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.

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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.