El Blanco Donkeys 2019 - 7 day Baja recap

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mx813, Mar 2, 2019.

  1. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    Last May, a February ride started to quickly take shape as several riders committed to going by giving me a deposit solely for the purpose of using for gas and hotels. I’m in this for the fun, not make money. But also makes hotel and gas payments simple with a single guy/me as the money man. This was to be my 4th Baja trip, 3rd time self guided and 2nd time as navigating trail boss. Pretty confident.

    Fantastic...and fast forward a few months and many interesting phone calls to various hotels through the Baja area, a solid plan was in place. I really need to learn Spanish as I was left with “do I really have 3 room reservations?”

    The plan was simple: 3 of us would leave Auburn WA 13 Feb in the afternoon hauling 7 bikes and gear. A big responsibility if you ask me. The rest of the gang would fly to Phoenix where another rider lived as well as our chase driver and drive down.

    13 Feb - Washington was being hammered by snow but alas, we were on the road by 3:30 and pointing south. The drive down was pretty straightforward, passing through the Siskiyou mtns in the wee hrs on wet pavement. We saw the effects of the big storm earlier but no issues for us. As we neared LA surroundings, we experienced some serious rain as we were worked our way east and south of LA to Palm Springs and Calexico. That was some serious flash flooding. Even covering HWY 118 at various points. Didn’t stop us. Arrived at Calexico around 4:30 Thursday/Valentines Day, swapped money for pesos for the two who needed it and crossed the border. FMM cards in hand, we cleared Mexicali around 5:30 and proceeded south to San Felipe.

    Yeah I know...don’t drive Baja at night. At this point, zero rips were given and all we wanted is out of the truck. The road between Mexicali and San Felipe is one of the easier and widest roads. We took it easy, cleared the first Military checkpoint and arrived at our first hotel that night at 8.... 29hrs later. Damn it felt good to stand straight and air out the backside. Our first night, the 3 of us, stayed at El Capitan, next to the Malecón. Tacos...here we COME! IMG_5159.jpg
    Hee-haw and the buzzard from Bugs Bunny.

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    Al Pastor tacos.
    #1
  2. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    Friday 15 February

    The gang arrives.

    We departed El Capitan and moved down the road to El Cortez. A bit further away from the Malecon but very comfortable and secure parking for our trailer and the truck coming in from Phoenix. We got our rooms early and proceeded to get everything unloaded and rode around the area a bit on our bikes. The area has been getting a lot of moisture and man, the scenery out of town was amazing with the flowers in full bloom. Shaping up to be a good week. So far.

    Once done messing around...unloaded a case of beer from my backpack, proceeded to indulge a bit while we waited for 5 guys to show. A calm moment before a whirlwind starts. This turns out to be the warmest day of the trip. IMG_5351.JPG
    The view out my door at El Cortez.

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    Beer run
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    The unloading of bikes and gear bags. That trailer was stuffed.
    #2
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  3. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    16 Feb - Saturday- Day 1 riding

    We have a chase driver.
    We sleep in hotels.
    We have a spare bike.

    I know this is a slight variant of true adventure bike riding but...

    Day one was a planned long day so we skipped breakfast and proceeded to head to Valle De Trinidad vía the lakebed early. Wasn’t too cold but the wind! Full on head wind going across that lakebed. I had to literally tuck down, hold my chin bar on the helmet and just get across it. By the time we hit VDT, all of us are starving and needed coffee. Just off the hwy, behind the Pemex is a fantastic restaurant, Lonchería Ebdi that serves grubbing chilaquiles con choriza. And hot coffee. We met up with the chase truck at this time as well.

    Our chase driver...what a character. He was the father in law of one of the guys, retired...kinda, and had done several previous chase gigs so he knew what to do. I was skeptical of having a 71 year old drive my truck but minute 1 of meeting him put all worries to rest. Pretty much an older version of the 7 riders that swore, enjoyed tequila and beer (after driving of course) and frequently called us “juvenile delinquent reprobates...” amongst other things. We paid his room and board. He bought all the beer and ice. It was good.

    Breakfast done, we headed up the Goat trail to go visit Casellis memorial. Pretty straightforward ride but the rains had left a lot of lakes on the roads and fairly muddy. Better than dust. The memorial is now completely fenced off with new barb wire. We were 100yds south of it along an adjacent road. Couldn’t find a gate or anything so just walked in. Likewise, a group of sxs were stuck inside it and couldn’t get out. Weird.

    Our original plan prior to whole trip for day 1 was to ride up to Laguna Hanson, down to Ojos Negros and work our way to Mikes for the night. After seeing and hearing reports about the cross-over from VDT to Colonet, which we intended to send our chase driver, I made the decision to ride the cross-over road for a visual inspection to insure our driver could make.

    This turns out to be the best decision made at the beginning of the trip. Roughly 9 miles from Colonet on the gravel road, we came to a huge washout that there was no way my truck with any driver would’ve made it (long box crew cab 3500). Nope. Bikes, easy. Raptor trucks were doing it with sand boards, spotters and others helping. Not a lone 71 year old. No biggie...chase driver now had to go around through Ensenada. More on that later.

    Once we got to MX1, our first mechanical issue reared its ugly head. Keep in mind, all of us have been riding a long time, ride together frequently and know that each of us work on our bike for preparation but this is Baja...you can’t plan for everything. A ‘15 KTM 450 was having some fuel pump issues. Down on power and hiccuping, we pulled off the hwy and proceeded to work on it. At first, we thought it was the throttle body, so we cleaned that as best as possible but no so it had to be the pump assembly within the tank. We couldn’t hear the pump cycling so at this point, 4pm...Out comes the tow strap and miles to go. We towed the bike about 20 miles to Camalu and found a hotel just north of the Pemex on the west side. It looked questionable but we dumped the rider there(been to Baja many times) and now 6 of us at 5pm proceeded to head to Mikes via the road to El Coyote and Score Race Course. It’s amazing how fast time gets away from you.

    No big deal, we all have good lights for the most part, just grind it out. 40 minutes of slab night riding to the gravel turn off to Coyote in low 30 dg temps. Brrrrr. I’d never been so happy to see gravel which meant more moving the body around to generate heat. Up and up and down those rocky roads to Mikes we went. We actually had a blast, pulling into Mikes at 7:50 pm...12 hrs from we left San Felipe.

    We proceeded to scarf dinner down and 7 of us with candles consumed quite a few beers and tequila well past generator shut down time bench racing.


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    The view we encountered immediately leaving the hotel.
    #3
  4. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    A little background on who we are...

    All of us are from the PNW where it does, indeed, rain a lot. 1 rider got tired of the rain and moved to Phoenix. 5 of us belong to a club called Stumpjumpers that help promote the off road racing scene in Washington including The Desert 100 that has what I consider the largest mass start 100 mile race. We’ve all banged bars racing and teamed up for 24 hr races as well. Myself and 2 others are on our 4th trip to Baja. A couple returnees and 2 Baja virgins.

    Hundreds and hundreds of WhatsApp messages preceded our trip. Logistics of who drives, flies, etc worked out. Comm’s discussed and agreed upon. 14 mousses installed in an assembly line.

    By mid January I mentally had checked out of work (not a great idea as a middle school teacher. Kids sense that and prey upon you.). Anticipation was almost like Christmas as a kid.

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    Basic prep

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    Did a lot of route planning, contingency routes and back up routes for the contingency. That time was well spent.

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    A worthy map for a chase driver. Not quite detailed like the Almanac which I have but solid to get to hotels.
    #4
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  5. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    All the planning led to this being our route to follow. It was modified a few times on the fly.

    IMG_5158.jpg
    #5
  6. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    17 Feb - Sunday- Day 2

    Time to go find our friend in Colonet.

    Woke up to gloomy skies with snow threatening. And cold out. Bikes completely covered in frost. Mike was busy with the Cat blading the creek crossing for trucks and bikes to leave as we heard a guy submerged it before we got there.

    The son in law of the chase driver gave up his riding day to drive the long way around to our next hotel in San Quintin since the cross over road was a no go. Kudos to him to do this as it is a rather long drive from Mikes to Jardines Hotel. We loaded his bike and stuffed all the gear bags in the truck and watched the truck ford the river...err creek. Now we are 5.

    Departed the way we came in, up the rock road towards El Coyote. Amazing how much faster you can ride when you can see.

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    Airing it out going up.

    Our lights were good but when riding with fixed lights going up and down, kinda sketch when you crest a sharp hill and lights are still pointing to the sky and you can’t see what you’re riding into. Daylight changes all that. And as luck would have it, we were getting snowed on. Baja!

    Once we reached the smooth road at El Coyote, added a layer and settled in for a nice ride through the valley towards 1 and in search of our friend. The rains had left the valley a lush green. Simply stunning with an occasional dog tearing after you.

    Made it to the hotel, now called Hotel San Pedro Martir and it turned out our buddy pushed his bike to the Pemex. Off we go...and a couple kids said he left an hour before us loaded into a pick-up truck heading to the next hotel. Sent him a few messages, gassed up and headed to the coast towards Cuatra Casas. The roads heading to the ocean were muddy. Not a big deal but very sticky. We turned south opting for Pirates Cove as it was still early and we wanted to move south. Even though it’s not single track, riding along the ocean, weaving in out with others and no dust is a lot of fun. Visited ship wreck for a bit...won’t be long until it is gone. And left that weird fenced enclave.

    Hit Pirates Cove at high noon and had a celebratory beer as it was one of our buddies birthday. I think I’ll try this hotel next trip. Neat place.

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    From snow clouds to blue bird skies. Still cool outside.

    Headed east from there to our first single track, sleeping bag trail. Slabbed a bit to Poblada Chula Vista and turned east before the bridge. Ooops...the rains turned that arroyo into a gushing river. No biggie, back tracked, crossed the bridge and joined the track on the other side of the arroyo. En route to the track, there must’ve been 100’s of people lining the banks on both sides of the river picking up stuff. Could never figure this out. As we followed the two track towards the trail, it was evident someone had rode this earlier. Up and up and up and further east we went until the road simply ended at a lake that was dammed up. Got around that as I could see the road we needed to get to through some bush whacking. And then the road dead ends at a hut long abandoned and single track leading away.

    Wow is in an understatement. Imagine a 12” dirt track through lush grass valleys, blue skies and large granite boulders sprinkled around. We felt like we were riding through a golf course at times. And it went on and on and on.

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    Sure there were a few hill climbs and descents but it was fantastic. If we had time, we would’ve turned around and do it again. The trail drops you out just opposite of Jardines on Hwy 1. Player Frogger getting across that.

    And to Jardines...one of my favorite hotels in the area. Decent price, fantastic grounds, and good food. @CanadianX should remember this place.

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    The only mishap of the day...following too close on the farm roads. Don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time.
    #6
  7. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    A truck ride here and there...

    At dinner after day 2 of riding, our buddy that we ditched for night one and hitched a ride to Jardines had quite the story to tell.

    The hotel we left him at, according to him, had one of the nicest interiors he had ever seen. Tile everywhere, clean and fresh. A couple surfers showed up and shared pizza with him and started a bonfire along with mariachi music. Sounds like he fit right in.

    But he got no sleep. The music played til 7 and the surfers with some locals were still around the fire drinking. To be young again drinking til sunrise.

    He got the bike running and was going to blast to the next hotel. False alarm, it died in front of the Pemex. And a family in a truck saw him pushing his bike. Bike in truck and heading south. And visiting the families relatives all the way down (lots of cousins and grandparents he said) while towing a car hooked to a ball on the bumper of the truck.

    4 hrs later, the family dropped him off at Jardines. And wouldn’t take a cent.

    The hospitality of Mexico and Baja!

    Nice to know about this hotel. A gem in the rough.
    #7
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  8. CanadianX

    CanadianX Don’t leave a steaming pile for others.

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    @mx813 - Definitely remember it and the diner you put us on to for breakfast on the way out of town. Couldn't make it back this year due to work but I'm seriously thinking about it for next year. Enjoying the RR in the mean time.
    #8
  9. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Damn...that's a frickin' long arse day in the saddle @mx813 :eek7 :eek7

    Just catching up on your report, sounds like it was quite the adventure from the first couple posts :lobby
    #9
  10. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    That's outstanding :nod :nod

    Can't wait for more :-)
    #10
  11. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    Just the tip of the iceberg I’m afraid. More to come.
    #11
  12. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    18 Feb Monday - Day 3

    A slow start and a few crashes

    Waking up at Jardines after a hard rain and sun coming out...all signs for a promising day.

    The fuel pump was “resolved” by swapping out the pump with a spare pump someone brought from a 2018 YZ450F. Who new right?

    We were skipping breakfast to eat at Mama Espinizos in El Rosario so we grabbed a few tangerines off the tree and scarfed those down. Delicious! Gear stowed in truck we were ready to go. The rains had left the road a mucky mess so I decided to head north to the pavement and then 1 south, the same way the truck was going instead of miles of garbage muck road. This was a blessing. Just as we hit 1, the bike that was “fixed” died. Again. Gaaahhhh.

    At this point, I gave the rider 30 minutes to fix or pull the spare bike out (my 2012 350 XCW.) Well...no luck so we pulled that bike out and loaded his bike up and headed to Mama’s for breakfast. The original plan had been to peel off 1 at the base of the foothills leading to El Rosario and head to La Lobrera and explore an hour or so before a late breakfast. Due to the mechanical, we threw this out and opted for breakfast as we were already behind schedule with a long day planned.

    Lots of coffee and full bellies, the rider on the spare bike decided to slab to Catavina with the chase truck so he could have a full day of diagnosing his bike. So back to 6 riders.

    Anyone sensing a pattern here? Adapt and overcome.

    We slabbed up to the San Carlos Mesa road turn-off and headed sw towards the Pacific and a work around I created last year. Last year while riding towards El Rosario from the Bill Nichols trail, a couple of horse back riders stopped us and refused to let us pass. No problem, I rerouted on some unused two track into the valley to the north and made it to El Rosario.

    This year was reversed. Before the valley and arroyo route I discovered, we played around on some of those tall ridges, giggling like crazy on the steep climbs, dropping off, and generally goofing around. Not quite mud mounds but very close.

    At the turn off to the valley and wash, we geared down and topped our tanks off with spare bottles of gas we headed inland. It was immediately apparent that many other bikes have been using this route whereas last year, we were the only tracks on an unused road. No biggie...off we go, zig-zagging through the wash for 15 miles. The rains had left a few challenges with steep banks and what not including hidden drop offs. I found a drop off.

    As lead, we were blazing through some brush on the road when I noticed ahead a bit of elevation change so I grabbed the binders to stop. I did stop...just as my front wheel dropped off a 4’ ledge into a sand bar. I know, when in doubt, pin it. Nonetheless, in slow motion, I watch my front wheel go straight down. No saving this one so jumped over the bars and landed in the sand. And the bike just kept on following me...pile driving me into the sand further. All at slow speed with just about everyone behind me, laughing. My bars finally hit the ground. Kicked the bike off me, got up and laughed it off...knowing it could’ve been worse if it were really rocky.

    We then turned due south by climbing rocky two track. Up and up, dodging barrel cactus, agave and chollo. I don’t mind lose rocks, just plug along and get it done. A few guys were ahead and a few guys behind me, we climbed a steep shortcut that turned left hard at the top. No issues for me but the guy behind me hit a dead agave stump on the sharp turn and lost his front end. And went down hard onto red rock two track road. We all regrouped with him, let him collect himself. He was hurting. He could ride so we opted to press forward a few miles where the tracked veered south and another veered east out of the wind to assess his condition. Location where he went down:

    29.8541165, -115.3130619

    Remember my earlier post about building routes, contingency routes and escape routes...I’m glad I did. The injured rider was done. At this point, 2 of the riders had the E32 mapset and my tracks so I sent the remaining 4 riders along the planned route and Bill Nichols trail while I escorted the injured rider out straight to Hwy 1. We. Were dumped out around here:

    29.9787463, -115.2010572


    So...a few miles of slab to Catavina Mision Hotel. No biggy. I rode the lead since I could turn around and check my 6 every few minutes. We rode slow so cars got around us easily. About a 30 minute slab. Chase truck and other rider had the rooms ready, in that little alcove out of the window on right side of hotel with the wood palapa in the center. Got the rider off bike and into the shower to warm up. I proceeded to warm up with some Cazadores.

    The remaining 4 riders showed up about 3 hrs later, around 4:30. I was bummed about missing the trail but rider safety was more important and both of us had done this trail the previous year before we met Inmate CanadianX and his wife riding 2up on his BMW.

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    7 of us at Mamas

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    Indulging


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    Taking advantage of a short day on the books tomorrow and a later departure time.
    #12
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  13. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    Hotel Mision Catavina-

    In 2015 we stayed here, pulling in late so we didn’t get to see everything it had to offer or the surroundings so last year we stayed there 2 nights. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

    So why would this year be any different? The grounds are impeccable, rooms are clean and a good bar. Right? The food, however, I’ve noticed a slight decline. Not sure why but it’s not what I remembered the first two visits. Anyone else notice this?

    I really like this place and sincerely hope they can correct the issues on improving the dinner. Huge tour groups come in daily filling up the hotel.

    Just my thoughts...
    #13
  14. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    19 February - Day 4

    The short gnarly ride day.

    All of us were slow. As in “I think I’ve still got tequila in me” slow. We knew that the previous night and now were paying for it. Our chase driver...71 years old was laughing at us..juvenile delinquent reprobates.

    Still...breakfast down, coffee consumed and geared up, we were ready to roll by 10. The plan was an out and back to the Santa Maria Mision due east. 16.5 miles in.

    The ride in was rocky, we were sweating booze and most of us riding rather crappy. Made it to the Mision, looked around and continued on towards the oasis. We were able to ride another 1/2 mile on two track where it ends and valley gets tight. So we hoofed it in full gear. For 1/2 a mile. Sweating tequila.

    I know some of you are laughing now. We deserved it.

    Following footprints and rock cairns, we made it to the Oasis.

    Wow...that’s all I can say. Truly a stunning scene. The only problem is coming in from the west, you are above the nice sand beach with no easy safe way down...at least not in mx boots. No big deal. We took pictures, lounged around an hour soaking up the sun before heading back to the bikes.

    Now for those of you that have been there, you know the ride out involves a few good rock climbs out...aka The Widow Maker. I tipped over and touched my bars on the side hill. No biggie. My buddy with his 450FX got a bit squirrelly and went to dab his feet only to find air and went down...and I considered him lucky, came out unscathed as he tumbled 8’ down into rocks. His bike didn’t fare as well.

    Left radiator was smashed pretty good. But not leaking. So we headed back to the hotel, hitting a different two track instead of the rocks before the sand wash and bombed the sand wash for miles before the road leading back to the hotel.

    Geared down, we hit the taco stand across the street, the one with dirt floors. Not anymore. Fresh poured concrete floors. And legendary oil based hot sauce. I had 5 drops on my taco and couldn’t feel my lips for awhile.

    We took it easy that night knowing we had a long long day ahead which involved heading towards solo Sports, meeting the chase truck at BOLA interchange on 1 and 22 day east so we called it an early night.

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    My ugly face

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    Look close. I found a nice spot out of the wind and in the sun...snoozing.

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    He jumped in and we used a tow rope to pull him out. This is the guy that finally got his bike fixed.

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    Stunning
    #14
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  15. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    Fuel pump fixed-

    The guy that slabbed it from Jardines to Catavina finally got his bike fixed. By stealing the entire fuel pump assembly out of the spare bike.

    No big deal BUT I did make it clear that if my primary ride, a 450 XCW had issues, I’d want that bike rideable. It didn’t come down to that. He and his buddy on day 3 did a short 20 mile behind Catavina/Campershell trail to test it. He was back in the game.

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    The red wire was broken. Banking that one for future trouble shooting. This connection is right where the quick disconnect is to remove the tank.
    #15
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  16. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    We ended up pulling into Catavina stoopid late after far too many asphalt miles. I wanted to camp at Rancho San Ines, but we ended up grabbing a room in the hotel. Really cool hotel and the room was nice (but $$$). We didn't eat there based on the feedback of one of the inmates - went across the street to the diner to the north of where they're building the Pemex.

    They did have good coffee in the morning, was up really early to get pictures and check the place out. Killer grounds with lots to go look at.
    #16
  17. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Dude...that oasis is phenomenal; crazy to think it's in the middle of the desert. If only time was unlimited, huh. I would have liked to spend more time in Catavina, to check out the rock paintings as well as explore stuff like you guys did.

    Can't believe the floor of that diner is concrete new, not that I'd been there before, but I thought it was cool as sand. Not sure progress is always the best, the guys selling barrel gas will be out of a gig soon too (or maybe they already are - was the Pemex done when you were there?).

    LOL to sweating tequila out as you rode/walked in the sun. Good thing it was a short day and you could head back to the hotel and chill. Too cold for the pool?

    Great updates @mx813 :nod :nod I miss Baja :(
    #17
  18. mx813

    mx813 Been here awhile

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    At no point during our trip did I fee like swimming. It was cold.
    #18
  19. fuggy

    fuggy Canyon Explorer

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    Que Pasa Burros Bancos? Our group of three ran into you muddy looking PNW's in Catavina. :D

    Looking foward to hearing more of your report.

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    Some video of 2 riders in your group @ 1:14

    #19
  20. Humunn

    Humunn Agent Provocateur

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    More please...
    Heading down there in 2 weeks.
    Need a break from this.
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    #20