My travel philosophy is pretty close to the saying attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”. There are times when I’m dropping back and punting due to some bit of information I failed to avail myself of, that I think I’m really just not very good at planning or arranging all of my so-called ducks in a row. And so Lao Tzu’s philosophy becomes my own through the attrition or default of my meager intellect rather than some over-arching synchronicity of “great” minds.
I’ve been spending an extended vacation south of the US border for the last three years. My trip this year as in past years will be solo and will be mostly on paved roads. This year I’m beginning the trip in Baja, where I’ve never traveled other than a brief visit to Tijuana almost 20 years ago. In February I have to meet ADV rider Mundobravo
over on the mainland as we explore an idea we’re working on for a television series filmed in Mexico, so even if I like Baja, I’ll be continuing down the peninsula to the ferry at La Paz, and then on to Alamos in Sonora. I had originally intended on traveling through the mainland and finding, (hopefully), less expensive lodging by staying up to a month at each place, but while searching Craigslist for rental units, I found a casita for rent in Mulege, BCS for $200 US per month. It didn’t look very fancy, (LOL), but it was cheap and the ambient temperature was at least 20 degrees warmer than here in New Mexico. With those conditions in mind, I decided to take a gamble, figuring that if I didn’t like the house or the town I could afford to walk away from it.
Phase I of that “no fixed plans”: Events conspired to delay my departure, and so I’ll now be arriving almost two weeks into my month-long rental. I’m not complaining. It’s January, and I’m riding into Mexico. Woohoo!
By the time I reach Tucson, I’m shedding the liner to my riding jacket, and by the time I reach Yuma, I’m shipping my pants liner and an extra piece of fleece I brought along back home.
Some practical considerations. I treated myself to a topcase for mi moto this year, which is making organizing my gear much easier. I’ve decided to bring my own pillow this year, as that is one of the things that can make the difference between a good night’s sleep for me. I’ve also brought along a folding chair, as the pictures I had seen of the casita in Mulege hadn’t shown any outdoor seating. The bag the chair came in has served a useful purpose in providing an extra place for stuff like my jacket liner as the temperature has warmed up. My new ride apparel is an extension of blogging dress, in that I’ve decided to wear pajama bottoms under my riding pants. So far, I would say that was a good idea from the perspective of comfort while riding, as well as keeping your regular pants cleaner for evening wear once I’ve settled in for the night.
Dunes between Yuma and El Centro off I-8
Phase II of that “no fixed plans” paradigm: Well I prepared a zip-loc bag with my passport, registration, Xerox copies, etc. for the border crossing, but forgot to put the original registration back after making the copies. When the senorita at the border informs me that I can’t bring my moto into Mexico without the original, my head drops as I see my two days of riding the interstate to arrive at this juncture pass before me. In reverse. And then get to repeat the process of riding back here. I’m seriously bummed and speechless. The Senorita’s supervisor starts speaking to her in a lowered voice, and they soon inform me that perhaps something can be done to help me out. Her supervisor walks me over to the immigration office and explains the situation to them. He tells me to wait. Within 5 minutes, an immigration and customs officer is with me asking questions, inspecting the documents and my bike. Eventually he hand-writes a paragraph in teensy print on the copy of my registration and sends me back to get my travel and vehicle permits stamped and approved. The supervisor looks up from his work as I’m heading toward the door and calls out, “Have a great and safe trip Mr. Miguel!” I’m counting my blessings and feeling like I stepped in sh#t and came out smelling like a rose. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart, and I think this was one of those times. As I begin my ride into Mexico, I can’t help but ponder how difficult that process would probably have been had I been a Mexican national trying to cross into the US without proper documentation for my bike. Mexican’s do like their paperwork, but I’ll say one thing, and that is that they remain flexible in the face of a seemingly interminable bureaucracy. In the old days money might have crossed palms to facilitate this, but there was never even a hint of such this morning. Bless the Mexicanos, one and all!
The “Wall” that separates the US from Mexico.
I’m cruising down to San Felipe for the first night. There’s still some water left in the Colorado River after it crosses the Mexican border.
The highway is in good shape, and it’s beautiful.
Eventually construction shunts all traffic off onto a makeshift dirt frontage road. I get to ride off the slab after all. Something tells me it won’t be the last time.
I pull onto the malecon at San Felipe,
and spot some overweight white guys drinking and smoking cigars on the portal of El Mirador in the afternoon sun.
Looks like a good spot to me and as I’m also overweight and white, I join them. They’re businessmen who live here at least part time and I pick their brains about living the ex-pat life in Mexico. They steer me to the Hotel San Felipe, where a communication comedy ensues as the clerk informs me that rooms cost “fifty five dollars”. That seems unreasonable to me since I’ve been staying in rooms in the states that on the surface looked a lot nicer than this place. I ask her in Spanish if she can recommend a place with less expensive rooms, and she informs me that the cheapest room in town is “fifty five dollars” again in her English that’s as broken as my Spanish is. I look dumbfounded, and she asks me how much I had hoped to spend, and I told her in Spanish, “How about $45?” A light flicked on in her eyes, as she told me, this time in Spanish that their rooms cost “veinte y cinco dolares” or $25 dollars. She then asked me what the correct word for “veinte” was in English, and we both learned a useful lesson, which is don’t assume that the person speaking to you in a broken version of your own tongue knows what it is, they’re actually saying.
I returned to the Mirador for another cerveza after a quick walk around town, and ended up joining one of the businessmen for a weekly steak dinner special at the Cortez Hotel/Restaurant. Tomorrow I leave for Ensenada and the trip down route 1. More later.