Hi there, thanks for visiting! This site is no longer updated but chronicles my motorcycle trip from Texas through Mexico in 2014. The posts are arranged in chronological order, so you can read through my trip as it happened. Thanks for visiting!
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.
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.
Other decorations abound as well, some junk, some handpicked mementos of other travelers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I pulled into a small campground, lined with palapas and a few RVs, with a house on the other end.
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.
Then I headed into town to grab a bite to eat.
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.
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.
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.
Anyway, after fueling up I talked to this guy, Donnie Williamson, and asked him about the route.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Cleaning up, I headed over to the Malarrimo to catch the game.
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!”
They have excellent ceviche by the way.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Back on land, we docked, boarded the van and headed back to the hotel. I ate some excellent shrimp.
Did some shopping.
And kept in contact with some friends back at home before calling it a night.
The following day was going to be a lot of highway riding.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Though at times, those friends didn’t get along so well with others.
Saw some nice views while jogging around (gotta keep in shape!)
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.
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.
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.
I left Mulegé and headed south, passing by Bahía de Concepción. It’s gorgeous; sheltered bays, beautiful beaches and a deep blue water everywhere.
I didn’t stop though, except to take these few pictures.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The next day, I blasted south to Todos Santos, a very popular surf and artistic town.
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.
Cabo San Lucas is a party town. Fín. Done. No más. It exists solely to ply dollar bills from tourists by getting them drunk and perhaps taking them sport fishing if they can fit it in.
To give you some indication of the kind of city I’m talking about, it’s often known as the “Fort Lauderdale of Mexico.”
That’s not to say there’s not much to like about the city, it has great restaurants, cheap drinks, and I’m told being there during Spring Break is a thing of, shall we way, glorious youthful exuberance. The disparity of wealth between the tourists (mostly Canadian from what I could tell) and the locals is pretty glaring though.
I wasn’t too excited to be there if you can tell, as I’ve found it’s pretty hard for a solo traveler to mix into the stew of group travelers which are ever so common in touristic cities like Cabo.
I had to go though, I mean, you always hear about Cabo on those horrible private school teenage drama shows that my old roommate used to love.
I arrived in Cabo San Lucas late afternoon and sat in traffic, before finding a most excellent hotel, the Cabo Inn Hotel. It was pretty cheap at $38, they let you pull in your motorcycle into the courtyard which consists of a common table and massive jungle plants everywhere, and it’s smack dab downtown, close to everything, unlike the $800 a night resorts that my Hotels.com app was recommending me.
I performed the hotel ritual that has become part of my life now, and then headed out into the city to grab a beer.
First stop was Cabo Wabo, famous for being owned by Sammy Hagar. As has been common with most of my time in the Baja, I was 20 or 30 years junior to the other patrons, but you just roll with the punches. They had a 2 for 1 beer special going on for 50 pesos, which isn’t really a deal anywhere else in the Baja, but what can you do.
This surfer-esque guy in a straw hat asked me if I was alone, and when I mentioned I was invited me over to his table. I was pretty sure he was going to hit on me but I wanted some company so, why not. Turns out though Mr. Hobie Higgins was just waiting for his wife and buddies, and pretty soon we had a party, with me playing the seventh wheel role.
These guys all work for a mortgage company in Oklahoma (if I’m remembering correctly), and were down here with their wives as they were the top salesman for the year. I was pretty surprised mortgage companies were still shelling out money for these types of things, which they considered to be pretty funny in a post-recession world.
Hobie turned out to be a real wild card, always amped up and excited about life, in a madly infectious way. His official role at the mortgage company was something like “Director of Fun.” Further enquiry led me to discover that his responsibilities consisted of things like planning trips to Cabo. I’m stunned these jobs exist, but it’s more of a “right time, right place” type of thing to get such a job, and most likely you have to create it yourself.
We got kicked out of Cabo Wabo because Hobie wanted to wear a luchador mask while drinking his beer, which the bouncers were not too keen on, so we headed to the The Giggling Marlin for some food and more drinks.
A mariachi band appeared and many Mexican versions of Elvis songs were sang.
The food was…well I don’t remember, so probably fairly bland. We paid out and headed to Happy Endings, which turned out to be my favorite place. Thousands of dollar bills are stapled all around the interior, signed with names of traveler or simple messages like “Roll Tide.”
I paid for the round of specials, which consists of two beers and two shots of tequila.
I should mention that, after having told my story (quit the job, lost the girl, time to ride the old motorcycle south because life is too short amigos) back at Cabo Wabo, Hobie was insistent that I would pay for nothing that night, reminding me that I would need that money sometime down the line. Fair enough mate, you won’t hear me complaining. Still, I always my debts.
We quickly found out there were beer pong tables, and after much trash talking from Mr. Higgins it was off for a match, where myself and Marc (a fellow Texan) promptly represented and destroyed Hobie and his buddy.
Then it was time for one last hangout, at a popular place called Squid Roe.
They take many forms of payment.
Squid Roe has banked on the “audience participation” model for entertainment, which almost certainly involves a lot of bare skin and body shots during Spring Break, but sadly it’s February, so we had to contend with the chicken dance.
At one point a “shot girl” came around offering jello shots. We bought a few, but they were hard as rocked so we proceeded to attempt to make them stick to the ceiling, but only achieved in inventing Jell-O rain.
It turned 10PM, Hobie and crew had been out since noon and were drunk and/or tired so they called it an evening.
I had a blast meeting these folks and hanging out with them, but I was also feeling fairly run down from all the partying of the last few days. It was time to head up the East Cape, towards Los Frailles.
Thanks for taking a lonely traveler in amigos, until next time!