Monday, May 25, 2015

The question was raised....(Otay Mountain Truck Trail to Tecate?)

I think I was cursed. By Indians.


By Indians. Cursed. I cut down some sycamore trees on Indian land recently and I don't think I should've. I've been sick ever since. I think I was cursed.

You do sound bad.

Yeah, well, I'm hoping some Mexican dirt will cure that. I've heard it'll help.

Well, it couldn't hurt...

And so began a day of riding the trails off of the Otay Mountain Truck Trail, trying to get to Tecate (either one) via the elusive "secret and/or hidden" trail.

The question was raised as to the existence of such a trail. I "thought I'd seen it on an old map and once, while out riding with The Kug, a border patrol agent told me the "thought" it was possible on a motorcycle. The die had been cast.

My little brother actually tried to find it in the early 80's. He was on a KLR250 and there wasn't much of a fence. The border, to him at that time, was more of a suggestion and--to the consternation of the border patrol agents--he was prone to crossing back and forth at odd hours, often with cases of Mexican beer on his tank.

So, back to the beginning: A fellow SDAR member who knows the area well -- Reximus -- was in. Like me, he scoured maps in the hope of finding said trail.

We met near Jamul on Memorial Day. When Rex pulled up on his XR650, I knew we were in for a good time. It's been years since I kicked over a bike...

As I suspected, Rex was very familiar with the area. He suggested we enter off the 94 at Marron Valley Road and look for a suitable route from there.

As we passed the South Bay Rod & Gun Club, we heard the pops and booms of gunfire; and there were others shooting just off the truck trail as we rode by. It looked a little busier than usual.

On a side note, we saw a rider on a very pretty little BMW 1150GS...just out riding the trails.

Although we saw lots of border patrol agents who waved as we rode by, we encountered no locked gates. Win-win!

Almost right away, we found a trail leading into the hills off the main road; this was our starting point. We climbed higher in elevation on a well-graded road that appeared to have seen some recent rain damage in some places. It was an easy to follow trail.

After 2 or 3 miles, we came to a rough trail that we'd seen on Google Earth maps. It was more of a walking trail or an old animal trail that climbed high into the hills.

"You wanna try it?"


It was clear that Rex was there to ride.

It was a worse than I first thought. Extremely rough: washed out, rutted with deep channels. I made it only a few hundred feet; Rex made it quite a bit further. He told me he crashed, but I didn't see it.

He kept riding, higher and higher. For a moment there, I thought we'd located the holy grail of east county riding! But as I saw Rex returning, I could tell that it was not to be.

OK, fine. We then resigned ourselves to riding some of the other trails in the Tecate area. We exited at the 94 past Barrett Junction and headed up the 94 toward Tecate. Just before town, off the 188, we pulled off the road and headed west across fields and into the low hills. Soon enough, I could see that the steep trails had been washed out and took a little maneuvering to get around.

At one point, we reached a killer hill and Rex gave me a look.

"Really? That?"

"It's probably not as bad as it looks."


"I'll hit it and see how bad it is."

"OK, I'll watch from here."

And off he went. It was something to watch. His XR is made for that stuff.

He reached the top after some motorized acrobatics.

He yelled down that it was pretty ugly.

I yelled back that I'd go around the hill and meet him on the other side.

For the record, I could've done this with my big Katoom. Really. And it might've been fun on a bike half the size of my big girl...

I found my way to the back side of the hill Rex had just conquered via some small trails. At a high plateau, I sat and waited along with some border patrol agents who were watching the border fence a short ways away. What a nice view of the Tecates.

Rex and I met up in the middle and continued riding some more of the trails. Having to get back to town, we finished the ride by racing along the Mexican border, our helmets just at the height of the fence.

We hustled back to town along the 94, in good spirits, even though we'd failed to locate the trail joining the Otay Truck Trail and Tecate. After we'd said goodbye and headed different ways, I realized I'd forgotten to ask if the Mexican dirt had removed -- or at least lessened -- the Indian curse.

That's to be seen. But I can assure you that the case of the elusive trail can now be closed.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cruising around Tijuana on a Cop bike

So I was in TJ yesterday and had an opportunity to cruise around the city on a Tijuana PD motorcycle.

Good times.

Thanks for not giving me a hard time about ATGATT...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR): April 17-24, 2015

Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous lifestyle. I hesitate to call it a sport or a pastime, as it truly is a way of life.

So it should come as a surprise to nobody that the act of getting on a speeding motorbike and going to far-off places comes with risk. James Agee said that the goal is the same: life itself; and the price is the same; life itself.

That said, I had a most excellent ride these past 10 days. There were injuries—some severe—and that just goes with said lifestyle.

So I read about the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR: and took up the challenge: A friend and I would ride from San Diego to the Mexican border in Arizona, then ride 750 miles through Arizona back roads to the Utah border, camping along the way.

Sounds fun, right? Right.

OK, all set. Ready for adventure. He’s on a big, shiny BMW GS800; I’m on an equally large and intimidating KTM 990 Adventure. With too little pre-planning we were off and riding on Friday, April 17, 2015, en route to Bisbee, AZ; because we dilly-dallied along the way, we arrived to Sierra Vista after dark. I could then see the ride was going to be touch-and-go.

We rolled up to the official start of the ride at the Coronado Monument near the Mexican border on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day and the paved road quickly changed from gravel to dirt to a rutted trail. Ah, just what I expected.

I should mention that I was only fairly GPS-proficient. I’d used my trusty Garmin Zumo 660 GPS on-road for years, but had never dealt with off-road tracks. That issue proved to be a recurring theme throughout the ride; a true “learn as you go” experience.

So off we went. We predicted the 9 sections of the AZBDR would take us 4 to 5 days to complete. We wrapped up the sections comprising the Coronado National Monument to Sonoita — then Sonoita to Benson — on the first day. We took a slight detour as I tweaked the route but were back on track soon enough.

The second day consisted of Benson to Mammoth, staying in Winkelman for the night. We camped right on the edge of the Gila River and talked late into the night with some new friends—locals who had us laughing all evening.

The ride to Globe — then to Young shortly afterward — was challenging but scenic, with some incredibly rocky ground that resembled a lunar landscape. This would be the section mentioned as “likely damaging to motorcycles” and “recommended only to expert riders.” I didn’t read that until later…

We were really moving along. There is a series of rocky hills on the way to Young that is absolutely ludicrous; I highly recommend bypassing them. One of the high points of this ride was the Mogollon Rim. Just spectacular; some scenery not to be missed. We put the section between Young and Winona to bed and stayed at a KOA campground in Flagstaff for the night.

On day 4, we headed to Winona to begin section 7. The route to Cameron was eye-opening for several reasons and—for me—the most challenging portion of the ride: over 15 miles of volcanic sand.

A friend from SDAR who’d previously ridden the AZBDR warned us of the ruts. Ruts, I thought? I’m concerned about these fricking rocks! In retrospect, I should’ve been concerned about the ruts…

At about 4pm, Dan and I were hustling through a hilly forested area, about 18 miles from Cameron, where we intended to stay for the evening. I was a couple hundred yards ahead of Dan, trying to simultaneously check the GPS tracks as I negotiated the rutted terrain. I suppose I was going about 30 MPH or so. In a moment I was on the ground, rolling away from my fallen bike. It appears that my front wheel was in one rut and my rear wheel in another. When the ruts took different directions, I went down hard. Surprisingly, I was uninjured and my KTM suffered only minimal damage to the left side. I put the bike upright and waited for Dan to arrive as I shook off the dirt nap. After he didn’t arrive in a few minutes, I turned around and found him lying under his bike…also in a heavily rutted area. He was in a lot of pain and stated that he’d broken some ribs. I contacted 911 and a helicopter arrived within 45 minutes. While we were carrying Dan to where the helo had landed—about a mile away—a Coconino sheriff’s deputy arrived in a 4x4 and carted him the rest of the way. It was all pretty efficient, actually.

Final result: 8 fractured ribs and a torn spleen. Ouch.

Aristotle said that the ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances. And so he did.

I hid his bike and gear in the brush as the copter flew Dan to Flagstaff; a friend with a trailer arrived later that night and towed it to his place in Prescott.

After considering my options, I decided to finish the ride. On the 5th day, I headed back to Cameron where I purchased the Navajo Nation backcountry permit for $12 and immediately hit the trail for Marble Canyon. I took an alternate route to the rim of the Grand Canyon, as seen from Navajo land. There was no one there but me and it was magnificent. No tourists, no structures except an old fire ring, no sounds except the wind lightly blowing through the scrub brush. I soaked in the solitude and realized how fortunate I was to be seeing it like that. Continuing on, I found a nice little site about 50 miles into the reservation just before dusk and set up camp.

The following day, April 23rd (my 6th day on the ride), I rode through Marble Canyon and, past the Vermillion Cliffs and down a long, silty road to the Utah border. In a way, it was a sudden, unceremonious end to an interesting ride. There I was, staring at the “leaving Arizona, entering Utah” sign and it just wasn’t sinking in. I slowly rode the last 15 miles or so to the pavement and found my way to Kanab for some Mexican food and cold ones. I once again “pirate camped” off the main road and pointed my KTM for Prescott to meet up with a bunch of fun KLR riders for the 3rd annual Arizona Spring KLR Ride.

But that’s for another report.

Here are some points I made note of:

· No real need to exactly follow the AZBDR tracks. Some of the trails are washed out or not as interesting as others nearby. The ride is yours to explore.
· Camp as much as possible; it’s really a great part of the riding experience. Pirate camping is best.
· Make sure your bike and medical insurance is up to date and available.
· Be familiar with the GPS tracks, your GPS unit and your AZBDR map.
· There is no such thing as too much planning.
o Talk to your riding partner(s) about contingency plans.
o What to do in a medical emergency, a mechanical failure or a personal issue: Stay together? Continue riding? Return? Plan ahead.
· Build in enough time to enjoy the ride.
o If you’re pressed for time, you might want to reschedule the ride. One of the best parts of the ride are seeing the scenery and talking to folks along the way.
o Set up camp before dark so you can talk about the day’s ride. And plan for the next day’s ride.
· Gas in Arizona is less expensive than in California. Yup.

Fun facts:

· Miles traveled: 2,562 (approximately 820 of those were off road miles)
· Highest elevation: Just under 9K feet (near Flagstaff and Bitter Springs
· Lowest elevation: -75’ (New River @ the I-8)
· Number of times I contacted emergency services: 2
· Number of times we dropped our bikes: 4
· Number of times I removed my front fender because mud stopped my front wheel from moving: 1
· Number of times I was advised by SDAR members to install the high fender kit because mud would stop my front wheel from moving: 10+
· Flat tires: 0
· Bent rims: 1 (slightly)
· Hotel vs campsite stays: 8/2, respectively (hospital stays not included)
· Gates opened/closed: 8+
· Shirtless hippies riding lawnmower-engine mini-bikes in the middle of nowhere: 2
· Law enforcement “encounters”: 0
· Highest riding temperature: 89
· Lowest riding temperature: 41 (colder at night)

I'm packed up and ready to roll. A friend and I plan to tackle the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR) starting tomorrow. Here's the link:

Here's my tentative ride plan:

Friday, April 17: Ride from San Diego to The Mexican border in AZ (Bisbee, Sierra Vista or Hereford, Arizona).
April 18-23: Ride the 750 miles of backcountry AZ roads to the Utah border (camping along the way).
Friday, April 24: Meet other KLR riders in Prescott for the 3rd Annual Spring AZ KLR Ride.
April 25-26: Fun riding with my KLRistas!
Monday, April 27: Return to San Diego

Photos, videos and a Ride Report to follow!

More info:

The AZBDR is the fourth route developed by the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. This scenic 750-mile south-to-north route crosses the state of Arizona beginning at the Mexico border and finishing at the Utah border. The route has been created specifically for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists who are interested in exploring Arizona’s remote backcountry. It utilizes many remote dirt roads and leads riders through iconic locations including the Mogollon Rim, Sunset Crater National Monument, Grand Canyon and the Navajo Nation, as well as the historic mining towns of Tombstone and Globe, AZ.

Free GPS tracks, a digital map and the route's FAQ and photo gallery are located on the website.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Back in the (KLR) saddle!

I missed my KLR and I sure missed the KLR community. Maybe too much, it seems.

As many of you might know, last summer I sold my 2011 orange beauty and bought the "other" orange bike.

Fast forward to yesterday: I ended up buying a 2008 KLR 650 that had been mistreated. The previous owner just didn't maintain it. It has a little over 50k miles on the odometer and has some cool accessories, and it's had some mods done (Doohickey, 22 cent mod).

Per the previous owner: The bike burned oil -- as 2008's are prone to do -- and in 2012, it finally died on the side of the road. Not having the money to repair it, he parked it outside with no cover. Along with sun damage, someone drilled out the ignition in an attempt to steal it.

So I got it home today and started looking through it. Haven't opened up the sides yet, but the oil filter is covered with very fine metal particles. Haven't drained the oil, but I'd guess there are bigger pieces. He also stated it was popping out of gear before it died. I'm guessing the head/cams/bearing are toast. I'll get into it soon and see what's up.

So, I have a project on my hands, but I like that kind of stuff. Plus, KLR people are good people. And I live right down the road from Eagle Mike.

Having said that, it really doesn't look too bad at all. And it may be fun putting it back in shape.

Great to be back in the KLR saddle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Solo motorcycle camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert: February 2015

The desert is strange and beautiful. But if you’re reading this ride report, I don’t have to tell you that.

Winter temperatures are pleasant, so I thought I’d explore some trails I’d seen off Highway S-2, a 50-mile route that cuts through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park between highways I-8 and 78, east of San Diego.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, I packed up my trusty KTM 990 with the minimum camping gear and headed 80 miles away for the desert.

It was a mild 74 degrees when I left San Diego, and was in the brisk mid 60’s on the I-8 summits heading over the mountains.

I turned north at Ocotillo and headed into the desert on the S-2 intent on finding a camping spot before dark. The S2 is known by a couple of names (Imperial Highway, e.g.), but I like, "The Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849" the best.

Of the numerous trails to the east and west of the S2, I specifically wanted to explore Canyon Sin Nombre.

The canyon wended through a twisty route of fairly accessible jeep trails. The terrain consisted of rocks, hard pack and sand. I enjoyed seeing the desert plants, low hills and tall sandstone canyons as I made my way deeper into the desert.

As I rode along, I named the vegetation in Spanish, as I’d learned them first in that language while traveling throughout Baja when I was young: Ocotillo, barrel cactus (bisnaga), chuparosa, jumping cactus (cholla), agave, yucca; all beautiful. I could see that the autumn rains had done quite a job on the soil, sculpting the sandstone into gothic spires and erasing vehicle tracks from previous years.

I passed through the Border Patrol checkpoint where three lonely agents scoured suspicious vehicles for aliens, drugs and other contraband. A few miles later I turned off into the trail and smiled to see signs warning of, “soft sand ahead." I didn't air down my tires, waiting instead for the really deep stuff.

I passed one couple car camping along the route about a mile from the S-2; other than that, I saw no one. At about 5 miles in, I saw a sign that barred further entry; a mile past that I found a soupy mess under some type of renovation. I followed the tractor trails for as long as I could, but 800 pounds of bike and gear are no match for wet muck. I turned south toward the hills and made my way back to the main trail.

Note: I may have laid my bike on its side a few times.(Few: More than two, less than seven. Few.)

Moving north again, I passed some great looking trails. There are some neat Indian rock paintings and caves out there, but I wanted to find a nice, secluded camping spot first. I turned right and east I went off on Palm Spring trail (spoiler alert: I found neither at the promised 1.6 mile mark).Passing some campers at Hollywood and Vine (no kidding), I turned northeast onto the Vallecito Trail.

About 3 miles in, I spied a group of small hills in the distance and fought my way through some deep sand to arrive at a perfect camping spot. Turning off my bike, I enjoyed complete silence…not even a cricket was chirping. I sat in the shade of my bike for a moment and just soaked it in, enjoying the slight breeze. This is what I’d come for.

OK, time to put up the tent. I’d just added a Big Agnes Burn Ridge Outfitter 2-person tent to my collection. It was smaller and lighter than my other shelters and perfect for this type of camping. I knew I wouldn’t need the rainfly as I wanted to see the stars tonight.

I stripped down to shorts and sandals and walked up into the canyons. The rains must’ve been quite severe to carve out such valleys. I found pieces of pottery exposed in the sand—almost an entire pot in one area, ancient color still showing on the sides.

The temperature, never reaching past the mid 80’s, soon began to drop as the sun began descending slowly behind the hills. By the time I’d made my way back, my campsite was engulfed in shadows. Only 5pm and I could feel the brisk air coming on the breeze.
I opened a can of beans and added some Ortega chilies. I cooked them up and ate them as I looked over the valley below. Still not a sound.

I realized I’d seen no wildlife but for some loud ravens; no snakes, lizards, coyotes or varmints.

I scribbled out two crossword puzzles before it was too dark to see. Sipping whisky from a flask, I watched as the last remnant of light disappeared below the mountains. I could hear a grumbling jeep somewhere on the road below, its lights coming into view then disappearing as it made its way deeper into the desert.

I laid back and looked up at the sky, Orion the hunter moving slowly across the dark night. Owls hooting nearby broke the complete silence and I drifted off to sleep. I would wake occasionally to see a different arrangement of stars.

It felt like the mid-50’s at 9pm but was in the 40’s when I awoke at dawn. I remained wrapped in my bag until the sun was up, then crawled out for coffee. I thought as I sat there that my stove’s fuel container has lasted me the better of two years, to include a 35-day Alaska/Canada ride and at least 3 Baja rides. Incredible.

After a breakfast of an apple, nuts and a protein bar, I packed up camp and headed back to the main road. I’d gone through a gallon of water and had only a liter remaining; not enough to explore more trails today. I found the S-2 and continued north to the 78, passing Butterfield Ranch and even more trails to explore later.

I arrived back to San Diego by 3pm dusty, hungry and happy.

Man, I sure love the desert in winter.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baja ride! August 23-24, 2014

I'm hosting a group of riders from New Mexico and Arizona for a weekend Baja ride .

These are guys I've ridden with in Arizona.

The 6 of us (5 of whom will be on KLRs!) will ride from San Diego, through Tecate, to Camalu, Baja California and retutn via Tijuana. We will camp on the beach on Saturday night.


Hooo, boy. Just back from a weekend ride down the Baja coast, mainly from Santo Tomas to Camalu. Wow, why didn't I know that the coast road was washed out in several places? I gotta do better research...

I hosted a group of KLR riders from New Mexico and Arizona. And my little brother tagged along on his Gen 1 KLR.

All went really well, but there were some areas that were not big bike friendly. A couple of drops but no injuries.

We hit the coast just north of the Punto San Jose lighthouse and spent time at Coyote Cal's; I'm pleased to say that there's a Kug sticker there now. We camped on the beach at the volcano south of Erendira.

The next morning (Sunday), we headed south with breakfast plans in Camalu. After two pretty serious wash-outs and detours that were not feasible, we hit the pavement, then Hwy 1 North.

I had a hook-up at the San Ysidro border and the crossing took 8 minutes total.