A Few Days Solo in Baja

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by kobukan, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    The more I rode through that stuff the faster I went. I started out thinking my tires weren't really very good for it, and there's probably some truth in that, but it had more to do with my skills than the tires imo. When you start riding roads like that for tens of miles at a time you just get used to it. After a while I found a speed that worked and learned to shift my weight front to rear as needed to float over the sand. The DR650 did surprisingly well on the sandy roads. Deep sand was another story, but I think that's a problem on just about anything. We don't see much sand in Maine so we don't get to work on sand skills so much. Southeastern AZ is very rocky, not really that much sand unless you're in a wash.
    #21
  2. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    Gonzaga Bay consists of a row of houses on one end of a beautiful beach, some palapas for camping on the other end of the beach, and a dirt airstrip. At the entrance to the road that leads up to the beach is a PEMEX gas station, and across the street is a store (Rancho Grande Mini Mart) that, considering its location is very well stocked with most things one might need while visiting Gonzaga Bay.

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    I wasn’t sure if I’d camp or try to get a room at Alfonsina’s so I wanted get a look at Alfonsina’s. I rode along the row of houses all the way to the end and, despite the big sign at the intersection with the main road, I couldn’t find any place that said Alfonsina’s. All that way, it had to be right there, and I couldn’t find it! So, I rode back across the street to the store to inquire about the gas station, grab a snack and something drink, and hopefully find out where the heck Alfonsina’s was.

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    The store was surprisingly well kept and almost looked out of place way out there. I tried asking a couple questions of the nice folks running the store, but they didn’t speak much English, though they did seem very polite. Fortunately, there were several people shopping in the store who were all speaking English and seemed like they were pretty familiar with the area. I sat down on a bench just outside the entrance with my snack and it wasn’t long before a nice lady struck up a conversation with me. I guess I looked like a traveler who could use some info. It turned out that she and her husband, who were from Utah, were renting a house on the beach for the winter. I told her I was looking for Alfonsina’s, but rode down the beach and didn’t see it. She informed me that it was the last place at the end of the beach and they were renting the place a couple doors down and said I could follow them over and they’d show me where it was. Very helpful!

    So I followed them over and they told me all about Alfonsina’s and how nice the people there were, and how good the food was, and that I should really consider staying there because it was a really great place. She even went in to talk to the folks there with me since she knew them, and I didn’t speak Spanish. I decided to take a room for the night, but it was a little pricey for Baja - $55 a night, and no negotiating! Oh well, it was worth it. The view was great and I had a chance to meet several other travelers and gather some good Baja info while I was there. I met an older couple from Canada who had traveled throughout Baja several times over the years, and a very nice older gentleman and his son from Wisconsin who were traveling on bikes (KTM950 & 800GS) further south into Baja to do some fishing. The dad kept asking me to go fishing with them, but that would have added at least several days to a trip that was only intended to be a few days total so as much as I appreciated the invitation I had to decline. I also met an older guy from SoCal who was staying at Alfonsina’s, but had rented houses in a number of places in Baja over the past thirty years. We talked for a while and I learned a little more about Baja.

    Alfonsina's
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    Now, a little about Alfonsina’s . . . the people were very friendly, and the view was great, but it wasn't exactly a five star hotel, nor did I expect it to be. I mean no disrespect when I say that, it’s just that compared to what we typically see in the US it was . . . well, let’s just say that on a five star scale it would have gotten about a half star in the US. I’m not complaining, and I would stay there again, but it takes a little getting used to the conditions in Baja. There’s good and bad in this . . . after all, part of the draw is the remoteness and the lack of many things most of us take for granted in our everyday life. There is no electricity available other than what is produced by solar panels; therefore there are no power outlets in the rooms - only lights. There was hot water, which I was grateful for, but I think the bathroom and shower would have given my wife what she would refer to as the “heebie-jeebies.” It didn’t bother me so much. I only mention these things so that you’ll know what to expect - in case you’re thinking about bringing your wife. :D
    Life is different there - simple, in a good way, but things are not as clean and well-kept as we are typically accustomed to in the US. I cannot stress enough how friendly everyone there was, from the staff at Alfonsina’s to every one of the other travelers I met. Bikes were parked out front with little worry about anything happening to them. I felt safe and comfortable the whole time I was there.

    The view from my room
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    I’m not really much of a beer drinker, but a fellow traveler offered to buy me one . . .
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    Gonzaga Bay was absolutely gorgeous
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    A few fishing boats in the bay
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    I had fueled up the bike when the PEMEX opened up again after 4:00 pm, did whatever had to be done to prepare for day three, which would turn out to be the longest and most interesting day of my little adventure, then got a good night’s sleep.

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    #22
  3. RedRockRider

    RedRockRider Long timer

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    Great ride report and pics. :clap Thanks.
    #23
  4. Ol Man

    Ol Man Been here awhile

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    Enjoying your trip and pictures.

    I have a question for some of the old timers. A group of us used to go to San Felipe/Gonzaga most every year from the mid '80s to mid '90s. One of our favorite beer stops was at Speedy's, just north outside Puertocitos. He was old when we stopped and I was just wondering how long he was around. It seemed like he always had a new girl friend every year.

    We sure enjoyed those trips and reading these Baja reports brings back good memories.
    #24
  5. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    I don't recall seeing it, but next time I'm headed down I'll let you know . . . you can meet me in Calexico and we'll go see if we can find Speedy. :D
    #25
  6. Hogslayer

    Hogslayer motomaniac

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    Love the pictures and great writing, looks like your having an awesome ride so far,good luck with the rest of your trip.
    #26
  7. WilderRider

    WilderRider Long timer

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    Great report. I just was down there in October and loved Gonzaga bay. I stayed under a palapa and enjoyed myself thoroughly. It is nice how great everyone is down that way and how NOT scary the checkpoints really are.

    You don't happen to have coordinates for the campsite from the first night? I see you got the 60csx on there.
    #27
  8. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    Yeah, the checkpoints reminded me of the border patrol checkpoints in AZ - if anything the border patrol guys were more serious. I passed through three military checkpoints and one Policia Federal checkpoint without any issues at all. The Policia checkpoint was a random spot two officers had setup and they were out in the road with automatic rifles, but they just politely waved me through.

    Coordinates for Canyon de Guadalupe: N32 09.233 W115 47.299 Check it out if you get a chance. I'd go back.
    #28
  9. schaffer40

    schaffer40 I look lived in.....

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    Great report.

    I am interested in what you packed for the trip. Your kit is very compact from the looks of it.

    Maybe a follow up to the ride report after you get home and are unpacking.

    Have fun and be safe.
    #29
  10. WilderRider

    WilderRider Long timer

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    Thanks for those. Yep, I like the idea of the quite campsite you had there. Better than where I stayed on my first night down there.

    And I would agree with you about the border patrol being more serious. Even when they knew I was American they seemed more interested in hassling me than any Mexican soldier or federale
    #30
  11. Bill_Z

    Bill_Z Dude! chill,...

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    Excellent pictures and very well written. Not fancy, just nice. Encouraging for anyone looking towards a Baja trip. Thanks for sharing cause I'm really looking forward to more!
    #31
  12. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    I was up with the sun again and ready to roll by 7:30 am.
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    I knew this was going to be a long day because I wanted to ride up the west coast and get to either Mike’s Sky Ranch or Laguna Hanson, hadn’t decided which, but either way I figured it would be a long day.

    It was about 25 miles of dirt to Coco’s Corner, where I thought I might stop briefly since I’d heard so much about it.

    The road was a typical mix of Baja stuff with ever-changing scenery.
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    Once again . . . never knew what I'd see around the next corner
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    It's best to keep an eye on the road
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    I made good time getting to Coco’s and when I stopped out front to take a couple pics of the sign I heard someone shouting - it sounded like friendly shouting and I’d heard Coco was quite a character so I thought maybe he was yelling for me to come over - I did, and he was. Coco is a character for sure. He speaks English well enough to have a conversation and he seems to know everything about Baja, and he seems to enjoy sharing his knowledge of the area too. Coco and another young man were sitting at a table and I joined them for a chat. The young man at the table turned out to be Darin (diesel1015 on ADV), who describes himself as an “avid motorcyclist, outdoorsman, mechanic, former soldier and future college student” who is “Lost and loving it”. We talked with Coco for a while about Baja and Coco’s place then I started asking Darin about his trip and where he was from, etc. Well, that turned out to be pretty interesting to me and we talked for quite a while, over an hour I think. Eventually Coco hopped on his four-wheeler and sped off leaving us there chatting away. Darin had some time between finishing his time in the service and starting college in the fall so he decided to take a little trip. He had left Georgia about a month earlier on his DR650 with a very loose plan to head toward Panama. He was in no hurry. He stayed at Coco’s the night before. It turned out he was interested in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering, which is my background, and he hadn’t really had a chance to talk to anybody that had actually done it so we talked about that for quite a while. I was very impressed with this young man and sincerely wish him well in his journey, his education and his future career.

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    Coco
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    Me and Darin
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    I was all ready to leave when I decided I’d like to get a look at Darin’s bike and get a picture of him with it so we went over to where he spent the night and I got a pic, took one with his camera too so he’d have one. I noticed he had a GPS like mine and I asked what he was using for maps and if he had any tracks, etc. He was really sort of winging it . . . he didn’t have any tracks, no Baja map for his GPS, and the only paper map of Baja he had was one that he said a couple from Switzerland he had met gave him - and it really didn’t have much detail. Like I said, he was in no hurry and heading in the general direction of Panama. I had good maps so I walked back to my bike and got my NatGeo Baja North map out and gave it to him. I wished I had brought my Baja South map so I could have given him that too, but I knew I wasn’t headed into Baja South this trip so I hadn’t brought it with me. Darin was very thankful for the map, we wished each other a safe journey and I went back to my bike, hopped on and headed out the 12-mile dirt road that would connect me with MEX-1 where I’d head north toward the west coast of Baja

    Darin and his bike in front of one of Coco's rental rooms
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    My first thought as I left Coco's was that I was about an hour and half behind schedule already and I’d only traveled 25 miles so far today. That concerned me a little because I knew I had a long ride today. I made my way out to MEX-1 at a fairly spirited pace, but couldn’t help stopping for some pics along the way.
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    I reached MEX-1, headed north and stopped for a pic a few miles up the road.
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    As I often do when I stop, I was looking over my bike and checked the rear box to make sure it was latched tight - it wasn’t. When I took out the map to give to Darin I didn’t latch the box, and when I returned to my bike I didn’t check it. Normally I’ll just leave the lid open if I’m not done, but with the bag strapped to my seat it won’t stay open, so the lid closed, but wasn’t latched. This was my first significant mistake on this trip, if you don’t count spending too much time at Coco’s.

    I opened the box and it was obvious I had lost some things, fortunately not too much, and nothing really critical, but I had lost the small bag that held all my electrical cords for GPS, heated gear, cell phone, etc. Being behind schedule already I didn’t really want to go back, but it wasn’t that far and I expected I’d recover most of the stuff so I turned around and headed back toward Coco’s. I figured anything that was going to fall out probably did so shortly after leaving Coco’s so I expected to have to ride pretty much all the way back, and I did. I found a couple small things on the road on the way back, then I passed Darin headed out and stopped to tell him what happened and he said he found several things, including the bag with all my electric cords in it, about a half mile past Coco’s and placed them up on a mound on the side of the road. I rode back to where he said he found them and sure enough it was there and I put it back in the box and was ready to get started again. At this point I decided to lock the box at all times with the little padlock I had for it to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.

    Well, now I was probably two and a half hours behind schedule on what was already supposed to be my longest riding day. Not good. Before heading off again I decided I’d better take a minute to think about my schedule, and my options, but I didn’t want to think about it too long. I was so far behind I actually considered retracing my route back up the east coast. I knew I could make it to San Felipe no problem, find a place to stay there, and be in a good position to make it back to Sierra Vista the following day, but I really wanted to go up the west coast. If I went back up the east coast I was going to miss at least half of what I wanted to explore and the main point of this trip was to get familiar with as much as possible in a few days for future trip planning. So I made the decision fairly quickly to press on up the west coast. The thing that really concerned me was that it looked like I was going to be caught about an hour short of where I wanted to get to when darkness fell, and I wasn’t aware of any other places to camp/stay in the area where I’d be when it started getting dark. Nothing I could do about that now except keep moving, which I did, with the exception of stopping for fuel, which wasn’t optional, and pics, which I couldn’t resist.

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    I wasn’t sure what to expect heading up MEX-1. This was another case where I thought it would be just another road to get me where I was going, but it turned out to be very scenic. It was a beautiful road that climbed up through the mountains as it crossed Baja to the west coast.
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    Along with losing time, I burned some extra fuel, which could be a potential problem as well. I had PEMEX stations located on my GPS, but you can’t always rely on them actually being open, as was the case when I reached Catavina. I was hoping to fuel up there given the extra fuel I had burned, but the PEMEX there was no longer operating. Fortunately, a couple locals saw this as an opportunity to earn a few pesos and I purchased a gallon of fuel for 50 pesos (pretty reasonable really) from a nice gentleman across the street from the closed PEMEX on the side of the road with a cart full of one-gallon jugs of gasoline. I was tempted to get more, and he was anxious to sell me more, but I knew I’d be passing thru some bigger towns up the coast that would have fuel and I’d have no trouble making it that far with what I already had and the gallon I purchased.

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    Onward . . .
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    Finally reached the west coast
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    When I reached El Rosario I fueled up at the PEMEX there and I knew that would take me as far as I needed to go today so that was one less thing to worry about.

    Another mistake I made, that ultimately really had no effect on my trip, was expecting to be able to purchase at least some of my fuel with a credit card. That didn’t happen. If you’re going to Baja, bring cash (pesos) because that’s all you’re going to be able to use most, if not all places. And, some things were a little more expensive than I expected, like camping, and the room at Alfonsina’s. The net result was I was getting low on cash - I only converted $140 to pesos before entering Mexico, and I only had another $40 cash in my wallet.

    I knew I’d need one more fuel stop to get me back across the border to Calexico and the land of credit cards and atm’s so I kept an eye out for a PEMEX that would take a credit card when I reached the area around San Quintin since that was a larger town with a number of PEMEX stations around. I passed several larger stations with signs that said they accepted credit cards, even a few with signs (in English) that said they accept US & Mexico credit cards, and I stopped at them, but even those told me they did not accept US credit cards. It wasn’t that critical so I pressed on further north.

    That area around San Quintin was slow going - a little congested with low speed limits in the populated areas, and traffic moved along very slowly. There wasn’t much to see there and I just wanted to get going again. After a while I made it through there and the pace picked up again. Things also got a little more scenic again, but I didn't take any pics through there - I needed to keep moving for a while.

    My plan was to cut across to Valle de Trinidad and MEX-3 on a dirt road a little south of San Vicente. There was a military checkpoint about 100 feet past the turnoff onto this dirt road and I wasn’t sure what they’d think of me just heading off down the side road so I pulled up slowly with my turn signal on and when one of the soldiers looked my way I pointed toward the side road and he just waved me on without having to stop.

    I had been told this was an easy route across to MEX-3. Again, I didn’t know exactly what to expect and thought this might be just another road to get me where I was going, but this turned out to be a spectacular road that passed through some of the most beautiful farmland I’ve ever seen, then snaked through the mountains - over 35 miles of some of the most winding mountain road I’ve ridden, and absolutely gorgeous scenery. Of course, I knew that winding through the mountains like this I’d be in and out of the sun and starting to lose some daylight since it was almost 4:00 pm when I started across.

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    Saw what looked like a cemetery on a hillside in the middle of nowhere
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    A little further into the mountains
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    About half way across this completely deserted mountain road, almost 20 miles from either end, I came across this cow standing there all by itself. It looked just as surprised to see me.
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    Shortly after seeing the cow I rounded one of many rough and bumpy hairpin turns and as I tried to accelerate up the hill out of the turn I got nothing. I was going really slow thru the turn, thought I missed second and hit neutral so I down-shifted back to first – still nothing. Uh oh! Actually, I didn’t really panic (for more than a millisecond). Another little mistake – part of the domino effect from being behind schedule. Starting out this morning I noticed my chain was a little loose so I decided I’d adjust and lube it when I hit the pavement of MEX-1 where I could put the center stand down on something clean and solid. After backtracking to get the stuff I lost I forgot about it for a while and when I remembered again I was halfway through the day and so far behind schedule I decided to wait until I stopped for the day. Rolling over the holes in the road on that last turn the chain jumped off the rear sprocket letting me know it wasn’t going to wait any longer. No problem, at least it wasn’t dark yet. I had the chain adjusted and lubed and was back on my way in about ten minutes. Should have done that in the morning.

    I didn’t get a pic of it, but as I neared the end of the road by Valle de Trinidad I noticed a manned gate a short distance ahead. There was a gate, a small shack, and a guy in plain clothes standing next to the shack near the gate. Nothing else around really - it seemed out of place and I couldn’t imagine what it was, but as I got closer he raised the gate, smiled and waved me through. I slowed down and shouted out a “mucho gracias amigo” as I passed by. Still don’t know what it was.

    I finally reached Valle de Trinidad at about 5:15 pm, not dark yet, but that’s when the day’s adventure really began.
    #32
  13. UpST8

    UpST8 turnin gas to noise

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    Great write up!!! Thanks for all the pictures and information :D I gotta get down there soon :wink:
    #33
  14. max384

    max384 Bandaided

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    You're really leaving us hanging with the end of this last installment! lol

    What a day thus far. That was nice of you to give Darin your map. It was nice how you were able to meet up with again and he returned the favor in a roundabout sort of way by gathering up your stuff that fell out.

    Looking forward to the next post.
    #34
  15. motowest

    motowest Two-wheeled Adventurer

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    Enjoying your report!:D
    #35
  16. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    Actually, I'm already home . . . all the way back in Maine. There was no internet service anywhere that I stayed in Baja, and even if there was there's no way I would have had time to do this while I was there. I was scheduled to fly back to ME a few days after returning to AZ so I didn't really have much time to do the RR then either - I wanted to spend some time with family before leaving, and I did a complete service on the bike in AZ before I left so that it's ready to roll for the next trip.

    Regarding what I packed for the trip, I do travel pretty light. :D
    The bag strapped onto the seat behind me carried my tent, tent footprint, sleeping bag, and a camp towel. It also serves as a bit of a backrest at times, and I also leaned my butt on it a few times to help float the front thru the sand after standing on the pegs for ten or twenty miles on a couple of those sandy/washboard roads. :D
    The rear box held all my tools (I don't skimp on tools) and spare parts like clutch and throttle cables, spare levers, etc. It also contained a bunch of other stuff; first-aid kit, paper maps, electric cords, cable lock, goggles, sunglasses, spare gloves, small bottle of cleaning solution, a few small towels, tire repair kit, tire pump, etc.
    Saddlebags contained my clothes, small can of chain lube, toiletries kit, thermal liners for my riding jacket and pants. I had room to spare in the saddlebags. I don't carry much for clothes. I wear good quality backpacking pants & shirts and carry two of each - the ones I'm wearing and a spare. They pack very small, they're very lightweight, but rugged, and can easily be hand washed and dry very quickly. They also provide good uv protection if you're out in the sun, and the pants convert to shorts. They're comfortable, and my wife says they even look good! They aren't cheap. I bring three pair of Under Armour underwear - again, not cheap, but they're awesome, and they're also lightweight, pack small, and can be easily hand washed and dry very quickly. A few pair of polypropylene sock liners, and two pair of merino wool socks. These are also easily washed and dry quickly. One sweatshirt, and a pair of flip-flops!

    I don't bring any cooking utensils of any kind. The only food related item I carry is a spoon. :lol3 I've never had a problem finding food.

    I'm sure I left a few things out, but that should give a pretty good idea.

    I feel like I could stay on the road indefinitely with this setup.
    #36
  17. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    Hey, it's not a rtw trip . . . I've only got a few days to work with, I've gotta make the most of it. :lol3

    Patience . . . it'll all be over soon!
    #37
  18. RoadGrime

    RoadGrime Been here awhile

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    ...You can't beat the desert for a little vacation if your from New England! I used to work in Saco at Lund Mfg. many years ago, Nice town.
    #38
  19. kobukan

    kobukan almost gnarly

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    So . . . I arrived in Valle de Trinidad about 5:15 pm. There would be no more picture taking today, at least until I arrived at some safe place to spend the night. It was decision time again, but first I was really hoping to find some fuel. If I could fuel up here it might take me all the way back into the US. I had three PEMEX stations marked on my GPS in Valle de Trinidad, and this place is really small so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. Found the first one - little old place - closed. Found the second one - looked like it had just been built - beautiful new pumps and brand new pavement, right next to a little store. Closed! Actually, it looked so new I’m not sure it even opened yet, but either way I wasn’t getting any fuel there.

    I had pulled up to the pump and gotten off my bike and there were a few locals nearby that I tried to ask about “gaso”, but they didn’t speak a word of English and just shook their heads no and said a few words in Spanish, which I didn’t understand at all. After a few minutes an older guy came out of a house across the street. He looked like he wanted to help me, but he didn’t speak a single word of English. We had a rather comical conversation with me trying to ask him about gaso and him trying to give me some directions in Spanish. He was gesturing for me to go up the street and go left, I think. He was trying so hard to help me I felt obligated to try to talk to him for a few minutes even though I already knew where the third PEMEX was located - I had it in my GPS. Eventually, I pointed in the direction he was pointing, shook my head yes, said “mucho gracias” and went back to my bike.

    PEMEX number three in Valle de Trinidad was about a tenth of a mile up the road from the last one - it’s a small place remember! And . . . it was open. Cash only, but at least I’d be getting fuel. So, I filled up the tank, paid for my fuel, and then started trying to ask about camping. “Campo?” There was a guy and a girl there at the PEMEX, which was a relatively small station providing fuel only - no store. Neither one spoke English, of course, but they seemed interested in trying to help. After saying “campo” a few times and waving my arms around trying to make the shape of a tent, the guy finally got the picture. He looked at me with a big smile and said “Se” . . . followed by some other Spanish words and pointed across the street at a small vacant dirt lot. The whole thing was so funny I almost burst out laughing, but I managed to contain myself and pointed across the street where he pointed and asked “campo?” He was shaking his head yes and smiling - he seemed so happy to have just solved my problem of where to spend the night!

    Of course, I wasn’t about to pitch my tent in the middle of the village, across from the PEMEX, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others have!

    What I was really hoping for, but not really expecting was that there might be some sort of camping area near the town. There wasn’t. All this hadn’t really taken more than ten minutes, including fueling up, but I was back to two choices; head west on MEX-3 to Ojos Negros and possibly up to Laguna Hanson for camping, or head to Mike’s Sky Rancho. Both options had their problems. Mike’s Sky Rancho was about 25 miles up a dirt road, not too bad really, but it was in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go and would add 2-3 hours to what I expected was already going to be a long ride back to AZ the following day. The good part about going to Mike’s would be that I’d probably get there in less than an hour and probably wouldn’t have to ride in the dark much, if at all. It was fifty miles up MEX-3 to Ojos Negros, and I couldn’t remember exactly how far to Laguna Hanson from there, but I knew it was somewhere between 10-30 miles of dirt. I figured I’d make good time to Ojos Negros and get there around dark. If I was lucky there might be some camping near town, but I couldn’t count on it.

    I decided to head to Ojos Negros and took off up MEX-3. I was making good time most of the way to Ojos Negros, but the sun had already set and I was starting to see my headlight on the road. It was also getting a little chilly, but not too bad. I wasn’t opposed to pitching my tent somewhere along the way if I saw a good spot so I kept an eye out, and there were a few places that probably could have worked, but it wasn’t quite dark yet, so I continued on. About ten miles outside of Ojos Negros I got behind a couple cars that were moving a little slower than I was, but not much and it was pretty much dark by then so I decided to just follow them the rest of the way.

    I arrived in Ojos Negros in the dark at about 6:30. I was feeling pretty good about things since I felt like at the very worst I’d have to make my way up to Laguna Hanson in the dark - at least I was off the main road. I really didn’t want to be on the highway after dark.

    Ojos Negros appeared to be about the size of Valle de Trinidad, from what I could see in the dark. It seemed unlikely that there would be any camping there, and even more unlikely that I’d find it in the dark even if there was . . . so I immediately headed toward Laguna Hanson. Staying on track was a little tricky in town - even though it was a very small town there were a number of dirt side roads crisscrossing and I got off track a couple times, but managed to get right back on track with a couple quick turns. After a mile or two I was outside town where there was really only one road and staying on track became quite easy.

    The only remaining questions were exactly how far it was to Laguna Hanson, and exactly what I’d find there. I zoomed the GPS out a couple times to try to get an idea how far it was, but it was hard to tell on a twisty dirt road up into the mountains. I was hoping about ten miles, but knew it was really going to be at least twenty (it turned out to be thirty). It was one of those pitch black nights and I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t in my headlight. The road was kind of rough and required all my attention. I thought again about looking for any place to pitch my tent, but the sides of the road were raised up and between that and the darkness I couldn’t see a thing off to the sides. As the road climbed up into the mountains it also became fairly wooded - lots of trees.

    After a while my hands were getting too cold so I stopped to switch gloves - I had some heated gloves with me. Laguna Hanson is in the mountains at an elevation of about 5,000 feet and it can get pretty cold up there. I stopped in the road and shut the bike off and it was so dark I couldn’t even see my hand, and it was dead quiet - there wasn’t a single sound to be heard. It was really kind of nice. I started the bike back up and let it idle so I’d have light and got the heated gloves on and continued on. I kept looking at my GPS to see how much further to Laguna Hanson, but I wasn’t getting much closer very quickly - it was slow going. I kept wondering what I’d find when I got there. I knew it was a national park, and that there was camping, but I didn’t know if it was staffed or what kind of camping it offered.

    Eventually, I came to something, but I wasn’t sure if it was Laguna Hanson or what. It was really hard to see it was so darn dark out. I pulled up next to an old rancho type house and I could see a light on inside, but I wasn’t too sure about the place. I sat there for a minute, then took a spin around the area looking for some kind of sign and saw something that had “Rancho Ramona, Gasolina, Drinks” or something like that scribbled on it. I think it was the place also known as the old saw mill. I pulled back up near the house and sat there for a minute again contemplating going up to the door when an old man came out with a flashlight and shined it my way. He looked a little nervous - I don’t think he was expecting anyone at that time of the night. I took my helmet off and shouted “Hola” then said what I usually say - “Campo?” He came over to me cautiously and said something in Spanish and I said campo again. He said “one guy?” - I kind of chuckled and said “Yeah, one guy.” I can tell you I really didn’t want to go into that place, even though I’m sure he was a very nice old man. It was just so dark out, and the place was so “old” looking, it just looked like some place out of a Stephen King movie. I couldn’t believe I was about to negotiate a stay there. He was probably thinking the same about me. Fortunately I had a stroke of genius and uttered the words “Laguna Hanson.” He pointed up the road in the direction I had been headed and I asked “kilometers?” He replied “Five kilometers” and I said “Laguna Hanson - mucho gracias” and started putting my helmet back on. He got the idea and gave a little wave as he headed back inside. Even though it was pitch black out and that place looked a little scary, there wasn’t really anything scary about the whole experience, and it was really kind of nice out there.

    At this point five kilometers up a windy dirt mountain road in the dark sounded like a piece of cake - I felt like I was almost home! So . . . hopefully I’d be arriving at Laguna Hanson in about five kilometers. And I did.

    It was pretty obvious when I got there. There were actual signs, and numerous small buildings, and a building that looked like an office with some lights on. I didn’t see a single other car, bike, tent or person in the area though. Oh well, I pulled up to what I thought was the office, shut the bike off and took off my helmet, and within a minute or two three guys came out to greet me. They approached cautiously and looked just as surprised to see me as the last guy did. By now you can probably guess what I said - that’s right - “Campo!” They turned out to be two young guys, probably around twenty and a middle-aged guy who was wearing a jacket with a national park insignia, which I figured was a good indication that I was talking to the right people, or at least trying to talk to them. They, of course, did not speak English, but it was very apparent why I was there and within minutes they were leading me over to a cabin. I noticed that there were quite a few cabins there, but I didn’t see any tent sites. Just as well for me if I didn’t have to set the tent up. So they showed me the cabin (it even had lights), then the negotiations began. From the beginning they were fairly talkative among themselves, but they were always smiling and seemed very friendly. One of the young guys said “fifty” and I immediately said “fifty pesos?”, which I knew wasn’t what he was saying because that would be less than five dollars, but hey, it was worth a try right. They said, “no, no” and talked among themselves a little more, then they stopped and the older guy said something to me, but I didn’t understand, so he decided to write the price in the sand. Apparently, they didn’t know how to say “five hundred” pesos.

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    They wanted $50 for a night in the cabin. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, mainly because I didn’t have $50. But, I felt confident that we were going to work something out, and after the day I'd had so far I was ready for anything. I got out my wallet and pulled out a twenty peso bill and showed it to them knowing it was worth less than $2 and shook my head no, then pulled out two $20 bills and showed them my empty wallet. I held up one $20 bill and said “gaso”, then held up the other $20 bill and said, you guessed it - “campo.” They understood exactly what I was saying. I had $20 for camping, and $20 for gas – no more. The look on their faces was priceless. They said something to each other very briefly, and then the older guy looked at me and said “OK.” I handed him $20 and they started smiling and motioning at my bike and pointing up the steps into the cabin. It was pretty obvious they wanted me to ride up the steps and either try to get the bike thru the door into the cabin or park it on the porch - I didn’t really know exactly what they were thinking. I couldn’t believe it - Baja is a fun place! I looked at the doorway and I knew the bike wasn’t going to fit thru it, but I started it up and made a run up the steps until the handlebars reached the doorway and stopped. I turned around and shrugged my shoulders and got off the bike and grabbed the rear end to swing it around to park it on the porch and they were all laughing and smiling and talking away, and then they waved and headed back to their cabin laughing and talking the whole way and looking at the $20 bill like it was the first one they’d ever seen!

    It was close to 8:00 pm when I finally arrived at Laguna Hanson. Don't know what time it was now, but I proceeded to unpack and get some sleep. Heck of a day!

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    #39
  20. PacificPT

    PacificPT Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2006
    Oddometer:
    987
    Location:
    Monterey, CA
    Really enjoying the RR, sounds like you are really making the most of your trip.
    #40