Loreto, Baja, Mexico
1133.40 miles (1824 km)
Hola! Our riding experiences so far in Mexico have been humbling. We have discovered our bikes are too heavy on their own for the sands of Baja, never mind adding 100 pounds of gear and a rider on top. As a result, we have been forced to ride many of our miles on pavement. I’m more comfortable riding pavement than dirt, despite the boredom and very strong winds, but not-pavement is definitely more adventurous. Dave is obviously craving the dirt roads and is a little disenchanted.
On Dec. 22 we met Toby and Brenda at a cafe in San Felipe. Toby is originally from the UK and living in Vancouver. Brenda is living in Eastern Washington. Right away we had this in common as I’m from B.C. and Dave’s from WA. We decided to ride together the next day from San Felipe to Coco’s Corner. Coco is a Mexican man who’s become somewhat famous as his home is conveniently placed along part of the Baja race routes. He has cold beer and about 300 pairs of underwear hanging from the ceiling of his home. Coco lost both his legs below the knees due to diabetes. He’s quite a character and sees thousands of visitors per year (read more about Coco here).
The plan was to find a place to camp after visiting Coco, then carry on the following day, X-mas eve, into San Ignacio where Toby promised that one margarita made from Albert at the Desert Inn bar would drop a man (or woman) to their knees.
As happens with all ‘plans,’ none of this actually happened. We did ride the dirt road into Coco’s together after battling some of the hardest winds both Dave and I have encountered for any length of time. At one point I needed to stop on the side of the highway, catch my breath and try to find the balls to keep going. Nothing puckers you up like wind gusts and highway speeds except maybe adding in some hairpin corners.
After visiting Coco and upon his suggestion, we took another dirt road east of his place into the hills to find The White Rock, where he claimed you could stick a cup under a spring coming out from the rock, add sugar and call it Seven-up.
About 10km up that road, we found the intersection to take us about another 12 km to the Rock. I have no experience riding sand, so these kms were plenty exhilarating for me. We had a fun evening under the stars camped atop the Rock telling stories and trying out some local Tequila. In the a.m. it became clear early on the BMWs would not make it the 38km ahead through the wash and out to the highway in the deep sand. The group decided to return the way we’d come. Toby and Brenda had dirt bikes and very light bags. They could have kept going but there is camaraderie when people start out riding together. If you go in together, you try to come out together. They decided to stick with us, which was definitely a good thing.
At one point I needed to double up on Toby’s bike while my bike was being ferried through some tougher sections. Not wanting to compromise my previously broken wrist any further, I was walking the tough sections. During one such section Toby road by and offered to double me. I had only my riding pants and boots. My jacket, gloves and helmet were strapped to my bike, which had been ferried up ahead. I was facing an 8km walk in the desert with motorcycle boots and wearing something akin to ski pants. I relented even though riding two-up in sand with rollers scared me. Toby offered me his sweaty extra-large helmet. It fit like a salad bowl on my noggin and likely would have come clear off had we crashed. Sometimes you have to make due with the options presented, despite the clear lack of safety and logic.
All the bikes had gotten mixed up in the ferrying, so we were now riding two-up on Brenda’s bike, which only had one foot peg on the left. For the right foot, I ‘rested’ the heel of my boot on the top of Toby’s boot. He stood to ride better and I white-knuckled the vent pockets on the back of his jacket like my life depended on it. Because it did.
Keeping my heel on his toes was quite an exercise in itself. My inner thighs gripped the seat but as we caught the sandy rollers with speed, my ass slipped further and further forward so I was now essentially laying my whole spine along the seat between Toby’s legs. My face kept butting into his ass at every bump. We caught air several times. In sand you have to ride fast. Think of a boat towing a water skier. If the boat is going too slow, the skier can’t rise up out of the water and the boat sits much lower in the water. Once at speed, both the boat and the skier skim the water. This analogy makes complete sense to me, yet I can’t bring myself to ride faster than about 40kmph in the sand.
After a particularly terrifying section where Toby and I as a duo came around a corner to find a steep downhill section full of rocks and ruts, I yelled for him to stop. The bike had been sideways I was sure of it. I have no idea how he kept it on two wheels. I was certain we were going to crash but Toby had it dialled. When I told him how freaked out I was later, he laughed. This is a man who had reached into Coco’s family outhouse to retrieve a purse one of Coco’s little girls dropped into the feces. I have it all on film. In the hindsight one has when one is still alive after such an experience, I’ll admit it was kind of fun. In a terrifying way that I never want to repeat. Ever.
We made it to Bay of L.A. that night and had an incredible meal with fat prawns sautéed in garlic butter and lime margaritas.
It’s impossible to tell the stories of all of our experiences even in just one week but to summarize, we left Quartzsite and entered into Mexico via Tecate and rode south via the Ruta de Vino. There was a border from the U.S. into Mexico but you’d hardly know it. The guards waved us on. No stamps in the passport, not even a glance at official docs—we just cruised in and kept riding. Our first night we camped and we were pretty paranoid, hiding our bikes in a wash and turning out the light in the tent every time a car drove by on the farm road, however we’ve lightened up once getting a feel for Baja. Most of the locals see us and wave or smile or both. We’ve been eating incredibly delicious foods, always tasting of the freshest ingredients. We’ve camped 5 nights and spent 3 in hotels, one of which was the Desert Inn, which we treated each other to for Xmas in San Ignacio (remember the place? Strong margaritas?)
X-mas eve Dave and I spent on the ocean shores along the Pacific side. We found an un-sandy dirt road off the highway that led us about 3 km down to the beach and had miles of beachfront to ourselves. The evening’s entertainment was a full moon, crashing waves, a fire and three adorable visiting burros.
Along the road yesterday, Dave encountered his first realization of the intensity of garbage and the lack of proper disposal resources while we rode through Santa Rosaliita. Having travelled to over a dozen developing countries, I admit I barely noticed it but this was Dave’s first real exposure to the depressing effects of out-of-control garbage in the world. As we cruised into town, a landfill greeted us, its contents being whisked away in the brisk wind straight into the ocean. We hurriedly left town. Dave pulled over later saying he needed a minute. “What are we doing?” he asked. Maybe about our trip. Maybe about the state of the world in general. I know this to be moments most every traveller experiences. We are so privileged as North American citizens, we don’t even think about where the garbage goes once it’s in the can and on the curb. The interesting thing is if you look closely enough in these towns that appear to be depressed, you find happy people smiling regardless.
Here are some photos from the past week. If viewing via e-mail, you may need to go to our website to see the images. Thanks for reading, feel free to send us comments.