Have Camera, Will Travel: Canada to Argentina

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

  1. SR

    SR Long timer

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    He must have lived long enough to post the photos?:huh But seriously, I hope he is alright too!
    #81
  2. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Thanks friends for the concern.

    After activating the SPOT's SOS function, I turn on my satellite phone.

    I have a subscription to Global Rescue's medical & security evac plan. Technically, the plan only covers emergencies where I'm seriously injured, or threatened by things like civil unrest or terrorist attacks. It's understood should you ride solo into the Baja desert during the hottest month of the year (for fun), you're on your own.


    [​IMG]
    Twitter feed

    I call Global Rescue's operations center anyway. They try to assess if my situation qualifies as a medical emergency. I explain that if I can't get assistance, this will turn into a medical emergency soon enough. They agree to help.

    They ask basic questions which reveal my unpreparedness. Like, my sat phone's number so they can call back if we get disconnected. I don't know it. I thought I had listed the number on my Global Rescue online account profile, but I guess I didn't.

    I pull out my iPhone to find the number in its contact list, but it was of no use since the phone is overheating. Not a device you want to rely on in extreme conditions!
    :huh

    [​IMG]
    Overheating iPhone (image credit: Apple)

    Somehow I manage to give them my sat phone number. I also told them my GPS coordinates -- luckily the Garmin is not overheating. They try to pull up my SPOT page from my profile but can't access it. We establish a protocol to connect every 30 minutes for updates.

    I don't know if I'm stranded by the main dirt track or have accidentally veered to a side-path again. I ask if I should try to walk to a nearby settlement. They tell me to just stay put for now.

    I haven't seen any other vehicles in the desert for hours, since the two amigos in the pickup truck this morning. They're long gone by now. And since everything near Puertecitos is closed, I don't expect to see anyone else to be passing by today.

    I'm usually calm under pressure, but my heart is racing and I don't understand why. There's nothing else to do but wait. I'm really thirsty but I need to conserve the small amount of water I have left.


    [​IMG]
    Small reserve water thermos

    30 minutes pass by and my sat phone rings. The folks at Global Rescue tell me that they have no "assets" of their own nearby, but they've relayed my coordinates to the Mexican Navy (armada) who are preparing to launch a SAR team my way. They will contact me again when they confirm that the team is underway.

    I'm waiting again. I'm zoning out as time passes by. I'm out of water now.

    I have a headache but suddenly I hear the sound of an engine! I half expected a helicopter would show up but this wasn't it. I look from under the fly sheet, and coming down the hill towards me was a sand buggy!!!

    I wave my arms and the sand buggy stopped. I can't believe my eyes -- the two kind Mexicans who helped me earlier are riding the sand buggy!! :clap

    "Agua???!", I plead with them for water.

    "No, no tengo agua", the driver explains. No water. "Cerveza?", he offers instead.

    For a fraction of a second I consider that drinking beer might make my condition worse, but any liquid will do right now, so cerveza it is!! :1drink

    I feel too weak to even stand up so the two amigos drag me into their sand buggy and offer me a cold can of Tecate. They decide to take me to a nearby settlement.

    We crowd into the sand buggy but wouldn't you know it -- the buggy wont start!! So now looks like all three of us are going to be stranded in the desert!! :eek1 I can't believe what was happening. :baldy

    One of the amigos thinks the problem is just the starter, so they're going to push the buggy a bit up the hill and then attempt to bump-start it downhill. They don't let me out of the buggy to help push; I was in no condition to do so anyway.


    [​IMG]
    Pushing uphill for the downhill bumpstart

    The bump start works and we ride to a "campo" several miles away. Their friend Miguel (?) lives there. I hope I have his name right.

    Miguel speaks fluent English and knows exactly what to do.


    [​IMG]
    At Miguel's place (he's on the right)

    Miguel mixes a package of electrolytes in water and I drink it slowly while laying down on a sofa. "You're not the first to crash in Baja", he says. After awhile I feel better and Miguel cuts up a bit of melon for me to eat. I call Global Rescue to update them with my location and condition. They call off the Mexican Navy team.

    [​IMG]
    The two amigos

    They ask what I want to do, and I reply that returning to San Felipe is probably the best option for me. Turns out the two amigos live in San Felipe so this was perfect. They can load my bike on their pickup truck and we can head back to town.

    We say goodbye to Miguel and headed back to the crash site. One of the amigos is going to ride my bike to where the pickup truck is.


    Back at the crash site, the two amigos struggle to pick up the bike, even with all the luggage unloaded. The sand and the angle of the bike makes it a difficult extraction. "Too hard for one person! Too much!", exclaim one of them. I nod in agreement.


    We head to the pickup truck. I watch as one of the amigos ride my bike in front of us. I can only cringe seeing it swerving all over the place. It is still uncontrollable in the sand. Thankfully we don't have too far to go, to another nearby camp.


    [​IMG]
    Roberto

    Roberto (?) lives at the camp and offers me a drink. We load the bike on the pickup truck and return to San Felipe.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It is a big relief to be back in town. We eat dinner together and then I check into a motel.

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    Nothing some tape can't fix

    My left wrist is sprained from the fall so I get some elastic tape to wrap it. I'm exhausted and have a little headache but otherwise feel fine. It could have been much much worse.

    [​IMG]
    These two guys saved my bacon

    I ask the two amigos to write down their names and contact info for me. Juan Pablo and Arnoldo, Attn: San Felipe Liquor Store, they saved my behind.

    I had some cash on me but no one would accept my gratitude. "Not necessary!" Of course, I insisted.


    (I'll try to write a post-mortem for the last part of this episode -- but I'm hoping to be on the road again tomorrow so please bear with me as I can't promise when!)


    Thanks for reading.
    #82
  3. BluNozr

    BluNozr Been here awhile

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    Nice to see you are finally sharing your stories after... oh lets see. It's about ten months.

    I know today you are still alive and kicking somewhere in SA but when we chatted at the ferry terminal in Baja I had no idea you were in such a way days earlier. You played the whole thing down.

    Please keep up the writing and push through and continue south. I'll be watching and reading but I think the Mexican navy is still closer if you need some help. :rofl
    #83
  4. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

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    Wow, Peekay, that is some luck getting help from the same 2 folks. You have good Karma.

    I was wondering if the satellite phone was too much gadget for the trip, but if those 2 hadn't come along again, that phone would have been your life line.

    So glad that you are okay. I love how the photographer in you keeps on clicking after all the sun and sand keep beating on you.:D

    You have to post more often (when you can), even if they are just short updates to let us know you okay.

    Safe journey
    #84
  5. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Post Mortem

    Sunday Rider, I didn't take many more pictures for the rest of Baja (ok, a few here and there) until some good conversations over beer which Len mentioned above. In fact there are no pictures in this update, just a post-mortem of what had happened.

    I know veteran Baja riders are rolling their eyes right now at my desert n00bness. :norton I'm not new to riding -- even raced GP bikes in my younger days -- yet up to this point I was very inexperienced "off-road": I've ridden many miles of gravel, a little mud, but almost zero sand and certainly not on a fully loaded bike.

    It would be easy for me to "blame the bike" for my woes. Too heavy; Not enough clearance; Street-oriented; Etc. Yet I can say with certainty that my F650GS was/is more than capable for trip, at least with a more skilled rider on board.

    I made several mistakes due to my inexperience, including:
    Ignoring local advice. Enroute to San Felipe I had met a couple Mexican riders who were back-tracking to Ensenada because they knew the road conditions south of Puertecitos at that time were poor. Conditions change all the time in this part of Baja, and I'm not surprised if the sections I had trouble with are beautifully paved today.

    Tire pressure. I should have lowered my tire pressure for the sand. I didn't, based in part from conflicting advice about TKC80 off-road pressure. Or more likely, my incorrect interpretation of what was being discussed. I think not airing down was a significant factor affecting the handling of the bike.

    Leaving too late. I ended up getting stranded during the hottest time of the day, in the hottest month of the year. Leaving late also meant that I skipped breakfast (and later lunch since Cowpatty's was closed) -- robbing me of energy when I later need it most.

    Unpreparedness. I brought enough water for minor trouble, but not for the "worst-case" scenario.

    About dehydration

    While I recuperated in San Felipe that evening, I got a nice follow-up email from an EMT/paramedic at Global Rescue. He cautioned that my headache and exhaustion might be the result of mild-to-moderate dehydration itself.

    He also mentioned that other symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, confusion, and fast heartbeat. Check, check, and check… exactly how I felt in the desert. Yet I wasn't drinking -- I was rationing the little water I had left, while in reality I was already well behind the dehydration curve, and I didn't recognize the symptoms. I think the old saying is true: drink before you get thirsty.

    SPOT Messenger SOS service

    I have mixed feelings about the SPOT / GEOS Alliance SAR service performance. Pressing that SOS button is like a big leap-of-faith. I didn't know if GEOS even got my distress signal until I received a voicemail from them that evening, back in San Felipe (I guess they tried to call but I missed it.)

    GEOS did call my emergency contact, and notified her that they had spoken to the Mexican Navy -- after it was all over apparently. So they were able to tell my friend that I was safe and sound, which is good.

    Epilogue

    I stayed in San Felipe for an extra day. I hated, truly hated the feeling that I had failed to reach my goal. Lots of people ride the east coast of Baja without incident, why not me? Gonzaga Bay, Alfonsina's, having beers with Coco, were high on my to-do list.

    I was keen on trying again, making a second attempt. Of course I knew that would be stupid, to push my luck too far, and a disservice to everyone who had helped me yesterday to get back safely.

    So with my tail between my legs, I rode back west to Ensenada. I was gutted.
    #85
  6. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile

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    Subscribed :evil I'm leaving for Argentina in January and rode your same route in Baja this last January, much cooler. Glad you survived your ordeal, yikes. I tend to over prepare but I've been in enough situations to know things can go south very fast. Thanks for posting about the SPOT, I've carried one since they came out and always wondered if anything would happen if I pushed the magic button. What kind of point and shoot do you have? Oh - I keep my TKC80's at 30 psi on all terrain and crank up my Steering Stabilizer (hand of God) if things get too squirrely:D

    How did you circumvent the Darian? Any recommendations? Ride safe.....!
    #86
  7. satchmo3

    satchmo3 Adventurer

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    Dude I rode that route a couple months ago. The section where the pavement ends was the hardest part! The heavy equipment was gone but they had torn up the area so much it took me a while to find the correct road to Gonzaga. Alot of churned up soft sand. Turn your experience into wisdom.... ride baja in the cooler months, it was beautiful in April.
    Glad you made it out, thanks for sharing, enjoyed the photos.
    #87
  8. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    As a friend of ours (Striking Viking) likes to say... "the adventure begins when things go awry"... hopefully, you'll get back on track.. what a great adventure so far!! :clap Stuck this thread for a while to give inmates a chance to enjoy this little gem.. awesome pics btw..
    #88
  9. bilborides

    bilborides Adventurer

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    yep i concur have done that whole bit on a klr 650 was around 100 degrees but left early and was by myself also.Made it but anything can happen at any time.I carry pedilite at all times and water.Glad you made it safely.There is now a Pemex and store at Alfonso's corner.it will be paved sadly in a year or less.
    #89
  10. ago

    ago n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
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    Hi Peekay

    very nice report , and adventure :huh
    I am very very glad that you have just got a little scared and nothing else !
    in reality things could have gone must worst .:cry

    I would like to add just a comment on why things went "wrong"
    basicly because you had within your self all the assurance of a rescue :eek1:eek1:eek1
    it could seem a contradiction , but if we restart all over again :
    no satt. phone .:mad?
    no GPS !:boid
    no one to call in case of....., no rescue , you are only on your own forces .
    well I bet you would have started that route much more carefully and prepared .

    tyre pressure on a bike is not a great issue on sand , you can gain a little , but on rocks you will have high risks .
    the eccess weight was the major problem
    from what I saw on your bike , there was much too much stuff that was pulling you into the sand .
    with that weight , you are forced to run very fast on track , or sink with an uncontrollable front wheel .
    which is not easy at all .
    off road driving skills are also very important , they can help a lot in avoiding to fall .

    I am sure this small accident will give you much more of what it has taken .

    good luck Ago
    #90
  11. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Hi donnh, I use a Canon S95, which is fantastic. There's a newer version now (the S100). Sometimes I wish I have a waterproof camera but I know the picture quality wont be as good. It's a compromise. I chose the S95 because it is small enough to fit in my pocket. If you don't mind a slightly larger size, the Canon G series cameras are excellent.

    I actually sent my bike using Girag Air Cargo, since I crossed in December during rough seas (most of the boats had stopped sailing until January). There have been some complaints about them but I had no issues whatsoever.

    Unless the rumored Ferry to Colombia becomes reality by the time you're ready to cross, the usual and maybe best option is still to cross by boat through the San Blas islands. There are many reputable operations (such as the Stahlratte or Fritz the Cat) but perhaps avoid the MetaComet. :wink:
    #91
  12. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    Will do satchmo! I will visit Baja again, if for nothing else to again thank the guys who bailed me out. :nod

    Good note about carrying electrolytes bilborides. Any thoughts about using normal Gatorade instead of pedialyte?


    Ago there's definitely much truth in what you say! To an extent at least? As an imperfect analogy, I can ride faster because I wear a helmet -- I would definitely ride more slowly / deliberately / safely(?) if I didn't have a helmet. That doesn't mean I shouldn't wear a helmet, right? I tend to think a sat phone / SPOT / GPS as safety devices, like a helmet. But as you point out, all these things might extend our comfort zone maybe too much.


    Thanks GB, but I'm afraid the rest of my ride through Baja isn't anywhere as "exciting". :lol3
    #92
  13. peekay

    peekay Been here awhile

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    I rode back to Ensenada and was feeling sorry for myself. I really considered just going home.

    The bike's left control quadrant (turn signal, ABS switch, horn, etc.) was damaged in the crash, and I was going to use that as an excuse to ride back up to San Diego to get parts. But I managed to fix it so there went that excuse.
    :patch

    [​IMG]
    Quick fix

    I lost confidence in my riding abilities but I decided to continue the trip. I had dreamt of this trip for so long, I wasn't ready to give it up just yet. But to be honest, part of it was driven by shame -- what would my friends & family think if I returned early? If I failed to reach my destination? I know I should ride for my own enjoyment and forget what everyone else thinks, but a bruised ego is a tough motivator sometimes.

    I programmed my GPS for Catavina -- an oasis in the Baja desert -- 375 km south of Ensenada along the (paved) west coast route of MEX-1. That's outside my bike's fuel range so I planned a stop about two-thirds of the way in El Rosario.

    There was a ton of construction happening throughout MEX-1, and I was pretty hungry when I finally arrived in El Rosario. Mama Espinoza's restaurant is a Baja institution since the 1930s. I gassed up then sat down for some yummy food at Mama's.


    [​IMG]
    Mama Espinoza's in El Rosario is a Baja institution

    After El Rosario I only had a short ride to Catavina. I loved the scenery there! It looked like a "proper" desert, the kind you see on TV, with tons of cactus everywhere.

    [​IMG]
    MEX-1 on the way to Catavina

    It's nice to be on the road again. Approaching Catavina, I see that it's quite a small, with only a few buildings here and there.

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    Small town Catavina

    Hotel Mision Cataviña is the one (and only) hotel in town.

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    Hotel Mision Catavina

    There's an abandoned PEMEX pump at the hotel's parking lot; the gas station has been closed for years. There's a guy across the street selling gas from plastic jugs.

    [​IMG]
    Filling up

    I walked around admiring the scenery. Some of cactus looked pretty funny, people say like a giant upside down carrot. They's called Los Cirios in Spanish (Boojum trees in English).


    [​IMG]
    Boojum tree looks like an upside-down carrot

    Then I stumbled across this, uhh, a car garden?? :rofl

    [​IMG]
    Interesting??

    The sun was setting and I enjoyed the desert vistas.

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]
    Sunset at Catavina

    Mision Cataviña used to be part of the Desert Inn chain. New management took over and renovated the hotel. They did a pretty good job.

    [​IMG]
    Hotel Mision Catavina

    I retire for the night; tomorrow the plan is to cross the state lines to Baja California Sur.
    #93
  14. John Nash

    John Nash Bluenoser

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    I wish you well my friend on your adventure south of the border from a fellow Cunuck.Be safe and enjoy.Thanks for the RR and great pictures.:clap
    #94
  15. billyvoo

    billyvoo n00b

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    Fantastic journalism from the road! Great photos! Be safe and be well!

    cheers!!
    #95
  16. rod1

    rod1 Old Australian Bull

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    just over 20 years ago my wife and I rode bicycles down Baja working our way to Guadalajara. Your photographs and text have reminded me of that wonderful experience. Now, we both finally started riding motorcycles and how I would love to do a trip like yours. My very best wishes Peekay. I look forward to following your travels. Rod. Australia
    #96
  17. zandesiro

    zandesiro In rust we trust....

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    Polygyros, Greece...
    Awesome adventure....!

    Keep up.... Be well..!!
    :lurk
    #97
  18. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

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    Peekay,

    Great journalism and stunning photography, a really enjoyable ride report!
    #98
  19. michelsavage

    michelsavage Gotta move

    Joined:
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    53
    [You're in Baja California. What do you mean by "you crossed in december"... Is my geography all screwed up or what? You're still in Mexico, how could you have crossed the darien? I'm all mixed up here...


    I actually sent my bike using Girag Air Cargo, since I crossed in December during rough seas (most of the boats had stopped sailing until January). There have been some complaints about them but I had no issues whatsoever.

    Unless the rumored Ferry to Colombia becomes reality by the time you're ready to cross, the usual and maybe best option is still to cross by boat through the San Blas islands. There are many reputable operations (such as the Stahlratte or Fritz the Cat) but perhaps avoid the MetaComet. :wink:[/QUOTE]
    #99
  20. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    769
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    Darnestown, MD
    [/QUOTE]


    I believe there is significant lag time between the spectacular ride and the ride report. Perhaps GB decided to sticky this thread in order to encourage peekay to move forward with his next installment...:wink:

    I have a feeling this is only going to get better as the trip progresses.


    Safe Riding,