For those who have never been there, Baja,
Mexico conjures up images of banditos, crooked federales, coyotes and
off-road enthusiasts everywhere. But for those who have visited the
peninsula, Baja means friendly locals, vast, rugged terrain, cervesa stands,
miles of sandy beaches and off-road enthusiasts everywhere.
There's hardly any civilization between Mexicali
and San Felipe, our destination for the day. About 40 miles before you get
into town, you'll hit a military checkpoint, where 18 year-old kids with
machine guns pretend to search your vehicle. These guys can be easy-going or
quite stern, depending on the mood, time of day, weather, etc. The point is,
you never know what to expect. But as long as you're not hauling guns or
dope, you'll be fine.
We heard the beach calling us, but the tide had just peaked; so we took the
"highway" down to Puertocitos. This was once a paved road, but is now so
full of gigantic (read 8' wide) potholes that it resembles some
post-apocalyptic highway of destruction. It was actually fun on our bikes,
but anything with more than two wheels or less than 10" of suspension would
get beat to death.
After having a beer at a great little cervesa stand, the time was right to hit the beach, so we made our way back up the Mad Max highway and pulled off to let some air out of the tires. Riding on the beach was definitely one of the best times I've had on a motorcycle (and something you could never do in the states). It's impossible to describe the feeling of riding your bike down miles of wet, sandy beach. All I can say is it was just incredible.
Once finished on the beach, we rode back toward
the highway to air back up. Some local kids ventured over to us with wide
eyes and big smiles. After letting them sit on the gringo machines, we
said our goodbyes and headed back toward San Felipe. The day was topped off
with plenty of margaritas and good conversation.
On Sunday morning, we set out to visit Mike's
Sky Ranch - a famous hotel/hangout for off-road riders. The ride to Mike's
included a ton of amazing panoramic views. Because the ranch is tucked away
high up in the middle of nowhere, you really get to see the more mountainous
side of Baja. After turning off the highway, the dirt road was
(thankfully) hard pack and tons 'o fun. I have to say, though -- once we
reached Mike's, it was kind of a letdown. I had imagined a bunch of bikers
gathered around a bar swapping trail stories. Instead, the place was
absolutely deserted. The only person there was a Mexican lady who
tentatively greeted us with a "what are you doing here?" tone. Oh well, at
least we can say we've been there.
Once back in San Felipe, we hit the sack
early (way early) and woke up bright and early to make the haul back to
Phoenix. The ride back wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. A
last minute seat mod to the KTM made the long trip almost comfortable.
According to the odometer, the total trip was more than 1,110 miles.