April 22, 2008
Billdozer, '06 Triumph T100, So Cal
Brooks, '77 Moto Guzzi, So Cal
Joel, 103" RevTech, 4-speed, jockey shift-rigid, So Cal
Nick, modded Suzuki Bandit, Arizona
Rouser Rob, Buell 1200 in a rigid Flyrite Smokin' Gun. Texas
Wow. Hard to describe without writing a book. I'll try to make it short as possible. Suffice it to say it was my personal best trip on two wheels yet, and makes me want to do more long rides. I think getting out and riding for days is maybe the most traditional thing any of us can really do. Immense thanks to those who rode with me, please see their mugs and bikes above. I could not have asked for a more diverse, hardy and experienced crew, I'd ride anywhere with any one of you again, anytime.
You can see more pics on my flickr site, and I'll add more as the guys get them to me.
Started from my house about 5:30 AM and took the EDR route through the hills and met Joel in El Centro, which is near the border where a week later a couple hundred EDR riders would cross on their way to San Felipe. I pulled up about 20 minutes late to find Joel with his float bowl off and a worried look on his face. Float was stuck so he cleaned it all out and had it back together and working by the time I wolfed down some breakfast. We rode east from there towards Vail, AZ to the Spartan Frameworks compound. We met up with Brooks on his trusty Guzzi along the way, shooting text messages back and forth at each gas stop until we ended up at the same crossroads within minutes of each other. The most eventful episode along the way was Joel getting a ticket for no turn signals. Damn that CHP! Nick met us at George and Wendy's not long after we got there. We drank and talked and had a great time hanging with the Counes', absorbing every bit of the hospitality they could throw at us. I can't say thanks enough to them, it was a great way to start the trip. That day was 400+, I'm not going to figure out the exact miles but it was somewhere around there for me and I was glad to crash out with a belly full of beer when we finally did.
Killer breakfast and then George and Wendy hoped on their bikes and escorted us the 60 or so miles to the border. When we left them at the border gas station I think we all went in four different directions, looking like total clowns. It was pretty easy to read George's mind as he looked at us, thinking we were never going to make it with skills like that. To prove the point, not long after crossing the border and making it through the most congested part of Nogales, I dropped my new little digital video camera and watched it get run over twice before a paper boy handed it to me and told me in perfect English, "I think it's all fucked up!" Thanks. It was. Oh well. No videos from me. We averaged about 75-85 along the toll highway, designated a "Hassle-Free Zone" by the state of Sonora, Mexico. We were anxious to make some miles so we hit our target in Guayamas well before dark and settled right into a beautiful old hotel right on the coast. Happened to be a big Mexican wedding going on there that night, complete with screaming kids, booming musica and explosives right outside our door in the middle of the night. Sweet! Welcome to Mexico, gringos!
In Guaymas we heard from Rouser Rob who started in Texas and was with Mark Allen and his buddy from St. Louis. They were in Mazatlan and Mark's friend had a crash and was at the hospital getting bandaged up. I'll let them tell their story, I'm looking forward to hearing it in detail as I don't think I was sober enough when we finally met them up north to get it all straight. Rob, left them and headed north to Los Mochis which was our goal for the day. We didn't have as many miles to burn up that day, so we got off the toll road and explored around on the free road. Not such a great idea, we ended up just cruising around a town or two, catching the watchful and creepy eyes of several Policias. At one point we avoided a motocicleta copper by taking a couple small neighborhood streets and hauling balls back to the highway. We met Rob at the ferry in Los Mochis not long after he rolled in, again, text messages giving each other updates along the way made meeting up surprisingly easy. The ferry cost was about $150 US total, for a bike and rider. We got tickets and then headed out to town where we cruised a few shady backstreets that had the locals looking at us like we were wearing horns or something. Pretty funny vibe. Good seafood, beers and conversations ended with Rouser getting a swazi t-shirt off a local and us heading back to the boat. We loaded up on the boat about 10-ish. Riding a motorcycle into a big ship was surreal and interesting. We lashed them down to handrails and went above to an area with airline style seats and a scattering of passengers. I love sleeping aboard ships, and went right to sleep. I woke up when about 6:00AM when I felt the bow-thrusters pushing us into position in the port of La Paz.
Finally in baja! La Paz was beautiful and well-gringoed with a nice Malaecon littered with good breakfast spots. About an hour to get through customs, relaxing food, charged phones and back on the road, it felt good to be heading north. No more toll roads and desolate, mucho twisty two-lane highways in generally good condition, with great vistas landed us in Loreto for lunch. We didn't spend much time there, just enough to have one more in a long list of airing out sore feet, eating good, a few beers and back on the road to Mulege, one of my favorite spots along the Sea of Cortez reachable by non-off road bikes. Lots of small bays and white sand beaches are found along this route and are classic baja. Any would be a good choice, but we headed all the way to the small coastal town. We stopped abd asked a local dude if there was still a little bar at the end of the road that I fell in love with a few years back when down there pitting for the Baja 1000. Of course, he said and then went into a big story about how he used to have a Triumph like mine but way older. Obviously I pushed to find out more about the bike and where it might be, but he assured me it was in Mexico City last he heard and all he had was the mufflers. We made our way down the bumpy road with the guys on rigids bouncing all over thinking I was a jackass for this choice. Once we got to the end, they agreed it was worth it. There is a little bar that looks like a set from Gilligan's Island, but real. We parked, got beers and took baths in the warm water right in front of the cantina. The local dude showed up with the mufflers! They looked like they were off a later OIF bike and I wasn't interested in strapping them to my back, but we were interested in all his stories of banditos, rattlesnakes and history lesson on Mexican trucking and fishing in the 50's and 60's. We finally settled down and had the best meal of the trip and slept on the beach. We woke to the typical brilliant Sea of Cortez sunrise. It was hard to leave this spot, but Joel found coffee one cantina down and we finally got moving. More great twistys, elevation changes and warmer weather as we headed north towards the old French-built port town of Santa Rosalia. Brooks thought it would be good to slow a bit and spend some more time along the way, and we did. The town was one I had only blasted through before and I am glad we stopped and explored around. The French influence is obvious in Santa Rosalia where thee is more wood construction than anywhere else on the peninsula (that I've seen) and by the Eifel (yes, the tower guy) designed steel church that is still in use. Fresh bread, local dance lessons, and a trip into the back room of an alabaster sculpture studio made it memorable. A one-minute conversation with a total douche on a big Beemer with his old lady made me really glad I was with the guys in our crew and not that cat. From there we headed inland to a true oasis along a river, San Ignacio where we sat in a ancient square and tripped out a bunch of ADV riders with every form of GPS safety net, long travel suspension and wicking fabric gear one could pile on a bike and body. They of course tripped on Rob and Joel for riding rigids through this area where these bikes have just never been seen. We thought we might stay at Guerrero Negro, the border of Baja South and the state of Baja North. We made it in record time and decided to press on since the town in mine and Joel's memory held nothing of particular interest. This is the stretch of highway where there are no real gas stations for over 200 miles. We did pretty good stopping and buying it in antifreeze bottles from liquor stores, but eventually skipped one and ran out in a beautiful spot along the highway. Nick and Brooks had the biggest tanks, so we sent them up to the next spot with our extra containers and made a sign that said "GAS?" on a notebook. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later a dude from Vista (about 20 minutes from my house) stopped with a gas can. He freaked on the bikes (he's got some late model softail at home) and called us lots of names, and made us take all the gas and his can too, once it was empty. We met up with the other guys just shy of Santa Maria where an enterprising local had a ton of gas and we filled up. Trying in vain to make it to San Quitin where I knew a good place on the bay with a great bar and some cabanas, we finally gave up when we pulled into El Rosario and saw a sign for a "Turista Hotel". The manager was surprised to see us and even let us park the bikes in a room that was under construction. It was dark and Joel's kick only, mag-fired Rev Tech was barely putting any juice to his headlight. His tailight had fallen off about 800 miles earlier, so that didn't matter. We bungee'd my SureFire flashlight to his bedroll to make that last hour or two and had him ride in front of Nick who had two headlights. I know Joel was relieved to stop for the night. We didn't even make it to Mama Espinoza's for the famous lobster burritos that night, but managed to eat and get in real beds, which was all that mattered at that point.
We topped up on gas right next to the famous lobster spot at the edge of town and met a Dutch dude in his 70's who was on an old Honda CX500, the jap copy of a Guzzi, towing a small, custom-built trailer. This dude had soul for days. He had been on the road over a year and had started in South America, somewhere I regretfully can't recall. I would have liked to met him the night before but we had lots of miles to go this day and hung out for a while admiring him and his kit and finally hit the road. It didn't seem to take long and we were in the little town of Colonet, about 100 miles south of Ensenada, where my family shares a little block house on the beach. After a couple tacos Joel discovered his rear exhaust only held on by the mounts, nothing holding it to the head, and a pretty bad intake leak from a lost bolt there too. He's a seasoned baja traveler so we left our gear with him and headed down the 7 mile dirt road to my house just to show the other guys what I had been bragging about for the last few days. I couldn't believe how good my T100 handled the washboard and I beat that thing down the whole way and nothing fell off. Rouser Rob on his venerable Flyrite made it only a couple minutes behind me and Nick and Brooks with our suspended machines. We screwed around a while and talked about coming back again on bikes some day and then bombed back to check Joel's progress. The bike fought a little, but eventually Joel got one nut on the head and the air leak all but gone and we motored ever north. Stopped in the next town and he found a bolt the right size, and the convoy was back in business. From there we blasted into and out of Ensenada without even a gas stop and went backwards on the EDR route to San Felipe. We stopped just south of the last Federale check point and I made the guys all pose for a tired portrait as the sun set. At this point we figured we made it. I had to go to Ruben's to see if all was ready for the EDR coming two days later. Rob and Nick followed Brooks on to Puertocitas about 50 miles south of San Felipe where they camped out and soaked in the natural hot springs right on the coast the next morning. Joel with no headlight by this time rode next to me and we took it easy the last 25 or so miles in to town where we checked in at Kiki's where we got a room and launched into EDR-prep mode.
4-16 through 4-22 was an entirely different experience and one I enjoyed, but a total contrast the precluding week. I'll let everyone else tell those stories because as good as they are, this is really the part of the EDR that I remember from this year. Thanks again to my ever-understanding wife for gladly giving me the freedom to do stupid shit, my business partners and friends for letting me skip out on all the pre-EDR mayhem and planning and to my friends from the Long Way. Now, let's start planning an Alaska trip...