Blasting Through Baja Sur

I left Mulegé and headed south, passing by Bahía de Concepción.  It’s gorgeous; sheltered bays, beautiful beaches and a deep blue water everywhere.

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I didn’t stop though, except to take these few pictures.

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Why? Well, I wanted to save a little bit of the Baja for my next trip out here; I don’t knew when it’ll happen but by now I was convinced that I would return one day. And as much hype as Bahía de Concepción gets, and I was lead to believe, I was kind of tired of hanging out with older gringos. So, it was time to push south west, towards Cabo San Lucas.

Sadly, I had a bit of a mishap on the way; my Geigerrig backpack wasn’t strapped down correctly and somehow fell off the motorcycle, held on by only one bungee cord, and therefore dragging along for about a mile until someone pointed it out to me.  The bag, a camera lens, and an external battery pack were destroyed, but luckily I still had my TVIP papers which were inside. Could have been worse!

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A local gringo who goes by JamaicanPrincess on ADVRider and apparently lives in the Bay came down and offered some help, but really, what can you do in this situation but bundle everything up and hope that insurance will pay out?

Of course USAA didn’t (they only cover fires and meteor storms, not stupid mistakes), but all was not lost: Geigerrig, those magnificient bastards warrantied my bag and sent me a brand new one! Their exact words were, “to lessen the blow of the accident.” First class fellas, first class!

Anyway, my plan was to get to Loreto, spend a night there, and then head south to Cabo San Lucas. So, like I was saying I left pretty late and headed out towards Loreto, about an hour and a half drive or so.

Loreto is a very touristy beach town, with a high gringo population, much higher than I had seen elsewhere.  I found a hotel on the malecon, and paid my 400 pesos, though later I found out I had no hot water yet the owner had already left for the weekend. Oh well!

This hotel was right near a little bar called Augie’s, so I stopped in for a beer and some food after doing some writing and laundry. Did I mention the food was free? It’s a thing they do.

They have free food during Happy Hour! Score!
They have free food during Happy Hour! Score!

This is where my story takes a turn towards amnesia, as the one night in Loreto turned in to two. You see, many beers were had over the course of the evening, and even some Jameson shots; a surprise to me to find Irish whiskey so far south.

This guy is named Mike. We got pretty drunk.  He arm wrestled a lady later on that night.
This guy is named Mike. We got pretty drunk. He arm wrestled a lady later on that night.

That’s the last picture I have, as at that point my phone had died. Suffice to say, I’ve pieced together the following from various Mexicans I saw the next day, stopping me on the street and slapping my back, chuckling at what an excellent night we had the previous evening, and did I take home any of those girls? And would I be shooting pool again that night? Oh no José, oh dear god no.

Here’s the timeline of that night:

  • Many cervezas and Jameson shots consumed at Augie’s
  • In my elastic state, I’m convinced by some of the regulars to go with them to a local club, so we hop on some four wheelers and end up somewhere.  It looks like someones house, like a bar in Austin so I’m all in.
  • There is much dancing and merriment at the aforementioned club
  • On second thought it was probably a brothel
  • I meet some local guys and we’re cracking jokes, and they invite me out to another bar
  • We go to this bar, clearly built out of mud and stone for Mexican cowboys, and play some pool.  I’m definitely the only white guy in the place. Had an excellent time!
  • We eventually get back to the city, where myself, Mexican #1 and Mexican #2 (I feel guilty I don’t remember their names, but, c’est la vie) drink some beers and shoot the shit in our respective Spanglish dialects until 6AM, and we all go home
  • I wake up the next day at 3PM, with the mother of all hangovers and watch movies all day, falling asleep again at 10PM.

So yes I was severely hungover.  And to be honest, the only way I was able to piece together much of this was, as I was looking for sustenance on the Mother of All Hangover Days, a nice chap ran out of his restaurant laughing and talking to me about the previous night, before inviting me in for a meal.  He recommended the fresh “Vampire” juice (it had beets in it, surprisingly tasty, but what isn’t during these periods), and I was only too happy to attempt to right the previous night’s wrongs through fruits and vegetables.

So, I burned a day. These things happen.

I probably owe Loreto a better run through some other time, they do have one of the larger marine parks in the Sea of Cortez, and probably great diving as well. I did catch the sunset though, somehow figuring out how to operate my camera phone in my hungover state.

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Oh no sorry, that picture is from La Paz.  I guess I didn’t see the sunset.

Anyway, the next day, I was (seriously) up bright and early cracked on.  My mission was to make it to La Paz, spend a night there, and keep going to Cabo San Lucas before slowing down and enjoying the East Cape. I knew I would be spending a few days in La Paz before hitting the mainland, so one night was more than enough.

The general route.
The general route.

There’s not much in between Loreto and La Paz, as MEX1 cuts west and you ride through heavy agricultural country.  There’s one large city, Ciudad Insurgentes, followed by another, Ciudad Constitución, where you can stop to grab a bite to eat and gas up, but the ride is flat, flat, flat, with a little straight, straight, straight thrown in. I mean seriously, look at those Wikipedia pages; nothing on em.

For hours.

Luckily, I had some RadioLab podcasts to keep me company.  Did you know that they can (sometimes) cure rabies by inducing a coma? It’s called the Milwaukee Protocol, something I learned about while riding around.

I digress!

I found a decent hotel in La Paz, ate some great food at a place called Tail Hunters, caught the sunset (for real this time), and went to bed pretty early.

Sunset, La Paz B.C.S.
Sunset, La Paz B.C.S.

The next day, I blasted south to Todos Santos, a very popular surf and artistic town.

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I know it’s popular because there’s a lot of wealthy Canadians and Americans living there, and I couldn’t find a hotel for less than $100 a night.  So, I grabbed some lunch (tamales, my god they were good), and rode along the coast.  I probably could have stopped, camped out for a bit and learned to surf, but I was still feeling a bit guilty about my whole Loreto experience. I’m still not sure why, but there you have it.

And then as I rode through another big sweeping curve (and there are a lot of them on some Baja paved roads), I saw my ultimate destination:

Cabo San Lucas.

Mulegé

Guerrero Negro was fun, but I was ready to check out what Baja Sur has to offer. For those that are unaware, Baja is divided into two states (and contrary to the gentleman on the jet ski in Bahia de Los Angeles, both are Mexican states). Baja Norte is generally a bit more mountainous and colder (and wetter, as far as the peninsula goes), whereas Baja Sur is the beach party that most AARP members and spring breakers go to visit.

I jumped back on the MEX1 and headed southeast, eventually ending up in San Ignacio.  It’s an oasis in the middle of the Baja desert, surrounded by palm trees that the Jesuit missionaries planted many moons ago.  People mostly come to visit the mission and watch the whales, but during race season there is one place they stop: Rice & Beans.

You can't miss it.
You can’t miss it.

Had I wanted to stay longer I probably would have rented a room, as the owner, another Ricardo runs a tight ship, and you could seriously do a lot worse from what I’ve heard. There’s a ton  of Baja race schwag around the place as well.

Anyhoozle, I wolfed down some fish tacos, my staple meal so far, chatted for a while and then continued on.

Fish tacos in the morning, fish tacos in the evening, fish tacos in the summer time.
Fish tacos in the morning, fish tacos in the evening, fish tacos in the summer time.

You’ll have to excuse me as I’m writing this a week or two after it happened, and have forgotten much of what happened in the interim. I do recall the ride from San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia was pretty enjoyable, with eleveation changes and some switchback turns around, but alas I have but one picture.  It was from a gas up I made outside of Santa Rosalia where I ran into a British couple driving this MAN monstrosity.  These things are so cool, the Mad Max versions of RV campers world wide!

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We chatted for a few, they were in search of an ATM and I mentioned I was on my way to Mulegé and there was certainly one there.  Then, off I blasted, eventually finding my way into the town, and, after a few minutes driving around booked a room at the La Hacienda hotel for 250 pesos a night. That’s $18 kids.

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The best part? They let you pull the bike into the courtyard, so it’s pretty secure, not that there is any crime in Mulegé, or most of Baja as I have found so far.

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All in all, I spent 3 days in Mulegé? Maybe 2, I don’t recall. Most of the time was spent updating this blog and walking the streets, as Mulegé is a beautiful town of about 4,000 in the Baja, and only 10 miles from the beautiful Bahía de Concepción. This explains the large elderly gringo population as well, both snowbirds and residents.

I made a few friends while there.

I called him Pancho while we walked to the lighthouse and back. Dogs just follow me around.
I called him Pancho while we walked to the lighthouse and back. Dogs just follow me around.

Though at times, those friends didn’t get along so well with others.

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Saw some nice views while jogging around (gotta keep in shape!)

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And even managed to eat some ribs at El Cantil, a bar owned by an Oregonian named Scotty who has been in Mulegé since 1995. Sometimes, you’re just kind of done with fish tacos.

Dem ribs.
Dem ribs.

At El Cantil, I managed to meet the lovely Bell couple, who live in Mexico and travel around in their VW Westfalia (as many seem to do here).  Originally from Canada, Bill and Dorothy run a website dedicated driving around Mexico, updating members of road conditions, potential issues, and any number of other snafus one might encounter south of the border. We shared a beer together and I absorbed all their recommendations of places to visit once I hit the mainland. Great folk those two.

Bill and Dorothy Bell
Bill and Dorothy Bell

Sorry this is so short, but all in all it was a much needed relaxing time to keep the blog up to date, and I don’t really recall too much else during this time.

 

 

Guerrero Negro

So, I arrive in Guerrero Negro on Sunday, February 2nd.  For those of you keeping track, that is (or was) Superbowl Sunday.  The game hadn’t started yet so I was keen to find a decent hotel and clean up before finding some poor bartender and badgering him to change the channel; luckily things worked out.  Initially I tried to book a room at the Malarrimo Motel, but they were full up; so I went across the street to Hotel Los Caracoles, which I believe means Hotel of the Snail People. Either way, score, because they accepted credit cards.

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Anytime I can save some pesos and not have to go hit an ATM I jump at the chance.  Mostly because my Chase Sapphire card is the bees knees when it comes for travel rewards, things like hotels, restaurants, etcs.

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The digs. $37.58USD

Before unpacking it was time to do a bit of maintenance.  Most don’t tell you about this boring part of the adventure but it’s key to keep your gear in tip top shape, and it’s much easier to sort out problems in larger cities like Guerrero Negro than it is in the middle of the Baja desert.  The bike was fine, but in my haste I broke off a key in one of the pannier locks.  I freaked out for a minute but managed but managed to fish it out with some needle nose pliers on my Leatherman.

Master lock but not master key.
Master lock but not master key.

Sadly, my Geigerrig bag melded with the exhaust tank at some point during the ride to Guerrero Negro (I thought I smelled burning plastic but figured my wreck had merely caused a small stroke). Still worked though!

Mmm chunky melted plastic.
Mmm chunky melted plastic.

I digress.

Cleaning up, I headed over to the Malarrimo to catch the game.

Victory beverage! Go Redskins!
Victory beverage! Go Redskins!

There, I practiced my Spanish with Ricardo, because someone needs to help this poor gringo translate “how surreal is it to watch NFL in Spanish” or “what a beatdown!”

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They have excellent ceviche by the way.

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So fresh.

Those poor Broncos never had a chance against that Seahawk defense. Anyway, a few beers later, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.  I had a big day planned the next morning; whale watching!

The tour was set up by the hotel, and it seems most do this sort of thing in Guerrero Negro; price was around $650 pesos ($48USD at the time of this post) for those of you who are curious.

A van showed up, myself and three Mexicans hopped in and off we headed out to the bay to check out some whales.

To get there you have to drive through a massive saltworks operation, which was dutifully explained by the guide.

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It’s generated by the tears of the locals. Or the ocean, I’m not sure most of it was explained to me in Spanish.

Fifteen minutes of this and we eventually arrive at the docks, and board a panga. While the van guide was able to speak some English, I was on my own on the water, but no big deal as we were just watching the whales.

Turns out there were about 1500 whales in the bay, mostly mothers and their calves but also some adult whales.  And man, they were everywhere. You could look in any direction and see at least two or three at any time. Mostly they just surfaced to breathe, but at times they would slap their tales and sometimes even fully breach the water. You can read more about whale surface behavior here.

Sadly, it turns out that the grey whale is a bit of jerk when posing for photographs. Of the 200 photos I took, most look like this:

Yep, it's big and black, probably a whale.
Yep, it’s big and black, probably a whale.

I didn manage to capture this little guy right by our panga though! Too far to touch him though, but others have pet whales. Not, as pets, mind you, but physically pet them. I suppose you could have an actual pet whale, you’d need a big aquarium though.

Aww look at the little guy, H.R. Giger would be proud.
Aww look at the little guy, H.R. Giger would be proud.

And some, decent video of a mother and her calf grabbing some fresh air.

After four hours though, you get it: they’re whales, and baby whales. We headed back and stopped by a sea lion colony for a few moments as well.  A word of caution: sea lions reek. Go stand at a fish market in the blazing sun for a few hours and multiply this stench by 1037.4, and you’ll get the general idea of what my olfactory senses went through.

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Back on land, we docked, boarded the van and headed back to the hotel. I ate some excellent shrimp.

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Did some shopping.

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And kept in contact with some friends back at home before calling it a night.

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The following day was going to be a lot of highway riding.

 

 

 

San Borja

Eager to move on from Bahia de Concepcion, I woke up fairly early-ish, ate a quick bite of something I can’t remember and went to gas up. I was wanting to do a bit more off road riding and noticed a nice long dirt road that would take me through the mountains along the coast, eventually swinging west towards Guerrero Negro, my ultimate endpoint for the day.

You can see the route I wanted to take south of Bahia de Los Angeles on the right hand side there, and the actual route to MEX1 through San Borja near the top.
You can see the route I wanted to take south of Bahia de Los Angeles on the right hand side there, and the actual route to MEX1 through San Borja near the top.

I should mention that this lovely AAA map was donated by a grand couple who stayed in the camp site next to me at Daggett’s.  They had an extra one, and though it was 10 years old were very happy to give it to me.  Sadly I don’t remember their names, but I do remember being quite stunned by how happy this elderly couple seemed to be after all these years.  Then off they went to go kayak across the bay.  Those crazy Boomers.

Pulling into the Pemex station, I saw this technological marvel.

I bet it's fun as all heck to drive.
I bet it’s fun as all heck to drive.

Anyway, after fueling up I talked to this guy, Donnie Williamson, and asked him about the route.

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As you can see, Donnie is also from Austin, TX and a huge Longhorns fan. He even provided my bike with some much needed Austin bling.

Hook 'em! And it's mad reflective!
Hook ’em! And it’s mad reflective!

Donnie mentioned that the road was pretty torn up after the previous days Baja 200 race, and it would take me most of the day to get through heavy deep sand, the kind of stuff that makes professional Baja riders cry. I should mention that Donnie was hoppin’ around madly, as I found out he was late to return back to Austin by a few days.  So we parted ways and I started back whence I came towards MEX1.  About 20 minutes in I noticed a sign to some mission called San Borja, flipped around on the road and stopped at the sign.

San Borja.

Well damn it, I have this amazing map, let me actually look at it and see if I can cut across the desert, and what do you know I surely could.  It would be a few miles but it would be fun as all hell, I knew that much. So off I charged down a road made of rocks and Baja dirt.  I don’t have many pictures of this time, but I did meet some Gaucho’s headed towards the highway. At this time I stopped and turned on the GoPro, to record an epic ride.

One of a few signs pointing the way.

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Here’s video of the ride, including me crashing after I hit some rocks. Which was actually pretty fun, and I imagine it always is whenever you don’t get hurt (thanks Alpinestars!).

Eventually I got to the mission.

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Of course it was closed for renovations.

I’ll spare you all the rest of the details but needless to say I enjoyed a very boring and straight ride before ending up in Guerrero Negro.

Coco’s Corner & Bahia de Los Angeles

Coco’s Corner sits in the middle of nowhere, Baja, but at the center of every road. It’s a cartographic oddity that such a place would be so famous when it’s so far off the beaten track, but perhaps that’s why it is so famous.

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Rocks are spray painted with black lettering and a simple arrow on your way towards Coco’s along the gravel and sand road at random intervals. When you arrive you’re greeted by a fenced camp, decorated with thousands of beer cans that clink softly in the desert wind.

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Other decorations abound as well, some junk, some handpicked mementos of other travelers.

Want to watch some TV and drink beer on toilet seats?
Want to watch some TV and drink beer on toilet seats?

If you’d like to stay a while, some abandoned campers are also available to spend the night in; while there I spoke with a guy who was pedaling a three-wheeled bicycle around Baja with his two cats and three dogs.  He had been there three days, as, you can imagine, it’s not very easy to tricycle your way through sand and gravel.

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The many prosthetics of Coco, and an old dirt bike. From what I can tell he doesn’t use any of them, not even when riding his quad.

The man himself, Coco, is actually named Jorge Enrique Corral Sandez, however in Mexico it’s common for people named Enrique (Henry) to go by Coco. Coco is a man of bawdy language and no legs, and will gladly invite you into his home for a beer or two.  He’s been a staple of Baja for many years, having first opened up this place in 1990.  It’s now a required (well, pretty much) stop for all Baja racers doing their pre-running, and all travelers as well.

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When you arrive, he asks you what kind of beer you want, whips out his signature book and starts filling in the details; your name, where you’re from, a message, and a hand-drawn picture of the vehicle you arrived in.  There must be thousands of signatures in the book by now.

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While chatting with Coco, a Mexican family showed up and joined me.  You see, the inside of the restaurant/lounge area is decorated as well.

Panties, panties everywhere.  Among the myriad of dirt bike stickers, photos of racers and Coco are the underwear of many a female traveler and racer, all signed and dated of course.

I bring up the family because we all started enjoying our cervezas while Coco bantered back in forth in Spanish, and I grinned and laughed along like a silly gringo.  I understood a bit, and while Coco kept it up the matriarch and I got to talking, and pretty soon I realized she was trying to pawn her daughter off on me, the great white motorcycle adventurer.  “She loves motos,” she said.  This was to be my first (but not last) marriage offering.

Anyway, Coco eventually convinced the daughter to staple up a pair of her underwear to the ceiling of the room, much to our amusement.

La familia.
La familia.

Coco grabbed his trusty Panty Ladder and had one of the other guys help him stand it up, while the daughter proceeded to climb to the top and do the deed.

Coco supervising.
Coco supervising.
Houston we have new panties.
Houston we have new panties.

I checked my watch and decided I needed to head out, so I said goodbye to my new friends and my potential new wife (her mother told me they’d be staying at a hotel behind the market in Guerrero Negro, so of course come find them when I arrived), and headed towards Bahia de Los Angeles.

A job well done desert rider.
A job well done desert rider.

Coco let me know I would have problems finding lodging, as the Baja 200 was underway, but I was fairly certain I could find a spot.  Sadly I wouldn’t arrive until too late so I was unable to view the race.

The ride was fairly straight most of the way, though as you approached the bay and dipped through the mountains the ride got much more twisty and exciting.  There’s even a salt flat as you approach the town, but sadly I was having way too much fun riding and didn’t take too many photos.

Look Mom, more cacti.
Look Mom, more cacti.

Bahia de Los Angeles is laid out like any other beach town, with hotels and restaurants lining the street and facing the ocean, and the locals living a bit further off. I rode a bit further out and found a campground about 1 km from the town, an easy walk and easier ride if needed.

My digs.
My digs.

I pulled into a small campground, lined with palapas and a few RVs, with a house on the other end.

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There I met who I can only assume was Daggett, a larger Mexican man fast asleep on a kitchen table and his pleasant wife who took my 130 pesos and gave me a place to set up my tent.

Home sweet palapa?
Home sweet palapa?

Then I headed into town to grab a bite to eat.

Hammocka's Fish I think it was called.  Pretty tasty.
Hammocka’s Fish I think it was called. Pretty tasty.

Eventually I made it back, stared at the vast expanse that is the visible galaxy (and it truly is visible compared to most places in the U.S.) and fell asleep.

Not before attempting to use the bathroom, and high-tailing it out of there once I met the current occupant.

Oh, a black widow.  Lovely.
Oh, a black widow. Lovely.

 

San Felipe to Gonzaga Bay

Eager to see the ‘real’ Baja, I awoke at a blisteringly early 10AM, shoveled some huevos rancheros into my mouth and hopped onto the MEX5 south towards Puertocitos.

MEX5 is littered with good ideas shot dead by the recession.  Worn billboards line the roads, their sun-faded lettering extolling the latest and greatest parcels of land for sale, or a new hotel opening up last spring.

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The road, as well, quickly becomes a bit rougher, ever present sand dunes continuing their steady march more and more inland. It’s still completely drivable of course (and easily), I mention it merely because some Americans more used to the highways of our country might be in for a bit of surprise.

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The ride is mostly uneventful, though I have my first experience with vados, the Mexican solution to road floods. While Baja is extremely arid, it does rain at times, and the area is known to flood during high rainfall (as was the case in 2012 with Hurricane Paulie Cicero).  So what the Mexicans have done, is create dips in the road that allow the water to flow towards lower elevations.

These can be properly terrifying when they are not marked, and they are often not (though more times they are on major thoroughfares), and will work your suspension over like a fat man on a pogo stick. Luckily, local gringos will often take matters into their own hands to warn fellow travelers of upcoming vados.

A Mexican vado.
This was one was proceeded by a 10 foot “OH” sign as well.

I continued on, through the desert scrub that makes up this land. The mind can play tricks on you at times, as the road is very straight and the surrounding area begins to look a bit alien to a traveller, but a quick glance towards the coastline and, sanity regained, you’ll see many homes that have been built by locals and gringos.

Houses in the distance, though I explored some and found many abandoned.
Houses in the distance, though I explored some and found many abandoned.

Eventually I made it to Puertocitos, well, at least the outskirts, and came across this sign, and, while taking pictures, was stopped by a gringo curious about my motorcycle.

Every gringo who lives in the area, I assumed.
Every gringo who lives in the area, I assume.

“You long distance riders are crazy man, where are you going?” I told him my short story so far, and he mentioned I should stop at a place called Cowpatty’s for a “beer and hotdog.” Only in Baja. Feeling peckish, I decided, what the hell. A mile later, I’m at the cow shit bar.

His logo is a Mexican with a massive sombrero and accompanying mustache.
His logo is a Mexican with a massive sombrero and accompanying mustache.

There’s a lot to look at it, and judging by the race team stickers appears to be a pretty popular place on the Baja 1000 circuit.

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I find the owner (Richard), tending bar, order a beer and a dog and we start conversating. He tells me that there’s not much to see in Puertocitos, and I should keep riding as it’s only 1PM and I can easily make it to Gonzaga Bay, a much prettier place with a store (a store!). He also tells me a bit about the place, how he’s planning on having a Super Bowl party here and that I should definitely not stay here because everyone is an old gringo.  As if on cue, they start filtering in from their surrounding beach homes for a mid-day beer and some conversation.

One thing I have noticed is that these transplants are a tight knit group and not keen on carrying on conversations with travellers, unlike the locals.  I’m not sure if it’s due to a generational divide or the climate, or perhaps something else, but it reminds me of the Portland Freeze. Anyway, I pay Richard, leave him a tip, and head out towards Gonzaga Bay, passing through Puertocitos for some gas.  He was right, there really is not much there (apparently some hot springs but those are everywhere), but it’d be nice for a day trip I’m sure.

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The road to Gonzaga Bay is much more interesting.

While paved, it begins to snake through the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir Peninsular Range, a feature I was not expecting when I first rode into Baja.   Along the way volcanic rocks jut through the Sea of Cortez, defiant through the ages as always.

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Excitingly, my friend Mr. High Brown Pants Moment Crosswinds has decided to join me as well, so I don’t have too many pictures of the ride towards the Bay. The sun was setting as well, and I was not relishing the possibility of riding at night in high wind traffic. No sir.

As luck would have it, the road ends, due to construction. It turns out, the MEX5 is still under construction, and past Gonzaga Bay it’s all offroad until you rejoin with the MEX1 further central to Baja. It’s also here that there exists a military checkpoint. Because why wouldn’t there be a checkpoint on a dirt road?

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I eventually get to Gonzaga Bay, which is nothing more than a crescent of sand, a Pemex gas station, and a store/restaurant. Numerous fishing vessels sit offshore, as Gonzaga is a small fishing village, though these are clearly commercial and I’m not sure where they dock.

Gonzaga Bay and fishing vessels.
Gonzaga Bay and fishing vessels.

On the beach I camp under a palapa, which has the exorbitant price of 250 pesos for wind protection, or 120 without.  I opt for with, and damn, I sure am glad I do.

A palapa.
A palapa.

It’s been a long day, so I eat some tacos at the store, head back to the beach with few cervezas, and am treated to a nice sunset over the bay.

And then the wind picks up to about 50mph.

I huddle in my tent as the sand begins to pile up inside the palapa and around the tent, finishing off my cervezas and listening to some tunes.  I’m pretty thankful I went for the wind barrier, I can’t imagine what my night would have been like in that weather without it.

Into Baja

I crossed over into Baja through a border town whose name changes depending on what side of the border you’re on; in the U.S.A. it’s Calexico, south of the border it’s Mexicali.  Either way, it’s what I imagine your typical border town is like; auto parts store and mini marts abound, and on the U.S. side multiple insurance companies dot the road leading to the crossing, a reminder that a policy is required lest you kill some poor sap.

Crossing the border couldn’t have been easier, the Mexican migración officers just wave you on by and then there you are, in Mexico.  Immediately you’re greeted by rows and rows of farmacias on either side of the street (clearly for the medical vacationing gringo, and probably with gringo prices to boot), with the occasional drug addict (or maybe just a drunk) sat down on a street curb as taxi fleets consisting of what appears to be 1998 Mitsubishi Galants flit by, ever honking their horns in an attempt to pick up pedestrians.

Need some viagra?
Need some viagra?

I however, have other plans; in my prior research I found that, while you don’t need a tourist visa to hang out in Baja, you do need one should you cross to the mainland, and it’s a bit of a hassle to get one in La Paz (where the ferry departs from) so one may as well get one here, in Mexicali.  I drive around the block a few times looking for some sort of “Migración” sign but, nada, and eventually stop at what appears to be a government building to ask where I can get my TVIP. Sadly, my naiveté has already gotten the better of me, as the four government employees have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.  Eventually I get out of them that I need to head to the airport, which is about 20 miles away.

the_actual_border

 

Of course, once I get to the airport, I quickly realize I have misunderstood these hombres; what I meant to understand was that the bureaucratic office I need was on the way to the airport, so I turn back around and head back towards Mexicali.  There’s another border crossing east of the city, with scores of eighteen wheelers waiting to enter into the U.S. I ride past them, find the correct office, and begin the process of getting a tourist visa, which goes something like this:

  1. Go to a small building for vehicle importations, and learn that you need a tourist visa.
  2. Go to another building that handles tourist visas, and get your passport stamped, and a bill.
  3. Go back to the first building and pay for your visa.
  4. Return to the tourist visa office, and retrieve your passport.
  5. Go back to the first building that issues temporary vehicle importation passes, pay a refundable $400 deposit and receive your papers, and you’re on your way!
  6. Marvel at the efficiency of the Mexican bureaucracy, and ponder how many more steps there will be the further south you go.

tvip

 

This happened as well:

“Is Philip ******* ******* your name?”, the female officer asked me.

“Si.”

“Oh that won’t do”, she said, smiling, ” you are in Mexico now, you need a Mexican name.”

“Oh, like…Phil…”

“No like Felipe, or Feliverte”, she giggled.

“Ahh si, Felipe. Wait, Feliverte? I never heard of that name before. Why is that funny?”

“It’s just funny”

I still have no idea why.

Anyway, paperwork was in order, and it was time to mosey down to San Felipe, a desert town on the Sea of Cortez. Not sure what to expect, I took the MEX 5 south, a two hour journey through increasingly rural areas. The roads are well-paved, if not boringly straight.  There were some sights, though I didn’t manage to get as many pictures as I wanted as I was still struggling with all my camera gear.

Spotted this wrecked plane on the way.
This wrecked plane was piloted by Denzel Washington, and most everyone survived.  Honestly I was a bit surprised to see a random plane on the side of the road.
The view for two hours, interrupted by trucks and Pemex stations every once in a while.
The view for two hours, interrupted by trucks and Pemex stations every once in a while.
So much road.
So much road.

Eventually I wearily pulled into San Felipe, and scouted for hotels.  With names like El Capitan and El Cortez, I settled on a particularly Mexican joint named Caribe Hotel, that had a courtyard where I could secure my motorcycle.

hotel

 

I sadly did not spend a lot of time in San Felipe, and in hindsight I should have spent a day exploring. You ride into town through the main road, with small grocery stores and mechanic shops lining the streets until you reach the Malecon (boardwalk), and the Sea of Cortez.  On the Malecon are the majority of restaurants, and when I say majority I mean maybe ten to fifteen; so far I’ve had to reevaluate what I believe “a lot” or “large city” mean with regards to my worldview.

Anyway, here’s a typical room you’ll get for 500 pesos.

My First Mexican Hotel Room®
My First Mexican Hotel Room®

I crashed pretty hard, had some huevos rancheros the next morning, and headed towards Puertocitos.

Huevos Rancheros, it means Eggs Rancheros.
Huevos Rancheros, it means Eggs Rancheros.