Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baja Ride 2013: San Diego to Cabo and Return (11/27-12/2)

"I'd like to meet the joker who had the nerve to call this a road!" -- Walter Sigmann

Baja Ride 2013: San Diego to Cabo and Return (11/27-12/2)

On Baja’s Highway 1, travelers are warned that everything happens 300 meters ahead: vados (dips), construction, curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves) or the ubiquitous topes (speed bumps). Going from 70 MPH to 25 MPH in the middle of a 90 degree turn -- often -- makes me think that the engineers who designed and built these roads were either crazy or evil. There is no consistency throughout the 1,000-mile ride, unless you count the livestock and construction and water crossings.

And the crosses. Oh, the many, many crosses. You can easily see how the accident went down by looking at the tire marks, the twisted roadside barriers and the brightly colored memorials… usually in the midst of vehicle fragments and pieces of clothing. That should be warning enough for drivers to slow down on a highway where the average speed limit is about 45 MPH.

The ride was a last minute thing. All pavement — or so the leader claimed — 2 days to Cabo and 2 days back. I took my trusty KLR650 and left Rosarito on Thanksgiving Day with 4 others (KLR, FZ1, Buell Ulysses, DRZ).

The guys were all super moto riders and treated Baja's Highway 1 like a track day. It was a pretty hot pace...

We lost a rider right before San Vicente (KM82 ish). He went wide and rag dolled. The bike sustained the usual damage but could be ridden from the scene. The rider was shaken up a bit but his gear did its job. The clinic in San Vicente patched him up and the local chota put him on a bus north at noon (he arrived at the border @ midnight). The local cops were "really helpful." Uh, yeah...

Because of the set-back, we didn't make Santa Rosalia that day but stayed in Guerrero Negro (Hotel Los Caracoles) instead—about 450 miles.

The next day was driving through the desert and buying gas from the back of a rancher's truck.

We made Cabo San Lucas by dark and spent a day and night there living like locals. Great little town for those of you who haven’t been there.

We stayed at the Hotel Mar de Cortez. OK place. Secure bike parking in back and right across the street from Cabo Wabo (touristy, I know, but I like it). It's reasonably-priced and within walking distance of non-touristy beaches and lots of other stuff.

We left on December 1st for as far north as we could ride; ended up in Guerrero Negro again—about 630 miles. Stayed at the Hotel Los Caracoles again!

We left as a group at 4:15 am. Right before Ciudad Insurgentes, I had a front flat tire at 70+ MPH and had to fix it on the roadside. I tinkered with the tire while the three of them took the "bad" road north. After I got going, I headed to Loreto on the 1.

Two of the guys beat their bikes up a bit (DRZ and Buell) as well as themselves (purple, swollen wrist, bruised ribs, etc.). Street bikes (supermoto) just aren't made for baby head boulders and deep sand. They were able to ride back so it wasn't too bad. One went to urgent care when he crossed back over and confirmed that he did have a broken wrist.

I made El Rosario in record time, then trucked it up to TJ and made the border by 1pm after tacos in Ensenada.

The KLR did really well, though it's just not made for sustained 80-85 MPH riding. At least not by me. In Baja.

Whew! Back to work...

Here was the ride announcement: “This is one of the trips that only a few have the ability or desire to participate in… the lucky few that do will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives. This is going to be a good one. If you want lots of miles in unfamiliar country with a ton of laughs and a few good people to join you in the adventure, this is the trip for you.”

Well, how could I say no to THAT? Sure, I’d miss Turkey Day with my “fascinating” relatives gathered around the table staring at their smart phones. Wow, tough decision…

So, on Thanksgiving weekend, a group of us are going to ride from the USA border at San Diego/ Tijuana, 1025 miles south along Hwy 1 with a destination of Cabo San Lucas. We will spend a day resting and partying in Cabo before hitting the road again and retracing our bread crumb trail along Hwy 1 north back to the good ‘ol USA. Two KLRs will be among the bikes that make this ride.

I’ll provide a ride report when I return. For now, here’s the SPOT GPS tracking device link:

(If the link doesn't work, try copying and pasting it to your browser's address bar.)

Baja Mileage Chart Link

The trip itinerary looks like this:

STAGING (Wednesday, November 27th): In Rosarito, Mexico the night prior to departure.

DAY 1 (Thursday, November 28th): We will get an early start and head south on HWY 1, passing through Ensenada, San Quintin, Guerrero Negro and will eventually reach our destination for the first day of Santa Rosalia. (Map estimates: 10.5 hours of highway time / 564 miles.) NOTE: A church designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1887 should not be missed.

DAY 2 (Friday, November 29th): Day two will be another southern push down HWY 1 that will take us through Mulege, Loreto, Ciudad Insurgentes, Ciudad Constitution, La Paz – Baja Sur’s Capital, and eventually we will drop into our trip destination and world famous tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas. This day’s route will take us south along the eastern side of the tip of the Baja peninsula. (Map estimates: 8 hours & 45 minutes of highway time / 438 miles.)

DAY 3 (Saturday, November 30th: Rest / Party in Cabo

DAY 4 (Sunday, December 1st): We pack up and head north , but this time we will start on HWY 19 taking us along the Western tip of the Baja through El Pescadero and will rejoin HWY 1 north at La Paz. We will continue North on HWY 1 from La Paz, retracing our bread crumb trail that we left just a few days prior, ending up in the town of Guerrero Negro for the night. (Map estimates: 10 hours & 30 minutes of highway time / 574 miles.)

DAY 5 (Monday, December 2nd): The final push north along HWY 1. We will arrive back in Rosarito that evening where some of us will crash for the night and others will make the final 20 minute journey back to the border crossing and re-enter the USA. (Map estimates: 8 hours of highway time / 432 miles. 450 miles for those heading back across the border to San Diego. That’s me…I gotta work on Tuesday.)

Yes, it’s a lot of riding… Yes, it’s in Mexico… Yes, we are a little nutty… Which is exactly why this is going to be the stuff of legends. Stand by for photos and some … "interesting" ride descriptions.

The KLR is packed up and I'm leaving tonight after work.


  1. Hmmm - turkey with the family or riding to Mexico - no brainer there.

    We too are hoping to be on two wheels tomorrow.

    Have a great trip and we are looking forward to the write up after.

  2. Awesome, once in a life time trip that I would choose over Thanksgiving any day. Looking forward to photos and write up, have fun.

  3. Way cool - not sure how I missed your update on this. It sounds as though a lot of fun and some not so fun moments were had. Glad everyone made it in mostly one piece.

    It sounds as though maybe it wasn't completely Was it?

  4. Well, Baja is funny like that. The MAIN highway is often non-existant. It turns from asphalt to dirt to mud in a matter of 300 meters!

    On top of that, if a traveler gets off the main highway (1) -- even if the new road "appears" to be a good one--he or she will be surprised to find that it ends in a locked gate (100 miles later and in the middle of nowhere).

    And that is precisely what happened to my riding companions when we temporarily split up!

    Lesson's all part of the Baja adventure.

    On a related note, the same group is planning a quick 2-day ride from San Diego to San Felipe in January. I predict much of the same!