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On Baja Time Part 1 of 3 Pic Intensive


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As intrepid motorcyclists, we all have different ideas about what constitutes adventure. Is it watching a marathon of “Murder She Wrote,” followed up by intensive bingo action, or perhaps, is it more? Personally, I think the answer is more. More sun, more friends, more great food, more incredible roads, more great libations, and maybe riding someplace that may be outside our comfort zones.


For me, riding outside the comfort zones of our familiar places is highly desirable. So, where would be a great place to ride, I asked myself? The answer was easy. Mexico is close enough to be an easily do-able ride, the people are incredibly friendly, the food is delicious, and the further south you ride, the more Mexico takes on a “third world” feel. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t been, well, stick around because we are departing now in this Ride Tale!




Of course, an adventure is always better with friends, and I also knew most of my friends have no riding experience in Mexico. I wanted to invite a mix of riders, some who'd never ridden south of the border as a few who were experienced. Ed and Robert, were both experienced south of the border travelers. The former selected an FJR and the latter brought his trusty BMW 800 GSA. I figured between our mutual experiences we’d be able to handle nearly anything that came our way. Little did I know how soon our resources would be put to the test! I also knew good friends Paul and Penny, accomplished copilots of an R1200RT, Max and Leila, who shared the task on a R1200GSA, and Dai, who brought a venerable Suzuki Bandit to the party would be great additions to the group. Remarkably, everyone could fit this trip into their busy lives! Perfect!


Since everyone except Ed and I lived in So Cal, we needed to leave a bit earlier to meet up with everyone in the Orange County/San Diego area. Ed and I pushed off under threatening skies which soon turned into heavy rain. Nevertheless, we had miles to go before we hit the sunshine.






After making a soggy pit stop in Arcata, CA we pressed onto into weather that increasingly turned nicer. US 101 is gorgeous in Northern CA, from the rain-soaked redwoods to the sunny and warm valleys laden with never-ending fields of grapes. We didn’t hang out much here as the goal was Paul and Penny’s house in Huntington Beach. Not wanting to blast down the slab we took a second night on the road, ending up at our friends’ place the third day.


Paul and Penny turned out to be the ultimate hosts. Paul whipped up mouth watering steaks. You know the kind: a flavorful char on the outside and tender, juicy red meat on the inside. Meat that you could cut with a butter knife. Meat you never forget. Meat that reminds you with every flavorful bite why you have canine teeth in your mouth. Meat that reminds you to call your cardiologist. Yes, they were great, as was the top-shelf bourbon Paul poured for us.


Another night with Paul and Penny and I’d almost forgotten where and why we were travelling. I mean, could we have made their place an end destination? A weaker man would have surrendered and said, “Hey, we’ve ridden 1100 miles, good enough for me!”


We were not weaker men. Saddled up the next day at the crack of ten a.m., Ed and I pushed on, testing our limits on Interstate Five to San Diego. After a few hours of action-packed freeway combat, we arrived at our motel in San Diego. A reasonably priced place, we rested up to meet our other riders the next morning. Fortunately they all showed up for breakfast on time! Also fortunate that Ed and I left a few eggs and coffee for them…


My plan was to take the group across the border at Calexico/Mexicali. I like this crossing. It’s comparably easy for first timers to Mexico to cross here. There is an easy going vibe here that is not evident in some other border crossings. There are restaurants in Calexico and gas stations, plus many “Casa de Cambios” to change money.


We blasted over the mountains near Alpine CA and finally into the deserts which are now seemingly limitless agricultural areas. Sweeping down into the heat of the El Centro area, we were reminded of vastness of this agricultural area, and how much water it takes from the Colorado River to sustain it. Soon we noticed a sharp, pungent odor in the air.


It was the smell of Mexico; the smell of thousands of beat up untuned vehicles and diesel trucks. The smell of countless open air fires and burning trash mixed with cooking smells greeted our nostrils, even before the dirty brown stain in the air made it’s way to us. It was the smell of poverty and life blended together by car horns, music, and people's’ laughter.


In a heartbeat we were over the border and like the good mother hens we were, Ed, Robert and I navigated our chicks safely and easily through Mexicali. Now, the adventure we sought was on, and what an adventure it became…








The areas surrounding Mexicali are vibrant with agriculture and industry, but soon the green fields surrendered to intense, dry desert. The road continued straight and true as we crossed the Laguna Salida, a huge dried plain that once was the end destination of the Colorado River. Now it was a shell, a place known only by those who study the River, and the geo-political machinations that caused all of the mighty Colorado to be used up, far above this place…






The riding here was great; good asphalt and limitless vistas of desert, sun and wispy clouds. The 110 kph limit here was purely advisory, but it still was a good idea to use some caution. An errant donkey, rock, or pothole would have proved disastrous as we found out later….


Soon we pulled into San Felipe, a sleepy town that almost became a bigger tourist destination. Almost, because the never ending stream of news about drug cartel violence dried up the tourist dollar stream. No money, no tourists, and the newer hotels sit abandoned like giant metal and concrete ghosts-mute testimony to what could have been for the good people of San Felipe!



At the south end of town we found a nice hotel that was nearly empty. Some smooth talking by Robert got us good rates. Later, we gave “El Nido,” a popular restaurant, a try. After a walk around town through a small but colorful farmers’ market, it was off to bed!








Mornings on the Sea of Cortez are spectacular! The inky sky started to lighten as a faint smudge of light reflecting on the water. In seconds the sun seemed to burst out of the ocean, splashing the world with shades of gold, scarlet, and the intense blue only a desert sunrise can impart. We ate a little breakfast, topped off the tanks, and headed toward Puertecitos, a very sleepy little village south of San Felipe. Glad we filled up as the Pemex (Mexican nationally owned gas stations) in San Felipe as the station in Puertecitos was cerrado.




Tacos de pescados, soft drinks and coyotes...and a gun wielding cafe owner...No pictures of him, but the tacos were delicious!








Only a few years ago the pavement ended here and it was a long bone-jarring ride to the intersection with Mexico D1, the main highway that begins in Tijuana and ends in Cabo San Lucas. Now, the road had been cut and surfaced for many miles, making the off road portion still rugged, but much shorter. Progress is coming slowly to this part of Baja, but Mother Nature did not give up easily. The road was hot, dry, and dusty, covered with potholes and rocks big enough to do serious damage if you are aren’t extremely careful. There was no water, and certainly no cell phone service!




In Mexico, it’s all good until it’s not. We downshifted and turned onto the dirt, eager to experience the solitary ruggedness this area provides. Soon we had more adventure than we wanted! Max and Li had an accident. Apparently they hit a rock which catapulted Li straight up and then slammed her back onto the seat. They never lost control of the motorcycle, but it was evident that Li was in extreme pain. It was also evident that she and Max wanted to continue the ride.




Conclusion of Part 1, to be continued



Edited by AdventurePoser
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I've made that same trip 5 times now. 2 by bike and 3 in an AWD SUV.

It's a great trip with many side trips along the way once you're comfortable with being on your own. Preparation is the key and don't drink anything unless it's in a bottle.



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