Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Baja 3 - Evergreen

We had an early night, last night. Didn't even stay up for the line dancing.  The plus side; there is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Thus, today was an early morning.  

Good thing too, we had miles to see.  Our goal was to make it to the Tri-Cities in Washington.  Almost 450 miles. One more day and we're home.  We decided to stay on the east side of the cascades as the weather reports on the "wet-side" of the Cascades looked to be exactly that; wet. 

We caught Highway 395 back in Nevada.  We have been riding that road ever since.  Glad we did.  It crosses an ever changing terrain, through lots of charming small towns, each of which would be worth exploration on their own.  

Small town people are 2nd to none.  You'll never meet a more friendly and open people, anywhere.  You can talk to anyone like you have been friends forever and everyone seems to have a genuine interest in you.  I like that. A lot. 

The GPS, being up to its usual hijinks, was unclear in its final destination as programmed.  We had targeted Kennewick as an original end point for today's travels but found ourselves at a bar/restaurant in Pasco.  Not a bad thing. 

As we were quenching our thirsts, we struck up a conversation with a guy having a beer next to us.  Harry. 

Harry was lucky enough to have some free time as his wife and mother-in-law were out shopping. Dude!  It was Easter!

We got to talking to Harry about our trip.  It seems it is something he, and his wife have always wanted to do.  He seemed surprised (maybe a hint of envy) to meet people that people actually have done the things he dreams of.  He wants to head north (don't tell anyone, but that's in our non-specific plans too).  We were talking about the issues associated with biking in the far north but he does seem determined. 

Well, somehow his signals got crossed and he had missed his Easter dinner.  We extended our condolences and set off to find a room. 

Walking distance from the bar were suitable accommodations.  Dropped our stuff off, cleaned up a bit and headed back to the restaurant for some dinner. 

We walk in and assume the same seats we had previously occupied.  Low and behold, Harry is still there but sitting with a lovely lady.  It turns out to be his wife, Michelle.  

An absolutely delightful person.  She listens to the stories of our adventures, mixed with her husbands enthusiasm for similar adventures.  It'd sure be nice to see them on the trail some day…

We closed the bar, but considering it was Easter, and Sunday, it was only 9:00. 


We grab the complimentary breakfast in the hotel lobby at around 8:00 AM.  Shortly after we are all loaded up and heading for home.  

An uneventful trip home.  Cold early on and through the pass.  My fingers were blue and pretty well nonfunctional.  We wave and part company at my exit.  I head through Bothell to get home while Peter has another couple of hours to ride back to Surrey BC. 

It was only a two week trip but it seems like more.  This is the first time I can say that in a positive way.  Usually it means you were bored.  In this case, I think it means it was a very full two weeks.  We learned a few things, took an ultralight ride, had some interesting experiences, saw some of the worlds most beautiful scenery and overall had another fabulous time in Mexico.  

Time to go clean about 3000 miles of bugs and dirt off of my bike…

The End

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Baja 3 - Seat Time

We left our room today not knowing where we'd end up.  

We were fairly close to Kingman Arizona.  That's where they are supposed to stockpile a lot of airplanes.  We thought it'd be worth a look as long as we were in the area.  

Off the highway, we head toward the airport.  There are a large number off planes sitting around but not nearly as massive as we had envisioned.  After a tour of the small little WWII museum, listening to an old duffer telling us all sorts of interesting facts (and gripes), off we go. 

We head up Highway 95 looking for a town a reasonable distance away.  At first Goldfield, Nevada looks like a likely candidate.  However, by the time we arrive we feel the next town up puts us just that much closer.  Tonopah, Nevada it is. 

We checked in at the local casino/hotel and grabbed a room.  In the bar (who woulda thought), we meet an interesting character; Hugh.  It seems he is a palaeontologist and a geologist.   He has lots of interesting stories.  Things like Goldfield, up until the 1920's, was the largest city in Nevada.  Throughout the course of the evening it is less clear that Hugh is the authority he says he is, but he's good company anyway.  The three of us all dined together and the chit-chat continued.  

After dinner Peter and I stopped again at the bar, for a nightcap.  Just as we were about to head back to the room, (no, really. We were going to stand up.) another drink is set in front of us.  A lucky old boy named Tony, sitting at the far end of the bar, had just got a Royal Flush on the video poker machine (could have been up to about $4000).  He buys the entire bar a round.  Thanks Tony!

We finally get to call it a night; go over to thank Tony (who has just won another $147) and head to the room.   BTW, their wifi was not working so I couldn't post the blog yesterday. 


New day.  Up early enough, we get ready, pack up and hit the road. 

Nothing exciting thus far.  A little chilly.  It was a beautiful cruise until 11:00 AM sharp.  At that moment, someone switched on the wind and it beat us to a frazzle for the rest of the ride.  We're trying to cruise 70-75 and the wind is coming at us from the side at about 35 mph.  It's gusting too and the wing hits differently depending on how the hill and valleys are cut.  Tiring ride but I guess that's part of what makes those beers at the end of the ride, taste so darned good…

We were heading to Susanville but arrived too early in the day to call it quits.  It was only another 100 miles to Alturas so we brave the winds for another stint. 

We hole up in an older hotel in town.  The Hotel Niles is 106 years old.  Everything is here.  Rooms, dining hall, dance hall (line dancing starts at 9:00, they have a DJ and everything!) and a cafe.

We're both pretty shot do it'll probably be an early night. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Baja 3 - No Mas Tacos

Our Mexico trip is headed home.  It's been a great "viaje" (voyage/trip).  Once again we have met fantastic people, have seen truly awesome sights and have had many memorial experiences.  

Great food too. The asada in tacos or whatever, is fantastic.  They take a simple, fairly tough piece of meat and that's it on a grill.  They work magic with it.  The seasoning goes in the taco shell; salsa, lime, onions and maybe some cilantro.  Can't beat it!  We'll, except for the seafood.  Mexican seafood cocktails use fresh lime and a type of clamato along with cilantro and onions.  The seafood is whatever came right off of the fishing boat;  octopus, squid, fish, clams, oysters. It's all there.  Another cocktail we tried is called "Aguachile".  Similar to the regular but slightly more spicy with a teriyaki or Worcestershire undertone.  Of course you can have just camarones or almost any other seafood alone in a cocktail.  Fish tacos; of course too!  Darned good eats!  (I'm making myself hungry.)

A little under 350 miles today and we rolled back into Lake Havasu City.  This time, however, we got smart and found a motel close close to a few bars.  No riding!

Interesting trip up.  We first head to Sonoita, which is the closest border from where we were.  

Going into Mexico, we bought Temporary Import Permits which are about $30.00 plus a deposit of about $400.00 to guarantee we will bring the vehicles back out.  In order to get a refund for our deposit, we had to visit the same brand of bank where we made the deposit.  Amazingly, that town didn't have a  Banjercito branch.  We learned that the closest town where we could get our deposit refunded was in San Luis Rio Colorado, some 125 miles west-northwest.  Off we go!

We travel along Mexican Highway 2 and it instantly becomes a learning experience.  This is a 2 lane road and one of the first we have ridden in Mexico with shoulders.  Being a cost sensitive people, they are not ones to waist paved surfaces.  

The yellow dividing line suddenly becomes the passing lane and the fog line is the driving lane.  Everyone is straddling the fog line  and you can pass virtually anywhere.  The only trouble is, so can the oncoming lane(s).  That explains why so many Yonke dealers exist (auto wrecking yards). 

We survive that part of the trip and arrive at San Luis Rio Colorado.  

Truth be told, at one point I didn't think Peter would survive!  Just past the last checkpoint that we had to stop at, we notice a Federal Policia car going the other direction.  They turn around in quick order, flip on the lights and pull him over.  I pull over a little ahead just in case I have to make a fast get-away. 

I'm kind of trying to mind my own business (ostrich thing) when I hear Peter call: "Hey, Ken!".  I turn around to see, not a gun pointed toward his head, but them taking pictures with Peter's arm around the officer.  What the hell?  Okay, so I head back and now I'm in the picture too.  The officers take out their own camera and take pictures for themselves.

About all that we can figure is that Peter looks enough like a Mexican that they thought he probably stole a gringo's bike.  As soon as they found out he is American/Canadian, it was all fun and games.  

In town, naturally, we have no idea where we're going.  We happen to need gas by now too so we pull into a Pemex (the federal gasolina station).  We be a lucky bunch at times!   

There is a Policia car fueling up so we ask him where it is we need to go.  He explains in full speed spanish, where things need to happen.  Perhaps it was the blank look on our faces that gave it away, but a service station attendant steps in with good deciphering capabilities and explains the officer wants us to follow him and he'll show us where we need to go.  Told you they were great people…

We did exactly as we were told. We parked along the street and walked around the building he was pointing to, to find a branch of the Banjercito we were looking for. 

Proudly, we walk in, documents in hand.  Finally, our turn, we proceed to the window and explain that we want our deposit back.  "No problemo", the teller exclaims.  Are we parked in the Banjercito parking lot?  Ah…no.  We're parked right next to the building!   That's against the rules, we learn.  We need to move our. vehicles to the Banjercito parking lot (some two blocks further away) so they can come out and take a pictures of our bikes to prove they are still in Mexico, but they take our word that we will then promptly take them back to the US.  (Humm, I just spotted a loophole in their system!)

A nice lady translates the instructions from the teller, of where this essential parking lot is, into an understandable form so off we confidently go.  

Good instructions. We find the lot, no problemo and head back to the bank.  After another wait in line, we have all we need to complete our request.  

The very teller that we talked to, and the only person at the window, shuts down his station, grabs a digital camera and an wireless receipt printer and off we head, those 2 blocks to the proper parking lot.   He verifies that the VIN numbers do agree with those recorded on the permits and takes pictures to verify that he has done his job.  

A receipt is printed wirelessly for my bike but they are unable to read the transponder chip on Peter's permit so back to the branch office we head. 

Another teller had occupied another window so at least the throngs of other people waiting could have their issues dealt with. 

The last receipt is finally issued so we're good to go.  Bikes can bypass the cars waiting in line, according to the rules we have been told, so it's not a long time until we are back in the states. 

Other than one immigration stop on the US, an uneventful, although warm trip. 

Butts a little sore from the miles, we find a beer, a room, a beer with dinner and very soon, bed. 

Until tomorrow…

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Baja 3 - Research

Last night, as Peter and I were unloading our bikes at the room we had just acquired, a couple of guys in a room just down from us say hello (hola) and start chatting about bikes and such.  Manuel used to have a bike and Erbey currently has two bikes.  They are working at a mining operation about an hours drive away.

Peter and I had planned on going to town and grab some dinner and maybe a couple of cocktails that evening.  Our room is a little distance from the Malecon in downtown.  We didn't want to ride and drink, so we thought we would catch a cab.  Sounds easy.  Thomas, the desk clerk at the hotel is only on his 3rd day and doesn't have, and can't find the answer to: "can you call a cab for us?"  Even an internet search doesn't turn up a listing for cabs so it sure isn't Thomas's fault…  We mention this to Erbey, just in conversation, and he says they too are heading into town in their car and they would be happy to give us a ride. Great guys!

Erbey even shows at our room with a couple of beers for us when they're ready to go. 

A few minutes later we are pulling into a town just teaming with people on the Malecon.  Music is playing, people are dancing. It's a party!   

Easter, we find out, coincides with the Mexican Spring Break. Thousands of families head to the beach for a couple of weeks of fun and relaxation.  There are about 10 brass bands all clad in their uniforms, from all over Mexico, along the Malecon.  

They are competing against one another to be recognised as the best.  People are dancing to the music and having a great time!

We remained with Erbey and Manuel in the thick of all of the action, for the remainder of the evening and are probably responsible for keeping them up way too late.  They had to be on the road by 6:00 AM to be to work by 7:00.  A very nice time made possible by a couple of very generous people. 

Since we pulled into Puerto Penasco late in the day, we thought we stay an additional day to give us a chance to look around.  And that we did.  After breakfast at a little place along the Malecon, we set out to see as much as we could. 

Puerto Penasco is broken up into a couple of different areas (probably more). We are staying in, and the Malecon is located in Rocky Point.  On the other side of the bay is Sandy Beach.  Sandy Beach has a long strip of Condos, RV Parks and Camping areas whereas Rocky Point has some hotels, shops, bars and restaurants-a-plenty. 

Our exploring took us to some of the model condos available. Beautiful and appropriately priced. We did see some houses as well. Some priced reasonably. Every thing we saw had exquisite views. 

Exhaustive work, this exploring… We're calling it an early night as we'll be riding back to the U. S. tomorrow heading for home.  

Fun trip.  Great time and we have been warned;  "be careful in the US, it's dangerous up there…". 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Baja 3 - Norte

Woke up a little foggy today.  Of course, it was all in my head…  Some coffee and a bite to eat and we get ready to ride. 

Today we head north (Norte) to Puerto Penasco.  A 350 mile ride to a pretty tourist and fishing town.  It is located on the other side of the Mar de Cortez from San Felipe.  It seems to be the town that San Felipe should be. 

The security checkpoints are a little more intense along the mainland.  At one point we road past at least 3 miles of semi-trucks waiting to be inspected. Once we reached the checkpoint, we had to remove all of our bags and have them X-rayed.  I've never felt more safe in my whole life…

We rode into town hot and thirsty.  First stop, simply out of necessity, was for a much needed cerveza.  A room was acquired next and now back to town for some dinner.  We're going to stick around tomorrow and explore the area in greater detail. 

More, as the story unfolds…

Monday, April 14, 2014

Baja 3 - We have arrived!

Once the government officials had determined that two rickety old farts on motorcycles, coming off of an all night ferry ride, dazed and baggy-eyed, might not be the drug king pins they were looking for, they finally let us proceed.  We headed off toward downtown Guaymas.  As we rode around, we realised that it is very much a working town without much support for tourists. 

All of the other travellers that we had talked to that we're heading this way, were destined for San Carlos, just a few kilometres outside of Guaymas.  Guess what!  Yep, we headed there. 

A startling contrast to Guaymas.  Completely geared toward the tourist and time-share community.  Beautiful beaches, hotels, shops and naturally, bars and restaurants.  Bay's full of boats and several exist around the area.  Very nice place. 

This whole area is located due south of Nogales and Tucson Arizona.  The majority come from that area. 

In our recent study's, Peter and I have determined that Pelicans are the modern day Pterodactyl. Just thought you would want to know…

We did visit the perla's farm at the university just outside of Guaymas.  With the help of students, they have re-established what was the original and worlds first pearl farm.  A rather tedious and interesting process to seed oysters depending upon type and results desired.  The calm bays and crystal clear waters here are perfect for the process. 

We have cruised as many streets, avenues and roads within the area as we could find.  Our research is paramount to uncovering the inner workings of these metropolis's.  Not an easy job.  It might be evident too, that cerveza e tequila are miracle drugs… 

Baja 3 - Afloat

Although we didn't see any signs of whales out of Guerrero Negro, we did see some whales spouting  about a 1/2 mile from shore off of the patio at our hotel this morning.  At least we know the whales are somewhere. 

Our major mission today to is to catch the ferry to Guaymas over on the mainland of Mexico.  The ferry doesn't leave until 8:00 PM and we don't need to be there until 6:00 PM. 

We set out after breakfast (desayuno) to explore as much of the mining operation as we could.   First, a ride up to where Boleo is attempting to restart the old operation. Not a whole lot to see as the site is visible from the road but far enough not to reveal too much. 

A great deal of the original French mining operation remains as largely ruins of what used to be.  Most of this is open and available to explore.  So explore we did.  Being built in the late 1800's to early 1900's it is unclear how it all worked but there is some pretty cool stuff here…. A huge operation at one time. 

Driving around town you see lots of French architecture in the buildings that remain from those days. 

While we were kicking back, just waiting for the ferry to begin loading, we decided to walk down to the ferry terminal to ask if they tied the motorcycles down during the voyage, so they wouldn't fall over.  

The Helmsman for the ferry walked up and we posed the question to him. He assured us they would be tied down and safe. Then, he invited us on to the ship to show us the straps.  We asked and he then proceeded to show us the entire ship from engine room to wheel house and everything in between. 

Way cool! Extremely friendly people.  Other crew members joked with us and even the captain is talkative and friendly. 

It's a small ship.  We had 8 cars and trucks plus our two bikes.  There might be about 30 people on board.  It's about a 10 hour trip across. We wondered how the economics work of taking this vessel, with such a small customer base and making this work?

It was windy last night so the water was pretty rough. The Helmsman showed the log book. They normally cruise about 9.5 knots. Last night, they could only manage 7.8 knots with waves crashing over the bow and passengers loosing their lunch.  Let's hope for smoother sailing tonight. 

It turned out to be a smooth crossing except for one minor hiccup.  About 3:00 AM, the engine shuts down. So do the generators. We're dead in the water. Adrift!

Crew members scrambled down to the engine room to get things fired up again while Peter and I went up on deck to see what was happening. 

We could see some lights in the distance but way too far to row towards, if that was even Guaymas.  

Before too long, the Diesel engines begin to come to life and we get underway once again.  

At that point I went back down below to the passenger area to try to get some more sleep.  I was out until the ship was in the process of docking. 

Peter, I came to find out, headed in a different direction. While stand along side the wheelhouse, watching the sea ahead, our helmsman amigo invited Peter into the wheelhouse for most of the remainder of the voyage.  

Apparently he was issued a pair of binoculars to view the other ships in the area as well as taking a turn at the wheel!  In spite if his efforts, we made it to the correct port!

Security is amazing at both ends of the operation.  It took two hours to go through customs and have all of the vehicles and papers checked. Drug sniffing dogs surveyed each person and piece of luggage to make sure all was good.  Ya'd think that would be good, but no!  We had to go through the same process once we docked but this time two different government entities performed duplicate tasks again checking luggage, papers and sniffing. 

Finally we're allowed to hit the streets of Guaymas.  Off we go for the next phase…

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Baja 3 - Back Across

Since we had an early evening, we had an early morning.  Cleaned and dried with 40-grit towels, we were loaded and out by 8:30 AM.  The restaurants and food vendors weren't even open yet.  No coffee, but we head out anyway. 

Guerrero Negro is known for whales calving in it's bay every spring.  March is supposed to be the height of the season so we figured there may still be a few whales around in mid April. 

The road to Laguna Ojo de Liebre is just down Highway 1.  It is supposed to be a great place for viewing the whales plus we were told that guides with their Panga boats will take you out for a closer look.   

We turn off onto what looks to be a paved road.  That dream was short lived however.  About 1/4 mile in the road is now dirt, salt, sand and gravel.  For 13 miles each way we navigate our way to and from the beach. 

We arrive at the beach hoping to be one of the first tours of the day.  Instead, we find the place vacated.  No signs of life on the land or the sea.  Apparently the whales have left for the season and so have the guides and what ever other inhabitants might have been there. 

Back on the bikes, we head toward Santa Rosalia.  Here, we will be catching a ferry to Guaymas on the mainland.  We have been warned that since Easter was approaching reservations on the ferry are very important. We hear stories about people waiting several days to catch a ride.  

The weather is overcast and in the easy 70's as we cruise back over to the Sea of Cortez side.  It slowly warmed up after we had arrived. 

Heading into town, we pass the effort to re-establish the copper mining operation that was established and abandoned by the French many years ago. 

We stop at the ferry terminal on our way in.  After about a 1/2 of an hour, the ticket office opens and we easily make reservations and pay for our passage.  Let's hope they don't tend to overbook like the airlines do…. It's also getting quite windy.  We wonder if a storm is blowing in that might curtail our plans?  

We head out to have a little dinner and libation.  First stop turns out to be a Chinese place. Had a couple of beers there and struck up a conversation with a guy from Whitehorse, down here working with the mining company.  Interesting guy.   

Afterwards we drop into town, have a decent meal and begin a search for a little Cantina to have a drink before returning to the room.  It just so happens that Boxing is a really big deal around here and there happens to be a fight in progress.  The couple of bars we do find are either charging a cover or are loud and "seedy".   Oh well.  Call it a day….   Lots of time tomorrow then a whole new adventure begins on the other side of the Mar de Cortez. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Baja 3 - South

What a day!   

Up, cleaned and fed, we set out on the bikes.  

Peter had spotted a possible project car a couple of days ago and we had learned that someone may be there today that we could talk to about the car.  Back to Pete's Camp we go.  

After all the information is exchanged, we set out for parts South.  The first stop is Puertecitos.

It looked a little more rough than we expected.  We kept on going.  The next stop was San Luis Gonzaga, about 97 miles south of San Felipe.  

It's hot out. A little over 100 in some places. When we stop at Gonzaga, Peter decides to hop in the Sea of Cortez and cool off a bit.

Looked inviting but I got stuck talking to a souvenir vendor  instead. 

All good pavement up until this point but we see that end and the dirt road start, just up ahead.  

The road leads to Chapala, about 40 miles away, where we will find Hiway 1, the main north-south road in Baja (paved). 

We had no idea that traveling this road would be so tough!  It is made up of some dirt, but with lots of rocks of all sizes, gravel both compacted and loose and sand at the most inopportune times.  

The sand is almost impossible to get through as the front wheel just plows in the direction of its own choosing while the rest of the bike tries to throw you off.  We do manage to stay upright the whole way but it was no easy task.  In places, you start to think: "hey, I think I'm getting this".  So, you start to speed up from 19 mph to about 21 mph. Just then, you hit that patch of sand that wants to throw you every which way and you slow down and/or stop right quick!  

There sure is some stunning scenery however. 

We did stop for a beer at the world famous "Coco's Corner".  

This is about 12 miles from the hiway and is run by a guy named Coco.  It is just him and his cat and some local coyotes at night.  His place is a collection of everything imaginable from undergarments to wrecked auto parts.  

BTW, Coco doesn't have any legs but skoots around on what's left.  Nice old guy…

Once we find pavement again, we head toward Guerrero Negro.  We had thought about Bahia de Los Angeles but that's about 40 miles in and we would have to come back out the next day. 

A quick bite to eat, a couple of beers and we're calling it a night.