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Old 03-04-2017, 07:21 PM   #1
michaellmcc
 
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Baja Boondoggle

The bike was prepped and we (in this context, the royal “we”) were packed and ready, so hit the road early Friday, Feb 11th. It was still dark, the weather was cool, and coffee was waiting in Llano, where we turned left and headed true west. Nice and calm until somewhere between Menard and Eldorado (maybe it coincided with officially hitting West Texas), when the wind suddenly asserted itself. Kick in a little left rudder and crab in more-or-less a straight line. Most of the time. Look out the left corner of the helmet’s viewing area due to the constant twist. Riding in this kind of wind had to be what Joe Ely had in mind when he sang West Texas Waltz...1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

Suddenly somewhere in West Texas my instrument cluster lit up like a Christmas tree – MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. They warned me that this was inevitable with BMWers. It's telling me I've got NO (as in nothing) rear tire pressure, or even less. Maybe the wheel's fallen off...or it’s a catastrophic blowout...or a flat...or, maybe, just maybe, sensor/sender failure. But IS IT SAFE to continue? Do I make a beeline for the nearest dealer? How can I avoid being stranded deep in the wilds of Baja California - I won't know how much freakin' air I've got!

Upon dropping down to I-10 and into the Delaware Basin west of Iraan, the wind abated and temp climbed suddenly to 90F. Then it was cruising along old US 290 parallel to I-10 for a while, thus avoiding for as long as possible mixing it up with the 18 X 80’s. We reached a suitable La Quinta in El Paso before 5:00 (thanks to the time zone change), then had a pizza nearby before hitting the El Paso nightlife ..."nighttime would find me in Rosa's cantina, the music would play and Felina would whirl..."

When the band disappears and the cleaning lady comes out to sweep up the broken bottles, you know the party’s over:


Only hoss left tied up outside at dawn:


Saturday's early departure wasn't easy after a night out, but had to run, since “…off to my right I see five mounted cowboys, off to my left ride a dozen or more…”. Fortunately, I-10 West meant fast autopilot for several hours. Finally suitably recovered, I cut off at Lordsburg and took fantastic, lonely, beautiful US 70 to Safford and Globe through Cochise Country, before hitting the valley and sailin' into Phoenix. Great route. Good mountain roads around Globe, interesting and historic copper mining country. Then I took a day off in Phoenix, visiting a former colleague and walking six or seven miles to work off the rider kinks.

The trip’s fourth day meant a leisurely, but largely boring, ride to Yuma. Mexico beckons. I departed Yuma at 7:30 on Baja Day One, arrived at the border at San Luis Rio Colorado at 8:00, and cleared the formalities in about twenty minutes. They consisted of a cursory check of my luggage by Aduana (Customs), then ride around the block to Inmigracion for a $26 tourist stamp. This is my lucky day – I didn't even have to pay for any copies! However, my worst fears were realized when I was stopped by the local policia after leaving the border checkpoint and riding through town. He exited his car and immediately had his hand out...to shake hands. Seems he was curious about las banderas on my panniers...and wanted to just shoot the s#$%. Made a new friend named Hector Manuel Reyes. Then it was stop at the bank for pesos and get out of town.

Heading west, I transited a wide irrigated valley before climbing into the mountains. Desert on the east side, but after summiting, the west side was beautiful and green and full of olive groves and vineyards. Benefited from another time change and arrived in the legendary city of Ensenada after lunch. Nice Best Western hotel, secure parking garage, etc. Ensenada's been a noted stopping-off point for norteamericanos dodging Prohibition, to hippies and discharged Vietnam-era GI's, to surfers, to Baja 1000 drivers and crews, to today's cruise ships. Nice, civilized place – maybe the last one until Cabo. Tomorrow, the real, rugged, unpopulated Baja.

Baja Day Two consisted of riding from Ensenada to Guerrero Negro, 378 miles. Weather was fine - ranging from 60F to about 80F. Towering fog bank offshore, but only haze onshore. Getting out of Ensenada and down the road was the normal slow process - traffic, gas stop, another trip to the bank for still more pesos, transit outlying villages with slow trucks, topes, etc. Finally, it was clear sailing down the coast for a few hours, alongside more vineyards, then edging toward the dunes and beach off and on. Turned SE and headed inland into a more arid central Baja, passing through forests of cardon cactus, as well as huge boulder fields. Eventually turned SW, back toward the Pacific. The last two Pemex stations, while shown on my map and GPS, turned out to be abandoned, which meant buying gas from a gasolinera. In this case that was an hombre beside the road with 55 gallon drums in the back of his pick-up, from whence he hand-pumped a 5-gallon jerry can more-or-less full, then poured it in my tank. He charged 300 pesos or $15, which I thought was a bargain given the location and circumstances. By 5:00PM I arrived at a nice but aging hotel on the outskirts of Guerrero Negro, right beside an army post. I was the only customer in the bar, then one of three having dinner.

Continued on Baja Day Three from Guerrero Negro to Ciudad Constitucion, 352 miles. The roads were good and the delays minimal, so made more miles than anticipated for a couple of days. The highway (Mex-1) took me SE across the peninsula, along the east coast, then back across to the SW, but turned south before hitting the Pacific. On the east side, the sun was shining and weather was great, highlighting the beautiful blue Sea of Cortez. Very little traffic and very few villages. Back across to the SW, the land leveled out, wind and dirt from farming blew. Saw an air tractor or two crop dusting. I met a half-dozen riders from AZ and NM at the hotel in Cd. Constitucion, who were touring dirt on small bikes, having left their trucks in Yuma. I've also passed quite a number of GS's heading north – do they know something I don’t?

Baja Day Four was the last step, from Ciudad Constitucion to Cabo San Lucas; an easy 225 mile day. The fog that had been hanging over the Pacific moved onshore, a light ground fog making it a cool morning (59F) and start to the day. Eventually left the fog behind as I made my way south. A nice, but uneventful ride that neared the beach on the Pacific side as I approached Cabo. I had booked my hotel the night before and it turned out to be a very nice, small, modern hotel right on the edge of “downtown”. Taking Saturday off in Cabo meant booking the hotel for two nights.

Baja Day Five was just Cabo San Lucas R&R in the rain (only day of rain on the trip). I had a great tapas-style dinner in an Italian wine bar, with Mexican Sauvignon Blanc from northern Baja. All excellent. Unfortunatemente, North American prices here.

Notice the wall around the hotel "...you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave...”:



Baja flora:


The beautiful and rugged Baja of legend:


Hotel in Guerrero Negro - not sure what it's halfway to/from:


Repair shop:


Desert in bloom:


19th Century copper smelter and foundry in Santa Rosalia:


Beautiful blue Sea of Cortez:






Then it was Baja Day Six and my ride from Cabo San Lucas to Loreto - 355 miles. My route was via San Jose del Cabo (the second cabo, which makes them together "Los Cabos") and La Paz to the beautiful colonial village of Loreto. Nice hotel just adjacent to the old square. Lots of tourists in town, and I visited with two riders from California, all of us having parked our bikes in the courtyard. That's the treatment we come to expect when not in the USA. Riding covered all types of terrain - foothills, mountains, and coast, and included a lot of slippery mud on the detours that had been dusty a few days before.

On Baja Day Seven, back to Guerrero Negro from Loreto, some 260 miles, and the same Halfway Inn that I stayed in on the trip south. Still a comfortable stop, with a few more guests this time around. The ride from Loreto to Guerrero Negro was the reverse of the trip down. This time, stopped for a few photos at the Volcan de Las Tres Virgenes and at the beautiful oasis of San Ignacio - where there's a lake, palm trees, and 1786 mission in the middle of the arid Baja peninsula. Made it to Guerrero Negro before 4:00PM but stopped since the next stretch to CoCo's Corner and Mex 5 is long and somewhat off the beaten path

Baja Day Eight was from Guerrero Negro to San Felipe, 250 miles. The journey included retracing part of my route from a few days before, but then turning off for about 30 miles of unpaved roads to/from the Baja landmark of CoCo's Corner. Easy day, including the dirt and pavement that were very rough in spots. CoCo's has an interesting array of junk on the property, including his home, which is also a gathering spot. CoCo's bedroom/living room is open to all who stop by. It's decorated with motorcycle racing newspaper clippings, photographs, and posters on the walls, along with women's undies hanging from the rafters. CoCo himself is an 80 year-old, wheelchair-bound double-amputee, well-known to Baja racers and motorcyclists.

Land's end at Cabo in the early morning:


One of Cabo's many attractions:


Always feared, always dangerous - el soldado de madera:


Volcan de las Tres Virgenes:


Historic Spanish mission in San Ignacio:




Beautiful colonial city of Loreto:




Secure bike parking:


The gasolinera:


CoCo's sign - one of several:


CoCo's decor:


The road from CoCo's to San Felipe:


After a night in San Felipe, it was north to Mexicali, cross into the USA, and back to Yuma for the night. So the Baja California Expedition is in the record books. The 'circumnavigation' of the Baja peninsula, starting at San Luis Rio Colorado and ending at Mexicali, covered 2,132 miles. Fantastic roads of all types traversed widely varying terrain - from flat desert, to olive groves and vineyards, to cactus forests, to massive boulder fields, to beautiful desert mountains and dormant volcanoes, to irrigated farmland, to rugged coastlines.

I saw many GS's, lots of smaller dirt bikes, and even a KTM Adventure or two (in the wild – a first for me). I visited with a few of the riders, and we all agreed that riding in Mexico is dangerous and scary. Not advisable. But for nostalgia's sake, Californians and Arizonans carry on the long desert racing tradition, seemingly treating Baja like their back yard. Instead of regulated public land and national forests/monuments a la the USA, go to Baja and ride anywhere you please. Even a Texan can apparently make it, but ONLY if very careful.

I know some are skeptical about the wisdom of riding "south of the border", and always await news of a rider’s return in one piece with baited breath. Considering the myriad dangers, thank goodness everything turned out OK. It was dicey, it was touch and go, there were a lot of close shaves and many frightful situations – such as being stopped by a local cop in San Luis (he wanted to visit), to soldiers at checkpoints who wanted to see what was in the panniers (OK, gracias), to long isolated highways (some even had deadly potholes), to unpaved roads, to closed gas stations and robber-baron gasolineras ($3 a gallon!), to no cell service and dodgy (or no) internet, to a Spanish-speaking populace, to a run-in with a Mexican motorcycle gang at a gas station. They roared in Mad Max style, dispersed to all the pumps, demanded gasolina, grabbed drinks and gulped them down, then, on their leader's command, roared away, leaving everyone quaking in fear. All bar one of the gang rode new GSA's - and their bandido “colors” meant dressing from top to bottom in the latest Klim adventure gear. All had smart new helmets with GoPros on top to record their pillaging and plundering. The obvious leader was riding a fully-farkled XR-1000, in red. Scary.

Many wonder how a norteamericano can survive south of the border. YMMV, but the secret is apparently to adapt, adopt Mexican culture and customs, avoid drawing attention to yourself, seek to be more like a local folk hero than abusive tourist. In short, instead of el gringo rico, become EL VAQUERO VENTOSO:



Un buen viaje. Hasta las vegas y adios.

Last edited by michaellmcc; 03-05-2017 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 03-04-2017, 08:50 PM   #2
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Entertaining....Thanks for the warm up
Headed out to the peninsula myself next week.
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Old 03-04-2017, 10:14 PM   #3
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Baja is a magical place. Thanks for taking the time to write up the trip.
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Old 03-04-2017, 11:24 PM   #4
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Enjoyed your write up and pix. Thanks
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Old 03-04-2017, 11:29 PM   #5
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

thanks for sharing
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:47 PM   #6
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Quote:
Originally Posted by inroads View Post
Entertaining....Thanks for the warm up
Headed out to the peninsula myself next week.
They got aduana, inmigracion, policia, soldados, pesos, potholes, unpaved roads, and all speak Spanish, and you're still going to Baja?? !Que cojones!
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Old 03-05-2017, 02:42 PM   #7
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Quote:
Originally Posted by michaellmcc View Post
They got aduana, inmigracion, policia, soldados, pesos, potholes, unpaved roads, and all speak Spanish, and you're still going to Baja?? !Que cojones!
Ha yeah...I need to get a life...a better one anyway....out on the road,stirring
up dem wild hair adventures.
Taking a trip and never leaving the farm is for...well....farmers.
Heck I spend more money staying at home.
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Old 03-06-2017, 01:02 PM   #8
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Thanks for sharing.

On a recent trip through rural Pacific coast Baja, a friend commented that the dusty agricultural and fishing villages were probably what California looked like a 100 years ago too.
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Old 04-20-2017, 01:28 PM   #9
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Ah, Baja, like Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave.


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Old 04-20-2017, 01:32 PM   #10
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

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Originally Posted by JoToPe View Post
Ah, Baja, like Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave.

Todos Santos, great breakfast;

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Old 04-20-2017, 02:41 PM   #11
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

The mask I can take. Thank goodness you weren't in tights with a cape!
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Old 04-20-2017, 11:14 PM   #12
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Re: Baja Boondoggle

Great pictures, thanks for sharing.

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