Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Easy Way to Gonzaga Bay: Another Baja Ride Story

Here’s the raw ride report…not the one I posted elsewhere without all of the flat tire heartaches…

Caution: Scantily dressed men frolicking about.

The Easy Way to Gonzaga Bay
On the weekend of May 20th, I rode down to Gonzaga Bay with two buddies who enjoy Baja like I do. The characters are introduced: Paco Pistolas, Chelo Cuchillos y Pedro Navajas:

Collectively known as Los Tres Salvajes.

The genesis of the plot was never cogent. Sure, there was a concept—blurry and imprecise, planned over beers and furtive meetings at dingy taco shops—but no one was quite sure of who was going, what bikes we’d be riding, where we’d end up or which route we’d take to get there.

“We’ve gotta do Baja again,” quipped Chelo. “Just like last time. But different.”
And Pedro agreed.

And so it began…

We crossed at Tecate on Saturday morning and took the Compadre Trail to Ojos Negros. There’s a little beer stop there where you and a guy behind bars trade pesos for cold Tecate “rojas.” This is an acceptable arrangement for all involved parties.

Leaving the dirt, we were chowing down on carne asada tacos in Valle de la Trinidad by noon. From there it was Highways 3 and 5 to San Felipe, trading the deep, hot desert sand of Laguna Diabla for some bad asphalt.

There were a few beers and tequila shots shared in SF when we arrived at 3:30 before heading south to a secluded beach I'd been told about.

The hidden beach was indeed uninhabited so we set up camp and hit the water, cold Tecates in hand. We owned 4 miles of pristine sandy beachfront for the day. The boys will have to share photos of the stars and moon that night, cuz I was sleeping soundly.

The next day we headed farther south, stopping in Puertecitos to fix a Tiger's tire. We arrived to Gonzaga Bay in the early afternoon after some spectacular coast views.

I'd been told that Alfonsina's was full but we checked, anyhow. And BOOM! A room for three dirty bikers right on the water. I had a beer in my hand and my toes in the sand in no time flat. The water was prolly 72 degrees and still.

After enjoying a few beers in the water, they guys rode off looking for stogies as I caught a cat nap. What they did to me as I slept should be criminal. There's a video. With commentary. And photos.

The next morning, over breakfasts of chorizo con huevo, we watched whale sharks swimming just 100 yards off shore. Looking at the maps, we decided to skip any further exploration south and we rolled out later that morning heading north (instead of south through Coco's Corner, Bay of LA and San Francisquitos, as planned).

The rest of the ride consisted of bumpy asphalt, tire troubles and a lot of bonding with perros Mexicanos. It turns out that Chelo and Pedro are actually dog lovers.

And dang good riding partners, too. You see, my rear tire got a little squirrely after passing the military checkpoints at the junction of Highways 3 and 5. No prob, I thought, I’ll just swap the tube and be on my way. After 45 minutes, we were on our way.

But after only 3 or 4 miles, my rear tire was flat again. What?!?! OK, I must’ve pinched the tube while changing it. I’ll just repair it and be on my way. Pedro Navajas rode to the next town to find a new tube and 45 minutes later we were once again on our way.

But after only 3 or 4 miles, my rear tire was flat again. OK, now the frustration was building. I rode the tire flat for about 3 miles to Valle de la Trinidad to have a llantera fix it. After an hour of trying to find a new tube, the old guy at the tire shop repaired one he found in a pile…adding a new patch to the two old ones already on it. We filled up on fuel and headed to the border.

But after only 3 or 4 miles, my rear tire was flat again. Once again, I limped about 2 miles to the nearest town to have a llantera fix it. It was in the small pueblo of Heroes de la Independencia that the old man at the tire repair shop informed me that it wasn’t the tube but the tire that was bad. Indeed, the inside of the tire was completely destroyed from the rim cutting it up. Begrudgingly, he agreed to put 3 patches on the exiting tube and 19 patches on the inside of the tire. He warned me that riding that tire was “un idea muy mala”—a very bad idea.

Losing light, we headed to the town of Ojos Negros, riding 30 miles in the dark. It was there that I threw in the towel and called for help. Friends with a truck in Ensenada came and picked me up. There was no way I could ride another 100 miles on this tire, in the dark, on Mexican roads, with limited options for repairing the tire if it failed again. I bid adieu to my two amigos and put my bike in the back of the truck, hoping to buy a new tire and tube the next day in Ensenada. My two friends departed for the border, arriving to Tijuana right before midnight.

The next day I called the office and let them know I wouldn’t be in. The repaired tire was still holding air so I decided to make a run for the border. Hey, what’s adventure without risk? Departing at 9AM, I passed through Ensenada and took Highway 3 north to Tecate, riding at 60 MPH to avoid the possibility of the bad tire coming off the rim at high speed. I stopped to check the tire on 3 occasions but it looked fine. I arrived at the border by 11AM and was in the US, just 2 miles from home, when the tire again went flat. Grrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!

I called a tow company and, for the second time in as many weeks, finished a scheduled ride on the back of a flatbed truck.

It’s in times of frustration and adversity that you find out who your friends are. And it was during these times that I couldn’t have asked for two better riding partners. Gracis Pedro y Chelo!


  1. Yikes, you really can turn a ride into an adventure. It looks like fun though (except for the tire issues)

    I can't imagine Pacific Ocean water warm enough to swim in. I need to get further south, you wouldn't want to dip a toe in the Pacific up here right now.

    1. It may sound strange, but I don't mind misadventures like this. I'm prepping this bike for South America and I want to know all of its foibles now.

      Gonzaga Bay and San Felipe are not on the Pacific side but on the Gulf of California, a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It's bath water compared to the chilly (but beautiful Pacific Ocean).

  2. Ugh, that does indeed sound frustrating, but you're right: Friends--good, real friends--can not only aid in trying times, but help turn crap into adventure.

    Otherwise, the bit of carefree time that you did have, enjoying riding, beer, and cigars in a rugged, remote location... Yep, that sounds like my kind of trip.

    Better fortune next time.