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Old 04-23-2009, 04:32 PM   #1
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How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja

San Francisco to Panama and back... eventually?
How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:35 PM   #2
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How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja

I have been bragging about my Central America trip to all my friends ever since I got back. The responses tend to fall into three basic attitudes: A) I hope to read your further adventures in your blog. B) I expect to read your further adventures in your obituary. C) I want to go!

Response C, of course, is where this story begins. I put out a call to my rider friends to see who would be interested in a trip into Baja. Despite an initial outcry of interest, when the time finally came to fill the scrotum with gasoline and ride, I only had two compatriots with sufficiently large-capacity testicles:

* Jon, a brand new rider on a shiny new, yet-unscratched (heheh) DRZ-400SM. He spent decades racing pedal-powered road bikes and believes that this gives him crossover skill on a motorcycle. The strange thing is, it actually seems to. What you should know about Jon is that he loves to create photoshop "art" of people standing next to downed motorcycles. Fortunately I can teach you how to recognize the fakes: The clear giveaway is that it will be a picture of me standing next to my own motorcyle.

* Nicole, an experienced sportbike rider who bought a kitted-out 2005 KLR just for this trip. She's one of four people in the universe currently alive that plays classical piano for a living and actually earns enough money to afford a KLR. Incidentally, I believe her armored gloves cost more than her motorcycle. Other than two days of American Supercamp (worth every penny, btw) she has no dirt experience. I believe she hopes to sell what is left of the KLR when we return, then get on her knees and beg her Triumph Daytona to taker her back.

A quick message to my friends who didn't come on this trip: YES, THAT'S RIGHT, A GIRL HAS BIGGER BALLS THAN YOU DO! Of course, if you've ever ridden with her, you probably already know that Nicole has bigger balls than you. On the other hand, as you can guess from the title of this narrative, you're probably spitting less sand from your mouth, sleeping in beds with comfortable little springs in them, and walking upright without a limp. Wuss.

Jon and Nicole may chime in on this thread with their version of the events. Let me assure you in advance that these will all be lies and fabrications. Especially the pictures. See "Jon" above.

To make this even more interesting, I'm riding a new (to me) KTM 990A with a lot of thorougly untested gadgetry and farkles that I installed last week.

Oh, did I mention that our plan is to take the nastiest, ugliest dirt roads we can find? By "our plan" of course I mean "my plan", because Jon and Nicole have no idea what they are getting into. May the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe (burned into a slice of toast, preferably sourdough) bless their poor, naive souls.

So, to sum it up:

Two weeks to get from San Francisco to La Paz and back, taking as many dirt roads as possible. Three bikes, only one rider with dirt experience and he has a 100+ lb handicap over the next lightest bike. New, untested bikes. What could go wrong?
San Francisco to Panama and back... eventually?
How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja

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Old 04-23-2009, 04:41 PM   #3
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I'm ready, get this thing going.
You're never lost as long as you still have gas!
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:47 PM   #4
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Lets hear more ....

Then, while at WFO on my way up a dune, I understood. It was like the heavens opened up and I heard the voices of Angels.
Shortly afterward, I heard the voice of God. He said, and I quote, "Dumbass."
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:49 PM   #5
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Endeavor to suck less--Gaspipe
I would rather be riding an imperfect bike than waiting around for perfection. --JDowns
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:52 PM   #6
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Let's do it, sounds like fun!!

Be sure the safest rule is that we should not dare to live in any scene in which we dare not die. ~Lewis Carroll~
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:58 PM   #7
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:50 PM   #8
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Ohhh looks cool so far!!!!
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Old 05-05-2009, 10:58 PM   #9
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Day 7: Well Trodden Ground

Thursday, April 9th

Jon's wrist and Nicole's ankle were still recovering, so we stuck to fairly mild roads on the way to Bahía de Los Angeles.

Deserts are beautiful when you aren't about to expire from thirst.

Reveling in my newfound riding skills, I spent every possible opportunity riding in the sand ruts that parallel the main road. With far less rocks and washboard, they make for much more comfortable (and occasionally much more exciting) riding!

We came upon that famous Baja landmark, Coco's corner, and said hi to The Man.

Sadly, we skipped the Calamajué wash. It's high on my list of future adventures, though.

Once more, we refill the tires. This process will be repeated many, many more times on this trip. My new rule is a minimum of one pump for every two bikes. The CyclePump is far too slow.

The road into Bahía de Los Angeles is paved.

We stopped at a combination restaurant and hotel on the beach. We weren't sure if we were going to eat and ride south, or eat and stay. The availability of cold beer made the decision for us

San Francisco to Panama and back... eventually?
How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja
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Old 05-15-2009, 01:19 PM   #10
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Day 10: Submit Your Lolwhalez Entry Here

Saturday, April 11th

We woke up to cold, howling wind.

Two hours on the ocean in a panga in gale-force winds was not an option, so we waited a couple hours before giving up and packing the bikes up in disappointment. But just as we were preparing to leave, the weather calmed!

Fortunately I had charged my (waterproof) camera from the camp's wind generator. Fifteen minutes after stepping on to the boat, we were surrounded by whales!

This curious baby got pretty close:

...and then got closer:

....and then got CLOSER!

It swam up to us several times and we actually petted a baby whale! It felt blubbery. Go figure.

Eventually we moved around to a different pair of whales, this time two very friendly adult females:

I mean REALLY FRIENDLY! They practically tried to jump in the boat.

I will never again be able to enjoy regular whale watching on a big boat with binoculars. I can't believe we nearly missed this experience - if the wind had kept up for another 15 minutes, we would have lost out.

Packed up and back on semi-dry land, we headed south along the coastal mud flats.

It really does just go on and on like that. It wasn't entirely dry, either. Here's the evidence of Jon nearly learning how hard it is to push a bike in mud:

Of course, we're still in Baja, not on the moon, so there is the federal mandatory minimum of abandoned cars:

The road eventually turned inland, and ran over these hard-packed dunes. It was the smoothest, most pleasant surface I have yet ridden over in Baja:

We landed in San Juanico, a small surf town, and called it an early day.

We ate good food, drank beer, did laundry, and - most importantly - found the local vendor of barrel gas.


San Francisco to Panama and back... eventually?
How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja
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Old 06-02-2009, 02:29 PM   #11
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Day 11: Rock Garden

Sunday, April 12th

This would be the most technically challenging day of riding on the trip, although you wouldn't guess it from looking at the map. Fortunately we had been warned about the condition of the road, so we were prepared for what we got. The plan: Southeast to San Isidro, southeast San José de Commondú, east over the mountains to Loreto.

The ride out of San Juanico was easy, solid ground:

San Isidro is a small inland town around a palm oasis. No ocean view but it does not lack for scenery:

We found a single "restaurant" - really the backyard of a shop with a woman willing to make us a few tortas. While there, we did a little work on the KLR. Unfortunately Nicole's new brake lever had been made too short, so it needed a riser built to the proper standards of KLR repair:

Stocked up with full stomachs, plenty of gatorade and water, and a small reserve of food... we're off!

...or not:

It was Jon's turn for a flat. Fortunately we were only ten minutes from San Isidro, so we hauled the tire back to town. I hate to imagine what trouble this would have been deeper in the wilds, especially after I watched the professionals struggle to seat the bead on the low-profile tire.

Patched up, we headed on up the mountain... into rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.

Our first attempt at repairing the KLR's rear brake lever didn't hold, so we tried "advanced KLR engineering":

The rocks got UGLY - and steep:


Nicole had it the toughest. There are two ways to get through rocks like that. One is to stand up, grab some throttle, and let momentum, suspension travel, and the absorptive capacity of disposable KTM rims carry you through:

Another is to slowly plod your way through, wrestling your bike on your feet. Nicole could do neither - the lowered KLR suspension wasn't up to the task and the bike was too big for her to manhandle. Nevertheless, she toughed through it without complaining - I think she even had some fun.

Of course, she wasn't the only one to drop a bike. Jon and I managed this two-fer:

Just to make Jon happy I'll add his favorite view of this particular incident:

It finally smoothed out a bit...

...and finally we were in the picturesque little village of San José de Commondú.

On the way east we stopped in the road as a handful of WILD HORSES tentatively approached us. They walked forward, got spooked, ran back, walked forward, chickened out... finally we rode on, slowly chasing them up the hill until they could get off the road. This is the first time in my life I've ever seen wild horses. I had no idea they existed anywhere... it's almost like finding a wild, free-range Buick.

The rest of the way to Loreto was not without mechanical incident... the KLR's speedo cable broke and had to be tied off (yes, we taped over the hole too):

...and we performed Professional KLR Repair(TM) #3 on the rear brake lever:

We rolled into Loreto just after dark.

San Francisco to Panama and back... eventually?
How I Nearly Killed My Friends In Baja
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Old 06-02-2009, 02:40 PM   #12
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So exactly how many ways can you repair a KLR brake lever? The rock was friggin classic!
Riding the Americas: No Fumar Español

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Old 06-02-2009, 03:05 PM   #13
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More importantly he's posting!
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Old 06-02-2009, 03:41 PM   #14
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Umm in case someone has not told you or you have not figured it out yet, there are threaded nuts on the master cylinder that are used to adjust the brake lever. Her first problem is the aftermarket pegs. They are usually much higher than the stock KLR pegs.


I just went back and looked because I had fogotten that a crash had broken the lever. It also looks like the lever is close to or touching the engine case. I guess that there is nothing more that you could have done.
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2008 SYM HD200

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Old 06-02-2009, 03:57 PM   #15
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Location: CA desert in Winter / Traveling in Summer
Oddometer: 168
Eh? Going again!

 √√√ ∆∆∆ √√√ 

OK, I'm back! Thanks for the rest, I was really pooped from witnessing so
many falls and mechanical ills. Now all the NEW falls and mechanical ills
have me begging for the rest of the story.

Keep 'em coming, I'm back in the mood! The photos are great and the
scenery continues to keep my eyes wide open.

When you guys (and gals) recover at home you'll be ready to ride some
Observed Trials events.
----> AMA Charter Life Member
----> Pacific International Trials Society (PITS)
----> Blue Ribbon Coalition


 International Orange: Harley, The Golden Gate Bridge, Black & Decker, KTM 

I formerly listed Home Depot with the International Orange group, but I gave up on them and went to Lowe's
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