By Jon Crowley
I love adventure rides, so when I was asked by Nery Leon to come to Mexcio for the Caxcanazo Ruta Paraíso 2017 I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get to drive a Polaris RZR in a different country, but I’d get to experience the rally and all the culture that goes along with it.
The Caxcanazo rally is in its sixth year and is organized by Polaris Aguascalientes Zacatecas with support from Polaris Mexico and local and state government entities. The Caxcanazo rally starts in the city of Aguascalientes and travels through the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco and Zacatecas, until arriving at the Hotel Paraíso Caxcán, in the municipality of Apozol.
The state of Aguascalientes is located in the central part of Mexico, between the states of Zacatecas and Jalisco, and is not touristy like many places I have visited in Baja.
I flew into Guadalajara with my friends John Duckworth and Rob Black, and Nery Leon was gracious enough to pick us up at the airport. It was a few hours up to the city of Aguascalientes and we swung into Nery’s home town of Teocaltiche for a quick tour of the town and to pick up Nery’s RZRs. We arrived in Aguascalientes in the late afternoon and met with Manuel Berni who is the owner of Polaris Aguascalientes Zacatecas and our main host for the event. Manuel and his son Manual gave us a tour of his dealership then we headed to dinner where we met the team from Polaris Mexico.
After a great dinner that included and excellent rib eye steak and some fine tequila sampling, we headed to the Hotel Aguascalientes which served as the Caxcanazo event registration headquarters. Nery and Manuel had made race shirts that included the UTVGuide.net logo, so looked the part during registration and the driver’s meeting.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived is the RZR they had on display out front of the Hotel. Yep, it was a Gold Metallic Special Edition RZR (#CrowleyEdition) like I raced at King of the Hammers! I was hoping to be behind the wheel of this awesome RZR for the ride in the morning, but Daniel from Polaris Mexico had it reserved. I didn’t blame him for not giving it up…
After registration, we had a short driver’s meeting where John and I were introduced and many participants wanted photos with us. With only a few hours sleep in the last two days, we crashed hard to prepare for the long day ahead.
The next morning, John and Rob jumped in a RZR XP4 Turbo provided by Polaris Mexico and I was in a RZR XP 1000 from Polaris Aguascalientes. We left the hotel in a group of about 15 heading down the streets of Aguascalientes to the start line a few miles away. John and Rob were up front and I was several cars behind mixed in with the group from Polaris Mexico. Along the way they pulled off for fuel and I followed not knowing where I was going. Thankfully the Polaris Mexico guys adopted me because I had no idea where the start location was and I didn’t have any pesos on me (my poor decision to leave all the pesos with John).
By the time we had fueled, grabbed snacks and drinks we were running late! We left the Pemex station and I made sure I had people in front and behind me. Unfortunately, I missed alight at one point and now had no one in front of me to lead the way and the guys behind me were 5-10 cars back. Ooops! Thankfully Daniel had pulled over a few blocks later and we found our way to the start of the Caxcanazo rally.
Unfortunately, we were all supposed to be in the first wave with Polaris Aguascalientes and Nery. Little did the crew from Polaris Mexico realize know then, but I was now in their care for the rest of the day! We headed out at 10AM in a group of 30-50 UTVs about half an hour behind the first wave. We drove a few kilometers down the road then headed off-road for what was supposed to be about 150KM to our destination at the Hotel Paraíso Caxcán in Apozol, Zacatecas.
I tend to prepare for dusty conditions anytime I ride in the desert, but I didn’t know that this region of Mexico gets very little rain this time of year. Rain is mostly concentrated in summer with winters being dry. It became quickly apparent is it was going to be a very dusty day. Especially with something like 250 vehicles on the route! If I rode here much I would definitely invest in a particle separator from S&B Filters so I wouldn’t have to service my air filter as often. I would also consider a helmet air system to force fresh air into my helmet.
We made several crossing over different rivers throughout the day which was a big surprise for me. I have never been to this area of Mexico and even though it had not rained in months, there was much more water than I expected in rivers, ponds and even a few lakes that we saw. The name Aguascalientes means “hot waters” in Spanish and originated from the abundance of hot springs in the area.
We made a few stops to hydrate and stretch our legs before stopping for a lunch stop after 1PM in the town of Villa Hildalgo. We had an excellent lunch of street tacos and rested in the shade near Villa Bar with some great tunes.
I had no clue how far we had gone, but figured we must be more than half way to our destination. That dream was crushed when I was informed we had only covered about a third of the course so far. Doing some quick math it was clear to me that we weren’t going to reach the Hotel Paraíso Caxcán until after dark. We were having a great time so it was hard to get everyone back in the RZRs. On a good note, our “wave 2” group had somewhat dispersed so I figured we would be able to make better time.
One of the cool features in the RZR XP1000 I drove is Manuel Berni from Polaris Aguascaliente had installed Polaris Ride Command and uploaded our route for the day. I started to pay more attention to where we were going and if we were on course. At one of the Y’s after lunch, I was following another car that took a left. I noticed after a bit that we should have turned right. I stepped up my pace trying to catch the car in front of me, but with the heavy dust at times it was hard to see at speed so it took a mile or two. We finally got stopped and after looking at the course on my Ride Command we all agreed that we needed to turn around. The route was on the GPS, but there weren’t any other roads so it was a little difficult to find our way back.
After our detour, we ended up in the mountains and some very tight trails with a few spots that people were taking very slow. Our pace came to a grinding halt and it seemed to take a few hours to travel the next 5 miles with the heavy traffic we encountered. I had been paying closer attention to the course on the GPS and felt more comfortable in my ability to find our way. Our after lunch group had shrunk down even more and at one stop I suggested that we needed to pick up the pace. Everyone from Polaris Mexico agreed and I was suddenly leading our group of five RZRs and one General in a different country in a place I have never been. Seemed like a good plan and it would have been, but we kept catching other groups that often ended up splitting up our group. With no car-to-car radio communication is was nearly impossible to make good progress on the trail without stopping quite often.
For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, we would catch and follow other groups, then go off on our own as they stopped more frequently than we wanted. Towards the end we were down two RZRs as we lost Armando and Teresa somewhere in the chaos along the way. After consulting the the remaining Polaris Mexico group we decided to head forward knowing that there were many others that had GPS with the route that could lead them along.
With our small group of four and less traffic we made steady progress, but I had to stop at lots of intersections to ensure we didn’t lose anyone. Somewhere around 8PM we drove through the city of Jalpa. Many people were on the streets to watch and cheer as RZRs rolled through their town on the tight one way street. Not knowing how much further we had to go, we pressed on. I blew a few corners here and there along the way, but overall the Ride Command with the route Manuel had loaded was a life saver for us. We finally rolled into our destination at the Hotel Paraíso Caxcán a little after 9PM. It was a long dusty ride that felt more like 200 miles, but I felt pretty good about the day and the Tecate beer at the end of the trail tasted so good!
People continued to come into the finish line throughout the night and that is something that is a little different about group rides in Mexico. They don’t mind coming in late as long as they are spending time with friends and family along the way.
We had a great dinner with several cervezas that night and I noticed at one point the main pool was being drained. The next morning Nery and I enjoyed a cup of coffee by the same pool and it was filling back up. This hotel has something like 8 or 9 pools which are supposedly drained and refilled each day. The hot water comes out of the ground nearby and easily fills these pools and supplies water for a shower with more force than I have ever experienced. Apparently the water from the pools goes back into the system and is used for irrigation down river. Pretty interesting setup.
While many people headed out on a group ride the next day, I joined up with Manuel Berni, Nery, John, Rob and a new friend Benjamin in a smaller group to explore.
Then we found a nice river crossing, and it got interesting!
It went from let’s get the tires wet to water everywhere in just a few moments!
After our ride, we cleaned up and had an awesome lunch right next to the hotel. I am pretty sure I could live on tacos like this!
We headed back to the hotel for a huge pool party that went long into the night. It was a great way to finish up the rally with all our new friends.
I had a great time at Caxcanazo 2017 and would like to thank Polaris Aguascaliente, Polaris Mexico and especially Nery Leon for their hospitality.