So the wife and I were getting a bit tired of the 18 degree weather in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Utah</st1lace></st1:State> and I had been dreaming of doing a Baja ride for as long as I can remember. So I waited for the coldest of days a drop my evil plan in her mind, promising her warm days and white sand beaches. My mind bomb worked on her and she agreed that it sounded like a plan. So the plan was to trailer from <st1:City w:st="on">Layton</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">Utah</st1:State> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Yuma</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">Arizona</st1:State></st1lace></st1:City> where we have family, spend the night and ride the bike from there down through Baja and travel as far as our time off would allow us and then retrace our route back. Day 1 has us driving most the day from <st1:City w:st="on">Layton</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">Utah</st1:State> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Yuma</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">Arizona</st1:State></st1lace></st1:City>. Day 2 with bike insurance in hand and a set of fresh tires we took the short ride on I-8 out of <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Yuma</st1lace></st1:City> and found ourselves staring at the Algadones border crossing. (sorry but some of our pics are crappy cell phone pics) We have been to <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Mexico</st1lace></st1:country-region> a couple times but never crossed by bike or car so this was going to be an experience for us. We rolled up to the gate expecting to have to get off the bike and show paperwork, to our amazement there is no one stopping you, there is a simple wave and that’s it….you’re in Mexico! Getting our tourist Visa’s was pretty easy, after a short detour and a few wrong turns, the wife figured out where we needed to go and did the instructional slap on the shoulder (means I’m doing something wrong, lol). As soon as you cross the border the INM office is the 2<SUP>nd</SUP> little white building on your right and there is room to park the Moto right in front of the office while you do your Visa paper work. We went in with our passports, filled out some forms and then instructed to take the forms to the HSBC right behind the office, pay $25 bucks per Visa (per person, BTW there good for 6 months.) While at HSBC we also changed some <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">US</st1lace></st1:country-region> currency into Peso’s then headed back to the INM office with our receipt, then got a stamp of approval. Whole process takes about 30-45 minutes so don’t plan it being a quick thing, as we were told before we left, everything happens on Baja time down there which I have now mathematically figured is Half US speed, even traveling takes twice as long, it seems like every time we stop someone wants to talk to us which we love but it always puts you behind on travel time. Remember you’re on Vacation so enjoy the time, conversation and the ride. Once we were back on the bike we consulted Google maps to get out of town and on to HWY2 heading west. Yes I had a GPS but it didn’t have <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Mexico</st1lace></st1:country-region> maps and on this trip was really a glorified MP3 player. On 2 we needed to catch 2D southwest which is a short toll road (16 peso’s) that bypasses <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Mexicali</st1lace></st1:City> and drops you onto Hwy 5 which is the road we would be using to head south. On hwy 5 we stopped at our first authentic Mexican restaurant, freaking delicious and pretty cheap. the great food Funny story about this food stop: We drive by a couple food places and wife gives the slap on the shoulder and wants to turn around and go eat lunch. I ask her, “ O…at that Abierto place?” She starts laughing at me and says “Yes…but Abierto means open…hahaha.” She wonders why I think everything has the same name, lol. Yes my Spanish sucks….nuff said. Back on the road we were making tracks towards San Felipe, passing through Laguna Salida, I was warned there were high winds through here but we were blessed with no wind and smooth pavement. This place looked like a brown version of the <st1lace w:st="on">Bonneville salt flats</st1lace>. turn down your volume!!, all of our riding video have tons of wind. Sorry...you were warned <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/QjEht1qfkJI?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> End of the day finds us in San Felipe looking for a hotel as the sun was going down so we were stressing about finding a place before it was dark. We cruised around for a bit actually looking for El Cortez hotel (from others reviews) and rode past a good looking place called KiKi’s. We rolled in to check out the rooms and found Kiki’s was a Hotel/RV park that was right on the ocean, decent prices, clean rooms, awesome staff and the most import thing that we Americans take for granted…Hot Water. Paid $600pesos ($46) because we had large bills and they didn’t really have change, they just said, “that’s good…600pesos is ok”. It was suppose to be like 650. So feel free to negotiate. We also did find the El Cortez (in case you’re wondering), the next day and actually stopped in to check it out. It is nice too, they said $65usd per night, also on the water and had a pool. But Kiki’s was just as nice, smaller and all the Canadians and a few Yanks spend the winter in their RV’s there. They are sure to come up and chat your ear off, invite you for a drink, offer you chairs and yell at you when they spot dolphins and sea lions out in the water. I somehow don’t think the El Cortez is host to such a friendly & lively bunch. views from the KiKi's beach <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/0BODW47MAQ8?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> After getting set up we cruise into down town to find some grub, we use our sense of smell and it leads us to “Fat Boys Pizza & Bar” which is owned by an American who serves pizza, pasta and Mexican food. We park the bike right on the side walk and are chowing down on some delicious food in no time. The owner, who also rides, spots our bike and chats with us forever telling us his tales. Great guy and the food was awesome. He also advises us on just how safe Baja is but does note for us to bring our helmets inside for future note. While we were there this guy rolls in with his electric guitar and an amp, he asks if we want to hear any Clapton, CCR, Pink Floyd or Bruce Springsteen. I hit him up for some Pink Floyd and CCR and wondering just how well this will go with his strong Spanish accent. Amazed…he actually did really good! Assuming he works off tips and takes what you give him, I pull out $2 and have it resting on the table while he sings the last song….boy was I wrong, he gets done and says…that’s $4 bucks….I was a bit shocked and kind of annoyed but pulled out another $2. Damn! I must have Tourista printed on my head, ok I won’t be doing that again, but to his credit the guy was good! <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/P-o9Kz65Hs0?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> Day 3: This morning we have plans to ride to Guerro Negro and know it’s going to be a long ride but not really in a hurry. Grab some breakfast on the Malecon and head down Hwy 5 towards Puertocitios. Following the picturesque coastline on the sparsely driven hwy 5…..I’m happy, relaxed and possibly starting to slow my mind and mold into Baja….thinking of nothing but what is around you. My relaxed state is occasionally interrupted abruptly by the unmarked giant G-outs in the asphalt between San Felipe and worse as you get closer to Puertocitos. Hit just one at significant speed and grind your back tire on any newly installed tool tray under your seat and it will keep you on your toes. Not saying I know this from experience…..lol. <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/q1AM_Y9u_qQ?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> a little diversion from Hwy 5 to the ocean We see signs for Puertocitos and decide to pull off and grab some fuel before the pavement is sure to end soon. Puertocitos is a small fishing village (like most) and there isn’t much there but we got some gas and keep going south. We pull off here and there to get the necessary coastline photo. We later pass what we now see is 2 dirt bikes sporting large desert tanks and 2 ATV’s busting down the highway. I have to say we didn’t expect the ATV’s. I don’t image they had too much fun with the quads on the pavement . We get to the end of the pavement and we see a few more dirt bikes and guys walking around, this was the rest of the group that we had heard earlier. We stop once again to chat and to take out our jacket liners, as the day was warming up comfortably. As we try to chat with the group, we find they are local Mexican’s doing a day ride from San Felipe to <st1lace w:st="on">Coco</st1lace>’s and back. The stragglers’ of their group finally arrive and we all gear up to head south toward Gonzaga bay / Alfonsia’s Resort. While on this gravel road we came around a corner and Bam!!!…there’s a military checkpoint. Didn’t really expect to see that in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have any problems but the place looks like it was out of a movie set manned by 2-3 guys and nothing but a small building and a drop gate that seemed comical because you could just drive around it, they smiled and waved us though as they searched a pickup with some happy Californian’s that were happy and joking around as we rode past. pulling into Gonzaga bay It’s a good thing we got gas in Puertocetios because the Pemex station in Gonzaga bay had been closed for weeks because they were out of gas. There’s a small but surprisingly well stocked convenience store that’s attached to a small restaurant, which turns out to serve very bad food, so grab something from the store…trust me you will be much happier. If you’re dying for something to eat in Gonzaga, turn east and head 1-2 miles towards Alfonsia’s resort, while it’s not much of a “Resort” the food was good. We also caught up once again the dirt bike/ATV group. We chatted a bit more and were kind of entertained as we seen a few of the watching the satellite tv out on the patio but the funny bit was they were watching “American Pickers” and they had Spanish speaking voice overs, which was hilarious to hear. After a quick snack and a coke we motored on towards Coco’s Corner. Headin from Gonzaga towards CoCo's Corner turn down your volume <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/4rp8a_x8PXk?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> found my missing boat...its on hwy 5 in the desert heading towards coco's <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/cIQ1qSSIEsc?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> Pulling into CoCo's Corner <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/UMulko76m0s?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> Coco is a bit of a celebrity to the Baja crowd. He’s a desert nomad that has a quirky place made out of stuff people have left in the desert. He sells cold Beer and Coke’s from his Solar ran Fridge system. I was amazed at how cold they were. While there Coco asks you to sign his book. He asks all travelers to sign their names, where they’re from, where they’re going and he usually draws and colors in what type of vehicle you were riding/driving. Coco is a double amputee and gets around quit well. He has a great spirit and attitude towards life. We once again caught up to the dirt bike/ATV group and since they spoke Spanish and arrived before us, they were pretty involved in a conversation with Coco but we did get to chat for a bit before he asks, where we are heading. When we tell him and the others that we are going to Guerro Negro, they all look at us with big eyes and say, “tonight?” They tell us it’s about 3hrs and since it’s already about 2:30pm we need to get going. Coco advises us on a slightly less bumpy route to hwy 1 but as we come up to his route we are also in viewing distance to hwy 1 and decide to just stay on the main route we are on because it really wasn’t bad, at least for us, just some stutter bumps that the suspension was soaking up nicely. heading out of coco's heading towards the main Hwy runing down Baja...Hwy 1 Hwy 1 in the distance We turn south off the dirt and onto the paved hwy 1 and looking to make some good time. We really expected the road to be busier than it was. Again…. peaceful and content to motor along without many reminders of civilization. We do stop at the notorious pick-up truck filled with 55gal barrels of fuel and welcome getting some questionable fuel to insure we can make it to Guerro Negro before nightfall. It is a nice ride with smooth asphalt that rises, falls, and curves with the terrain. We followed the views of the giant cactus, Valley of the Candles, as we were told due to the orange blossoms on top of the cactus literally looking like giant candles. <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/XShz1WsnQKo?rel=0" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME> We were making great time but did encounter a decent section of road construction where they route you onto some rough dirt road (you know the type that would never fly in the States), like big dirt pot holes, some sand, big lips and some dips but nothing impassable even 2 up on a fully loaded beast. There was also a water truck coming toward us that was kind enough to turn the water off as he passed us and all the construction crew, even the heavy equipment operators all took time to look and wave as we passed by. We passed thru one more check point just as we came into Guerro Negro and were once again just waived thru. It was almost dark out with just a speck of ambient light left on the horizon as we rolled into Guerro Negro. Not really ideal. We drove down the main drag passing quite a few hotels and food joints, then turned around and went to the first hotel we had passed coming in called the Cowboy Hotel. It looked a lot better and the hotels seemed to get worse as you go further into town. We got a room for $50pesos/$36usd for the night. They had hot water, clean, somewhat protected parking and a small restaurant. We were beat so we ate on site, the food was pretty good and cheap. Walking back to our room a guy asked us if the food was any good. He was a baja diehard from California that loves to ride his ATV and was in route to his own adventure. He gave us some tips on our plans south including a stop in San Ignacio and if we stayed there to check out the Ignacio Springs B&B. Shower and bed for me but the wife didn’t like Guerro Negro and was determined we would be staying at a nice place for at least 2 nights in Loreto to relax so she stayed up and attacked the free wifi on her blackberry before she surrendered to sleep. stay tuned..more to come!