So I droned on down I-5 all the way to La Mesa, and the bike didn't wet itself again. Things were looking up.
The next morning I rolled up twisty Highway 94 to Tecate, and crossed over into Mexico.
The plan was to head east and then south to San Felipe, then ride along the Sea of Cortez past Puertecitos and Bahía San Luis Gonzaga, and then cut inland to Coco's Corner and then back out to Laguna Chapala. After that, Bahía de los Angeles, El Arco, and down to Mulegé and Bahía Concepcion before turning north again.
Sort of like this:
If you're wondering where the best place to cross the border might be, look no farther than Tecate. It's a sleepy little crossing, with none of the hordes of Tijuana or Mexicali, and the entire process took me 20 minutes from start to finish.
For those of you who don't know, if you intend to head farther south than the "tourist zone" (south of Ensenada), then you need to fill out, and pay for, a tourist card, or FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple). The process is fairly straight forward, but you have to fill out the form in one office, then take it over to another office to pay for it, get a receipt, then than take it back to the first office to get it stamped.
The reason for the two-step process is apparently to avoid corruption, but depending on where you cross, it can be a time consuming event. In Tecate, where the two offices are adjacent to each other in the same building, it's a cake walk.
I crossed through the border gate and rolled downhill to the first right-hand turn and continued around the block on the one-way streets, ending up back at the immigration office, where I parked the bike. There are plenty of border guards milling about, so security is not an issue.
Entering the door, the first desk is right in front of you. The clerk checks your passport, fills in a few details, and hands you the papers to take to the 2nd clerk at the bank (Banjercito), which is just outside the door to the left. You pay your $21, get a receipt, head back to the first clerk, get a few stamps, and you're on your way. Like I said, 20 minutes tops, and I was dawdling.
Heading out of Tecate, I decided to stay off the toll (Cuota) road heading east, and enjoyed the countryside along the free (Libre) Highway 2.
One of the inmates here suggested that I take a dirt long cut down to Highway 3 from El Hongo to Ojos Negros, but there had been some torrential rains during the previous few days. So I elected to stay on pavement, especially after I saw the many pools of standing water along the sides of the highway, hoping to maybe catch it on the way home.
I had been wanting to ride down the Rumorosa grade for years, and I finally got the chance. It didn't disappoint. An E-ticket ride, for those of you old enough to know what that means.
By the time I got down to sea level, it was lunch time. So soon after veering south on Highway 5 toward San Felipe, I pulled over at a roadside seafood stand, where the proprietor served me a plate of delicious ceviche the size of my head.
Damn, that was good!
His English was about as good as my Spanish, so we had a fairly fractured conversation about how few Gringos are coming down to Mexico these days, and how everyone's hurting. I told him that I have more fear walking down the streets in your average American city than I do of traveling alone in Mexico. But try telling that to most Americans and they think you're nuts. Big sigh.
But once I had finished my ceviche and Coke, I thanked him and saddled up to head south again. The temperature heated up to 80°F as I passed Laguna Salada, and I suddenly felt warmer than I had since probably last September. Ahhhhh.
By 3 in the afternoon I was rolling into San Felipe, where I found a room at the Jesus Motel.
After checking in, the first order of business was to start drinking. And I wasted no time getting down to the malecón to get down to work.
Dinner found me at Rice and Beans, where I practically had the whole place to myself.
But once my belly was full, and my brain properly lubricated, there was nothing better to do at the end of the day than to stroll along the rocky beach at low tide, and then make my way back to the motel along the malecón.
I was thinking: This is a pretty good start.