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Old 05-31-2012, 08:28 PM   #76
peekay OP
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The Baja Incident Part II: Puertecitos and Beyond

Another beautiful Baja morning and I'm packing up my bags. The plan today is to ride the east coast of Baja from San Felipe to Coco's Corner, a distance of around 175 km as the crow flies. The roads from San Felipe are paved to the village of Puertecitos, then turn into dirt further south.

I fill my camel pack with agua and stow a second small water container. It's going to be a very hot day and without knowing it, I already made my first mistake: I should have left at the crack of dawn to avoid the searing heat.

I finish packing and the rumble in my tummy reminds me that I haven't had breakfast yet. With the heat rising, I decide to skip breakfast to save time. I'll eat lunch later. It's time to ride.

It is late in the morning at the desolate San Felipe. Not seeing a single soul, I turn south and race through the paved section towards Puertecitos.

Huge dips on the road (vados) add to the fun

There's a restaurant near Puertecitos called Cowpatty where I can get some grub and re-fill my camel pack.


I arrive at Cowpatty to find it closed. There's no one else on the road so I shouldn't have been surprised. I'm grumpy without food and it would have been nice to get some more water.

Junction to Puertecitos

I ride further to Puertecitos where there's a PEMEX gas station, but it is also closed.

No gas for you!

I wonder what's going on? According to the small sign at the pump, this gas station is open every day of the week -- except today. I pick the wrong day to traverse Baja.

I have enough gas and water to get through so I decide to ride on.

The east coast of Baja really is beautiful.

Standby for Part III

Canada to Argentina (in progress)
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:57 PM   #77
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Shortly after Puertecitos the paved road abruptly ends. Thankfully the dirt section is very nicely graded due to ongoing construction activities. My TKC80s grip well and it's easy to go fast.

I find myself at a junction of several desert tracks. There are no road signs in the middle of Baja. Trusting that all will (eventually) lead to the same place south, I pick one trail and hope for the best.

The graded dirt section slowly disappears and I'm riding on soft sand. It's tough going and I see that I'm on the wrong trail; there's a nice, hard-packed road parallel to where I'm riding.

I turn towards the road but the heavy bike sank in the sand. I'm stuck!

Oops!! Dumbass move.

I try to power through the sand and only manage to dig the bike deeper into the sand. I try to pull the bike out but it wouldn't budge an inch! I can't believe it!! I'm stuck in the middle of the Baja desert.

The heat was getting to me now. I'm expending a lot of energy -- and drenching in sweat -- trying to free the bike. I'm thankful to rehydrate from my camel pack.

Suddenly I see a pickup truck on the parallel road. A couple guys jumped out from the truck and asked me in Spanish if I'm ok. They see that I'm stuck and the three of us finally pulled the bike out. Awesome!!!

The two guys went back to their truck and I just remember to take a (late) picture. Thanks guys!!

Muchas gracias amigos!

I get back on the bike and manage to get on the road. A few miles later I see a sign for Coco's. I'm relieved to be in the right track.

Coco's Corner -- 54 km, that way

It's apparent that a lot of heavy construction vehicles have been on this sandy road -- there are huge ruts and it's becoming difficult to navigate.

The ride becomes rougher and the bike now feels very unstable, constantly swerving hard left and right, nearly throwing me off each time. I try riding at different speeds but in this sandy terrain the heavy bike is nearly out of control.

I gingerly coast down a hill. Near the bottom -- not wanting to lose all momentum -- I cracked open the throttle. The rear instantly breaks traction, the bike throws me off and I'm eating dirt.

Helmet cam action footage

Aargh!! Well, this is Baja riding; First crash of many, I am sure.

I try to pick up the bike. My feet slide in the sand and I can't generate any lift. I use all my strength to lift the bike and only manage to move it around the sand. WTF??

Normally (on pavement) I can pick up my bike -- fully loaded -- in about 10 seconds, but it's just too heavy to pick up in the soft sand.

The sun is so strong and I feel like I'm being baked alive. I'm still fatigued from trying to free the bike from the sand earlier; Now the heat plus the physical exertion are starting to overwhelm me.

I decide to completely unload the bike, hoping it will be easier to lift in the sand. I also know it will take a lot of time to unload the bike, pick it up, then load it back up.

Bike partially unloaded

There's no other choice; I'll have to endure the oppressive sun and "just do it". I manage to pick up the bike and strap everything back together. It probably took me 30 minutes; I lost track of time.

Exhausted, I remount the bike and continued on south. Once again the steering feels very unstable. I'm really struggling now to control the bike.

I took a sip from my camel pack and to my shock, there's no more water!! I only have a small container of water left in reserve, perhaps less than a liter.

I'm thirsty and a bit disoriented. I glance at the GPS to gauge how much further I still have to go. I intuitively know that I can't afford another crash in the sand, but the odds are stacking up against me.

I made (the fateful) decision to turn around, back towards Puertecitos. I make a U-turn, and promptly dropped the bike!!! This time in deep, deep sand.

I'm unhurt but I'm in sheer disbelief. I stare at the bike and realize I'm in huge trouble now. I tug at the bar handles but I know my actions are futile.

The sun is punishing me and I'm running out of water, in the middle of the Baja desert.

I decide to pitch my tent's fly-sheet as shelter. Usually I can pitch my entire tent in a few minutes, but for some reason, I can't do it now. I look at the tent poles and the fly-sheet in confusion.

My skin is stinging from the sun burn. I discard the tent poles, tie two ends of the fly-sheet to the bike, and crawl underneath.

The sun is oppressive

Now I have to deal with the hot sand but at least I'm shaded from the direct sun. I look at the thermometer on my digital watch and it registers 45.6 deg.C (about 114 F) -- in the shade.

Crazy Baja temperature

They say that in the desert, a man can expect to live for up to three days without water. I guess the earlier mishaps had really exhausted me as I am in poor shape already. My lips are chapping and my skin blistering.

The sun is relentless and I try to conserve the little water I have left.

I'm really hurting now, but the photographer in me wants to keep snapping pictures.

I am defeated in the Baja desert. I grabbed my SPOT satellite messenger, and pressed the SOS button.

Canada to Argentina (in progress)

peekay screwed with this post 05-31-2012 at 10:35 PM
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Old 06-01-2012, 05:45 AM   #78
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Whoa, the shit just got real.
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Old 06-01-2012, 09:32 AM   #79
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Crap Peekay, that black and white picture ain't good. I have to go get a glass of water just looking at it. Man oh man you are were in rough shape.
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Old 06-01-2012, 10:20 AM   #80
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Wow! I hope you are alright. That sun is no joke! Please keep us posted on your status. Praying for ya man.
There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. - Allan K. Chalmers

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Old 06-01-2012, 10:55 AM   #81
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Originally Posted by Eclecticmale View Post
Wow! I hope you are alright. That sun is no joke! Please keep us posted on your status. Praying for ya man.

He must have lived long enough to post the photos? But seriously, I hope he is alright too!
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Old 06-01-2012, 09:33 PM   #82
peekay OP
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The Baja Incident Part IV: The Rescue

Thanks friends for the concern.

After activating the SPOT's SOS function, I turn on my satellite phone.

I have a subscription to Global Rescue's medical & security evac plan. Technically, the plan only covers emergencies where I'm seriously injured, or threatened by things like civil unrest or terrorist attacks. It's understood should you ride solo into the Baja desert during the hottest month of the year (for fun), you're on your own.

Twitter feed

I call Global Rescue's operations center anyway. They try to assess if my situation qualifies as a medical emergency. I explain that if I can't get assistance, this will turn into a medical emergency soon enough. They agree to help.

They ask basic questions which reveal my unpreparedness. Like, my sat phone's number so they can call back if we get disconnected. I don't know it. I thought I had listed the number on my Global Rescue online account profile, but I guess I didn't.

I pull out my iPhone to find the number in its contact list, but it was of no use since the phone is overheating. Not a device you want to rely on in extreme conditions!

Overheating iPhone (image credit: Apple)

Somehow I manage to give them my sat phone number. I also told them my GPS coordinates -- luckily the Garmin is not overheating. They try to pull up my SPOT page from my profile but can't access it. We establish a protocol to connect every 30 minutes for updates.

I don't know if I'm stranded by the main dirt track or have accidentally veered to a side-path again. I ask if I should try to walk to a nearby settlement. They tell me to just stay put for now.

I haven't seen any other vehicles in the desert for hours, since the two amigos in the pickup truck this morning. They're long gone by now. And since everything near Puertecitos is closed, I don't expect to see anyone else to be passing by today.

I'm usually calm under pressure, but my heart is racing and I don't understand why. There's nothing else to do but wait. I'm really thirsty but I need to conserve the small amount of water I have left.

Small reserve water thermos

30 minutes pass by and my sat phone rings. The folks at Global Rescue tell me that they have no "assets" of their own nearby, but they've relayed my coordinates to the Mexican Navy (armada) who are preparing to launch a SAR team my way. They will contact me again when they confirm that the team is underway.

I'm waiting again. I'm zoning out as time passes by. I'm out of water now.

I have a headache but suddenly I hear the sound of an engine! I half expected a helicopter would show up but this wasn't it. I look from under the fly sheet, and coming down the hill towards me was a sand buggy!!!

I wave my arms and the sand buggy stopped. I can't believe my eyes -- the two kind Mexicans who helped me earlier are riding the sand buggy!!

"Agua???!", I plead with them for water.

"No, no tengo agua", the driver explains. No water. "Cerveza?", he offers instead.

For a fraction of a second I consider that drinking beer might make my condition worse, but any liquid will do right now, so cerveza it is!!

I feel too weak to even stand up so the two amigos drag me into their sand buggy and offer me a cold can of Tecate. They decide to take me to a nearby settlement.

We crowd into the sand buggy but wouldn't you know it -- the buggy wont start!! So now looks like all three of us are going to be stranded in the desert!! I can't believe what was happening.

One of the amigos thinks the problem is just the starter, so they're going to push the buggy a bit up the hill and then attempt to bump-start it downhill. They don't let me out of the buggy to help push; I was in no condition to do so anyway.

Pushing uphill for the downhill bumpstart

The bump start works and we ride to a "campo" several miles away. Their friend Miguel (?) lives there. I hope I have his name right.

Miguel speaks fluent English and knows exactly what to do.

At Miguel's place (he's on the right)

Miguel mixes a package of electrolytes in water and I drink it slowly while laying down on a sofa. "You're not the first to crash in Baja", he says. After awhile I feel better and Miguel cuts up a bit of melon for me to eat. I call Global Rescue to update them with my location and condition. They call off the Mexican Navy team.

The two amigos

They ask what I want to do, and I reply that returning to San Felipe is probably the best option for me. Turns out the two amigos live in San Felipe so this was perfect. They can load my bike on their pickup truck and we can head back to town.

We say goodbye to Miguel and headed back to the crash site. One of the amigos is going to ride my bike to where the pickup truck is.

Back at the crash site, the two amigos struggle to pick up the bike, even with all the luggage unloaded. The sand and the angle of the bike makes it a difficult extraction. "Too hard for one person! Too much!", exclaim one of them. I nod in agreement.

We head to the pickup truck. I watch as one of the amigos ride my bike in front of us. I can only cringe seeing it swerving all over the place. It is still uncontrollable in the sand. Thankfully we don't have too far to go, to another nearby camp.


Roberto (?) lives at the camp and offers me a drink. We load the bike on the pickup truck and return to San Felipe.

It is a big relief to be back in town. We eat dinner together and then I check into a motel.

Nothing some tape can't fix

My left wrist is sprained from the fall so I get some elastic tape to wrap it. I'm exhausted and have a little headache but otherwise feel fine. It could have been much much worse.

These two guys saved my bacon

I ask the two amigos to write down their names and contact info for me. Juan Pablo and Arnoldo, Attn: San Felipe Liquor Store, they saved my behind.

I had some cash on me but no one would accept my gratitude. "Not necessary!" Of course, I insisted.

(I'll try to write a post-mortem for the last part of this episode -- but I'm hoping to be on the road again tomorrow so please bear with me as I can't promise when!)

Thanks for reading.

Canada to Argentina (in progress)

peekay screwed with this post 06-01-2012 at 09:56 PM
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Old 06-02-2012, 04:27 AM   #83
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Nice to see you are finally sharing your stories after... oh lets see. It's about ten months.

I know today you are still alive and kicking somewhere in SA but when we chatted at the ferry terminal in Baja I had no idea you were in such a way days earlier. You played the whole thing down.

Please keep up the writing and push through and continue south. I'll be watching and reading but I think the Mexican navy is still closer if you need some help.
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Old 06-02-2012, 04:28 AM   #84
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Wow, Peekay, that is some luck getting help from the same 2 folks. You have good Karma.

I was wondering if the satellite phone was too much gadget for the trip, but if those 2 hadn't come along again, that phone would have been your life line.

So glad that you are okay. I love how the photographer in you keeps on clicking after all the sun and sand keep beating on you.

You have to post more often (when you can), even if they are just short updates to let us know you okay.

Safe journey
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:32 AM   #85
peekay OP
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The Baja Incident Part V: Post Mortem

Post Mortem

Sunday Rider, I didn't take many more pictures for the rest of Baja (ok, a few here and there) until some good conversations over beer which Len mentioned above. In fact there are no pictures in this update, just a post-mortem of what had happened.

I know veteran Baja riders are rolling their eyes right now at my desert n00bness. I'm not new to riding -- even raced GP bikes in my younger days -- yet up to this point I was very inexperienced "off-road": I've ridden many miles of gravel, a little mud, but almost zero sand and certainly not on a fully loaded bike.

It would be easy for me to "blame the bike" for my woes. Too heavy; Not enough clearance; Street-oriented; Etc. Yet I can say with certainty that my F650GS was/is more than capable for trip, at least with a more skilled rider on board.

I made several mistakes due to my inexperience, including:
Ignoring local advice. Enroute to San Felipe I had met a couple Mexican riders who were back-tracking to Ensenada because they knew the road conditions south of Puertecitos at that time were poor. Conditions change all the time in this part of Baja, and I'm not surprised if the sections I had trouble with are beautifully paved today.

Tire pressure. I should have lowered my tire pressure for the sand. I didn't, based in part from conflicting advice about TKC80 off-road pressure. Or more likely, my incorrect interpretation of what was being discussed. I think not airing down was a significant factor affecting the handling of the bike.

Leaving too late. I ended up getting stranded during the hottest time of the day, in the hottest month of the year. Leaving late also meant that I skipped breakfast (and later lunch since Cowpatty's was closed) -- robbing me of energy when I later need it most.

Unpreparedness. I brought enough water for minor trouble, but not for the "worst-case" scenario.

About dehydration

While I recuperated in San Felipe that evening, I got a nice follow-up email from an EMT/paramedic at Global Rescue. He cautioned that my headache and exhaustion might be the result of mild-to-moderate dehydration itself.

He also mentioned that other symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, confusion, and fast heartbeat. Check, check, and check… exactly how I felt in the desert. Yet I wasn't drinking -- I was rationing the little water I had left, while in reality I was already well behind the dehydration curve, and I didn't recognize the symptoms. I think the old saying is true: drink before you get thirsty.

SPOT Messenger SOS service

I have mixed feelings about the SPOT / GEOS Alliance SAR service performance. Pressing that SOS button is like a big leap-of-faith. I didn't know if GEOS even got my distress signal until I received a voicemail from them that evening, back in San Felipe (I guess they tried to call but I missed it.)

GEOS did call my emergency contact, and notified her that they had spoken to the Mexican Navy -- after it was all over apparently. So they were able to tell my friend that I was safe and sound, which is good.


I stayed in San Felipe for an extra day. I hated, truly hated the feeling that I had failed to reach my goal. Lots of people ride the east coast of Baja without incident, why not me? Gonzaga Bay, Alfonsina's, having beers with Coco, were high on my to-do list.

I was keen on trying again, making a second attempt. Of course I knew that would be stupid, to push my luck too far, and a disservice to everyone who had helped me yesterday to get back safely.

So with my tail between my legs, I rode back west to Ensenada. I was gutted.

Canada to Argentina (in progress)
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Old 06-03-2012, 09:46 PM   #86
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Subscribed I'm leaving for Argentina in January and rode your same route in Baja this last January, much cooler. Glad you survived your ordeal, yikes. I tend to over prepare but I've been in enough situations to know things can go south very fast. Thanks for posting about the SPOT, I've carried one since they came out and always wondered if anything would happen if I pushed the magic button. What kind of point and shoot do you have? Oh - I keep my TKC80's at 30 psi on all terrain and crank up my Steering Stabilizer (hand of God) if things get too squirrely

How did you circumvent the Darian? Any recommendations? Ride safe.....!
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:54 PM   #87
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Dude I rode that route a couple months ago. The section where the pavement ends was the hardest part! The heavy equipment was gone but they had torn up the area so much it took me a while to find the correct road to Gonzaga. Alot of churned up soft sand. Turn your experience into wisdom.... ride baja in the cooler months, it was beautiful in April.
Glad you made it out, thanks for sharing, enjoyed the photos.
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Old 06-04-2012, 05:32 AM   #88
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As a friend of ours (Striking Viking) likes to say... "the adventure begins when things go awry"... hopefully, you'll get back on track.. what a great adventure so far!! Stuck this thread for a while to give inmates a chance to enjoy this little gem.. awesome pics btw..
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:12 PM   #89
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yep i concur have done that whole bit on a klr 650 was around 100 degrees but left early and was by myself also.Made it but anything can happen at any time.I carry pedilite at all times and water.Glad you made it safely.There is now a Pemex and store at Alfonso's will be paved sadly in a year or less.
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Old 06-05-2012, 03:18 AM   #90
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Hi Peekay

very nice report , and adventure
I am very very glad that you have just got a little scared and nothing else !
in reality things could have gone must worst .

I would like to add just a comment on why things went "wrong"
basicly because you had within your self all the assurance of a rescue
it could seem a contradiction , but if we restart all over again :
no satt. phone .
no GPS !
no one to call in case of....., no rescue , you are only on your own forces .
well I bet you would have started that route much more carefully and prepared .

tyre pressure on a bike is not a great issue on sand , you can gain a little , but on rocks you will have high risks .
the eccess weight was the major problem
from what I saw on your bike , there was much too much stuff that was pulling you into the sand .
with that weight , you are forced to run very fast on track , or sink with an uncontrollable front wheel .
which is not easy at all .
off road driving skills are also very important , they can help a lot in avoiding to fall .

I am sure this small accident will give you much more of what it has taken .

good luck Ago
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