Monday, May 20, 2013

A weekend Baja ride: Tecate to Mikes Sky Rancho...the hard way

Kickin’ it with The Kug: A Mostly Orange Story: Tecate to Mikes Sky Rancho, May 18-19, 2013

Friday’s post on the San Diego Adventure Rider site ( started innocently enough: “Last Minute Mikes Sky Ranch 5-18-19-13 -- Easy Ride: Break in new bikes and rebuilds.” Ken (The Kug) had installed a reserve tank on his KTM 450 MXC and wanted to try it out.

The message stated: “Meet and leave Tecate, CA at the Mini Mart 9 AM Sat. Easy ride to break in rebuilds and a new bike. Fully prepared Baja savvy, easy ride, no racing, crashing, stopping to smell the roses ride. Chance of Drizzle Sat AM so dress for the weather.”

Sondra Lagnado, a fun Brazilian with 3 bikes too many, was in. She’d be there with her new (to her) KTM 450 EXC, ready to ride, but made it clear that she would indeed stop to smell the roses.

I was in like Flynn. I called Mikes and confirmed a room and made plans to meet the group in Tecate the next morning. My KLR650’s rear tire—a 50/50 tire anyhow—was looking a bit worn. I did not feel like breaking out the tire tools and swapping on the Kenda I had in my garage. That decision would haunt me the next two days.

I was in Tecate, CA, by 8:30 and met up with Ken by 8:45. Since no one else had arrived, I went down to the Customs house to use the restroom. As I hopped back on my bike, 8 orange bikes were ripping past me, heading into Mexico. Wow, that was fast! I threw my helmet on and I joined them. Through the border and into Mexico in under 30 seconds. “Wow,” I thought, “these guys don’t mess around. Not even so much as a ride plan.” But, hey, I was just along for the ride. I was at the first stop light that I realized…THIS WASN’T MY GROUP! Yikes. They were pretty cool about it. “Uh, we’re riding to Laguna Hanson…wanna come along?” I thanked them and turned around. Well, that was embarrassing. No one will ever know…

A few minutes later, I was joined by Ken, Sondra and Dana Neisler (StevoDaDevo). What a great group they turned out to be: excellent riders, super easy going and very fun to hang out with. If you don’t know this yet, the Kug KNOWS Baja. And Baja knows the Kug...his photo was everywhere, nowhere more prominent than behind the bar at Mikes. Photographic proof to follow...

We headed east from Tecate and turned right onto Compadre Trail. The other riders will name the exact trails and places we went through. We did see Laguna Hanson, the Old Sawmill/Ramona's, Valle T and Mikes. Mikes Sky Rancho: Call from US: 011-52-664-681-5514

It was almost all dirt the first day. I peeled off (wimped out) right before the Ojos Negros/Ensenada cut-off when the sand got deeper than my tires and met the group at Valle T.

Speaking of tires: Don't let anyone tell you that you can't take a top-heavy, loaded down, too-big bike with a bald rear street tire to Mikes. And I heard there was sand, but I didn't see any...

We rode the back way from Valle T to Mikes. I expected to see more of Baja 500 pre-runners, but there was little other traffic.

We arrived to Mikes before 7 and there were a lot of bikes already there. A Chris Haines group and another tour company had lined up what looked to be 50 bikes. It sure didn’t look busy, though. Sondra had bought a liter of Jimador in VdT so we had to wash that back. Dinner was great and we talked bikes with other riders. We had a few beverages and called it a night.

At 6:30 or 7, we were one of the last groups to eat breakfast. After settling the room and bar tabs, we were off by 8:30 or so. The other three had plans to backtrack a bit and try some new trails; I wanted to take a trail over to the coast and ride from Erendira to Santo Tomas. We parted ways—neither bitter nor angry—right before VdT. I’ll let them fill in the details on their return route. I spent an hour opening and closing ranch fences on my way to the coast. When I finally gave up and reached Highway 1, I just slabbed it up to Ensenada. It was getting hot and I had pretty much worn myself out going through fences and around farm roads. No biggie.

Grabbed some fish tacos at a little stand I like in Ensenada (Tacos Floresta) and made good time back to the border. The line was long but I made it around and through in no time and crossed back by about 3PM. I checked Sondra’s Spot and saw that the other had made it back to Tecate by 6PM. StevoDaDevo said they took “the hard way back” which was probably the best, funnest route for them.

I fell in lust with their bikes and was actually turning a bit orange with envy toward the end. I’ve already started looking for a 400 or 525 so I can tackle Baja the way it should be done!

Fantastic ride, great group of riders…but what else can you expect from the SDAR crew?

It was about 400 miles for me. Spot GPS tracks to follow. I see that my Spot missed a few points, but you get the gist of it. Here are a few photos to start.


  1. Nice looking ride. I have both a KLR and a KTM 525. If you are going to be riding a lot of tight woods the 400 would probably do better but for dual sporting and wide open stuff like this ride, I would recommend the 525. That Berg in the 2nd photo looks mighty nice too.

  2. That's good advice. I'll look for a plated 525 specifically for Baja.

    1. Hi, my name's Jay,

      I'm writing an article about Baja racing heritage for a blog, and I'd like to know if I can use your pictures of Mike's Rancho because they are just awesome. That's a really good post you made.

      I came here from google image and read everything down there. I'm so sorry about your friend man...I want to go to Mike's next year and it puts things in perspective.

      Great article and hope all is well.

    2. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Feel free to use any of my snapshots. Thanks.

    3. I will credit you for them of course. Thank you so much.

  3. In tragic news, Dana was killed yesterday after a head-on collision with a pick up in the vicinity of Laguna Hanson/Ojos Negros, not too far from Mikes Sky Rancho where we rode together last year. Dana died doing what he loved -- riding in Baja. Here's the. Mexican media report:

    1. I came up on Dana right after his accident.. I was leading a group of 30 riders from BMW of Escondido to Mikes from SV.. We checked for vitals but he had none as he was killed instantly.. I said a prayer over him and waited for Officials to show up..Earl Thigpen

    2. Thank you for that info, Earl. Your compassion. Shows through. Ride safe, my brother.

  4. It's been a year and it isn't any easier. We miss you, brother.