We woke up in a hotel room in the middle of Los Mochis, our first morning on the Mexican mainland. After nearly a week of being stuck in Baja and the stress of driving off the boat and into the city the previous night, it was great to have control of our own fate again. The lessons we’d learned about preparedness, or lack thereof, from Hurricane Odile hadn’t escaped us though. We found a grocery store and threw a bag full of emergency groceries and three large jugs of water in the back. From all accounts Sinaloa isn’t the best place to find one’s self in Mexico and anything we could do to prepare – for whatever might happen – might help.
I also urged James to buy a shirt in the store as well since all his clothes got soaked in the hurricane and he’s been wearing the same shirt for 5 days now. Frankly, it smelled godawful. I pointed at the clothing section, “Look man, shirts. Cheap cheap Mexican shirts. Just grab one.” “Nah. Not really my style.” “You have a style? Style isn’t really the point I’m trying to make here, Brochacho.”
The drive out of Los Mochis and along the 15 highway was fairly uneventful, just a pleasant peripheral of farm land and rolling hills. James mentioned that it looked like driving along the Trans Canada Hwy in Ontario. Except for the palm trees. We’d heard a lot about Sinoloa being such a nasty region, but the only thing dangerous we encountered during our time there were the potholes. We were anticipating a day of navigating around road craters and likely throwing on the dummy tire at some point, but we got on a toll highway south and aside from a few places the roads were pretty decent. Freedom! Dropping miles! YES! Progress! We drove toward Mazatlán until shortly after lunch, when we veered off the road and backtracked through a yard of big rigs to saunter up to a roadside taco stand. The two men and two women inside seemed genuinely surprised to have a couple of gringos asking for a spread of carne de res and puerco tacos but they were a friendly lot, trying their best to make conversation in spite of our Spanish shortcomings. Our experience with Mexican tacos so far is that they should only be bought from roadside stands and these were no exception, they were incredible and dirt cheap. One of the men was driving a sidecar tamale motorbike and after lunch we asked if we could take a picture of it – not only did he not mind, he ran out to pose on his bike and asked me to sit on the sidecar:
We drove into Mazatlán because we couldn’t avoid it, the highway runs straight through the town, but only stuck around long enough to get gas. Tropical storm Polo was on its way into town and the last thing we needed was another storm nailing us. It dawned on us that we weren’t going to make Guadalajara at this point – it was late afternoon already and road conditions are so erratic in this country that we’re trying to avoid driving at night whenever possible – so we pulled out a map and tried to figure out whether there was another decent-sized place to crash for the evening halfway to GDL. “Tepic”? Neither of us had heard of it, but it looked to be the capital of Nayarit and it was only a few hundred kilometers away, so we put the pedal down and aimed for it.
South of Mazatlán we hit a mangrove coastline ringed with homes that had straw-thatched roofs. Fishermen in canoes, standing up while punting their rigs between the trees. On the driver’s side the Sierra Madre Occidental range began to come into view. The mountains were lush and green and there was a quick shift from arid ground to moist brown top soil. Before long we were gaining altitude and thankfully feeling the temperature drop.
Less welcome were the dark clouds straight ahead of us in the horizon. A sprinkle of rain started, no big deal. Then more came, and more. Within minutes visibility was reduced to nearly nothing and there were inches of water on the road. El Burro Peligroso’s rear tires have less tread than I’d prefer so we pulled off the highway and into a random town (the name escapes me) to wait and see if it would clear. In the ten minutes it took us to round the town the skies had cleared and we pulled back onto the highway.
Darkness arrived before we reached Tepic, and unfortunately for us, the streets of Tepic appear to have been designed by either a pedestrian or cyclist who has made it their sole mission in life to send motorists into apoplectic fits of rage. The main street into town doesn’t lead to anything of note. The vast majority of streets are one-way, but aren’t signed as such. The few signs that do exist are vague and often contradictory. Streets come to inexplicable dead-ends, brick walls blocking the way. If you drive past something, it takes twenty minutes to pull a U-turn because of all the aforementioned bullshit.
After about an hour of being lost in the streets of Tepic we manage to get back to the vicinity of where we pulled off the highway and see a hotel we’d turned down earlier, hoping to find something in a more happening area. At this point we just want to park the fucking car, but since we drive past it, we have to pull a U-turn, drive several miles past the hotel, pull a second U-turn, then drive back. Hotel Humberto. Vacancy! Wi-Fi! We’ll take it. Your parking is back up the block a ways? Don’t worry, we’ll just do two more U-turns and be back in ten minutes.
After setting up in the old hotel we asked the man at the desk where some good tacos were. He took us just outside and a few doors down where there was a tiny little hole in the wall spot. The couple running the joint were very gracious to have us and we sat and cranked 6 more tacos onto the rally tally. Chorizo and carne asada, they were great.
It was still early so we figured we’d check out a bar we’d driven past 62 times while doing U-turns all over town. It was a place called Mike’s Pub and the sign had a gold English lion on it. We thought it’d be interesting to see what the Tepic take on an English pub would be. As it turns out the place was actually really cool. It was kind of classy, had a great atmosphere and lighting, and there was a crocodile on the ceiling and giant mushrooms on the beer fridge. We thought it was great.
We’ve garnished a new respect for the margarita on this trip and decided it would be a suitable Tepic companion. We were right. They were killer. As we tipped our first ones back a couple of guys started playing a guitar and keyboard at the far side of the bar. They had an Americana feel for the most part but ran through a variety of covers such as Lay Down Sally, I Did it My Way, and some good Willie Nelson tunes. Great voices and harmonies, some slick guitar noodling, and a fun song selection, they really added to the evening.
There were also 3 well dressed older gentleman smoking cigars at the bar and watching a soccer match on the tv. We were catching most of it too, but weren’t nearly as into it as these guys. Their reactions seemed slightly over-dramatized due to the cervezas and it was just as fun watching them as it was the game. We tossed around the idea of catching a soccer game in Guadalajara this wknd.
Our server was really interested in our trip and our scattered english/spanish back and forth delivered a great enthusiasm from him. When we were done a croc-load of margs he shook both our hands and wished us luck.
On the way back to the hotel we picked up some blog writing supplies from a corner store and I decided it was time in the trip to begin the fine tradition of giving silly gifts to your companions. Knowing James was a fan of my tac-flash I decided to pick up a religious tactical candle for him. Not only was the glass housing weighty enough to bash would be assailants, any fuego could spark the wick bringing a pleasant white light to cut through a mountain fog, ward off evil spirits, or sooth the travel weary. Now before bed each night, we pray to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelling, to grace us with miles, protect el-BP from flats, and whenever possible, grant us the favor shield that he so nobly bestowed upon DMX
Back at Humberto Hotel we spent some time handing the blog lappy back and forth while catching some more Mexican tv. Got pretty excited when a trailer for the next D and McB episode came on. Tomorrow we’ll be making the 2.5 hour trek into Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city and one we’re stoked to see.