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...