by Marty Mataya
Crossing the border into Ojinaga, Mexico in early February, it’s sunny, around 70 degrees. After an hour of easy paper work, I start across the desert on a new Diamo 150 Torino; a 150cc liquid-cooled scooter manufactured by CF Moto in China. I have added an electrical outlet to run accessories, different weights in the variator, and trimmed some body work to make gearing changes easier. Otherwise, everything is stock.
I cross a couple of small mountain passes, and then ride the straight desert for 150 miles to Chihuahua City. The weather remains nice all day and the bike runs great; 65mph downhill, and 45mph uphill. I get a hotel mid-afternoon, not far from the city center, and go sightseeing. In the evening, I find a bar full of New York Giants fans watching the Super Bowl. Happy, happy Giants fans.
Monday morning and the sun is out, the winds are calm, and it looks like another great day. I head west out of town on Highway 16, a four-lane freeway for, 30 miles. Then I head northwest on the free road towards Cuauhtémoc. The wind is picking up and at this altitude, about 5,500 feet, I top out in the low 50s. Still, it’s a nice day and I am in no hurry. By the time I get to Cuauhtémoc, it’s a 40 mph wind and I’m riding along at maybe 40 mph. I find a wall to block the wind, and change the variator settings hoping to increase my speed. However it didn’t seem to make much difference.
South 40 miles to Carichic, I leave the pavement for 45 miles of dirt road. The wind is not so much a problem now. I am in a forest and on these roads on a scooter 10 to 30 mph is the average speed. The dirt roads in this area vary from bad gravel roads to ATV-like trails. Easy on a dirt bike. Not so easy on a scooter with only a couple inches of suspension travel. The Torino has good forks but, like most scooters, pretend rear shocks.
I head to Bocoyna and south to Creel; about 175 miles today. The hardware for the trunk mount is not up to the pounding. I will deal with that tomorrow. I get a hotel and call it a day.
Tuesday I wake to snow. Blowing snow and temps in the low 20s. I find a shop to install some self-tapping screws between the trunk mount and the aluminum luggage rack. I’ll experience no more problems with this for the rest of the trip. The weather is still cold, so I spend another day in Creel.
Wednesday morning things are looking up. I head south around 10 am; a little ice and frost still in the shadows, but not a problem. The road south of Creel is a great cycle road. Good pavement, light traffic, and never-ending curves. Throw in amazing mountain scenery for a great way to start the day. 60 miles later and it’s off on another dirt road. About 15 miles along a ridge and I come to Batopilas Canyon. The road drops sharply, about 5,000 feet in 12 miles.
The view from this spot over the edge is amazing, and yes, my trusty Dual Scoot brought me there. Tacation is fair, but the street tires slip around a bit in the sand and large, loose rocks. At La Bufa I stop where some teens are working on their decrepit old truck. The oldest asks if I have any gas so I give them my extra gallon. He pours it into the gas tank which is on the ground a few feet behind the truck. Adios and I get to Batopilas after another 15 miles along the lower edges of the canyon. The Torino is doing everything asked of it without complaint.
Batopilas is a small remote town of about 2,000 people at the bottom of the canyon. While they are having winter in Creel, down here it’s always summer. For hundreds of years this was a silver mining town. The mines are mostly closed now. Evidence of another enterprise greets me as I enter town; a bullet-riddled Chevy Suburban and house front on the main street. Seems two nights ago there was a shoot-out. The stories vary, but I think it was the Federales and the exporters. I spend another day here being a tourist eating great Mexican food.
Friday, I head down the canyon early, over mountains and through canyons. I stop in the small town of Rodeo and get something to eat at the store. A hundred people live here, at most. It is 75 miles of mountain trail to the nearest paved road and it’s very remote. Another hour and a half down the road and I reach my biggest obstacle, the Urique River. It’s only knee deep, 100 feet across, and not moving real fast so with help I can get across. I carry my luggage across. Now I just plug up the intake and exhaust and push it across, but I will need help. Many of the rocks on the bottom are as big as your head, so I will have to wait for someone to come along and help. Just as I am getting ready to work on the bike, a four-wheel drive pickup comes down the hill. This is the first moving vehicle I have seen since leaving Batopilas 40 miles and four hours ago. 50 pesos later, I am across the river and loading my gear back on the Torino.
The next 5 miles into the town of Tubares are the worst miles of the trip with many stepped, rocky rutted grades. I continue down a rough, gravel road for around 70 miles to the city of Choix where I get back on the pavement.
After an easy 25 miles down the pavement, I get to the city of El Fuerte, where I get a room at the Motel Guerrero. I change oil and change the transmission back to highway specs in the courtyard of the motel. Then it’s off for some of the best tacos in Mexico at a street corner taco stand.
Saturday morning, I ride two hours to Topolobampo on the Sea of Cortez to reach my furthest destination. I don’t know if it’s true, but for now I will claim to be the first to ride through Copper Canyon to the coast on a scooter.
The Torino also seems to be happy about this and hasn’t missed a beat. I am getting 85mpg on the paved roads and 65 on the dirt roads. The 1.8 gallon tank gives reasonable range considering the excellent fuel economy. Back to El Fuerte for another night. The owner caught some bass today and fixed great fish dinners for the guests. The fresh bass and rice made for the best dinner of the trip. Sunday, it’s north on Highway 15 for 150 miles to Ciudad Obregon. I am not sure if there will be hotels in the mountains, so I stop here for the night. Highway 15 runs parallel to the coast, 10 to 30 miles inland. Not much to see through here; just a travel day, but it’s sunny and 80 degrees.
Up early on Monday for a 350-mile ride through the mountains to Cuauhtémoc. North from Obregon, I turn right in Esperanza. The two-lane road has a different highway number on the three maps I have. I traveled 100 miles through the lower mountains to the town of San Nicholas where I am searched at an army checkpoint. This is normal in Mexico and isn’t a problem for travelers. I take a right on Highway 16 and climb the mountains. Soon there is snow beside the road.
Just before Yecora, I stop for breakfast at a small place in the country. They served eggs, ham, a pot full of steaming beans, and a bowl of light cheese. It all appeared to be local, never having touched packaging, and giving off the aroma of a barnyard. It was worth the trip just for this meal.
Back on the road, I find myself riding 35 mph corners for 200 of the next 350 miles. It’s a long day of some of the best riding of the trip. I savor the good pavement, light traffic and tall mountains. I arrive in Cuauhtemoc just before dark and search out a bargain hotel.
I’m only going over to Chihuahua today so I take a longer route north through the Mennonite communities. They don’t have regular names, only numbers like Campo 20 or Campo 70.
At Campo 72, I am a little cold so I stop at a roadside café. Inside, I am surprised by a staff that speaks far better English than in many areas of th US, even though they say they were born here. The women wore typical, Mennonite, long, pale, print dresses and sounded like they were from Des Moines.
Over some small mountains, another quick search by the army then south into Chihuahua. I spend another day in Chihuahua being a tourist and visit the Pancho Villa museum and Governor’s Palace.
150 miles back to the borde. It’s a cool ride in the early morning and I am a glad to have the electric vest. I check out of the country before noon and the ride is over. 1,800 miles and the Torino worked better then I had hoped. Quite a bargain at $2,400. It ran and started better as the miles accumulated. I only added a couple scratches to the body work.
Torino 1, Sierra Tarahumara 0.
Thanks To LS Motorsports, Diamo, Go Moto MN, and Repsol for support on this adventure..