A weekend trip to Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California, Mexico – concentrating primarily on some mountain drives in Sonora. Here is the first part: a quick nighttime dash from San Diego to Columbus, NM, then crossing over to Palomas, Chih., then heading west and south to Hermosillo, Sonora.

Not actually in Mexico. here is an Arizona sunrise, somewhere around Benson.

Some clouds over a Sonora mountain landscape.

Another of the sunrise.

Heading down interstate 10.

Arizona is usually pretty good at correct signage. Not here, though – business loop 10 through Bowie is signed as the freeway! At the very least, a “TO” banner is required.

As far as I know, the only New Mexico four-digit route which is not named after an astronomically relevant wavelength. This is the continuation of state route 113. the two segments would be connected by a brief section of NM-9, except New Mexico strictly does not believe in multiplexes of state routes, so each segment gets its own number.

okay, there is a two-block long segment of NM-9 which is multiplexed with NM-338 in Animas. Apparently there is a minimum length requirement.

And this is our last US photo. I actually got an outgoing inspection – the US border patrol was pulling over everyone, and asking questions about ID/potential drug use/woodchuck activities involving wood and chucking/etc. After a minute or two, I was let into Mexico, where they also gave me an inspection. Usually, neither party does anything at the border itself when entering Mexico.

next up was the acquisition of a vehicle importation permit. good for six months, this allows a vehicle to be taken into parts of Mexico past the “tourist zone”: essentially, 30km from the border, and all of Baja. Since I was going to go deep into Sonora, this was a necessity. There is a $300 deposit and a $44 fee. The deposit is refundable when the vehicle is checked out. As I am planning to make multiple return trips, I will check the vehicle out sometime close to the 6 month expiration in early December.

After about an hour and a half at the border, I had all my papers in order and was ready to head into Chihuahua.

How to turn a four-lane urban main drag into a two-lane rural road, very quickly. Leaving Palomas and heading south.

We look back at this wrong sign. Not just that godawful font, but also … this is Mexico 24. there are no signs for it, though. 2 is to the south – certainly not heading north as this sign seems to indicate!

Sometimes Mexico signs routes with an implicit “to”, as we will see later – but this one is just completely wrong. This one has an implicit “from”, as 24 T-junctions with 2 a few miles south of here. That is where we are going.

It seems that 24 is now “spur 2”, with the implicit “spur” being designated by peeling off a digit “4”.

The relationship between no-passing signage and no-passing striping is occasionally somewhat casual.

Highway 15, which in reality runs about 400 miles west of here, makes an appearance. Don’t ask me how this works.

The signs are informative. Do not destroy them.

Was this a constructive modification? Was nearly everything about this sign that was incorrect peeled off strategically?

An object.

“Overtaking permitted. Use shoulder.” This actually means that the slower traffic should get on the shoulder, not the passing traffic! In general, in Mexico, drivers are very good about this, and will move over.

This road, by the way, is not a “super 3”. We will see that later.

I should have taken a better photo of this. The only Chihuahua state route shield I saw!

And now, we’re heading west on highway 2. we will follow a lot of this road on our trip. It is the northernmost primary highway in Mexico.

Some countries name things after historic dates; others do not. There are no examples of “July 4th Street” in the US. Latin America, however, has plenty.

that said, I have no idea what happened on January 6th in Mexico.

Our first military checkpoint. I wonder how far south of the border we have to go, before they are signed solely in Spanish.

A bunch of pretty flowers.

This is not a high-speed road.

Indeed, it is two lanes without shoulders, and features the occasional bridge repair.

Oh hey, my vehicle importation sticker. I’m not sure why it says 2010 – that is the 200th anniversary of something, but shouldn’t the 2012 issues just forget about that by now? In any case, I took this photo through the windshield and mirrored it in Photoshop.

A large truck passing an even larger truck … and I am about to pass both.

And that settles that.

We arrive in Ascencion. First time I’ve seen a combination welcome/guide sign. I like it.

A gas station. There are plenty in this section of the world – but other parts of highway 2 will feature gaps of 200km!

Oh, did I mention it’s the day before election day? Mexico does it on a Sunday morning, as opposed to during the week. The greatest relevance this has to my trip is that it is not possible to buy alcohol! I had no idea that the one store in Palomas was the only place selling it (possibly illegally?). There are various tequilas which are impossible to find in the US, and I would have rather liked to bring one home.

The road opens up as we leave Ascencion. Next up is Janos, about 30 kilometers away.

My Mexico map does not place much importance in accuracy of US cartography. Apparently, interstate 10 is now … US-290. (In reality, it has never been that. US-290 ended at US-80 approximately where I-20 now ends at I-10, and it was US-80 which continued to, and past, El Paso.)

An old bridge. The angle suggests some serious realignment work.

Federal highway 10 heads southeast out of Janos.

If you do not reduce your velocity, it will be reduced for you. Yep, it’s a glorified name for a tope.

An election banner for Luis Donaldo Colosio. Without getting too heavily into Mexican politics (as that is a topic I know next to nothing about), I’ll just note that he is basically analogous to Robert F. Kennedy. While campaigning, he was shot and killed in Tijuana in 1994.

Here, highway 45 has an implied “to”. 10 goes to 45, which goes to the city of Chihuahua.

Kilometer posts reset at major highway junctions, which tend to occur inside towns.

An agricultural inspection has this unusual speed limit.

The next destination is in Sonora. There, we will turn south to head inland.

Wide open road again. About 160km between Janos and Agua Prieta – a stretch of road unblemished by gas stations or any other services.

“P” stands for “puente”. “oso” is something we do not talk about in polite company. I do not believe the government of Mexico has authorized me to reveal that this sign identifies the Bear Bridge. So, I will not.

We start climbing the mountains and head across the Continental Divide.

Dangerous curves coming up.

AARoads: proudly documenting tampon-oriented graffiti since 1998.

This monster rock cut appears precisely at the Chihuahua-Sonora border.

As an anti-theft device, the identifier “SCT SON” is cut out of the sign. that’s a tough one to belt-sand off!

Actually 0% Sinaloa. that state is to the south.

Note the fence in the foreground. The US border is only about two miles away here.

Sonora really likes zero-padding its route numbers. Sometimes they are expanded out to three digits, but here it is just two.

Shooting signs is not exclusively an American pastime.

A bit of road work. Flagmen maneuver the large trucks around the project.

A military command post. I snuck in this picture while they were questioning the car in front of me. Sometimes, the checkpoints get a bit elaborate, recording license plates and information about one’s origin and destination. Hermosillo was met with a bit of an eyebrow.

Making new mountains.

Clouds to the north.

And we’ve reached Agua Prieta.

After a gasoline break, we prepare to turn south.

And we leave off with one more photo from the same intersection. Next up – we head south in Sonora to the city of Hermosillo, where we stop for the night.