It was Spring Break and sunny Mexico was calling my name. I cleared my idea of a multi-day ride with the ever-so-lovely Jennifer, and began making serious plans. Thru the internet, and www.advrider.com, I invited Steve, Ed, and Rich to ride with me down through Baja. I had a total of nine days to check out the countryside, eat the food, sample the pina coladas, and find out if what they said about the legendary Mexican hospitality was true. Here’s the spoiler…it definitely was true! Everywhere we went we were greeted warmly. Even by the soldiers at the numerous checkpoints along the way!
So, let’s start at the beginning….I’ve always wanted to see Mexico by motorcycle so I figured a relatively quick trip down through Baja would at least give me an inkling about whether I wanted to pursue more elaborate plans for touring south of the border. My main concern was safety. We are inundated by the horrific tales of violence, and I wondered if by going I was putting my life in serious jeopardy. So, I read books, checked articles on the internet and got lots of good advice from my friends at www.advrider.com. After talking to folks who had ridden down, I knew nothing would dissuade me from making my own “voyage of discovery!”
Soon it was time to go. Ed and Steve showed up from points north in the Pacific Northwest and we set about packing the bikes…
A Brand Spankin' New R1200 GSA
Ed and Steve seemed to have more to pack, especially Ed. For the ration of crapola that we gave him, Ed remained good natured!
Heavily Packed for Every Contingency
Where are you going to put all that s….er “stuff?” Ed asks Steve. Ed, of course, was a fine one to talk. Notice he appears to be packing a full size Weber BBQ in that dry bag!
Wow, that sure seems to be a full load....for a week!
We got along famously! Neither Steve, Ed nor I had ever met before this trip…ah, the beauty of the internet. I, like the other guys, was hopeful that we’d all get along. Would we have the same riding styles? Want to stop at the same places? Snore?? As it turned out, two outta three wasn’t too bad! 🙂 We also had some conversations with Rich from Altadena and he joined us as well.
The next morning we picked up Rich, from Altadena and we had a great send off breakfast. In the pic you see Steve D, my incredible wife Jennifer, Rich, and Ed. We hit the road, intending to shoot east, then south to CA 111 past Salton Sea as Steve had never seen it. I got to be tour guide. Later, in Mexico, Rich assumed that role as he’d ridden in Baja many times.And, just for the record, Ed is a retired Nike exec, Rich is a retired cop, I am an elementary school principal, Steve D is a high school assistant principal and general all around adventurer, and Jennifer, the love of my life, gives me the inspiration to reach beyond my limits. I love you, Jennifer!
The Whole Gang
Near Niland, we visited Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain is the testament of an 80+ year old man and his artwork. Built of straw bales, clay, and donated paint, Salvation Mountain is definitely a must see spot on your way through the Coachella Valley. Directions? In the middle of Niland find the stone house and turn left. Go a few miles toward Slab City, and there you have it!
Starting to get a little warm, ready to leave Salvation Mountain!
Ed, getting ready to roll away from Salvation Mountain!
CA 11 is wide open, spanning countless acres of food, cotton, and wine crops. Fortunately the temps held down as we rolled into Calexico, CA, which was our border crossing… One last chance to eat American junk food, buy fuel, and then head south! I wished I’d passed on the Burger King. The food was ten times better south of the border.
And then, just in a blink of an eye we crossed from wealth to poverty. We didn’t even need to slow down for the Mexican authorities, just friendly waves from them and presto! we were in Sunny Mexico. Actually we were engulfed in a steaming, choking hoard of cars most of which belched smoke…fortunately, the signage was pretty good, and we located the lanes we needed to occupy if we were to find San Felipe for the evening…
Mexicali is a huge city, and all of it seemed to be out on the streets as we rode thru. Teaming masses of people laughing, selling goods, yelling at drivers, and just generally on the go. Potholes big enough to swallow a small dinosaur, unmarked road hazards, and taxis driven by seemingly blind guys kept us busy, and our eyes on the road. All road signage and signals were purely optional, as far as I could tell…Still I could not escape the vibrancy, color, and excitement of Mexicali.
It would have been fun to stop and have some “Comida Chinesca,” but we needed to keep moving south. Mexicali has a robust Chinese-Mexican community that has survived since the first Chinese immigrants came here for work in the 19th century. A few years I led a group of riders here for Chinese in Mexico, and I located a Chinese restaurant that had been in continuous operation for nearly one hundred years.. They served a delightful plate of food that could be best described as Chinese-Mexican fusion. Delicious!
Not this time. Soon we cleared this huge city and were headed south towards San Felipe!
This pic doesn't do the traffic justice....
Miles of nothing....
Notice Steve blitzing by me. Check out the angle of his GS. Yep, here is where our constant friend, the wind, first came to visit us! 🙂
The Salida Ends
I loved the wide open spaces in spite of the constant 20 mph sidewind! The landscape is harsh, yet beautiful!
We took a breather at “La Ventana” for a quick Mexican soda pop. I don’t drink beer, but am a huge fan of Mexican soft drinks. They are sweeter, and have a “spicy” aftertaste. Could it be because they are made with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup? Soon we were back on the road, enroute to San Felipe, BC. Rich found us a great place to stay, right on the water.
I found San Felipe to be depressing. In my younger days I spent lots of time here, hiking, racing my Hobie Cat, and generally having a good time. Now, the streets are deserted, there is little building going on, and many places are out of business… In “El Nido,” an excellent steakhouse the waiter told us the crowds of tourists were gone, scared by threat of drug violence.. He implored us to tell our friends that not everything you see on TV is happening everywhere in Mexico!
Where are all the Narco Traffickers?
$3.00 Breakfast at El Nido
So far, Mexico was meeting my expectations. Happy that I didn’t let the news media dictate my decision to head south, I couldn’t wait to head out in the morning. We’d continue riding south to Puertocitos, where the pavement ended, and then continue to the famed Coco’s Corner before coming back out onto the Transpeninsular Highway, or D1 as it is also known.
Another "Loncheria," or mom and pop cafe...
The “Cowpatty” seemed to be a local hangout with about 15 or 20 people just standing around, shooting the breeze. Where did they come from? Didn’t seem to be a house or inn for miles….
Front Yard decoration at the Cowpatty Cafe...
The Mexican government says the road from Puertocitos will “soon” be paved, linking this highway to D1. Don’t hold your breath!
Here is signage, Mexican Style…
Despacio! Road Hazard Ahead!
I learned in a hurry to never discount a pile of rocks on the roadway…
End of the paved road
You don’t want to be surprised at 70 mph…when you look closely at this pic you can seem some evidence that road construction is happening, but a few yards down, it ends, leaving endless miles of dirt, rock, gravel and sand to ride! We stopped on Rich’s recommendation to air down the tires. I wonder if this really matters, but why not? Lots of dirt road ahead for this newbie dirt rider!
Airing down the tires
Coming down a steep incline, I took a spill. Wasn’t going too fast so no injury or damage to Bikeopotamus. Glad I had friends to help me pick her up though. At this point, Steve and Rich were miles ahead of us, riding much faster than Ed or I dared. Both of us are dirt nobodies, but I vowed to practice what I’d read about riding the GSA in the dirt. I’d made up my mind to not take another spill!
Bikeopotamus Takes a Nap
I discovered that riding the fully loaded GSA on hard rock or gravel roads was easy and pretty much a delight. The problems occurred when it got soft. My mantra became, “Relax the grips, stand up, go slow to go fast,” and things got better. Still, I was very careful to watch for deep sand. No more naps!
Truly Alone in a Rugged Place
Once I caught my rhythm, I took a deep breath and gave thanks to be in such a desolate, beautiful place with friends. Life should be an adventure, or what is it?
Countless Miles of Dirt and Gravel
And so it went for what seemed like hours until we reached “Alphonsina’s,” a cafe/bar.motel pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I loved it! There were 30-40 homes, a dirt landing strip, and the Sea of Cortez. I could have stayed here a month…no TV, no internet, nothing but sun, wind, and endless, ever-changing vistas. I will be back!
The Best Way to Get Here, Believe me!
Your Fearless Scribe
The bay was breath taking, especially after all the dust I’d eaten on the way here!
Fantastic Views of the Mountains surrounding the Bay
You can rent a boat and fish...
Boats on the Bay
While it would have been great to stick around, we wanted to hit Coco’s Corner before it got too late in the afternoon. The road remained pretty sketchy, at least for my level of skills. Ed took a spill, no damage or injury, but he took it in stride. I helped him get the big KTM back up and we were on our way.
There isn’t much at Coco’s, but if you are in the area LOL you should stop in. It’s a decrepit old shack with a roof lined with womens’ panties; out back there are some outhouses and photo opportunities. Of course cold drinks are available, but not much else. Definitely should be on your agenda if you are passing thru Baja, but make sure your machine and tires are up for it. A break down back there would have been interesting to sort out!
Ed Pulls into Coco's Corner
Coco's Fence Line
Big Girl Panties
Sign in to Coco's Guestbook
Unfortunately, Coco has health issues, and he needed to make the trek to Ensenada for treatment. He left this gentleman to hold down the fort. Pretty funny guy, until I met him I didn’t know the F Word could be used for all seven parts of speech! Ha ha…
One thing is, there was plenty of sand, everywhere we went!
look ma, I'm a real adventure rider!
After Coco’s, it was more of the same, except the road surface seemed to get harder. Ed and I cautiously increased our speed…
More of the Same
As the afternoon sun lowered in the sky, the riding became even more fantastic….
Miles of nothing but Miles
And, before we knew it, we were back on Terra Firma, or “asphalt.” I had collapsed from happiness, though I confess it was fun riding all the miles in the gravel. And, I did ok!
Pavement Rules the Road
More soon, as we continue our trip south!