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Old 04-17-2013, 07:33 AM   #16
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Thumb Great story

Thanks for sharing
Great write up and pictures even with all the dramars
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:13 PM   #17
seJ LeFrew
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Originally Posted by Rex Nemo View Post
T, broken ankle and all, helped by rolling onto the tent and holding it down, spread-eagled, while I tried, like a demented Sisyphus, to hammer stakes into the deep sand that spat them right out again. I tied guy lines, desperately, to scavenged rocks. At this point she burst out laughing, as the wind bowed the tent poles all the way down onto her face—the situation was so bad that it had become hilarious. That laughter was the extra push we needed; we finally managed to wrestle the poles into the clips and get the whole thing up. There was no way the tent fly was going on, and I'd already used every stake in the bag. When we finally crawled in with food, water, painkiller and sleeping bags, the wind howled and shook the tent, and sand sifted through the mesh with each gust. Nothing like a good howler of a windstorm when you've broken a bone and are anticipating a night groaning in pain in the gorgeous moonlit middle of nowhere. And nothing, too, like hearing the howl of the gale tearing at the tent fabric, seeing the desert sparkling venomously in the moonlight, knowing you've led someone you love into pain and damage; and on top of all that, how are you going to get selves and bikes out of there, and to a hospital?

just fantastic writing...thanks for sharing and i'm glad you guys have tasted some real adventure.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:27 PM   #18
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hope T is on her way to full recovery by now.

nice RR and thanks.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:59 PM   #19
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Great writing!

Get well T!
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:18 PM   #20
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Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness.
--Mark Jenkins, The Ghost Road

The mountains behind Canon Guadalupe, early morning

Up before dawn again. In my comfortable cave at home, I moan and pull the covers over myself, trying to shut out the unwelcome morning light. In the desert, my eyes open of their own accord, and my body tenses with an animal expectation. I'm hungry to see the sun come up over the wasteland.

It was time to reach down a little deeper, to scrape down past the comfortable surface of normality, and get in touch with my will. T, taking her wreck and her broken bone straight up, already had.

It was a do-able ride back to Escondido, if I kept on the throttle consistently. I brought water, a couple of energy bars, shoes to drive home in, a few tools and spare tubes (with the sincere hope I wouldn't need 'em), and warm clothes. T and I said another hard goodbye, and I pushed the bike out to the end of the campground in the morning chill, and she fired right up.

Time to do that road a third time. No room for anything but getting it right.
Pace yourself, meet your needs at their bare minimum, stay alert, keep moving. Don't let the parade of worst case scenarios crowd your head, making you get go too fast; but don't hesitate, either.

Why stay alert?

More jackasses. Later, another herd darted out of the brush and into the road at a gallop. All you can do is stay aware, let there be no surprises.

This time, the knobbies dug into the sand and grabbed what they needed to grab, rolled and deflected off the rocks predictably while I breathed and climbed and dropped, light on the bars, skimmed the top of the washboard as I kept eyes up and throttle steady. The good heavy old DR650 will tractor along through a lot, if guided by a confident hand.
I stopped only for a drink, a pee, and a quickly-gobbled energy bar near a makeshift shrine.

Roadside grave, looking out across the dry lake. Was he a rancher? An unlucky driver?

In a strange way, despite the urgency of my ride, I was kinda sad when the dirt ended and the pavement began. It was the last dirt riding I'd be doing in Baja for a little while.

Back up onto the paved road, I ducked into the wind and moved fast. But soon enough, there was that military checkpoint again. This time, instead of smiling soldiers who waved me by, there were scowling faces waving me aside. Pull the hell over, traveler, we've got the gloves on for you. Oh, no. I have a rather important errand, gentlemen...but when I pulled up and said “Hola,” the scowls deepened. They wanted to see my paperwork, easy enough, sure, but then the questions began. In a mix of their minimal English and my shreds of Spanish, we tried to communicate. Why was I alone, and just where was I going, all alone on a motocicleta? They'd thought I was a man, they said, until I flipped up my visor and spoke. Now they wanted it off. Now get off the bike. Where was my novio, my esposito, my boyfriend? I figured I'd better invent one, and fast.

He was back up the canyon, camping, with an injured leg (pierna roto), I said. They clearly didn't believe me. Then they searched my bags—untying everything, examining the camera and GPS critically, pulling out every item inside of every bag, inside the toolkit. Asking, all the while, where was my boyfriend, where was my husband, or maybe I had a girlfriend?
It was not friendly questioning. The young soldier had a hard set to his jaw and the older officer had a suspicious, implacable stare. It is not good to present irregularities to those in power.

“These are not the droids you're looking for,” I kept saying to myself, silently.

Finally, having searched through everything and asked themselves dry, it was over; the young soldier even tied the knots on my bags exactly as he'd found them, and they stepped back.


In retrospect I was probably being shaken down, but didn't realize it, and need to learn the skill of discreetly offering money when needed.

And I was off, not daring to whoop my relief until I was way out of their hearing. And then, the race to California was back on in earnest—coming into the turns hard as I dared on knobby tires, passing slow-moving trucks and cars on the serpentine mountain road up the rocky face of the Sierra Juarez...and being passed in turn by even more breakneck drivers. We whipped past the roadside crosses, each marking a grave or five of unlucky drivers, and then I paid my toll and was back onto the Cuota, making time, making the knobbies hum. Stopping once on the cold plateau for gas in El Hongo, the town that supports the local prison, I was into Tecate soon enough.

There, I knew, would be the long, slow line of cars and trucks getting inspected and searched and slowly allowed back into the US. Soon enough, there it was...a line at least half a mile long. Well, not as bad as the Tijuana crossing, I told myself, trying to calm my agitation and wait in patience. But then, the driver in the car ahead of me turned his head to look at me as if I were a bit crazy, and motioned forward with his hand. So did the next car. I rolled beside them, cautiously. They WANTED me to lanesplit? The tamale seller in his cart, selling food to those stuck in line, rolled his cart back and motioned me by. The guitar player, belting out “Mi Corazon” for spare change from his captive audience, stepped aside and made room for me to pass, trilling his guitar as I rolled past. Hell, even the one-legged beggar hopped aside and motioned me past with a bow and a courtly gesture. It was as if everyone knew I was on a mission, and I rode past the line almost up to the gate, opened my bag and took my questioning from the stern border guard in stride, and headed into the California hills.

By the time I made it to Uncle Chuck's ranch, I was missing directions from the GPS—a sure sign of fatigue. But man was I glad to see the truck again. I called Baja Bound, and quickly cancelled the bike insurance and insured the truck (they were great and flexible about it). But just as I left the bike cooling, peeled off my sweaty boots and got ready to start the truck, my eccentric aunt emerged from her trailer, looking worried. I gave her the briefest of sketches of what had happened, and explained that I REALLY needed to get back to T as soon as possible. Being a devout Christian of a particularly odd variety, she called after me, “I'll pray for her! It would be better for me to lay hands on her here, but I'll pray! God heals the lame every day!”

“Thanks, I appreciate the love,” I called back, “I'm sure she'll be, um, glad to hear it.”

And I was off. I stopped in briefly at a grocery store to grab some more bandages, painkiller, a bit of food, and a bunch of beer and vodka for our benefactors at the campground. I raced back down to the border, crossed without questions (hey, that tourist card and passport were still good, I'm sure), and headed back down the now-familiar highway once more. I flew down the crazy Rumorosa pass in the darkness, turned off onto the dirt road, and hammered over the bumps and slid around in the sand, then climbed rocks, plowed through the water crossing, navigated in the darkness, and, no way, I was back. In 12 hours. I staggered out, tired and hungry, to see T's glad face greeting me. Oh, yes. The next-door campers took their beer happily, and Heron gave me an expansive hug, asking how I'd made it so fast.

“I was on fire.”

To be used, and used hard, for someone else's good is no burden.

I ate like a starving dog, had a good soak under the stars with T, and fell asleep. There was going to be plenty more tomorrow, but we were through the worst of it.
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. --Anatole France
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Old 04-18-2013, 06:41 PM   #21
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It was a glorious morning, and there was time for one last soak.

After that, the neighbors helped us load T's bike into the truck, and we packed up camp. The doves still cooed, the breeze still played and the palms waved...but we'd be leaving soon. A little breakfast and we were close to ready.

Never eat this swill, it is an insult to humanity

Last look around at the camp, in all its eccentric quietude

Baja windchimes

T, wishing she could ride

JD came by to wish us goodbye and good luck, and we promised to get in touch when we were all back in the Bay. She and her campmates had been tremendously kind; hell, just about everyone we'd encountered had. As a misanthrope, this gave my mind and my outlook something to chew on.

Meanwhile, it was time for T to support that wounded ankle for the ride out. The owner's son, Adam, came by to commiserate—he'd broken his own ankle simply working at the campground—and brought her some cardboard to make a splint. T is one of those people you would want on your side if the zombie apocalypse came down. She can plan, ride, shoot, keep a cool head under fire...and is a first aid trainer. She whipped out her knife, a towel, and the extra ace bandage, and splinted up her ankle.

First, she re-wrapped her ankle to a firm but bearable pressure with the first Ace bandage. Then she cut the cardboard to shape.

Next she wrapped a towel around her leg for padding, and arranged the cardboard in preparation for wrapping.

Once she'd folded the cardboard around the foot, ankle and leg to provide firm support, she used the second Ace bandage to do an outer wrap.

Splinted and ready for action

Much later, in the hospital at home, she would get a group of docs and nurses admiring her handiwork.

And with that, it was time to pop some ibuprofen and begin the long ride home.
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. --Anatole France
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:12 PM   #22
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Your writing is so vivid. What a story. I've ridden those roads, been through that checkpoint, and through those twisties. I can imagine "that fire" and adrenaline rush all the way back to the truck and then back to the canyon. SO sorry this happened, though!
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Old 04-19-2013, 05:58 PM   #23
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We said our bittersweet goodbyes to Canon Guadalupe, vowing to be back. That place is pretty special, indeed. T took the camera and I took the wheel.

The long road home was calling, to shelter and medical care and healing.

But first, the sandy road through the cholla needed my wasn't an easy drive, even on 4 wheels.

T, self-portrait with splinted ankle

I drove gently, trying not to jostle her. We gazed out into the desert with a blend of relief and melancholy.

Strange sights greeted us, like this little boat lying in the sand, miles and miles from water. Just one of those Baja things.

Goodbye for now, gorgeous harsh desert. We've learned you don't suffer fools.

We were stopped at the military checkpoint again, but this time, 2 women in a pickup didn't excite the same kind of intense search and hostile questioning as I had alone. The smiling soldier really wanted to know if we were girlfriends...and just HOW much we liked each other. But other than vaguely hoping for a softcore scene, he let us go with a wave.

Once more I drove up the snaking canyon into the mountains, west toward Rumorosa.

In the midst of the mountains, we stopped so that T could have a chance to stretch and rest and re-up her painkillers...riding in a packed truck on rough roads was not the most comfortable experience. There, we peered over the edge of the cliff, only to see...wrecked cars. Many of them, still lying in twisted rusting hulks far, far below. And scattered tires.

Look close, you can see a couple of the cars still down there.

Suddenly, I understood the meaning of the shrine with its list of names. All those who went off the edge and found their end at the bottom of the cliff.

Oh, Baja, with all its raw and mortal edges on display. I forget how hard we work to hide those things where I live.

We drove on, reaching the US border at last, pulling up to my Uncle's house after dark, to retrieve my bike before heading on into the night.

Sure enough, Aunt Ann emerged from her trailer, eyes bright, and insisted on trying a faith healing on poor T... while my uncle reminisced at length about dirtbikes, Baja, injuries, and his love of the land. Once, he said with misty eyes, you could ride from here to the ocean, all on dirt, nobody to stop you. We disentangled ourselves, loaded the last DR, and off we went.

It was a long ride home yet.

Finally at the hospital days after her injury, the nurses pronounced T's splint the best one they'd ever seen, and she was visibly pleased. The doc scrutinized T's x-rays, and pronounced it a simple malleolar fracture, needing an immediate splint, followed by a cast/boot, but mercifully, no surgery. She'd broken the tip of the fibula; perhaps without those Sidi boots the injury would've been a tibia and fibular fracture (a tib/fib).

The splint

This whole experience was preventable, though it was surely good training for how to deal with motorcycle injuries while traveling, and somewhat-difficult evacuations. It's made us both consider the things we can do better next time, and change about our riding to help prevent a recurrence. My first mistake was made right out of the box—I had made reservations in advance, locking us into a first day with no flexibility. When we were delayed a bit, our cushion of time disappeared, and we were forced into a choice between losing our first day's money and safety.

We'll have SAM splints on hand next time. We'll both be getting more training, perhaps a repeat of the class we took with Rich Oliver, or Jimmy Lewis out in Pahrump, NV. And I'll hone my planning skills to try and prevent a recurrence of the rock-and-hard-place night riding dilemma in which we found ourselves. We've both learned a thing or two about stacking risk variables. We do have the smaller bikes, too, and I'll consider taking those instead for trips that include more intense off-road components.

It wasn't—quite--a survival situation. It was, however, a hell of a time. I pride myself on my self-sufficiency, and facing the truth of vulnerability and a need for help was humbling as all hell. Riders, in particular, know this...hell, anyone who pushes the edges of the body and the world knows this: Sooner or later we all have to feel our bodies break, or break down. And the more you rub up against those raw edges, hungry for beauty and experience, the harder the blow. But a little care, a little trust, and a little mutual help can blunt the intensity of the impact.

She spent a good while afterwards in an immobilization boot, using either her crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Her plan is to ride again when the pain subsides and the doc gives her the ok, and she's been doing ferocious workouts on crutches and in the chair and finally on her own two feet, rolling up hills while I hum the Rocky theme to inspire her, or at least make her laugh. There's something about shared adversity that really strengthens love. When it's time, we'll be back.
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. --Anatole France
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Old 04-20-2013, 04:56 PM   #24
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Thanks for the perspective, Baja is on my list though your learnings play anywhere. Very well written as others have said. You guys should do an RTW so that we may see it from you pen.
There is a pleasure in the pathed woods, There is a rapture in the smoking pipe, There is chaos, where none intrudes, in the deep dell, with its thrills roar; I love not nature less, but bikes the more. Byron riding.

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Old 04-20-2013, 09:40 PM   #25
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Holy hell, it sure was quite the learning experience!

Well, she's been doing lots of PT, hiking, walking, and is back to riding on the street, though not on dirt.

Her X-ray last week, though, showed the fracture still open, 4 months plus after the fact, dangit. We'll see what we can do to get that sucker healed up good, and she absolutely wants to do more trips.

Pakistan may be next...we'll see if that ride works out!
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. --Anatole France
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