Day One: San Ignacio to Mulege The Hard Way
Our gang rode out of Rice and Beans at the crack of 10 AM or thereabouts.
Nine of us snaked through the village and south-westerly out on to the road to the lagoon. We rode a spirited ride on the pavement for the first 10 miles and then the riders spaced out a bit once on the rough gravel road that took over on the way out to the lagoon. The dust welcomed us to the ride and somewhat determined different riding styles. I, for one, REFUSE to ride in somebody's dust ...I just don't see the point unless racing or something
Some guys like to ride side-by-side in these conditions, some guys like to wait until the dust has only begun to settle, while guys like me like to wait until the dust has dissipated and to stay out of it until the next corner route-change rendezvous. After about a half hour of riding, we came to the junction where a road turned south towards El Paraje where David caught me rinsing some dust off my bike:
David and I rode the sweep position for a while as the other guys were ripping it up ahead. Several of our group had done this day's route the year before and were on the pipe. At significant junctions, the "last rider" usually waited for the next one to appear and acknowledge him with a wave before continuing...the standard etiquette that is always promised at the beginning of most group rides
...and is sometimes even implemented
Sometimes just a roost track indicated which direction the previous rider had taken
Somewhere between El Paraje, David and I stopped for a momentary break when he noticed he had lost a lower mounting bolt on his Touratech luggage rack (smartly complimented by Wolfman dry bags). He found a replacement and we continued south to Tres Palmas before heading easterly towards El Patrocino. The terrain so far was mixed alto plano desert and the road was fast, with little soft sand, but rough with exposed rocks and occasional washout gullies. Nothing really of a technical challenge, but the kind of stuff you sometimes want to be on the pegs for if you want your eyes to focus on the road. One thing about Baja riding: if you take your eyes off the road for a second, THAT is when you are most likely to hit a rock or a rut that hits your front wheel with a KRANG that wakes you up with a pucker clinch
As we rode out of El Patrocino we could see the mountains far off to the east. The road was still fast and offered some enjoyable riding.
Every once and a while we would pass through an established rancho where often one or several people would be roadside pointing out the directions we wanted to take. We would usually stop and confirm our navigational wherewithall with the ranchers...they were friendly and helpful.
The ranchos in Baja are a world unto themselves. They come from and continue to sustain a rich culture. These days they use hand-held radio communication and keep in frequent contact with one another. I assumed that they knew a group of riders were headed their way far in advance of the sound of our motors...
A great insight to their life may be gained by finding and watching a great documentary called Corazon Vaquero
The sparse desert flora began to become more dense as we approached the foothills ...
And, coming down a hill into a rancho before Los Pilares, we came onto a cement-paved downhill section (an occurance with increasing frequency these days in parts of Baja mountain terrain)...
David's hawk eye captured an old fixer-upper...
I think it was somewhere past Los Pilares and El Datil where the road got rougher and was much more rocky riverbed than sandy double-track.
We were headed up and over some challenging rough mountain roads towards Mission Guadalupe. Most of us managed to negotiate a hairpin in the route at the bottom of the mountain section by a rancho....Reid, Brian, and Lev missed that turn only to end up in a box canyon for a time-consuming detour back to that missed junction.
The ride into that junction was spectacular as the road was totally a riverbed with rocks as a roadbed and frequent water-crossings and slimey green sections sandwiched between towering canyon walls on both sides.
This is where the terrain started to tell us that the adventure had started. We followed the road peppered with switchbacks, loose rock, and some steep uphills...
Rounding one switchback, my rear tire slipped out and I did the splits as my bike went down. It was picked up quickly but wouldn't start.
Before I realized it wouldn't start, Wayne and Murray came up around the corner, saw me picking up the bike. Murray said, "No one saw it happen!" ....which I took as a joke meaning "No witness-no failure". He then asked if I was okay and I replied "Yes", as I had not been injured but had my first bike-drop of the trip
They motored on and I caught my breath while stabbing the e-button.
ALL my pre-trip fears of fuel pump/fuel line kinks claimed centre-stage in my mind...
(690 guys might know about this issue for some bikes....especially after removing the 690 fuel pump housing when installing filters or after-market auxiliary fuel tanks). After a dozen unsuccessful tries, I took my helmet off, turned off the helmet cam (unfortunately, I did not turn it on for the rest of the day....losing hours of killer riding footage
) and thought my trip was over for the day and I would have to do major fuel system surgery and sleep there overnight....(yeah, I know....my worrying can surface as worst-case scenario predictions...).
I gathered my wits and turned the ignition key off as it remained on after the fall and engine stalling. When I turned the key on I heard the fuel pump prime....GOOD NEWS
I thought !!! With a bit of a prayer, I hit the button and the bike started....Boy, was I glad for that
. After about 20-30 minutes bouncing up the road, I came upon my gang at a pass, patiently waiting for me and the others (Reid, Brian, and Lev)...
David caught Murray approaching the first pass ...
And finally me rocketing up the road...
I was pooped at that point
The riding was not really that challenging for the other guys, but I am overweight and under-fit. Some might say that I am not in shape, but I sometimes need to remind them that "round is a shape".
I got off my bike and waited with the rest for Reid, Brian, and Lev.
We waited for about 20-30 minutes and entertained a variety of options.
We eventually decided to continue forwards as we determined:
1) Reid had a good GPS topo map and had done the ride the year before;
2) Reid had a 5 gallon tank, so he could supply fuel to the smaller tanks if needed;
3) The GPS topo map indicated that they had likely continued past the hairpin junction at the bottom of the mountain and that road would eventually reconnect to where we were headed within 10 miles or less...
Views from the pass #1:
From whence we came...
Examining a map...
Wayne and I were the last to head down from the pass once we decided we could trust the Tres Amigos Perdidos to find their way to Mulege