Baja, the Long Way

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by HardWorkingDog, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Bgunn

    Bgunn Mucha distancia

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    Looks like a place to put on the list to see. How would a slightly loaded down KTM 950, with 2 up do on that road?

    Great pics and commentary. :clap
    #41
  2. acesandeights

    acesandeights Asperger

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    #42
  3. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Thanks for the kind words.

    I don't know about riding 2-up over South Pass. Probably be fine, but the road conditions change a lot based on weather, kind of like Baja. I imagine if you wanted you could have your pillion walk while you muscle it over the rough stuff, but there's times when passenger cars can drive that road. I believe it's easier to get there from the north as well. Larryboy rides over South Pass in the dark, during a snowstorm, on bald tires. With one hand tied behind his back.

    Mother Brother! Not the mameshiba!! :eek1
    #43
  4. Bgunn

    Bgunn Mucha distancia

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    Their reports got us into this mess....:lol3

    My heroes...:bow

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    #44
  5. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    We woke to a sky with threatening looking clouds to start day 7 of our journey. It's amazing how quickly you can make breakfast and get packed when rain is threatening...

    Our destination today was Joshua Tree National Park, about 225 miles away.

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    This is one of the top climbing destinations in the west, a place my son finds as intriguing as I find Death Valley and he was really looking forward to showing it to me. We head south on highway 127 through a part of California that not many people visit. Names like Ibex Dunes, Silurian Valley, Avawatz Mountains. A dry rocky sparse country, beautiful and stark.

    The clouds start to break up, there's patches of sun, we ride on without feeling too cold and fill up the bikes in Baker. We've got all our layers on, grip heaters running full blast, and I feel like an alien as I clomp into the gas station's bathroom surrounded by people wearing shorts and t-shirts driving their heated and defrosted cars. We cross I-15 and continue on down Kelbaker Road through the Mojave National Preserve. About a mile into the Preserve we see a sign warning of "Tortoise Crossing." Never did see a tortoise though.

    The road climbs up to about 4000 feet and as we descend down towards Kelso the skies turned grayer and the air got colder. By the time we hit Kelso we were both starting to shiver. Kelso is the Park headquarters, housed in a newly restored building------the best part is that a motorcyclist named Mike has taken over the old Kelso cafe and it was open, and warm, and he had hot coffee.

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    We stayed there for close to an hour, talking with Mike about riding, the history of the place, and warming up. An oasis in the cold desert. We were only about halfway, so back on the bikes. We climbed up another 4000 foot pass-Granite Pass--and dropped down again as we crossed I-40, down close to sea level where it was sunny and warm. I felt good and warm enough to actually take a photo as we turned onto Route 66.

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    We rolled through the desert surrounding Twentynine Palms, stopped for groceries in the town of Joshua Tree, and then headed up into the park itself. We found a place to camp--the park was packed full of climbers, the first campground was completely full--and set up camp after spending a good 30 minutes trying to decide which spot was more wind protected. The wind was gusting and swirling so much we finally just gave up and picked a site next to an occupied camp with a good supply of firewood. We had developed into pretty good campfire moochers--fellow campers seemed to feel sorry for us or something and we almost always got invited to share their campfire. Made dinner and sure enough, our neighbors invited us over, a couple of rock climbing brothers around my son's age, and they spent the evening debating routes and techniques and trading best "I almost died" incidents. They had a great time. I was tired and headed off to bed early--a long day. It was windy and I could see the stars slowly fading off in the western sky as clouds started to build. Fell asleep wondering if it was going to rain.

    At some point in the night I could hear the sound of rain--------still blowing pretty hard-------as I listened closer, I thought it sounded a little off; too, well, too soft-sounding for rain. I'd gone to bed that night pretty cold, but was sleeping warmly by wearing basically every layer I'd brought: wool socks, 2 layers of long johns, my riding pants, synthetic shirt, riding jersey, fleece and parka liner, fleece neckwarmer, and wool cap. My riding jacket was over my legs and feet on top of the sleeping bag, and of course using the synthetic liner. It worked.

    As the dawn broke I decided to look outside to see if what I suspected was true.

    Yup, it hadn't rained at all.

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    I yelled over to Bryn to take a look outside. His reply--"This is AWESOME!!!"

    He thought it was pretty funny, but about halfway through packing it didn't feel awesome. It was dang cold.

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    Despite the cold, it was a pretty spectacular morning. Clear and calm, the sky was pure blue.

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    The snow had filled our stoves left out on the table overnight, our camelbaks were frozen, so for the first (and only!) time we didn't even make coffee; had lara bars for breakfast, and then discovered another gear issue. I hadn't taken the time to isolate our grip heater connection with a switched source--we had simply connected them directly to the battery. Which works fine if you remember to turn off your grip heaters at the end of every ride. Unfortunately Bryn had left his on, all night, and the new battery was now dead. In the snow. We talked our campfire sharing neighbors out of their jumper cables, got the DR jump started, and started riding cautiously down the snow covered road.

    The sky was clear and the sun was quickly melting the snow as we rode. The bizarre thing was that no more than 5 miles down the road, still at over 4000 feet elevation, the ground was bone dry--hadn't snowed or rained at all.

    We just got lucky in our little slice of heaven.
    #45
  6. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    That's too funny---had me laughing. I think I would have thought and said the same thing.
    (Off to get my warmer socks---and blanky)

    BigDog
    #46
  7. BigNastybrp

    BigNastybrp Big Nasty

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    If you can ride good it can be done justpaul has done it . I did it two up on my xr650r and I will do it on my new 990 soon as I can get time off. Bert
    #47
  8. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

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    And I thank you for that, HWD :lol3

    And thanks for the link to the report. I had a great time reliving that ride again...it was one of our favorites!



    WoodsChick
    #48
  9. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

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    Wow...most favorite picture so far!




    WoodsChick
    #49
  10. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Yeah, it's a keeper. I'll be sure to tell the 'Pup--he took it. :gdog
    #50
  11. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

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    Hmm, I figured you took it and it was the `Pup that was up on the rocks! Either way, nice photo :thumb




    WoodsChick
    #51
  12. scottmac

    scottmac Long timer

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    Really good stuff HWD!


    I spent this morning showing Bob a WR250.

    He just may be a convert...:freaky
    #52
  13. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Hey! Good to have you along.
    #53
  14. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Our goal today was the bustling metropolis of El Centro where we were going to spend a night in a motel, get a hot shower, and tune up for our crossing into Baja. We headed south through Joshua Tree National Park, climbed over Cottonwood Pass through the Orocopia Mountains, and dropped down towards I-10.

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    Once again, amazingly beautiful desert country crossed with stark and rugged rocky mountain ranges. Our route took us along a road named Box Canyon, a fun and twisty section that was a two-lane paved road that follows a sand wash. I guess they aren't worried about flooding------the road is built level with the wash, oh well, what do I know about road construction. I'd hoped to find a cafe in Mecca, a small farm town just north of the Salton Sea, but other than a gas station and mini-mart never did see anything that resembled a cafe. Ate a Kind bar, and kept going.

    We had to choose whether to go east or west around the Salton Sea--the west route looked faster, dreams of a hot shower were calling--I chose west and highway 86. Out of our entire trip, this was the one stretch of road I'd not care to repeat again. Long, straight, drab slab with nothing remarkable to break up the miles; the kind of road that is made just to get from point A to point B. The only thing that was even slightly interesting was that for some reason, probably because the road builders were just as bored as we were, EVERY single drainage ditch and and sand wash that goes under the highway has been named and memorialized with a road sign. Every few hundred yards, another ditch and another sign. You could tell they were struggling to come up with unique names...Dry Wash...Arid Wash...Parched Wash...Desiccated Wash...Tedious Wash... I'm not sure if those were the exact names or not, but you get the idea.

    We survived Highway 86 and made our way down the center of El Centro, the biggest city we'd been in since we left the SF Bay area 8 days ago.

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    We found a decent/cheap looking motel, checked in, and collapsed. BEDS! SHOWERS!! HD TELEVISION!!! Ah who needs all that, anyway.

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    We were living like kings.


    The motel stop turned out to be better than we expected, mostly because it was so centrally located. We were within walking distance of a great motorcycle dealership, a Von's grocery store, a Big 5 outdoor gear store, plenty of restaurants and our bank and the post office were less than a mile away. By the time we got over the shock of real beds etc. we quickly agreed that we were going to need a full day to get all our final Baja preparations completed and decided to stay another night. Living like kings is addictive...

    First thing to take care of was our tires. I'd ordered new tires for our bikes before I had finished the route planning, assuming we'd start the trip with new rubber but once I'd added up the mileage of the first week I realized we were looking at a trip that was more than one rear knobby could survive. I'd contacted Imperial Valley Cycle Center and got their permission to ship our tires to them, allowing us to get the first 1000 miles on our old tires, and then go in to Mexico with new D606's on the rear and a new MT21 on the front of the DR. I rode back to the dealership and my contact (the Parts Dept. manager) was out to lunch...and nobody there knew anything about my tires.

    Oh crud.

    While standing there talking I looked back into the parts shelves and I could see my tires leaned up against a shelf, still in the shrink wrap I'd forwarded them in. Problem solved, I decided to have the shop mount them--both to save time for us and to allow the dealership to make some money on the favor they'd done us by accepting our tires. Other than the momentary scare of not having our tires, they were very easy to work with and I highly recommend them for bike stuff on your way in to Baja.

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    They carry an extensive line of bikes and parts--they're dealers for Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, Beta, Kawasaki and Honda, and were very willing to work with us on things that I've seen a lot of dealers in the Bay Area turn their nose up at. I will say that next time I'd just call ahead and buy the tires directly from IV Cycle Center, it would've made things a lot simpler but I'd jumped the gun a bit and already had the tires sitting in my garage.

    They also helped me out by accepting a shipment from Wolfman Luggage; gear issue number 4. One of the bugs worked out during this week-long+ shakedown portion of our trip was that I didn't have enough luggage capacity. What I should have done is buy a rack system to support decent sized saddlebags but somehow between the holiday crunch and trying to keep the budget for this trip under control I decided to use a cheap set of dog packs. They fit fine but were just too small and awkward to use (not to mention, an ugly lime green color :lol3).

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    I realized it about the time we were stuck along the Kern River and called Wolfman from our campsite, ordered a set of E-12 Enduro bags, and had them shipped ahead to Imperial Valley Cycle. They were waiting for me and I brought them back to the motel, installed them, and then took the dog packs to the post office and mailed them home. (Gotta love REI's guarantee...they gave me full credit when I returned them once we returned home.)

    The E-12's are great, but for a trip like this I'd highly recommend a rack system and full sized saddlebags of some sort. Even 24 liters of saddlebag storage, plus the dry duffel, was too cramped. I had to keep most of my gear in the dry duffel which creates a very high center of gravity for the load; being able to keep more gear below seat height would have been much better.

    The next day was spent getting the tires mounted, buying a replacement water bladder and some more stove fuel from Big 5, getting my debit/atm card PIN changed to 4 digits, washing clothes, stocking up on food, water and 3 dozen energy bars, and in general living like kings. We got a roasted chicken and salad from Von's and sat on our beds feasting and watching Ironman in HD, but in our minds we were both anxious about tomorrow's border crossing and entering Mexico.

    WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!

    (nope)

    We woke up early, packed up, and headed to Carrow's for our last meal.

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    We made sure to fill up our bellies.
    #54
  15. akaDigger

    akaDigger Amateur Adventurer

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    That's what I consider a wholesome vacation breakfast.
    #55
  16. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    You bet, and it lasted us all the way 'til lunch, too.

    :lol3

    (I just noticed you can see the new E-12's in the window.)
    #56
  17. Harder1

    Harder1 braaaap!

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    Great report so far HWD. I'm in for this one. As a son I can say there's nothing better than sharing an adventure with "Dad." The transition from Father and Son to best friends is a something special. :webers
    #57
  18. r3r3r

    r3r3r Wildebeast

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    Santa Cruz, Ca
    Awesome RR HWD. I love the route so far and you're not even in Mexico yet! :wink:
    #58
  19. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

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    :lol3

    spent 8 days and still haven't crossed the border....can't wait for the crossing rr...:clap
    #59
  20. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

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    Welcome Harder1 & r3r3r, thanks for the kind words. Kind of amazing, after 6 weeks together we didn't strangle each other, and we're still speaking.

    One of the first serious discussions about our planning went along the lines of...Dad, I don't think I want to share a tent...That's good son, because I'm not sharing mine with you either!:turkish

    We agreed on that pretty easily. We get along pretty well together, even though he loves to laugh at me when I do something clumsy or stupid...like tipping over on my fully loaded bike on a perfectly level and flat sand road while stopped...or go into the truck lane at a military checkpoint...or run a red light at our first intersection in Mexico...he seemed to be laughing a lot on this trip, now that I think about it.

    Oh, and NSFW--I tried to warn you, this is Baja, the LONG way :deal

    No worries, the next installment we actually make it into Baja. Hope I didn't give away too much.
    #60