Saturday, February 18, 2023

A Baja Story

In June of 2014, I joined a group of fellow riders of for a Memorial Ride for Dana Neisler. 

Dana was a Baja guru with whom I’d ridden in 2013.  He was a great guy with an electric smile, a zest for life and an extensive knowledge of Baja riding.  Sadly, he passed away in a tragic accident near Laguna Hanson on January 25, 2014.

And that June weekend, I rode down through Tecate and the Compadre Trail to Laguna Hanson in his honor. 

After the memorial was over, most of the group of about 50 people headed back north or to Mike’s Sky Rancho as I went south.  I saw no other people on the road as I made my way to Eréndira via Ojos Negros and Uruapán. 

When I’d reached an overlook above Ojos Negros, I stopped to take a water and pee break.  It was perfectly quiet as I admired the view and contemplated my route.  

Just then, an old pick-up truck came rolling up behind me.  I waved, thinking they would pass me but instead, they pulled in front of my bike and stopped.  Four men got out of the back as the two in the front cab got out.  All had beers in their hands. They said nothing as they surrounded me.  The driver came toward me, speaking Spanish, and asked what I was doing.  

I responded that I was just admiring the view and enjoying the day.  Switching to broken English, he asked why I had stopped there.  I told him in Spanish that I had to pee and I started making my way back to my bike.  The man stepped in my way, took the keys from my motorcycle and put them in his shirt pocket.  Smiling, he offered me a beer.  When I declined, he opened a can and insisted I drink with them.  

It was then that I became nervous.  

I told them that a large group of riders was behind me and would be joining me soon.  Smiling, he responded confidently that no one was behind me…that my friends had gone north.  

It was an uncomfortable moment for me.  The man smiled and instructed me to drink the beer.  His counterparts stood silently but their circle moved closer around me.  

Suddenly, we all heard a loud rumbling approaching from behind us and seven heads turned to see a camouflage Humvee full of Mexican soldiers coming our way.  I was relieved , to say the least.  

The young soldier standing in the vehicle pointed the 50 caliber machine gun directly at the man who’d been speaking with me.  *

“Que pasa aquí?,” he asked, as the soldiers disembarked.  

I informed the officer in Spanish that I was just leaving as I gulped my beer, took my bike keys from the man’s pocket and wished everyone a good day.  

Looking back as I was riding away, I saw the military folks pointing their guns at the men from the truck…who were now sprawled out across the dirt road.  

I smiled as I made my way to Eréndira where cold beers and ceviche were waiting for me.  

(*Note: These are stock Mexican Humvee photos as I didn’t snap any photos at the time of the incident.)

Friday, January 27, 2023

2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350…and planning the India—Nepal ride

Well, I ran into a snag regarding my India/Nepal motorcycle adventure.  

But I’m getting ahead of myself…let me start from the beginning.  

My buddy, Julio—who is currently stationed in New Delhi, India— has been trying to get me to come visit him for the last couple years. We did go see him in Pretoria, South Africa when he was there and had quite an adventure driving through Mozambique with his 4-wheel-drive Range Rover. 

So it was with that spirit of adventure that I took his recent phone call. 

Him: Bro, you’ve gotta come visit!

Me:  We’ll look at maybe November 2023.

Him: No! This April would be better.  

Me:  I’ll have to see if I can get away then.

Him: Well, if you do, we can ride to Nepal.  I’m buying another bike and you can take one of mine.  Nepal is an easy 2-3 day ride. Maybe only 700 miles each way.  

Me:  I’m in!

And just like that the planning commenced.  

Basically, I just needed to get the time off from work (3 weeks) and book airfare.  We’d stay with them in India.  He would handle all of the local logistics if I planned the route from New Delhi to Kathmandu and back.  He would provide me with a motorcycle use.  And I needed to bring my riding gear.  

Everything was going great.  We arranged for visas and (very expensive) flights. Then, last night, I received this troubling message:

“Bro, the new bike I ordered won’t arrive until April…and that’s not enough time to register it in time for the ride.  A local friend is selling his almost new Royal Enfield Hunter 350.  You can buy it for less than $2,000 and sell it when you leave.  Or I can borrow a motorcycle from one of my local friends.  What do you want to do?”

So I researched the motorcycle his friend was selling (a 2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350) and—unless a better idea came up—I planned to buy it.  It would basically be a $2K rental for a one-week ride, with hopes that I could then sell it for not too much of a loss.  

And that’s where I am right now…

Here are some notes from reviews of the bike: The 349cc RE Hunter 350 seems a bit anemic at 20 hp. The 286cc Honda Rebel 300 puts out a better 25 hp.

At 50 mph, the engine purrs along with a nice rumble and feels strong while accelerating up to 60 mph. Anything faster than 60 takes a little longer to reach, though like the Meteor, the Hunter is capable of getting up to 75 mph with enough run-up. If you’re looking for a highway cruiser, this isn’t your bike, though it’s fine for short highway jaunts if needed.

The Royal Enfield Hunter 350 motorcycle is the cheapest Royal Enfield ever made. In India the bike is priced significantly lower than both Classic and Meteor models. The Indian market has Hunter models at 163,900 INR (roughly $2,075). Keep in mind that the bike priced equivalent to $2,775 in India costs $4,649 in the US.

The rear shocks have 4” of travel and are preload adjustable on six levels.  Seat height is a low 31”. Ground clearance is just 150mm (6”). This might be an issue as I’ll be riding over some pretty crappy road conditions. The tires are tubeless, so that’ll make for easier road repairs if necessary.  

The lower weight and HP of the single cylinder 350 equates to a claimed 80 MPG (36 km/l), so that’s good since it’s only a 3.4 gallon tank.  

Accessories I’ll need would be crash guards, a skid plate, side bags and a USB/power port.  

Lastly, the Hunter 350 comes in two variations: Metro and Retro. I’m unsure which one I’ll possibly buy.  

The Metro is considered the top end variant and features a semi digital instrument cluster with tripper navigation, 17 inch Alloy wheels with 110/70-17 and 140/70-17 tubeless tyres. Dual channel ABS. LED tail lamp. Stylish grab rails. Premium switch gears with hazard light switch. Round shaped indicators. For these features you have to pay Rs.20,000 more over the retro variant.

The Retro is the basic variant so it gets very basic features. It comes with a basic and basic looking semi digital instrument cluster. Single channel ABS and the rear wheel has drum brake setup. Halogen tail lamp and box shaped indicators. Basic switch gears and it misses out the hazard light switch. 17 inch spoke wheels with 110/80-17 and 120/80-17 with tubeless tyres. Rudimentary tubular grab rail.

2023 Royal Enfield Hunter 350 Specifications




SOHC, air-cooled single-cylinder; 2 valves/cyl.



Bore x Stroke:

72.0 x 85.8mm

Compression Ratio:


Transmission/Final Drive:


Claimed Horsepower:

20.2 hp @ 6,100 rpm

Claimed Torque:

19.9 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm

Fuel System:

Electronic fuel injection (EFI)


Wet, multiplate


Twin downtube spine frame

Front Suspension:

41mm telescopic fork; 5.1 in. travel

Rear Suspension:

Twin-tube emulsion shocks, preload adjustable; 4.0 in. travel

Front Brake:

2-piston ByBre caliper, 300mm disc w/ ABS

Rear Brake:

1-piston ByBre caliper, 270mm disc w/ ABS

Wheels, Front/Rear:

Cast alloy; 17 in.

Tires, Front/Rear:

CEAT; 140/70-17 / 110/70-17


25.0°/3.7 in.


53.9 in.

Seat Height:

31.1 in.

Fuel Capacity:

3.4 gal.

Claimed Wet Weight:

399 lb.

A mix of digital and analog instrumentation adorn the Hunter’s handlebars, though the navigation system on the right is an aftermarket accessory.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Getting Lemonade from a Lemon: Tampa to Perry and back, November 2022

The four of us had planned a 4-day ride to see Florida’s historic Highway 30A along the gulf coast just southwest of Tallahassee.  As well, we wanted to celebrate the life of Joe Bonacuse, a fellow rider who passed away recently.  Well, it all fell apart when one of the riders hurt himself and another rider had to leave town… so we postponed the ride. 

I’d booked hotels for three nights along the planned route but was only able to cancel two of them.  We all agreed to eat the cost of the hotel in Perry, Florida, which was to be our first day’s stop.  

While the four of us were having lunch the other day, one of the other riders asked why he and I shouldn’t just take an overnight ride up there anyhow, since we had hotel rooms already paid for.   While we both agreed that there wasn’t much—if anything—to actually see in the town of Perry itself, the ride would be nice.  

So we agreed to meet on Monday morning and ride to a Perry and back…just because.  

I met Paul at the first rest area after the toll booth on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Monday at 9am.  He was on his badass Harley and I was on my Beemer.  We’d both dressed for warm Florida weather but it was a bit brisk.  NOTE: 70 degrees is “brisk” for us!  We both donned sweatshirts and off we rode.  

Paul had planned the route up through St. Pete, Clearwater, Oldsmar and Odessa before getting on the Veterans Expressway (589).  

It turned out to be a pleasant day of riding and we reached Crystal River in time for lunch.  After some BBQ at a place where we’d eaten before, we headed north on the 98.  

This part of Florida is full of small towns that look pretty much the same.  While some are remain fairly vibrant—Chiefland is an example—most are slowly disappearing, victims of environmental events and lost industry.  

We passed through towns like Inglis, Otter Creek, Fanning Springs, Salem and Athena, the human populations erased and replaced by boarded-up shops, rickety houses and abandoned buildings. Towns once full of people are now dusty streets and empty structures surrounded by ghosts and the memories of what used to be.

Paul pointed out some mansions in various states of disrepair and I remarked that even now they look stately, evidence that there was once money in these parts.  What’s left are once-ostentatious houses and ubiquitous Florida Historic Heritage Site signage.  

We arrived to Perry by 3pm and settled in.  The famous seafood place where we intended to eat was closed so we chose the 5th best place….an unimpressive Mexican restaurant down the street.  

Later, over drinks in chairs outside of our rooms, Paul and I discussed past and future rides.  We spoke of motorcycles, golf and other stuff guys on the road talk about. We turned in early because Perry, Florida doesn’t have much of a night life.  

The next morning we grabbed coffee and pastries at a local place before heading back via Highway 27.  

Again, we passed through many small towns—or the skeletons of former towns—like Mayo, Alton, Fort White and High Springs.  At the latter, we turned south on the 41 and made our way through Newberry, Archer, Raleigh, Williston, Romeo (with its very cool and very abandoned charcoal ovens still visible from the 41) and Inverness before stopping for lunch in Floral City. 

We continued on the 41 south, encountering traffic in Brooksville.  We took the 54 east to the 75 south and reached home within the hour.  

My total mileage was right at 500 miles.  

A ride that wasn’t supposed to happen turned into a nice little overnighter through some Old Florida backcountry.  

Now…the postponed Historic 30A coast ride planning continues.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

To Panama…the Best Way: March 2024?

So here’s what I’m thinking for a dual sport adventure— possibly next year or more likely Spring of 2024:

I want to take a small group of guys on a ride from San Diego to Panama, crossing back into the US in Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

I don’t have an itinerary or a solid plan yet but I just want you to put it in the back of your mind and think about it. 

How long, time-wise? I don’t know that yet and I’ve been asked.  I know for a fact that it could be done— Florida to Panama and back—in 10 days as some guys on BMWs just did it…but that’s just ridiculous. I’m going to try to do it in about 21-30 days total because I want to have fun without rushing.

When? Likely in the Spring. I’d like to plan for good weather and stay away from rain. I can ride in hot weather and cold weather but I’d prefer to not ride in wet weather if I don’t have to. March, overall, has the lowest percent chance of rain.  

Which bike? Unsure if I’ll take my trusty KLR or my big BMW…or something else.  But this is not a ride for a smaller bike. This would definitely be a dual sport ride because there would be an awful lot of dirt …however there’s also gonna be an awful lot of pavement. 

I plan to start in San Diego, go down into Baja. At La Paz we will take the ferry across to the mainland, landing in Topolobampo/Los Mochis. 

Once there, we cut into the mainland—maybe do Copper Canyon—then south through the decent parts of Mexico and the Central American countries. 

I’d like to move along at a decent pace but stop to see the pyramids, as well as good breaks in Costa Rica and Panama.

On the return, we can either follow the same route back north or hit the countries that we missed on the way down, such as Belize and/or Honduras. 

And since we’ll probably be exiting somewhere around Arizona or maybe even El Paso, I may plan Copper Canyon for the way back, going up the mountain instead of down it. But that’s to be decided. 

Some info about that: The elevation in Copper Canyon is between 1600’ and 7800’.  That portion of the ride is mostly dirt. Creel is about 400 miles from the Arizona border.  Then there’s the bridge at La Bufa and the towns of Batopilas and Urique. Definitely something I’ve wanted to do but maybe it’s just too much for this particular ride. 

And so far, that’s all I’ve done regarding the planning phase. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

10th Annual Arizona KLR Ride: Paulden, AZ

Just returned from attending the 10th Annual KLR ride that my friend Jon hosts near his place in Paulden, Arizona.  

This was the 7th ride I’ve attended.  

We usually stay at the Gunsite campground but we stayed at the Raven’s Roost Bunkhouse this time…and most everyone agreed it was a better location.  

There was a pretty good turnout, maybe 25 people in all.  There were three routes this year, led by Jon and two other local riders, Darrell and Charles. 

I arrived a day early and rode to Bagbad for burgers with a few friends. Pavement in, dirt out.  That’s  always a great ride.  

On Saturday, we had a scare as my buddy Doug had a front tire go flat at about 70 MPH.  He was able to save it with minor injuries and almost no damage to his bike.  On a related note, he won his year’s rider’s trophy!

Jon’s wife provided cornbread and chili on Friday night and a huge BBQ dinner on Saturday night.  

As usual, stories were told around the campfire and everyone went home happy.  

Some of the folks in attendance : Senior, Jeff, Craig (original attendees), Chuck B., Dennis, Sal, Charlie, Ray Ray, Darrell, Garrett, Guy, Charles, Brian, and the entire Kitchin Clan. Eagle Mike didn’t attend but sent out a goodie bag, to include the elusive 10mm socket for each rider!

More photos and lies….er, “stories”…to follow.