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Baja, Mexico

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.

Granted, our quick three-day trip allowed me to only see a very small portion of the peninsula, but it was still quite a trip. On Friday night, Jim, Steve and I blasted out of Phoenix for an easy ride to Yuma, AZ. After spending the night there (and inadvertently ordering $10 margaritas), we shot across the border at Mexicali first thing Saturday morning and started our journey south. Once you get past the outskirts of Mexicali, you're immediately thrust into the vast openness of Baja. There are more long, straight stretches of highway than I ever thought possible. But that was alright, because it allows you to take in the sights around you.

Heading out from Phoenix The road to San Felipe Gassing up Baja scenery Military Checkpoint

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.

Once in San Felipe, we quickly scoped out a hotel with an enclosed courtyard for safe overnight parking. Once found, we settled our gear, had a margarita by the beach and gave our butts a much needed break. It didn't take long, however, before we were itching to go riding, so we jumped back on the bikes and headed further south. Most of the off-road trails around San Felipe are nothing but deep, loose sand. Riding in this stuff can really be a challenge. (Didn't take long to bury the KTM.)

Our hotel in San Felipe Letting some air out Sandy road Buried Fun in the loose stuff

 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.

Puertocitos is about as quaint a Mexican village as you can imagine. The main street through town is a rough dirt road, and the town really looks like a scene out of an old western (with a lot of beat up Chevy vans).

Puertocitos The main road
through town
The town grocery store Having a blast Heading for the beach

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.

Nothing quite like it...        
         
         

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.
 
The local kids Mini-jim Not quite reaching This guy was beaming More Baja scenery

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.
 
Typical gas station out in the sticks The road to Mike's Mike's Sky Ranch Courtyard at Mike's Steve gettin' wet
         
   
Jim crossing over Great panoramic shot Not paying attention    

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.

What a trip...