Mazatlán to Juárez

December 2006


Beginning our ascent of the Sierra Madres


View to the west




View to the north


Road near top


Hotel San Jorge


Cathedral in Durango


Cathedral at night


Durango Plaza


Downtown street in Durango


Downtown Chihuahua


Beautiful snow!


New Mexico Luminarias

After returning to Mazatlán from Copper Canyon, we took a few days to relax. We decided to do as much provisioning as we could while we had our car in Mazatlán. We did our packing for the trip to Albuquerque for Christmas and then prepared the boat for our three-week absence.

On December 10 Steve, Zelda, and I left Mazatlán. We had decided to take a different route home this time so we headed for Durango. The drive was almost 180 miles over the Sierra Madre mountain range so we thought it would take us three or four hours. Well, we were wrong.

The highway went south to Villa Union and then turned northeast. The road was  two lanes with no shoulders and a continuous double-yellow line, and we drove for about an hour when the road began to climb rapidly.

The scenery as we drove was just spectacular, and we had a beautiful view all the way out to the ocean. The thing that made the drive so challenging was very heavy semi-truck traffic. The road is narrow with 90-degree turns so the trucks have to turn out into the oncoming lane in order to clear the side of the mountain. This also means that as we approached a corner, a truck might appear in our lane. Also, passing became a thrill. With a double-yellow line and no stretch long enough to see oncoming traffic, we had to depend on the truckers to let us know when it was safe to pass. The driver would turn on the left turn signal as a sign that we could pass. All the drivers that we dealt with were very courteous and helpful, but we all still added a few more gray hairs to our heads. A stretch of this road is called El Espinazo del Diablo or Devil's Backbone--we can now understand why.

We wanted to take pictures, but we couldn't stop and get out because the truck we had just passed would pass us again. The last thing we wanted to do was to pass more trucks than we had to; therefore, Steve would simply pull over to the side, roll down my window, and I would take a quick shot. I tried to take a picture of the road and the drop down the mountain to give an idea of how steep it was, but I never could capture it.

About half way through the trip we reached an altitude of just over 6,000 feet, and then we began our descent. We also crossed the Tropic of Cancer on this drive. We stopped for lunch in El Salto and then continued on to Durango. We arrived there around 4 in the afternoon, which made it about a 9-hour drive.

We found the Hotel Posada San Jorge, which is a very handsome 19-century building, and took our things up to the room. We left immediately to explore, and our first stop was, of course, the cathedral and Plaza. As it was Christmas time, the Plaza was decorated with wonderful lights and other decorations. The streets also had decorations on the street lights and strung across the intersections. The cathedral was beautiful with white lights illuminating its walls. There was definitely the spirit of Christmas here.

We then walked to the Museo de Arqueologia de Durango. We had trouble finding it and stopped to ask a woman where it was. She gave us directions so we left to find it. We couldn't find it so we had to turn around and go back to where we started. We then saw this woman returning to tell us she had given us the wrong directions and to show us where it was. We spoke with her as we walked and thanked her for all her help. The museum presents the archaeological record of the region's indigenous cultures from prehistoric times to the Spanish conquest. It was very well done and very interesting.

By the time we finished at the museum, it was time for dinner so we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful Brazilian-style dinner where they brought skewers of different meats to the table. We had lamb, pork ribs, rib eye, rump roast, beef fillet, chicken, and chorizo. To top it off, they brought a pineapple that had been roasted with a brown sugar coating--it was delicious! We waddled up to our room and called it a day.

At six the next morning we left for Chihuahua. This part of the drive was on a divided toll road so it was a very good road. We stopped in Jiménez to get some lunch and then continued on to Chihuahua where we arrived around four in the afternoon. We had hoped to stay at the Hotel San Francisco by the Plaza, but it was booked so we went to Hotel El Campanario. We left on our usual walk so that we could stretch our legs. We went by the cathedral and then to the Plaza. We also found an ATM and walked through a small street mall. We weren't able to find any restaurants on our walk so we returned to our hotel and ate dinner there.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and went to the Museo de la Revolución Mexicana. This museum is housed in the mansion and former headquarters of Pancho Villa. After his assassination in 1923, a number of his wives filed claim for his estate, but the government awarded it to his legal wife Luz Corral de Villa. When she died in 1981, the government acquired the estate and created the museum. Many of the rooms have the original furnishings, an arsenal of weapons, historical documents, and some exceptional photographs of the revolution and its principals. The black Dodge that Villa was driving when he was murdered is parked in the courtyard. It has been restored except for the bullet holes. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through the building. Unfortunately, no photographs are allowed, so the only picture we have is of the outside of the building.

After touring the museum, we found our way out of downtown Chihuahua (not an easy task) and continued on the toll road heading north to Juárez. The drive through this last section of Mexico was uneventful. We arrived in Juárez around 3 p.m. and made our way through very heavy traffic to the border crossing. It took us only 1 hour and 20 minutes, and a lot of patience with the traffic, to get across the border. We were able to make it to Albuquerque by 8 o'clock that evening with a quick stop in Truth or Consequences for a Sonic burger. We arrived tired but happy to be done driving for awhile as we had driven a total of 1337 miles in 23 hours and 23 minutes.

It was nice to be in Albuquerque because the weather was cold, and it definitely felt like winter. The next week we got 8 inches of snow at Zelda's house, and we loved every minute of it. Everything was white, and the wet snow even stuck to the tree branches. It was beautiful!