And so it begins...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Malindi, May 2, 2012.

  1. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    May 19, 2012 - Moab was the destination of the day and luckily the ride went quickly and smoothly. By noon we'd rolled through Moab, chatted with a few locals interested in exactly how much gas the tanks held, and started on the ascent into Arches National Park.

    Arches was spectacular. Without a doubt one of the highlights of the trip so far and fertile ground for countless pictures.

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    After we completed our ride through Arches, we went back to Moab to find a motel. Aside from finding most of them full, prices were such that we decided to bail on Moab and Utah altogether and ride into Colorado. In Naturita we found a room in the only motel in town. While checking in, one of the people in the lobby asked me if I knew Jeff so and so, as he'd apparently moved to Vancouver a few decades ago. It was that kind of town.

    Naturita is one of those towns that died long ago but refuses to let go. A slew of dilapidated main street houses and businesses, most of them shuttered, make for a dreary backdrop to the mountains. One bar was being kept alive by an enterprising expatriate from Denver. She'd organized a Reggae band for the night, which sounded incredulous to us. We went and had a look a few hours later and encountered young and old dancing a set of random styles to poorly played popular songs. With a few local Goths thrown in, it was a bit warped in a downscale Pulp Fiction sort of way.
    #41
  2. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Arches was the setting for a rather influential book called Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. His theme in this book is that to preserve these places, we need to forbid the building of roads giving easy access. Abbey himself didn't mind wrecking his new Ford bounding down unimproved dirt roads but others did so soon after the book was published, the place got good roads.

    Still, the book is a good read in parts and it influenced a good many city folks that there is magic in the outdoor areas they would fear being left alone in.
    #42
  3. Loutre

    Loutre Cosmopolitan Adv

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    :lurk
    #43
  4. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    May 21, 2012 - Yesterday we rode from Naturita to Fruita, CO. We had a relaxing ride with lots of nice scenery. From Fruita, we headed towards Aspen and beyond.

    We ended up in Buena Vista and on the way passed by an observatory on hwy 65. The views were stunning and we were happy to have made the impromptu detour over 12 miles of dirt road.

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    Looking down onto Grand Mesa, you can see an endless set of long sweepers clinging to the mountain side and fleeing into the distance. It certainly is an area not to miss when riding through.

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    In our hotel in Buena Vista, we heard some chatter outside shortly after we got there. Poking out head outside our room, we saw two bikes parked next to ours, a KTM and a KLR. We chatted with the owners, who were local dirt riders. After a while we were convinced we needed to change our route for the next day and include some back roads and Cottonwood Pass. At 12,126 feet, one of the higher passes around.

    Cottonwood Pass was a fantastic detour.

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    The ride up was a feast of long sweepers with not a single car or other vehicle in sight.

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    The other side of the pass is a gravel road all the way down.

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    Around every turn there are small lakes, tufts of beautiful forest, and scenic slopes.

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    We stopped in Gunnison for coffee and later battled the wind on I50 till we turned off at highway 550, also know as the Million Dollar highway. 550 is one of the "must do" rides in Colorado. At the end of it lies Durango, a small town with a vibrant history and an exquisite tourist district. At night we stumbled upon a Nepali restaurant, a nice change in speed at the end of a long day.
    #44
  5. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    May 24, 2012 - Monument Valley was the prime target of the day. I'd been through it on a few occasions, but only once by motorcycle, so it was somewhat novel. Before we got there, we took a quick side trip to the Moki Dugway, billed as a scary, twisted, steep and gravelly road surface where you are virtually assured to get vertigo, especially when teetering on the edge as the bike plows through the gravel.

    As we ascended to the top of the plateau, we were still awaiting the scary parts when suddenly the road turned from gravel to pavement. The views were breathtaking, but the scare factor is highly overrated. Nonetheless, the side trip was worth it. As we descended, a big 4x4 towing a trailer and a boat rumbled past us, despite the posted warning signs.

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    From atop the Moki Dugway, you can see Monument Valley.

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    Monument Valley seemed smaller than the last few times I went through it, but its beauty is still unmistakable.

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    We pushed on to Flagstaff, AZ, for the night. I wanted to get off the bike as I hadn't been feeling too well the last few days and I was looking forward to a riding pause. Tomorrow is a short hop to Scottsdale, AZ, where we will be staying with a friend of mine for a few days.
    #45
  6. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    May 25, 2012 - The ride today was rather dull, mostly highway and then we hit Scottsdale. After battling about 10 miles of washboard, dust and heat, we arrived at my friend Stephen's house. It is in the desert, half an hour from civilization and absolutely beautiful and serene. We intended to spend a few days here but stayed five. In that time we caught up with all the chores deferred to quieter times. We'd also shipped some tires, but by the time the tires were on, numerous other items were fixed, cleaned up and installed.

    In the evenings, we enjoyed the absolute silence of the surroundings.

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    Stephen is a motorcycle aficionado, to say the least, and his workshop is testimony to that.

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    My list of bike chores was short. Set valves, change oil, change tire, remove dead bugs. Jan's included a fork seal replacement, electrical changes, throttle linkage issues and replacing the broken side stand. That was before we found the cracked exhaust.

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    All in all, it got fixed, but we certainly needed our time. One of Stephen's specialties is designing aftermarket parts for old BMWs and Jan's bike was fitted with production series #1 of the new Toastertan fork brace.

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    Scottsdale and its surroundings are beautiful, both by nature and by design. Vast areas of widely spaced low-slung houses embedded in the desert, accessible in a lot of cases only by dirt roads. There are no highway billboards, cell towers and McDonalds signs. Cell towers are hidden in fake Saguaro cactus along the roads and store fronts are tucked behind native greenery, well out of sight. We didn't see a single high rise or office tower.

    The next major stop is San Diego before we disappear into "Cartel Country", as Stephen calls it.
    #46
  7. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    June 2, 2012 - We crossed into Mexico this AM with not a care in the world and made it to San Felipe, on the Baja coast. We were expecting some hassles in Tijuana when crossing, but to our surprise, there was no border to speak of. We simply rode between some dilapidated buildings (surely this was not the border?) and suddenly we found ourselves on a highway of sorts. A few turns later we were on our way to Ensenada.

    We were glad to be off the few surface streets in Tijuana we took, providing us with an eyelevel view of despair all around. Not since the dark days of communism have I been in a place that felt so dead and heartless. Debris and people piled up against two or three layers of high walls frosted with barbed wire that would give the old Iron Curtain a run for its money. A few days earlier, we had run into countless border patrol vehicles on the US side when we crossed from Scottsdale to Yuma and onwards to San Diego. It felt a bit like a siege or large military occupation force.

    San Felipe is a typical ho-hum tourist town, now devoid of Gringos as the season is over and the heat steadily increases, burning away all but the last American dollars from the mostly empty restaurants on the boulevard.

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    A few sleepy locals hang around and even the odd vendor hasn't given up targeting the mostly disinterested long-term Gringo residents or the occasional tourists like ourselves.

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    One of the most notable events of the first day in Mexico was the incessant buzzing of high-powered all-terrain race monsters plowing through loose sand at amazing speed. Onlookers, fuel pit stops and support vehicles clogged the road around Ensenada. We were convinced we'd arrived in the middle of the Baja 1000, a notorious off-road race, but we were told this was standard weekend fare. Overhead, four or more helicopters buzzed around and two of them actually landed in a regular gas station to fill up, drawing a crowd. Now we know where all those narco dollars go.

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    The cost of the suspension on this car is probably more than the total cost of my bike.

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    Jan's bike continued to entertain with esoteric problems. Here it is taking a rest.

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    Our environment is an incredibly comfortable one, with all the trappings, including WiFi and a hammock.

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    Of course, things went far too easy on day one and some research led us to the realization that the Mexican border, at least in Tijuana, is self-serve. In other words, if you don't stop and chase around for the right stamps and paperwork, you're on your own. Luckily we got sent in the right direction and the next day we rode to the Mexicali crossing, three hours away from San Felipe, and corrected everything. No longer illegal aliens in Mexico, we're currently relaxing the throttle and will be slowing down the travel pace drastically as of now.
    #47
  8. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

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    Taking your time and hitting all the best places and awesome views. I've been through many of the places you are travelling, and your great photos and ride report make me want to go back. Very inspiring!

    Moab has been one of my favorite places to ride for over 8 years, but with their outrageous motel prices, my friends and I are choosing to spend our travel dollars here in Colorado. I think MOAB wants to be the new Telluride(Colorado) of Utah. Too bad!

    Ride Safe,

    Taz9
    #48
  9. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    Well written and interesting ride report with good pictures. I'm in! :clap

    May I ask where you are from? Or what you did in that time and place? As I'm generally interested in that part of the world, you caught me with mentioning that in passing. [​IMG]
    #49
  10. tvbh40a

    tvbh40a PSUViking

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    Love watching the bikes!
    #50
  11. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    I'm originally from Montreal, but lived in various part of Europe for 20 odd years. I've lived in Vancouver since 1993 and still experience it as if it was the first day I arrived there. When the wall fell, I was in Europe and just before and after, my parents rented out part of our house to European Union invitees from various ex-communist countries, mainly university professors and reformist (and not so reformist) government officials. Countless evenings and pictures taken from the "other side" were a real eye opener. Our favorite part was always taking a newly arrived official to the supermarket. After the shock of the abundance of food, fresh fruit and veggies, they could never get over the fact there was a whole isle with nothing but dog food. It sure put life in perspective.
    #51
  12. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    June 8, 2012 - We peeled ourselves away from the comforts of San Felipe and were ready to tackle some dirt roads leading part way down the east side of Baja along the coast. Our destination for the day was Puertocito. But things didn't turn out that way.

    Road information is completely unreliable in this part of the world as we found out later. Where we were told the road was "gravel, but graded and ok for a passenger car", we were in fact guided by a construction crew through some of the worst of it. But more on that later.

    From San Felipe, the road to Puertocito is paved but potholed. Long-lost hopes of the "American Dream", Mexican style, are reflected in forests of "for sale" signs, both for houses or "beachfront resort land" lining the road to Puertocito. Since we haven't seen a single river in a week or so, I wonder how one even gets water to most of this place.

    Our hopes of finding a place to stay in Puertocito evaporated minutes after arriving. The place was deserted, not a single soul to be seen, even after riding up along the bay and back. The gas station was abandoned and everything was covered in fine layer of sand. Even Chernobyl had more character. We pushed on towards Gonzuaga.

    Past Puertocito, the brand new road snakes along the coast and makes for great riding.

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    Twenty or so miles before Gonzuaga, the road abruptly ends and dumps you unceremoniously in the desert, ending a quiet slumber and constant engine hum. After some adjustment, we motor on, but then a detour routes us into uncharted waters. We're off track and the GPS shows no roads or tracks at all. Half an hour later, I flag down a pickup truck and confirm we're actually on the right track to Gonzuaga.

    We run into a construction site in full operation and after some hesitation continue on. The sand gets deeper and we are rooster tailing sand as we crawl ahead. After deciding this certainly cannot be correct, a pickup truck with two construction workers shows up, guiding us through. We plow through some more sand and end up at the top of a bluff after carefully avoiding rumbling old and battered Caterpillar equipment. A short but very steep "brake-plus-sliding" drop puts us on level ground and onto more of the old gravel road. We are again reassured we are minutes from Gonzuaga. Even Uri Geller couldn't levitate a car through all this.

    Out of nowhere a military check point appears and after the now standard questions and answers, we see the Gonzuaga gas station in the distance. It's closed, as usual.

    The one and only place to stay is Alfonsino's and their price was not even in the hemisphere of acceptability. We decided to buy some water and push through, an additional 58 kilometers of what is rumored to be the worst of the track, back to real pavement.

    Somewhere along the way on a flat spot, Jan decided to repair a failing handgrip.

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    Onwards we went and stopped a few hours later at Coco's Corner, a known spot along the way run by a Mexican guy who is a double leg amputee. It's amazing how he gets around. In the 22 years he's been here, he has managed to collect eight telephone book-sized volumes of names of passersby. A veritable institution in this part of the world and a de-rigueur stop for two-wheelers.

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    A recent entry catalogued the travels of a guy who is traveling on foot to the end of Mexico. It took him nine days to walk from San Felipe, pulling five gallons of water and his belongings. This just to prove the point that no matter how crazy you think your trip is, there is always someone who has one up on you.

    It reminds me of the time I was in Pakistan in 2006, when I ran into an American woman, traveling solo, who had been walking around the world for ten years, solo, with barely any possessions on her. Years ago I read about a guy who cycled from Sweden to the foot of mount Everest, climbed to the top, and cycled back home.

    The end of the pavement was in sight as Jan pulled over to mention he'd forgotten his camera at Coco's. With the sun setting rapidly, turning back was not an option and we pushed on.

    Nightfall saw us arrive in Bahia de Los Angeles, a town devoid of all merit safe for lots of beaches and deep blue water.

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    The hotel pool is occupied by the local seagulls, but for $40/night we are not going to complain after a long day in the saddle. Tomorrow Jan gets to ride back to Coco's to pick up his forgotten camera while I chase an electrical Gremlin on my motorcycle.
    #52
  13. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Ah, to return to Mexico Lindo where the lodging is $5 a day and the scenery stunningly lovely.

    That sure was a nice shot you took of the coast with the islands offshore. I didn't see any boats & thought there would be a good deal around there. I guess not.
    #53
  14. Animo

    Animo Been n00b awhile

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    Well Malindi, you wanted ADV and that is what you got, ADV!

    Looks awesome so far. Once you hit the mainland the scenery will change, it will not feel so Mad Max any more. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Keep it on two wheels :lurk<o:p></o:p>
    #54
  15. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Well, we're close. We're in a $12 dollar place in Loreto, A/C and WiFi included.

    5 boats so far on the entire coast. Pleasure craft that is. Not a single non-Mexican biker spotted in a few weeks either. Weird. Loreto (we just got here) is dead, zero tourists and the restaurant guy was bemoaning his fate.
    #55
  16. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Is it tourism drop off or seasonal variations he's moaning about? I really had no idea that many tourists ran the east coast of Baja.
    #56
  17. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    June 13, 2012 - From Bahia de Los Angeles, we made two more stops before we rolled into La Paz, from where we are taking the ferry to Mazatlan. Our first stop was in Santa Rosalia, where we were entertained by a live arrest right in front of our hotel, a fire just next to our hotel involving multiple fire trucks, and the posting of a police watch for the night with our bikes which were securely locked up around an electricity pole.

    Earlier in the evening, we had our first police experience as we noticed being followed, very overtly, by a uniformed Policia de Santa Rosalia while we took a stroll through town. Despite all this, the night passed uneventfully and the next day we pressed on to Loreto. The road at this point was a bit more reliable and the scenery was perfect.

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    It was a nice change from the monotone cactus theme from earlier days.

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    Loreto was deserted. Even the malecon was empty at night with nary a local to be seen. Earlier in the day my headlight failed and I got to enjoy some sunshine while I tried to figure out how the previous owner had wired certain things. In 2006 I had only a few problems, but this time I've had to dig into the spare parts box once or twice already. Here I was, juggling a wiring diagram along with a voltmeter.

    La Paz has a bit more life to it after a string of relatively monotone towns with pretty beaches. Finally the big camera saw some daylight again.

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    The malecon in La Paz is more than a few miles long it seems and lined with coconut trees.

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    Even the hotel had a bit more character and I gladly accepted an invite to park the bike behind closed doors for the night.

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    Tomorrow we're off to Mazatlan and will continue south along the coast, dipping inland for places such as Morelia and Oaxaca.
    #57
  18. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Tourism drop off, very seriously so.
    #58
  19. thehead21

    thehead21 -aka Jared-

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    Great ride report, looking forward to more! Safe Travels. -Subscribed:clap
    #59
  20. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Thanks! Don't forget the slideshow page. Lots more pics there, as well as pics from an earlier trip this year to Thailand.
    http://www.nohorizons.net/2012/slideshows.html
    #60