I was up with the sun again and ready to roll by 7:30 am.
I knew this was going to be a long day because I wanted to ride up the west coast and get to either Mikeís Sky Ranch or Laguna Hanson, hadnít decided which, but either way I figured it would be a long day.
It was about 25 miles of dirt to Cocoís Corner, where I thought I might stop briefly since Iíd heard so much about it.
The road was a typical mix of Baja stuff with ever-changing scenery.
Once again . . . never knew what I'd see around the next corner
It's best to keep an eye on the road
I made good time getting to Cocoís and when I stopped out front to take a couple pics of the sign I heard someone shouting - it sounded like friendly shouting and Iíd heard Coco was quite a character so I thought maybe he was yelling for me to come over - I did, and he was. Coco is a character for sure. He speaks English well enough to have a conversation and he seems to know everything about Baja, and he seems to enjoy sharing his knowledge of the area too. Coco and another young man were sitting at a table and I joined them for a chat. The young man at the table turned out to be Darin (diesel1015 on ADV), who describes himself as an ďavid motorcyclist, outdoorsman, mechanic, former soldier and future college studentĒ who is ďLost and loving it
Ē. We talked with Coco for a while about Baja and Cocoís place then I started asking Darin about his trip and where he was from, etc. Well, that turned out to be pretty interesting to me and we talked for quite a while, over an hour I think. Eventually Coco hopped on his four-wheeler and sped off leaving us there chatting away. Darin had some time between finishing his time in the service and starting college in the fall so he decided to take a little trip. He had left Georgia about a month earlier on his DR650 with a very loose plan to head toward Panama. He was in no hurry. He stayed at Cocoís the night before. It turned out he was interested in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering, which is my background, and he hadnít really had a chance to talk to anybody that had actually done it so we talked about that for quite a while. I was very impressed with this young man and sincerely wish him well in his journey, his education and his future career.
Me and Darin
I was all ready to leave when I decided Iíd like to get a look at Darinís bike and get a picture of him with it so we went over to where he spent the night and I got a pic, took one with his camera too so heíd have one. I noticed he had a GPS like mine and I asked what he was using for maps and if he had any tracks, etc. He was really sort of winging it . . . he didnít have any tracks, no Baja map for his GPS, and the only paper map of Baja he had was one that he said a couple from Switzerland he had met gave him - and it really didnít have much detail. Like I said, he was in no hurry and heading in the general direction of Panama. I had good maps so I walked back to my bike and got my NatGeo Baja North map out and gave it to him. I wished I had brought my Baja South map so I could have given him that too, but I knew I wasnít headed into Baja South this trip so I hadnít brought it with me. Darin was very thankful for the map, we wished each other a safe journey and I went back to my bike, hopped on and headed out the 12-mile dirt road that would connect me with MEX-1 where Iíd head north toward the west coast of Baja
Darin and his bike in front of one of Coco's rental rooms
My first thought as I left Coco's was that I was about an hour and half behind schedule already and Iíd only traveled 25 miles so far today. That concerned me a little because I knew I had a long ride today. I made my way out to MEX-1 at a fairly spirited pace, but couldnít help stopping for some pics along the way.
I reached MEX-1, headed north and stopped for a pic a few miles up the road.
As I often do when I stop, I was looking over my bike and checked the rear box to make sure it was latched tight - it wasnít. When I took out the map to give to Darin I didnít latch the box, and when I returned to my bike I didnít check it. Normally Iíll just leave the lid open if Iím not done, but with the bag strapped to my seat it wonít stay open, so the lid closed, but wasnít latched. This was my first significant mistake on this trip, if you donít count spending too much time at Cocoís.
I opened the box and it was obvious I had lost some things, fortunately not too much, and nothing really critical, but I had lost the small bag that held all my electrical cords for GPS, heated gear, cell phone, etc. Being behind schedule already I didnít really want to go back, but it wasnít that far and I expected Iíd recover most of the stuff so I turned around and headed back toward Cocoís. I figured anything that was going to fall out probably did so shortly after leaving Cocoís so I expected to have to ride pretty much all the way back, and I did. I found a couple small things on the road on the way back, then I passed Darin headed out and stopped to tell him what happened and he said he found several things, including the bag with all my electric cords in it, about a half mile past Cocoís and placed them up on a mound on the side of the road. I rode back to where he said he found them and sure enough it was there and I put it back in the box and was ready to get started again. At this point I decided to lock the box at all times
with the little padlock I had for it to make sure that wouldnít happen again.
Well, now I was probably two and a half hours behind schedule on what was already supposed to be my longest riding day. Not good. Before heading off again I decided Iíd better take a minute to think about my schedule, and my options, but I didnít want to think about it too long. I was so far behind I actually considered retracing my route back up the east coast. I knew I could make it to San Felipe no problem, find a place to stay there, and be in a good position to make it back to Sierra Vista the following day, but I really wanted to go up the west coast. If I went back up the east coast I was going to miss at least half of what I wanted to explore and the main point of this trip was to get familiar with as much as possible in a few days for future trip planning. So I made the decision fairly quickly to press on up the west coast. The thing that really concerned me was that it looked like I was going to be caught about an hour short of where I wanted to get to when darkness fell, and I wasnít aware of any other places to camp/stay in the area where Iíd be when it started getting dark. Nothing I could do about that now except keep moving, which I did, with the exception of stopping for fuel, which wasnít optional, and pics, which I couldnít resist.
I wasnít sure what to expect heading up MEX-1. This was another case where I thought it would be just another road to get me where I was going, but it turned out to be very scenic. It was a beautiful road that climbed up through the mountains as it crossed Baja to the west coast.
Along with losing time, I burned some extra fuel, which could be a potential problem as well. I had PEMEX stations located on my GPS, but you canít always rely on them actually being open, as was the case when I reached Catavina. I was hoping to fuel up there given the extra fuel I had burned, but the PEMEX there was no longer operating. Fortunately, a couple locals saw this as an opportunity to earn a few pesos and I purchased a gallon of fuel for 50 pesos (pretty reasonable really) from a nice gentleman across the street from the closed PEMEX on the side of the road with a cart full of one-gallon jugs of gasoline. I was tempted to get more, and he was anxious to sell me more, but I knew Iíd be passing thru some bigger towns up the coast that would have fuel and Iíd have no trouble making it that far with what I already had and the gallon I purchased.
Onward . . .
Finally reached the west coast
When I reached El Rosario I fueled up at the PEMEX there and I knew that would take me as far as I needed to go today so that was one less thing to worry about.
Another mistake I made, that ultimately really had no effect on my trip, was expecting to be able to purchase at least some of my fuel with a credit card. That didnít happen. If youíre going to Baja, bring cash (pesos) because thatís all youíre going to be able to use most, if not all places. And, some things were a little more expensive than I expected, like camping, and the room at Alfonsinaís. The net result was I was getting low on cash - I only converted $140 to pesos before entering Mexico, and I only had another $40 cash in my wallet.
I knew Iíd need one more fuel stop to get me back across the border to Calexico and the land of credit cards and atmís so I kept an eye out for a PEMEX that would take a credit card when I reached the area around San Quintin since that was a larger town with a number of PEMEX stations around. I passed several larger stations with signs that said they accepted credit cards, even a few with signs (in English) that said they accept US & Mexico credit cards, and I stopped at them, but even those told me they did not accept US credit cards. It wasnít that critical so I pressed on further north.
That area around San Quintin was slow going - a little congested with low speed limits in the populated areas, and traffic moved along very slowly. There wasnít much to see there and I just wanted to get going again. After a while I made it through there and the pace picked up again. Things also got a little more scenic again, but I didn't take any pics through there - I needed to keep moving for a while.
My plan was to cut across to Valle de Trinidad and MEX-3 on a dirt road a little south of San Vicente. There was a military checkpoint about 100 feet past the turnoff onto this dirt road and I wasnít sure what theyíd think of me just heading off down the side road so I pulled up slowly with my turn signal on and when one of the soldiers looked my way I pointed toward the side road and he just waved me on without having to stop.
I had been told this was an easy route across to MEX-3. Again, I didnít know exactly what to expect and thought this might be just another road to get me where I was going, but this turned out to be a spectacular road that passed through some of the most beautiful farmland Iíve ever seen, then snaked through the mountains - over 35 miles of some of the most winding mountain road Iíve ridden, and absolutely gorgeous scenery. Of course, I knew that winding through the mountains like this Iíd be in and out of the sun and starting to lose some daylight since it was almost 4:00 pm when I started across.
Saw what looked like a cemetery on a hillside in the middle of nowhere
A little further into the mountains
About half way across this completely deserted mountain road, almost 20 miles from either end, I came across this cow standing there all by itself. It looked just as surprised to see me.
Shortly after seeing the cow I rounded one of many rough and bumpy hairpin turns and as I tried to accelerate up the hill out of the turn I got nothing. I was going really slow thru the turn, thought I missed second and hit neutral so I down-shifted back to first Ė still nothing. Uh oh! Actually, I didnít really panic (for more than a millisecond). Another little mistake Ė part of the domino effect from being behind schedule. Starting out this morning I noticed my chain was a little loose so I decided Iíd adjust and lube it when I hit the pavement of MEX-1 where I could put the center stand down on something clean and solid. After backtracking to get the stuff I lost I forgot about it for a while and when I remembered again I was halfway through the day and so far behind schedule I decided to wait until I stopped for the day. Rolling over the holes in the road on that last turn the chain jumped off the rear sprocket letting me know it wasnít going to wait any longer. No problem, at least it wasnít dark yet. I had the chain adjusted and lubed and was back on my way in about ten minutes. Should have done that in the morning.
I didnít get a pic of it, but as I neared the end of the road by Valle de Trinidad I noticed a manned gate a short distance ahead. There was a gate, a small shack, and a guy in plain clothes standing next to the shack near the gate. Nothing else around really - it seemed out of place and I couldnít imagine what it was, but as I got closer he raised the gate, smiled and waved me through. I slowed down and shouted out a ďmucho gracias amigoĒ as I passed by. Still donít know what it was.
I finally reached Valle de Trinidad at about 5:15 pm, not dark yet, but thatís when the dayís adventure really began.