On Baja Time-Finally, or Team Rust Finds Sunshine!
Hi all, the following is a RR of Team Rust's travels to Loreto BC and back. Enjoy the story, and I welcome any and all positive criticism/feedback of my writing and/or photography. I know I walk among giants when in this forum, so your comments are appreciated! :clap
It all began some months ago when Steve from Washington and I started emailing each other about going down to Baja over Spring break. I haven’t been down there in years and was really looking for somewhere new to ride. Steve was in the same position. Since we had identical time of some exploration south of the border would be perfect in mid-April. Plans were made, dreams of sunshine and dry desert were shared, and soon it was time to go. Ed, a friend of Steve’s, signed on and rode his KTM Adventure 990 down to my place, while Steve had his R1200 GS trucked down. The old joke is that people in the Northwet don’t tan, they rust. Hence the designation, “Team Rust.” These guys were dying to see some sunshine. To round out our crew, Rich, a local rider from So Cal, signed on during the last week at all. Rich also rides a GS, and has a pretty extensive knowledge of Baja, which was to come in handy every so often during our travels!
After receiving countless warnings, advice, and concerns from well-meaning friends, relatives, and co-workers we’d heard nearly everything. “Don’t you worry about getting shot?” “No more than using the ATM after dark,” I’d counter. What about robbers? “They’ll steal everything you own,” one well meaning friend offered. “Don’t drink the water, or coffee, and don’t eat any vegetables, the water will make you sick,” another friend confided. “The soldiers have guns and they are all corrupt. They could shoot you at a military checkpoint or stash drugs on your motorcycle when you aren’t looking.” “What about the narco cartels? They are battling on the streets. You could get caught in crossfire.” I smiled, and realized that most of the folks who were so concerned about our safety have never been to Mexico, but all had a friend of a friend who was shot/stabbed/robbed or otherwise dented at some indeterminate time in the past. After hearing enough horror stories the line between reality and myth became so blurry that we were even more determined to sample the adventure Baja had to offer. Besides, is it an adventure if everything goes to plan?
So, with common sense as an ally, I picked up Steve at Ontario Airport, and Ed rolled into my driveway. Ed looked like a drowned rat, drenched in sweat after rolling down I-5 in mid 90f temps. The coup d’etat was the stop and go driving for the last 20 miles to our place. Ed, not being a lane splitter, got hung up in the Friday afternoon -get –out- of –LA traffic. I knew he would be a great guy to ride with when he took off his helmet, smiled, and said “Great ride down!” It’s good to be an optimist,and if you aren’t , it’s great to ride with one!
We ate a great dinner that evening with Jennifer, finished some last minute stuff, and hit the sack. Saturday morning came early-after some great breakfast we said our goodbyes to Jennifer and we were off. The temps were pleasant and we sped east bound towards Salton Sea. We stopped at “Salvation Mountain” and took a few pix. If you haven’t been here, you should check it out, and hopefully meet the artist who conceived and built it. He is quite elderly, but continues to paint and add to the Mountain, aided by an army of volunteers. Where these folks come from beats me, as Niland is truly in the Middle of Nowhere!
Here we are getting ready to hit the road...Steve, Jennifer, Rich, and Ed. You have to trust me that I was actually there!
Salvation Mountain was interesting...When in Niland it's well worth it to stop and check it out. A little further down the road is "Slab City," a ramshackle collection of trailers perched on an old Marine base. Very divergent folks out here...:clap:clap
We continued to speed south, as the desert changed from sand to agriculture. We rode through the charming city of Brawley, stopped in Calexico for fast food and fuel, and drove across the border.
Going into Mexico is a no-brainer. You cross a line that separates the haves from the have-nots, and presto! You are in Mexico. No one checks your papers or asks you where you are going. In the space of 100 yards your brain is forced to cope with a completely new driving experience.. Smoking vehicles, mad-hatter drivers, throngs of people, blaring music, tiny shops selling everything, mixed in with a few fancy hotels, restaurants, and the ubiquitous McDonalds and Starbucks. Wow-talk about sensory overload.
Getting our bearings and orientation, we gingerly picked our way through traffic that had its own tempo and pace. Traffic laws suddenly became suggestions one could follow, or not, depending on the circumstances. Taxis were interesting. I had one try to gradually push me out of my lane at a signal. I tapped on his hood with my gloved fist and shrugged at him. He smiled and shrugged back, but still giving me some room to maneuver. Ahh…Mexico.
I can't believe I was taking pictures here...:rofl
Mexicali is a big city, being the major regional governmental center for Baja California Norte. Signage to San Felipe was pretty good, and in no time at all we’d left the choking city behind in favor of crop land, and eventually sparse desert.
The highway was in very good shape with a speed limit of 80 KPH. This of course was merely a suggestion, until you get caught. At less than 110 KPH a motorcyclist runs a grave risk of being run down by semi trucks and tour busses. And, since there are is normally no shoulder, spots to pull over must be chosen carefully. Sometimes I didn’t take all the pix I wanted because in many places it was not safe to pull off the road, other times I just watched my six and took pix anyway!:rofl
Northern Baja around Laguna Salida (Salt Bay) was very desolate, beautiful and huge-like riding across Montana.. I’m afraid the pictures won’t do it justice, but here goes anyway!
This semi is closing at about 90 mph...stand by for a major blast of wind!
Look at the angle of the GS to the highway. To say it was windy would be an understatement!:huh
Here we stopped for a much needed break. It was fun practicing my ridiculously limited Spanish on them. Hopefully I provided them some comedic relief...
After a Mexican soft drink (the best since they are made with cane sugar) it was time to saddle up and find Ensenada. Check out the absolutely brand spankin' new GSA. What kind of fool would take a just purchased GSA to Mexico? I'm your huckleberry...:rofl
Eventually the highway took us to Ensenada, BC. We gassed up and found a deserted hotel with a great rate for the evening. After washing the road grime and sweat off, we were ready to eat, so “El Nido” it was. El Nido was an excellent restaurant, and we were the only customers. Sea food and steaks were excellent-I had top sirloin cooked over an open wood fire. Just like camping with table cloths, silver, and six waiters fawning over you. Can’t blame them, since there was no business!
It was a bit unsettling walking around Ensenada, looking at dozens of closed businesses and half completed beachfront hotels. It was Saturday night and we literally saw NO pedestrians on the main street during our six block walk to the beach.
A far cry from my last visit to town about 13 years ago, when it was noisy, lively, and brimming with tourists. I asked our waiter. He shrugged his shoulders, and said, “What can we do, Amigo, but survive? Tourists are afraid to come here because of news reports of violence.” He hoped that one day things would be better, but that much depended on educating American tourists that Baja is a safe tourist destination.
More later, as we enjoy the evening, get a good night’s sleep and pack up the next morning for some dirt roads and the more rugged Baja! Stay tuned…
Looking forward to seeing that jaw-dropping GS get dirty! :lol3
Well, in spite of the loneliness of the city, it was beautiful in it's way. Mexican families played in the pool while a singer serenaded them. And, the sunrises were outstanding!
Check out the beach house....there were incredible deals on beach front property, but most are lying empty!
After eating breakfast....during which I mistook Jamon for Tocino, we took off for Puertocitos.
The road down to Puertocitos was pretty nice but you had to keep an eye out for the vados, or dips. They were not your garden variety dips in the highway. Some had very sharp drop-offs with secondary ledges about half way down. Others were very steep. Rich had been down this road a few times and he seemed to know where the really good ones were. I'd watch his brakelights and be warned...
Not much to Puertocitos. We took the old road into town to get some information at the Pemex and doubled back to the highway, rapidly eating up the last few miles of pavement! On the way, check out the "Cow Patty Inn." It was worth a picture or two:
There was art in front of the Cow Patty as well...
Soon we new the highway would run out, and it did, abruptly shortly after this Mexican road warning device:
A pile of rocks in the middle of the road meant slow down, for whatever reason. In this case, the asphalt ran out. We stopped to make a few preparations, such as air down the tires.
Check out the road leading off to the right. One day this will be paved, and a huge piece of the adventure of riding Baja will be gone, in my opinion. And it was adventure for me, being a dirt noobie and riding a brand new moto! Rich gave me a few dirt riding tips, and he was gone, not to be seen for some time. I was in awe of his ability to ride fast through the changing conditions, but I needed to remind myself that he'd been doing it for about a 100 years, while this was basically my first time. I was ok with it...
Rich's advice was pretty simple. Keep a light grip on the bars, use the throttle, and go easy on the brakes. Ok Rich.:eek1
A mile or so down the road, the GSA decided to nap, and decided rather abruptly! I was picking my way down a very steep, sandy section, and the next thing I knew I was lying on my back, staring at the sky. No harm no foul, so I got up and with a bit of help righted the beast. It was like I told you...easy on the brakes, use the gas, and no deathtrap on the bars. I think I was in violation of rule number 3!
More later, and thanks for looking!
I think you were in San Felipe not Ensenada. I also experenced the lak people in town. Not like it used to be . Nice Pics.
Nice RR and great photos. Heck I wondered what was taking you guys so long to catch up, now I know. Your writng style is great, but why are we Team Rust? Not due to the age is it? An overall average of ?? years, well we won't go there. Keep it coming. :freaky:freaky 4 fools! :lol3
Awesome.. as expected.... I posted some tonight on my Facebook... but this RR will be great Steve..... keep it coming... I know you'll post that one shot I gave ya of Rich dealing with a tank slapper just before Cocos... the guy never goes down, ah well .....I'll just leave it at that!.. That's a joke Rich!
Great time with a good crew!'
Thanks for sharing the sunshine!! It looks like a warm and lovely adventure :thumb
More to come!
Well, I found out soon enough the Big Pig is def. not a sand hopper. I resolved to shorten my learning curve...:clap The scenery on the way to Coco's was amazing. Here are a few more shots I hope you enjoy!
you can see the track I followed in order to topple the Pig. A less novice rider would have kept to the left on this one!:clap
I tried in my photos to give you a sense of the scope and loneliness of this area...
Finally a view of the Sea of Cortez, and one of the few vehicles we saw on the roadway...
Pretty good depth-of-field for a Point and Shoot, wouldn't you say?
Ed and the big KTM. Great bike, and suited for Ed's size!
A few more twists and turns and we were nearing Alfonsina's on Gonzaga Bay. Loved this place-here are a few shots...
The best way to get to Bahia de Gonzaga, IMHO.
Taking a well deserved soda break at Alfonsina's...
This is a very tranquil place...
I think it would be easy to get lost in time here!
More after school tonight!:D
Hey Guys ... Thanks for sharing. Love the pics. Pity that the media is painting such an unfair and one sided picture of Mexico on the whole! Looking forward to reading more of your exploits.... Salud!
Here are more pix of our Baja ride...I enjoyed taking them, and hope you enjoy looking! Loved Gonzaga Bay!
Is your sticker up here? Nice backlit window shot:
Steve, enjoying his favorite beverage while riding...
Soon, back on the road....Next stop, Coco's Corner.
Ok, on with the trip!:clap After some cokes at Alfonsina's it was off to Coco's Corner-figured I'd seen enough pix of it on these pages that I better check it out. Steve and Ed concurred-Rich has been here about a hundred times, but that was ok with him as well...
Here is Coco's recycling plan:
Coco's is as much in the middle of nowhere as any place I've ever seen.
It's obligatory to nail underwear to the ceilings of Coco's...I lost the sense of scale on this photo, but these are big girl panties.
The facilities are somewhat unimproved.
Coco's caretaker. Apparently Coco was having health problems and was seeking medical care in Ensenada.
Make sure you sign the guest book! Steve, me, Rich, and Ed.
Love my "new" Alpinestars. Kept my feet comfy and lower legs safe!:clap
RKA makes a great tank bag for the GSA. The "Shiloh" model is expandable and fits the tank quite well.
Leaving Coco's and looking forward to a few more miles of dirt...:clap From here, the road improved IMHO. Not so much sand, but still an occasional berm of gravel or dg.
More pixs soon as we reach asphalt and head toward Bahia de Los Angeles!
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