September 29, 2009 GMT
Salt Lake City To San Diego

We left Salt Lake City late morning on the 11th of September and drove to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Island is reached from a 6 mile causeway that is built in the lake, the Island large enough to feel isolated on a quite day and we spent a couple of hours riding on car free roads enjoying the scenery and the Bison that live on the Island (a herd of about 600). Our only complaint was that it was scorching hot and the only drink we could finf was a soft drinks machine that was out of order.
The road to Wendover, our destination, was a long straight dual carriageway only made bearable by the scenery of the Bonneville Salt Flats, which are a remainder from the dried up Bonneville Lake that used to be there and which Salt Lake is a remnant of. The Flats go on for over a 100 miles and eventually we came to the Bonneville Speedway that has been the site of many historic land speed records, and is still used. The speedway is a 10 mile straight, and after hooking up with a BMW 650 Dakar rider we rode to have a look at the site. It was empty and with nobody to tell us not to we both rode on the salt. Personally it was a great feeling to ride fast over the shining salt.
After a few videos and many more pictures we rode with our new friend to Wendover to Find a hotel for the night. Wendover is in Utah and West Wendover, which adjoins it, is in Nevada and the contrast between the 2 states couldn't be starker. On the Utah side is a normal well lit street, but with no outstanding features, while on the Nevada side are the Casinos and hotels with bright lights and neon signs.
Next day we decided to change our plans to ride to Bryce Canyon and headed for Zion Canyon instead; apart from being closer we would meet the Dakar rider there. We set off on the road to Zion while he went off-road via the old Pony Express trail. Again the road was long and straight with stretches of 9 miles of road without bends; this resulted in tiredness that forced us to stop for half an hour under a tree while I slept and Marilyn kept watch. The scenery improved dramatically as we approached Zion with the red layered rock glistening in the evening sun. We were greeted by a herd of Mule Deer grazing on the grass, accompanied by Wild Turkey at the front of the hotel.
The next day we walked along side the Virgen River, which created the canyon over millions of years, on a trail with walls of the canyon gradually getting closer to become "The Narrows" and which goes on for many more miles than we walked. The path along the river ends before The Narrows and we walked and then waded through the water sometimes waste deep, all the while enjoying the scenery and taking numerous pictures and videos. Walking back we saw people taking pictures of what appeared to be a rock until we got closer and realised it was a Tarantula - naturally we took photos too.
The next day I rode along the road alone out of the Canyon Park, a 12 mile ride that goes toward Bryce Canyon and rises towards the top of Zion Canyon along a mountain pass full of bends and hairpins that was only spoilt by all the other tourists! Later we walked the trail to Angels Landing, a 5 mile round walk, that took us up steep paths and included a steep series of ramps called Wallies Wiggles that hairpin their way up the side of the mountain. The last half mile was extremely steep and with no clear path to follow the only way up is by using the chains supported on posts. Its a precarious walk with steep drops on either side of the path. The view at the top was outstanding and the shape of the canyon clearly defined. For those that are interested there are entries on U-tube that others have taken that show the path and the views.
The following day we set off for Las Vegas, into the Nevada Desert, with the temperature rising to 38C. The first view of Vegas was through a film of mist as we rode down a hill in the desert. We were left with mixed feelings of Las Vegas, a very bright vibrant and friendly place; it was hard to shake of the feeling that it wasn't a land of fantasy - a stark contrast to the natural beauty of Zion National Park. Unfortunatly we didn't make our fortune there and left with the casinos being a little richer than when we arrived!
We left Las Vegas at noon, the worst time of day, in temperatures of 35C and rode to Needles in California. Needles is a small town on what used to be Route 66, and like a lot of these towns is now bypassed by the interstate 40. We decided that we would leave early in the morning the next day in order to ride before the sun was too hot. The ride to Brawley took us through desert and temperatures in the high 30's. We stayed in Brawley for 2 days so we would miss the weekend on the California coast with not much to say about it. The ride to Encinitas went through more desert and then green countryside into mountains with some of the most twisty roads yet encountered; one strech of about 12 miles was really fun to ride.
We stayed in Encinitas for 5 days, resting and sitting on the beach and watching spectacular sunsets. The rest of the time involved getting the bike serviced at San Diego BMW and making preparations for the ride to Mexico. We did some sightseeing around San Diego with the Old Town being a highlight and Margaritas their speciality.
Our intention was to cross into Mexico at Tecate, a quieter crossing than at Tijuana, and then get the necessary permits for ourselves and the bike sorted when we get the ferry to mainland Mexico from Baja California. However, when we had crossed at Tecate the customs told us that we wouldn't get the permit for the bike anywhere but Tijuana or Mexicali. We decided on Mexicali as it would cause less disruption to our intended route. Mexicali is about 150 KM East of Tecate and we chose to ride on the toll road motorway instead of the free road to save time. The first 60 KM passed through desert and then an amazing 10-15 KM of the twistiest road a motorway should ever take. We followed a lorry apparently driven by a frustrated Grand Prix diver who overtook everything and used both lanes of the motorway for his enjoyment.
We arrived in Mexicali at mid-afternoon with the temperature at 49C and toured the streets near the border until we found the crossing. What we didn't know was that there are 2 crossings at Mexicali and we had arrived at the one where the permit office was closed. We rode on through the streets in the general direction the waving hand of the customs officer directed us until a man on a scooter asked what we were looking for. He then drove in front of us and directed us to the second crossing point and we were able to sort out the permit. All this had taken the whole afternoon and we decided to call it a day and stopped at a hotel.
Next day we left early again and rode to San Felipe, a fishing village on the Cortes Sea in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a resort favoured by Americans who like to holiday here and there are agencies for buying holiday homes.
The temperature is still in the high 30's as we write this at 1:30 in the afternoon. Tomorrow we will continue along the coast and on tarmac roads for a while before riding some unpaved roads to join Highway 1 to the West Coast of Baja California.

Posted by Albert Sollini at September 29, 2009 05:47 AM GMT
 
 

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