“Carney....this is January! You want me to run 1600 miles and go into Mexico? Hell, man....that could be a trip out of hell! I know it’s 72 degrees, sun shining, and nice warm weather there in San Lucas, but what about the weather getting there? I don’t know, man. I’ll have to think about it.”
“Look, if I go, I’m going to take the sidecar. But, I’ll think about it.”
So with that call from my bestest buddy, I began to get ready for a trip to Mexico in a 31 year old BMW with a Ural sidecar in January. All the while I am having anxious thoughts about weather, clothes, spare parts, tires, weather, weather and weather.
I brought the bike to my dealer and had a new rear tire put on. Since none of my rear tires have lasted long enough for a 2500 mile trip, I decided to start off with a new one and maybe have to re-tire on the way back through Tucson. I packed all of the tools, spare parts, cold and mild temp clothes and the ten pounds of assorted coffees Carney had asked that I bring. I did all of the valve settings, carb adjustments, bought a spare tube, changed all of the fluids, greased and adjusted the wheel bearings, cached spare light bulbs and volt/ohm meter with fuses and extra wire. Made sure I had all the spare cables, plugs, points and condenser, etc, etc. When I ran out of room on the sidecar and tank bags, I strapped a 2 gallon can for gas on the carrier on the bike.
The next morning, I got up to heavy fog and condensation. I checked I had all the paper work for the bike and myself to cross into Mexico. I put on my one piece ‘stich, cranked the bike and left.
Heavy fog, almost a drizzle, all the 300 miles from south Louisiana to the west side of Houston, Tex. The fog lifted but the skies were low and ran through a couple of light shower all the way to the west side of San Antonio when I decided to shut it down after 450 miles of burnt chicken feather weather. Got up the next morning with the same weather, had breakfast and headed out, planning to make the west side of El Paso and shut it down. It was a damp miserable ride all the way, but it did seem to be clearing up the last 50 or so miles. Shut it down a cheap motel for the night after stopping a truck stop to eat.
Woke up a 0500 to get ahead of the traffic. Ablutions complete, I loaded and cranked up the bike noticing it was a lot cooler and the wind was blowing like hell. Stopped a truck stop for coffee and fuel to start with a full tank and headed west on I-10 again. In the next 30 minutes, the wind really kicked up so I was riding dead into the wind and it was getting COLD. I was glad I had put on my thermals, wool shirt and sweater. I stopped and got out my insulated winter gloves and went on. About two hours later, I wasn’t able to maintain 60 mph into that wind and was down to 45 mph on the slightest rise or overpass. I shifted down into 3rd gear and was able to maintain 55. I didn’t like that cuz the trucks and cars were passing me at 70+ at times. It was getting so cold, I had to pop the face shield to keep it from fogging up and my cheeks were hurting from the cold. I had to stop every 30-40 miles or so and go into stations to warm up! It was like this to within 30 miles of Tucson before the wind and cold started to let up a little.
Getting into Tucson, going to friend’s where I was going to crash, I noticed a hesitation and jumping in first gear at low speed. This was new to me, but with premier BMW dealer in town, I figured I could get it checked out. I stayed with Tony Sannel and had dinner with a riding and internet buddy, Joanna, who with another friend had a motorcycle forum on Prodigy then Alladin and finally on MSN. It was really nice seeing them after a couple of years absence to the Tucson area.
Next morning, I got up early and pedaled down to the BMW shop, drank a takeout coffee before they showed up and opened. The service manager for Iron Horse BMW took it around the parking lot and then fiddled a bit with the carbs and ran around again. It was decided that the tranny was toast and put it in the shop to open it up. It was opened and declared terminal. He said it would take two or three days to get part or another tranny. I knew that the prior owner had a ton of bike parts in great room, I asked it he had another 4 speed with kick start that was in good shape. We looked and found three and he said he would take them apart and check ‘em out. I went back to my buddy’s house and called him that afternoon. He said two of them was toast and the third felt good, but was pulling it apart to check it out.
I called the next morning and he said it was in real good shape and just about had it back in. I got a ride back to the shop and he had a problem shifting and had pulled it out to adjust some internals and would have it back in a couple hours. I waited and in two hours it was ready, tested and felt and sounded good to me. I paid them and went to Joanna’s, picked her up in the bike and went to lunch. On the way I stopped at ATM, bought Mexican insurance and was on the way to her house when I noticed the GEN light was on! DAMN!
Went back to the dealer and they checked it out and the rotor was toast! MERCY! I just happened to have one of those in the trunk of the sidecar!!! They checked it out, pronounced it fine, installed it and didn’t charge me. I had contributed $$$ for the tranny and labor and I do thank you Iron Horse BMW. These guys are a class act and know what they are doing and get the job done quick. Thanks!
I got up early the next morn and headed down to Nogales, crossed the border on the Mexican toll road and down to the border crossing. I had all of my paper work
with the bike papers in order, insurance and my baptismal certificate. It took an hour and a half to get to the counter. They wanted my birth certificate and I tried to explain that I don’t have a certificate...births were recorded when the child was baptised. NO GO! I went out to the parking lot and was prepared to head on to Tucson and eventually home when the parking lot guard to whom I had given 50 pesos to watch my bike asked me how it went. I went through the certificate thing and he asked me if I had a voter registration. I did and he said that they will accept that! I went back and by now the line was 30 people long and it took almost 2 hours to get back to the same guy. I showed my voter registration and in five minutes, I had the paper work to get my visa and vehicle stamp.
I went out the door and found the line......200' LONG. I had gotten there at the border crossing at 0800 and now it was 1130 hrs. I stood in line and shuffled my way with the rest and finally at 4pm, I got my visa, stickers, went through the customs inspection. I decided it was too late to try to head for Guaymas/San Carlos and went out of Mexico to Nogales and got a room for the night. The next morning, I hit the border at 0800 and breezed through the customs inspections nad headed out on the toll road to San Carlos.
That old bike attracted a lot of attention. I stopped in a pretty little town to eat and within minutes I had a crowd around it. Cars even stopped in the street to come and look at it. Once a town, I was stopped behind a car at a light and he got out of his car with a friend and looked the bike over. It didn’t seem to bother him that the light had changed cuz the guy behind me did the same! When I was riding down streets looking for road signs, people would give me the thumbs up sign in cars and from the sidewalk. One guy got in the street ahead of me and motioned for me to stop and took a picture of me. Hell, I didn’t mind....I liked the attention the rig was getting. Really enjoyed the ride on a good highway, through some country and really nice people.
Finally got to the RV grounds and found Carney. “You owe me, buddy” were the first words out of my mouth and later proceeded to tell him of the trip, Tucson problems and the 8 hrs at the border crossing that he told me only took 45 minutes! Yeah....right.
Enjoyed the next 10 days being a tourist and being driven around in the with me in the sidecar. (Carney has a rig too, so he needed the “fix” after running around in that 40' whale and jeep he towed behind it) Ate some great Mexican food, bought things for kids and grand kids, drank lots of FRESH fruit juices and relaxed the very mild, sunny, long lazy days looking out over the Sea of Cortez.
Alas, it was time to go. Said my goodbys and left in perfect riding weather all the way back to Tucson. Stayed overnight and had dinner my friends and checked the weather reports. DANG! Low pressures, looking like a string of pearls, stretching from California to the Gulf States. It had rained hard in Tucson the couple days before when one came through and another was heading east out of California. If I didn’t get going, I was going to get caught by that one and looked like burnt chicken feathers all the way home. Got up early and headed east on I-10, hoping to stay ahead of it. Made it to the east side of El Paso and shut it down for the night, got up early with that front over Tucson. Much nicer weather, warmer than the trip west followed me to Kerrville, Tx where I decided to shut it down with night coming on. Woke up the next morning with rain and an upset stomach from eating old fried chicken and chocolate milk. Well, hell....decided to stay the day and hope it would pass through during the day.
Woke up to cloudy skies, but no rain and headed east again. Made it past Houston and I caught up with the front, put on the rain gear and rode through constant rain for the last 250 miles.
“No, Carney. You owe me for this one. You ain’t gonna talk me into another January trip. You hear me?”