Tiffani’s Yamaha FZ-07 Tour: From The Gulf To Cool Elevations

Chapter 3, Part 21

Map of mexico
Riding east and north away from the Gulf coast, we climb to elevations that feel like heaven.Motorcyclist

Getting to spend a couple extra days in Veracruz ended up being more of a treat than an inconvenience. The city is an interesting place. In a way, it resembles downtown LA for its food scene with posh fusion restaurants and a surprisingly varied range of ethnicity. While the hurricane raged on, the city continued about its routine unfettered, even to the point of running its professional, outdoor soccer games during and despite a torrential downpour.

Veracruz: The city of palm trees, swanky food, diverse cultures, beach vibes, and…a constant lingering smell of sewage from nearby discharges. Well, it’s still Mexico.Tiffani Burkett

Since I had a lot of writing to catch up on, Hollywood went on alone to hunt down a chain tool (something I should probably consider bringing with me in the future) to swap on his new sprocket kit. He ended up at a local tortilleria, where they all attempted their best improvisation skills to break the old chain and rivet on the new one. Hollywood ended up having to show the mechanics how it was done, but fortunately came back with a bike ready and raring to go.

Fixing FZ1 in Mexico
When phrases like “Oh, hey, I’m going to go get my bike fixed; you can find me at the tortilleria” doesn’t even sound strange to you anymore.David Hayward

We finally left Veracruz as the weather eased up, having set our sights for Puebla. The road out was overflowing with butterflies everywhere you looked, including splattered on my visor. Sorry, guys! While the day started out with the usual blistering humid heat, as we approached the mountains the rain forest and desert began to give way to a confusing intermixing of pine, cactus, and Joshua trees. Temperatures dropped dramatically to the point that I was almost cold—a sensation I’ve all but completely forgotten. We rolled through the smooth, fast-paced curves while climbing in elevation and finally settled into a town where the high of the day was a not-so-blazing 70 degrees.

Changing oil on the FZ-07
Changing oil in all of the AutoZone parking lots of the world. The FZ was overdue for a little love. Now where the hell do you recycle oil down here?David Hayward

We didn’t have much to do there, but it felt like heaven being in actually normal livable temperatures for regular human beings for the first time since we got to Mexico. We opted to stay in this perfect corridor of the country the best we could for the whole way up. I have no idea what we were thinking, taking the ride through hell that is the west coast on our way down. No wonder no one takes Highway 200.

Motorcycle in traffic
That checkpoint life. I get jealous of how easy it is for everyone who has the itty-bitty 125s around here to zip between traffic. I barely remember what it’s like to not have my entire house and everything I own taking up space on the back of my motorcycle.David Hayward

We cruised from state to state, trying our best to stay at elevation for as long as we could. The riding was beautiful, but there wasn’t much to stop for. So we made quick work of it all. As we stopped for the night in a small hotel off the highway in Hidalgo, however, we learned that some other adventurers we had been following online were nearby in San Miguel de Allende. We got in contact with them through Facebook and made plans to meet up.

I didn’t know much about San Miguel de Allende other than I had vaguely heard of it before. Now that I’ve been there, I would have been okay with that continuing to be my only knowledge of the town.

San Miguel de Allende
I will give San Miguel de Allende credit for its beauty, even if I still won't forgive the cobblestones. It's a shame the culture wasn't as well preserved as the architecture.Tiffani Burkett

In theory, the appeal of the place is similar to San Cristóbal de las Casas with its traditional, native culture and many ornate, historic buildings. But in actuality, the town is more of an overpriced tourist trap overrun with rich expats. The streets were full of beggars, and it seemed that for employment prospects, most of the locals had been relegated to trying to hustle money out of the overabundance of Americans and Europeans who now called this place home. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came back to my bike to see my machete had been stolen. I really liked that machete too!

To add to my disdain for this town, the roads were still comprised entirely of poorly seated cobblestones that pulled and pushed my front tire all over while I was trying to get around the narrow and stupidly steep city roads. This is still definitely not a country of engineers. Throw in some large tour buses taking up half the city, and you’ve got a recipe for hating life. I don’t know if this is better or worse than riding through sand, honestly.

But in all of this, the buildings were legitimately beautiful, and it was a real treat getting to meet up with Maryna and Paul, a husband and wife duo touring the world on matching BMWs for their honeymoon. It’s rare I get a chance to actually relate to someone who understands the struggles and successes of living on the road.

After a colorful chat, we parted ways and it was on to the next town—hopefully one that was a little less gringo-centric. When I first started this trip, tourist towns almost had appeal for their ease of communication and higher standards of cleanliness and order, but now they just feel like mutually assured exploitation. We made our way up to Tula in Tamaulipas, which a local explained was a Pueblo Mágico, or “Magic Town” of Mexico—a title given to towns that still have historical and cultural designs. It felt much more authentic and the people were much more happy and friendly than I experienced in San Miguel de Allende, serving as a great reminder of how great and humble Mexico so often is.

Motorcycle parking in Latin America hotel
If they don’t have a heavily gated parking area, just about every hotel or hostel in Latin America will insist on parking motorcycles inside their courtyards, hallways, or lobbies for security. Some days, that ends up more ridiculous than others.David Hayward

Now, at this point, we were practically right back into Texas. On one hand, it would have been nice to get back to the States, have clean drinking water, and basic standards of living and engineering. On the other hand, I haven’t seen Copper Canyon yet, and I’m not quite ready to go back!

Tire patch in Mexico
What's more fun than having things stolen off your bike? Finding a pinhole in the center of your tread with no explainable cause immediately thereafter. This one would have been pluggable, but with a llantera (tire shop/mechanic) in easy hobble distance, it made more sense to just get a 40-peso patch.Tiffani Burkett

While I didn’t know it at the time, this ended up being an even better decision in light of Hurricane Harvey, which began ravaging Texas shortly thereafter. This is why you should never, ever second-guess your gut feeling, especially when that gut feeling tells you to keep traveling and not ride the straight roads of Texas. We pointed our bikes back west and started making the charge, cutting through Nuevo León and San Luis Potosí toward Coahuila. A local in Tula had told us about a more interesting route west than the usual toll roads, and it ended up being a completely barren but also completely awesome motorcycling road. We weaved between huge mountains in a twisty, continuous valley, with the only traffic being an abundance of donkeys, coyotes, and the occasional roadrunner.

I love how empty it is down here sometimes. While there are still many things I struggle with in the Third World, and one could argue the “for better or maybe for worse” aspect of having police often too busy with real crimes to worry about speeding, I’ve found the open roads down here just feel so completely free. I’ll definitely miss this once I’m back in LA traffic in a couple weeks!