Last spring I led a group of students to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and while there rented a KLR650 and did a couple of 3 day weekend rides around the area.
One of the students, Marc, told me about an idea he had to buy a Honda XR650 and ride from Oregon to Puerto Vallarta where he would continue his Spanish studies. I mentioned casually that I'd go along, all I would need is to buy a similar bike.
Fast forward to August and we both had our bikes and there was nothing really preventing our trip from happening. We thought Portland to Baja, take ferry to Mazatlan then to Puerto Vallarta from where I would return home the mainland and he would stay for 3 months.
Nothing to prevent us...except my sister calls out of the blue and tells me she's getting married...right in the middle of my planned trip.
So we move our trip up a week from the 1st of Oct to the 23rd of Sept. but now I don't have time to return to Portland so I make various plans to leave bike in Puerto Vallarta, southern Baja, San Diego, Phoenix. I'm not sure where I'll end of leaving it cause I'm not sure how far I'll get. But Marc has to leave end of Sept or not too late into Oct. so we go forward.
I leave Portland about 12:30 on the 23rd of Sept and meet Marc in Salem. Our first day isn't ambitous as we need only get to Medford in southern Oregon where we'll stay the first night with a friend. An hour later near Eugune our trip nearly ends...
(no photos yet, my camera decides to quit working from the get go, and later I lose it, but pics coming soon)
Sounds like when there's a will.. there's a way.... :thumb
My 07 KLR650 the day I bought it used w/ 2500 miles:
A photo taken later in the trip, loaded down. Preview: notice white muffler guard on Marc's Honda is singed black!!!
When I arrived at Salem to meet Marc, I hadn’t had lunch yet and Marc decided he wanted to take a smaller, lighter sleeping bag and so while he returned home to switch it out I visited Carl’s Junior. A young lady and her mom were looking at me repeatedly during lunch and just before I left the daughter says that she just has to ask about my bike, gear and riding clothes, where I was going, why, etc. The first of what would be many casual conversations about our trip. Seems so many folk want to do this sort of thing…I was feeling rather lucky!
Marc returned and we were on our way. An hour later I noticed a blue puff of smoke from his muffler. Then another. Then still another. In fact, about every minute there was another smaller one, or two or three in in a row. Strange, I think to myself. New bike and it’s already burning oil. But someone had told me that Honda XR650s do burn some so I thought I’d mention it to Marc when we pulled over. Which wasn’t too much later, thankfully. When I pulled in behind Marc, we had our first big UH-OH!! Turns out the bike WASN'T, yet it WAS burning oil. His right saddle bag was loaded down, and yep, was rubbing against his muffler. It had burned a hole clean through. But why the blue puffs of burning oil? Turns out he had a quart of oil at the bottom of the saddle bag and the muffler had burned a hole through the bottle too! Oil was everywhere, bathing his tools, packages of food, service manual, oh…and…a…flare?!?! Hmmm, what would THAT have looked like had it gone off? Flaming sparks and oil shooting out the back as he rode down the hiway…funny the thought, but then again, kind of not…
Marc was pissed to say the least, but I was quite calm, because I knew I had the perfect fix. I, too, was traveling with soft saddle bags, but had bought a larger muffler guard just for this purpose. When I installed both the guard and my bags I thought what a waste of $40 because they didn’t even overlap. Oh well, I thought, at least there’s less chance of someone burning a leg on the muffler. Stroke of luck! I pulled the muffler guard off my bike and with a bit of tweaking, it fit his just fine. Problem solved. We duct taped his saddle bag, wiped all the oil off as best we could and were on our way to Medford.
VERY sorry not to have some funny pics. My camera was working at the time, later it quit, and then I lost it two days later! I think Marc has some pics of our dilema and when they catch up with me I’ll post them.
Made it to Medford by 8:30pm just after dark and our friend was waiting for us. All was well. We decide that we’ll look for a tent patching kit the next day to see if that will fix his bags. Before falling asleep we talk again about what might have been with oil ablaze and flares shooting their thing from the back of his bike, wondering if that might have ended our trip before it even began.
Day 1: 287 miles: Gresham to Medford, Oregon
Wednesday, Sept. 24: Day 2
After spending the morning catching up with our friend we looked for a repair solution for the melted saddle bag. Tent repair material and Shoe Goo seemed like it might do the trick but since the bag was still intact we decided to hit the road knowing we had a repair on hand if needed.
Still, we didn’t get away till around 2:00 with the simple goal of making it into California somewhere between Crescent City and Eureka along the coast, where we planned on camping for the night.
Lots of tidy farms dotted the southern Oregon countryside and soon we hit the proverbial fork in the road. Marc’s GPS said shortest rout lay to the left so we took it to avoid heading north to Grants Pass.
Our country road climbed then narrowed and then climbed some more. A few oversized logging trucks roaring down the mountain kept us on our toes and then the asphalt ended and the gravel began. I asked Marc how good his GPS was and he said it hadn’t let him down yet. 30 miles of mountain backcountry road later and we hit paved 46 near Oregon Caves Nat’l Monument and soon we were back on 199 heading for Crescent City.
It was getting dark and we were set on camping but had also decided we wanted seafood for dinner. Found a nice diner just past Crescent City and it was getting dark as we pulled away. By the time we found a beach site we had to set up tents under the cover of darkness. No rain, no wind, not even that cold. A good second day. Camera still not working! But Marc sent me these:
Looking for a campsite:
Finally, after much fiddling on my part, we're set up for the night.
My new blue tent cost only $25 but came with NO rain fly! Mental note: use gear you're already familiar with the next time! Something I knew, but didn't practice. The waves breaking drowns out any negative thoughts and we have no trouble falling asleep, unusual for me.
Day2: 130 miles; Medford, OR to Crescent City, CA
:lurk :lurk :lurk
Sounds like a very good trip, full of changes but keeping you guys riding. That is the adventurer spirit.
Thursday, Sept. 25: Day 3
A little drizzle started in after we broke camp and we were on the road by 7:30. We’d follow 101 for good many hours today and we needed to make Concord, CA to stay with Marc’s cousin.
Had to stop for photo session with me (Paul) and that other guy named the same.
Then there’s that tree you can drive through.
Elderly guy from Kentucky wanted to take our photo as we both rode through the tree.
Then it was ride, ride, ride. The redwoods are impressive and I have my first ever MRE: veggie pasta! (Marc’s military days). Not too bad.
An hour north of San Francisco we’re humming along with traffic when we near road construction. A second of non-attentiveness and suddenly I find myself caught in a 2 inch deep, half foot wide trench in the middle of the road doing about 65 mph. Woah Nelly! Where did that come from? I pushed sharply to the right on the handlebar and the front tire bit, climbed over the ridge and I was back on smooth pavement again. Whew! Felt like I dodged a bullet as I’ve had the same thing happen to me at a slower speed on a bicycle and fell right over.
We’ve long left the forests behind and I’m starting to take in familiar southwest signs: oliander blossoms, canals, brown hills and the smell of dry air! Feels good as it takes me back to my Arizona days. We make our stop over by 6:00pm and we’re tired of being in the saddle, happy to be somewhere where we’ll spend two nights. Time for me to finally buy a new camera maybe!
Day 3: 359 miles; Crescent City to Concord, CA
Friday, Saturday, Sept 26-27: Days 4-5
Spent the day Friday going over the bikes and making sure things looked good. Marc finally fixed the soft saddle bag corner which his muffler had melted on Day 1. Shoe Goo seemed to fill the gap nicely enough. We went looking for some hand guards for Marcís bike and he spent the evening installing those while I went to searching for a camera. Somehow, I managed to lose my old one which did have 5 or 6 pics on it before it quit working, and we got ready to head out again on Saturday. First we took in Marcís nieceís soccer game Saturday morning then we finally got started about 2:30 after lunch.
We picked our way through traffic heading south out of Concord and eventually made it to Hiway 5, the slab we were trying to avoid by heading over to the coast in N California. We ride till it starts getting dark, not sure if we were going to camp or do a hotel for the first time. We make it to Kettlemen City and since thereís not a lot out there we find a campground. Our first real hot day of riding. But the night promises to be pleasant and it was.
When we originally planned out the trip, we thought we would be in San Diego by Saturday night, and we were a good deal away from that. Thoughts of just how far I was going to be able to go with Marc were popping up. I had made an ADVRIDER contact in San Diego who said I could leave my bike at his house if I wasnít going to be able to make it back to Portland on time for my sisterís wedding, so that was nice to know. But still I didnít commit to buying a ticket to flying back because I didnít want to plug into something that might change later. That would turn out to be a good move.
Our campsite (we need to start earlier if camping! Setting up in the dark isn't that fun)
Day 5: 195 miles; Concord to Kettlemen City, CA
Sunday, Sept 28: Day 6
We awoke before dawn and had breakfast by 7:30. Since we arrived when it was dark, I hadn’t realized most folk appeared to be of Hispanic descent. I teach Spanish and my wife is Costa Rican, but here in the U.S. I never feel comfortable starting up a conversation in Spanish unless I know that they know that I can and they‘re willing. Marc will soon be immersed when we get to Puerto Vallarta and will have plenty of time to put into practice what he’s learned.
After checking the basics, tires, oil we’re off for Los Angeles...Marc concerned about how much oil he's reading, or rather not reading...
We ride south on Hiway 5 and soon I see signs for Bakersfield then for LA itself. Growing up in the Midwest, LA was always one of those semi-mythical places to be avoided at all costs. Not sure why exactly, just negative press I guess. Even after having lived in Arizona and Oregon since 1991, I’ve still only managed one drive through LA (on my way moving to Oregon). This would be just my second “visit”.
An hour and half Before LA:
We ride through the hills and soon most traffic is zooming by us as we maintain what I thought was a respectable 75mph. The heat disappears as we arrive closer to the coast. A couple times I see Marc checking his GPS, but the signs seem to be clear enough.
Around 12:30 or 1:00 we’re on the south side near Newport Beach and we decide to pull over for something to eat. When we stop in front of a coffee shop I notice that Marc is animated about something. I shut my bike off and curiously I hear he’s cranking his bike, apparently trying to start it again. No, he’s shutting it off, I can see him turning it off with the key and pushing the kill switch. Only problem is the bike is still cranking! I walk over to see what’s going on and the bike won’t stay off!! It cranks and cranks every time he turns it off. It doesn’t start, but just keeps cranking. We both think “it’s alarm system” related but not sure what to do about it. He lets it run while I run into the coffee shop and look up the address for the nearest Honda dealership. Turns out there’s one just two miles back north on hiway 5 and it’s open. We arrive OK and when he shuts off the bike this time, it doesn’t keep cranking like before…the battery is dead from trying. The service area isn’t open but an employee helps us charge the battery enough so that we get it running again. This time it will shut off and we decide what to do. We’re convinced that the alarm function that allows automatic startup is the culprit, but we’re not sure what wire controls that. Do we stay the night and hope to have it looked at in the morning? Do we ride on to San Diego as there’s plenty of daylight left to do so and then try to get it looked at there? After the messing around it’s clear what we need to do--get something to eat! So Marc buys jumper cables for the bike just in case and we head back to the same coffee shop as before.
While we’re there thinking about what to do, we meet Mike who is into dual purpose bikes. After learning of our difficulties, he tells us he knows a shop that’s still open till four, and he’ll take us there! So off we go, only to find out that they’re just closing as we pull in. We decide to spend the night (San Clemente now) and have an 11:00 appointment for the next morning. We find a hotel for the night and after a good dinner and some suds we’re able to see how lucky we were to be so near the dealership, find Mike (thanks, Mike!!) and be all set up for the next morning.
I think we're both a bit unnerved by the bike difficulties, wondering what would we have done if the same thing had happened in the middle of nowhere in Baja. Neither of us are what one might call great mechanics. Maybe the reality of crossing over the border into Mexico with bikes that were fairly new to us was sinking in! Plus it was now Sunday and we still hadn't even made it to San Diego. We had thought we would already be in Baja by now. My deadline of October 7 begins to affect what I want to get out of this trip. In the back of my mind I'm thinking I could ride just a few days into Baja, then turn around and still make it back to Portland in time for my sister's wedding, but I want to help Marc get as near Puerto Vallarta as possible. Or maybe I go to PV with him and fly home from there and pick up my bike later. If I do that, going through Baja would be risky because I'm not sure about the ferry crossing schedule. Hmmm....
Total miles: 249: Kettlemen City to San Clemente, CA
Monday, Sept 29: Day 7
Since we donít have much to do till 11:00 when Marc will have his alarm system looked at, I go for a stroll around San Clemente, heading down hill towards the beach, new camera in hand.
Any of you wanting to get rid of one might want to visit this guy:
I see a three bedroom house for sale, 1600 square feet, simple design, and I try to guess itís asking price. I figure this is LA area, prolly 500 grand. Whoops! A little low, as it was Ďreducedí to $725,000. Suddenly $4,500 for my 07 KLR w/ saddlebags and tank bag feels like a steal somehow.
I make it to the pier and have a fun time taking in the views. The ocean water temp is warming up too!
At 11:00 we find out the mechanic isnít coming in today but the guy at the shop recommends a friend and so we check out of the hotel and by 12:30 itís being looked at. John confirms that the remote start function of the alarm system is causing the problem, finds the right wire that controls just that function, and snip! Problem is apparently solved. Itís 1:30 and we decide to have lunch.
Over our meal I tell Marc that Iím not too crazy about returning to Oregon the same way (hiway 5), that it looks like the way things are going, Iíll get to enter Baja for all of two, maybe three days, and then have to turn back. I ask him if heís willing to rethink things: how about we head east on hiway 8 towards Arizona. The attraction for me is that I have lots of friends and some family from my 9 years I lived in the Phoenix area and I would at least go to Hermosillo with him before I would turn back, and maybe even to Bahia de Kino, or all the way to Puerto Vallarta. I think he liked the idea of someone helping him with the Spanish and we were having lots of fun riding together so he said letís go for it. So by 2:30 weíre heading south again, we skirt past San Diego, and head east for Yuma. As we climb the hills the temps are still pleasant.
But when we come down from the above area, we descend from 4000 feet to a little below sea level and the temps soar to 100 plus, but Iím caught up in a wave of euphoria as the dry heat reminds me of fun times in AZ. Right before Yuma we pull over for some sunset pics:
Motel 6 has a pool for only $44 a night, so we jump at that and into the pool. I think weíre both really happy at this point with our change of direction. Tomorrow we enter Mexico, finally!
Total miles: 227 miles: San Clemente, CA to Yuma, AZ
This should be fun to follow for me, being from Portland and having been to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and those whereabouts. Can't wait to read the rest.
"Turns out he had a quart of oil at the bottom of the saddle bag and the muffler had burned a hole through the bottle too! Oil was everywhere, bathing his tools, packages of food, service manual, ohÖandÖaÖflare?!?! Hmmm, what would THAT have looked like had it gone off? Flaming sparks and oil shooting out the back as he rode down the hiwayÖfunny the thought, but then again, kind of notÖ"
Good story....sounds like an memorable adventure so far!
Wow! Now I know that I have to do this at some point. My big unknown was if I could make it to Puerto Vallarta on time (for me the by the 7th of Oct). Next time I take two weeks just for Baja!
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