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Website Up!

Hola friends and family! Finally got the website up and running, apologies for the delay.  I still need to flesh out some pages with more details of my trip, and I definitely need a better theme, but I’ll get all these things done in due time. For now, there is MUCH more left to do before the departure date:

  • Install the windscreen
  • Potentially get a different tank bag, as the map pocket on my Wolfman Enduro is a bit small.
  • Pack all the things
  • Sort out the electronics charging situation
  • Learn how this new Garmin GPS works
  • Figure out how I’m going to set up my camera
  • Get a travel towel
  • Find some swim trunks
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posing

Peace out Austin!

image

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dispatches

Day 2: Marfa and the Texas Winds

I can say with some experience that riding along I-10 at 80mph with 40mph crosswinds among long haul truckers is something to be avoided if possible.

After a late start on Monday, in no part due to meeting my friend Jameson and Russell the previous evening it was time to get on up out of Austin. I had to repack and pare down my belongings (again) as the panniers weren’t closing up, so clearly I have too much crap.  Shedding of gear is an absolute must at this point, but I’m just not sure what to get rid of; do I ditch one of my jackets? Workout clothes? Do I need all those tools? I’ll struggle on for now, until it becomes unbearable. It’s getting damn close.

Out of Austin I took 290W, passing through Fredricksburg and Junction before hopping on I-10.  Fredricksburg was pretty for the short time I jolted through it, and of course I-10 was straight miserable.  It was a straight shot though, and I was pretty sure I could make my destination. Then the winds really picked up. Those “Strong Cross Wind” signs are no joke.

The DR gets insanely “buzzy” above 70MPH, and extremely touchy in a terrifying way; add some strong cross winds and, well, let’s just say it’s exciting.  At one point, immediately after leaving Junction I ran out of gas, the GPS indicating I was a mere 6.3 miles away from the nearest Phillips-Conoco fill-up station.  With a quick prayer and flick of the petcock to the reserve setting, I coasted into the station on fumes and then proceeded on towards Balmorhea.

Which was not to be.  The light was dying fast, the wind had picked up heavily but I was determined to make it, until I couldn’t. Sadly I have no pictures of these moments as I left my camera on by accident and drained the battery, and my grip was far too tight as I battled sudden crosswinds almost forcing me into the other lane to turn on the GoPro. Every few minutes I’d hold my hand up to horizon to estimate how much daylight I had left.  Sonora whizzed by and I had 45 minutes left, and I definitely wasn’t riding at night on my first night out.

Exhausted, I pulled into a small town called Ozona, and rented a decent (if not pricey) room at the Travelodge by a bearded woman (no shit) with the largest German shepherd I have ever seen, proceeded to eat the largest chicken fried steak I’ve ever seen at the Hitchin’ Post and passed out, 230 miles under my belt.

The next day I put on my pants, ate some free rehydrated eggs and headed towards Alpine TX.

Center map
Get Directions

I-10 again, and mostly boring.  After about an hour I saw my first wind farm.  Oh shit.  Luckily, due to the time of day, the crosswinds were manageable, but I did have a few dicey moments.  Again, I ran out of gas, but this time on purpose; I wanted to see how far I could go on one tank.  The answer? 169 miles, give or take.  Far below the 350-400 I had initially estimated, though perhaps I was confused and meant kilometers? Who knows.  Add on about 10 more miles for the reserve and I have around a 180 mile range. Not bad I suppose, not great either.

Anyway. Pulled into Alpine, had a late lunch and checked the town out, before heading to Marfa, where I am staying the night at a little place called El Cosmico.  The staff is super nice, they have teepees, and you can camp out for $15 bucks a night, so what’s not too like? I’ll try and check out the Marfa  Lights tonight as well, and then tomorrow it’s off to Big Bend.

el_cosmico_panorama

Categories
dispatches

4K The Hard Way in Marfa

Right, so, where was I.

So, there I am in Marfa, eating some Italian food (because, I mean, why wouldn’t there be an Italian joint in Marfa, population 2,000) and planning on a pretty early night, maybe a beer or two at Lost Horse, as was recommended by the lovely Lauren at El Cosmico (who incidentally was also from Austin).

Lauren of El Cosmico (and Austin)

Out of no where, headlights flash in front of the restaurant. A bunch of Harley’s I think, and pretty soon they are gone.  So I pay out, suit up, and head back to the glampsite.

There is quite a bit of commotion at El Cosmico, and as I pull into the gravel parking lot I can see why; eight Vespas are parked, festooned with all manners of banners and camping gear on their tiny frames. I’m parking when the guys come out of the office.

Festooned

“What are you guys, riding these things across America?” I ask.

“Hell yeah! That your bike?” the mid-twenties Vespa rider says.

“Yep.”

“Where you going, east?”

“No, I’m going to South America.”

“Holy shit, really? Where?”

“All of it man.”

“No way. Hey Sean! We gotta interview this guy! Come here man, sit down and let me ask you some questions.”

And that is how I’m introduced to 4K The Hard Way, eight friends riding Vespas from L.A. to Key West over the course of three weeks. There’s a few rules, as there always are; no highways, you can’t pay for lodging, and of course you must ride a Vespa.

Alex Westmore is the man asking questions, and his buddy Sean Hill mans the camera. They mostly just want to know why anyone would go on such a trip (for the same reason they are, we come to find out, obviously, because you can) and are making a documentary (maybe) about their journey. These lucky bastards are sponsored by Vespa, Alpinestars and have a chase truck, so I’m a bit envious.

Many scoots.
Many scoots.

Also riding, and apparently the ring leaders of these merry madmen are Armie Hammer and Tyler Ramsey, which meant nothing to me until we actually left Marfa the next day, when a local asks Armie, “You’re in the movies right?”, and he whispers “Yeah.” Seriously, I thought it was a bit pompous to nick name yourself after the branch of the military you served in when I first met the guy. What’s that they say about assumptions?

We just need some gas man, these things have a 17 mile range.
You just need some gas Armie, those things have a 17 mile range.

Anyway, they went to dinner, came back, we drank some beer, and partied until about 3AM, the only people camping out in 22° weather there in Marfa. It was as good as times can get!

Ashton filming Jeremy giving Lauren a ride; Jordan probably wondering if he's going to have repair another scooter.
Ashton filming Jeremy giving Lauren a ride; Jordan probably wondering if he’s going to have repair another scooter.

The next day, we wake up early (11AM) and decide to grab some breakfast.  The 4K guys somehow order 24 burritos for the eight of them, I’m good with my one; either way they were delicious, thanks Mama.

Marfa Burrito

He did his thing to his scooter, and Armie's as well.
Tyler Ramsey’s scooter ; Armie’s looked similar by that afternoon.

Alright, so it was finally time to go, but not before stopping at Wrong Marfa, a local art gallery/shop. Check out these amazing pieces:

Stands about 3 feet tall, and is an armoire.
Stands about 3 feet tall, and is an armoire.

Costs $100,000, and each chamber holds a bottle of liquor, and the cylinder spins. Oh, and it took 7 months to carve.
Costs $100,000, and each chamber holds a bottle of liquor, and the cylinder spins. Oh, and it took 7 months to carve. The barrel flops down so you can store your tumblers, and there is a hidden drawer for…well, use your imagination.

The artist is definitely a talented individual, I sure hope he sells some pieces, alas, I can not afford any of them. With the 4K The Hard Way’s political debts paid to the Marfa significants (yes, sponsorship has its costs), it was time to hit the road. Except some people had to get some gas.

Damn it, can we go already.
Damn it, can we go already.

I was headed to Big Bend, and the boys were headed to San Antonio. That is some 400 miles away, and what with us leaving at noon, I had no idea how they hell they were going to make it.  I rode out with them until Marathon and then headed south to Big Bend.

To the 4K Gentlemen; rock on, I hope you make it to Key West, and it was a pleasure riding with y’all!

Categories
dispatches

Big Bend

Big Bend, the jewel of the west. Ok, I may have made that part up.

Either way, I’ve always heard great things about this national park, but being a 10 hour drive from Austin it’s not something you just up and decide to visit on a Friday after work. I rolled into the park right as the sun started to set, and managed to snap a few photos (though Ansel Adams I’m not while wearing motorcycle gloves).

more rocks rock

Spent the night in Chiso’s Basin, not much to report, but luckily it was 30+ degrees that night. Unluckily I spilled water all over my sleeping bag, so, yeah.

Look it's me trying a fancy long exposure shot.
Look it’s me trying a fancy long exposure shot.

Next day, I was up bright and early and rode on down to the Santa Elena Canyon, before heading up my first non-paved road, Old Maverick Road.

This is where the Eye of Sauron used to sit before Aragorn defeated the Dark Lord, now affectionally called "Mule Ears."
This is where the Eye of Sauron used to sit before Aragorn defeated the Dark Lord, now affectionally called “Mule Ears.”Santa Elena Canyon, proper.

Luna's Jacal, a house made of dirt, stone and plants this guy built and raised 18 kids in. 18. Kids.

Luna’s Jacal, a house made of dirt, stone and plants this guy built and raised 18 kids in. How many kids do you think I could have if I can convince a woman to live with me on a motorcycle?

So yeah, Big Bend was beautiful but my bike was not really happy with me.  Remember that cam chain tensioner issue I mentioned? I was sure this was the cause of oil leaking all over the engine, and I was keen to push it to El Paso and get some repairs done at the Suzuki dealership there in town.

You should not be loose Mr. CCT bolt.
You should not be loose Mr. CCT bolt.

I hauled ass out of Big Bend and headed north on 118, before realizing I had zero power left on my gadgets. Not a huge deal, but I would have no way of finding the damn dealership since I didn’t have a map of Texas (who needs maps of the state they live in, am I right?). Luckily I have a 12v cigarette charger, so while gassing up in Terlingua, I plugged in my USB charger and my phone and…nothing. Damn thing must have been broken.  Well this wouldn’t do, so I pulled off to the side, ripped off the front fairing and set out to repair it, but, alas it was fried. While doing so, a friendly dude with a southern drawl asked me if I needed any help, and, while I didn’t, I explained my concern about the CCT bolt and what not. He ran a dual sport rental shop right next to the gas station, said his name was Dan Dickie, and if I needed anything else to come find him. Of course I didn’t though, right? I mean, I was going to El Paso to get some repairs.

And that’s when the wheels fell off.

As you go north on 118 from the Alon gas station there, you climb a pretty steep hill, with Bee Mountain to your left. POP POP POP and the bike dies as I barely climb the hill.  Startled, I start it up again (reluctantly), nudge it into second, hit about 30 mph and POP POP dead. Oh man, I am fucked I thought. There was no way I could make it to El Paso, every time I hit some higher RPMs the bike would backfire insanely and then die. After a few minutes of cursing and generally behaving insanely (why wouldn’t I expect the 6th time to be different), I turned around and coasted down the hill to get Dan’s help.

The man was a saint and, while he couldn’t do anything for me, he knew a guy in town who he said was a “motorcycle genius, and he’s only 5 miles away, but he knocks off at 3:30 sharp so get moving,” and off I went. I eventually found the entrance Dan had described, crawled up a few dirt roads and ended up at Cycletek, where a man in shorts impatiently motioned me over, and as I pulled up, exclaimed “God damn your bike sounds loud as shit.”

This was how I met Ralph Delmar.

broken

cycletek

It was immediately apparent to me that Ralph knew what the fuck he was talking about, and had zero time for games, bullshit, and general malarkey, so we got to work. Or rather, he and his employee Darren got to work, while I sat around feeling generally useless snapping a few photos.

tools

Ralph determined that the CCT, while not broken, had no more threads left so the bolt had popped loose, so he installed a helicoil and a replacement seal and reset the cam chain.

ralph
Ralph fixing my CCT.

 

The leaking oil was due to a missing washer on each banjo bolt on the oil line. Yeah, not sure how I missed that one. And the noise? Well, that was due to the exhaust valves being insanely out of adjustment, so much so (yet so exact) that the local shop I took it to must have confused inches and millimeters when setting the clearances. Luckily, no major damage (so far).

Everything was finally sorted, and Ralph offered to let me camp out at his place that night, as there was no way I was getting out of Terlingua that night. The amount of stars you can see on his property is ridiculous, I’ve never seen that many, and sadly my poor astrophotograpy skills do not do the sight justice.

Seriously there were so many stars, that light is from the moon rising.
Seriously there were so many stars, that light is from the moon rising.

But, let’s back up a bit, because Ralph suggested a local place called La Kiva, which turned out to be a bar/restaurant built into the dirt, decorated with fossils and local knickknacks, and a giant copper kettle to piss in.  It was, and is, completely awesome, and I know a number of friends back in Austin who would absolutely love the place and make it their local. And of course, the beers were on me.

la_kiva

la_kiva_inside

And so, while finishing up my brisket calzone (it’s no Franklin’s) and a Big Bend Porter, I meet these two dudes, Curt and Bob a.k.a. Waldo and we get to chatting about Riding, specifically, Riding In Big Bend.

Me (left), Curt (center), Bob (right)
Me (left), Curt (center), Bob (right)

Bob’s from Illinois (an Illinoisian?) and comes down to Big Bend every winter, and this is Curt’s second (maybe third?) time in the area, but he rode with Bob last year. He’s a farmer from Iowa who has a badass Harley he uses for Iron Butt Association challenges when he’s not getting dirty in Big Bend.

Bob’s a bit of a local legend in the area, and has a motorcycle related story for every possible situation. He also rides something like 30,000 miles a year. Yeah, that’s a shit ton of miles.

They like my trip, and Curt was even down in Ushuaia many years ago, but rode north to Santiago. I tell them all about my plans, and my fears, about Baja and how I’m a bit nervous offroad and right then and there it’s decided that Bob and Curt are taking me riding the very next day, and damnit if we’re not doing River Road west to east (and some other roads I have forgotten the name of).

Anyway, not to ramble on, but here’s the GoPro outcome of my first forays into off-roading under the tutelage of Waldo, with Curt riding sweeper and generally helping me pick up my bike.

I could write a lot more about my new found love for Big Bend, Terlingua, and it’s residents, but we’re over 1200 words here on this blog post and most of you probably have skimmed past. If you’re ever in the area and need someone to ride with, find Waldo (he rides a KLX250). If you need to rent a bike, find the gracious Mr. Dan Dickie (and find him in Tennessee when it’s not winter). And if you need an honest and smart mechanic who also knows the backroads, talk to Ralph Delmar at Cycletek.

Thank you gentlemen, I still owe you one, and I surely can not wait to get back to that area of Texas again.

Categories
dispatches

Pre-Mexico Week

I’m currently in Yuma, and tomorrow I’ll be headed to Calexico/Mexicali to cross over into Baja. I’ve been living in the lap of hotel luxury here and taking care of a few maintenance issues as well.  Seriously, the hotel gives you free beer at 5PM every day.  But I suppose I owe a bit of an update for the last week, however boring it might be.

So, following Big Bend, Curt and I decided to ride together to El Paso, via Route 170 (a.k.a. “River Road”), which is easily one of the best motorcycling roads out there. Turn after turn greets you as you ride along the Rio Grande, encountering elevation drops as you pass through Lajitas and Presidio, eventually turning north to meet I-10, or, continuing on to Mexico. Curt was headed to San Diego to attempt an Iron Butt challenge, entitled “50cc,” whereby you ride coast to coast in 50 hours or less.  If it sounds insane, that’s because it is; hopefully he’s made it! Anyway, a few photos from River Road:

View from the highest point of River Road. Note all the rocks from rock slides.
View from the highest point of River Road. Note all the rocks from rock slides.
This was at the top of a 15% gradient, great view.
This was at the top of a 15% gradient, great view.

Great ride, but we couldn’t take it all the way so headed north on 67, back to Marfa.  Somehow I just can’t escape that town.  On the way towards the highway, we passed a random Prada store, in the middle of nowhere.  Pretty wild, and apparently an art installation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prada_Marfa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prada_Marfa

Other than that, a pretty uneventful (and longish, ~340 miles) ride to El Paso where we crashed for the night in a Red Roof Inn.  And I finally got to take a glorious shower.

The next day, I was keen to check out White Sands, for god knows what reason, and Curt figured he’d ride along too, having never been. The ride into New Mexico was extremely boring, just the straightest flattest road you’ve ever seen, the only saving grace being the extreme cold I experienced.  An hour in I could barely feel my hands, the temperatures having dropped 20 degrees and the wind picking up as we approached the Sacramento mountains. I eventually had to stop at some random gas station, warm up my frozen digits over a hot dog warming machine and put on my winter gloves for the first time.  Curt, being from Iowa, had his handy electric heated vest, and was quite content.  Bastard.

Anyway, we eventually made it to White Sands, and wow, it’s fairly incredible.  You ride in to the Tularoa basin, and in the middle are these massive gypsum dunes, the largest in the world.  It’s very fine stuff, and can probably damage your electrical equipment, though, not as dangerous to cameras as Whitehaven Beach sand (p.s. I miss Australia).

Crusted gypsum on my rims. It would last for days.
Crusted gypsum on my rims. It would last for days.
Taken from about 30 feet up on some dunes.
Taken from about 30 feet up on some dunes.

pose

After an hour or so of riding around, Curt and I split up. He wanted to see Death Valley before attempting his ride, and I decided to go see Roswell, NM.

How silly of me.

The ride to Roswell, while only 140 miles or so (and scenic), crawls through the Sierra Blanca mountains, passing by a number of Native American owned casinos.  This is Apache land, and I find it odd that, while you pass by Tribal Bureau’s, you see scores of churches jutting up from the mountainsides.  The worst part is the wind, and the cold. The wind races down the mountains, and as I ride from valley to valley the little DR650 is constantly subjected to gusts; the “strong crosswinds” signs are (again) no joke.

I eventually make it to Roswell, and…everything is closed. MLK day of course, even proprietors of alien artifacts take the day off.  Cursing my poor decision I rent a decent room at a very affordable rate, debate my windy ride out the next day, and pass out. Skip Roswell if you’re ever in the neighborhood, that’s my advice.  I did grab a nice breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe, and spotted this sweet truck.

Classy.
Classy.

The next day I’m determined to make some time and head to Tucson, non-stop.  I rode and rode and rode, maybe some 500 miles or so, it was fairly uneventful.  I will mention that I have never driven or ridden through so many Border Patrol checkpoints.  At one point I turned off the highway (my GPS was set to avoid them) right before a checkpoint and was greeted not less than a mile down the road by two Border Patrol trucks, one blocking my lane and one on the shoulder.   The agent put out his hand, and I guess I’ll never know if he was waving to me as a greeting, or to pull me over, because I was ~350 miles into my trip, the sun was setting, and I just blasted right by them. Maybe I’m on some list now?

border_patrol

Eventually ended up in Tucson, where I spent a day or two just sleeping, I hadn’t been feeling well as it was. I really contemplated going north to see the Grand Canyon, then through Vegas and Pahrump to Death Valley to see the stars, but, damnit, I was so tired of the cold so I decided to put on my new tires and head towards Yuma before crossing into Mexico.

I found a place a few miles north of my hotel, on the way towards Yuma who would spoon the tires on, and waited around a few hours for the task to be completed.

waiting

When it was done, well, they had a bit of surprise for me.

Well, that's not right.
Well, that’s not right.

Apparently I had lost both rear caliper pins. These hold the brake pads in place, and would explain the sponginess I had been feeling the last day or two. I have no idea how they were lost; maybe they were never installed? Maybe someone took them (why)? Who knows.  Ride Now wasn’t going to be able to get them ordered until Tuesday though (it being a Friday), so, I was out of luck.

Except. I had noticed a brand new DR650 out front, and after a few minutes and some cajoling asked, perhaps they could let me have those pins, and just add the new ones to my bill? Surely you don’t sell that many (they had just sold one last week).  Well, an hour later, after going through the chain of command, the answer was yes, and they didn’t even charge me overnight shipping! Fantastic!

Lucas at RideNow Ina, helping a brother out.
Lucas at RideNow Ina, helping a brother out.

A few minutes later I was on my way, and then a few hours later, I’m in Yuma. I booked a room at the Clarion Suites, and grabbed a meal.  Seriously though, this hotel is amazing.  They give you two free adult beverages at 5PM everyday, the rooms are huge and only $70.  What a country.

A quick note on Yuma, and southwest Arizona in general though. Never have I felt more unsafe riding around than in this city, and in this general area.  The roads are filled with AARP members and Canadians, all hell-bent on driving their trucks in the slowest and most erratic manner possible, often just cutting across lanes, or pulling out of side streets with nary a glance to surrounding traffic. It must be the heat.  It’s enough to a drive a man insane, and I’ve thrown curses from behind my matte black helmet multiple times a day. I spoke with my mom (hi mom) and she mentioned that apparently, as a youth, it was a possibility we would have perhaps lived in this god awful place.  Can you imagine? I’m certain I would have shot someone due to road rage by now. Seriously, I’m sure some anti-Arabic jingoistic zealots may disagree with me, but the next time you’re in a conversation and someone offers up the “nuke ’em into glass” argument towards some Middle Eastern country, consider proffering Yuma as an alternative.  We could easily relocate everyone who’s visiting and living here first, perhaps to Oman.

I digress.

Tomorrow I go to Baja.

Satphone is activated.

I paid -$200 for this phone.
I paid -$200 for this phone.

I’ve got a handy card for the amazing people I’m going to meet.

koalificationsk

And I just saw “Lone Survivor,” so I’m feeling pretty pumped up about this whole adventure.

My god, the septuagenarians are here for their free beer. It’s about time to wrap this post up, it’s going to get rowdy.

 

 

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quote

Big Bites

Take big bites. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Categories
dispatches

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.
Categories
Uncategorized

Baja Crash

Just a sneak preview of some footage from riding around in Baja.  Sadly it took 1.5 hours to upload this on a motel connection, so, who knows when I can upload the rest.

Categories
dispatches

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.

P1310007

 

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.

P1310006

 

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.