Day One: (Cont'd):
So there we were....a group of 9 riders split into two groups: the group of six convened at the top of the first pass and ready to push on to Mission Guadalupe and then Mulege; the second group of three left to their own resources with our trusting that they would make it to Mulege without tragedy....unless tragedy had already struck
We rode on in several clusters with Wayne and myself pulling up the rear. Wayne is a strong rider and tends to prefer to ride sweep for several reasons: one is to ensure no one is left behind and is motivated by his caring for others; a second is his desire to ride his own ride and not be eating dust or pushed by the pace of others when he may choose a different pace; and the third being his interest in photography.
The road varied from loose steep uphills to the usual rough roads meandering between dry river crossings distinguished by toaster-sized rocks as pavement
When waiting at the first pass, two vaqueros guided several cows and a calf past us from the direction we had just come...the cows were nervous about my bike in the middle of the road (the other guys had moved theirs to the side) and took a detour through all sorts of cactus and prickly bushes. The poor vaqueros had to follow to keep the livestock directed back onto the road rather than scattering down the mountainside.
I felt bad about my laziness and leaving my bike in their path....and promise not to do that again
. It is ironic as I get bothered on group rides when the cluster stops to convene but does so spread all over the road rather than by pulling off to the side to allow any other traffic through....this time I was "THAT GUY".
For another hour or more we would criss-cross paths with these vaqueros and it was stunning how they were always ahead of us with a herd increasing in size. I simply do not know how they did it
, but this is their territory and they are the masters of it.
On the way up to the second pass my gas reserve light went on around the same time my 3-litre water pack dried up....which, unfortunately also coincided with me being dangerously close to bonking
. I was carrying too much stuff for this level of riding, should have been on my 450 for this kind of stuff, and ....as I mentioned earlier, I am a fat guy with no excuses (aside from the two previously mentioned
I told Wayne that I was getting low on fuel despite having put at least 8 litres of fuel in the Safari auxiliary tank....and he commiserated that he too was getting close to being on reserve....and we had probably at least 75 kms before we got to Mulege...cause for both of us to worry
I had opened the petcocks on the Safari tank at the top of the first pass as I wanted to shift some weight off the front of the bike... I thought that there is no way I used that much fuel even though the 690's fuel system was set to the high performance setting (i.e. thirstier mode)
! The Safari tank filler cap had a brand new stock KTM breather hose on it, the fuel lines were intact and there had not been any fuel leaks or spills that day.....so....WTF ???
I unscrewed the fuel cap to see how much gas was sloshing around when I heard the hissing sound of escaping air....or something like that
. Fuel started to flow when I removed the gas cap....the vent valve on the cap had not been working and no fuel had transferred to the stock tank....
One less thing to worry about now....just my physical stamina was the weak link at this point....not bike issues....
. I assured Wayne that I had plenty of fuel and could transfer some to him when he needed it as he was already coasting the downhill sections to conserve fuel.
Wayne shared a bit of water and we wound our way down to the junction near the ruins of Mission Guadalupe. For me it was a hard slog but I was approaching an area where I have ridden a half-dozen times before....and that was somehow comforting.
Wayne and I rendezvoused at the bottom of the mountain section and I told him to go ahead as I knew where I was but needed to stop for a rest...I could make it to Mulege on my own, I assured him.
I sat for about 10 minutes before I heard some bikes coming along sort of from the direction I had just come. I looked through the brush and cactuses from the rock I was sitting on when I saw three bikes headed in the opposite direction I was going to take to Mulege. I thought, "Cool, there is another ride going on out here..." as I did not recognize their bikes.
As their path seemed to cross behind me, one of them noticed my bike and pulled up.....it was our Tres Amigos Perdidos from several hours earlier
. Reid , Brian, and Lev figured their mistake out after coming to the end of a canyon and retraced their steps to the beginning of the base of the mountain section....
They were in great spirits.... As the sun would be setting within an hour or so, we all recognized the need to saddle up and continue south and then east to Mulege...and it was about 1.5 hours to Mulege from this point
I told them to go ahead and I would be along shortly....
I didn't see them for the next hour or more when it was dark and Reid was transferring fuel into Brian's Husaberg on the western outskirts of Mulege.
My ride to Mulege was based on sheer grit and determination to get to the stable....the road from Guadalupe to the San Estanislao junction was way rougher than any other time I had been on it (the last time was two years earlier and only two months after the last of the two recent hurricanes had devastated the area....roads were now rockbeds in many places and roads through river crossings were now obstacle courses strewn with rocks ranging from babyheads to microwaves in size....with the ubiquitous loose deep sand punctuating the already torturous route
I came up to Reid and Brian and made sure things were okay....and they cheerfully acknowledged that it was a simple fuel transfer stop. I felt bad when I roosted them with silt when riding away....quite unintentionally....but more due to my exhausted and marginally conscious state of mind. I had been doing one of my hardest ride days EVER...and was looking forward to some rehydration and rest.
As I pulled up to the highway from the Ice House road in Mulege, Lev was stopped there....I pulled along side (on pavement here, so low roost factor)
and asked him if he knew how to get to La Hacienda. When he shook his head "No|, I told him to follow me and we wound through Mulege and came into the back entrance of La Hacienda and through the narrow passageway into the courtyard to the cheerful hellos, back-patting, and Tecate-offerings from those who had arrived about 20-30 minutes earlier.
So....despite the challenges of the day, a group getting "temporarily redirected", and my slow pace, the entire group arrived at the day's destination all within 30-45 minutes of one another.
Not too bad, really...
The group was staying at La Hcienda that night while I was staying with David at a fellow's place he knew along the river (southside) in the Orchards section. The guys told me that I was to meet David at a small gringo watering hole called Jungla Jim's as he had arrived a good 1/2 hour before me and had gone to secure our loaner home. After starting my essential rehydration with a few Tecates, I was preparing to ride over to connect with David when he appeared at La Hacienda. Some quick dinner planning was arranged and the gang agreed to my recommendation to walk down the block to Las Casistas for dinner in about 45 minutes. David and I rode over to the river house and I unloaded, showered, and we returned to town for a great meal, fabulous margaritas (Las Casitas has THE BEST margs in all of my Baja research ....based on numerous Marg Tours up and down the Peninsula), and a great ride-review chatter amongst the group.
It seemed that it was at this point that David and I began to make our connection and develop our budding friendship. We had shared a grueling day with many miles and rough spots in common, we were happy to finally be riding after so much trip anticipation, and we had 9 more days of riding ahead of us...