We made it to Mikeís Sky Ranch and broke the golden rule of Baja riding the first day Ė we rode at night. We woke up early enough on the US side of Tecate but by the time we packed the bikes and went back to the truck to retrieve our passports and SPOT and stopped at a Target for some last minute things we found ourselves crossing the border about 9:30 AM. Probably not too bad. The day started out cool in the 40ís but the sun was out and Highway 94 was a nice ride. As we got closer to the border it started to warm up and we stopped to shed a layer and change from Seattle winter riding gloves to motocross gloves. Hmmm, no gloves for Deby, left behind. We stopped at a hardware store where Deby bought the brightest aqua gardening gloves she could find Ė nice style.
We stopped at the US side of the border and filled up with gas an located all our paperwork, passports, check, insurance documents, check, drivers license, check, vehicle registration, check. We were ready for anything. We approached the gate and nobody was around when as if we triggered some type of sensor the gate went up and we rode through. That was it. Were we supposed to stop somewhere and show our documents? Nobody seemed to be near us or care so we rode into Tecate. How easy was that?
The first order of business was to find a bank to get some Pesoís, after a tour around town we found one and took out 1,500 pesos, about $100.00 US. Some more maneuvering through town and we found Mex 2 and headed east. I was following a track on my GPS but had two paper maps as backup. We were supposed to turn south in El Condor and ride a graded gravel road south to Mex 3. My paper map had a different turn off highlighted and I later found my other paper map which was in my pannier had the same turn off as the GPS. We rode to El Condor and couldnít find the road so we backtracked and took another road south. This started 55 miles of riding in mostly sand. I later heard someone call this the Compadre Trail.
Just before we left I added steering stabilizers to both bikes, wow, Iím glad I did. Iím ok riding in sand but itís not my favorite, Deby is pretty new to sand riding and the steering stabilizers worked fantastic. Later at Mikeís we noticed most of the bikes parked outside had them, one of the guys called it ďthe hand of GodĒ. Ok, thatís it, the hand of God helped us through the day. About half way down in the middle of absolute no-where two solders stopped us, Iím not sure what they were looking for but asked us to get off the bikes and looked through our stuff. They looked about 20 years old with menacing looking weapons and were housed in a shack with no sign of a vehicle anywhere. Someone probably dropped them off there for who knows how long. We hadnít seen any vehicles at all so they must have been pretty bored. After a rather cursory search they lightened up and looked at our map to make sure we were going the right direction, we were. The next couple of hours was riding sand, hills and rocks. We made it to Mex 3 about 4:00PM as the sun was sinking behind the mountains. We hit the road to Mikes about 4:30 and knew it would be totally dark before we made the 20 mile ride up the mountain. The darker it got the slower we went until we were first gear riding up sand and rocks with our anemic headlights (note to self Ė upgrade headlights). The good news is that we both make it up with no mishaps or naps (ADV term for tip overs).
When we got to Mikes there were two Honda 250ís and a 950KTM, small crowd. I figured for sure we would be the last to arrive, who else would be crazy enough to ride that road at night? Not. Two more bikes pulled in and they said they were part of a group of 8, the rest were on their way along with a chase vehicle.
Obligatory picture of bikes next to pool at Mike's
Hey look- a shirt from home hanging at Mike's, I've ridden this a couple of times
Group of 8 ready to ride
I left my mark poolside - Northwest Norton Owners in Baja!
We sat in the dining hall and had steak dinner, swapped stories and lies and drank a few beers. By 8:30 we were back in our room. Power at Mikes comes from a generator that goes off at 10:00, no problem for us as we were crashed out by 9:00. Deby and I both figured the generator would be on again in the morning, wrong. It doesnít come on again until evening. Not that big a problem except that meant no hair dryer for Deby which meant no hair washing because she canít ride with wet hair under a helmet, which meant no shower. Note to self Ė take a shower at night at Mikes. Of course with my number 2 buzz I had no problem.
Ahhh, itís Friday and I finally had a hot shower, nice. Deby wasnít so lucky this morning but couldnít go any longer without hair washing so braved a cold wash in the sink. Hair dryer? Forget it, the electricity was off for the rest of the day. Iíve learned a few things about touring Baja Ė If the water is hot take a shower, it there is electricity charge up the netbook, if there is an open gas station fill up. Iím sure there are more rules to learn.
I realize now that my ride report is completely from the perspective of someone who has never been here before so things that I find unique, funny or strange most veterans of Baja would take for granted. If youíve been here many times you may want to skip ahead, I wonít be offended. Of course, it may humor you to read a new comers perspective.
Back to the ride: We were the last to leave Mikeís after watching the group of 8 ready their bikes, load GPS files and pack gear into their chase truck. They had all the gear, steering stabilizers, extra gas, bright aftermarket lights and were ready for some crazy single track riding. They skipped the ďroadĒ when they left and disappeared over the ridge on some goat trial. I didnít see the Honda guys (Two Italians who now live in CA) or KTM guy leave but they were just blasting to the border heading home.
We left about 10:00 which was nice since it had warmed up to 70 degrees so we ditched the heated gear (did I really bring heated gear to Baja?), opened vents and made our way back down Mikeís road in the daylight. As expected we missed some beautiful vistas riding up in the dark the night before. After 20 miles or so of more rocks, sands and slightly trick decents we made it back to Highway 3. Ahhhh, it felt good to be on pavement. We cruised east on some nice blacktop with very little traffic towards the intersection with highway 5 where we came to another military checkpoint. Once again they looked through our stuff with only mild interest. At highway 5 we turned south for San Felipe for gas and money. One of the riders at Mikes, KTM guy, said that he rode south and ran out of money because he couldnít find an ATM so he recommended we load up on Pesos when possible. We thought about staying a while in San Felipe but decided to try to get to Gonzaga Bay at a more reasonable hour to avoid another night ride.
About halfway to Gonzaga we stopped at a roadside stand for some liquid hydration and a lunch snack. There were about 10 gringos sitting around on the outside patio who welcomed us to join them. They were staying at a house along the beach and thought it would be a good idea to spend the afternoon imbibing at this local watering hole, by the time we got there they had plenty to drink and were pretty chatty. Deby and I stuck to Cokes. This group has been spending Christmas week in Baja every year for the past 10 years and were avid Quad riders. The guys were very impressed that Deby was riding a motorcycle and they were all chiding their wives to learn to ride so they too could do adventure rides. They told us that the road south to Gonzaga Bay was now mostly paved but went on for a long time about how it used to take 5 hours to get there on a treacherous road through the mountains. Indeed, when we got back on the road it was a beautiful twisty road through a mountain range. I couldnít imagine what kind of track might have made it through there before but we were glad to be on this nice road. Finally about 15 miles from Gonzaga Bay the pavement ended and we were back on graded sand and rocks, more familiar territory for us.
Non-paved section to Gonzaga Bay
The only place to stay in Gonzaga Bay is Alphonsinaís Cantina, fortunately they had a room and just before sundown we checked into room numero ocho. The room was on the second floor looking out over the beach. It was a nice enough room with two beds and a bathroom with a shower. I went to flip on a light and nothing, bathroom light, nothing. I looked at the single twisty florescent bulb in the main room and the tube part was separated from the base part and dangled at an angle from the fixture. Must be a bad bulb right? Down I go to try to score a bulb explaining in sign language that the light doesnít come on. By way of more sign language Iím told to go back up to the room and try it, I do and sure enough it came on, dangling wires and all. Iím slow, I make mistakes but eventually I catch on. It wasnít time for Power On until I went to ask.
After dinner we met a group off riders from CA who have been coming down for every year since, forever. They knew all the trails, all the riders, all the folklore and were glad to share. I was amazed how motorcycles, the Baja 1000 race and all things off road are just part of the culture here. These guys knew Malcom Smith and his son. They have ridden together and were full of crazy stories. Oh, Malcom has a place right over there, they pointed, and his sonís place is over there. They told of another rider staying in Gonzaga Bay who won the 1000 race the last 5, or was it 7, years in a row in his age class Ė over 60. Yikes, that is crazy. They had just returned from an overnight single track ride to Bay of LA. They were following a track from a famous person we had heard about called The Lizard Lady, they knew her of course. It sounded like it was barely a goat track, they had ridden 130 miles that day and were pretty beat. One of the riders was a 17 year old girl on a KTM 250. Way to go.
By 9:00 the restaurant and bar were closed and everyone dispersed to their rooms. It was getting pretty cool outside and we came into our room to find it was pretty cool inside as well. Heat? Yea right. Deby and I piled blankets on the bed and crawled in to read before falling asleep well before 10:00. Getting to be a pattern.
Morning Sunrise over Gonzaga Bay
After breakfast Deby chanced the cold shower while I sat watching the fishing boats heading out for the day. After more beach walking and shell collecting (Deby) I came in to find hot water and a shower.
The deal is that everything here is off the grid since, well, there is no grid. All the power is solar and water is heated in black drums on the roof. Itís best to try a shower mid-day. As I type this the power has been off all morning, I figure they turned it off sometime in the night. My netbook battery is about out so I canít forget to charge up tonight. The have a satellite dish and WiFi but the speed is so slow I canít connect to any web pages but I can send and receive e-mails. For now Iím just saving these ride reports in Word and will upload when I can, maybe tomorrow. Oh, I got an e-mail from Gringo Doug, heís still expecting us. His e-mail warned me not to take the road on the east side south of San Felipe, ha, too late now.
We are planning on leaving tomorrow, New Years Eve despite being told of a big party at Alfonsinaís and who knowís maybe Malcom Smith would show upÖ.. hmmm.
Deby and Mark - ADV inmate Lexluther11