Another adventure in the land of the free
If there's any remnant of "the old west" left in the world, Baja Mexico has to be about the closest thing you're going to find. A vast, barren land scarcely populated, where there really aren't a lot of restrictions on what you can do. But as with anything, there are good and bad aspects of that. You can ride hundreds of miles a day on great dirt roads and sandy beaches, but if there's no gas, your trip's going to be cut short right quick.
It still makes me laugh when I hear other Americans warn me about the dangers of Mexico. "You're riding your motorcycle to Mexico?! Be careful, I heard of a guy who..." They then go on to describe the perils of killer banditos, crooked federales, ravenous coyotes or even El Chupacabra. I've been to Mexico about a dozen times (three on a motorcycle), and have yet to see even a trace of evidence to substantiate any of these claims. I'm starting to think these rumors are started by those who know the truth about Mexico, and want to try to keep the gringos away, so as not to spoil it. You know... now that I think about it, Mexico's chock full of killer goats, ravenous banditos and gut-exploding burritos. Stay away at all costs.
For this trip, James put together the plan to head down as far south as possible within a four-day span. We figured we'd make it down to Bahia de San Francisquito (south of Bahia de Los Angeles) before heading back up. Unfortunately, we planned the trip for the week following the busiest holiday week of the year. The problem with that is, all the holiday traffic used up the reserves of nearly every gas station south of San Felipe. So the real adventure turned out to be how far we could get on a tank of gas...
After getting gas and food in San Felipe, we continued south toward Puertocitos and Gonzaga Bay. The road to Puertocitos is a lot of fun. Dodging potholes the size of Wisconsin and flying (literally) though vados keep it interesting. (Vados are dips in the road that can launch your bike into the air if you hit one at highway speeds.)
After taking a quick break in Peurtocitos, we headed south for our evening destination -- Gonzaga Bay. About halfway there, however, Carl's troubles began with a rear flat. He only had a 21" front tube with him, so he tested the old theory that you can run a 21" tube in an 18" tire. Surprisingly, it worked quite well. He said he could barely notice the difference. Good to know.
Carl's troubles weren't over, however. With only a few miles left before Gonzaga Bay, the bolts holding his exhaust can came loose, which caused his fender to shift and dumped his gear all over the road. (We never did find his tent.) The can was completely unsupported, so he tried some wire to hold it in place. After a few more miles on the bumpy dirt road, the wire broke just as we were pulling into Gonzaga Bay. It was time to stop for the night, eat and hit up the locals for some bolts. That's when the cultural differences between Mexico and the U.S. became quite apparent. We stopped at the general store, where one of the locals said he would talk to the owner about finding some bolts. After waiting about 30 minutes for him to return, we walked around the back of the shop to find him sitting with a beer and some friends. When we asked about the bolts, his reply was always the same... "Uno momento, my friend." It was clear that sitting down for a beer takes precedence over looking for some old bolts. (I gotta say, it's hard to argue with that philosophy.) We decided to forego the bolt search, and used the two bolts that hold the seat on to secure the exhaust can. Improvisation at its finest. As a side note... Carl had a bitch of a day, and never let that get him down. He just kept smiling and having fun. That showed character. (I don't think I would have been that pleasant.)
Despite the issues with the trip down, we had bigger problems to worry about... after talking to others in the restaurant about our plans to ride south, they warned us that there was no gas any further south. Apparently, all of the holiday traffic the week prior had tapped out all the gas stations on the way. So we could probably get to Bahia de Los Angeles, but had no idea if we could get back. Time for a decision (after a couple more beers, of course).
After a good night's rest under a palapa on the beach, we weighed our options. According to the locals, the gas truck from San Felipe was due to arrive in Bahia de Los Angeles "sometime this week." Until then, all stations (including the guys with gallon milk jugs on the side of the road) were dry. So we could either chance it and keep heading south, or try to limp back up to San Felipe on what gas we had left in the bikes.
Because James, Carl and I are all working stiffs and had to be back in the office on Tuesday, we couldn't afford to get stuck in the middle of Baja for an undetermined amount of time. So we decided to head back up to San Felipe. But that presented a different problem... we had just enough fuel to get us somewhere between Puertocitos and San Felipe. Somewhere along the way, we were going to run out of gas. Each of us had strapped a 1+ gallon auxiliary tank to our bikes, but considering all the wheelies and hooliganism on the way down, we had no idea if that was enough to get us to San Felipe. There was only one way to find out...
The two 950s hit reserve at just under 160 miles (we were slightly south of Puertocitos at the time). That meant we had just over a gallon in the tank to get us as close to San Felipe as possible. I was kind of excited at the prospect of running out of gas. I had never really tested the full range of the 950, and was looking forward to seeing just how far you really can go. My bike went a full 215 miles before starting to sputter. Question answered. When she finally ran dry, we were only about 8 miles from San Felipe. So we finished off the aux tanks and headed into town. (Lesson learned -- if you have the room, always bring extra fuel when riding in Baja.) After some cool drinks, fish tacos and topped-off fuel tanks, we decided to head to the beach a few miles south of town and have some fun Mexico style.
That felt great. There's just something about riding on the beach that is wholly satisfying. We made our way back into town and again weighed our options. We still had a day and a half to ride, so we decided to head back to the U.S. and explore some dirt roads in eastern Arizona. The goal was to try to get from Yuma to Phoenix on as much dirt as possible. James led the way and showed us some great areas.
Although our Mexico experience was cut short, we still had a fantastic trip. It just goes to show you that it's not really the destination that counts.