catorce
|Steep Cobblestone Roads of Real|
Fred Arellano of the Rio Grande Valley who is very familiar with travel into Mexico organized the Los Tejanos Bike Group for a friendly ride into Mexico last week. As team leader Fred did an outstanding job of preparing us for the trip by arranging everything ahead of schedule including a group insurance discount rate for our motorcycles. Everyone had the responsibility of getting their proper visas and vehicle permits. Getting our paperwork in order required spending anywhere from an hour to several hours at one of the border towns. Most of us went on a weekend to Nuevo Progresso, south of Weslaco, since the lines are short and people are friendlier in a small town. Helping organize the event were Ruben Villarreal and Jaime Villarreal. They even had shirts for all of us to use; blue shirts on the first day and maroon on the last day. The shirts certainly helped clear the way for us as we were never stopped for any inspections throughout the entire trip.
The trip started early March 10th at the rally point of Fernando’s Restaurant in Pharr, Texas. Our group was made up of 16; seven couples were riding two-up and two solo riders. Most of the riders were from the Mission, McAllen, Pharr area, but one couple joined us from Corpus Christi, Texas. We crossed at the Pharr International Bridge (next to McAllen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley) into Reynosa and took the Autopista (Mexican Toll Road) to Gen. Teran. Leaving the autopista going on the public (toll free) road, we traveled through China, Montemorelos, Linares and Hidalgo all of which are north and then southeast of Monterrey. Our first destination was El Choritto, a small village south of Linares and close to Cd. Victoria. Its fame comes from a small waterfall (La Virgen del Chorrito) for which the village gets its namesake.
|El Chorrito Waterfall|
El Chorrito waterfall is beautiful and so is its majestic mountain view overlooking the lake it fills. We stopped at El Chorrito
for a late lunch, enjoyed some of the local attractions such as the church which is part cave and part structure. After lunch, we made our way back towards Linares and then headed west toward Iturbide and on to Galeana which is high in the Sierra. It’s only about 75 kilometers from Linares, but it is all twists and climbs. It’s a fun road to drive and as challenging as anything you can find in Texas. Thirteen hours after we left Pharr we arrived in Galeana. It was already nightfall and we were all glad to get that first day out of the way. We found a local restaurant for dinner and then just milled around the plaza. Some of the group found a trio and sang their way into the night. What a great day!
We awoke the next morning to see that we were surrounded by mountains in the beautiful little city of Galeana
. We got on the road by 10am, leaving Galeana and headed south down Highway 61 to our next destination, Zaragoza where on the outskirts of town is the famous "El Velo de la Novia
" (veil of the bride) waterfall. The road to the waterfall is also a climb and twisty, but well worth the trip. Once there we relaxed and eventually got to eat some great tank farm trout. There were some ladies who run a small convenience store and kitchen who prepared eight broiled and eight deep fried trout for us. Best tasting trout you’ll find anywhere. We had too much to eat and got a late departure to our next destination.
|Church in Galena, Mexico|
Real de Catorce was our destination, but it was quite a ways away. We would have to go to Dr. Arroyo and Matehuala before heading to Catorce. As it was, we ended up in Matehuala at nightfall with another 75 kilometers or so to go. Real de Catorce
is now a famous little village, high up in the desert at an elevation of 9,000 feet, most famous for the filming of "The Mexican" with Julia Roberts and Brad Pit. It's no place for our big road bikes though since the last 21 kilometers (13 miles) are an old cobblestone road which works wonders on the bike and body.
The last 1.2 mile entrance into the village is an amazing one lane tunnel which goes through a mountain to the village. The cobblestone road into Catorce seemed like a boulevard compared to the very rough route to our hotel once in the village. We rode in so late that we didn't know that we were suppose to make sure we had a green light before entering the one-lane tunnel. Luckily for us it was late enough that there was no out bound traffic. Once inside Real we realized that the street elevations were no exactly TxDot Highway standards. Some inclines were insane for anyone to handle on a bike. We were so tired that it didn't really bother us, we just wanted to settle in for the night. Our ride required two hairpin turns onto very narrow cobblestone streets with a very, very steep elevations. When we looked at those turns and climb the next day in daylight, all of us wondered how we made it, so in a way, it was a good thing it was dark and we didn't know what we were doing! Parking our bikes was another experience since it was practically impossible to find any flat spot along the road. We parked bike on precarious inclines, left them in low gear, and jammed rocks behind the wheels to keep them from sliding backwards.
Catorce is a very neat little village, with plenty to do and see. After we settled in we had a wonderful dinner at one of the many hotels and we were welcomed by the BMW
Club of Mexico City who were holding an annual rally in Catorce. We met two riders from Texas (San Antonio and Dallas) who rode up to join the Mexico City Club. After dinner we spent hours in the hotel lobby introducing ourselves to a bottle of “El Cabrito Reposado” tequila and talking about our trip.
|Real's Cobblestone Roads|
|BMW Riders From Mexico City|
Our hotel was high up in the village (even much higher than the BMW club members who were all on motocross bikes) so we decided that in order not to endanger anyone, the women would take a leisurely ride on horseback through the village and down to the tunnel entrance. As it turned out, that was a smart move because it was a job getting our bikes down to that level.
Early Saturday morning a group of five (three bikes) had to leave to meet prior commitments back home. That left eleven of us at Catorce for a later departure.
|Long Road To Real|
|Steep Roads in Real|
|Pine Trees - Must be going Up!|
|Safe way down from Hotel!|
|In the Tunnel|
|It looks a lot smoother than it really is.|
|A Level Street!|
|Fret and his bike|
|Notice the rocks we used to keep the bikes from sliding down the road!|
|Sonia & DJ|
|Hotel Bar with Posters from the filming of "the Mexican" with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts|
|Local native, the one on the right.|
|The girls took the safe way down to the tunnel, on horseback!|
|Leaving Real de Catorce|
We left Catorce about noon now with Jaime Villarreal in charge of the group. Once we made it to the highway we all felt like we were riding on glass, so smooth and peaceful compared to the cobblestone road. We decided to make a hard push to the outskirts of Monterrey. We passed Allende and stayed in motel in Santiago. We all had a good dinner and rose early at 7:30am to prepare for the ride home. We traveled a few miles more towards Monterrey and stopped at Los Cavazos which can best be described as a Taco Row of eating establishments. We found one which had breakfast plates and then took a side road to Cadereyta. From Cadereyta we were back on the autopista toward Reynosa and home to Pharr. We made it back to the US about 4pm on Sunday afternoon.
|Los Cavazos |
I think most of us agree that this was the trip of a lifetime. We certainly challenged ourselves and our bikes in more than a few situations so it made for memorable story telling. Probably the most consistent obstacle we faced at every city, community, and village are those infamous topes (speed bumps) which are used to regulate speed as you enter and travel within town. They certainly have eaten more than one rear axle from someone going a bit too fast. The bikes generally did fine, but we sure got more than our share of scrapes on those topes. We drove four days, stayed three nights, and logged 1,027 miles on the trip. It’s not too many miles until you consider that many of them had to be taken between 20 and 30 miles per hour. A short 225 mile ride turned out to be a thirteen hour day. We drove each day into the night and dedicated most of the trip to riding instead of sightseeing.
Of course, the greatest result of our trip was the bonding of friendships made on the trip. Some of us knew very few of the riders when we started out, but by Sunday we were fast friends who had shared a rare and exciting experience. Those are the friendships of a lifetime.
I don’t know that any of us would do it again! Of course, we’re already planning our next trip into beautiful Mexico. It’s amazing that just a couple of hours south of us we have hills, mountains, and a friendly nation ready to welcome us. You can’t beat that! Mexico is a beautiful country which offers just about any challenge you’re ready for.
View Real de Catorce Mexico in a larger map
|Sunset headed toward Real|