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Old 04-21-2007, 06:05 PM   #1
Johnny Dakar OP
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Just 3 Short Miles North of Baja
Oddometer: 14,270
The Trip to The Tip, Take 2

I just got spam from Travelocity: "Mexico's Beaches Beckon."

I chuckled to myself. Guess I can delete that one. I'll be hanging out on a few Mexican beaches myself soon.

And then the truth of it hit me.

I really am going on this ride.

Better put this on.

There, that’s better.

(cue Lawrence of Arabia-style, obnoxious, hugely grandiose, epic theme music)


It’s been almost two years since my cousin Clay (aka The Tamale Kid) staggered up to me at his brother's wedding reception, locked an arm around my neck, and said, "Let's ride Baja next year--whaddya think?"

He was pretty lit.

"What--you mean, on motorcycles?" I asked.


"Uh, dude--I don't have a bike. I don't even know how to ride." What the hell are you talking about?

"You’re gonna get a bike. You’re gonna learn to ride. Then we’re gonna ride…Baw-Haw."

I had no idea how to get out of that one, because in all honesty, it didn't sound fun to me. You see, my natural male lust for motorcycles had been successfully sublimated by my mother . Years of conditioning that having a motorcycle was something that just wasn’t going to happen had paid off. Riding frightened me. It was a deep-seated, automatic-core-terror, one of those fears made possible only by decades of continuous emotional training by a hyper-exaggerated maternal protectiveness. I’d reconciled it to myself by believing I would have, in fact, been killed, should I ever once decide to ride a motorcycle.

Honestly, at the time—the idea filled me with dread.

Remember, this was me, before motorcycles.

Taking a trip like that was literally unimaginable. People who did that sort of thing were well…crazy.

But I've had some experience with drunks--being one myself--and I knew better than to tell him no. Plus, I just didn't want to upset him. He looked excited.

I knew exactly what I had to say to get him out of my face.

I said, "Sure. Ok. Sounds like fun."

“Hell yeah,” he said, satisfied, then wandered off.

Worked like a charm. I thought that was as close to riding as I’d ever come.

Boy, was I wrong.


Having an addictive personality means once I get a taste of something I’m interested in, I pursue it obsessively, as far as I can, to the point of absurdity. Part of that meant hunting down every Google link on “Long Way ‘Round.” Which led me here to ADVRider, where I joined so I could post this:

Originally Posted by Johnny Dakar
I caught an episode of LWR on Bravo last year. I enjoyed it. It was a busy time, so that turned out to be the only episode I saw. Looked for it on dvd, and signed the Amazon petition to get it here in the states. Then I forgot about it.

Last June, I was at a cousin's wedding reception. His brother (my OTHER cousin), gets drunk and makes us all commit to riding the Baja peninsula in 2006. Sounded like fun, but I'd only ridden a bike once, for a weekend, six years ago, and the commitment (both temporal and economic) sounded a bit much. I wasn't a biker. I blew it off.

Then I get the notice from Amazon--"Hey, we got it. You still want it?" I one-clicked it, and it arrived around the middle of December.

I stayed up until 3am two nights in a row watching it.

I watched it again. --and again. It's been nearly a month, and it's been the only thing in my dvd player--the only thing on my TVs--that is, until the 3-disk, 10-episode version arrived from Amazon Canada. No movies, no TV shows, just Long Way 'Round.

In that time, I've:

1) Emailed my cousin, and told him IT IS ON.
2) Bought an Arai XD in Motard Silver...mmmm...nice....
3) Spent every spare minute in bike shops and on the net, trying to find the right gear
4) Signed up and paid for my first riding lesson
5) Read the book three times
6) Pre-ordered the illustrated, "coffee-table" version of the book, the AudioBook, and the soundtrack
7) Pestered every bike owner I know for information
8) Bought every bike mag I could get my hands on
9) and last Saturday, I busted four grand out of my home equity line and I BOUGHT MY FIRST BIKE! It's an '03 Suzuki DRZ400S. I'll learn to ride on it, and in six months, the plan is to sell it and pick up a Dakar for the Baja trip (btw, my cousin rides a KTM).
10) Bought bike insurance

I've downloaded around 50 pics from this site for my screensaver.

I've discovered the clearance deals on BMW suits here--tomorrow I buy either the Savanna or the Rallye 2.

I've downloaded nearly all the tunes from the series, and it's the only disk in my BMW X5's changer--and I think it will be for a while.

I've begun to use British colloquialisms in everyday a Scottish accent.

I fucking LOVE this show. Ewan McGregor's best role so far is himself--I love that the dvd is uncensored, and these guys are pretty much everyday blokes like the rest of us--who don't take themselves too seriously and love nothing more than just being with their families, cracking jokes, making fun of each other and themselves, and motorcycles. And balls to all you lot (see?) who disrespect Charley Boorman--Charley found Russ Malkin, their producer. Charley found 25 Bulwer Street in Shepherd's Bush. Charley kicks ass, not just because his dad is John Boorman, not just because he's a motophilliac, not just because he's Ewan McGregor's best mate, and not just because he's rode his bike around the world and busted his fist in the Lisbon-Dakar, but because on top of all that, he sure seems to be a fantastic husband, father, and friend, who isn't full of himself. I love that Charley Boorman, and I don't even know him.

My brainbucket's off to all those guys: Claudio von Planta, who'd never rode (ridden?) a motorcycle before the trip, and managed to not only do that for over 18,000 miles, but to shoot the lion's share of the footage--even with a cracked rib; Jimmy Simak, the other cameraman, who got sucked into an 8-month, round the world adventure, and kept the tape rolling the whole time (well, except when he blew chunks and ripped the sink out of his hotel bathroom in Tynda), providing us with a candid view of the undertaking from the git-go; Russ Malkin, who obviously suffers from severe Short Man Syndrome, but who got this show on tape and disk for us, and for all his hardness, managed to show how much heart he had by the end of it; and even David Alexanian, who hooked the production up with his sister Alexis, got them the money and connections they needed to pull it all off, and still drove (admittedly) like a madman around the world in a SoccerMomMobile. Those guys made it happen.

This show has HEART, man...and that's EXACTLY what gives me the impulse, every time I think about my new bike, to blow off what I have to do that day or that week and see how far I can ride. It busted open the back door in my "go-to-work, pay-the-mortgage" life, and showed me that adventure and living is RIGHT THERE JUST A RIDE AWAY, if I want it--you know, that shit the boy in us all dreams of constantly? You know what I'm talking aboutoing it despite the "What Ifs" that stop most people from truly enjoying their lives. What was it Vasiliy, the chain-smoking Russian doctor said? Oh yeah: " It vazz reel adventure--not in zee back yard...but in reel liffe."

How cool is that? Two buddies get a hair up their asses to ride their bikes around the world, and they fucking pulled it off, and we got to see it. Maybe I haven't ridden enough to get hardened yet, but I don't mind admitting that I got a bit misty when they saw their families again, and when they crossed the GW bridge into Manhattan, and when they hugged the shit out of each other at the end of it. I laughed out loud when "Lawrence from BMW" popped off his helmet in Manhattan and turned out to be Ewan's dad. That was brilliant.

And if you don't like OCC, then don't drop by there on your next RTW. While I'm not especially obsessed with them, those guys are huge in the UK, and Ewan and Charley were obviously fans, and they were quite obviously tickled to death to meet and ride with the Teutls. That's all I saw--thank GOD the idea of Hollywood, or corporate sponsorship, or premeditated manipulation never entered my mind. Maybe I'm naive...or maybe I'm just not terribly jaded. Funny, considering I've worked in TV production for the last twenty years.

As far as I'm concerned, Long Way 'Round is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BRILLIANT. I could gush about it for weeks (come to think of it, I have--to everyone).

I'm 42, and this motorcycle bug hasn't just bit me, it's opened it's gaping maw wide, sunk its giant fangs in my thorassic cavity, and it has begun to chew IN EARNEST, and I love it. It's barely been a month, and I've already considered selling the house and everything in it, quitting my easy, high-paying, BORING job and just HITTING THE GODDAMNED ROAD.

This post is my first, and it's a no-shitter. I don't mean to offend--it's just that this whole adventure motorcycle thing has lit a bonfire UNDER ME BOLLOCKS. I want Baja. I want Europe. I want Oz.

Seriously--Long Way 'Round was like my first hit of motorcycling crack. Glad to be here. Pass that pipe back 'round.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the link:

After riding for a little over a year, I can appreciate the show (and McGregor’s lack of offroad experience) a bit more.

Yep, I still watch it—it’s just not the only thing I watch anymore. But I suspect I always will. It holds a certain sentimentality for me—it’s a marker of sorts, of my entry into the world of Motorcycle Obsession. At least I’m not some poser who’s trying to sell his R1150GS Adventure after 500 miles because he had to pick it up in a Starbuck’s parking lot.

But I do have a couple of 1150GSAs bookmarked on and cycletrader…now, if I could only bear to sell the X5…

Blah blah blah, let’s wrap it up and bring it back up to the present. Separated my shoulder riding without gear in my own back yard, sold the DRZ WAY too soon so I could buy an F650 GS Dakar, got in over my head at Raw Hyde Adventures offroad BMW training (but met some of the coolest people on the planet and had a lot of fun though), joined the local BMWOC, spent a few thousand dollars on gear, rode my ass off, beat the shit out of my bike, cracked a couple ribs, fractured an ankle, talked to everyone I know, and most importantly, made a lot of great new friends.

So I’ve come full circle from that portentous evening at the wedding reception, and here I am, on the figurative eve of that journey—my first serious riding adventure. One important issue begged the vital question:

Could I make it for two weeks without Jo Momma?


There are some huge differences between Clay and I. He's a doer. not a doer. Always have been, since we were kids. One of them is confidence. Clay has it; I don’t. Clay can just get off a plane, cross the border and start asking people questions. He has enough confidence in himself and his ability to just look at a map when he has to and go. Me? I’m a big pussy. I compensate for my lack of confidence (some call it “fear of failure”) by preparing as much as I possibly can, because Mr. Murphy is a Motherfucker and he’s down there in Baja right now, preparing for me. That means buying two or three maps, a GPS, researching every Baja report on ADVRider (holy shit, gaspipe hits Baja a lot), keeping a FlashEarth window of the peninsula open on my desktop at all times, talking to everyone I know about the trip, and physical training. Clay went to the University of Kansas on a track scholarship—he’s ALWAYS been in great shape. I went to the University of Kansas on drugs. I’ve ALWAYS been good at…sitting around playing video games, watching TV, and eating pizza. To compensate for my lack of confidence, I became obsessed with preparation. As the go date—March 18th--drew near, I burned out on it.

I burned out on everything.

Journal Entry: Tues, 3/13/07 1:14am, Chula Vista, California

Can’t sleep. Too much to do before the trip. Went on a 3-mile run tonight-I’ve been trying to get in shape before the ride, and I’ve been training, but this old body doesn’t pop back as fast as it used to. Stuff left to do:

-Finish taxes;
-Pick up ancillary supplies at the grocery store;
-Get insurance;
-Pick up Clay’s bike at the shop.
-Meet up with Surfphoto, buy him a steak, and steal all his Baja GPS software.
-Get tourist cards (we leave Sunday and we’re crossing at Tecate. Don’t want to cross at San Ysidro—weekend traffic and toll road. Tecate customs office closed on Sunday)

I think we’ll be ok.

Fuck, I hate this stress. I’m so anxious to get all this shit done between now and Sunday. King Procrastinator. What is it my buddy Rich says—oh yeah, “Self-Pity City--population: one.” I suppose it’s better than having nothing to do between now and then. Aw hell, doesn’t really matter anyway. I’ll get most of it if not all of it done.

But brother, come Sunday, I’m gonna cross that border and cuh-rack that throttle.

Yeah buddy.

Journal Entry: Tues, 3/13/07, 11:09pm, Chula Vista, California

I’m so tired. What with the working out, the worrying about getting everything ready, and regular work, wow.

Picked up my Iridium phone today, in case I’m laying there dying in the middle of the desert I can call for help…or for a round of phone sex—or both.

If I’m dying, I don’t mind paying $1.89 a minute for one last wank.

Can’t decide whether to use the armor in my Rallye 2 jacket or to zip it out and just wear my 661 Pressure Suit underneath. That way I can just lose the jacket when it gets really hot.

I think that’s the way to go.

Then again, it’s such a chore getting in and out of that damned 661. We’ll see.

I’m off to the grocery store. Think the shopping list is complete.

Waiting to hear back from Surfphoto. He’d offered to hook me up with Baja software for my Streetpilot, but he’s in Nevada on biz right now. Got this email from him today:

I am in Nevada at the moment.. bus stuff from Nascar on Sunday

Whatever the fuck that means.

Anyway, I’m really, REALLY geked…but to be honest, I’ll feel so much better when this weeks’ over, and Clay and I are on the road.

Journal Entry: Wed 3/14/07 8:54am, Chula Vista, California

Checklist of remaining things to do:
-Adjust suspension
-Clean Bedroom/Bathrooms
-Sort document heap/tax prep
-Run at least once for 30 min
-Hit the gym for one more weight workout
-Make a rescue list and get it sent
-Pick up and install your new shifter
-Get keys to neighbor

When are you fully prepared? When do you stop preparing and say to yourself, “There. I’m done.”

You don’t. You do it until you’re sick of doing it, then you keep on doing it because in your mind, there’s nothing else to do until the trip actually begins.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re me. Clay? He worked, went skiing, then flew down here to San Diego.


Johnny Dakar screwed with this post 05-29-2007 at 12:03 AM
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Old 04-21-2007, 06:53 PM   #2
Johnny Dakar OP
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Just 3 Short Miles North of Baja
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Saturday, 3/17, 12:10pm, Highway 94 Westbound

On my way to pick Clay up from the airport. Shit, this is really gonna happen. I’m stoked. It’ll be great to see him. It’ll be great to stop prepping and actually RIDE. GRRRRR.

Now the key to picking someone up at Lindbergh Field in San Diego is orbiting (Yeah yeah yeah, we’ve got a “cell phone” parking lot, but me sit still at a time like this? MOI? Negativo, Ese.). You orbit, your guest calls to let you know they’re on the ground. You orbit a bit more while they go down to the baggage claim. You orbit a bit more while they get their bags and head out to the curb. Then you slide in, jump out, throw them and their baggage in the car, and hit it like you were the getaway driver at a bank robbery.

But we stopped long enough to preserve the reunion moment in pictures.

Turns out ‘ol Clayton was packing two STEAMER TRUNKS of gear including ski equipment.

Backstory: Homie rode his LC4 from Denver out here in four days on DIRT last year, and managed to tweak his recently-repaired rotator cuff. That’s right, this trip’s been on hold for six months so he could heal up.

Did I ask him how his shoulder was doing?

Did it matter?

So we discussed prostate exams on our way to pick up our tourist cards in Tecate. We’re both over 40, so it’s time to do the Annual Anal.

At least we’re not trading colonoscopy tales…yet.

ANYWAY, I forgot to take my camera across the border when we picked up our tourist cards, so no pics of that little excursion. No sooner had we set foot in Mexico when adventure found us. We stopped into customs, manned by a single officer, who had us fill out our tourist cards and told us to go to the bank “across the street” and pay. Ok, we figured they’d know what was up at the bank, so we headed across the street. Only there wasn’t anything resembling a bank there. There were two girls, who…managed somehow to explain to us that the bank was about three blocks down the street.

Whaddya know? High school Spanish pays off at last.

We headed downhill into town, found a bank that, except for the ATM, wasn’t open. At least we could top off our wallets with pesos while were there. The whole plan behind this little “pre-trip” was so we could just blow on into Mexico the next day and get south of the zonas turisticas ASAP. We looked high and low for another bank. We stopped American tourists and asked them. One kind lady even tried to get us help on her cell phone. All to no avail. We trudged back up the hill to the Customs office to ask the officer for more specific directions.

On our way back up the hill, we ran into three riders—one of them on an F650GS and two well, cheap cunts. I walked up and asked them straight up, “Hey—where are your ADV stickers?” Their response was a collective, “huh?” They said they were from L.A.
I told them about ADVRider. They looked at me blankly.

I shoulda known…they said they were on their way home, and their bikes were suspiciously free of dirt.

When we got back the Customs office, before I could stuggle with some long-winded, butchered-Spanish explanation, THANKFULLY, Clay tells the officer, “The bank is closed.” He stops, looks at us both, sighs, and pulls out a stamp. Gee, you’d think the guy woulda known. It’s Saturday afternoon, amigo, after all.

“You can pay this at any bank in Baja. Just make sure you do it before it expires.”

“When does it expire?” We ask.

“In six months.”

Hell yeah. Time to go get Clay’s bike.

Rocket Motorcycles. My local KTM, Triumph, and Husqvarna dealer.

Six months ago, after dropping off his bike and flying back to Calgary, Clay had me bring his bike here for regular service, new sprockets, new chain, new tires, fluid change—after his dirt trip halfway across the country, he needed to get the bike ready for Baja destruction. Then they offered to let him store the bike until he came back for so much per month. Sweet, until I gave them a call about two weeks before we came to get it…

“Hi, I’m John—I’m Clay’s cousin—the guy who’s kept his LC4 with you guys—“

“Yeah, when the hell are you guys gonna come pick up this bike?”

“Um, yes, that’s why I’m calling…we’ll be there in two weeks.”

“Yeah well, we’re not a storage facility. You need to come get this bike, man.”

“Say what? I thought he was paying you to keep it there? Is there a problem? You need me to come get it today?”

“No, but you said two weeks?”


“Just make sure you come get it.” CLICK.

Jeez, somebody’s Mr. Crankypants today.

Like we’d just leave it there. We need it, pally. We’re going to Baja. Eventually.

So we blast back to my place, swap my SoccerMomMobile for my truck, and blast on over to Rocket (get it? Blast? Rocket? Nyuck nyuck) where Clay comes face to face with Mr. Crankypants himself, the owner, to find out Just What’s the Fuckin’ Problem?

I found a better way to pass the time…

If it’s good enough for Trip…

…hmmmm….it could be good enough for me…

After all, blue IS my color—it accents my eyes, don’t you think?…and I am an utter Euro-snob…

One last check…

…and Clay coughs up the cash. Sup, Blair. Got me a cool limey-bike t-shirt while I was there, too. Me likey limey-bikey. Me likey limey-bikey lots.

Put LC4’s safety belt on…

…and it’s time to go get dinner. HEY! THERE’S A KTM IN MY…oh yeah…blood sugar must be getting low.

You can take your money and you can burn it at Café Japengo…

…or you can try to get a table at Sushi Ota…

…but when someone I care about wants fresh sushi, at bargain prices, and I’m in the mood for the best Chicken Katsu Curry this side of the Golden Triangle…

…I take them to Ichiban in Pacific Beach…(looks like he's glad to be there)

…Ichiban means “numbah one” in Japanese…

I think this may be a good omen of the many meals to come…

Got our feed on, now it’s time to get our pack on, so we can get our sleep on so we can get our ride on…

We retire to Casa Dakar.

We sort our kit and pack our bags in silence.

We prepare.

Part of that preparation is something I’d like to make a tradition: Branding The Ride. Everyone has a name for their ride—Baja Asylum Run, Long Way ‘Round, Bumming the World, Took a Little Ride…and ours was no different. I’d thought about it for a long time, but nothing catchy came to me. Then, the creative bug, in the 11th hour—as it is wont to do—coughed up the perfect hairball of a name. I immediately walked into our design director’s office and said to him simply: “The Trip to the Tip.” Then I waggled my eyebrows.

After having listened to me obsess about this trip for months on end, the poor devil knew exactly what I was talking about. “Brilliant!” he said, grinning.

“Make us a logo! This trip needs a fucking logo, man!

Two hours later, he handed me an adhesive sheet covered with these:

Wow. Not just a logo. Stickers. Stickers for Baja. What a guy. Thanks Brian. You’re the man!

So we affix our logo, our crest, our brand, our…traveling coat of arms to key visible points on our gear,

…then we continue our packing…

Then we go out for about two hours looking for a last-minute place to get a backup key for Clay’s bike made…to no avail…

…until exhaustion and half-digested fish flesh take their toll on us, and we put our little headies down for the evening.

Tomorrow my friends…tomorrow we ride.

Johnny Dakar screwed with this post 04-22-2007 at 11:53 PM
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Old 04-21-2007, 06:57 PM   #3
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Well, well... long overdue!! And it's looking and sounding great...

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Old 04-21-2007, 07:48 PM   #4
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We look forward to an epic of epic proportions!!
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Old 04-21-2007, 09:43 PM   #5
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Old 04-21-2007, 11:47 PM   #6
Johnny Dakar OP
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Just 3 Short Miles North of Baja
Oddometer: 14,270

Day 1 - San Diego to Ensenada - 113 Miles - Sunday, March 18th


I awoke this morning at 7am to the smell of the coffee maker I’d programmed just five hours earlier. It was go-day.

I wasn’t excited…just as I’d been for the last week, I was numb. I was sick of waiting. I got out of bed, gimped to the kitchen, poured a big mug of fresh, black, hot and strong, and immediately returned to the garage to pick up where I’d left off at 2am. I took a sip, and then replaced the makeshift MSR Yamaha shifter I’d hastily thrown on my Dakar with a proper, pricey, Touratech shifter—and for once, that Teutonic Tin was worth the money. At 1.5 inches longer than the MSR, it was like having a bedroom addition to my house down there. Now I could get my heel against my peg and still have some room to wiggle my toes.

Then we branded our bikes…

Then there was packing to finish.

Then there was an email with all the particulars (insurance forms, Binational Emergency card scans, Iridium phone instructions, passport numbers) off to friends in case things happened to go As Badly As Possible.

Then there was loading the bikes, getting some breakfast down our necks, setting up my suspension, getting Clay a cargo net, continuing last night’s fruitless search for a place to make a KTM key copy so he can have a backup…to make an already long story a bit shorter, we didn’t set up my suspension, we didn’t find him a place to copy his key, and we didn’t have breakfast…because it was time for lunch.

No pics of lunch because, for convenience and expediency’s sake, we had Subway. And you already know what that looks like.

We didn’t hit the road until 1:30pm.

But finally, almost two years after Clay had roped me into this trip, our wheels were rolling in a generally southern direction.

At long last, The Trip to the Tip was under way.


Instead of kicking off the ride dealing with TJ traffic, we decided to enjoy a spirited blast east down the twisty Highway 94…

to the uncluttered Tecate border crossing.

Just ride down the hill,

turn left at the zocalo, and follow the signs to Hwy 3.

Clay had mentioned he needed to stop for gas, and me being me, it had gone in one ear and out the other. So when he passed the entrance ramp, I said out loud, “Where the f*%# are you going?” Then I shouted it at him—loudly enough for him to hear, on his bike, in Mexican traffic, fifteen feet away, in his helmet, wearing earplugs.

I gotta come clean here—I was, momentarily, a prick. I was fucking vicious, but it surprised me as much as it surprised my cousin. I was anxious to get a move on—we had a lot of ground to cover…but I hadn’t realized just how tense I was, riding into Mexico for the first time—plus I’m a bit of a control freak (hence the massive over-planning on my part), and this was the part of the trip I had no control over. Not to mention I was exhausted from the prep, the anticipation, and the packing and last-minute errand-running. I immediately felt horrible, realizing what I’d done, and dreading I’d just ruined the kickoff of the trip. He was only trying to find a gas station before we hit the highway… I wished I could’ve taken it back, but there it was.

I apologized to him a few times, but it became clear the best thing to do was to just let it go, get past it, and get on to the next thing.

And the next thing was Clay’s first visit ever to a Pemex.

So sorry, dude…I was a dick. Moving on…

Tanks topped off, it was time to blow through the mountains and vineyards down to the sea. Next stop: Ensenada. The plan was to get down to Mex 1, ride down to Santo Tomas, then hop over the mountains to the dirt along the Pacific Ocean

Of course, the original plan was also to cross the border at dawn…

Stopped halfway at a scenic overlook for a…”water exchange..” Last time I was in this spot was when I escorted BrklynDakar to Ensenada the day before his ill-fated first day in Baja during his current journey to Ushuaia…but that’s another story—and you can read all about it right here:

The weather was nice—but brisk--almost all the way down, but when we started our descent out of the mountains, the overcast moved in, and I had to pull over and zip up my vents…

Then we saw the ocean:

And Ensenada in the distance:

I’d accidentally set my camera to black and white, but you know…it really captured the feeling—we were COLD…Then we got to Ensenada…

And we gassed up again…

And we headed south in search of Mexico 1. Ensenada has CHANGED since the last time I blew through here a few years ago on surf trips…back then, the roads leading south out of town were dirt.

Not any more…

For better and for worse, America’s beginning to infect Baja…

I didn’t get any pictures of them, but believe me…there are some GORGEOUS new homes going up down there. I suppose, for all the folks who want to patronize Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, and Applebee’s…

So it’s getting late in the day, and colder, with a heavy overcast moving in, and we’re tired, and we come upon a crossroads. One direction is to continue south to Santo Tomas—and another which points right, to Estero Beach. I immediately pull over and say to Clay, “Look, we won’t have any daylight left for dirt, there isn’t much in the way of lodging down there, which means we’ll probably crash on the beach, which is fine—except it’s gonna be cold tonight…or we can turn right here and see what’s available in Estero Beach, and ride dirt all day tomorrow.”

“Let’s turn right,” he replied.

Quoth The Viking: “…when things stop going as planned...”


Several people had recently, coincidentally, mentioned to me that Estero Beach is a great place to stay. That was the primary motivation for me to pull over. Well, that, plus cold, fatigue, hunger… Anyway, after we turned right, “a great place to stay” wasn’t exactly the impression I was getting.

The dirt in the street was nice, the mangy, stray dogs were charming, but what really impressed me was the overwhelming….aroma.

Then I saw this sign:

It led down a short, fairly deserted road to this:

A gate…

With a guard…

…who suggested we ride down to the office and see if rooms were available…and I sure was curious to see what, in Ensenada, was good enough to be behind a guarded gate.

What we found was a seemingly endless driveway, with an open lot on the north side and a dirt racetrack on the south—more on that later…

At last, after about a kilometer, an office, with another gate and another guard. This is some high-end government hideaway, man…there’s no WAY were gonna be able to afford this…but it was pretty cool to check it out. Nice, especially considering the neighborhood.

Clay leans in to find out how just how obscenely expensive the rooms here are. The little lady with the exquisite jawline and perfect skin is named Natalie.

Hmmmm…Clay muses…Natalie has no ring….

I ask Natalie how much, expecting something like, $400 a night…I’m from San DiegoLand of All Things Obscenely Overpriced.

Natalie replies in flawless English, “Seven hundred.”


“No--pesos.” (10 pesos = approximately $1 US—CHA-CHING!)


“No, por los dos—for both of you.”

“Uh…ok.”(for those of you who are mathematically impaired, Natalie had told me that a room here would cost us $70.) SCORE. It seems we’d secured, ahem, adequate lodgings for the night.

Then there was the scenic ride to our area of the resort:

Where we parked our bikes and began to unpack. We both agreed: good idea to stop for the night now…and we couldn’t believe our good fortune.

I, of course, took all the credit…(cough)

Just then, our bellboy, Orlando rolled his cart up next to our bikes as we unloaded.

That’s right, our freaking BELLBOY. He helped us liberate our gear from the bikes and showed us to our room.

As the great philosopher Flave once said, “YEAAAAAHHHHH BOYEEEEE!!!”

But wait…it gets better…it seems our room….has a view:


It’s good to be king…

Hail to The King, Baby…

Here’s the boardwalk that ran between our room and the lagoon:

With freaking Punta Banda in the background. And there was the pool/hot tub area right outside our freaking front door:

Estero Beach Hotel & Resort. Seventy dollars double occupancy, baby. Half an hour ago, we were tired and cold, not really sure where were going besides south, not sure whether we'd be freezing on a beach all night, and not really motivated to carry on. An impulse brought us here. Perhaps it was more than that. Once we were unpacked I used a phrase that would become the most common explanation of our circumstances several times before our journey reached it’s end.

I turned to my cousin and said, “Clay, fate has smiled upon us.”


Once the shock and surprise of our good fortune had settled a bit, we kicked off our boots, cleaned up, unpacked, and realized we were hungry. We had no idea where to go…who could we ask? Ah…another excuse to talk to Natalie…who pointed us to a taco shop just outside the gate.

Of course, Clay couldn’t pass the dirt track on our way back out without going around a couple times…I would’ve joined him, but I was only wearing Chacos…and besides, I’m not nearly as confident in the dirt as he is.

I would’ve got better pics, but he was hard to follow—he was moving pretty fast.

The taqueria we hit was way beyond anything I’d ever experienced in TJ or Ensendada before.

This food was FRESH. They didn’t pull the tortillas out of a bag, they had a big BOWL of tortilla dough. You placed your order, they rolled a ball flat, cut it out, and threw it on the grill.

Three tacos and a Coke Light, thirty pesos, por favor.

Daddy like. Ooooooh.

And I'm not the only one...

And a little note about Coke Light—this ain’t Diet Coke. I don’t know what the hell the Mexicans put in it, but it KICKS Diet Coke’s and Diet Pepsi’s ASSES. And this is coming from a Diet Pepsi junkie who’s the son and brother of Diet Coke junkies. (Hi Mom, Hi Liz ) And better yet—you could usually get it cold, in an old-style glass coke bottle—yet another small pleasure we’ve cast by the wayside here in the states.

So we’re sitting there, marveling at how good and fresh and inexpensive the dinner is, when this Mexican guy in a really cool Columbia Sportswear jacket comes up to us and asks, “who’s riding the Dakar?” I point to the Beemer logo on my sleeve and grin around a mouthful of taco. “Nice bike—I used to have a KTM 950 Adventure.”

And that’s how we met Alberto and his wife Sabrina. We talked about bikes, and how Sabrina, an American, had grown up in Baja. Alberto told us that he used to commute between Ensenada and San Diego—so he got the KTM to save money on gas. You could tell he missed it. But he had his truck—an older diesel pickup with a camper on the back—their current lodgings. Enthusiastic fellow travelers...really a wonderful couple—we exchanged email addresses when we parted. Enjoy the report you two.

It’s not just the places you go, but the people you meet along the way… complete strangers who don't have a clue how to operate a point-and-shoot digital camera...

We finished dinner, rode back, Clay hit the Jacuzzi, and I made my first journal entry…which you're reading right now.

-Clay plots…200 miles of dirt tomorrow?

We’ll worry about that then.

Despite the late departure, it’s been a fantastic first day of riding. It seems like a long time since I got up and changed my shifter this morning—probably because it has been. Great surprises, too already—this hotel, the amazing food, Coke Light, Alberto & Sabrina. I’ll sleep well tonight.

What did I learn today? That I need to lighten up a little...I'm on vacation. --and that EVERYTHING tastes better if you squirt fresh lime juice on it.

Johnny Dakar screwed with this post 04-22-2007 at 11:51 PM
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Old 04-22-2007, 01:27 AM   #7
Dr LC8
...soon or later
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Great report guys!
I'll be waiting for update!


Explore Alps Off Road:
2012 Ducati Multistrada 1200
2008 KTM LC8 990 ADV S
2003 KTM LC8 950 ADV
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Old 04-22-2007, 08:24 AM   #8
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I'm lovin the story! Thanks for sharing and in such detail. Its funny, but I got into dual sporting from street, sort of the same way you did. Buddies egging me on to get a DS bike for about a year, then after LWR and spending some time on ADV I was hooked. I bought a KLR a few months ago to get my feet wet, and just picked up a 950 Adventure a few days ago to do trips just like this one. I'm looking forward to the rest of the story, but please do us low res guys a favor and shortin up the title so we don't have to scroll. I'm stuck in 1024/768. :(

Garage: 2005.5 KTM 950 Adventure : 2004 Yami FJR1300 : 2001 Kawi KLR650 : 1993 Honda CBR900RR
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Old 04-22-2007, 08:39 AM   #9
Fat Toney
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nice report...keep it coming...
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Old 04-22-2007, 11:11 AM   #10
Johnny Dakar OP
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Location: Just 3 Short Miles North of Baja
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Thanks, but I need a quick break --gonna go for short ride and get some breakfast. More to come soon. LOTS more.
"Just sharing this quiet time is intimate, our tent, our bikes and our faces illuminated by yellow light from the fire. This is why we travel. To experience those rare moments of perfection of solitude of life."
-Simon Thomas
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Old 04-22-2007, 12:26 PM   #11
Guit Sum
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'04 BMW R1150GS Adventure

used to's: '08 Kawasaki KLR650, '97 Honda ST1100, '03 Honda XR650R, '04 KTM 950 Adventure, '04 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom, '03 Kawasaki Meanstreak, 19?? Yamaha XT600, 19?? Kawasaki GPZ550, 19?? Honda Twinstar200

IBA# 39329
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Old 04-22-2007, 12:39 PM   #12
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Awesome stuff! Keep it up!


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Old 04-22-2007, 12:48 PM   #13
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Well worth the wait, Mr. Dakar.
Two thoughts:
1, Next time you are eating in PB, let me know.
2, Juices are flowing, lets have some more.......
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Old 04-22-2007, 01:24 PM   #14
Johnny Dakar OP
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The wait? I've been back...(lemmesee....1, 2) three weeks!
"Just sharing this quiet time is intimate, our tent, our bikes and our faces illuminated by yellow light from the fire. This is why we travel. To experience those rare moments of perfection of solitude of life."
-Simon Thomas
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Old 04-22-2007, 01:35 PM   #15
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Rumour had it that San Diego was going to find an Airport solution before this report gets posted........
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