Fuego Dinero: Solo Gringo from Los Angeles to Puebla, MX

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mill, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    So I'm a newb around here, semi newb to the international adventure thing, and kind of a newb to the whole ride reports in general. I am not a newb however to motorcycles or long distance travel. Here's my first attempt at an ADV RR...bear with me.

    My brother lives in LA, and last year I had him pick up a 1997 Suzuki DR650 to keep there for me to ride when I come to visit. I live in Alabama, and try my best to visit once or twice a year. Needless to say, the bike didn't manage to stay in LA very long. Talking with a friend of mine, I decided I would ride the bike south, down the Baja, hop the ferry to Mazatlan and continue forward to Panama where I would meet him the following year to continue forward.

    The route planning began
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    I gathered tools and and double checked my list

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    Due to the fact that I work a normal 9-5 job, and my vacation is broken up throughout the year, I was going to have to split the trip to Panama into 2 legs. This would be my first leg of the journey, and I hoped to end in Puebla, MX where I would leave the bike. My intentions are to return in July to complete the second leg to Panama According to what I had calculated, I was going to complete a total of around 2,200 miles over the course of 7 days for the first leg of the trip. This was going to be a challenge. I would leave Saturday morning from Los Angeles and "hope" to arrive the following Saturday in Puebla, MX......."hope" being the key word here!

    Things started going screwy for me on the very first day. Often times I find that people are not very well adapt to things going wrong. For some reason I have a totally different approach when shit turns south. For the most part, I've just learned to laugh them off.

    My flight leaves sometime Friday morning from the local airport. I land in Dallas and plan to catch a connecting flight to Los Angeles. Once I arrive at the gate, I find out that there is a delay in my flight. Apparently the hatch on the plane is not operating properly and is in need of repair. Cool, let the waiting begin. After about a two hour delay we finally board. The pilot proceeds to tell us that the can not fly at the typical velocity due to the repairs to the hatch. Great!!!! So now we're flying around at 30,000ft. with zip ties for hatch hinges and duct tape for door seals. Let's do this thing!

    I arrive at LAX almost 3hrs behind schedule. It's dark and close to 9pm. My brother picks me up and we head to the casa. After staying out late finishing up a few small things on the bike (wiring accessory outlets and such), I manage to get in bed a little after midnight. The next morning comes early, and I'm on the road to the border by 6:30am.

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    #1
  2. SkizzMan

    SkizzMan aka SkiddMark ;^)

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. Bama Gringo

    Bama Gringo Been here awhile

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    Matt, new to nashville, tn
    :lurk:lurk
    #3
  4. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto

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    :lurk
    #4
  5. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    I must take the freeway down in order to make time. You see, time is imperative on this trip. I have to be in LaPaz and boarding the ferry by 14:00 Tuesday afternoon. The ferry only crosses on certain days, and if I happen to miss the Tuesday crossing I will be unable to catch the next ferry to Mazatlan until Thursday. If that happens, well.....my 7 day schedule is shot.

    That "I should know better" moment numero uno:

    I'm making decent time down the Santa Ana Freeway and I start to think about fuel mileage. I had pre-calculated that I should be able to squeeze around 120 miles out of a tank. I look down and I am around 123 miles on the trip meter. I need to stop at the next exit for fuel. Almost immediately the bike begins to sputter and cuts out on me. As I am blindly grabbing for the petcock to switch it to reserve, I make my way to the merge delta and come to a stop. Now that I can see what I'm doing I locate the petcock....GREAT!!!! It's on reserve. You see, the bike had been at the shop for a tune up and minor work before I got there, and apparently they were running the bike on reserve. Me, being the dingaling that I am, failed to check the petcock before I headed out on the road.

    So here I am on the side of CA-5 with now gas. This isn't suppose to happen here. I expected this in the Baja!!!!! I shake the tank and get the bike started. I get off the freeway and locate a gas station (2.5 miles away) with my GPS. I manage to keep the bike going for about a mile and it dies. I shake it and start again. Another mile and that's all she's got. Fortunately I get stopped in front of a house where a few people are congregated outside. I ask if they happen to have any gas. I often forget that I'm not in Alabama and everyone here doesn't have a yard to cut....why the hell would they have gas laying around?!?!?!?!? I grab one of my hydration bladders that I had planned to test for fuel storage, and one of the guys takes me to the gas station. I get back to the bike, take it to fill up and I'm back on the road. That went well haha!!!!!
    #5
  6. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    During my planning, I had decided I would cross into Mexico @ Tecate instead of Tijuana. From my research it would be far less populated, an easier crossing, and a better ride to get there. Once I exited the freeway, the road transformed into quite the twisty track, carving it's way between the dry top mountains. I arrive in Tecate around 11:00. Still not bad considering my previous dilemma. I've never been through a border crossing, so this was all foreign to me. I pull up to the downed arm and wait. After a few seconds the arm raises and I drive through. No one approaches me, or even looks my direction really. There is a group of military police holding assault rifles to my right. I pull up and tell them I need to get my visa and a vehicle permit. They direct me where to park and I make my way into the office. After filling out my paperwork for my visa, they send me out the door to the bank to pay and get my permit.

    Here it comes....that "I should know better" numero dos:

    The clerk at the bank wants my vehicle title and registration. In preparation for the trip, I had my brother scan them and I printed multiples to carry with me. I also told him I would need to carry the originals with me when I made the trip. Apparently that got lost in translation along the way. When I handed the envelope that my brother had given me to the clerk, he opened it to reveal....wait for it........PHOTO COPIES!!!!!!!

    I asked if there was anything I could do, but he really had no answer for me. He told me to go talk with the customs official in the other office. He said that if they would put a stamp of approval on it, then he could issue the permit...otherwise it was back to LA. After spending several minutes trying to communicate with the customs official what I wanted, she left to make a phone call. Fifteen minutes later, she comes back and shoots me down. Slightly irritated, I get back on the bike and drive the 3 hours (175 miles) back to LA. This in itself was a mental hurdle for me. I quickly calmed down. No matter how I wanted to look at it, I should have double checked that envelope! Again, I knew better. This was my fault....oh well, so much for that time management shit! Let's just hope I am still able to make it to LaPaz by Tuesday.
    #6
  7. Paratrout

    Paratrout Been here awhile

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  8. kitesurfer

    kitesurfer Long timer

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    i hope my luck is better when it's my turn...good stuff!
    #8
  9. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto

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    Registration receipt is all that is needed.
    #9
  10. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    Well, I'm no customs official but I can tell you with %100 confidence that photo copies are not acceptable :D
    #10
  11. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    Despite all of the unfortunate events that unfold during this story, I still feel that it was a fantastic trip. I never really lose it, I laugh at myself a lot and shake my head often. In the end the cards fall all as they should and I usually come back with a helluva story. It's these challenges, or hiccups as I like to call them, as well as the people I meet along the way that keep the trip exciting and make it that much more memorable. I wouldn't have it any other way!
    #11
  12. SkizzMan

    SkizzMan aka SkiddMark ;^)

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    SOMEtimes when you get a rejection like the one you got from the customs official the REAL issue is that they aren't paid very much and they're looking for a little help from you so they can send you on your way. Next time you're in a bureaucratic jam like that consider tossing a twenty (US) into the mix and see if that doesn't fix you up. Pretty cheap compared to what you went through to make it right. And it's not extortion if you're atoning for your own error. Even when things go well it's a good idea to TIP the official as a gesture of appreciation. I usually slip them a 50 peso bill with a smile.
    #12
  13. motoged

    motoged Been here awhile

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    S.N.A.F.U.



    Here we go.....:clap:clap :ear
    #13
  14. Hikertrash

    Hikertrash Wasted Rock Ranger

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    Title isn't needed, but original registration is.
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  15. swamp

    swamp Woods Junkie

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    yo man, im following this *duh*. do you think they will wonder why these two alabama guys have all these friggin bike problems ?? :lol3 with our powers combined we will be a rolling trail of malfunction, failure and protein bar wrappers! my bike is in panama awaiting company. enjoying the report you fucking idiot :ken

    #15
  16. EmilianoXR650L

    EmilianoXR650L Been here awhile

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    Estaremos pendientes de tu ruta !:clap
    #16
  17. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    So now I'm headed back to LA to gather the correct paperwork. I make it back as the afternoon is coming to an end. I decided it's best to visit with my brother for a while, have a few cerveza and start attempt numero dos manana.

    My twin brother and I standing outside of Maeve's Residuals on Ventura.

    [​IMG]

    Bright and early the next morning, I am headed back to Tecate. 175 miles later I arrive. As I am walking up to the banco, I stop for a quick visit from one of the officials that had spoken to me the day before. Now at the banco window, I am greeted by a new clerk. Since my visa was completed the day before, I told him all I needed was my vehicle permit. I hand him the ORIGINAL registration and title. I could not believe what he asked next......



    Can you come back tomorrow?


    WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!


    NO, absolutely not!!!!!

    Can you go to Mexicali?

    NO!!!!

    Can you go to Tijuana?

    NO!!!!!

    I'm sorry but our system is down......

    I don't care. Look man, *insert rant about previous day here* Is there anyone I can talk to? Let me talk to customs! Can't I get a stamp permit from them ? Something, anything....I'm crossing this border HERE, TODAY!

    He tells me to wait and he will see what he can do. The sun is getting hotter, and after about 30 minutes of boiling beneath my jacket, I start shedding clothes. I continue to stand there working on my tan for the next 45 minutes. Finally, he returns with my paperwork. I pay for the permit, he processes my $200 vehicle deposit, and then I make my way back to the bike. Whew......that was easy, in a not easy at all sorta way!

    I'm on the bike now with the right grip twisted, doing my best to make up time.

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    I stop here for to grab lunch.

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    LUNCH

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    By now, I've made it just south of San Quintin.
    #17
  18. mill

    mill Adventurer

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    [​IMG]

    I see the long stretch of sandy trail above. Waaay in the distance you can see where it finally drops off over a large dune and dumps into an ocean of nothingness. I decide that this looks like a great photo opportunity.

    Now being from Alabama, I have very little experience riding in the sand. I've ridden in sand only a handful of times in Costa Rica, but very little in general. Well needless to say, the sand along the Baja is VERY different. You may not be able to tell from the photo, there is a slight decent downward from where I am standing. As soo n as the front tire rolls into the sand, I realize this probably wasn't the best idea. The front tire pushes and then buries itself. There's no turning around now even if I wanted to....I'm committed. I get to the bottom of the hill and immediately ditch the "ride to the ocean for a killer photo" idea. I've got to get out of this fucking sand, up the hill, and back onto the pavement before it gets dark. Trying to turn around presented a challenge in itself. The Kenda 761 would just spin and bury itself to the swingarm. After frivolously tugging on the bike I managed to get it pointed uphill. I unloaded the bike and tried for the "run at it" approach. The Trakmaster on the front just seemed to push all over the place and I couldn't keep a line. I had to turn around and try again. This time I realized that if I could keep the throttle pinned the bike would eventually plane out atop the sand, very similar to the way a water skier planes out atop the water when being pulled behind a boat....just don't let out of the gas!!!! I managed to crest the hill and get back on the tarmac. I walk back down the hill and drag my now covered in "sand roost" things back to the bike. I'll know better next time, I think to myself. Yea right, who am I kidding...my memory flashes back to being stuck on the side of a loose rock mountain somewhere in San Bernadino with the rear wheel buried to the swing arm. I'll never learn.

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    Back on the road for a short distance, I see more trail off to my right. I now have a little over an hour before dark. I decide to try to search the coast line for a place to set up camp. Good thing it's still daylight I'd hate to have fallen off in something like this.

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    It's a huge wash...well at least it's huge for a Bama boy that has never seen such. Standing down inside it, I estimated it to be roughly 9ft. deep. I drive around it and make my way closer to the water. I think I'll stay here for the night.

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    After getting camp set up, it was time to do a little bike maintenance before dark. First off let me say this.....
    Changing oil beachside, or doing absolutely any service work that requires handling tools is a BAD idea. I knew this, but I had to get it done. Also, the sand here is not like Alabama Gulf Coast sand. The sand here is wet and sticks to everything!!! There's no blowing it off like the dry sand back home. It's like trying to get that piece of hair off the bar of soap. Just isn't going to happen!

    The bike had the top end replaced just before I left, so it was time for the break in oil change. I found an empty jug on the beach and drained the oil. I was very careful not to drop any of my tools in the sand.

    And then what?

    I look up just in time to see the whole tool kit slide off the seat. "thud" So much for that! I yield the bandana from my pocket and spend a good part of th next 40 minutes trying to clean the sand from every single tool in the tool bag.
    I've finally finished rolling around in the sand, have completed the oil change and lubed the chain. It's dark now. I down a pack of lemon pepper tuna, top it off with a protein bar for dessert, and sit on the side of the beach listening to the crash of black waves. The clouds have blocked out the stars, but I'm okay with that. I feel at peace.
    #18
  19. SkizzMan

    SkizzMan aka SkiddMark ;^)

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    There's a very real value to a Mexico n00b Ride Report. Something about a first-time rider figuring it out along the way is both highly instructive and, I expect, very encouraging to others considering such an adventure. Thanks for posting the report and buena suerte.

    Schizz
    #19
  20. 6uldv8

    6uldv8 Been here awhile

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    Lovin' the report!
    #20