I moved out of my apartment in Boston 10 months ago and have been traveling the US in my truck with various dirtbikes. I’ve had lots of great adventures….. but right now I’m in Cabo San Lucas so I figure I’ll just write up a little bit about Baja.
After some last minute maintenance in a Home Depot parking lot I blast out of Los Angeles wide eyed and anxious. I only have 40 miles on the bike since I purchased it and know nothing about it’s history aside from the obvious signs of neglect, abuse, and wear. Who knows what will happen – but I’m now committed to 3,000 miles off-road, and like all my travels, I’ll deal with issues as they come.
Two hundred miles of American pavement later I arrive with trepidation at the Mexican border. Patrol waved me across into Tecate without so much as making me stop my bike – so far so good.
I wander around the town square and get some local currency at the bank. Gear up and head out, the trip is now beginning.
It’s already passed 4pm but I head out in search of the off-road riding I have been anticipating. Half way across the peninsula I find a dirt route south across the Mexican forest – I head straight in. The sun is setting and I’ve just left the nearest semblance of what could be considered a town and ventured off into the high desert, alone, with nightfall coming, and without anyone on earth knowing where I am am. It’s just me, the dirt, and the motorcycle.
As sun sets the trail fades to black and my giddy enthusiasm begins to sink. I park the bike to consult my map while listening to the wailing howls of a nearby pack of coyotes. I decide to not pitch a tent yet as I still have a lot of ground to cover. The temperature has dropped quickly so put on all the layers I have with me and keep moving.
I weave in and out of the pines on loose sandy road at what I would consider in retrospect a ludicrously fast pace. The skid marks and dust clouds while screeching into corners will be seen for months to come.
Now cold I start to get concerned about keeping warm and arriving safely to the next town.
Through the blackness I go.
A couple hours later I see the glow of what I hope is a town off in the distance. I come upon a main road and quickly regain my bearings. Plowing onto town.
I pull into Lazaro Cardenas late, it’s nearly midnight now. The one gas station is closed and I’m out of fuel, I’ll need to stay nearby. I motor down the road a bit further searching the roadsides for a safe place to camp. I pull off in three different locations and comb the grounds with my flashlight, all were riddled with scorpion and snake holes. A few miles further I find a dirt road off to the side and camp in the right lane – it’s now nearly one AM and no travelers will be through here tonight.
In the morning I make a quick run back to town to fill up and head out for day two.
The road to San Felipe is fast deep sand. I wring out the throttle.
I grab a Torta in San Felipe and keep going.
A crash snaps my brake lever, I swap it out for a spare and keep making miles.
Desolate towns like Puertocitos makes outsiders wonder why anyone would live in such conditions…
… but an alternate view shows that their quality of life may not be too bad.
The road south out of Puertocitos is coastal, scenic, and fast. The bike loves to stretch its legs and I like the thrill of riding near the threshold. The tires spin wildly for a steady 150k.
The most heavily photographed natural landmark in northern baja must be the salt rock.
After four hours of riding I am nearly out of fuel. The roaring motor, deep sand, and whooped terrain has sucked my tank down quickly. Alfonsina’s is the only fuel for 80 miles, and they have their pumps turned off. After some questioning I find they are very low on fuel. I use all the charm I can muster and spats of garbled spanish to convince them to sell me a few liters. The only hombre at the station walks around back and powers on the pump. I put in a bit and thank him with my gregarious arm gestures. As I am leaving another gringo in a car arrives and is turned away.
Unexpected I come upon Coco’s Corner – a legendary stop off for all off-roaders traveling the eastern coast. I stop in with hopes of meeting him.
Coco isn’t around, but a gringo by the name of Jim was there watching after the place. Jim drove down with a buddy in a car, but he’s a hog rider through and through. We shoot the shit for a while, have a couple beers and I get my fill of the mythical location. The sun is dropping quickly and I need to keep moving.
I cover ground quickly and head out to the paved road . There is a dirt path to Bahia de los Angeles but it is already dark and I don’t want to be finding my way until midnight again, so I slab it to town. I talk down the price of a reasonable hotel room, unpack, and walk the streets looking very out of place until I find an Internet cafe. I also find a hut for some late night dinner and chat with a local for a while. He buys me a coke and has me guess the ages of the women cooking my tacos. We all laugh a bit then I head back to the hotel.
The hotel is cheap but clean. There is no cold water, only hot, scaulding hot. I took a painful shower and captured the shower water into the garbage can so I could fill the toilet tank – the water pressure was low, this took a while.
The next morning I work at the cafe and don’t get on the road until 3pm. I notice one of my bags has been ripped open by the rear tire – but can’t do anything about it now, I need to use the daylight.
As I fly out of town on the rocky dirt road my lucky AZD cup becomes tangled in the rear wheel, rips the strap, destroys the carabiner, and smashes the cup. I tie up the pieces and continue, a little despondent.
The roads are gorgeous and fast. I happen upon a broken down rider on an off-road bike thirty miles out of town. He is part of a large group from Ensenada – they are heading to San Ignacio, just like I am. I offer him my tools, help, and water, but he declines on all fronts. He has been stranded for at least four hours but a member of his group went to get help. I motor on. Another twenty miles further I pass his friend heading back to meet him.
A while later I come upon more members of the group. One is towing the other to jump start his bike. They all have too much money and too little experience. All of their bikes are nearly new, outfitted with every high end part available, but no one has supplies with them. I ride with them a bit but the dust cloud is too much to take and they are slow. Over the next ten miles I pass each of the 13 members of their group on my loaded down 80’s tech bike and once again head south solo.
As it gets dark I hit the reserve on my gas tank – I am still a long way from anywhere. Another forty and the bike sputters to a stop. It turns out I had taken a wrong turn and added significant miles to my planned route.
I lay the bike on its side to get every last bit of fuel from the right side of the tank onto the left. It appears I still have a little bit left. I nearly drop to my knees when I see a ‘Pemex’ sign in the distance. I’ve pushed my motorcycles all over the states to find fuel, but in the deserts of baja fuel is not reliable and I thought for sure I’d be walking until daybreak.
I roll into the station on vapors and am thankful to find full service.
Another hour on the road and I arrived in San Ignacio in a shroud of darkness. I promptly located a nice restaurant with common American amenities like electricity and Internet and had myself a nice dinner. It was 9pm and I hadn’t had an ounce of food since dinner the day before.
Not wanting to find a hotel I went off in search of camping. This night was much the same as the former, scouring the roadsides with a flashlight until I found an uninhabited spot. Whilst maneuvering the bike a combination of the sand, little moonlight, and the fact that I had exceeded my traditional two wheels two beers policy at dinner, I managed to crash again and snap my spare brake lever. Now I’ve got none.
I get an early lunch at the same restaurant the next day. Work until two, then head out. I planned to go south to the west coast town of San Juanico, but the local gas station is out of fuel and I won’t have enough to make it there as I’m already down half a tank. Instead I travel eastward to Santa Rosalia. I attempt to take some dirt roads, but they are not mapped and are dead ends.
Two roads diverge in the desert.
…. and neither go anywhere.
Once again low on fuel I double time back to pavement and slab it to Santa Rosalia. The first gas station in town is out, the second waves me away because they have no electricity, but lightning struck twice – Santa Rosalia has three stations and the third was operational.
Despite being behind schedule I decide to try my chances at a back way route clear across the mountains to San Juanico on the other side of the peninsula.
In the hills all the local Mexican families are in the road with their shovels and rakes repairing sections of the mountain passes. Not many travel this way and the road is rocky and narrow. The cohesiveness of the Mexican people is astounding. They are far more communal than Americans, it is refreshing to see such an obvious bond between good hard working people.
I felt bad about leaving the first tire tracks on the freshly repaired road, but I waved politely and carried on.
Thirty miles of winding washed out roads later I find myself lost, once again, with the sun setting. I speak with a local ranch owner and he tells me I should have turned a long time ago. I remember the turn he mentions and become upset that I didn’t look more closely at my maps.
Here is the intersection. I went to the right – my reasoning being – the more ranches the better the odds it is a through road.
I should have gone left.
I backtrack out to the slab and head to Mulege. I find an Internet cafe and catch up on a few things I neglected that morning.
Staying in Mulege was never on my agenda – Loreto was today’s terminal destination. Even though it is night I decide to continue down to Loreto. There is no other way to get there but the paved road.
As much as I like spending time in every town, I pine for Cabo and must move on.
I occupy my time on the 120 miles to Loreto at night by riding like Leo, standing up and leaning forward against the tank the entire way. Nothing but the warm coastal wind from tip to toe – something you just can’t experience on other more protected and street oriented motorcycles.
Knowing I had loads of work to do the next morning I squired the town looking for a hotel with Internet access. The first was very rude and turned me away, the second was too snoody, the third didn’t have wifi access in my room so I had to leave, and the forth was incomparably expensive and nice. I stayed in the forth. Paid more for one night than I had for the entire cost of the trip to this point – but the beach front balcony, marble floors, glass enclosed shower, plasma screen, and high speed Internet made me forget all about the price.
I generally don’t plan anything. I could have rolled my sleeping bag out on the sidewalk and been plenty content – I’ve done it before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again – but the quarters fit for a king were comforting after 1,100 hard miles.
I stayed the day in Loreto and worked.
The further south I travel the more tourist laden the towns become. Loreto has a variety of tourist traps. I find it best to steer clear of anything with a sign using english words – the hotel being the exception.
I sat down to a lovely lunch with a couple nice ladies in a local restaurant. They are watching a terrible Mexican soap opera, but I became quickly engrossed with it, as were they. We made a few snide comments about the characters back and forth and had a good huff.
Before the sun went down I left town to look for a camping location and to change the oil in the bike. To my surprise the hole in my saddle bag had allowed all my sockets to rattle out – I thought I had them secured well enough. I settle for changing the filter and topping it up – I’ll need to buy new tools in La Paz, as well as a new brake lever.
The next day I planned to get out early. I was caught up with work and would take most of the day off. I set the screaming meanie to wake me up at five thirty.
In the morning I crossed from the east coast to the west, traveled south a few miles, then crossed back.
… best fish tacos to date ….
On the return to the east I stopped in San Luis Gonzaga. The local kids were excited to see me and I was soon surrounded. They asked all about the bike and the trip. I chatted with them a few and took off. The roads out of San Luis were confusing – far too many routes and far too few signs. I mad a few turns here and there based solely on the location of the sun. The road worsens, becomes very windy and rocky… I should have hit the coast by now. I worry that I’ll become stranded. It should take about 60 miles to the coast, and I’ve ridden over 100.
I find myself in La Soledad, which is not on my map. Again kids crowd around my bike. I pull out my map and they point out where I am and where the roads are that take me back out to Evaristo. I never get to Evaristo, but do hit the coastal road heading south.
There is lots of good beach riding here.
Again I hit the reserve.
Thirty more miles and the reserve runs dry.
I lay the bike down to get every last bit of fuel over to the petcock. The kickstart shaft splines strip, I’ll have to bump start the bike from here on out.
I coast my way into a gas station outside of La Paz.
I ran through town, scoped some wifi and booked a hotel in Cabo. It’s 8pm, I’ve been on the road over 12 hours already today, but I keep going. In typical fashion I get lost on the way to Cabo and instead of a quick 100 miles it takes me about 180. This was the longest day of the trip, 16 hours of riding and nearly 400 miles. I’m at about 1,540 so far.
That’s it for now. I’m off to swoon some ladies on the beach. Return trip coming shortly.