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The Wrong Stuff (Baja)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Flash412, Feb 26, 2010.

  1. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

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    During that gray awakening time, as Morpheus slowly slips his grasp, the line between dream-sleep and cognitive awareness blurs. It was from this place that I slowly came to the realization that the idea of someone washing their truck outside of our motel room at six o'clock in the morning was probably off the mark. But was this concept any more off the reality-mark than the idea that it was raining, seriously raining, in Baja? Today was going to be the start of the off-road portion of our dual-sport tour. Nah, I must be dreaming. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

    Months earlier, Todd had asked me if I wanted to go riding in Costa Rica with him again. We'd had a blast there a few years ago. The commemorative t-shirts say (albeit slightly inaccurately), "Alan got arrested. Flash got stitches. Hubert got robbed. Todd got sick. Tony destroyed his bike." Good times... good times. But a repeat? I countered with the idea that while I was certainly up for an adventure, perhaps a NEW destination might be preferable.

    After batting a few ideas back and forth, we agreed upon Baja California, a place neither of us had been before yet both of us wanted to go. There was a cost advantage to Baja in that we could take our own bikes and drive down to Tucson rather than fly somewhere else and rent unknown bikes. Todd's Spanish consisted of "Mucho queso" which he seemed to think means "Thank you." While my Spanish is poor, my vocabulary and pronunciation are good enough to ask questions (even if I cannot understand the answers).

    Todd had a one week kitchen-pass, which means nine days. We scheduled it so that President's Day Monday could be our tenth day if necessary, just in case. Todd's employer gave their workers that day off from work as a holiday.

    Todd rides a KTM 950 Adventure. Todd is a damn good off-road rider, so good in fact that Tony (from the Costa Rica trip) has declared "Todd is my God." While I have ridden 1000 miles in a day off-road, that was mostly reasonably-well-surfaced dirt roads, without hardly any sand and very little muck. I consider myself to be not much of an off-road rider on my twelve year old BMW F650 Funduro. My thinking was that with Todd on that heavy pig and me on my lighter bike, we would be a fair match at anything other than top end on the highway, which was not what this trip was about anyway. He said he had slightly worn Scorpion tires on it. I mounted up a new Shinko 705 on the rear of my bike and figured we would be good to go. I thought my front was a fairly new Tourance and in fact forgot to look. I have more than one bike and sometimes mis-remember these sort of things.

    About one week before our departure, Todd had me meet him and another rider, or two, at a brewpub in Longmont, Colorado to place my bike in his trailer and discuss logistics. It was there that I realized that the front tire was an ME-88, a street tire, the wrong stuff for this trip. No problem really, as I had a spare front wheel and a week to get and mount a better tire for dual-sporting. I could bring that wheel/tire and swap it out in Tucson. A quick job and we'd be on our way.

    The other two guys at the meeting, Greg and Brian, both Baja veterans, both looked at both of my tires and said, "You're not going to Baja with THOSE tires!?!??" Greg was going to be joining us on his BMW G650X-Country with full knobbies. Greg had Turdtech aluminum lunch pails mounted. Brian and Todd were both skeptical, thinking these were the wrong stuff for luggage in deep sand, potentially resulting in a leg injury. My plan to bring Pelican cases flew right out the window right there. Todd's plan was to strap a duffel on the back and call it done.

    We discussed various options for things like helmets and riding gear. My new dual-sport helmet would be just the ticket. But the old-hand consensus was that wearing my Aerostich would be the wrong stuff. I own ventilated dirt-riding gear. But it was February and there was a recent report of some ADV Riders getting snowed-in and requiring an airlift out... exactly where we were headed. We discussed camping gear. CAMPING GEAR? I thought we were going to stay at local accommodations. Apparently my plan to being a sleeping bag liner and a couple of emergency Space Blankets was more wrong stuff. I needed to figure out how to make room pack my sleeping bag in my now non-existent saddlebags. It seems I had a lot of re-thinking and some work to do, but a week in which to do it.

    Knowing that bastard, Todd, would change to knobbies, I procured and mounted a new Kings KT965 19" rear tire on my spare front wheel and planned to bring along a rear wheel with a nearly worn-out Maxxis C6006 as well as a brand new C6006.

    Our route had been planned. We would head about 400 miles down the pavement from Tucson, crossing at Nogales, to Guaymas where we would catch the ferry over to Santa Rosalia in Baja. The ferry was supposed to run at eight in the evening, so I would have plenty of time to mount that new tire, which would be fresh for Baja.

    Meanwhile, Todd sent me an email informing me that my F650 had already crashed. When he looked in the trailer at home, it had fallen over. The only damage was that a reflector had been ejected from the front fork slider. After righting the bike, in the interest of preservation, he removed the mirrors. Great.

    About a week later, too late to change anything that hadn't already been changed, Todd and I stopped at Greg's place north of Colorado Springs and finished loading up the trailer...

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    Photo - Greg

    Friday evening, we headed south down I-25, over Raton Pass and into New Mexico...

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    Photo - Greg

    (More prose and photos to come...)
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    67,860
    We love those Baja reports... Keep it comin' :lurk
    #2
  3. xdbx

    xdbx Motorcycle Connoisseur

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    Hey! I spy an oversized fuel tank and a 950! I'm IN! :clap
    #3
  4. obsidian

    obsidian Scared of the dark..

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    Currently in Canada.

    Hahaha +1
    #4
  5. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

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    We drove on into the night. Well, Todd drove. It was his truck and trailer. While I LOVE riding, I quite dislike driving. And Greg, well... on another previous trip, Todd couldn't drive anymore, so he pulled over and asked Greg to drive for a while. Once seated in the passenger seat, Todd immediately fell asleep for what seemed like a BRIEF while before Greg awakened him. "Todd, I can't drive anymore." Todd checked the time, "Greg, you drove for FIFTEEN minutes! Can't you tough it out a bit further?" Greg responded, "I was finished at FIVE minutes and managed to tough it out for another TEN!" Todd drove.

    Last July, I had discovered that the Motel 6 in Socorro is comparatively inexpensive and fairly new. It was about eleven-thirty by the time we reached Socorro and decided to call it a night at the Motel 6.

    Next morning, we reached the Hatch cutoff to Deming and before long were on I-10 heading west. We reached Tucson by early afternoon. Finding a motel with a vacancy to make a reservation there had been a royal pain in the ass a couple of weeks before. We found out why. The international gem and mineral show or somesuch, was in full force. There were tents and EZ-Ups and booths with all manner of rocks and things for sale all up and down the streets.

    Eventually we found our Motel-6 which was about sixty feet from the freeway. But we were on the first floor. Greg's bike was unloaded so that my bike could be unloaded. Greg and Todd supervised while I changed both wheels and installed a new chain. I had installed a smaller counter-shaft sprocket before dropping the bike off and decided that since I was changing to a knobbly tire, I might as well install the carrier with the bigger rear sprog. With a brand new counter-shaft sprog and a nearly-new rear sprog my chain with 35,000 miles on it seemed like it might not be such a great idea.

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    Photo - Greg

    After the work was done and a brief test ride around the parking lot, we cleaned up and went out on foot to try to find some dinner. None of us brought our cameras. The gems and minerals were fantastic. There were amethyst geodes as big as bathtubs for $2500 and as big as your fist for $12. The show truly was international as we spoke with guys from Madagascar and China, among other places. The fellow from China had a rock that I swear looked like a slab of bacon. If ever there was an ADV mineral it is that one, whatever it is.

    During that gray awakening time, as Morpheus slowly slips his grasp, the line between dream-sleep and cognitive awareness blurs. It was from this place that I slowly came to the realization that the idea of someone washing their truck outside of our Motel-6 room at six o'clock in the morning was probably off the mark. But was this concept any more off the reality-mark than the idea that it was raining, seriously raining, in Tucson? Nah, I must be dreaming. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

    DAMMIT, it WAS raining, in TUCSON, dammit. We stuck with the Plan, which was for Greg and I to ride to a friend named Eric's place to leave the rig in a secure place while we played in Baja. Todd drove the truck and trailer with his bike inside. Eventually, we found Eric's house. Eric and his wife greeted us with the joyous exclamation, "We've had a DROUGHT for the past seven years!" Oh fucking boy. But they also had COFFEE. So all was good. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, I started up my GPS and we took off, heading south for Nogales.

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    On the way to Nogales, we got ahead of the rain. When we stopped to buy insurance, it caught up. On the way to the border we got ahead of the rain. When we stopped at the border, it caught up. On the way to kilometer mark 21 we got ahead of the rain. When we stopped to get our Tourist Cards and change some dough and it caught up. Heading south toward Hermosillo we got ahead of the rain. When we stopped for lunch it caught up. After lunch we got ahead of the rain and that was the END of the rain.

    We had left Northern Colorado on Friday afternoon. We awoke Saturday morning in New Mexico. We awoke Sunday morning in Arizona. It was about 500 miles from Tucson to Guaymas where we would catch the ferry to
    Santa Rosalia in Baja. We COULD do that in a day. But since the ferry does not run on Sunday, we had no reason.

    The highway from Nogales through Hermosillo to Guaymas is essentially the Mexican equivalent of an interstate highway complete with signs in English proclaiming it to be "A Hassle Free Zone." Not sure exactly what that means, but nobody hassled us. Hermosillo seemed to us to be a nice town. We took care of a few more items of business there and ate a great steak dinner.

    In the morning, we went a back way, off the "interstate" toward Guaymas. Why not? We had all day to make a bit over one hundred miles, and change my rear tire. By lunchtime we found ourselves in San Carlos, apparently an enclave for wealthy retired Americans. Greg picked a lunch spot. In my opinion, this was the best meal of the trip. They made fish tacos, shrimp tacos, meat tacos and a bunch of other things with everything prepared freshly to order. Each item cost roughly one US dollar. We ate and then we ate some more.

    It occurred to me to ask at the place that rented quads and motorcycles a couple of doors down from the taco stand if they could change my tire, assuming I handed them the wheel and the new tire. No problem, and the price was one hour of shop rate at fifty dollars. The sign for the Peso is the same sign as the dollar sign. I assumed the fellow meant fifty pesos. No, DOLLARS. Fuck that. I have tire irons, a tire pump and the experience to change it myself. However, he then suggested I take it to a llanteria, one of the ubiquitous tire repair places throughout Mexico. The response to my question as to whether or not they could change a MOTORCYCLE tire was affirmative, and he even recommended one. Fifty PESOs and an hour and a half later (less than four US dollars), my new tire was installed. Cheap it was. Fast it was not. But hey, at this point we had about ten miles to go and about five hours until the ferry should leave.

    Despite there being only one sign as we got into town, we eventually went far enough to find the ferry terminal. We bought tickets for us and for our bikes. We bought bunks in a cabin. The cabin had four bunks, so we went ahead and paid for the fourth bunk as a place for all of our crap. The fellow said to come back at seven because the ferry was delayed and would leave at nine instead of eight PM. OK. We found a place to relax for a couple of hours.

    Todd, relaxing with Monkey
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    Greg, the Birthday Boy
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    Not only did we have beer, but we shared some GREAT chicken quesadillas. It was getting dark when we got to the embarkation point. We seemed to be among the first people there. We kicked back and waited. We met a fellow from Buena Vista, CO, who shared some of his beer with us. Eventually, a couple of truckloads of soldiers arrived. We figured out that we were not going to be leaving at eight when that hour came and went without the boat arriving. Finally the boat arrived. The soldiers went over everything and everyone before turning them loose into Guaymas. As they were going over everything and everyone heading for Baja, we learned that there was a delay "for safety, due to the weather" and we would not be leaving until ten o'clock. Seeing all those stars in the sky and feeling hardly a breeze at all made us doubt that this was accurate. But hey, I'm ALL for safety.

    Eventually they instructed us to board the ferry. We got our bikes tied down and headed to our cabin below.

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    Greg took a step into the cabin and announced that he was going to sleep on the deck. He got some gear and headed up there. Todd and I fell asleep. I awoke enough to check the time when the boat started moving, 12:30. The eight hour boat ride would get us into Santa Rosalia at lunchtime, not breakfast. Hey, we're on vacation. The only schedule we had was to be on the boat. Life is GOOD.

    In the morning, when I went topside, I found Greg and Todd talking to our fellow Coloradoan.

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    Eventually, we could see land.

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    The ferry docked at noon. We disembarked and parked our bikes in the ferry terminal compound as directed, proceeding then to pass immigration. Seemed strange that we needed to go through immigration for passing between two states in Mexico. Ever mindful of seventeen year olds in combat fatigues with loaded AK-47s, we complied. Eventually we were directed out toward the highway.

    We met up with our friend and bought him lunch in a restaurant downtown (where we could keep an eye on the bikes) to cover the beers he had so graciously provided to us the previous evening. Then we gassed up and got on our way down the pavement toward Guerrero Negro, on the Pacific coast of Baja.

    Twenty-six miles later, we stopped for a pee break. Todd said, "We gotta go back. Greg's lost a lid." Sure enough, one of the aluminum lunch-pail lids had gone missing.

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    Twenty-six miles back to town. Twenty-six miles back to the same spot for another pee break. Still no lid. Greg figured that it flew off in town and somebody picked it up. Maybe if he'd noticed it missing and returned for it sooner, he'd have it. Nope.

    Guerrero Negro is known for whale watching. Apparently this was prime time for that. We found a suitable motel. We were not interested in watching whales. We had beer and food and went to bed. Tomorrow was REALLY going to be the start of the RIDING!

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    In the morning, it was fucking RAINING.

    (To be continued...)
    #5
  6. herengone

    herengone comfortably dumb

    Joined:
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    thumb o michigan
    Subscribed!
    #6
  7. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    Spokane Valley, WA (the dry side of the mountains)
    Love a good story, add motorcycles and it's even better than good.

    Waiting for more. :lurk
    #7
  8. catfish

    catfish Squidicus Adventurous Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2002
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    Location:
    Morgan Territory, CA
    Well look who the monkey dragged in! Hey, you got a new monkey?!? Were you abusing the old monkey and Beth took him away? :evil



    You're not going to start whining already are you? :huh Sheeesh!

    Where's Tony? Is he pretending to be working again? He pussied out in December and didn't come to Mojave either. Artyom showed up for a couple of days and I gave him a few hillclimbs to practice on though! :lol3

    Are you still fucking off? How's your late August & early September schedule? Or early October? I'm goin' wanderin' around after the Gather again. You might like some of it.

    Hurry up, will ya!


    Catfish ...
    #8
  9. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    right here on my thermarest
    :lurk
    #9
  10. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
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    It sucked to be wearing my rain suit as I removed and stowed my mirrors. Todd and Greg, with more confidence than I, kept their mirrors mounted. When we were all packed and ready, after checking out, we headed for the trail a few kilometers up the road. Just short of the inspection station that apparently separated Southern Baja from Northern Baja, separate states of Mexico, we saw the trail departing from the pavement to the right. Following a brief discussion, we proceeded to the check station. By then it had quit raining and a few fellows were hanging around outside. I asked them if that was the route to San Francisquito. Their response indicated that it was. However, they also said that the first ten kilometers of the road were... a word I didn't know. It sounded like "vizcaya," which sounds like it has the same Latin root as "viscous." After that, the road was a bad road. I told them that my friends were crazy and I was going to Hell. They wished me luck.

    Greg was leading and having a ball. Mud was slinging off his rear tire as he bounded down the trail. Todd was next, on his heavy 950, still with the street-biased dual-sport Scorpion tires. Todd was getting a LOT more sideways than I could ever have recovered from, first to the left, then to the right. Boy howdy was I happy that I had gone through the hassle of changing my tires to knobblies.

    A few miles later, Todd stopped and I caught up. "How ya doin'?" he asked.
    "Well, I'm not particularly thrilled, but I can do this for a while longer."
    "Me, too," he replied.

    Soon, we got to the end of the mud. Then, the riding became amazing. The rain had wet the sand, damping all the powder. We could ride within sight of each other without choking in the dust. Following the trails of Greg and Todd, I could SEE what the trail was doing. When there was no track, it meant that the "road" was solid and I could fly along at over 50 mph. When the track showed up, I could judge by the width of the track how deep the sand was and slow accordingly. We were having a BLAST.

    I suggested to Todd and Greg that if they waved me ahead of them, before they passed me again they should beep their horn and I would wave them by, holding my line. That method worked well for everyone.

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    Photo - Greg

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Todd

    Soon, it was time to remove the rain gear. Since I was stopped fiddling with luggage, I relocated my tank bag behind me, as a tail pack. This move, putting the weight on the rear tire, made the bike handle sand a LOT better. It would "plane out" easily and I could confidently ride a lot faster.

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Todd

    Todd and Greg were stopped at the top of a hill and Todd was getting his camera ready as he waved me by. Just down the hill I found some deep sand. I rowed the boat a bit and then aggressively parked the bike on its right side. Greg came down and helped me right it.

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Todd

    We paused just past the top of the next hill to eat some candy bars and because we could see the Sea of Cortez. We were more or less within sight of San Francisquito. During the pause, I noticed that one of my auxiliary lights had lost a mounting screw after the aggressive parking maneuver, so I removed it and put it in my bag for the rest of the trip.

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    Photo - Todd

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    After riding some more, in the drying sand, it was apparent that we were approaching a settlement. And then we had arrived at our goal for the day. Time to shoot a few photos, enjoy a frosty malt pop and then settle in.

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    More to come...
    #10
  11. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
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    11,737
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    Effin' 'ell
    HERE is a WXGA video of Greg playing on the road on the way to San Francisquito.

    There really isn't much at all in SF. A comparatively large, single floor, block building is the "reception," dining room and kitchen. For US$20 night per person, one can secure a bed in a palapa. There is "registration page" with your party's name clipped to its own clipboard, hanging on a nail on the wall. Using the honor system, whenever you get a beer or three out of the fridge or a bag of chips or whatever, you mark it down on the clipboard. Life ain't half bad in San Francisquito. Soon they will have a satellite phone and internet. But for now, "the world" pretty much leaves them alone.

    Delicious meals are available, prepared from fresh fish or, if you prefer, beef. After refueling, we just hung out for the rest of the afternoon, adding hash marks to the BEER line on the clipboard.

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    Photo - Greg

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Greg

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    Photo - Todd

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    Photo - Todd

    In the morning after the night before, the sun rose, not-unexpectedly a bit blurry.
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    Photo - Greg

    Eventually, the day began to sharpened up.
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    Photo - Todd

    We elected to skip breakfast and after settling our bill, packed up and were on our way. Finding our way was something of a challenge as they are not real big on sign posts out in the unpaved portions of Baja. Between a map, a GPS and three different recollections of advice we had received, we eventually figured out the correct path. That path had dried out during the night and we each rode individually with maybe a half mile or so separating us due to the dust.

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    Photo - Greg

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    Photo - Greg

    The rain from the day before had turned the desert green. It was something amazing and new to see, to ride through, to smell.

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    Photo - Greg

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    A bit of sand, some gravel and dirt and we eventually found ourselves back on the pavement, heading north(ish), with our sights set on Alfonsina's at Gonzaga Bay.
    #11
  12. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
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    We ran up part of the Baja 500 / 1000 race course, giving us entirely new respect for the folks that race there. Bone-jarring and unforgiving are the two best adjectives I can summon for that stretch of unpaved roadway. Coco's Corner is a long-time famous spot along the way. Coco manages to make a living on the strength of his vibrant personality along with an artistic flair to attract "the fish" passing by to whom he sells overpriced beer and CocaCola. In fact, Coco's company, his decorations and the conversation with his other patrons is worth much much more than the cost of the beverages.

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    Photo - Todd

    True to Coco's word, "40 kilometers or 24 miles to Alfonsinas!" we found the hotel at Gonzaga Bay.

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    Photo - Todd

    We enjoyed several cervezas and a fine repast before turning in. A good night's rest was required as the morning would put us on what the guidebooks called "the Worst Road in Baja."
    #12
  13. The Toecutter

    The Toecutter R U N N O F T

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
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    Stone Canyon, CO
    More snow in CO tomorrow so enjoy. Thanks for showing me some land without white.
    #13
  14. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2004
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    CA dez (it's a dry heat)/West Yellowstone,MT
    Looking forward (dreading???) to seeing how much more of this road is paved. I'll be down that way in a few weeks. Thanks for the report - it eases the the llllooooonnnnnggggg wait til my next Baja fix.
    #14
  15. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

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    Looking forward to the next section.
    #15
  16. gus1911

    gus1911 Team F5

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    Virtual Bivouac
    I'm in.

    :lurk
    #16
  17. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
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    In the morning we gassed up at the Pemex and headed north up toward San Felipe. The reports we had received on this road varied from "It's as bad as they say" to "Nah, it's a FREEWAY." The truth is that there are only twenty-four miles, forty kilometers, of road that remain unpaved north of Gonzaga Bay. In my personal opinion, it ain't a bad road. Oh sure, there are rocks and switchbacks and whoop-de-doos. But there aren't many sand washes and the sand isn't very deep. It is easy to imagine how some travel writer in a Winnebago wagon could hate the road. But on a motorcycle? I was happily flying.

    No shit, there I was, whipping along at nearly 100 kilometers per hour when I saw a concretion in the bottom of the place where the dry stream crossed the road. In Mexico on the unpaved roads, they will install a small bit of pavement for the water to cross the road when there IS water to cross the road. Otherwise, the water eats the road and makes a big mess. The downside of these erosion-preventive concretions is that sometimes the water decides not to take the path provided and finds its own way. Approaching these things, you ALWAYS have to pay attention and LOOK to see if the road meets the edge of the concrete or not. In this case, the light was hitting the concrete very flatly and I did not see the step.

    No shit, there I was, whipping along at nearly 100 kilometers per hour when I saw the concretion. It looked to me that the dirt ran right up to the edge of the concrete and I could take it at speed. But hey, there are LOTS of tracks that go around the concrete to the left. I wonder why... Oh SHIIIIT! I locked the rear brake and fanned the front lever, pumping to full lock and releasing as fast as humanly possible. By the time I realized that I COULD stop the bike before I hit the six inch concrete step, I also realized that if I kept moving at the (slow) speed I was (NOW) moving and gassed it a bit when the front wheel made contact, the bike would hop up and over (instead of pretzeling the front wheel, folding the forks back and throwing me so far that I probably would not have been able to walk back, if I'd hit it at the speed I HAD been going). Just another "moment" in Baja.

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    The desert was still green from the recent rain.

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    I flew happily along until I came to the end of the dirt at Mexico 5. I waited. I drank some water, had a pee and waited. I waited some more. When I had waited fifteen minutes, just as I was about to go back, I saw Todd coming up the road. The first thing he said was, "MAN! I wish we could ride that road ALL DAY!" Then he asked, "Where's Greg?"

    The rocky road pictured above was not the only route. There were other paths, generally on one side or the other, though sometimes both. They were a peculiar sort of sand "frontage road" to the volcanic rock, stone and gravel "highway." Greg sometimes enjoyed riding one of these "frontage roads" then crossing over the highway and riding the frontage road on the other side. As they sometimes splayed far enough away from the highway to be out of sight, it was entirely possible that Todd had passed Greg.

    We gave it a few more minutes and then Todd headed back. He said, "If you don't see us in ten minutes, then you return, too."

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    A Suzuki Samurai bumped up over the hill and clattered toward me. The car stopped and the driver rolled down the window and said, "Your friends are about four miles back." I thanked him and skeedaddled back on down the road. Sure enough, there they were. Greg had found something.

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    Photo - Todd

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    Greg installed his spare tube, remounted the tire and wheel, started up his bike and pulled it back across the road to where he'd unloaded his kit. Todd motioned me toward the highway and I took off. Four miles later, I reached the highway. A few minutes later, spacing due to the dust, Todd reached the highway. We waited. We waited five minutes. Todd went back. I waited five more minutes. I rode four miles back down the highway to find Greg working on his bike.

    At this point, a detail thus far omitted requires exposure. Greg's bike has ABS. Greg is not particularly fond of the ABS off-road. It is possible to turn the ABS off IF you hold down the swastika button, mash both brakes, stick the tip (JUST the tip) of your tongue out the LEFT corner of your mount AND turn the ignition key to the ON position ALL at exactly the same time, or something like that. At least, that is what Greg would have us believe. The easier thing to do is simply never turn off the ignition, because then you don't have to locate another chicken to sacrifice to start the bike without the ABS, again. So, Greg made a habit of never turning off the ignition. Sure, he'd kill the motor with the kill switch. But either Todd or I would say a dozen times a day, "Greg, your lights are on." It was sort of a running joke.

    And so, it seems that when Greg had his flat, a fellow came along in a car. The fellow asked if Greg had a pump. When Greg said he did, the fellow asked if he could use it. Greg used his electric pump to pump up the fellow's car tire.

    THEN Todd and I returned. Greg fixed his own flat, started his bike and rode across the road. I left. Todd left. I have NO doubt that Greg's headlight was on the entire time it took him to pack up all of his gear, don his riding togs and hit the starter button to find... nothing left.

    After jumping Greg's bike and dealing with the extra Turdtech hoses associated with removing and reinstalling his monster "I can go at LEAST 300 miles!" gas tank, all the while keeping it running and attempting NOT to spew fuel from the pressurized system in our faces or on the ground (ever hear of QUICK-CONNECTS?) we were at long last ready to proceed.

    Four miles later we were at the pavement. ALL of us had reached the pavement, though some of us for the third time. Tallying that up, we get, 24 miles of "the worst road in Baja," plus four, eight, twelve, sixteen... carry the two, FORTY MILES of the twenty-four worst miles in Baja. Todd's wish to "ride this road ALL day!" had nearly come true.

    Mexico 5 was a brand spanking new, smooth as glass, black ribbon of highway. That's all, just pavement. A few kilometers later, there were lines in the center. A few kilometers after that, guardrail posts. A few kilometers later, actual guardrails.

    Eventually we made our way to San Felipe where we enjoyed another excellent meal. After lunch, as we approached the intersection of Mexico 5 and Mexico 3, where we needed to turn, we were shunted onto a dirt road that was parallel to the highway. We missed our turn. We had a nice discussion with some more camo-clad seventeen year olds toting automatic weapons ("No drogas, no armas.") who pointed us back to where we should have turned. We made the turn and had a nice discussion with some more camo-clad seventeen year olds toting automatic weapons ("No drogas, no armas.") And then we were on our way toward Mike's Sky Ranch.

    Zona de Vados... There are these signs in Mexico that warn you about the Vados. Generally, after the sign is a vado. But maybe two, or three vados. Sometimes there are signs and no vados. Sometimes there are vados and no signs. A vado is where water crosses the road when there is water to cross the road. A vado is a place where the road surface drops and then jumps back up. Some of those vados are STEEP. They're all GREAT on a motorcycle, if you stand up. Big huge bumper and front end dents in the road surface on the far side of some of them indicate that maybe they are not so great in a car or truck. I did see one sign near Mike's that had a picture of a cow stuck to the sign, where the water crosses the road. That would SUCK in a car and suck even worse on a motorcycle.

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    Finding the turn-off to Mike's was not difficult. There were suddenly lots of guys on dirt bikes in the area and it was just about the only obvious turn to the left off of the highway. As you can see from the track on a topo map, the route LOOKS innocent enough.

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    The wide, graded, level dirt road leaves the highway and heads straight toward the mountains. NONE of that lasts for long. The road narrows. Gulleys, tire ruts and erosion attack the surface. It starts climbing and twisting and bobbing and weaving. Here is the altitude plot from just about where we left the pavement, to Mikes in the middle and back to the pavement.

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    You come blasting up over a rise and... PUCKER! The road drops away. There are deep ruts, rocks, sand and a water crossing at the bottom. And not just one. There are a few places like that on the way in and out of Mike's. Due to our delays earlier in the day, for much of the way into Mike's the setting afternoon sun shone straight into our eyes, which tends not to add to the EASE of reading the road surface. But Nietzsche was right and by the time we arrived at Mike's we were stronger men.

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    We were invited to park the bikes inside the secure enclosure.

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    Oddly, in this photo, Todd's bike is ORANGE, my seat is ORANGE and Greg's shirt is ORANGE. If only I could think of a rhyme for "orange."
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    We met and shared frosty beverages with some "interesting" and similarly insane people at Mike's Sky Ranch. A couple of Alabamans had rolled a Hummer and spent two nights in the wilderness. When Todd asked, "Was it cold. Did you two have to snuggle up for warmth?" One of them popped open his Buck knife saying, "I'll GUT YOU right HERE!" Then he laughed and said, "Jes' kiddin'."

    A couple of other guys had rented some Baja Buggies from a service. They had performed a low-altitude barrel-rolled with one the first day. On the first of two rolls, it had not touched the ground. One mirror even remained intact. Tearing off the front suspension on one side probably ate through the $3000 insurance deductible that first day. But the guys in the truck found them and fixed it, having them back at it within an hour and a half.

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    Jesse, from Boulder, CO
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    Photo - Todd

    We enjoyed a steak dinner that can't be beat and then hit the hay for some rest before our last day in Mexico, which turned out to be a little bit more interesting for Greg than he thought.
    #17
  18. redog1

    redog1 KTM 690R

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,899
    Location:
    Magalia, CA./ Butte & Siskiyou C.
    I enjoy your writing style and the humour you put into it. My buddy and I are talking about doing a similiar trip next year but just in the talking stages for now. Have to get past the western states TAT this year first. Enjoying the report.:clap
    #18
  19. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    Oddometer:
    11,737
    Location:
    Effin' 'ell
    Thanks!

    :spam
    A few copies of my book are still available. See .sig for details.
    #19
  20. Flash412

    Flash412 Elk Biffer

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    Oddometer:
    11,737
    Location:
    Effin' 'ell
    None of the three of us are big on breakfast. For me, coffee is not quite a requirement, but certainly contributes significantly to the lubrication and smooth operation of my synapses early in the morning. But at Mike's Sky Ranch, the bed, dinner and breakfast are all included in the low price of US$60 per person. So we opted to go ahead and eat it.

    Tackling that road after a heavy breakfast was probably not the best or smartest course of action. But there we were. So we did. Before leaving Mike's, our plan was to ride down to Mex 3 where we (thought we) had seen a gas station on our way in, fill up and then make tracks for Mexicali. We'd cross the border there, join I-8 in Yuma and head on back toward I-10 which runs into Tucson near where the rig was parked. Then we'd repack and make some of the 985 miles toward home. Today was Saturday. It would be GREAT if we could get home on Sunday. But Monday was President's Day and available (for Todd) if necessary. Sunday was Valentine's Day. I WANTED to be home to see my sweetie pie on that day.

    As "they" say, "The best planned lays of mice and men oft times go awry." Or something like that.

    Greg took off out of Mike's with his masterful off-road speed and skill, saying he would meet us at the gas station. I waved Todd ahead. He motioned me to go, saying that his rear brake was not working unless pumped repeatedly after uphills. I guess he figured that by following my slow-ass in the dirt, he wouldn't end up overcooking a turn.

    We made it to the highway and turned toward Mex 5. Greg waved us to continue. I was a bit not-plussed, having wanted to reinstall my mirrors as the entire rest of our trip would be on pavement. We pulled over for a quick meeting of the minds. Greg said that it was a restaurant and store, not a gas station. I guess that on the way in yesterday, we'd all been so busy looking for the turn-off to Mike's on the LEFT that we had not paid enough attention to the place on the right, filled with dirt bikes and assumed it was a gas station. The fact that there was no Pemex sign should have been a BIG clue.

    We had come about a hundred and ten miles since our last fill up in San Felipe. The GPS said that Mexicali was about 130 highway miles from our location. Todd should be able to do MAYBE 200 miles. I would be able to make at least 240 miles. Greg, with his first-trip-out, monstrously-large Turdtech auxiliary fuel tank mounted to a wondrously-parsimonious, fuel-injected, Teutonic Engineering Masterpiece, should be good for "AT LEAST 300 miles." Sure, we'll be fine. We'll just ride to the first Pemex, wherever that may be. I noted at that point that my trusty GPS was predicting that we'd be back in Tucson, loading the bikes in the trailer by 6:30 PM this evening.

    Todd took off in the lead and Greg was riding sweep. We stopped at the army checkpoint on Highway 3 for a little chat. Then we turned left on Highway 5 and stopped at the army checkpoint for a little chat. We continued up the highway. There was a set of nice sweepers coming around a hill and then there was a BIG, salty dry lake on the right. Todd pulled over. When I stopped, he asked me, "Where's Greg?"

    "I dunno. I don't have any mirrors. The last place I saw him was when I turned around to LOOK for him about five miles back, just after we exited those sweepers."

    "Let's give him a few minutes. Maybe he stopped to pee or adjust something."

    Sure enough, a few minutes later, Greg came rolling up... with his motor off. He said that he had run out of gas. While I was asking him how he managed to ride here if he was out of gas, he backed his bike down the embankment, putting the rear wheel about a foot lower than the front. He replied, "I did THIS. It helps the gas flow from the aux tank into the main tank."

    By now, we had come nearly 200 miles since our last fill-up. Todd announced that he was already ten miles into reserve and was going to head on up the road. One way or another we would see him up ahead. Then he took off.

    When Greg's bike restarted, he lead and I followed. We went about two hundred yards and he pulled off again. I got out my screwdriver and removed the hose clamp from the fuel line on my petcock. Greg said he didn't WANT any fuel because "This shouldn't be doing this. I want to get this figured out." I found a freshly-littered, empty water bottle with the cap on it, removed the cap and put a few tablespoons of gas in it. Then I shook it with the lid on before emptying it out. (Finding litter is Mexico is EASY, anywhere and everywhere you go. In THIS case, that was a plus, not a minus.) With my fuel line reinstalled and the transfer bottle bungeed to my bike, Greg restarted and we re-resumed our journey... for another two hundred yards. This time, I filled the liter and a half bottle with fuel and handed it to Greg, insisting that he pour it into the main tank, which he did. His bike re-re-re-restarted without any problem and we re-re-resumed our journey.

    Eventually, we came to a village on the right side of the road. We both looked intently for some sign of a service station or Todd. Not seeing either, we continued. My GPS showed that we were indeed getting quite near to Mexicali. Up ahead, coming towards us was a motorcycle. Sure enough it was Todd. Greg slowed and pulled off to the right. I stopped. Todd pulled over, telling us excitedly, "It is about four miles to the Pemex on the left. I coasted in without so much as fumes, setting a new all-time record high for distance on a tank!" Greg responded, "I'm out of gas."

    With another liter from my bike in Greg's tank, he DID make it to the Pemex, having only run out of gas FIVE TIMES today (so far). My engine started faltering and I switched to reserve with the Pemex in sight at 240 miles on the trip meter.

    In all fairness and to stop poking fun, Greg learned that you have to fill up the MAIN tank, shut the cap and THEN fill up the auxiliary tank. He had been filling only the aux tank, counting on the fuel to flow into the main tank as he filled the aux. The trick to getting "AT LEAST 300 miles!" with the aux tank added is apparently to FILL UP THE TANKS first.

    Mexicali pretty much sucks, especially when you are hot, tired, grumpy, hungry and have to pee. I wanted to buy a bottle of a certain tequila for my valentine. But every liquor store I saw after the Pemex was inconveniently located on the left side of the divided highway without a nearby crossover in the divider. AI CARRUMBA!

    Eventually we pulled into a Carl's Junior. Some telephone store across the parking lot was BLARING Latin music from monster speakers set up in the parking lot and pointing right at Carl's Junior. After a LONG satisfying pee (and reinstalling my mirrors), I left Greg and Todd parked in the shade of Carl's with Greg on his way in to get some Crappy Meals for them while I went off in search of the object of my desire's desire.

    Eventually, after a couple of Spanglish conversations, I learned that the Calmex supermarket a couple of blocks off the main drag was the place to get it. SCORE! They even accepted payment in a combination of my last few pesos and US greenbacks.

    Todd and Greg were ready to ride when I returned, though the security guard was looking a bit strangely at Todd, who was boogieing (as only a white man from Minnesota can) to the beat of loud Latin music. We headed for the border, smacking right up against the FENCE at the end of the road. Without any other option, we turned left, queuing up with the three lanes of traffic heading toward the USA on a Saturday afternoon at one of the busiest border crossings.

    Mostly we sat. Vendors selling things walked up and down between the lines of cars, all idling with their air conditioning running. Sometimes we'd push the bikes a few yards, or perhaps start the motor to pull forward. Eventually, one of the vendors pointed to the empty lane way on the left, on the far side of a double-yellow line and asked, "If you are going to the USA, why don't you use THAT lane? That is OK for motorcycles." Fuckin' AYE! We busted a move over and zipped past about three hundred yards of cars stacked three deep and sure enough there was a sign over the lane that said, "MOTORCYCLES OK" Membership DOES have its privileges!

    Each individually we got about a two and a half degree worth of questioning. "You live in Colorado? I forget, what's the two letter abbreviation for Colorado?" was the tricky question I was asked. But I had a different Immigration Officer than Todd and Greg.

    Todd's inquisitor asked about the trip and Todd gave him the location highlights. Bizarrely, the guy then said, "You crossed at NOGALES!? You risked EVERYTHING and for WHAT? They will cut your HEAD OFF there!" We all wondered what the fuck the point was in trying to scare an American RETURNING from Mexico about how dangerous it is in Mexico.

    Personally, I would have responded, "When I told the immigration guy in Nogales that we planned to return through Mexicali, he said EXACTLY THE SAME THING ABOUT MEXICALI!"

    After we all cleared immigration, we regrouped in spite of being told three different things by four different immigration ossifers. We headed for I-8 and started blasting east. My GPS suggested that we might be back at the truck by 10 PM. We stopped for fuel for the bikes and us and continued. We stopped again in Casa Grande. By then it was full dark and we all needed to add layers. I called my friend, Eric, where we left the rig and told him it looked like we'd be there by about nine-thirty or so, if that was alright. He said it was no problem and the gate was open for us.

    I-10 from Casa Grande to Tucson at night was almost like a video game. The lines are all retro-reflective. There are reflectors mounted to the guard rails. The road surface is new and smooth. All the signs are new and fresh and VERY reflective. Woo HOOO!

    We rolled into Eric's at 9:45 and by about ten-thirty were on our way home. We decided to clear Tucson and get a motel. When Todd said he was through, we exited the highway and found NO VACANCY, three times. We got back on the highway and started working "Find Nearby Hotels" on his GPS. The first three phone numbers were disconnected or no longer in service. Finally, in Willcox Arizona, we found a place. It was a dump, but it was near midnight and would do just fine for $35 a room.

    In the morning we began our trek home in earnest. We stopped for food and fuel and to change drivers periodically. I called home and my sweetie told us that we would likely punch through a wimpy weather front south of Raton pass and then it should be clear sailing. We saw a few snowflakes and some freezing rain as we approached Raton. Then we were past it.

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    Greg and his gear were dropped off at his place. My s.o. met us at a place in Longmont convenient for the drop-off and we transferred my bike to my truck. Happy Valentine's Day, Baby!

    Post Mortem: I had lost some windshield screws and duct-taped the windscreen in place somewhere along the way. I lost three more random body screws. I recalled meeting a fellow at a rally with duct tape on his body screws telling me when I asked him WHY, "You haven't been to Baja." My clutch shaft seal was leaking, requiring replacement. The angle-bracket to which my shock adjuster mounted had fatigued itself asunder. And, quite oddly, a couple of days later when I went to swap my wheels back to the ones that had come off the bike at the start, the rear knobby was completely flat. It had been FINE rolling the bike into the garage two days earlier.

    Baja? YES! Great place for dual-sporting. Apart from the bullshit going on in border towns, Mexico is a friendly country and easy to get around. Everyone we met was helpful and friendly. The food was fantastic. For a place that depends to a significant measure on tourism, for anyone with a lick of sense, Montezuma's Revenge is a thing of the past. For sure I'll go back. Todd and Greg were already scheming their next trip in the truck on the way home, planning to make it on lighter bikes for a single-track focused journey.

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    That's Tucson at both ends of the profile. The circle-track above was run clockwise.
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    #20