Baja para dos - Nine-day adventure in Baja Mexico.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by TravisGill, May 6, 2017.

  1. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    Ever since we discovered adventure motorcycling, a few years ago, my wife, Chantil, and I have dreamed of riding Baja. This was our first motorcycle trip outside the protective womb of the USA and I was a bit nervious if not a little scared. To calm the concerns I planned, planned, and planned some more. The following is just a small glimpse into the planning process. Perhaps it will help other inmates who feel the same anxiety but can't shake the desire to discover Baja on your own.

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    Mission Planning

    Baja Preparation:
    All the preparation and a little bit of lack of preparation has got us to this moment. I’ve never prepared as much for a trip. Part of the reason for the preparation are the concerns I have about traveling in a country I don’t know much about other than what I’ve read. The US Department of State travel warnings (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/mexico-travel-warning.html) were a bit scary to read. If you believe the headlines about Mexico you may get the feeling that nearly every American who visits is victim to some act of robbery or violence. There is no shortage of people who warn “I once had a friend who (insert your terrorizing story here)!” Military checkpoint, crooked cops, drugs, Trump's "bad hombres", and chupacabra! What is an adventure rider to do?

    The major reason for the preparation was that I have to go through an extensive request process in order to get permission to go to Mexico from my employer - the US Navy. I drafted up a professional looking memo that included my itinerary and all the things I had considered in order to have a safe trip.

    We considered:
    • Our two mules: Both BMW G650GS. My 2012 Sertao, named Apache, has about 20K miles and Chantil 2011 mule, Chocolate, has almost 30K miles. They are outfitted for overland travel. My gear and bags weigh nearly 100 lbs. I weight, with all my riding gear, 220 lbs.
    • Gear: We have always been proponents of All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT). I even wear a neck brace.
    • Night: No riding at night. We heard horror stories of stray animals and loco semi-truck drivers. No, gracias.
    • Fuel: Each of our mules has a range of about 185 miles. An extra 1.75 gal RotoPax gets us another 50 miles each. We heard you can buy gasolina from almost anyone so we should be ok.
    • Water: We each carry a 3-liter Camelback and another 1.75 gal RotoPax between the two of us. It should be enough for a day or two of riding off the beaten path.
    • Spanish: My Spanish is poor. Chantil’s is even worse. I took two years in high school so I know how to pronounce words and I can read a bit. Understanding spoken Spanish is another level that I don’t feel comfortable with. Downloading the Spanish dictionary into the Google Translate app proved to be a blessing. We also had a small pocket phrasebook but I never even opened it during the entire trip.
    • Documentation: Passport, Driver License, FMM tourist card, and insurance were with me in my motorcycle jacket pocket. Other documents stayed in the tank bag.
    • Pesos: We didn’t use an ATMs or credit card the entire trip. We exchanged about 19,000 pesos ($1,000 UDS) before the trip. Believe me, 19,000 pesos is a big wad of cash. We distributed the money between the two bikes. I carried less than 1,000 pesos in my pocket. I also had a throw-away wallet with some old ATM cards, an old ID, and some pesos just in case all the horror stories were true.
    • Communication: Although I had the option of using Verizon wireless it turned out that everywhere I checked for a signal there was none. All towns had restaurants with WiFi. We activated our Garmin inReach for the duration of our trip but never even turned it on other than to check that is was functional before leaving on the trip.
    There was a bit of lack or preparation as well. We attempted to do this trip in March but I discovered that my passport had expired about 5 weeks before our scheduled trip. No passport, no Mexico. A new one arrived about three weeks before the trip.

    In addition to the passport issue, I had my wallet stolen on a recent Death Valley trip (Yes, in the great US of A). I needed to wait for a new drivers license that was mailed from Florida. It ended up arriving the day before we left on our trip - how’s that for timing?!

    We purchased motorcycle insurance for the 9 days we were expecting to be in Baja. It costed $118.79 USD for each of the mules. Talk about bad hombres. Robbery.
    Finally, we pre-purchased the Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) online. Technically it’s required for visits to Mexico longer than 7 days. It costed 500 pesos (~$26 USD) for each of us.

    Some teaser photos from the trip:

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    Cactus forests

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    Super-bloom flowers

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    Isolated dirt roads

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    Dry lake beds

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    Good (and cheap) eats

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    Fun times

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    Cold drinks in crazy corners

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    High winds

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    Buffoonery

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    Our two mules

    More to come…
    #1
  2. mobie&4c's

    mobie&4c's Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2013
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Lone Jack mo
    I love the Baja story's
    #2
  3. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
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    Baja Day 1, Saturday, April 22nd. San Diego, USA to Mike’s Sky Rancho
    106 miles paved + 91 miles dirt = 197 total miles (317 km)

    After finishing up the last bit of packing we were on the road around 8AM. After an hour of riding on Otay Lakes Road, Campo Road, and then to Tecate Road we crossed into Mexico via the Tacate entry point. Entering the country was as easy as rolling up to a flip gate, waiting a few seconds, wait for the gate to flip open, and then proceed in Mexico. We park at the inspection area expecting that officials would need to look at our paperwork and bikes. No one seemed to care about the bikes; only cargo vans or trucks. We were motioned to park around the fence to the right. A teenage security guard was in charge of watching the parking spots. He seemed to spend more time on his smart-phone but at least he sat next to the bikes. We decided to have Chantil watch the bikes while I went to find out how to get our FMM and passports processed and stamped. Getting into the office proved to be a maze; I had to cross the street, walk back into the US side, and then cross another street, before walking into a small office. I greeted myself to a large mustached señor who sat behind a computer. I showed him my paperwork and he grumpily asked me to fill out the FMM. I politely tried to explain that I had already filled it out online and showed him the receipt but he didn’t seem to care. The receipt didn’t look like the form he handed me so I went to filling it out. Many of the boxes were in English so I didn’t have to translate via my smart phone. I handed him the form and my passport and he demanded I pay the 500 pesos. I told him in Spanish that I had already paid and showed him the receipt. He didn’t care and told me I had to go see the cashier and pay the 500 pesos before he would stamp my passport. I walked to the cashier and tried to explain that I had paid and again showed my receipt. He made a call to someone and then replied that it didn’t matter; I still had to pay. At this point I’m a bit fed up. I know that the FMM is only required if you spend more than 7 days in country but I’m not willing to pay the fee again. I decide to tell him that I’ll only be in Mexico for 7 days and then he sends me back to the original señor. I again explain that I’ll only be in country for 7 days and he reluctantly stamps the FMM and passport. Ugh, bureaucracy. At least I only wasted 30 minutes. I’ve heard that other countries can be a lot worse.

    Chantil was patently waiting the whole time by the bikes. I don’t want her to deal with the same thing I did so I go with her to explain the process. The grumpy señor is much nicer to Chantil and he stamps her paperwork and we proceed though a bag scanner and back to the bikes.

    Before long we are riding the streets of Tacate. We’ve already been warned that Mexicans don’t stop for ALTO (STOP) signs so we are ready. We were surprised how true this is. It seems all Mexicans treat ALTO signs as YIELDs. We stop anyhow since we don’t want our first minutes of our trip to be sidelined by a corrupt cop looking for some lunch money.

    There is an immediate difference between the two borders. Many of the streets in Baja are just packed dirt. The paved ones are narrow and many don’t have any lines painted on them. The ALTO signs are haphazardly placed at different sides of the intersection and many are covered by other street signs or overgrown vegetation. The building seem a bit more run-down than those on the US side. Our tensions were high as we proceeded away from Tacate to the east and onto the Mexican Federal Highway 2.

    Highway 2 has a section that free or tolled. We decide to take the tolled section. A small fee puts you on some of the most beautiful pavement in Baja. A wide, two-laned, shouldered, highway gets us away from the chaotic streets of the border town of Tacate. It's funny; Baja has figured out how to get the US tourists to pay for it’s nicest roads.

    We are making good time on the highway and begin to relax a bit. Before long we are looking for the exit that will put us near Ejido Baja California and onto the first dirt of the day via Luis EcheverrÍa Alvarez-Santa Lucía Road. Once on the dirt, we feel like we are in our element - no people - no cars - just the two of us enjoying the road and the sunny day.

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    Gateway to a Rancho that we passed through on our way to Highway 3

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    Is this the Chupacabra?

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    Beautiful yellow flowers blooming everywhere

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    Tires and flowers

    The dirt continued uneventfully south towards Mexican Federal Highway 3. We didn’t experience too much trouble but did get into some deep sand for a short section. Chantil ended up being the first to drop her mule. It would be the first of about a handful of dismounts for each of us during the entire trip. Just before reaching Highway 3, we came across two gates and a farmer taking care of his animals. We were kindly asked to leave the gates open as we proceeded along the road. Our first interaction with folks while off-the-beaten-path and it was favorable!?! Where are all the bad hombres that Trump told us about?

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    Dropped Mule

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    ¿El Hongo o Ojos Negros?

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    Great dirt roads and comfortable temperatures

    Mexican Federal Highway 3 was a decent road that got us to Lazaro Card in short order. This was our first gas stop. The PEMEX station proved to be easy to navigate; a simple “Magna (87 octane), por favor.” and the attendant filled up our tank, took payment, and gave us change. I’m finding that I miss the PEMEX stations now that I am back in the US.

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    Highway twisties

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    Springtime in Baja

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    Just enjoying the road with the two of us

    The dirt road from Lezaro Card to Mike’s Sky Rancho wasn’t too bad but we were getting tired. A group of riders barreled past us. We assumed they were heading to the same destination but it would be a little while before we met them. We ended up getting to Mike’s a bit after dark. It was a relief to get to our first destination after a long day of riding. 200 miles is a long day for us, especially when half of it is dirt.

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    Mexicans seem to like theirTacate but why is the can left on the road?

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    Our first water-crossing of the trip

    I’ll share my thoughts on Mike’s Sky Ranch. I suspect that they are different than most but, after all, they are my thoughts. I’m not a huge fan of Mike’s. I felt like the prices for the meal, food, and camping was highly inflated for Baja. I understand that it’s out in the boonies and it’s a popular area for Baja racers, but does it justify the prices? I didn’t find Mike to be that welcoming; he didn’t really greet us, charged inflated exchange rates when paying in pesos, and seemed to pressure us into getting a room even though we just wanted to camp. The meal wasn’t that good, even though we were extremely hungry. I just don’t see the charm. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink. Again, my thoughts.

    However, the other visitors we ran into were really nice and offered their advice on our next day’s itinerary. They seemed to show concern that our heavy bikes would have some issues on the roads south of Mike’s. They recommended another option and shared the GPS waypoints so I would be able to find the road the next morning. I’m glad we took their advice because we got to experience one of the most beautiful super-blooms we’ve ever witnessed.

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    KTM Adventure

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    My friend and excellent motorcycle photographer Al "Fonz" Palaima was here!

    After setting up our tent and sleeping bags in the grass next to the swimming pool, we drifted off to a well earned night of sleep…
    #3
    noshoes, Scrambleon, WilVis and 2 others like this.
  4. CONKSO

    CONKSO Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    201
    I hear you on Mike's - I'm not a big fan either.

    I think folks like it because of the "history" of the place- that and they hear a lot about it here and just assume it's the place to go up there.

    I much prefer Rancho Coyote which is the one of the three options in the area- it's not cheap if you stay in one of the casitas (I think 75bucks per person) but if I remember correctly, that includes dinner and breakfast. You can also camp there no problem, no pressure- there's a big open, mowed grass field with a bath house- I think it's ten bucks per person and you pay extra for the meals. They have a pool too.

    I think it's a pretty good deal especially considering how good the food is there. Instead of the standard carne asada, rice bean and tortilla dinner at Mike's, we got stuffed chicken, mashed potatoes, enchiladas, salad, rice, beans and big cold pitcher of lemonade (cold beers if you want them for extra $$)... I was blown away, the dinner was delicious and the breakfast was equally good. The casita was clean and comfortable with ample hot water- way, way, way better than Mike's bunkhouse.
    #4
    sasho and TravisGill like this.
  5. SOLOKLR

    SOLOKLR Back to work

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    421
    Location:
    Green Valley, AZ
    Nice job on the write up. I tried talking my boss into letting me go to Baja. Not a chance in hell! That was my first trip when I was on terminal leave! :kat.

    Safe travels!
    #5
    Dan Diego and TravisGill like this.
  6. PapaDontPreach

    PapaDontPreach Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 5, 2016
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Wandering the bootheel, New Mexico
    Excellent Photos and write up so far ... definitely IN!
    #6
  7. liv2day

    liv2day Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    297
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    In! Planning to do a Baja trip like this with my wife once we get a D/S bike for her.

    Great start to the RR, and dig the pics. Looking forward to the next update :thumb:thumb
    #7
  8. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
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    Baja Day 2, Sunday, April 23rd. Mike’s Sky Rancho to beach camping just south of Vicente Guerrero.
    44 miles paved + 88 miles dirt = 132 total miles (212 km)


    I woke up just before sunrise to the sounds of a rooster and a barking dog. Otherwise, the atmosphere was quiet at Mike’s since most folks decided to sleep in a bit before starting their day. I was able to walk around and snap some pictures at the beginning of what would be a beautiful day. I especially liked the abstract photo of the steps of the pool.

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    Pool steps

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    Every window at Mike’s is covered in stickers

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    Polaris RZR group

    Today we were going to ride what was described to me as the “wine road”. It did involve some back tracking to the town of Lázaro Cárdenas, but we heard that we might be able to catch the motorcycle portion of the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. We also wanted to get an early start to ensure the we wouldn’t be sharing the road with the cars and trucks that would be racing later that day.

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    Unhappy dog at Mike’s

    Once we broke down camp and packed the mules, we were on our way back north for a little bit before taking a right along the easiest road into and out of Mike’s. It was a well traveled section of graded dirt all the way to Highway 3.

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    Leaving Mike’s

    Once on pavement it was a short jaunt to Lázaro Cárdenas where we were greeted by a somewhat intimidating Policía Federal or “Federales” truck at the intersection. There were several armed men, dressed in black with bandanas that cover their faces, standing in the bed of the black truck. I thought they were motioning me to pull alongside but later realized they were just motioning me to move along. To cover my confusion I asked “¿Gasolina?” and they pointed me in the direction of the PEMEX station down the road. By the way, this site had some good info on what to expect from military and police in Baja: LINK

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    Policía Federal - Photo from: http://www.pueblaonline.com.mx

    After gassing up, we rode down the dirt road and found a restaurant serving breakfast. It offered a place to use the bathroom, wash your hands, breakfast of omelets and pancakes, and a nice patio to view the motorcycle racers rolling though the checkpoint between race sections. We answered a few questions about our trip from some folks who were there supporting one of the racers. They seemed impressed after noticing our Florida plates and mentioned “You two are a long way from Florida.” They were probably less impressed when we explained that we lived in San Diego and kept our Florida plates to maintain our Florida residency. It turns out they were heading to San Filipe that night and then heading south along the race route to finish in Cabo San Lucas four days later. It seems like a shame to being traveling that fast though Baja.

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    Chips are a staple in Mexico

    After a relaxing and fulfilling breakfast we saddled up the mules and were on our way to Highway 1 via the Camino a Lazaro Cardenas Road. This is a roughly 36 mile-long stretch of dirt road that winds around beautiful hills. It rewarded us with miles and miles (km and km) of beautiful flowers that bloomed from horizon to horizon. It really was a picturesque road and I think we were really blessed to have witnessed it during a super-bloom event.

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    Riding through desert terrain

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    Super-bloom

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    Beautiful hills

    The next 24 miles, riding south along Highway 1, gave us a break from the long afternoon of dirt and wash-boarded roads. As this point I realized that the chances of us arriving to our planned destination of San Quintín were unlikely. Our best bet for sleep that night was probably along the beach south of Vicente Guerrero.

    Following the red GPSr track through town brought us to the Pacific Ocean where there were hundreds of large sacks of beach rocks. Most likely they were being harvested (is that the right word for rocks?) and distributed all over the world for decorative walls. We also walked around an abandoned church building. It surprises me that such a beautiful church next to the beach was just sitting there falling apart. The other surprise was just how isolated the beaches were; you could go miles and not see another person.

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    Bags of rocks

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    Mules taking a break

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    Old church cross

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    Buffoonery

    After a short break we continued south along a dirt, and sometimes sandy, road that parallel the beach. There were three sections of the road that had been washed away. Although there were bypasses, they were relatively steep. At one section, the climb out of the wash was so steep that I didn’t think we would make it up with the heavy bikes. Fortunately we had just ran into a group of dirt-bike riders and they helped me push the bikes up the hill. It was really nice of them to offer their help. Because of their generosity I was looking for an opportunity to “pay it forward” of sorts. Little did I know that an opportunity would come later that day.

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    Dead end

    One of the highlights of this particular beach was seeing the remains of the Mexican coastal freighter Isla del Carmen. Apparently the rumor is that she was run aground for insurance reasons in 1982. All that exists after 35 years of pounding ocean waves is the metal backbone of this once proud vessel.

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    Isla del Carmen shipwreck

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    Old painted boat

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    Boats and bikes

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    Overlooking the beach

    After taking a short break at the Isla del Carmen, we returned to Highway 1 for a short nine-mile stretch of pavement before following the GPSr track through the town of Vicente Guerrero. As we were approaching the beach I realized our chance of paying it forward had arrived. There was a group of high-school-aged kids stuck in the sand with there two-wheel drive truck. They looked like they had been stuck for sometime. Although we could not understand each other we tried to push the truck free from the sand but to no avail. Realizing that we only had an hour before sunset I opted to reduce the tire pressure in the rear wheels. They seemed to understand what I was doing an offered a screw to help press the pressure release valve on the tire. Before long we had reduced the pressure on the rear wheels to 20 lbs. Next I motioned for a few of them to jump in the bed of the truck and put weight on the axle. As the driver pressed the gas, the tires dug in and the truck moved along without that much effort. They were free of the sand! We snapped this quick photo of the kids and me before waving goodbye. This good deed later paid off on day nine of our trip…

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    Helping out and making friends

    It was getting dark so we rode south a bit more to an isolated section of the beach and set up camp. Although it was blowing pretty hard, we managed to set up the tent and get it staked down with some large rocks for anchors. Once inside the tent it was relatively cozy. With the sound of the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean, we both drifted off to a deep sleep within a short period of time.

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    Shadow peeps

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    Sunset silhouette

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    A foggy sunset

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    Mules parked in the sand for the night
    #8
    noshoes, roadcapDen and Scrambleon like this.
  9. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
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    Baja Day 3, Monday, April 24rd. Beach south of Vicente Guerrero to El Rosario.
    43 miles paved + 33 miles dirt = 76 total miles (122 km)

    Although the wind howled all night, we hardly noticed. We slept hard. The morning reveled that the beach was as remote as it was when we went to bed; not a soul for miles and miles of ocean. Today was one of the days I was really looking forward to - the day we planned to ride on the beach of the Pacific Ocean.

    After packing up the tent and sleeping bags we coaxed the mules out of the deep sand. This is not an easy task since they weight about 540 lbs with all their fuel, fluids, and luggage. Throw on another 200 lbs of rider and gear and you’ve got a bike that doesn’t handle the sand well unless it’s at speed. Getting it to speed often feels like you are trying to steer a wild bull that pitches from side to side. It is exhausting!

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    Deep sand sucks

    I was hoping for some magically paved road to the hard packed sand of the beach but it was not to be. Getting to the promised land was going to take some work. I searched for a reasonably short section of deep sand and went for it. The efforts were challenging but oh were they worth it!

    Riding on the beach with an adventure bike is a joy. You could travel quite easily on the sand just above the tidal zone; an optimal area between the deep sand and the ocean waves. We rode for quite a long time up and down the beach. The entire time we only saw one truck and a dog. Miles of miles of beach to enjoy!

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    Beach bikes

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    The mules on the beach

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    Sand peso

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    Beach dune

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    Chantil enjoying the beach

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    Beach riding

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    Boat on the beach

    Getting off the beach was another story all together. We rode as far south as we could before the ocean joined the rocky cliff walls. There was a seriously deep sandy section that climbed away from the beach. I attempted it but was unsuccessful. We got the bikes turned around and headed north looking for a better way off the beach. We found it at a privately ran camp-site that we used to get to the main road. The owner wanted us to stay for the day but we explained we had to get to El Rosario. He waved us well as we continued south along the dirt road to Highway 1.

    By now it was pretty late in the morning. We were hungry from all the work getting the bikes through the sand. We continued along the shoulder of Highway 1 looking at all the hand-painted signs and smelling all the restaurant food trying to find something that we felt like eating. I was in the mode for a breakfast burrito and we found it after riding south for about four blocks. It turned out to be a quite restaurant with fast internet, great service, and well prepared food. Two breakfast burritos and a bottled juice for each of us only costed 77 pesos ($4.09 USD)! This is why folks love Mexico. On our way out, one of the waitresses showed us her smart phone with Google Translate installed; the screen read “Have safe trip.” It warmed our hearts that she would take the time to reach out to us in our own language. Life is good!

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    La Moreliana for breakfast and internet

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    Hand painted church sign

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    Baja bus

    We topped off our water and fuel shortly after eating and continued along roughly 36 miles on Highway 1, to our next waypoint - The exit to La Lobera. We did a lot of research on different places to visit along our route and La Lobera seemed like one of the more interesting - A huge sea cave where the ceiling collapsed exposing a “secret beach” that is enjoyed by Sea Lions.

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    A field of small red flowers

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    Flower closeup

    The road to La Lobera was enjoyable and offered some rutted climbs along a hard-packed dirt road. The decent into the parking area was breathtaking, with sand-stone colored cliffs and crashing ocean waves. The only civilization was a white building, that looked unfinished with a white car parked near it. It looked like we were the only people there. As we descended the hill, a floppy-eared dog happily greeted us. After we parked and shut down the bikes I reached into my food bag and offered him a small piece of beef jerky. He rewarded us by showing us all the wonderful views around La Lobera including a cliff-side view up the road from the cave. Making four-legged friends.

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    Ocean cliffs

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    Floppy-eared dog

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    La Lobera

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    No moleste

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    Enjoying the Sea Lions

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    Lobos marinos

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    Cliff restaurant (unfinished)

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    Seaside cliffs

    We took our time to explore around, enjoyed lunch at the viewing area, and then slowly made our way back to the mules to finish the last leg of our trip to El Rosario.

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    Alex Chacón inspired

    The last six-miles of Highway 1 was uneventful. There was a military checkpoint but we were quickly waved around the semi-trucks and on our way.

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    Military check-point

    Once we arrived in town, we topped off our tanks, and then checked into the Baja Cactus Hotel. I had no idea what to expect of the hotel and was really quite impressed from the moment I walked into the small hotel lobby. I was even more impressed at the price - a mere 550 pesos ($29.24). A Hotel 6 in San Diego costs over twice as much! The quality of this hotel is definitely above the standard of Baja. I’d say four-star for less than a budget hotel price. ¡Viva México! We were very happy and even considered staying an extra day.

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    Baja Cactus balconies

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    Nice comfy king-sized bed

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    Baja Cactus rooms

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    Quality bed linen

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    Hotel details

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    Decorative sidewalks

    After a short nap, we walked a half-block south to the famous Mama Espinosa’s restaurant. This is another spot that is popular among Baja race folks. The race memorabilia is tastefully displayed along the walls and various display cases. We enjoyed a quite dinner of beef and chicken tacos before returning to the hotel for the evening. The king sized bed provided blissful sleep for what would be a long pavement-pounding next day. Dulces sueños - Sweet dreams.

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    Build a T-rex and you'll get visitors

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    Mama Espinosa's

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    Stickered sign

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    Tasteful decorating?
    #9
  10. advrockrider

    advrockrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    807
    Location:
    Norcal
    Your hitting all of the good spots, Baja cactus is differently a step above most rooms in Baja. Enjoying your RR, thanks.
    #10
  11. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    Thank you for joining the adventure.
    #11
  12. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    Thanks for taking the time to share the information on an alternate to Mike's Sky Ranch. ¡Gracias!
    #12
  13. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    My guess is that your boss had never been to Baja as well. Gotta dislike how one person can make a decision like that and it sticks.
    #13
    SOLOKLR likes this.
  14. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    Thank you all! More good spots to follow...
    #14
  15. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    From my sister Jennifer via Facebook: "You never cease to amaze me Travy!!!! The helping hands story (Day 2) overflowed my heart with love, joy, and happiness. It's stories like these that will change the misconceptions people have about each other on both sides of the border."

    Thanks Sissy! Life is too good not to share our friendship and love.
    #15
    noshoes likes this.
  16. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    ——————————————————

    Soapbox rant…

    How likely are you to die traveling in Mexico? This was a question that occupied my thoughts during the planning for this trip. It was perpetuated further when you explain to folks that you are traveling to Mexico… “What about the drug lords, the corrupt police, and all the murders?” Yes, this is true, those things exists. They exist here in the USA as well. Our cities are not immune to violent crimes.

    I’ll share with you my research. Admittedly I spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME researching this topic. The odds of dying in Mexico are so infinitely remote that I shouldn’t have spent more than a few seconds thinking about it.

    From January to December 2016 there were 264 documented US deaths in Mexico. During that same time-frame, there were 84 death in Baja California and Baja California Sur. A large proportion (31.8%) of deaths are in Baja; most likely due to the close proximity and ease of travel for most Americans.

    Of those deaths in Baja, traffic vehicle accident (auto, motorcycle, ATV, or pedestrian) and homicides both accounted for 27 deaths each. This statistic surprised me; I expected vehicle accidents to be much more common than homicides; not equal. The homicide rate in Baja is substantial.

    This would be more alarming in not placed in context with the amount of travelers that enjoy Mexico every year. From January to October of 2016 (not the entire year), there were roughly 7.86 million travelers. When you do the math that accounts for about a 0.0034% chance of dying in Mexico or roughly 34 deaths per million travelers.

    Compare that to heart disease in the USA. 465,000 folks died in 2014 from heart disease! With a US population of 318.9 million that equals about a 0.1144% chance of dying of a heard attack or stroke; roughly 1,144 per millions people.

    Here is the take-away: You are nearly 34 times more likely to die of heart disease just sitting and eating in the USA than dying while visiting Mexico. Think about that the next time you order a Double-Double at In-N-Out Burger.

    Yes, Mexico can be dangerous; so can those Double-Doubles. However, the level of danger is so small that it’s not really worth being frightened or scared about. If you don’t do drugs and ride responsibly you drastically decrease the already slim chance of dying. Ride smart.

    *This data is obtained from the US Department of State. They track US Citizen deaths in all foreign countries.

    ...Soapbox rant over.

    ——————————————————

    [​IMG]
    Baja Day 4, Tuesday, April 25rd. El Rosario to Guerrero Negro
    227 miles paved + 0 miles dirt (oh the GS rider horror!) = 227 total miles (365 km)

    Since we knew that it would be a long day of pavement, we set the alarm and woke up at 6AM. We needed a few grocery items and breakfast, so we left our luggage and bikes at the hotel and ventured to find a mercado (market) on foot. Just a few blocks away we bought some bottled water and a tube of super-glue to fix my tripod phone mount that broke the day before. On the way back we noticed a car wash sign and figured it would be a good idea to wash off the ocean salt and sand before hitting the long stretch of road.

    At Mama Espinosa’s, we enjoyed a quick but enjoyable breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese burritos. Back at the hotel, we put on our gear and rode the bikes down the road to get them washed up.

    [​IMG]
    Distinguished painting of Mama Espinosa

    As we pulled into the rectangular patch of concrete, a young hombre greeted us. We exchanged our customary “buenos días” and he went to work to set up the pressure washer that was operated from the trunk of his SUV. Before long he was joined by another kid and together they went to work to clean up the bikes. They seemed surprised when we laid the bikes on their sides so they could spray the skid plate and undersides of each bike. After spraying everything they took a small drying nozzle and cleaned every nook and cranny with pressurized air and a rag. The mules had never looked so clean!

    [​IMG]
    Washing the mules

    We returned to the hotel where we loaded up all the gear onto the mules, put on a coat of chain oil, checked out, and were pounding pavement on Highway 1 just before 9AM.

    Based on my research (see rant above), a traffic accident was the most likely way of being shipped back to the US in a body bag. This was on my mind during much of the paved portions of our trip. I had already witnessed numerous traffic law violations; ALTO signs, speed limits, and no passing signs seemed like recommendations for most. The only folks obeying the traffic signs were US plated vehicles. All we could do was to be extra vigilant and look out for each other.

    [​IMG]
    Enjoying the open road

    We often pulled over for faster moving traffic. We were content moving at the pace of the speed limit signs, even if most Mexicans were not. Although a lot of time was spent watching the miles disappear from the GPSr, we did pull over and capture some memories using the tripod.

    Our first stop was a large cactus on the left of the highway. It looked like a popular stop since the cactus has multiple names and dates carved into its flesh.

    [​IMG]
    Cactus stop

    [​IMG]
    Carved names and dates

    [​IMG]
    Left only tire tracks but kept this memory

    We also stopped when we came across a memorable or picturesque part of the road. I’d set up the shot on the tripod, turn around to meet Chantil, ride through the camera shot together, turn around again and pick up the tripod. We did this on more than a handful of occasions and captured some memorable videos and photos.

    [​IMG]
    Long isolated stretches of Mexican Federal Highway (carretera federal) No. 1

    [​IMG]
    Painted tires are often used to mark small towns

    About half-way along the route we came across a sign that pointed left and read museum. A short dirt road brought us to anything but a museum. It was an abandoned slab-city hotel for travelers. The architecture and artwork painted along the walls was interesting. The torn roof also made for an interesting picture. We enjoyed our lunch of peanut butter on tortillas and some trail mix.

    [​IMG]
    Dome home

    [​IMG]
    The torn roof resembles the continent of Africa

    [​IMG]
    Artwork inside to dome.

    Shortly after lunch we came across the town of Catavina where gas was being sold from the side of the road via cans that are poured directly into your tank. 100 pesos gets you about 3 liters. This was definitely a defining part of my memories of the “Baja experience” and highlights some of the key differences we have in the USA.

    [​IMG]
    Roadside gasolina

    [​IMG]
    Gasolina for the mules

    In the town of San Agustin we passed through a military checkpoint but no military was there. It gave us a chance to take some photos of the interesting child-drawn sign of a soldier that warns of the checkpoint; perhaps it’s their way of humanizing the military so tourists don’t fear the checkpoints.
    [​IMG]
    Military checkpoint marker

    It was well into the afternoon before we reached Baja California Sur and Guerrero Negro. Once there, we topped off our fuel tanks, drove around back-alley dirt roads looking for a way to Scammon's Lagoon (We later discovered a route but never did make it out there - perhaps in the future?), and found a great little taco place (oddly, right near what looked like a small town dump). Although we had no cell service the entire trip, most restaurants had WiFi so updating Facebook and keeping in touch with family and friends wasn’t that difficult.

    [​IMG]
    Welcome to Baja California Sur

    Our hotel for the evening was the TerraSal. It seemed popular with tourists and adventure motorcyclists. Cost for a room with two queen beds was 640 pesos ($34.01 USD). It was time to get a good nights sleep in preparation for the next days Grey Whale watching tour.

    [​IMG]
    TerraSal Hotel

    [​IMG]
    Hand painted room tile
    #16
    atwater1, noshoes, roadcapDen and 3 others like this.
  17. Scrambleon

    Scrambleon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    370
    Location:
    Tollhouse, CA
    Hi, Me and my riding buddy PK Matt, saw you two a couple times along the way in Baja but we never were able to connect with you. We were on a red F700GS and a yellow R1200GS so your bikes caught my eyes. Somewhere along Hwy 1 I spotted you two getting gas as we passed headed south. Then a couple of days later in Guerrero Negro you drove by where we were staying at the Cowboy Hotel and we thought you had stopped at the office to check-in. When we went out front to see where you had gone, we saw and waved to you as you left the taco place across the street from where we were staying. I found this RR while looking for a RR from some other inmates we met along the Baja trip. Thanks for posting all the great photos. We saw a lot the same sights but unfortunately didn't always stop to get the pictures like you. Looking forward to the rest of your RR. Scrambleon
    #17
    TravisGill likes this.
  18. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    We remember the bikes and regret not saying "hola" and sharing stories. Taking photos and videos does slow us down but we feel it's worth the shared memories. Thanks for the kind comments, they help motivate me to finish the ride report.
    #18
  19. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,769
    Location:
    Ojai, Ca
    Odds of dying in Mexico are much greater than you suspect, it is now the second most dangerous country in the world right behind Syria, with 23,000 murders in 2016 and in mexico only about 2% of homicides get prosecuted, keep moving and watch your back. Look for Black SUV's with dark windows, cartels inside
    #19
  20. TravisGill

    TravisGill Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Germany
    Not to derail the ride report (in your defense, I did start the rant), but the the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) publishes a yearly study on Mexico and the rest of the world. They list Mexico as the 24th most dangerous of 163 countries listed.

    As for the study that lists Mexico as the second-most lethal conflict worldwide; the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published a study titled Armed Conflict Survey. It was published in May 2017 (before we left on the trip) and has generated a lot of discussion in the news lately. Unfortunately, they charge for the information whereas the IEP provides their study for free.
    Traveling to Baja, based on the danger level, is a personal decision. I don't work for the Mexican tourism industry so I don't have any advantage of convincing folks to go there. I'm just relaying some of the references I looked at before making the decision for myself and my wife.

    Cheers,
    Travis
    #20