Angels

I am sitting here writing this because it seems like it’s too early to go to bed.  I’ve probably had the hardest day on a motorcycle yet.  But I’ll get to that.

I left Todos Santos later in the morning, sucking up all the time at my posh expensive hotel.  I’d hoped to get to the beach north of Loreto but didn’t make it.  There was quite a wind blowing and Loreto proved to be my final destination.  I decided to make all that hauling of camping gear worth it and camp out that night.  Looking for the RV park with tent space and wifi turned out to be harder than it should have been.  Like everything, there are not nearly enough signs.  Heading into town you take a right and cross over a dry river bed.  Little did I know that would not be my only off-road that evening.  Taking a wrong turn in the river bed I headed away from where I actually wanted to be and found myself on the dirt back streets of outer Loreto.  Rather then backtracking and trying to turn around I used the GPS to get me back where I needed to be to try again.  I knew that there would be a road heading that way, it’s Baja.  There is always a road, of dubious quality but whatever.  Loreto is fairly flat and I was keen to push it a bit.  Eventually I wound up in a sand/gravel pit and managed to kill the bike twice getting out of deep sand.  Fortunately I managed not to dig myself in (thus the killing of the bike) and headed up a steepish hill back into town.  OK, let’s try this again.

This time taking the other fork in the river I wound up at the camp.  Far enough away from town I paid and then went off to dinner, meaning I’d have to cross the riverbed at night, but at this point there was little other choice.  The food I had to cook did not seem appetizing.  In town I learned that the wind I’d experienced had just blown in that day.  Along with some cold air.  Little did I know of what was to come.

The night in the campground was OK.  Dogs barking all night and roosters calling once 4am rolled around.  No, they don’t crow at sunrise.  They crow 3 hours before.  Needless to say there wasn’t much sleep.  This was compounded by the fact that I knew I was making the longest push I’d made this trip the next day.  To say I was a bit concerned would be an understatement.  500 miles isn’t much on US roads but in Baja, even on the highway it’s another story.

I got up before dawn and packed up, leaving just as the sun cleared the horizon.  The day started out windy but that was just a taste of what was to come.  The first push of the morning seemed so much slower then I’d hoped.  Knowing I needed to make about 50 miles at least an hour I saw myself falling slowly behind.  The roads were the grooved pavement stuff that throws the bike at higher speeds and when they weren’t that they were twisty.  The thing about the twisty roads here is that even if you’re a great rider you simply can’t take them as fast as you might like.  Why? Because sometimes, without much warning, there are speed bumps in the corner!  Set up the line just right to take it and the bumps will kill you.  So everything is slower than it could be.  With the roads so narrow you can’t choose a tight line as that semi riding over the line will get you, that or the rocks falling off the completely disintegrating slopes.

Only stopping for gas and a snack in San Ignacio I was on my way.  I had enough gas to get me to G. Negro and pushed on, thinking I’d eat lunch there.  Bob had been acting up, surging as if he was running out of gas so when he finally did I was taken by surprise.  Had I accidentally hit the trip odometer?  I knew there was gas a few miles back from me but no idea if there was gas ahead so I turned back.

For those of you that don’t ride motorcycles let me explain that often on older bikes, and some newer bikes, there is no gas gauge.  You simply know about how far you can get on one tank of gas.

Of course I was also wondering if the high winds I’d been fighting had run me out of gas quicker then they should have.  If so that was a bit scary as I had a 200 mile stretch later in the day with no gas.  That’s about Bob’s limit.  If the wind was taking up this much gas I was screwed.

Heading back to town I got about 1/4 mile from the gas station before I died completely.  Luckily there was actually a place to pull off the road (a rarity in Baja) and I set about locking up my stuff and taking off the gas tank to use it as my gas can.  The tank on an R100GS comes off easily so it just makes more sense to take it with you.

For some reason there were very few vehicles heading my direction and while 1/4 mile isn’t far to walk it’s not close in full gear with a gas tank.  For some reason the locals would not stop.  Not even the ones with trucks (throw me in the back).  But close to the station my first angel of the day appeared.  I wish I could remember their names.  The two in the front vehicle were husband and wife and it was them who stopped and asked me what the problem was.  They’re from California and asked, via walkie talkies, their friend behind them to give me a ride to the station and back to the bike.  I hopped in with him and they headed North, stopping at my bike.  It was a good thing, in my haste to get gas and get going I’d left the GPS attached to the handlebars.  Easy enough for someone to take should they want to.  While I haven’t had problems with theft (yet!) that could have been very costly.

Back at the bike I put the tank back on and headed back to the gas station to fill up the rest of the way.  When I got there the attendant noticed that there was gas spilling from my fuel lines.  What?  Had I not put them on tight enough?  Turning off the valves I filled up and pulled off to the side to check things out.  Turns out the fuel filters had both come unscrewed.  Did this happen when I took off the lines or had this been going on before?  Is this the reason I ran out of gas almost 100 miles before I should have?  Unfortunately the mystery made me even more concerned.  If that was the problem and I’d fixed it then I could go that 200 miles.  If not then I’d have to buy gas from the back of a truck, assuming they were around.  That might be a lot to bet on.

I stopped for lunch in G Negro and wound up at the same place as my gasoline Angels.  We spent a bit of time talking and way too much time waiting for food.  I was getting impatient.  I needed to leave by at least 2pm to have any hope of getting to my destination without riding in complete darkness.  Eventually the food came and I was on the road by 2 but soon it became clear that wasn’t going to be enough time.  The wind that had been howling picked up and soon I was riding sideways through dust storms so dense that sometimes you couldn’t quite see the road.  Now I’m really worried.  Will this wind suck up more gas?  My taste of being stuck on the side of the road within walking distance to the gas station made me very certain that I didn’t want to be stuck on the road miles from a gas station.  I would buy gas at the trucks, both of them, just in case.

I kept riding, slower and slower as the wind tossed me around the road.  So many times I was leaned over as if cornering hard only to be going straight down the road.  And again, for those of you that don’t ride, the biggest problem with this is that the wind gusts, it doesn’t simply blow at one speed.  So while you know that the semi you’re passing is going to blow you around with this, you have no idea how much you’re going to get kicked around.  I’d be riding and all of a sudden leaned over even harder and still heading for the other lane.  Fortunately there was little traffic but when I did have to pass a semi it was beyond frightening.  Several times I wondered if I’d get blown into a passing truck.  The roads here are so narrow that there is really only enough room for two semis to pass each other.  No shoulder, no nothing.  The semis are getting blown around too and you wind up far closer than you’d like in the best of weather.

I got to the turn off to Bahia de Los Angeles and bought gas from the truck there.  I’d guess I was severely ripped off but by the time the gas is in the tank it’s too late.  I kept pushing North and wondered if I’d make my destination.  The Angels had told me about a ranch with some facilities that they planned to stay at.  It would do but I really wanted a bed and a shower, especially after the sleepless night before.

Pushing on to Catavena I got there and bought more gas.  This time I’d learned my lesson.  While I’d love to have the guy fill it up I simply didn’t have the cash for that.  I told him 60 pesos please and he tried to argue.  It’s all I have I said and he gave me more gas then I probably had coming.  I had more, but only enough for gas the next day and my room.  Thanks to a little American coin I found I’m able to write this and have a small dinner.

Thankfully the road from Catavina was less windy, but then it was also going through the mountain passes, up at 3000 ft or so, and cold.  And of course pretty twisty though not as bad as I’d remembered.  The only trouble is that the sun was getting lower on the horizon and it was literally in my eyes much of the time as I was heading West.  And this is where my second angel comes in.

Leaving Catavina I was behind a Toyota flat-bed truck.  The thing smelled but not that bad and he was doing a fairly decent speed.  Rather then pass him I decided I would follow him the 100 miles or so to El Rosario.  Not only would he be my cattle pusher, my horse pusher, my dog pusher should one run into the road but I could use his headlights to extend mine if it came to it.  And should he make any big mistake he would serve as my example of what not to do.

At this point I didn’t realize what an Angel he would turn out to be.  At one point he signaled right and I thought I was losing him to a side road.  Bummer.  But nope.  He was just telling me that there were cows on the side of the road and be careful.  Thank you Angel.  From there as I headed into the sun I could watch his truck rather than trying to keep track of the white lines while being virtually blinded.  It worked great and I could see him moving through each corner, which allowed me to go much faster then I would have been able to had I had to search out the road on my own.

Several times I would fall behind him and I honestly wondered if he was slowing to let me catch up.  I was determined to stay with him as just having someone around on a completely desolate road is very uplifting.  I know my spirits would not have been high had it just been me on that road, with no one to follow, and no angel to lead the way.  Slowly the sun sank behind the hills and I was able to follow his truck and lights as the road curved around down the mountain pass.

I can not tell you how happy I was to see the towns lights across a valley.  I had been watching the GPS and my mirage but you’re not there til you’re there and I finally was.  Winding through town I headed for my favorite hotel of the entire journey (more about that to come sometime soon) and pulled off the get a room.  Angel headed to the gas station and I honestly considered going there and asking for a picture.  If I could have explained that he saved me from a horrible journey that would have taken a lot longer without me I would have done just that.  But my Spanish would never be able to explain that he was my angel and that I was so very thankful that he had been there to lead me through the desert.

When I got off my bike at the hotel I realized just what an angel he was.  Even now as I’m sitting here I’m dizzy.  12 hours of almost straight riding on little to no sleep have me exhausted to the point of vertigo.  Until I got off the bike though I didn’t know it, I had just been following the angel to town.

There are times, like earlier today while fighting with the sand and insane wind, that I wonder why I do this sort of thing, but then with each passing angel I’m reminded.  Unless you challenge yourself life gets boring and if you never need help you’ll rarely see those angels around you just waiting to step in.  It is unlikely that today would have gone over without the help of these two groups of angels and the funny thing is that I know I’m not the only one who has had this experience.  Anyone travelling by motorcycle or pushing outside of the daily commute has had this experience.  And yet I’m constantly amazed when the universe or God or whatever you think or believe provides exactly what you need exactly when you need it.  As long as you’re open to it you almost always find what or who you need.

OK, enough of that.  Tomorrow I cross the border (hopefully) and pick up my junk at San Diego BMW.  I still can’t believe those guys were nice enough to hold my rain suit, etc for me.  Awesome.

And now, finish dinner, shower and sleep.  I wonder how much I can sleep in tomorrow?

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About Jessica Dally

A random blog about travel, personal transformation, riding motorcycles solo, social media and whatever else seems interesting at the moment. View all posts by Jessica Dally

5 responses to “Angels

  • Steve

    I’ve just found your blog, and have really enjoyed beling with you on your adventure. It sounds like it’s been a bit more of a challenge than a pleasure. I wish I had found you earlier as I have a house in La Paz that is empty right now, and you could have stayed there. i also know a fair number of friendly helpful people in the city who could have helped you out, or at least directed you to some excellent restaurants. I’m in Auburn WA, and have a BMW 650gs. I’d thought of riding to La Paz, but after reading of the difficulties you’ve encountered, I think I’ll stay with air travel. Good luck and ride safe on your way home.

    • jessicadally

      Steve, actually it’s been a ton of fun. I would have loved to stay in a house in la Paz especially as the hotels were either fairly low quality or high quality and spendy ( form what I could find at least). You could totally ride it, especially with a base to stay at once you get south. Just take more time (a failure I tend to do again and again, partially because I like to push myself) and leave the camping gear at home. Then the bike would be light enough to explore more. And really, places to stay are cheap enough and bottled water easy enough to find. If I had it to do over I’d have just left that junk at home and gone light which is the key to off road in baja I think! Plus then you can enjoy the twisty highway more too!

  • Steve

    I dunno. After reading of noisy motels, bad food, sleepless nights and scary small towns your trip sounded more like a harrowing misadventure than a “ton of fun”. But when you get back I’d love to buy you dinner and hear more about the good parts.

  • jessicadally

    Steve, that’s just called adventure motorcycling and it comes with the territory. Really only one small town that was scary to me in any way and part of that might have been from the issues I was having that day with heat (always a bit scary when it’s hot as heck and you’re not sweating… heat exhaustion? Don’t know). The funny thing is that I was worried that I hadn’t brought a lock for my bike but I had nothing to worry about and figured that out pretty quickly. In fact many times I left the few things I have stored below the rack on my bike out in the open at night and never did I have a problem. No one took the bike pump, the inner tubes or the tire repair kit. Frankly I’d be more worried to leave them out in the US (and didn’t tonight!).
    As for bad food I didn’t get sick once in Mexico which is not something I could say for my trip down in the US but then eating at Carls Jr, well, what is to be expected from that?
    Having read virtually every motorcycle adventure book out there I can say without question that any one worth a damn has all of these things. Foreign countries are sometimes loud, sometimes have less then stellar food and sometimes cause sleepless nights. Just exactly like the US. I’ve been more scared alone in the US for sure. If you want perfectly perfect you’ll not find it in this lifetime. If you want adventure you best be prepared for a few bumps in the road. It’s what life is about.

  • shawn & jamie

    great writing jess! Loved reading this. 🙂

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