Thursday, November 26, 2015

The ADV Rider thread I wish I'd never read: The sad tale of Clayton Schwartz

OK, so you read the truly epic Angola story (Angola: It's not like they said). Now there's this...

Seattle to Argentina on a KLR650: The Thread on AdvRider I Wish I'd Never Read

Clayton Schwartz, screenname OZYMANDIAS, was a young and adventurous guy who decided to ride from Seattle to Argentina on his KLR 650. He had three months to complete the trip before his first semester of Law school at Vanderbilt University.

Things went very badly about 3 weeks into his trip. Somewhere south of Acapulco, an accident involving Clayton and a donkey changed his life. Clayton woke up in a Mexican hospital permanently paralyzed from mid-chest down.

Clayton struggles for the next two years before he finally takes his own life.

His ride report is here:

There are several links to a short book Clayton wrote about his accident and his suicide. The book, Two Arms and a Head: The Death of a Newly Paraplegic Philosopher, ends as he inserts a large knife into his abdomen and bleeds out.

It is a very difficult read, often harsh and very graphic, about how life can turn on a dime.

Now that I've read it, I can't un-ring that bell.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Intro to Baja 2015: The Ride Report

Ok, here's the ride report!

Intro to Baja ride 2015: You couldn’t have knocked the smile off of my face.

Alternate titles, as suggested by the peanut gallery:

· When it all goes south
· 4 burros and a cop
· Buckwheat does Baja
· Maryland Mama’s Boy visits the Pharmacy
· Junior Naps Again
· Keepin’ it above 30KPH!
· Tweakers, tacos, and dirt naps… but not one damn donkey

My challenge to the 5 riders that morning was simple: I’ll need just 4 things: Photographic evidence of you:

· On a sandy Mexican beach;
· With a Mexican beer;
· With a Mexican cop (selfie);
· With a Mexican burro.

That wasn’t too much to ask. Or was it?

This is the story of how it all went south, literally…

We all met at the American Legion in La Mesa on Saturday morning. There was Brad (Drunk Uncle), Doug, Steve (SoloKLR), the father and son duo of Dave and Clay...and me, your fearless leader.

There were four KLRs, a KTM and a Triumph Tiger. There was a good vibe in the air and I could tell right away this was going to be a fun ride.

We started off at 10:30 for Tecate and, after a short ride on old Highway 94, were across the border. We rode Highway 3 south to Ensenada where we were greeted by throngs of revelers celebrating the end of the Baja 1000.Because it was so crowded, I couldn’t get to my favorite fish taco stand. We found a little place to sit and enjoyed some chow and beers. The owner thought we were big shot Baja 1000 riders and insisted on snapping photos of us with our bikes to place in his restaurant.

Shortly afterward we were fueled and heading south.
We left the pavement at Santo Tomas, about 500 miles behind the Baja 1000 racers. The dirt road looked good and we were making good time. About 10 miles in, the road turned bad, rutted and torn up from hundreds of racers the day before. And that’s when the carnage began…

I crested the top of a short hill and found myself alone. There were supposed to be riders behind me. When the dust cleared I saw not one but two bikes on their sides. No one was injured and we were off and running in no time.

The coast was now in view, beckoning us to follow where cold beers and a sandy beach would be waiting. But ruts and sand were to prove a challenge and bikes were down again. And again.

The sun was setting and we were still over an hour from our first scheduled stop. I did not want to be on that trail in the dark. And then the path turned to sand...

I’ve gotta hand it to Clay; he knows the correct method of picking up a loaded bike.

We arrived to La Calavera fish camp with minutes of daylight left. Looking ahead, I saw Doug heading down a side trail to the beach. Oh, boy, he’s gonna be stuck. And he was. As darkness arrived, I saw Steve extricating the bike as we rode along the coast road.

We passed Rancho Tampico where Steve snapped a photo of the famous “Chupacabra” sign. The blurry photo that Doug was trying to pass off as a “burro” just might’ve been the Chupababra.

We rolled into a festive Coyote Cal’s 45 minutes after dark. We were tired and thirsty and Rick, the owner, set us up with everything we needed. We decided to stay there instead of heading 3 miles south to camp on the beach. Within minutes we had our bikes parked, our gear unloaded and buckets of beer in our dusty hands. Then the storytelling commenced…

There was a lot of dust, no injuries, not much damage to the bikes and lots of smiles as we recounted the day’s ride. Everyone was in a good mood as we enjoyed cold ones and a fine dinner. We all agreed it was a good decision to forgo camping and stay at Cal’s instead. In our condition, I’m unsure if we could’ve made it the 3 miles to the camping spot on the beach.

We were asleep early after a good day of riding.
The next morning we had breakfast there and snapped a photo.

We then saddled up and rolled down south to see the ocean and where we would’ve camped. After a few minutes at the shoreline, we all rode through a volcano and headed south to San Vicente.

After passing through a military checkpoint (one of 3 that weekend), we rode 40 miles of dirt road to Valle de la Trinidad. The last mile included some fun sand. Note: Riders should approach sand at 30 KPH (18 MPH) for maximum efficacy. Just sayin’…

We enjoyed some really good carne asada tacos and fueled up before heading east to San Felipe on Highway 3. A young boy passing by snapped a cool group photo for us.

At the junction of Highways 3 and 5, Brad split off and headed north to Mexicali. The rest of us headed south and were on the beach by 2:30 PM. We found a camp spot and promptly went out for supplies (beer). We rounded up some firewood and had a nice fire while we drank Tecate and talked about the day. We set our tents up on the beach, a few feet from our bikes and sat down to enjoy a nice afternoon.

Much to our surprise & dismay, a local denizen by the name of Manny the Deportee came along and entertained us with tales of crime and punishment. He was a real piece of work and it took $3 to make him disappear. He was gone so fast that only his footprints in the sand and burglary tools remained. That was the best $3 we spent in Baja…

We walked next door and had a restaurant prepare a to-go meal for us. It was tasty and enough for 5 hungry guys. An emboldened Doug, knowing only “amigo” and “taco” in Spanish, left – sans helmet—for more supplies. He returned shortly with saddlebags full of Mexican beer. Didn’t I tell you this was a great crew?

After walking down to the shore for a few minutes, we turned in early and were up at first light. The weather couldn’t have been better: warm days & brisk nights.
We packed up the bikes and found a local place where we had coffee and birria tacos…the perfect Mexican breakfast. After fueling up, it was just a 140-mile ride to the border.

At about the 80-mile mark, we stopped to rest at a local establishment. It must’ve been something in the 50’s and 60’s but was not much more than an antiquated diner now.

We enjoyed some cold sodas then hopped back on the bikes for the final push north, reaching Mexicali at 12:30. We moved right to the front of the line and were into the US at Calexico in minutes.

After fueling up, I handed out KLR-specific prizes for everyone who found at least one item on the list. We then said our good-byes and headed our separate ways. I went west to San Diego, Dave, Clay and Steve went northeast to the Phoenix area, while Doug went back into Mexico at Algodones for his “mom’s” medication. Yeah…

I was home in 90 minutes and received confirmation that everyone else had made it home safely later that evening.

This was an extremely fun ride with a group of very cool riders. I’m already planning the next one.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Garmin Virb Elite helmet camera

I just bought a Virb helmet cam to replace my Contour HD. Never took to the GoPro, even after being offered one for free. "They're boxy but good." I've owned a bunch of Garmin GPS products (Zumo, Nuvi, StreetPilot, etc.) and have always been satisfied.

I've been wanting a Virb for a while; when Garmin recently cut the price in half, I ordered one off of Amazon.

It came with an assortment of mounts and I bought a couple extras, too.

I'm still playing with it to figure out all the functions. Gonna try it out in the real world (BajA) this weekend and will report back.

I chose the subdued gray/green over the white version.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

French/Italian Adventure Riders Patagonia-bound

So, I met the nicest French/Italian couple in La Mesa tonight. Massimo and Sophie are world travelers en route to Patagonia on a BMW F650GS. I'm envious of their adventure and, over beers @ a local pub (The Hills), provided some basics on crossing into Mexico. They're planning on 6 months but hope it extends to a year. Yup, must be nice...

As part of their Americas Adventure, they've traveled from New York to San Diego. They plan to cross into Mexico via Tijuana on Tuesday morning after some minor repairs at BMW San Diego (center stand bolts). I'll be joining them for the initial leg of their journey.

If you're interested in following them, here's their blogsite:

And here's a summary of their ride plan.

We quit our Job, destination America!


Hi guys,

my name is Sophie, I'm french. My boyfriend, Massimo, is Italian.

About a month ago we decided to do a lifetime adventure trip. We both quit our job and packed the bike. She is a little GS 650. She does not measure with all the Harley we meet here on the road. She probably feel even smaller here than she really is but she does the job!

We left Italy, went through France and the UK. We airfreighted the bike to New York from London. Got her there and our Cost to Cost trip had started!

Right now we're in Las Vegas. So many highlights in the trip so far but would not know where to start. Your country is MASSIVElol All the people we met so far have been amazing. So friendly.

We're mainly using airbnb to sleep at places. Our itinerary is done on a daily basis as per recommendations of people we meet. Awesome.

We aim to cross the death valley tomorrow.

Busy looking for an accommodation after that. Does not look so easy this timewe will see.

I'm writing to you right now from the Harley Davidson bar in Vegas. Just perfect lol

Anyway, just wanted to share that with the forum. I'm new to that.

We plan to go to San Francisco, then go down, cross Mexico (not sure where yet?), then reach south America. Final aim is Patagonia let's see how far we go.

We're enjoying every moment of the journey. And thank you for being such a friendly country


If any of you are around would be a pleasure to meet you for a (or wine?).

If any of you have any advises on the crossing of the border at Mexico would be greatly appreciated as well.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Baja Lite: KLRistas South! (November 21-23)

As some of you might know, I've done a few "Intro to Baja" rides in the past 4 years. Scroll through my blog for previous posts highlighting the shenanigans of past rides. By popular demand, I'm leading another ride in November. It'll be almost all KLR riders and will be 3 days of fun, relaxing Baja riding. So far I have 4 confirmed and 4 possible riders joining the group. This should be interesting.

So here's the rough route plan for the planned 3-day Baja ride:

(Note: We will not be mixing with Baja 1000 traffic. It's the last day of that race and we won't be near the racers.)

We'll meet early on Saturday in the San Diego area, likely La Mesa. After a ride briefing, we should be on our way by 10 or so. No rush.

We'll head south from the Tecate border crossing to Ensenada. (We may see some Baja 1000 celebrations there.). We'll continue south through Maneadero to Santo Tomas, fueling up somewhere along the way.

From Santo Tomas we have two route options to the coast: easy or moderate; and I'll decide which one to take at that time.

We'll ride over to the Punto San Jose lighthouse, then south along the coast to Coyote Cal's for a quick break. We'll eat dinner at Cal's or a little seafood place nearby then head down the coast about 5 miles where we will camp on the beach.

The next day we'll eat breakfast in Erendira then head south on Highway 1 to San Vicente. From there we'll take a dirt road across country to Valle de la Trinidad. We can eat there and fuel up before heading east on Hwy 3, then south on Hwy 5 to San Felipe. We'll find somewhere to beach camp and enjoy a nice afternoon there.

The next day, Monday, is just a ride back to Ensenada where we will grab some fish tacos and fuel up. From there it's an easy ride north to Tijuana on the very scenic toll road and a fairly easy -- but "interesting" -- border crossing. We should be back in the USA by early afternoon.

That's a rough idea of my plan.

Questions or comments?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

San Diego to Michigan for free beer: The Ride Report

Lots of photos to follow!

(I've subtitled this Ride Report: OCD and the Art of Motorbike MPG.)

Bombing across the desert before dawn is a wonderful feeling. The wind and the rising sun are at our backs as we’re wrapping up a 12-day road trip.

We’re at the end of Route 66 and are just a few hours from home. The bikes are running well—not a glitch during the entire ride—and we’re feeling great even after 5,000 miles of riding.

So here’s how it went down…

My buddy Chuck and I departed San Diego before 6am on Friday, July 31st… and early morning starts would be a theme throughout the ride.

We were up and on the road before the sun was up, almost always. I would maintain a slower speed and closely scan the road for debris until it was light out. Then we would pour it on, staying within the “spirit” of the posted speed limit.

Our first day’s ride, to Mesquite, Nevada, was probably our hottest. Though barely 400 miles, it was a scorcher. Checking out of the hotel the next morning, I left my air compressor and helmet Bluetooth device in the room. I was to go without music or audible GPS instructions the rest of the ride. And that kinda sucked.

The next day’s ride to Denver was to be our longest, in a couple ways. Mileage-wise, it was only to be 700 easy highway miles. However, 60 miles from our destination, we came upon an accident (motorcycle fatality) that completely blocked the I-70 eastbound for at least 6 hours. It was a hot and miserable time waiting in the small town of Idaho Springs, Colorado. We arrived to a friend’s hours before 11pm and he had cold beers and a full bar waiting; that made a tough day so much better! The next day we got a little later start, enjoying breakfast and a walk around his property. The tour included many deer, some classic cars and a stable full of motorcycles. Well worth the extra time.

Shooting for a 500-mile ride to Omaha, we only made it to Lexington, Nebraska; a short 350-mile day. However, we made up for it the next day on a nice 625-mile ride to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Waking early the next day, we rode 200 quick miles to Milwaukee only to find that we couldn’t board the ferry across Lake Michigan due to the returning Sturgis bike traffic. Our next option, the port town of Manitowoc, was only 100 miles away and they could get us on that ferry, so off we went.

The S.S. Badger is one of the last coal-burning ferries still operating and it was a true pleasure to be aboard. Classic in every way, the 4-hour ride was pleasant as we relaxed, chatted with other bikers and enjoyed the scenery.

We landed at Ludington, Michigan, at 7pm and decided to stay the night (instead of dodging deer in the dark). We checked into the Stearns Motor Hotel—a place that turned out to be our favorite lodging of the ride.

They sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore…

The next day’s ride to Lachine was nice and easy…barely 200 miles. And that brought me to Pappy’s Pub and the aforementioned “free beer.”

We stayed 2 days with our friend and fellow Blue Knight, Chuck. A retired Detroit police officer, he was the consummate host, leading us on a ride along Lake Huron, up to Michigan’s UP and across the Mackinac Bridge…something I’d wanted to do for years.

We stayed with Chuck and his former DPD partner Brenda for two nights. What a great time!

We departed Michigan with a goal of riding as much of Route 66 as possible. Now, if you’re familiar with the song, I can confirm that we definitely got our kicks along the way, visiting all of the places mentioned in that tune.

Passing through Route 66’s official starting point of Chicago, we hustled all the way to St. Louis, Missouri; a 600-mile ride that brought us to a fine hotel at the base of the famous Arch where I spent time with my cousin who lives there.

Leaving St. Louie early the next morning, we headed toward Oklahoma City. It was oh, so pretty, but we continued another 85 miles to Clinton, OK. We weren’t able to visit the Route 66 Museum there, but we did stay in America’s Worst Hotel Room; scabies are NOT the preferred Route 66 souvenir…

We left before it was light on Sunday, August 9th, for Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 450-mile ride was one of the quickest and easiest and we arrived before 1pm. We spent the day relaxing with my brother and his wife’s family. Lots of fun; a very much-needed break from riding.

We left Albuquerque before dawn. The morning was cool and clear…but that was to change. Standing at the corner in Winslow, Arizona, we could feel the heat coming.

By the time we reached Seligman, AZ, it was 109F, officially “hot as balls” as southern folks are prone to say. After eating at Lilo’s West Side CafĂ©, we rode classic Route 66 through Peach Springs and Hackberry, stopping at the famous general store there.

Due to the intense heat, we didn’t stop in Kingman, Arizona, as planned, but rode on through to Needles, California, skipping a scheduled stop to see the ghost town of Oatman and its mules. As we approached Needles on the I-40 West, I couldn't help but sing that Three Dog Night tune, “Never Been to Spain” to myself.

Well, I've never been to England, but I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas, only made it out to Needles

And so we did.

It was so nice to get out of the heat. Chuck and I just cranked up the AC and laid there in our shorts.

We were up early on August 11th, ready to ride the final leg of the trip home. It was a little over 300 miles to San Diego and we hit it just right, missing all of the heat and rush hour traffic. We arrived home before 11am, safe and happy after a fun, easy ride.

Trip facts:
• My bike’s odometer read 5,580 miles; my GPS reflected 5,441 miles (the latter likely being more accurate).
• Though we rode through some wind and heat and a little construction traffic, we encountered only light rain on a couple of occasions.
• We passed through 16 states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico.
• We spent less than $11 on road tolls—mostly in Oklahoma—and $115 for the ferry (passenger and bike).
• As far as trip packing went, we traveled pretty light but didn’t lack anything along the way. I spent $390 for fuel, paying under $3 a gallon for premium—and often closer to $2.50—the entire time.
• Lodging costs were only $243 each, staying four nights with friends and family.

I’d say that made for a very reasonably-priced road trip.

So, what’s next? I’m planning the Next Big One now. Eastern Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador sounds mighty interesting…

Saturday, July 4, 2015

San Diego to Michigan for free beer (July 31-August 11)

Get your motor running…head out on the highway!

My buddy Chuck and I will be departing early on Friday morning to visit a friend in Michigan. It’s a classic road trip by anyone’s definition. Somewhere between Easy Rider and Dumb & Dumber.

We’re trying to average 500 miles a day; that would shake out to 5 days there, 5 days back and a couple of days in between. Our first day’s ride to Mesquite, Nevada, is only about 400 miles but will likely be our hottest.

I'll fill in the details later, but it looks as if we're gonna ride a fairly direct route on our way there, via Denver and Green Bay, taking a ferry across Lake Michigan. We'll ride historic Route 66 on our way back, hitting some very cool selected spots along the way.

I'll be on my Triumph Rocket III and he'll be riding his Harley Ultra Classic.

Here are two links to the GPS SPOT Tracker so you can follow our progress:

Here’s a rough outline of the ride plan:

Day: Location Date: Miles: Accum miles:

San Diego to…
1. Mesquite, NV (7/31) 416 416
2. Denver, CO (8/1) 693 1084
3. Omaha, NE (8/2) 540 1624
4. Manitowoc (8/3) 570 2194
5. Lachine, MI (via Ludington ferry) (8/4 210 2404
6. Lachine (8/5) 0 2404
7. “ “ (8/6 0 2404
8. St. Louis, MO (via Muskegon ferry) (8/7) 572 2976
9. Oklahoma City (8/8) 500 3476
10. Albuquerque (8/9) 540 4016
11. Kingman, AZ (8/10) 470 4486
12. San Diego (8/11) 365 4851

Here’s some info about Route 66:

It winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than 2000 miles all the way
It goes from St Louis, down to Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh, so pretty
You'll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino

Here are some fun stops we’ve planned along Route 66:
· St. Louis Arch
· Route 66 Museum (Clinton, OK)
· Winslow, AZ
· Oatman, AZ
· Seligman, AZ

And here’s how it all happened:

Once again my legendary poor math and geography skills proved beneficial.

When a riding buddy mentioned that a mutual friend had retired, moved to Michigan and bought a cop bar, I simply stated that we should ride out to see him in the summer. Heck, free beer is free beer. And the conversation went like so:

Chuck: So how far would that be?

Me: Oh, I dunno (doing the math in my head). The Canadian border from San Diego—straight up the I-15—is 1,500 miles. So if our route twists northeast, it's prolly about the same. Yup, 1,500 miles.

Chuck: Really? That's it? Let's do it!

Me: Heck, yeah. That'll be 3 days there and 3 days back. Easy peasy!

And so it went. About an hour later, upon reviewing a map, I could see I was off “a bit.” Calling my buddy, the conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, Chuck, I was off a little bit.

Chuck: Yeah, by how much?

Me: Oh, a thousand miles or so...each way.

Chuck: Wow, the most I've ever ridden is 160 miles in one day. But I'm retired, so are we still on?

Me: Heck, yeah! We'll just need to tack on an additional 4 days. Let's ride!

See, that's how I roll. Easy, peasy.

More details to follow, but you get the gist...