By early April the drizzly and cold Oregon winter finally got to me, and rather than opening up a vein, I pointed the bike south and headed for the heat and dust of Baja. My goal was simply to have a good time, soak up some sun, and drink the proper measure of adult beverages.
Yes, it's yet another Baja ride report. But I spent most of my time on pavement. And because I was riding alone, I didn't try to hang anything precious too far over the ragged edge. So those of you looking for a testosterone-fueled adventure might want to look elsewhere. This one's going to be pretty tame in comparison. You've been warned!
But if you've never been to Baja, and are thinking about maybe dipping your toes into the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, then maybe this report might have something to offer you.
I've been down there four times before. But always by car or airplane. So this would be a first for me.
And so I packed up the bike and set out at O dark thirty on a cold, wet Saturday morning and rode up over Siskiyou Pass on I-5. The temperature quickly dropped down below freezing as I ascended the pass, and a light snow fell. I had to keep my visor open to keep it from fogging up, and the sharp, icy snowflakes stung my face.
I couldn't get out of Oregon fast enough.
By the time I hit Dunsmuir, south of Mt. Shasta, the snow had stopped falling. But the temperature didn't rise out the 30s until I rolled through Redding at the north end of California's central valley.
And then after breakfasting in Williams, I came out to discover this:
WTF? This was definitely not good. It seemed to be radiator fluid, but trying to discover where it had come from proved impossible because it was coating the entire front surface of the engine. There was none around the water pump, and no obvious leaks at the bottom of the radiator, so I took those pictures with my iPhone and sent them to my dealer in Medford, hoping he might have some clue what had happened.
His first guess: blown head gasket. Not what I wanted to hear. My trip was done.
But there was a BMW dealer (A&S) about 60 miles away in Roseville, CA. So I figured that I'd top off the radiator and limp on over there to let their mechanics have a look. And with my eyes alternately scanning the road and the temperature gauge, I made it there and turned the bike over to them.
Fortunately for me, my older brother lives about 15 miles away. So I had a place to stay for the night if the bike wasn't going to get me any farther. But for the next four hours I got to cool my heels in A&S's waiting area while they tried to diagnose my bike's problem.
They checked the computer codes, ran the engine up to where the fans kicked on twice, and then rode the bike around the neighborhood, trying to make it recreate the problem. But nothing seemed wrong at all. Their only guess was that the radiator cap was faulty, and proposed replacing it and seeing whether that solved the problem.
I hate mechanical mysteries. But I had two choices: Head back home and forget the trip, or ride on down to the border the next day and see if any more fluid spilled. If it did, I'd pack it in and head home. But if it didn't, I'd cross the border and take my chances. So I chose to push my luck.
But first my brother, kind soul that he is, took me out for a fine dinner of sushi and sake, followed by generous amounts of Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic before turning in.
The next morning my head hurt. Go figure.
But I set out south again with high hopes.