The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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The Pony Express only ran for one year from 1860-1861. But during that time, riders delivered mail from the west coast all the way to Missouri, facing dangers like weather, buffalo stampedes and bandits. The advent of the railroad put an end to the Pony Express and US 50 now follows the rough route that the riders took across Nevada. Today, most of the cross-Nevada traffic takes Interstate 80, rendering US 50 obsolete, much like the Pony Express. Life Magazine called US 50 the Loneliest Road in America in the 80s, stating: "It's totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills."
Nevada desert is anything but flat
The handful of towns on US 50 turned this negative proclamation into a major marketing campaign, boasting ghost towns, mountain passes, motorsports, camping and wildlife watching along this forgotten highway. So we're riding the Loneliest Road in America to see if it's all that it's cracked up to be!
We stop in the town of Austin for lunch
Pizza at the International Cafe
Bar in Austin is closed
I love riding in the desert, especially when there's nobody else around for miles and miles. Just you and your thoughts swirling around in your helmet. We ride like this for over 400 miles across Nevada to the end of US 50, passing by the towns of Fallon, Austin and Eureka, not seeing a lot of ghost towns until we close in on Ely at the end of US 50.
We stop in at the ghost town of Cherry Creek
Cherry Creek used to be a bustling mining town of 6,000 people before the turn of the last century. Now, only a few people live here amongst the ruins of abandoned buildings that draw tourists looking to see a piece of history. It was very neat to walk around the old buildings. Not as spooky as the name "Ghost Town" seems to imply!
The old school building has been turned into a museum detailing life before the town was abandoned
No tumbleweeds though!
Ghost towns of Nevada - a photographer's feast!
The few residents that live here still need to get their mail. Not delivered by Pony, though...
Peering through the boarded-up window of an abandoned house. There was a make-shift tent inside!
Riding away from Nevada in the light of the setting sun
We are moving very slowly, spending at least a couple of days at each stop to recharge. The nomadic task of setting up and tearing down camp is less tedious when we can stay awhile and enjoy a day's rest, especially since we've seemed to stay ahead of the impending North American snowfall. By contrast to our sedate pace, the land speed record set by a vehicle with wheels is 1,228 km/h (faster than the speed of sound). This record was set just around the corner at the Bonneville Salt Flats (how's that for a segue?), just across the Nevada/Utah border.
Testing the surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats
As we approached the salt flats, we were amazed at how expansive the surrounding area is, all covered in greyish/white layer, most of it is a thin crust above thick mud. We saw the tracks of off-road vehicles that have done donuts, ripping up the surface and leaving mud trail scars. The actual Bonneville Salt Flats has a much thicker crust of salt and is more suitable for attempting landspeed records.
Neda pulls a Charley Boorman on the Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats look like a sheet of ice at certain angles. We tentatively walked out onto the surface before taking the motorcycles out, as there were still some wet patches from a prior rainfall. We were surprised at how much grip there was, the salt wasn't loose at all. The surface of the flats felt like sandpaper.
Remarkably good grip on the salt flats
Long shadows cast on the salts
The Bonneville Salt Flats are a remnant of a huge prehistoric salt lake that dried up 150,000 years ago. It's one of several dried salt lakes in the area, but it's the largest, measuring over 100 square kilometers, giving landspeed racers enough running room to get up to maximum velocity.
Watching the sun set on the Salt Flats
Posing with the bikes
Backlit sunset shot
Midgets in the mirror
Watching the moon rise over the Salt Flats
Tooling around on the Salt Flats
Although it would have been fun to visit during a race to see all the exotic vehicles, we did have the Bonneville Salt Flats all to ourselves, and we felt like kids walking and riding around, and taking photos all around the area.
Relaxing at a fast food restaurant at the end of the day. We brought our own salt for the fries...
Hi, Just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading your trip reports. Your photographs are excellent and it's a pleasure to read such well written prose describing your adventures. Thanks for sharing them.
Keep enjoying yourselves.
We have unfinished business in Utah. As mentioned before, one of our earliest motorcycle trips was a whirlwind 18-day from Toronto to San Franciso and back. During that trip, we visiting most of the National Parks in the SW US, but only having a limited amount of time, we spent most of it on the back of the motorcycle, not seeing anything but the park from the side of the road. Arches National Park was a bookmark that we just had to revisit, and this time around, we promised that we wouldn't leave until we'd seen everything.
Arches National Park, Three Sisters rock formation up ahead
We made good on that promise, lazing around the park for four days, spending the days hiking the trails around the area, and the nights freezing our butts off inside the tent. The landscape is straight out of a Road Runner cartoon! Other-worldly-shaped orange rocks thrust up out of the ground, some of them precariously balancing larger rocks on small skinny stems - the result of erosion eating away at the softer layers of the sand and rock that history has laid down.
Weather was beautiful during the day, freezing at night, but the night sky was so clear!
One of the things that was very important to us was hiking up to the Delicate Arch, as we didn't have the opportunity the last time we were here. It's about an hour uphill hike to a remote spot where the arch can be viewed. There are over 2,000 arches in the park, spanning from a few feet to over a hundred feet in height! The views are breathtaking!
Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail
Window to the Delicate Arch
We arrived in the early afternoon and settled down to wait for the best time to view the Arch - sunset. We were told that that was the magical time that elves and unicorns would emerge from the portal created by the sun's rays hitting the Delicate Arch.
We take our seats like everyone else and wait for the show to begin
This guy must have shelled out primo for balcony seats
Things to do when you're waiting for the elves and unicorns
This lady brought her Staff of Infinite Mysteries to help open the portal
"... and then the Earth cooled..."
No elves. No unicorns. But pretty, anyway...
Neda takes her photography very seriously, risking life and limb for that perfect shot
Ok, enough hiking and picture-taking, time to do some riding!
We descended from Arches National Park and landed in the McDonald's at Moab. We were regular fixtures for a few days there, the TV ceaselessly covering the US election, with us catching up on e-mail, and me stretching that $1 bottomless soda. We saw regulars come and go, and greeted the familiar faces as if we lived there. One morning, after Neda's Skype session with her niece in Italy, we found ourselves chatting with a couple of other Canadians, Jacques from St-Jovite (outside of Montreal) who was in the area on a photo-vacation for a couple of months, and Mark from Winnipeg, who towed his KLR to ride the roads around the area with his dirtbike buddies. This was the perfect company to share a McMorning with, as we got great tips on riding roads *and* photo-spots. We really have no plan whatsoever, so it's chance encounters like these that dictate which way we go and what we do and see!
Potash Road is like riding on the surface of Mars!
Both of them suggested we ride the Shafer Trail, which starts out as Potash Road just north of Moab and ends up meeting the famous White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. We were told to be prepared for great roads and amazing scenery!
Trail turns gravelly and runs through some great canyons
Stream crossing! Ok, the stream was mostly dry. You could see salt or mineral stains left from the water
Marvelous scenery unfolding before us. Shared with NOBODY!
F650GS owners have always been trying to fit a 21" wheel up front. Neda gets a 25" front wheel courtesy of our wide angle lens
The trail is very wide and well maintained. We tried to take a detour off the Shafer Trail towards the Colorado River overlook, but encountered deep sand - our nemesis! So instead of paddling 3 miles through sand with our crappy, gripless Tourances, we decided to turn back to the main trail.
Bye bye, sand. Back to the gravel. Hello, scenery!
As it turns out, we didn't really have to detour from the main trail for a look at the Colorado River, as the Shafer Trail runs alongside it for quite a while. It's at this very spot that they filmed Thelma and Louise driving their car off the cliff after being chased by cops. Hmmm... I hope I didn't ruin the movie for anyone. They also filmed Star Wars here as well, the part where Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker that he was his father...
This entire trip I'm either on a bike or taking pictures. Sometimes both...
Gingerly stepping out onto the edge, trying to get a shot of the Colorado River
I think this is where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff
Neda was having a great time!
A bit of perspective - Neda is in the top-left hand corner taking a picture with our bikes next to her
Trying not to look down
I am not scared of heights at all. But whenever I'm looking over a high cliff, or over the top-floor balcony of a high rise, I get this tingling sensation in my toes and I have this small urge to just jump. Not sure why...
Getting ready for the leap... only 2,000 feet to the canyon floor
This picture taken by Gary from Colorado. He pulled up on his R1200GS ADV and told us this was his favorite road!
A friend calls this the National Geographic shot
Trail gets quite close to the edge in some sections, giving us some great views. Hard to keep your eyes on the trail!
Here you can see the rim of the cliff
From the edge of the rim, you can see a 270 degree bend in the Colorado River, very cool!
"Do you need a hand?"
"Naw, I'm Superman bitch!"
The Shafer Trail is great for big bikes. A little bit of sand in some areas (as above), lots of gravel, some rocky areas, a couple of steep uphill climbs on loose surfaces,and a ton of fun! Neda and I agree this and the Dalton Highway were our top two favorite rides so far on this trip! What cemented this was the 1,000 foot climb up the Shafer Switchbacks on a section of the White Rim Trail:
Here's Neda motoring up one of the switchbacks
Half-way up we peer over the lip of the basin. Awesome! Toes tingling again, BTW...
Looking back on the way we came
Shafer Basin below us, a spectacular sight!
As we reach the top, Neda hugs the cliff wall on the switchback trail. It's Shafer that way...
We've spent over a week in Utah now. Not sure if or when we're ever going to leave this state!
A few days ago, while talking to our fellow Canadians at the McDonald's in Moab, Jacques mentioned The Wave, a very cool-looking geologic formation, which really intrigued us. However, we found out that to visit it, we needed to obtain a permit. Unfortunately, only 20 permits are given out per day - all chosen by a lottery system. Uh oh. Apparently 10 of the 20 permits are issued 4 months in advance over the Internet, so too late for half the permits. The other 10 are picked via a manual lottery at the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) office, so we decide to take our chances there.
We rode all the way to south Utah, past the phenomenally large and imposing red rock mountain/sculpures of Monument Valley, but didn't stop since we had already visited it on our last trip. Our home base was set up at the town of Kanab, where the BLM office was located and we showed up bright and early the next morning for the lottery. Apparently in the summer, the number of visitors swell to over 200 people, all crammed in the tiny lottery room every morning. The largest number was 260 one day in the summer, all vying for 10 permits! Today, the BLM officer told me we had a record low of applicants - 17! 10 permits. 17 people. Our chances look pretty good! We were assigned a number and one by one, balls were drawn out of an ancient hand-cranked bingo machine, the kind that spins the balls first and spits one out of a small hole in the bottom.
We didn't win. Such good odds and we were so unlucky! One of the permit winners, a European couple exclaimed in joy when their number was drawn. Apparently they had come every morning for the last 5 days, and finally today they won a permit! Good for them, I guess we'd come back tomorrow and try again. But we decided if we didn't win tomorrow, we'd move on.
Beautifully coloured rocks line the Wire Pass as we hike towards the slot canyon
There were still a lot of other sights to see in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area. Coyote Buttes is home to a bunch of slot canyons - canyons that are far deeper than they are wide. So we rode down a 13 km dirt road to visit some of them.
Slot canyons are formed by rushing water through very soft rock. The walls of this canyon are sandstone
Slot canyons are very dangerous to hike in if there is any precipitation in the forecast, since the walls are 30-50 feet high and some of the longer canyons have very little open space or footholds to climb up to escape flash floods. We are hiking part of Buckskin Gulch, which is 21 kms long. We can't hike the entire distance because previous rainfalls have left pools of water hip deep and it's too cold to wade through them. In warmer weather, hikers bring a tent and break up the Buckskin Gulch hike over a few days, wading through the much smaller pools in the heat of the Utah summer.
Sunlight plays against the walls of the slot canyon
Falling rocks and logs from above sometimes block the slot canyon and it's necessary to climb over or under obstacles. The walls close in very tightly in some places - we had to take our backpacks off and slide sideways to get through. So glad we skipped the cheeseburgers the day before...
Amazing formations on the slot canyon walls caused by different densities of rock carved away by the water
No hip-waders so end of the line for us
We encounter our first pool of water at Buckskin Gulch. The BLM office warned us there would be much deeper ahead, so we decide to turn back here. In the summer, the reflections of the sun streaming down the top of the canyon and hitting the pools cause amazing reflections against the canyon walls, but this late in the year, the sun barely makes it overhead, leaving the canyon in shadows for most of the day. Would be fun to come back here and wade through some of the pools in July!
The next morning, we show up at the BLM office again but we're disheartened when we see many more lottery hopefuls also attending - 27 in total. Our odds are much slimmer today. Our lottery number is 13. I'm not superstitious, but Neda considers this a lucky sign. When she was born, the hospital gave her a bracelet with a number matching mother to baby - her number was 13.
Sure enough, the first ball that dropped out of the lotto machine - number 13! We felt 25 pairs of envious eyes stinging us from all sides. The permits were written up for the next day and we were given instructions on how to get to The Wave as well as what to bring. It's a 10 km round-trip (I HATE HIKING!) to The Wave and there isn't a marked trail, so the BLM handed us a Treasure Island-style map (""50 paces to the Orange Rock, turn left at the Sandy Hill...") and told us to bring lots of water, and a flashlight in case we stayed out past dark. They recommended not to hike in the darkness for fear of falling into a slot canyon. Great. Now I was starting to worry... Would we get lost? Fall into a slot canyon in the dark? I saw 127 Hours and I didn't want to have to cut my arm off with a Swiss Army Knife...
No trail. We're just wandering around, kinda like our motorcycle trip
Early the next morning, we rode out to Wire Pass again where we hike much further past the slot canyons to get to The Wave. The mornings are getting very cold: -9C (-15F) and we were frozen like popsicles when we arrived. Thankfully, the temperatures would climb to a balmy 16C during the day.
Along the way, we met up with a couple of other lottery winners - Sherry and Dugan from Alaksa! They seemed to know where they were going, so we just followed them...
It took us a couple of hours, and as we got closer to The Wave, the rocks start exhibiting some psychedelic properties
Dugan's a geologist, so this is a bit of professional curiousity
This is it! The Wave! So surreal, the pictures don't do it justice!
The Wave was formed when 190-million year old sand dunes were packed down with other layers of rock and sandstone over time, then this whole mass was slowly carved away by wind and water, leaving behind one really cool acid-trip of a sculpture! We spent 3 hours walking around the area mesmerized by the undulating layers of red rock that to me, resembled the musculature of an anatomy doll with it's skin peeled back.
If Salvador Dali ever made sculptures out of stained wood, it would look like The Wave
Even with 20 people visiting The Wave, we couldn't help but get in the way of each other's pictures
The Wave does not cover a large area, so I could imagine if the BLM opened it up for public access you would not be able to enjoy the beauty of it without having other people crammed in that small space. The 20 permit holders had to take turns getting shots of The Wave, while we each hid behind the hills or hiked elsewhere. I think there are actually 5 people hidden in the picture above.
Hardwood floors at The Wave. Helps to increase the property value...
Surfs Up, Dude!
We ? The Wave!
We've been in Utah for nearly two weeks, there's so much to see and do here, but I fear that if we don't leave soon, we'll have to convert to Mormonism and stay here permanently!
Most of the on-bike shots were taken with the Coolpix AW100 - best ruggedized camera ever! And big buttons so you can use them with gloves. When we're off the bikes, we're using a D3000 primarily, sometimes a D60 and a few of the shots are done with the iPhone. Surprisingly good camera on those iPhones!
We've been holed up in Vegas, fugitive-style, for the past few days, peering out at the world through our hotel window. With rooms only a few dollars more than campsites (subsidized by the casinos), we've Pricelined our way through a 4 different places all over the strip and old Vegas, moving each day as if we were evading the law.
Vegas sunrise against the mountains
Before leaving, we did venture out one evening to take in the colourful lights of Sin City.
Canopy of lights over Fremont Street
We strolled through the 1/2 km stretch of Fremont St while 12 million LEDs flashed hypnotic commercials overhead. The street used to be a popular place for pickpockets targeting tourists distracted by the light show above them, before the city boosted the police presence. Cops on bikes blend in with the street performers and costumed human statues, and we're barraged by a constant cacophony of music from two stages, street musicians and aerial commercials.
We weren't tempted by the casinos at all, but the Deep-Fried Twinkies caught my attention. Wonder what they'll replace them with now that Hostess is out of business?
Every hour on the hour, the casino and store lights dim. A 10-15 minute video is played overhead, set to music. This is the Fremont St Experience!
Watching the lights of the strip from the top of the city
A few weeks ago, Mark from ADV sent us an invite, opening up his guest house to Neda and I. So we spent nearly a week with him and his family, during which time they basically adopted us!
Mark and I installing engine bars on my bike
After getting the bikes powerwashed and cleaned, we got to work installing the SW-Motech crash bars that I had ordered and sent to Mark's place. My big GS has eaten more gravel in the last 5 months than in the last 6 years I've owned her. Since we're showing no aversion to dirty, gravelly, sandy roads, I thought I'd quit being such a tough guy and give her a little more protection. Mark told me he builds and fixes airplanes for a living, so I guess he's qualified to help me out.
Actually, not being very mechanically-minded, I was quite nervous having an airplane mechanic look over my shoulder while installing something as simple as crash bars:
"Um Mark, could you hand me one of those thingies with the C-thingie on the end?"
"You mean a wrench, Gene?"
"If that's what you Americans call it...!"
California oranges growing in Mark's back yard
Mark lives in a small community just north of San Diego, and the weather there is perfect! We've spent so long outrunning the freezing cold, riding further and further south, and outside of Death Valley, this is perhaps the first time we've reached such an ideal climate for riding. And we've got a bed and roof to sleep under as well! We spent a lot of time with Mark and his family; they had us over for dinner, we had them over for dinner (in their own guest house) - they are a really close-knit family with a love for travel and motorsports. Exactly our kind of folks!
Giving Susie some tips on riding. Here I'm showing her how short fingernails facilitate in the braking process
Susie, Mark's wife, mentioned that she was looking to do more street riding but needed to brush up on her skills. Since Neda and I were motorcycle instructors in our past life, we totally jumped on the opportunity to help her out. We borrowed a TW200 from one of Mark's friends and rode it out to the airport where Mark works for some parking lot practice.
After a quick lesson on push-steering, Susie slaloms like a pro!
I try out the TW and AHHH!!! No unbalanced panniers, bike turns too quickly!!!
Mark invited us to stay till after Thanksgiving, telling us that the traffic would be too bad to travel over the holidays. This was our first ever American Thanksgiving, in America, with Americans, and it was such a heart (and belly) warming experience. Mark and Susie don't have a lot of family in the area, so every year they have an "Orphans' Thanksgiving", inviting all of their friends who also don't have family nearby to spend the holidays with. We definitely fell into that category!
Neda helped cook, I just stayed out of the way. But I did put the marshmallows on the yams!
Mark is an excellent cook, timing all the dishes to be ready at the same time with military precision. Neda picked up some great recipes from him, and I was astounded that you could put marshmallows over potatoes and have them turn out so delicious! Copious amounts of brown sugar and pecans also help!
Thanksgiving with our adopted family. Neda and I had such huge grins over the whole week!
Susie made pumpkin pie. Sean, their youngest son in the background
Mike, their oldest son was celebrating his birthday as well!
Mark and Mike and a few of their friends took us to some of their favorite twisty roads in the area. We rode Hwy 76 around Escondido and then up the road to the Palomar observatory
After spending a week with Mark and his family, we're leaving in much better shape (round is a shape, right?) physically and mentally for the journey ahead. The time was well spent gathering new maps, new insurance and new currency. We rode away from our temporary sanctuary waving ecstatic goodbyes. I hope we'll see Mark and Susie and their family again soon in our travels!
Mexico beckons us southwards, promising warmth and a change-up in culture that we've been inching towards our entire trip. We've done more preparation in the last week, than we have in the last 5 months on the road, researching border crossings and paperwork. All the reading we've done says to avoid Tijuana, the congestion at the border is horrendous. Do we cross at Tecate? Go as far west as Mexicali and then cut back into the coast?
As usual, we ask the locals. Mark said we shouldn't have any traffic if we just headed directly south since we were crossing over during Thanksgiving weekend. So we threw out all of our plans and crossed at Tijuana anyway.
A quick wave of a guard's hand and suddenly we are in Mexico!
As promised, there was very little wait-time at the border, and the passport control to enter the Baja Peninsula was non-existent! We found out that we did need a visitor's permit if we wanted to enter mainland Mexico, but this could be done in many places on the Baja. We got our permits and passport stamped at the Banjercito (bank run by the Mexican Army) in Tijuana anyways, but our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP) would have to be obtained further south if and when we decided to cross into the mainland.
Mex-1 hugs the western coastline of the Baja Peninsula south leaving Tijuana
Piercing the veil between San Diego and Tijuana, we were assaulted by the acrid smell of pollution and the haphazard sprawl of shanties lining the hills. My immediately thought was, "It's India all over again!". We weren't frat boys looking for some illicit weekend excitement, so we didn't linger in Tijuana very long. Instead we immediately got on the toll road southbound and I was relieved that the stench of Tijuana evaporated away, replaced by the beauty of the Baja coastline.
Big Mexican flag in Ensenada
Mexicans love huge flags! You can see Tijuana's Mexican flag almost from San Diego, and as we approached Ensenada (about 90 minutes south of TJ), we saw yet another over-sized flag on the beach. We rode past the large cruise ships that dock here and vomit gringo tourists out into the streets of this port town. That should have been our first clue that this really wasn't the Mexico we were looking for. On a side-note, I was trying to figure out if "gringo" was a derogatory term or not. And was I a "gringo"? Or maybe a "chingo"? Then I Googled the term "Chingo"... and found out it was a swear word in Spanish! It means "a shitload" (a whole lot of). I've really got to learn some Spanish before I offend any of the locals with my ill-translated gringo puns!
As we were trying to find affordable accommodations, we found out everything is expensive here because all the tourists are willing to pay US prices on their Mexican vacation. Chingo de Gringos! Not good. We paid dearly for a run-down room on the outskirts of the downtown. It was the most we've paid since leaving Canada!
First Mexican meal in Mexico! Paying gringo prices for not very chingo tacos...
Serenaded in Ensenada. Hey where's his Mariachi outfit...?!?
Blurry photo because we were ready to bolt from the surly-looking mariachi who obviously didn't want his picture taken...
The next morning after breakfast, we met another rider, Johnny, who I'm guessing owns a Ducati dealership in Chicago. He visits Baja California quite often and he told us that Ensenada was a dump and to get the hell out as soon as we could. We were originally planning to take some Spanish classes here in town, but this conversation convinced us to go elsewhere.
Hitting the road again! Mex-1 southbound out of Ensenada
El Rosario is about a 3.5 hour ride south of Ensenada. Neda read about a great place to stay the night, very cheap and nice, called the Baja Cactus Motel. We scooped up the last room, a luxury suite above the lobby!
Neda is 3Ging on our balcony
So we got Neda a SIM chip in Ensenada for her iPhone and now she's addicted to the 3G down here. We're very surprised at the telecommunications infrastructure in Baja. Seems like they've got more coverage than some parts of the US! And cheaper as well!
Framed pictures of all the Baja racers line the walls of Mama Espinosa's, many of them personally signed. And Neda is still 3Ging...
For the next couple of days, we frequented Mama Espinosa's, a well-known seafood restaurant beside the motel. El Rosario is one of the first check-points in the famous Baja 1000, which runs the 1000 off-road miles from Ensenada to La Paz at the southern tip of the peninsula. While motorcycle racers complete the course in a little over 12 hours in riding time, we're taking a much more sedate, and less sandy route towards La Paz.
We stayed for a couple of nights in El Rosario, taking advantage of the motel's internet to Skype into Sidestand Up, an Internet radio talk show that we had been invited to participate in. It was a really fun experience! Before our segment we got to hang out in the chat-room and talk to some of the followers of our blog. It got a bit stressful when our Skype session dropped us from the call though, as I frantically tried to get us reconnected and Neda gave a play-by-play in the chat room.
Posing with the cactus trees
The next morning, we continued our own Baja 1000 southwards. Mex-1 is very nicely maintained, great pavement and the sections that weave through the mountains of the peninsula are very twisty, which gives us a bit of entertainment. Unfortunately, we can't apex properly through the left-handers because the road is so narrow and has no shoulders. This means that on-coming trucks and 18-wheelers consistently run over the yellow line into our lane for fear of running off the narrow road. And the faster they drive, the more they encroach on our side of the road! We run a pretty tight curb line through all the blind curves up and down the mountainside.
Hiking around the crazy cacti
There are tons of cacti here. And all sorts. Tall, skinny ones, short and fat ones. All different shapes and sizes. Thousands of them line the landscape on either side of the road and I imagine they are spectators on race day, watching Neda and I zoom through the curves of our Baja 10000. Speaking of which, we found out that we just missed the real race by a couple of weeks, that would have been amazing to watch!
Not sure what would have happened if she actually caught hold of it. 'Cause my topcase is already fulll...
While we were in San Diego Mark put us in touch with his friend in Mexico to help us out while we were traveling in the Baja Peninsula. Dan lives in Bahia de Los Angeles (LA Bay), which is on the east coast of the Baja, and he invited us to crash for the night in his cabin by the beachfront on our way south. We've been e-mailing Dan for the last few days as well, and he told us that the Spanish school in La Paz was pretty good, so we're kind of of glad that we're out of Ensenada.
Dan's place by the beach
We left El Rosario pretty late in the day, so the sun was setting fairly fast as we rode Mex-1 southbound and then took a detour eastwards on Mex-12 towards the Gulf of California. The road winds up and over the Sierra de San Borja mountains, and we're barraged by the high winds that the area is known for. It's pitch dark (and only around 5PM) when we arrive at LA Bay, and Dan's place is nothing but a GPS latitude and longitude co-ordinate outside of the town, down an unmarked sandy road that runs parallel to the beach. We had a rule before entering Mexico that we wouldn't ride in the dark - didn't take long to break that rule. We may have to get up a bit earlier now that the sun sets so soon...
The full moon is as high and bright over the Sea of Cortez - view from Dan's cabin
Dan and Nancy greeted us with lots of alcohol and fresh fish and we spent the evening getting very lubricated with them. Dan served us some yellowtail sashimi from a catch earlier on in the day, and we were in heaven! We don't eat sushi very much any more these days and it was such a treat. We got a great sense of what brings ex-pats down to LA Bay, living a cost-effective lifestyle and enjoying the simpler things in life - in Dan's case, it's sport fishing and there's no better place in the Baja for it than LA Bay!
Later that night, a well liquored-up Neda passes out in the cabin. Meanwhile, I am enthralled by the view and walk around the area taking lots of pictures. I don't sleep too much as I want to get a picture of the rising sun over the bay.
Pastel colours in paradise
Dan's cabin, rising sun behind me reflected in the window. And the moon is still visible!
Sunrise over the Sea of Cortez
The reason why LA Bay is such a great place for fishing is that it's one of the few safe harbours in the Sea of Cortez that is protected from the high winds and waves by the number of large islands in the bay. Which also makes it a popular place to dock boats in the marina. Dan told us that not all is paradise, as there's a large drug problem in town and a result, rampant property theft from tweakers looking to support their crystal meth habit.
This is something that I've been wary about, as Mexico does have a very bad reputation in the North American media for the drug-related crime and violence. Neda and I have done a lot of research, trying to balance the Canadian and US state-issued travel advisories, the news articles and what other overland travelers have written about their journey through Mexico. We suspect that there's a truth that lies somewhere between sensationalism and Pollyannaism.
GS slowly warming up
Ex-Pat dreams by the beachside. I've been wandering around taking pictures for over an hour and Neda is still asleep
Cacti against the rising sun over the Sea of Cortez
Dan and Nancy hooking us up with restaurants and things to see and do in the Baja Peninsula
We got treated to a great Mexican breakfast by Dan and Nancy
Nancy at the restaurant
Our very kind and generous host, Dan
We've run into so many awesome people on our trip, and meeting Dan and Nancy really gave us some insight into life as ex-pats in Baja!
Southwards we go, armed with a list of places and things to see courtesy of Dan and Nancy! Our trip is like a scavenger hunt! Today we've been recommended to try to make it to Santa Rosalita for the night, only 400 kms away, but since we we're leaving LA Bay after a late breakfast (again, courtesy of Dan), we would probably arrive just before the sun sets.
The ride down Mex-1 was more of the same scenery - beautiful blacktop, twists and turns around the mountains and the ever present cacti along the side of the road cheering us on. Our journey was punctuated by the odd military checkpoint. Soldiers with machine guns stop us and ask about our destination. They're courteous to us despite our lack of Espagnol, and they are all so very young, and very curious about our motorcycles and our trip. These stops are meant to catch drug traffickers, and quite interestingly, we have heard that this effort is partly subsidized by the US government!
Riding into the port town of Santa Rosalia
Santa Rosalia is just south of the Baja Sur (Baja South) border. We lose an hour because of a peculiar time change because this timezone crossing is latitudinal, not longitudinal, placing Baja Sur into MST. This means the sun is still up at 5PM when we arrive at this port city on the shores of the Gulf of California. The outskirts of town are a mixture of industrial buildings and shacks along the roadside. We are tired and hungry and the sun is setting fast, so we book into the first nice (but relatively pricey) hotel and walk into town to find some food. We really do have to make an effort in finding some cheaper accommodations. Baja is a lot more expensive than I thought Mexico would be...
Something smells good in Santa Rosalia!
Neda y nada de gringos
We bypass a few restaurants because there were too many gringos in there. We're really looking for a "local" experience, and we find one with a Mexican family eating inside. When we're seated, the waiter hands us a gringo menu in English. *sigh* BYW, in the picture above, Neda is sipping on a "Michelada". It's a delicious /lime/salt concoction and was recommended to us by Yaw, who was our host in Seattle a couple of months ago. Wow, I can't believe we spent two months roaming around the western United States!
The rest of the evening we spent walking around the very small centros area, and we found ourselves hanging out with all the local families and teenagers in the town square watching some people set up a stage presumably for a concert this weekend. Too bad we wouldn't be sticking around, as Neda has just arranged for us to start Spanish classes in La Paz for next Monday morning. The curse of "a schedule" strikes again! Everytime we have to be somewhere at a certain date or time, my chest starts to constrict a little and my heart rate goes up. Or maybe it's just that spicy enchilada we had for dinner...
Retail therapy in Mulege
Our next destination on the way to La Paz is Mulege (pronounced Moolah-Hey), also recommended by Dan and Nancy. This is a quaint town full of neat places to window shop for local arts and crafts and boutique-y restaurants and hotels. As we approached Mulege, the desert flora transformed from cacti to lush, tropical palm trees, courtesy of the Rio de Santa Rosalia. The whole town is in the river valley and was subject to bad flooding in recent years due to the hurricanes in the area.
Flowers in Mulege
Lunch in Mulege
We stopped for lunch in a great hotel/restaurant where we met a whole bunch of gringos from Canada! Penticton, BC specifically. One couple was here on a scouting vacation, looking to move to the area. Apparently, there is a lot of ex-pat interest in Baja Sur.
Ater lunch, we hit the road and ride past some great looking beaches
WTF?!! I wish somebody had told us there was sand in the Baja!!!
Loreto is only 200 kms away from Santa Rosalia, so we arrived early enough to find a great (and by great I mean cheap) motel right near the centre of town.
These cute dogs live on the roof of our hotel
We walked around Loreto the whole evening, wonderful looking town!
Some other gringo bikers parked outside the more expensive hotel in the centre of town
The Mission in Loreto
Mission of Our Lady of Loreto is considered a historical monument
We heard some music coming from inside the Mission, so we sat in on some musicians and singers at the front of the church. We stayed for quite some time, enjoying the sounds of Spanish hymns sung softly in reverence. We are having such a wonderful experience wandering through Baja Sur.
Shops at nighttime near the town square
Christmas soon! But first, the Mayan Apocalypse...
The town squares are always the centre of activity. Here we watch a dance class underway lit by streetlights
And then off to finish the night with my favorite , Negra Modelo!
Getting ready for bedtime in Loreto
We are all set to push onwards to La Paz in the morning. On our farewell ride through the town square, we notice quite a lot of people gathered in the courtyard. And horses! Just like bikers meeting up at parking lot to go riding, these horse riders were getting together to ride to the next town. They gathered quite some attention!
In the motorcycle world, this would be called "posing"
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