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Old 04-12-2013, 05:00 PM   #1
MufflerBearings OP
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Los Tres Chaquetas Ride Baja

I’ll just get this out of the way right now. We are three grown men who rode around Mexico’s Baja California peninsula for two weeks while sporting matching jackets. Insert:ymca joke here ______. Here we are in all our fabulous color-coordinated glory:

We didn’t plan it this way. We are each just incredibly cheap and there was a killer sale on these Tour Master coats. The only available color was Dirt Brown. Individually we are adequately vented and armored, but collectively we look ridiculous. And, good or bad, it’s nearly impossible to tell us apart when we’re geared up.

Hence, the title of this ride report: “Los Tres Chaquetas (The Three Jackets) Ride Baja.” As many of you know (or have already phonetically deduced), chaqueta is the Spanish word for “jacket.” But wait, there’s more! I recently learned that chaqueta is also Spanish slang for “jerk-off.” So the title of this ride report could be interpreted a couple different ways. Both are probably accurate.

In no particular order then, I present you with the jerk-offs behind the jackets:

Greg (frameoil on advrider), my brother for as long as I can remember:

Greg started riding motorbikes just a little over a year ago. He only very recently ventured out from the dirt and onto the mean streets on his new-to-him plated 2001 Honda XR650R, and had probably accumulated about 300 street miles prior to the start of this trip. What better place than Baja to refine skills and adjust to a new bike?

Scott (burntlawnchair on advrider), our life-long friend and brother-from-another-mother:

Although Greg and I both now live in Southern California, Scott still makes his home in the Midwestern industrial center of soot and grit where we all grew up. These days, Scott’s off-roading mostly looks like this:

Sleds are plenty fun to be sure, but not terribly applicable to riding in Baja. Scott now rolls up serious highway miles on his Honda ST1300, but most of his significant dirt riding took place on a Honda CR125 before he reached voting age. What better place than Baja to re-introduce oneself to dirt riding? Scott will ride one of Greg’s extra bikes on this trip:

1983 Honda XR350R. 350 cubic centimeters of ancient air-cooled fury. Would the old girl (the bike, not Scott) survive 2,000+ miles of Mexican desert? We had no doubts. We all love this bike. It is lightweight, simple and un-killable. It starts a conversation everywhere it goes. It seems like everyone on the desert has owned one at some point, and most have very fond memories of their old XR’s.

Me (mufflerbearings on advrider):

I am riding my 2007 KLR650, loaded up with Scott’s gear and mine (one can’t carry much gear on an XR350R). I ride a lot. But that doesn’t mean that I’m particularly good at it.

Going way way back, the three of us have often recreated on two wheels (Greg on the left, Scott second from right, me on the right):

(The fourth rider in the photo is Scott’s brother, who was prevented by real-world grown-up responsibilities from disappearing into the desert for two weeks). Although we are each accustomed to travel in various forms, this would be the first time we embarked on a trip of this magnitude together. But the planets had aligned – we had the time, some extra money, and the bikes to make this trip happen. We knew that we must take this trip now because the opportunity might not arise again for a very long time.

That’s a lot of words. How about an actual trip report? Ok, here goes…

March 14, 2013

Scott and Greg arrived at my place late in the day, and we got to work on packing and last-minute bike prep.

The first order of business was to get our GPS squared away. Oh, wait – none of us own or know how to operate a GPS device. I guess this will have to do:

The Baja Almanac is a great tool for a ride down the peninsula, especially a ride where every rider is too technologically challenged to be bothered with acquiring and learning how to use a GPS device. Except for a few minor instances where the almanac could be updated (some roads marked as dirt are now paved, etc.), the maps are super detailed and surprisingly accurate. The very vague and flexible goal for this ride was to reach Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas mostly on dirt. There was probably no singletrack in the cards for this bunch, but dirt roads would be plenty challenging for us. Hell, just making it back home on our rickety old bikes would be challenge enough for us!

We packed and re-packed in an effort to be as lightweight and compact as possible, since the gear for three riders would be carried on just two bikes. Pro-tip: just because a KLR650 is capable of carrying gear for two riders plus two bloated cheapie Coleman sleeping bags plus a boat-anchor of a car-camping three-man dome tent plus a one-man tent plus a tarp plus spare inner tubes plus a comprehensive tool kit plus an air compressor, does not mean it’s a good idea to do so. Who here can spot the similarities in the following two photographs?

As we tore around the garage tending to odds and ends, we realized that the 350 had no protection against broken levers in the event of a get-off. We therefore cannibalized the bark busters from my KDX220 to contribute to the cause. The combination of Kawasaki green and Honda red made for a very festive holiday mood!

Packing and bike prep completed, and burgers and beers consumed, it was off to bed in anticipation of an early start to reach the border.

Next up: We actually ride the motorcycles!
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Old 04-12-2013, 05:07 PM   #2
out riding...
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liking the sense of humor already...count me in
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Old 04-12-2013, 09:31 PM   #3
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In.I hope you guys took turns riding the klr.Riding that in sand looks like a form of torture.
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Old 04-16-2013, 09:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by rtwpaul View Post
liking the sense of humor already...count me in
Thanks for following along, rtwpaul! Your round the world thread is an inspiration.
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Old 04-16-2013, 09:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by oldxr View Post
In.I hope you guys took turns riding the klr.Riding that in sand looks like a form of torture.
You hit it right on the head, oldxr. That's why I'm on the lookout for a lightly-used California plated XR650R as a replacement.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:04 PM   #6
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March 15, 2013

If I’ve learned nothing else from my lurking here at advrider, I’ve learned that nearly every worthwhile ride begins at Starbucks. Our little adventure is no different. We got rolling at a decent hour, and Mrs. Mufflerbearings accompanied us on her DR200 as far as the local Starbucks, where we impressed the trophy wives and sugar daddies of Palm Desert with our matching gear and ugly motorbikes.

From Starbucks, Greg and I enjoyed three hours of riding twisty roads to the border crossing at Tecate, while Scott had to haul the non-street legal 350 to the border in my truck. We discovered en route that Greg’s 650 has a lousy fuel range (this is the maiden voyage for the XR650R). Luckily, we were able to borrow gas from the 350 to get us to the border.

We ditched the truck in a lot on the California side and crossed into Tecate to secure our FMM tourist cards. I’d read that the FMM process is a bit of a chore, but we found it to be relatively quick and painless; fill out a form at the immigration office, walk next door to the banjercito to fork over your $25, and walk back to immigration to have the form stamped. As it turned out, we were never asked to produce the FMM during the trip, even at the immigration check point at Guerrero Negro.

Besides a short day trip to Tijuana years ago, Scott had never visited Mexico. Hysterical media reports of cartel mayhem and the ever-present specter of Montezuma’s Revenge had him wondering why he had signed on for this trip. The concern is evident on his face as he apprehensively digs into his first taco: “Hey guys, does this look like it has the Montezuma?”

Greg, on the other hand, is an experienced Mexico traveler and is clearly not giving a damn:

We made our way through Tecate, Scott lost in a haze of culture shock and hollering the whole time from the seat of the 350, “Dude, this is crazy!” I was reminded of how intoxicatingly terrifying one’s first ride through a Latin American city can be. It’s funny how even in a small city like Tecate, the colors, the traffic, the smells, and especially the noise lets you know without a doubt that you aren’t in Ohio anymore. And not being in Ohio is a very good thing.

Twenty minutes of pavement droning on Mex 2 brought us to the Compadre Trail, where Greg and Scott soon vanished into the distance ahead as I wrestled to maintain control of my unruly and overloaded pig of a KLR. This would become a common theme on this trip. Thanks to recent rain, the Compadre was damp, tacky and fast (no dust!). Mud and puddles covered the entire width of the road in some areas. More than once, I took a little air off a blind roller to find myself landing in a huge puddle and hoping the water didn’t conceal huge rocks, a cow corpse, etc. Celebrating an incident-free ride at the palapas on the south end of Compadre:

We originally planned to make it to San Felipe today, but it was getting dark by the time we rolled in to Valle de la Trinidad for fuel. Since the output from the headlights on the XR’s is roughly equivalent to the glow from a cell phone screen, we decided to stay in Valle T for the night. This was fine by me, since The World’s Best Taco Shop (Taqueria El Rancho) is located here:

We secured a room at Hotel del Valle, which I can highly recommend. It appears to be new and is right in the center of town. For a very reasonable price, we got a spotlessly clean room, relatively secure parking, and another very good taco shop attached to the hotel.

It was Friday night, and the town was pretty lively. I think the locals were still hopped up on excitement from the San Felipe 250, which had run the previous weekend. It seemed like anyone who owned a pickup truck with an open exhaust was tearing up and down the dirt main street, throwing up a dust cloud that hung in the air over town throughout the evening. For such a small town, there was a cacophony of noise – racing engines, booming tuba music, random hoots and hollers – we relaxed on plastic lawn chairs in front of our hotel room, gorging on street-cart churros and Tecate, soaking it all in and looking forward to the ride to come.

Next up: Satan’s Own Rooster Chorus, Laguna Diablo and San Felipe.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:15 PM   #7
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This looks like a good one! Fun for you to all be together since kids on bikes.

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Old 04-17-2013, 05:22 AM   #8
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Dirt Diver,

It was a great one! Epic! Trip of a life time. Only way it could have been better was to have Scott's brother, Jeff with us. Even though I was there, I am looking forward to the write up and reminiscing.

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Old 04-17-2013, 06:26 AM   #9
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March 16, 2013

Two hours before sunrise, we were angrily notified of a new day dawning by an evil army of mutant roosters. I’m pretty certain that the residents of Valle T lace their roosters’ feed with a heavy mixture of steroids and LSD. I understand that crowing roosters are a fact of rural life, but we had never heard anything quite like this. There must have been hundreds of roosters just in the few square blocks around the hotel, each trying to one-up the cock next door in an hours-long contest of volume and duration. It was surreal. We were getting an early start for San Felipe whether we liked it or not.

We had the perfect air temperature, brilliant blue skies, and blooming wildflowers to make the highway slog eastbound along Mex 3 a little more tolerable.

By the time we reached Valle Santa Clara and the trail that leads out onto Laguna Diablo dry lake, we were ready for some dirt. The road along the eastern side of the laguna was in surprisingly good shape (this is the road that broke most every piece of the suspension in Greg’s Subaru when he was chasing for the San Felipe 250 a few years ago). It provided a fast ride (even on the KLR) along the dry lakebed and killer views of the Sierra San Pedro Martir range to the west. Once again, the XR’s were dots off in the distance as I loped along on my piggy KLR. We encountered several miles of sand while climbing out of the lakebed towards San Felipe, but as long as I didn’t get lazy with the throttle, it wasn’t a problem. We also got a small taste of what it’s like to ride in silt beds; I’ll take 100 miles of sand to avoid of 100 yards of silt!

We reached the arches that welcomed us to San Felipe before lunchtime (did I mention we got a very early start thanks to the damned roosters?), and pulled into the spacious garage of what would be our palatial digs for the next couple days. Ready for some ? Jim and Alice at (full disclosure – Jim and Alice are family friends and really good people) are the people to contact if you’re looking for killer beachfront lodging in SF.

It was nice to have the workspace to attend to all the bolts, nuts and other fasteners that had rattled loose on the KLR. Pro-tip: if you ever anger the moto gods and find yourself in possession of a KLR650, dip the whole bike in a vat of red Locktite before you ride it anywhere beyond the local Starbucks.

We spent the rest of the day taking in the views from our beachfront balcony, riding around San Felipe in the tourist uniform of shorts, t-shirts and sandals (NOTGSOTT - None Of The Gear Some Of The Time – for you protective gear enthusiasts), eating mass quantities of just-killed-today seafood, watching the grunion beach themselves at dusk, and getting chased by dogs.

Although off-topic and not technically motorcycle-related, this trip report will be sprinkled throughout with photos of air-cooled VW’s that I spotted along the way. I lose my mind when I see an ACVW in the wild, and Mexico is bursting at the seams with these brilliantly-engineered gems. Starting now, with a clean Class 11 car:

Next up: Not much! Laziness in San Felipe.

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Old 04-17-2013, 10:33 AM   #10
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I am enjoying the thread, thanks for sharing, and looking forward to more!
-- '07 Honda 919 --
VA to Vermont 2013 -
Blue Ridge Parkway and The Dragon 2012 -
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:59 PM   #11
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Great attitude, good writing, explanatory pics, and an appreciation of tacos as an essential element of a good life.

As for loading up the KLR....Mr. T would have suggested, "I pity da fool....".

Rule of thumb: " You want it : you pack it"

But you guys are kind and care about each other, so that attitude won't work invention of Satan preceding the rooster.
Ged Schwartz
Kamloops , BC

Baja '05 , Baja 06/07 , Baja 08/09 , BC Alpine Single Track

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Old 04-17-2013, 06:41 PM   #12
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Great write up so far!

Cool that you guys grew up riding bikes & still ride together. What's up with the green & pink paint?
Originally Posted by knary
I wish incompetence had an odor. "I'm sorry. We can't work with you. You've got the stench of squandered time and energy."
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:25 PM   #13
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Worth following this RR just to see the three coats!
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Old 04-19-2013, 11:59 AM   #14
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Come on now...finish!! :)
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Old 04-19-2013, 01:42 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by motoged View Post invention of Satan preceding the rooster.
Ged, I actually thought about your harrowing experience with the silt north of San Juanico when we hit the awful stuff!
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