Have Camera, Will Travel: Canada to Argentina

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by peekay, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Toronto, ON
    Hmm, good point Sunday Rider, I think the SpotWalla dates are simply meta-data for display but I will go ahead and update the end date again just in case! Thanks!
    #61
  2. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Toronto, ON
    At this point of the trip, I was still staying with my friend Dani in Aptos, near Santa Cruz.

    Highway 1 by the Pacific coast is a "must ride" and I've been looking forward to the trip to Big Sur through Monterey and Carmel. I packed my cameras, turned on the helmet cam, and was promptly rewarded by… fog. And more fog!!

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    Highway 1 near Big Sur

    The normally picturesque coastline was barely visible. Such are the breaks, I guess!!!

    The next day I took the bike to Ted's BeemerShop for service. I decided to switch the stock tires for TKC80s and replace the chain with DIDs. I also splurged for a GS-911 diagnostic tool and bought a couple tie-downs.


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    Some TLC at the BeemerShop

    I'd highly recommend the BeemerShop should you find yourself needing service in Northern California!

    At this point in the trip, six weeks had passed since I left Toronto, and I wasn't even in Mexico yet. It was time to get south of the border.

    I hit the superslab to Los Angeles then continued on to San Diego. The ride was mostly boring and full of traffic (lane-splitting is your friend). I didn't bother to put on my helmet cam, and promptly regretted it: riding down Hwy 101, a pod of whales swam by the shore. I couldn't believe it!!

    I arrived in San Diego and checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Otay Mesa. Turns out there's a small border crossing here. I'm so close to Mexico I can clearly see Tijuana from my hotel room window.

    I walked to the border to check it out.

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    Almost there... US/Mexico border at Otay Mesa

    Most people tell you to avoid the busy San Ysidro border (just five miles away on I-5) and many riders recommend riding 40 miles east to the Tecate border. But there was hardly any traffic in Otay Mesa; Since I was already there, I thought it would be silly for me to detour all the way to Tecate.

    The bi-lingual English - Spanish signs at the border were very helpful. :rofl

    [​IMG]
    A modern day Rosetta Stone
    #62
  3. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    The next morning, I crossed into Mexico.

    Well, I planned to take lots of pictures, etc., but it didn't work out that way. Honestly, I was pretty nervous crossing into Mexico. I didn't know what to expect.

    I took a deep breath, started the bike and left the Holiday Inn parking lot for the short ride to the border. I expected a big line-up but there was no one in front of me. At the check-point, the remote-controlled gate raised before I even got there, giving me the green light to pass.

    I continued on forward, my eyes looking for the Mexican Immigration building. I saw a sign for "Aduana" (Customs) but not for Immigration. I rode a bit further before realizing I had passed it. I was now on the main road leaving the border. There was no turning back.

    I wasn't ready. Just like that -- not five minutes after leaving the Holiday Inn parking lot -- I was riding in Mexico. I didn't even stop at the border!

    No one asked to see my passport. No one inspected the bike. I just rode through without speaking to anyone. No US border agents. No Mexican border agents.

    My mind was racing as I followed the road signs to the coastal highway. I had completed my import permit online, but wasn't I supposed to get my passport stamped at the border? It's too late now, I'll just have to sort it out later.

    I had been dreaming of making this trip for years. Riding through Tijuana, the reality of being in Mexico on my bike was starting to hit me. My first destination was a picturesque beach town called La Misión. It was a quick 90-minute ride from the border, on MEX-1 about 25 miles before Ensenada. I was happy to pull up to a nice hotel and restaurant called Poco Cielo.

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    Arriving at Poco Cielo, La Misíon

    A nice hotel by the beach so close to San Diego, I knew during check-in that the room rate was going to break my daily budget. I didn't care!! I admit, after hearing/reading all the horror stories in the news about Mexico, I was a bit stressed out. I was relieved to find this "little heaven" and was determined to stay there for the night.

    The receptionist spoke pretty good English and showed me various rooms throughout the property at different price points. Reality came back and I asked for the cheapest room available. :rolleyes

    The receptionist called the owner and I could hear her telling the owner (in Spanish) that I had ridden from Canada. I was asked to wait "¡un momentito por favor!"

    Cheryl, the owner, came out to greet me, and she's a fellow Canadian! It was my lucky day. Since it was a weekday, the hotel wasn't full, and Cheryl very generously upgraded me to one of the best rooms available for a great price. :clap

    After check-in my first order of business is to get some food and more importantly, cerveza, so I made a bee-line to the hotel restaurant.


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    First meal in Mexico, but I already finished the beer before remembering to take a picture. :lol3

    Finally, after mas cervezas, I was able to relax. I've traveled to dozens of countries all around the world, and I was in Mexico City only a few months prior to this trip, but still I allowed the media reports about Mexico to unnerve me. The plan was to "ride through Mexico as fast as possible".

    I took a stroll to enjoy the nearby views. At last, I was in beautiful Mexico.


    [​IMG]
    La Misíon, Baja
    #63
  4. CBRtracey

    CBRtracey n00b

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
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    7
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    Toronto, Ontario
    Just catching up with your trip now, so far looks like a great trip. Nice pictures and great story so far. Nice bike too.
    #64
  5. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

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    North of T.Ho., Ontario
    Great pictures and write up. Some post card photos for sure.

    More, More......
    #65
  6. jkdwings

    jkdwings Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Saskatoon, SK, Canada
    I'm really enjoying this report and the amazing photos. Keep it up!
    #66
  7. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    After a good night's rest in La Misíon, I rode to Ensenada.

    I didn't get my "tourist card" at the border, and read conflicting info about getting one in Ensenada. The internet is full of stories about people being fined in Ensenada, being sent back to the Tijuana border, etc. I started to worry.

    As I rode into town, there were big signs pointing the way to Customs and Immigration near the port area. I parked the bike, and 15 minutes later my paperwork was done! The immigration official couldn't be more helpful. It's easy to worry about nothing.


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    Flag at half-staff

    The town center in Ensenada is easy to spot (just look for the huge flag). As I walked around town, the flag was lowered to half-staff: 1000 miles to the east, terror had struck. Armed narcos attacked a casino in Monterrey and massacred 52 people.

    I checked into Motel America. It was cheap and the courtyard-style parking hid the bike from the main road. Plus it was across the street from a police station.


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    Basic accommodations at Motel America

    Later I checked out Hussong's cantina, home of the margarita. Lots of locals do frequent here, though it is a tourist trap (with a second location in Las Vegas). I expected a bunch of drunk rowdy guys, but most of the patrons were groups of women just having a good time.

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    Lasso show at Hussong's

    It was here in October 1941 that the first margarita was poured. Legend has it, Hussong's bartender invented the drink for Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador to Mexico at the time.

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    Martin pouring a Margarita

    There's taqueria next door to Hussong's (called Mexico Lindo) which has some really yummy tacos. I think I ate every other meal there. :D

    I didn't stay in Ensenada for long. The plan was to ride east to San Felipe and then head south along the coast via the dirt roads there.


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    Up the hill from Ensenada

    Coming out of the city are some small mountain ranges. Not to mention, junk yards!

    There are many "questionable" cars in Baja. Some have Californian plates with expired tags from years ago. Some have stickers denoting that they are in the process of being legalized ("nationalized") into Mexico. Many others have no license plates at all. The cops don't seem to care either way.


    [​IMG]
    Where the cars come to die

    On the road to San Felipe, two riders on big BMW 1200GS bikes were heading the opposite way, towards Ensenada. We waved, and I stopped further down the road to take some pictures. Meanwhile the two riders did a u-turn and joined me.

    Fernando and Osvaldo are from Querétaro, a city in central Mexico. They told me that they rode to San Felipe that morning, but was told that the dirt road conditions further south were very poor. So they decided to ride back to Ensenada and take the (mostly paved) western route instead.

    They were going to ride to the Observatory and invited me to come along, but I wanted to press on to San Felipe. Fernando gave me his business card and told me about some great riding around his city. I had never heard of Querétaro but made a mental note to check it out on Google.

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    Osvaldo and Fernando gearing up to go

    Closer to San Felipe, slowly the flat desert replaced the barren mountains. The sun was strong and it was a harsh ride. I began to worry about overheating the engine (after the coolant incident) but the bike's temperature remained normal, and thankfully San Felipe was only about 3 hours away.


    [​IMG]
    Cutting through Baja

    Arriving in San Felipe, the town was deserted. The mid-afternoon sun was oppressive; everyone stayed indoors.

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    All quiet in San Felipe

    I looked for Hacienda de Jesus but by mistake ended up at a different motel nearby. It was cheap, clean and most importantly, had AC!!

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    Done for the day

    I saw palm trees and was happy to stay.
    #67
  8. V@lentino

    V@lentino Inspektor

    Joined:
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    Great stuff,

    I will be keeping an eye on this one, we are planning for Baja in the fall and Victoria to Ushuaia fall 2013. Must get tripod.

    I am thinking Manfrotto, but must be light fold compact and not cost $400.00 +:ear.

    Ride on and have fun.
    #68
  9. jetjackson

    jetjackson Been here awhile

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    Nov 4, 2009
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    490
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    Somewhere in Europe on a Motorbike :)
    Nice, how much weight are you running on the F650GS and are those tubeless tyres?
    #69
  10. BTL

    BTL No more snow!!

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2011
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    Location:
    St Albert. Alberta Canada. IBA Member 50093
    Wow, impressive and exciting....I was riveted about your border crossing and glad in turned out OK. Great pics and your a good story teller. Keep it up eh!
    #70
  11. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Adventurer

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    GTA, ON, CDA
    Waz up?? I miss something here?
    #71
  12. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

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    Jan 31, 2010
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    North of T.Ho., Ontario
    The updates are few and very good, so we have to keep hanging in for the next morsel.:D
    #72
  13. EmilianoXR650L

    EmilianoXR650L Been here awhile

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    Playa Azul & Zihuatanejo
    Estaremos pendientes de tu ruta ...... queremos mas fotos !!!!!!!! :lol3
    #73
  14. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

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    C'Mon Peekay, we need another installment it has been 2 months since your last one. There must be at least 3 pages of posts to catch up..:evil

    Hope all is well with you.
    #74
  15. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    (Prelude)

    It was August, and the Baja desert in August is very, very (very!) hot.

    My original "plan" (dream) was to solo ride around the world. First stage, Canada to Argentina (just like that.) Then ride through Africa from Cape Town to Egypt. Naturally, Europe, Russia and Mongolia would be next; or maybe Iran, Pakistan and India?

    Then there's Southeast Asia, and no RTW would be complete without Australia and perhaps New Zealand.

    Finally, (in this dream), I would ship the bike to Alaska, then finish the trip heading east -- triumphant -- Ewan & Charley style. Really, it's all very simple.

    The bank account said otherwise.

    Being a gadget freak, however, contemplating a solo trip through so many remote & desolate places was my excuse to acquire a satellite phone. I researched different systems and selected an Iridium 9555.


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    Iridium 9555 (photo courtesy Iridium, LLC)

    These phones are rather expensive. After more research I opted for a refurbished unit from Outfitter Satellite. The phone arrived like new and I was happy to save $$$.

    Anyway, back to San Felipe and the searing Baja desert.

    My Iridium phone doesn't have internet connectivity but can send SMS text messages to email addresses. The nerd that I am, I decided to spend an extra day in San Felipe to program a Twitter "gateway" so I can send "tweets" (and Facebook status updates) using the phone.


    [​IMG]

    Now I can tweet from my satphone. I could be useful, say, during emergencies. (cue dramatic foreshadowing music)

    Part II tonight...
    #75
  16. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Toronto, ON
    Another beautiful Baja morning and I'm packing up my bags. The plan today is to ride the east coast of Baja from San Felipe to Coco's Corner, a distance of around 175 km as the crow flies. The roads from San Felipe are paved to the village of Puertecitos, then turn into dirt further south.

    I fill my camel pack with agua and stow a second small water container. It's going to be a very hot day and without knowing it, I already made my first mistake: I should have left at the crack of dawn to avoid the searing heat.

    I finish packing and the rumble in my tummy reminds me that I haven't had breakfast yet. With the heat rising, I decide to skip breakfast to save time. I'll eat lunch later. It's time to ride.

    It is late in the morning at the desolate San Felipe. Not seeing a single soul, I turn south and race through the paved section towards Puertecitos.


    [​IMG]
    Huge dips on the road (vados) add to the fun


    There's a restaurant near Puertecitos called Cowpatty where I can get some grub and re-fill my camel pack.


    [​IMG]
    Cowpatty


    I arrive at Cowpatty to find it closed. There's no one else on the road so I shouldn't have been surprised. I'm grumpy without food and it would have been nice to get some more water.


    [​IMG]
    Junction to Puertecitos

    I ride further to Puertecitos where there's a PEMEX gas station, but it is also closed.

    [​IMG]
    No gas for you!

    I wonder what's going on? According to the small sign at the pump, this gas station is open every day of the week -- except today. I pick the wrong day to traverse Baja.

    I have enough gas and water to get through so I decide to ride on.

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]

    The east coast of Baja really is beautiful.

    Standby for Part III :1drink
    #76
  17. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Toronto, ON
    Shortly after Puertecitos the paved road abruptly ends. Thankfully the dirt section is very nicely graded due to ongoing construction activities. My TKC80s grip well and it's easy to go fast.

    I find myself at a junction of several desert tracks. There are no road signs in the middle of Baja. Trusting that all will (eventually) lead to the same place south, I pick one trail and hope for the best.

    The graded dirt section slowly disappears and I'm riding on soft sand. It's tough going and I see that I'm on the wrong trail; there's a nice, hard-packed road parallel to where I'm riding.

    I turn towards the road but the heavy bike sank in the sand. I'm stuck!


    [​IMG]
    Oops!! Dumbass move.

    I try to power through the sand and only manage to dig the bike deeper into the sand. I try to pull the bike out but it wouldn't budge an inch! I can't believe it!! I'm stuck in the middle of the Baja desert.

    The heat was getting to me now. I'm expending a lot of energy -- and drenching in sweat -- trying to free the bike. I'm thankful to rehydrate from my camel pack.

    Suddenly I see a pickup truck on the parallel road. A couple guys jumped out from the truck and asked me in Spanish if I'm ok. They see that I'm stuck and the three of us finally pulled the bike out. Awesome!!!

    The two guys went back to their truck and I just remember to take a (late) picture. Thanks guys!!


    [​IMG]
    Muchas gracias amigos!

    I get back on the bike and manage to get on the road. A few miles later I see a sign for Coco's. I'm relieved to be in the right track.

    [​IMG]
    Coco's Corner -- 54 km, that way

    It's apparent that a lot of heavy construction vehicles have been on this sandy road -- there are huge ruts and it's becoming difficult to navigate.

    The ride becomes rougher and the bike now feels very unstable, constantly swerving hard left and right, nearly throwing me off each time. I try riding at different speeds but in this sandy terrain the heavy bike is nearly out of control.

    I gingerly coast down a hill. Near the bottom -- not wanting to lose all momentum -- I cracked open the throttle. The rear instantly breaks traction, the bike throws me off and I'm eating dirt.


    [​IMG]
    Helmet cam action footage

    Aargh!! Well, this is Baja riding; First crash of many, I am sure.

    I try to pick up the bike. My feet slide in the sand and I can't generate any lift. I use all my strength to lift the bike and only manage to move it around the sand. WTF??

    Normally (on pavement) I can pick up my bike -- fully loaded -- in about 10 seconds, but it's just too heavy to pick up in the soft sand.

    The sun is so strong and I feel like I'm being baked alive. I'm still fatigued from trying to free the bike from the sand earlier; Now the heat plus the physical exertion are starting to overwhelm me.

    I decide to completely unload the bike, hoping it will be easier to lift in the sand. I also know it will take a lot of time to unload the bike, pick it up, then load it back up.


    [​IMG]
    Bike partially unloaded

    There's no other choice; I'll have to endure the oppressive sun and "just do it". I manage to pick up the bike and strap everything back together. It probably took me 30 minutes; I lost track of time.

    Exhausted, I remount the bike and continued on south. Once again the steering feels very unstable. I'm really struggling now to control the bike.

    I took a sip from my camel pack and to my shock, there's no more water!! I only have a small container of water left in reserve, perhaps less than a liter.

    I'm thirsty and a bit disoriented. I glance at the GPS to gauge how much further I still have to go. I intuitively know that I can't afford another crash in the sand, but the odds are stacking up against me.

    I made (the fateful) decision to turn around, back towards Puertecitos. I make a U-turn, and promptly dropped the bike!!! This time in deep, deep sand.

    I'm unhurt but I'm in sheer disbelief. I stare at the bike and realize I'm in huge trouble now. I tug at the bar handles but I know my actions are futile.

    The sun is punishing me and I'm running out of water, in the middle of the Baja desert.

    I decide to pitch my tent's fly-sheet as shelter. Usually I can pitch my entire tent in a few minutes, but for some reason, I can't do it now. I look at the tent poles and the fly-sheet in confusion.

    My skin is stinging from the sun burn. I discard the tent poles, tie two ends of the fly-sheet to the bike, and crawl underneath.


    [​IMG]
    The sun is oppressive

    Now I have to deal with the hot sand but at least I'm shaded from the direct sun. I look at the thermometer on my digital watch and it registers 45.6 deg.C (about 114 F) -- in the shade.

    [​IMG]
    Crazy Baja temperature

    They say that in the desert, a man can expect to live for up to three days without water. I guess the earlier mishaps had really exhausted me as I am in poor shape already. My lips are chapping and my skin blistering.

    [​IMG]

    The sun is relentless and I try to conserve the little water I have left.

    I'm really hurting now, but the photographer in me wants to keep snapping pictures.


    [​IMG]

    I am defeated in the Baja desert. I grabbed my SPOT satellite messenger, and pressed the SOS button.
    #77
  18. Mullet

    Mullet Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2010
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    75
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    South Louisiana
    Whoa, the shit just got real.
    #78
  19. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    878
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    North of T.Ho., Ontario
    Crap Peekay, that black and white picture ain't good. I have to go get a glass of water just looking at it. Man oh man you are were in rough shape.
    #79
  20. Eclecticmale

    Eclecticmale Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    83
    Location:
    N. Charleston, SC
    Wow! I hope you are alright. That sun is no joke! Please keep us posted on your status. Praying for ya man.
    #80