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!
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...
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...
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!
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!
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...
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…