Motorcycle Trouble at the Edge of the Canyon
La Junta to Creel to Chihuahua to Creel, Mexico 2,481 km The 90 kilometers of highway between La Junta and Creel cut through yellow plains, soon becoming rolling hills and canyonlands. Entering the canyonlands around Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon National Park), the highway first began to meander and then corkscrew among rocky slopes and sharp ridges. It was good riding, great riding: the hard turning, the leaning, the looking through the present turn and into the next, the bike oscillating from this side to the other, like a pendulum, and me back straight and sitting vertically, arms locked, locking the steering, and leaning the bike into the turn and out of it, easing on the throttle going in and opening it up again coming out, me happy, would be smiling but for the concentration: perceiving, calculating, then doing. My fingertips were freezing under the leather gloves that were covered by electrical tape and duct tape to serve as an insulation, which did not work.
Creel is a small city on the edge of the national park. It has a downtown of a small square and a couple main streets that run parallel on both sides of the train tracks. The train tracks are those that run from Chihuahua between the two mountain ranges to Mazatlan on the coast, running though a hundred kilometers or more of the canyonlands in a marvelous feat of engineering.
I parked the motorcycle near the central plaza and took a stroll to see the town and look for accommodations. When I returned to ride the bike to the hotel where I had taken a room, she was reluctant to start and idled poorly, cutting out after exerting force to climb and slope. I parked the bike at the hotel and left the troubleshooting for tomorrow.
That night I ate dinner at a restaurant that was really the dining room of a family’s house. The mother served me Menudo because that is what she had prepared. Menudo, I learned, is a soup of beans, broth, and cow intestines. I did not much like it. While I forced myself to make a show of the eating, not enjoying it, the older daughter sat at the same table decorating Christmas stockings to be given to the children in her mother’s class – she is a school teacher when she is not running the restaurant. The younger daughter helped her little brother read a picture book about the Greek King Midas who wished that everything he touched would turn to gold and it did but he came to regret that wish. It was pleasant to watch them go about their evening business, me just being, listening, observing, not having to entertain or be entertained, no formality, no ceremony.
The next morning I tried to service the motorcycle. I had the Clymer manual and the small toolkit that comes with the bike. I cleaned the air filter with compressed air from the nearby gas station. I cleaned the fuel filter by running gasoline and then compressed air in a reverse flow. I also replaced a fuel hose, which cracked when I removed it to remove the fuel tank. This helped but did not solve the problem. The carburetors were gummed up and I didn’t know anything about carburetors.
I considered having the bike shipped to a Yamaha shop in Chihuahua, not knowing if to ride the bike would cause problems or find me stranded along the highway. I decided to risk it when the shipping service refused to let me ride along with the motorcycle.
So I rode to Chihuahua and the bike performed well enough to get me there. In Chihuahua I went to the Yamaha dealership and had a full tune-up done that same day. Uriel, the mechanic, cleaned the carburetors, which were fouled with water and dirt and rust; he changed the oil, and did all the things that you do during a tune-up. He treated me to lunch and gave me numerous motorcycle maintenance tips. He refused to accept a tip when I tried to give it.
The next day, now day 11 of the trip, I was back in Creel, the motorcycle humming nicely: idling calmly, steadily, and running strongly.