Sunday, November 24, 2019

Baja for Dummies: November 2019

The five of us are no dummies...well, the other 4 aren’t, anyhow...but the way we set up the weeklong ride would make some people wonder. The plan was: No real plan...just a couple of possible ride locations.

We planned to meet in Calexico, California, on Monday, ride to San Felipe —and other points in the Baja peninsula—and exit via Tecate 4 days later. And that’s pretty much how it ended up going.

The riders were from Florida, Arizona and Texas. I’d ridden in Baja and other places with Steve, Brad and Dave, and Dave brought along his son, Carter, to round out the group.

Steve and I were on Gen 1 KLRs, Brad was on a brand new BMW 850 GS and the other two were on Yamaha WR250s.

We crossed into Mexico at 1pm and had our FMM tourist permits within 20 minutes. The ride to San Felipe along Highway 5 was straight and easy and we found our seaside AirB&B just before dark. We unloaded the gear and rode into town for some very tasty tacos and beers along the malecon, right on the Sea of Cortez. We were all in great spirits and had a fun time interacting with the locals. The Baja 1000 was scheduled to start at the end of the week, so everyone was prepared for the onslaught of thousands of visitors.

The next morning we loaded up the bikes and found a nice place to eat. Chorizo and egg breakfasts would be a recurring theme on this ride.

We were headed south toward Bahia de Los Angeles by 10 am. The weather was cooperating and the bikes were running well. Everything pointed to another fantastic Baja ride.

Though the road to Bay of LA was just bad pavement and a series of construction detours, we still enjoyed the ride. Our bikes were perfect for this terrain and we made good time. We passed through Puertecitos and Gonzaga Bay before rolling into Coco’s Corner to see the man himself. Coco greeted us with a smile and some cold Pacificos. Ah, yeah! After some fun conversation, signing of his guestbook and topping off with fuel, we headed south along an off-road trail that would lead us to Highway 1. By the time we reached the point where the two highways met, we could see, sadly, that all of the dirt roads were being paved over. Soon, the small quiet towns we’d enjoyed for years would be more accessible to visitors in cars. And that’s just the way it goes. Progress, as it were.

The view of the Gulf of California as you ride into Bay of LA is truly spectacular...just an amazing sight to see. We all pulled off the road and stared in awe at the little town on the shores of that beautiful bay.

We quickly settled on a small hotel with a restaurant/bar and unloaded the bikes. The plan was to stay one night and then ride south to the tiny village of San Francisquito the next day...unless we could find a boat that could bring us out to see the whale sharks. And over beers, Capitan Luis showed up with a reasonable offer: He’d take us out for a half day of swimming with the whale sharks the next day. The price was right so we agreed. Brad decided to skip the boat tour and ride down to San Francisquito and back while we were out. We enjoyed a nice meal and called it a night.

After a fine Mexican breakfast the next morning Capitan Luis picked us up at the hotel and we were on the water by 8:15. Spoiler alert: While we didn’t see any whale sharks, we still had a great time touring the small islands in the large bay. After we returned, we all explored the town on bikes, riding up into the hills and along the coast. It’s such a nice little place, definitely a new favorite Baja locale. We had a great dinner, hung out with some boisterous fellow travelers and planned the next day’s activities.

It had rained throughout the night and it was windy and brisk on our way north the next day. That part of Highway 1 doesn’t have a lot of fuel options, so we topped off our tanks from the back of a man’s truck along the road near Punta Prieta. We were hopeful that we’d find more gas along the highway but the first fuel we found was in El Rosario, 150 miles away. Those little 250s were on fumes when we rode into the Pemex there. Instead of eating lunch at Mama Espinoza’s, we pushed on through the chilly, windy mist to the small town of Erendira 120 miles away.

When we reached San Vicente to fuel up, I contemplated taking a cool off-road route across the mountains, but due to the heavy rains they’d had recently, I opted to continue along the paved roads. We rolled into Coyote Cal’s, a cool little hostel in the village of Erendira, by 4 pm and Rick, the owner, immediately pushed a bucket of cold Pacificos across the bar to us. Ahhhhhhhh!!

We settled into beach chairs in the sand pit as Rick lit the fire. We talked bikes and the Baja 1000 with the other riders who were already there or arrived throughout the evening. As always, the vibe was chill and everyone was having fun. An announcement was made that the Baja 1000 was postponed for a day due to the rains...something none of us recalled happening in the past 50 years.

Dinner was served at 7—Thai Chicken—and the place buzzed with excitement as we loudly discussed the postponed race and our memories of previous Baja rides. One by one, our team of riders peeled off and went to bed. There was mucha cerrveza that evening...

The next morning was crisp and sunny with no chance of rain. After breakfast, we all rode out to a small volcano on the coast. We picked up shells as the waves crashed loudly on the shore. There was still some mud left on the dirt roads but nothing that hindered our morning ride. Within the hour we were back on Highway 1 headed toward Ensenada. We stopped at my favorite stand—La Floresta—for some of the very best fish and shrimp tacos in Baja. After stuffing ourselves with tasty local food, we fueled up and headed north to Tecate.

It was an uneventful ride and we were back in the US by 1 pm. Brad and Steve headed east toward Phoenix while I headed west to San Diego with the other two. I parked my muddy KLR at a friend’s house later that day, happy and tired after another fun and satisfying Baja ride. Just about 900 miles of Mexico riding.

And not surprisingly, we’re already planning our next one...

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Quick ride to St. Pete for hot wings

Had nothing but lounging planned for a quiet Sunday when a friend called. He and some others were heading across the bridge to St, Petersburg for hot wings and cold drinks.

I met the other 4 riders at the now closed down Rossiter Harley Davidson in Bradenton, right off the I-75. They were all on big HDs, I was on my big, fat Triumph. We then rode up the 41 and over the Sunshine Skyway bridge to St. Pete.

The Drunken Clam is a dive bar where people go to watch football and drink 1/2 price beer on Sunday.

We all ordered hot wings and talked motorbikes, then hopped back on the bikes and headed home.

A nice quick ride with friends on an otherwise quiet Sunday. Good times!

Monday, September 16, 2019

7th Annual Arizona KLR Ride: September 2019

So for the 5th time in 7 years I find myself at the GUNSITE Academy shooting facility in Paulden, Arizona with a bunch of KLR enthusiasts. And I’m feeling the love!

The Annual Arizona KLR ride put together by my friend Jon usually attracts 20-30 riders from around the US for a weekend of backcountry trail riding, BBQ and camaraderie around the campfire. It was held in April for the first few years but now takes place in September.

Each year we see many familiar bikes and faces, along with some new folks. And this September wasn’t any different. Along with the guys I’ve seen over the past few years, we have a couple newbies...some on KLRs, some on other bikes. And we’re all there to have a great time.

Some of the riders: Jon, the Corey’s (Sr. & Jr.), Darrell, Sal and his friends Tim and Dennis, Chuck B., Ray Ray, Jake, Charlie (ay, yay, yay...), Haldor, Brian, Charles, Garrett and my friend Dave.

Dave and I rolled in from San Diego on Thursday afternoon just in time for a Friday pre-ride. Four of us rode from Chino Valley to Bagdad the back way...80 glorious miles of dirt through some pretty pine forests. The burgers at the Bagdad Cafe are big and delicious. We rode the twisties back to Paulden, feeling the temperatures fluctuate between 90 and 70 as we rode through the different elevations near Prescott Valley.

When we arrived to the GUNSITE facility on Friday afternoon, there were already a few riders waiting. Burgers and dogs on the grill and tents going up meant the ride was coming together. Over the next few hours, 20+ bikes were assembled around the campground: Mostly KLRs but also a KTM 990 Adventure, a Triumph Tiger, a Honda CRF, a Kawasaki KLX250 and a Yamaha 450 were in attendance. And all were welcome.

The evening cool set in as Jon laid out the agenda for the next two days: There would be a visit to an old cemetery hidden in the backcountry, a ride to a UFO he located high up on a mountain—more on that later—a BBQ lunch in Ash Fork off old Route 66, some cliff side petroglyphs and a ride through an old train tunnel. The good times commenced as story telling, catching up with old friends and ride planning went on through the night.

When we met at a nearby gas station the next morning at 8am, a couple more riders had just arrived from Phoenix and Flagstaff. After fueling up, we headed north on Highway 89 in a long line of single cylinder, 4-stroke beauty.

After a few miles of dirt road riding, we stopped to see the historic Puntenney cemetery at Cedar Glade. We also experienced our first issue when a footpeg rattled loose from a rider’s bike—a notorious problem with the KLR. We then headed to some more off-road riding southwest of Ash Fork.

The riding was challenging but fun, with lots of babyhead rocks, ruts and fine dust to contend with. Surprisingly, only one rider laid his bike down on one of the tough hill climbs...but no harm was done to bike or rider. Jon then broke the riders into two smaller groups. He led 8 riders through a difficult route around a mountain, while Darrell took the rest of the riders through a slightly easier route. We all met at the top of a mountain where we found...a real flying saucer! (More on that later.) We sat and enjoyed the cool breeze and wind in the pines as we recounted the ride. We also encountered our second mechanical issue: a loose radiator mount that was quickly fixed by Chuck B.

From there we all made our way down the rocky mountain to a dirt road that led to Highway 40. A few miles before the highway, we stopped to see some petroglyphs along a cliff wall. Very impressive. A short pavement ride later, we all met at LuluBelle’s in Ash Fork for burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. The group of 20 sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the sun and cool breeze. There were plenty of high fives, big smiles and pats on the back as we loudly recalled the ride. This was an animated group, to be sure!

Leaving there, some riders headed back to camp as a large group rode to—and through—an abandoned railroad tunnel. The video of the climb up and into the tunnel would’ve made Evel Knievel proud. Newcomer Garrett caught air with his Gen 2 KLR and resembled a rodeo rider breaking a stubborn bronc.

That night was made for good eating and story telling around the campfire. Lots of laughter as riders told and re-told accounts of the ride. Jon’s wife Kayla brought a brisket, smoked turkey, deviled duck eggs, beans, cole slaw, potato salad and peach cobbler. And there was a LOT of everything! The night was bittersweet as everyone had a great time, but everyone knew the weekend was ending. A special guest—CraigES—showed up in a brand new Camo KLR. Craig is a local and one of the original group of riders.

After dinner, Jon presented the coveted KLR award to Garrett, the rider who showed the most heart during the weekend’s ride. The trophy is made up of different parts that signify what the ride meant to the trophy recipient. Garrett will have to add something to the award and present it to another rider at next year’s event.

Jon then provided everyone the background on the UFO we visited on the mountain top. Apparently, the structure was a flying saucer-shaped boat that once sat in the Los Angeles harbor. An eccentric millionaire then transported the weird shaped vessel in its entirety to the top of that Arizona mountain where he lived in it for years. Definitely and interesting and intriguing story.

Dave and I left early on Sunday for the drive back to San Diego, as several others went for a half-day ride in the local area. After hearing our report of the Bagdad ride, Sal and some of the others rode out there for the burgers and incredible scenery. That’s a truly beautiful stretch of backcountry riding.

I spoke with Jon on Sunday and he reported that there were no injuries and no major bike damage. This was yet another fantastic get together for riders who love their KLRs.

I’ll see you all next year!