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 struggled for the next two years before he finally took 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.

Here is the link to his online book:

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.