Tag Archives: Motorcycle

Finally!

Uh, this is one day after my last post right?

I’d meant to write this ages ago but as everyone who has ever went anywhere knows, there’s way too much to do when you get home.

The main reason I’m writing this post is to reflect on what I learned and answer some of those questions that I’ve been asked already… would I do it again, etc etc.

Before I get to that though I want to start with stuff.  The kind you bring with you or leave at home.  The things I wished I’d had or seriously considered mailing back.  And the things I was told I was stupid for taking.  So frankly, let’s start there…

GPS.  Short of what bike you ride I’m not sure there’s anything more controversial in the adventure motorcycling community then this little device.  So many people told me not to take one and at least a few were willing to tell me I should maybe decide to have one if I think I can.  Too many people seem to almost apologize for their decision to use one and frankly I think that’s silly.  Yup, I took one.  Yup I’d take one again and yes, without question I’m really, really friggin glad I had it.  Did it tell me where to go and what to do?  Rarely, and never in Mexico as my maps outside of the US weren’t routable.  But it did give me a good idea how much more riding I needed to do before I got to the next town.  With the GPS waypoints from my friend Laura it told me where the next gas was (that alone is invaluable in Baja) and where I could get cash since virtually nowhere would take a credit card.  It told me some good places to eat and stay (again thanks to Laura) and helped me find places I never would have found without it.  In Loreto I was able to do a tiny bit of offroading, knowing that I’d either run into the highway or the main road as long as I was heading towards the two lines I’d drawn with breadcrumbs.  And even more importantly, it saved me from wasted time in San Diego, a place I didn’t want to explore or get lost in.  I was able to get to the BMW shop just before it closed for the weekend thanks to this little tool, thus allowing me to ride home and not wait on parts or have to meet up with Joe later.  There just wasn’t time to check a map.

It didn’t keep me from making wrong turns.  It didn’t keep me from interacting with people.  It did get some interesting conversation (in charades) at military checkpoints.  And if I were to go off the beaten path more than I did it would have proven to be even more invaluable.  Do you have to have one?  Of course not.  You don’t have to have a cell phone or a computer either.  But should you choose to take one with you you’ll have full blessings from me.  And no, I will not apologise or keep my mouth shut when people say that they are stupid.  You ride your ride and I’ll ride mine tyvm.  I suppose somewhere out there I get less credit for taking one, as if somehow it make the riding itself easier.  That’s fine with me as the people making that sort of stupid judgement are either a) armchair adventurers or b) arrogant jackasses who think everyone should do things the way they do.  Bully for them but leave me out of that nonsense.

And that brings me to the first thing I wish I would have had with me.  Yet another friggin ridiculous electronic device.  A small laptop.  While there are still occasional computer places with actual computers to use, in this day and age it’s less and less common.  What is everywhere is Wifi and while it helped me with my iPhone (another thing I’m glad I had… virtually free Skype calls, the ability to update friends and family quickly, searching for cheap hotels and other information while in either the US or Mexico?  Yes please!), it didn’t help me with the two huge reasons I’d have liked to have a small laptop… pictures and posts.  See, most of the time I had to wait to post until I found a computer.  While I posted regularly it was sometimes much later then I would have liked in terms of either writing or just thinking.  Sure, I could record this info on pen and paper, like we as people have for years before the advent of this here computer thing, but being a computer worker I almost can’t write anymore.  Not without my hand wanting to fall off.  And certainly not even close to as fast as I can type, which is almost stream of consciousness fast thanks to instant messaging.  So yeah, having a computer (wifi or no) to record daily if I wanted to would have been lovely.  And not having to pay for computer time (wifi is free most anywhere if you buy a coffee or something) would have allowed me to search for better hotel deals, etc, something I didn’t do much on painfully slow pay by the minute computers.

Moreover, having a computer would have allowed me better ability to upload, save and edit my pictures.  Most computers took so long to even access the internet or open a picture that if I wanted to post anything at all it made more sense to just post everything then try to edit anything.  That’s not how I’d like to do it, and not what I’d want someone else to do.  Far too often I took plenty of the same picture to get a better shot (usually without success!) but which one was the best?  I’d have no idea on any computer I was using to upload.

Again, could I live without it… well duh.  Of course I could and did.  But for how little these cost and how little space a tiny Dell would take, next time I will definitely bring one… maybe with a movie or two loaded for those nights when I can’t sleep but also can’t move.

Some other bits and pieces that I learned about stuff….  Smaller stuff sacks and compression bags would have worked better.  Having a medium sized compression bag is stupid when you have hard metal square cases.  Bag is round, panniers are sq  uare.  Sort of like that shapes game we all played when we were kids.  Compression sacks just make stuff less able to fit between other stuffs so they are really only useful for things that really need them… otherwise a stuff sack would probably do.  One for clean clothes, one for dirties, one for the long underwear you don’t think you’ll need but bring anyway cause the desert can be cold.  You get the point.

Another thing- a tank bag.  I’m not fond of the things but having absolutely everything behind me meant that anything I wanted to see without getting off the bike was in my pockets.  Not only was I occasionally worried that this stuff would fall out but it was just a lot of junk to have on me all the time.  Wallet, coins, camera, phone, etc etc.  A small tank bag would have helped with that.  And if done right it might have held my next item (in a separate pouch away from the camera, phone etc)…

A camel back.  I had left mine at home for some stupid reason and then realized that I needed one and purchased one in San Diego.  Trouble was that it tasted horrible, being brand new, and didn’t have a good way to put it anywhere useful so I wound up just using my water bottles.  The huge problem with this is that Baja isn’t a place of rest stops and view turn offs.  It’s a place where the road ends at the white line marking the lane and there’s no place to go from there.  Even the road turn offs were often pretty big drops into sand pits of dubious depth.  So, obviously, being able to drink water without stopping would be dreamy.  And safer.  Camel back with long hose attached to your bike or back, or one in a tank bag in front of you would make life happier and easier by a long mile in a place like Baja.

Finally as for stuffs I’d like… if I were to get ultra plush I’d love to replace the dry bags I have with a dry duffel.  Sure, my bags work just fine and really now we’re just talking if I were rich and needed to blow $150 but still, something like that would have been easier to pack up for sure.  So yes, when I win the lottery I will be buying one of them there lovely waterproof dufflebags.  Zippers RULE!

So what wouldn’t I have brought?  For the trip I took I would have left the camping gear at home.  The water bottle, the stove, the tent, sleeping bag and thermarest. Sure, I could have used it more than I did had I made that effort.  And if that was what my trip was about then certainly camping gear is useful.  But considering the longer days, the condition of the roads, my riding skills, being solo, blah blah, I would have just as easily left that stuff at home and spent the money on a hotel room.  It’s not like things are horribly expensive in Mexico.  $26 for a ludicrously nice place at the end of a long riding day is well worth it, if not for the clean sheets and comfortable bed then for the hot shower.  Certainly at this time of the year I should have left the water filter at home.  There was no water anywhere to filter and I never had issues with the water bottles I bought, despite the reports of refilling water bottles.  I know my friend Colin ran into tap water only in Aqua Verde so maybe if I were going off the beaten path more this would be relevant, but if you’re not then just don’t bother.  Of course apparently the water didn’t make him sick so?

And then I suppose that gets me to would I do it again?

If I hadn’t done it before I’d DEFINITELY do it again.  It was a great first experience out of the country solo for me.  Not terribly scary, not incredibly difficult, learning a lot but not challenged beyond what I could do.  Like I said, I would have just left the camping gear at home and enjoyed a bed here and there instead, but I’d definitely do it.  If nothing else being lighter loaded might have even made exploring more of an option.

But would I do it again having already done it?  Honestly I don’t know that I would.  See, there’s a lot of places to travel in the world and a lot of things to see.  I’d love to go explore the rest of Mexico and obviously there are plenty of other countries that still haven’t been checked off my list, but spending too much more time in Baja isn’t really on my short list of things to do.  There isn’t a huge ton of variety to those things closest to the main road.  Not a lot of quaint towns, crazy cities or drastic changes in scenery to explore.  Not a huge amount of history available right off the road either.  And certainly without knowing more of the language there’s really only so much cultural exchange one can do.  I will say that with someone else I would do it again.  With a back up I’d be more willing to explore down a few roads and not worry quite so much about getting stuck someplace with no one to help.  But really, mainland Mexico would probably come before Baja again… you know that or Europe, South America, Central America, Russia, Mongolia, India, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba……. I’ll stop now 🙂

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PHOTOS!

All the photos can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27972146@N04/  Haven’t edited any of them out yet but here they are.


Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Well I made it.  Riding the last 160 miles from Portland to Seattle seemed like the easiest thing ever after 500+ mile days.  Not that many miles on roads I know well.  That said I was actually more concerned about todays miles then I’d been about most miles in my journey.  Not because they were technical, but because I know well enough that most accidents happen close to home.  Plus someone had told me a story about a couple that had done some big long journey and never ran into any trouble until they got within a mile from home, and then they had some horrible accident and were in the hospital for a very long time.  The closer I got to home the more diligent I became about my SEE strategy (lord, I’m a dork!  That’s for any moto instructors out there that might be reading this!).  Fortunately I was able to keep myself from zoning out, keep both hands on the handlebars (I’d picked up the bad habit in Baja of riding with only the throttle hand, thanks to a sore shoulder and lots of miles) and keep focused on all the crazies around me.

Pulling into home territory was uber weird.  I was happy to be home but after so many miles not knowing where I was, or at least not being familiar with where I was it was strange to really know again.  Yup, I know what’s down that road.  There are no cliffs and it doesn’t turn to dirt.  Seems almost strange really.

I have a few thoughts on what I’d like to change about my trip that I plan on writing about, maybe tomorrow or the next day.  Not because I think anyone who is interested in going to Baja should do what I’ll be saying, but these things are something to think about.  Each person’s mileage may vary of course.  But for now I’d like to post some of my favorite pictures and talk of some of the highlights of my trip before I forget.

One of the best interactions (or certainly the more memorable) was actually at a military checkpoint.  I was waiting for the car in front of me and the guard next to me asked me something in Spanish.  Seeing that I couldn’t respond he asked if I spoke Spanish.  No, I’d tried to learn but nothing stuck.  Fortunately he spoke English.  Where was I going?  Where was I coming from?  Originally Seattle.  I know Seattle he said!  And Tacoma, Olympia and then he really shocked me.  Puyallup!  No one from the northwest would probably claim that they knew Puyallup.  But there he said it.  I was born there!  I said.  Really?  Yeah!  It was fantastic to have someone know where you’re from.  Why that is I don’t know, but I do know that having a conversation in a land where that is rare is a real treat.  To top it off with someone who has been to your hometown is beyond excellent.  The fact that this happened at a checkpoint oddly makes it all the better.  We’re all just people and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to find the connections.

Another great exchange happened oddly at the McDonalds.  An old Mexican man walked up to me and asked me something about the bike.  I couldn’t figure out what he was saying and he was getting a little exasperated with me.  It sounded like he was asking what make it was, but with the BMW logo all over the bike (and me for that matter) that just didn’t make sense.  Turns out that was what he was asking and I was only confused because I thought it was obvious.  Eventually he said to me in half Spanish and half English that see, he spoke a little English.  I replied in my horribly broken half Spanish and mostly English that I spoke a little Spanish.  We had a great laugh at each other and ourselves, connecting in how bloody hard it is to learn another language after the age of say, 3.  It doesn’t seem like much but his desire to just talk and our shared lack of ability to do so was both funny and uplifting.

And now for some of my favorite pictures and some captions, since I couldn’t really upload much until now.  (oh, and forgive me if I’ve posted these before… I’m being too lazy to check on the few pictures I was actually able to upload).

 


Back in the Northwest

Apparently the hostel computer kicked me off just before this was actually published.  So here it is, a day late.

I was hoping to make it from Santa Clarita to Redding CA on Sunday but US highway miles are harder than I would have imagined.  While the twisty roads of Mexico make it hard to make good miles just because of the speeds, the freeways here make it hard physically.  It’s much easier to be constantly moving your body to go around tight corners then it is to sit in the same position for hours on end.  Sure, you can wiggle about a bit but that’s still limited.  It’s actually funny riding these miles and thinking back to how I saw them when I came down.  If I had any idea what a truly twisty highway was I’d have kept my mouth shut!  Heck, there’s enough room for a semi and a motorcycle in any lane of most of the highways here.  Not that I’d want to do that, but really, after riding on roads just wide enough for two semis to pass and often huge drop offs or a cliff on the sides these seem like the biggest lanes ever!

So I left Santa Clarita later than I’d hoped as I needed to ice my shoulder before I hit the road again.  Going for a long day with something hurting even before you get onto the bike is just no good.  Leaving late I made it to somewhere shy of Redding, pushing for a while well after dark (damn you daylight savings time!).  I was thinking of a decent hotel room but managed to stay in a cheap motel.  Not sure if there were fleas or if I was just imagining things and itching from earlier bites but sleep was still hard to come by.  Frankly I think it’s just that riding late causes you to want to drink coffee… and then that keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep.  Silly but true. 

Leaving my possibly flea-bitten motel room early the next day I needed to make it to Portland that evening, about 540 miles to the north.  I was glad I hadn’t kept pushing in the dark as I saw three dead deer in the few miles to Redding.  Another good reminder why I don’t ride in the dark much, certainly not when exhausted at the end of a long day of riding.  It was a beautiful ride but colder than I’d expected and I wound up stopping in several places to warm up.  The first was a true diner with a view of Mt Shasta larger than life right out the window.  The second place was another tiny diner in some of the most beautiful farmland ever… a truly picturesc (sp?) farm valley.  Riding on my day was highlighted with a setting sun on one side of me across an expanse of green farmland and the rising full moon to the other.  I’d put on the one piece rain suit my friend Omar had leant to me and stayed relatively warm, only really getting cold as I rode into Portland and the excitement of being where I needed to be made me largely ignore it.

Bob was acting OK all day.  He’s still occasionally losing power and surging.  I suspect it’s the oil in the air filter housing.  Apparently BMW didn’t want excess engine oil (or oil that winds up being in excess when extremely hot, you know, like in Mexico?) just spilling out so it bleeds into the air filter housing.  I’ve been told it’s not a huge problem but I expect it’s making the airflow to the motor less than stellar, especially at highway speeds.  Since he’s still running, most of the time without issue, this will hopefully wait until I get home for a fix.

Today is only the second day off the bike in the time that I’ve been gone.  Seems I almost always finish up my trips in Portland, probably because of the time of the year I take them.  Staying at the youth hostel here and spoiling myself with some much needed time off, a massage and a trip to Powell’s seems like a good last days of a large motorcycle journey, or at least it does to me.  Tomorrow I head home and with a few more days off before I return to work, another adventure.  This time in Washington and in a car.  With heat.  Who turned off the heat up here?

While I plan on doing a debrief for myself and anyone that’s actually reading this after I get home there are a few reflections I’m having now.  It was fairly problematic to me that I wasn’t doing much if any dirt riding in Baja.  I mean really, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be all about?  I was questioning myself and wondering if I was being a wimp, or at least overly cautious.  That is until I read my friend Colin’s post.  See the thing is, I looked at that road and seriously considered going down it.  It seemed like a very short road, and from the road looked fairly flat and relatively good, winding up in quick time at a small beach town.  But then that’s how ALL roads in Baja look from the main road… or at least a lot of them.  They just get uglier down the way, out of sight.  And of course with how narrow they are and me alone on a very heavy bike, by the time you realize you shouldn’t be there it might be too late to turn back.  Hearing better riders talk about the conditions of these roads made me pretty happy at the choices I had made.  For me riding dirt would have only been sane with someone else, with a unloaded bike and/or by only going down roads I know aren’t overly technical, something that might well have changed in the last month what with hurricane season.  (sidenote, here’s a link to Frenchy’s blog too… just in case you want even more motorcycle reading!)

Having to pay for internet means my pictures won’t be uploaded until after I get home, especially with this computer screaming that I have 3 minutes.  So more tomorrow hopefully, including all the pictures that haven’t been uploaded yet.


Homeward Bound

Woke up late today figuring I needed a good night’s sleep after the long day yesterday.  As I left the motel, fueled up and headed north Bob’s performance seemed to be worse than before.  Now instead of not being able to go 70 I couldn’t really go much more than 60.  I wasn’t too surprised.  After the dust storm yesterday I was certain my air filter needed replacing.  Had I been smarter or in less of a hurry I would have at least stopped and banged it out a bit.  But of course I wanted to make the border and hopefully San Diego BMW in time to get my stuff and new fuel filters and an air filter for Bob.  I kept thinking I’d stop for breakfast but as usual that didn’t happen.  Bob kept getting worse and worse the more miles I put on him but now time was getting short, the dealer closes at 6pm on Saturdays and isn’t open on Sundays so rushing was what I was doing.  I stopped in Ensenada and ate at, of all places, McDonalds.  It’s honestly the first time I have eaten there in years.  This is what sleeping in gets you, though honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered or as quick.  Apparently in Mexico the food at McD’s isn’t made in advance.  Hmm.  The funny part is that they have some sort of ice cream item there called the McKranky.  Apparently that’s for all the folks that are on the other end of the spectrum from the Happy Meal.  I had a feeling that the border would make me Kranky enough and passed on desert.

Somehow without trying I managed to get onto the toll roads north from Ensenada.  Perfect!  Not only do you miss the chaos of city traffic but the road is beautiful, winding up the coast with beautiful views.  On the downhill stretches I could really enjoy it but uphill I kept fighting Bob to get him to go even 40mph.  For a while I was honestly starting to wonder if I’d make it out of Mexico.  At one point I was in first gear doing about 10 just limping to the top of a hill.  Thankfully as the border got closer the steep uphills went away and I could get Bob to travel at about 55mph as long as it was flat.  Fast enough. 

Nearing the border for a while I stayed stuck in traffic until one of the vendors selling things in the road in Tijuana told me to white line it.  He helped clear a space and I started cutting through traffic.  Normally this sort of thing bothers me.  I usually wait my turn with everyone else but with Bob really not running and knowing I’d be either stuck in San Diego or making Joe from the dealership have to meet me later I went ahead and took cuts as directed.  A bit short of the border I still wasn’t sure I’d make it and decided to call Joe and give him my credit card info so I could get the air filter and fuel filters even if they were closed.  I really hoped I didn’t have to meet him later as he’d been too kind already and it was Halloween and all.

Cutting through I had to duck back into traffic here and there as the BMW is just too wide to white line properly.  And here begins the only actual traffic incident in Mexico.  I was hit!  Intentionally!  By this crazy US crack junky woman without any teeth because she was pissed that I was cutting up the middle.  CRAZY!  Even if you don’t like it you don’t usually go around hitting people intentionally.  Somehow even with her hitting me pannier and pushing me I managed not to fall over.  The funny part is that after that I cut around the vehicle in front of her to get away from the crazy I saw some border guards who TOLD me to cut to the front of the line.  It’s just how it’s done.  In the scheme of things it makes some sense I guess but it just made me laugh that her craziness meant I went even farther to the front of the line with full permission.  All the while she was honking and screaming.  Probably a good way to make sure you really get checked thoroughly at the border though I didn’t stick around to watch.

Not really a scratch on Bob from the incident but a bit of wear on the side of my left pannier from the crazy lady.  Can I just say that I’d love to see this kind of person not let back into the US, but then again Mexico doesn’t deserve any more of our problems then it already has so…

Got through the border without too much problem and headed to the dealer.  Yet again my GPS provided invaluable as I didn’t have to remember how to get there, and with less than 30 minutes and a bike that was barely running I couldn’t afford to waste any time at all.  Poking along the freeway barely doing 60 is a bit unnerving.  In Mexico it’s not a big deal as there are cars of all qualities there.  Plenty that are brand new but still many that barely run.  There riding a motorcycle that won’t do 40 up a hill is just normal.  In San Diego not going over the speed limit is just dangerous.

Limped in to the dealer with a about 10-15 minutes to spare and began working on the bike.  Air filter was dirty (no surprise) but there was nothing weird with the carb bowls that I could see.  Still not sure about the fuel filters.  I have the kind you can clean but wanting to push north through LA I didn’t have time for that and just opted to buy the plastic ones for now.  Got my junk from Joe, put the new stuff on the bike and packed up.  At first Bob was running worse than before.  Had I messed something up when I took the carb bowls off?  After filling up though he was running like a top and thankfully still is.  For some reason the left carb is leaking fuel and I plan on looking at that tomorrow morning, but class=”mceItemHidden”> honestly in the land of plentiful gas, a phone that works, etc, I’m not terribly concerned about it.  I can get home, and at more than 40mph so I’m pretty stinking happy.

Made it to Santa Clarita tonight.  I am terribly excited to be able to brush my teeth with tap water.  I don’t know why that’s a big deal but I’m honestly excited about it.  Probably just too tired or something.  Tomorrow I’ll push north, maybe to Redding or someplace in Southern Oregon.  It’s funny to look at the mileage from here to Portland.  Not even 1000 miles which means not even 500 miles a day if I split it equally.  After 500 miles in Baja that sounds like a cake walk.  Sure, there’s mountain passes but really, nothing super twisty, no military checkpoints, no borders to cross and a bike that runs!  Let’s hope I’m not jinxing myself!

Will try to post more pictures soon and maybe write something more coherent.  My feeling tonight?  Just happy to be stopped for the day and have a bike that responds when you twist the throttle.  Oh, and that brushing teeth thing.  Definitely that brushing teeth thing.


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?


Siesta

Wow, a day off the bike is really quite nice.  Woke up when I felt like it and went for a lovely breakfast.  After poking around for a while and buying some stuff I don´t need I took a long siesta and enjoyed the quiet and dark of my room.  I spent some time talking to a vendor across the street from my hotel, his name escapes me now, who also has a motorcycle and was excited to talk to me about Bob.  It turns out that he is from Cancun and also thinks the roads here in Baja are insane.  Funny to hear a relative local say the same thing I was thinking.

Later I took a taxi to the nearest beach and then walked back.  Sadly there was no swimming as the shore is super steep and thus the coast is very dangerous.  The walk back was perfect though my calves are killing me from these last few days of walking.  Apparently all this riding has made me lose some of those walking muscles!

For those of you that wonder why I didn’t ride there let me just say this, I don’t ride without full gear and I just really didn’t want to put all that crap on today.  I wanted a day completely away from the motorcycle and I got it and loved it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love riding, but this is the first time ever I’d rode every single day for more then a week and I needed a break.  Hmm… how much more then a week?  Wait, what day is it?

Gotta say this town is a bit weird.  First there’s all the cruise boat style tourists up from Los Cobos for the day.  Never heard so many different American accents and yes, they did seem rather obnoxious.  I will say that not all the tourists from other countries are peachy either… at least a few are just as ugly as the ugly American.

To top that off there’s the expats here.  I hate to group them together but it is interesting how people seem to be in this type of community.  With the gossip and crankiness it’s almost as if there isn’t enough drama here on it’s own so there’s a determination to make some.  I guess we all need something different in our lives and maybe when things are too easy we just want to make them hard?  An interesting thing to consider as we think about a peaceful world.  Would that really truly make us happy?  But then that’s another thought for another time.

For a quick report for anyone heading this way, the hotel California is lovely.  Even the rooms on the street are quiet with the  AC on.  The owner is a cranky expat who is so terribly negative that you really should limit your contact with her as much as possible.  Fortunately her employees are fantastic and really helpful.

I keep trying to figure out my plan back but realized that I´m just going to go day by day.  Some days require a plan, for example there are days where there´s nothing for 200 miles so ending up at dark in the middle of that wouldn’t be good.  But having a general path for the day and knowing a few stopping points is just going to have to appease my over planning mind.  Tomorrow I’m camping,  assuming the places aren´t closed!