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Thread: Baja para dos - Nine-day adventure in Baja Mexico...

  1. #1
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    Baja para dos - Nine-day adventure in Baja Mexico...

    Ever since we discovered adventure motorcycling, a few years ago, my wife, Chantil, and I have dreamed of riding Baja. This was our first motorcycle trip outside the protective womb of the USA and I was a bit nervious if not a little scared. To calm the concerns I planned, planned, and planned some more. The following is just a small glimpse into the planning process. Perhaps it will help other folks who feel the same anxiety but can't shake the desire to discover Baja on your own.

    Mission Planning

    Baja Preparation:
    All the preparation and a little bit of lack of preparation has got us to this moment. I’ve never prepared as much for a trip. Part of the reason for the preparation are the concerns I have about traveling in a country I don’t know much about other than what I’ve read. The US Department of State travel warnings ( were a bit scary to read. If you believe the headlines about Mexico you may get the feeling that nearly every American who visits is victim to some act of robbery or violence. There is no shortage of people who warn “I once had a friend who (insert your terrorizing story here)!” Military checkpoint, crooked cops, drugs, Trump's "bad hombres", and chupacabra! What is an adventure rider to do?

    The major reason for the preparation was that I have to go through an extensive request process in order to get permission to go to Mexico from my employer - the US Navy. I drafted up a professional looking memo that included my itinerary and all the things I had considered in order to have a safe trip.

    We considered:
    • The route: A HUGE thanks to gpsKevin for publishing the routes of his previous trips. I did extensive research on each day of our trip using gpsKevin’s routes as a guide. Having a red line to follow in a new world was a humungous comfort. Link:

    • Our two mules: Both BMW G650GS. My 2012 Sertao, named Apache, has about 20K miles and Chantil 2011 mule, Chocolate, has almost 30K miles. They are outfitted for overland travel. My gear and bags weigh almost 100 lbs. I weight, with all my riding gear, 220 lbs.

    • Gear: We have always been proponents of All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT). I even wear a neck brace.

    • Night: No riding at night. We heard horror stories of stray animals and loco semi-truck drivers. No, gracias.

    • Fuel: Each of our mules has a range of about 185-200 miles. An extra 1.75 gal RotoPax gets us another 50 miles each. We heard you can buy gasolina from almost anyone so we should be ok.

    • Water: We each carry a 3-liter Camelback and another 1.75 gal RotoPax between the two of us. It should be enough for a day or two of riding off the beaten path.

    • Spanish: My Spanish is poor. Chantil’s is even worse. I took two years in high school so I know how to pronounce words and I can read a bit. Understanding spoken Spanish is another level that I don’t feel comfortable with. Downloading the Spanish dictionary into the Google Translate app proved to be a blessing. We also had a small pocket phrasebook but I never even opened it during the entire trip.

    • Documentation: Passport, Driver License, FMM tourist card, and insurance were with me in my motorcycle jacket pocket. Other documents stayed in the tank bag.

    • Pesos: We didn’t use an ATMs or credit card the entire trip. We exchanged about 19,000 pesos ($1,000 UDS) before the trip. Believe me, 19,000 pesos is a big wad of cash. We distributed the money between the two bikes. I carried less than 1,000 pesos in my pocket. I also had a throw-away wallet with some old ATM cards, an old ID, and some pesos just in case all the horror stories were true.

    • Communication: Although I had the option of using Verizon wireless it turned out that everywhere I checked for a signal there was none. All towns had restaurants with WiFi. We activated our Garmin inReach for the duration of our trip but never even turned it on other than to check that is was functional before leaving on the trip.

    There was a bit of lack or preparation as well. We attempted to do this trip in March but I discovered that my passport had expired about 5 weeks before our scheduled trip. No passport, no Mexico. A new one arrived about three weeks before the trip.

    In addition to the passport issue, I had my wallet stolen on a recent Death Valley trip (Yes, in the great US of A). I needed to wait for a new drivers license that was mailed from Florida. It ended up arriving the day before we left on our trip - how’s that for timing?!

    We purchased motorcycle insurance for the 9 days we were expecting to be in Baja. It costed $118.79 USD for each of the mules. Talk about bad hombres. Robbery.
    Finally, we pre-purchased the Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) online. Technically it’s required for visits to Mexico longer than 7 days. It costed 500 pesos (~$26 USD) for each of us.

    Some teaser photos from the trip:

    Cactus forests

    Super-bloom flowers

    Isolated dirt roads

    Dry lake beds

    Good (and cheap) eats

    Fun times

    Cold drinks in crazy corners

    High winds


    Our two mules

    More to come…

  2. #2
    sMiling Voni's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    53 sMiles south of Alpine, TX USA
    Can't wait to read more!

    I so appreciate you sharing it here!

    Live fully. Laugh deeply. Love widely.
    BMW MOA Ambassador Emeritus / FOM / Roving Forum Moderator/
    Selected Friends of Wile E Coyote/ A Million 100 thousand BMW sMiles

  3. #3
    Back in the Saddle mcmxcivrs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Baja is on my bucket list of rides to do. Hopefully in 2020 right after retirement. Looking forward to seeing more of your experience.
    Ed Miller, Calgary, AB
    2008 K1200GT, 2019 F850GSA

  4. #4
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017

    Baja Day 1, Saturday, April 22nd. San Diego, USA to Mike’s Sky Rancho
    106 miles paved + 91 miles dirt = 197 total miles (317 km)

    After finishing up the last bit of packing we were on the road around 8AM. After an hour of riding on Otay Lakes Road, Campo Road, and then to Tecate Road we crossed into Mexico via the Tacate entry point. Entering the country was as easy as rolling up to a flip gate, waiting a few seconds, waiting for the gate to flip open, and then proceeding into Mexico. We park at the inspection area expecting that officials would need to look at our paperwork and bikes. No one seemed to care about the bikes; only cargo vans or trucks. We were motioned to park around the fence to the right. A teenage security guard was in charge of watching the parking spots. He seemed to spend more time on his smart-phone but at least he sat next to the bikes. We decided to have Chantil watch the bikes while I went to find out how to get our FMM and passports processed and stamped. Getting into the office proved to be a maze; I had to cross the street, walk back into the US side, and then cross another street, before walking into a small office. I greeted myself to a large mustached señor who sat behind a computer. I showed him my paperwork and he grumpily asked me to fill out the FMM. I politely tried to explain that I had already filled it out online and showed him the receipt but he didn’t seem to care. The receipt didn’t look like the form he handed me so I went to filling it out. Many of the boxes were in English so I didn’t have to translate via my smart phone. I handed him the form and my passport and he demanded I pay the 500 pesos. I told him in Spanish that I had already paid and showed him the receipt. He didn’t care and told me I had to go see the cashier and pay the 500 pesos before he would stamp my passport. I walked to the cashier and tried to explain that I had paid and again showed my receipt. He made a call to someone and then replied that it didn’t matter; I still had to pay. At this point I’m a bit fed up. I know that the FMM is only required if you spend more than 7 days in country but I’m not willing to pay the fee again. I decide to tell him that I’ll only be in Mexico for 7 days and then he sends me back to the original señor. I again explain that I’ll only be in country for 7 days and he reluctantly stamps the FMM and passport. Ugh, bureaucracy. At least I only wasted 30 minutes. I’ve heard that other countries can be a lot worse.

    Chantil was patiently waiting the whole time by the bikes. I don’t want her to deal with the same thing I did so I went with her to explain the process. The grumpy señor was much nicer to Chantil and he stamped her paperwork and we proceed though a bag scanner and back to the bikes.

    Before long we are riding the streets of Tacate. We’ve already been warned that Mexicans don’t stop for ALTO (STOP) signs so we are ready. We were surprised how true this is. It seems all Mexicans treat ALTO signs as YIELDs. We stop anyhow since we don’t want our first minutes of our trip to be sidelined by a corrupt cop looking for some lunch money.

    There is an immediate difference between the two borders. Many of the streets in Baja are just packed dirt. The paved ones are narrow and many don’t have any lines painted on them. The ALTO signs are haphazardly placed at different sides of the intersection and many are covered by other street signs or overgrown vegetation. The buildings seem a bit more run-down than those on the US side. Our tensions were high as we proceeded away from Tacate to the east and onto the Mexican Federal Highway 2.

    Highway 2 has a section that is free or tolled. We decide to take the tolled section. A small fee puts you on some of the most beautiful pavement in Baja. A wide, two-laned, shouldered, highway gets us away from the chaotic streets of the border town of Tacate. It's funny; Baja has figured out how to get the US tourists to pay for it’s nicest roads.

    We are making good time on the highway and begin to relax a bit. Before long we are looking for the exit that will put us near Ejido Baja California and onto the first dirt of the day via Luis EcheverrÍa Alvarez-Santa Lucía Road. Once on the dirt, we feel like we are in our element - no people - no cars - just the two of us enjoying the road and the sunny day.

    Gateway to a Rancho that we passed through on our way to Highway 3

    Is this the Chupacabra?

    Beautiful yellow flowers blooming everywhere

    Tires and flowers

    The dirt continued uneventfully south towards Mexican Federal Highway 3. We didn’t experience too much trouble but did get into some deep sand for a short section. Chantil ended up being the first to drop her mule. It would be the first of about a handful of dismounts for each of us during the entire trip. Just before reaching Highway 3, we came across two gates and a farmer taking care of his animals. We were kindly asked to leave the gates open as we proceeded along the road. Our first interaction with folks while off-the-beaten-path and it was favorable!?! Where are all the bad hombres that Trump told us about?

    Dropped Mule

    ¿El Hongo o Ojos Negros?

    Great dirt roads and comfortable temperatures

    Mexican Federal Highway 3 was a decent road that got us to Lazaro Card in short order. This was our first gas stop. The PEMEX station proved to be easy to navigate; a simple “Magna (87 octane), por favor.” and the attendant filled up our tank, took payment, and gave us change. I’m finding that I miss the PEMEX stations now that I am back in the US.

    Highway twisties

    Springtime in Baja

    Just enjoying the road with the two of us

    The dirt road from Lezaro Card to Mike’s Sky Rancho wasn’t too bad but we were getting tired. A group of riders barreled past us. We assumed they were heading to the same destination but it would be a little while before we met them. We ended up getting to Mike’s a bit after dark. It was a relief to get to our first destination after a long day of riding. 200 miles is a long day for us, especially when half of it is dirt.

    Mexicans seem to like their Tacate but why is the can left on the road? We added it to our small collection of trash.

    Our first water-crossing of the trip.

    I’ll share my thoughts on Mike’s Sky Ranch. I suspect that they are different than most but, after all, they are my thoughts. I’m not a huge fan of Mike’s. I felt like the prices for the meal, food, and camping was highly inflated for Baja. I understand that it’s out in the boonies and it’s a popular area for Baja racers, but does it justify the prices? I didn’t find Mike to be that welcoming; he didn’t really greet us, charged inflated exchange rates when paying in pesos, and seemed to pressure us into getting a room even though we just wanted to camp. The meal wasn’t that good, even though we were extremely hungry. I just don’t see the charm. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink. Again, my thoughts.

    However, the other visitors we ran into were really nice and offered their advice on our next day’s itinerary. They seemed to show concern that our heavy bikes would have some issues on the roads south of Mike’s. They recommended another option and shared the GPS waypoints so I would be able to find the road the next morning. I’m glad we took their advice because we got to experience one of the most beautiful super-blooms we’ve ever witnessed.

    KTM Adventure

    My friend and excellent motorcycle photographer Al "Fonz" Palaima was here!

    After setting up our tent and sleeping bags in the grass next to the swimming pool, we drifted off to a well earned night of sleep…
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-01-2017 at 09:07 AM.

  5. #5
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017

    Baja Day 2, Sunday, April 23rd. Mike’s Sky Rancho to beach camping just south of Vicente Guerrero.
    44 miles paved + 88 miles dirt = 132 total miles (212 km)

    I woke up just before sunrise to the sounds of a rooster and a barking dog. Otherwise, the atmosphere was quiet at Mike’s since most folks decided to sleep in a bit before starting their day. I was able to walk around and snap some pictures at the beginning of what would be a beautiful day. I especially liked the abstract photo of the steps of the pool.

    Pool steps

    Every window at Mike’s is covered in stickers

    Polaris RZR group

    Today we were going to ride what was described to me as the “wine road”. It did involve some back tracking to the town of Lázaro Cárdenas, but we heard that we might be able to catch the motorcycle portion of the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. We also wanted to get an early start to ensure the we wouldn’t be sharing the road with the cars and trucks that would be racing later that day.

    Unhappy dog at Mike’s

    Once we broke down camp and packed the mules, we were on our way back north for a little bit before taking a right along the easiest road into and out of Mike’s. It was a well traveled section of graded dirt all the way to Highway 3.

    Leaving Mike’s

    Once on pavement it was a short jaunt to Lázaro Cárdenas where we were greeted by a somewhat intimidating Policía Federal or “Federales” truck at the intersection. There were several armed men, dressed in black with bandanas that cover their faces, standing in the bed of the black truck. I thought they were motioning me to pull alongside but later realized they were just motioning me to move along. To cover my confusion I asked “¿Gasolina?” and they pointed me in the direction of the PEMEX station down the road. By the way, this site had some good info on what to expect from military and police in Baja: LINK

    Policía Federal - Photo from:

    After gassing up, we rode down the dirt road and found a restaurant serving breakfast. It offered a place to use the bathroom, wash your hands, breakfast of omelets and pancakes, and a nice patio to view the motorcycle racers rolling though the checkpoint between race sections. We answered a few questions about our trip from some folks who were there supporting one of the racers. They seemed impressed after noticing our Florida plates and mentioned “You two are a long way from Florida.” They were probably less impressed when we explained that we lived in San Diego and kept our Florida plates to maintain our Florida residency. It turns out they were heading to San Filipe that night and then heading south along the race route to finish in Cabo San Lucas four days later. It seems like a shame to being traveling that fast though Baja.

    Chips are a staple in Mexico

    After a relaxing and fulfilling breakfast we saddled up the mules and were on our way to Highway 1 via the Camino a Lazaro Cardenas Road. This is a roughly 36 mile-long stretch of dirt road that winds around beautiful hills. It rewarded us with miles and miles (km and km) of beautiful flowers that bloomed from horizon to horizon. It really was a picturesque road and I think we were really blessed to have witnessed it during a super-bloom event.

    Riding through desert terrain


    Beautiful hills

    The next 24 miles, riding south along Highway 1, gave us a break from the long afternoon of dirt and wash-boarded roads. As this point I realized that the chances of us arriving to our planned destination of San Quintín were unlikely. Our best bet for sleep that night was probably along the beach south of Vicente Guerrero.

    Following the red GPSr track through town brought us to the Pacific Ocean where there were hundreds of large sacks of beach rocks. Most likely they were being harvested (is that the right word for rocks?) and distributed all over the world for decorative walls. We also walked around an abandoned church building. It surprises me that such a beautiful church next to the beach was just sitting there falling apart. The other surprise was just how isolated the beaches were; you could go miles and not see another person.

    Bags of rocks

    Mules taking a break

    Old church cross


    After a short break we continued south along a dirt, and sometimes sandy, road that parallel the beach. There were three sections of the road that had been washed away. Although there were bypasses, they were relatively steep. At one section, the climb out of the wash was so steep that I didn’t think we would make it up with the heavy bikes. Fortunately we had just ran into a group of dirt-bike riders and they helped me push the bikes up the hill. It was really nice of them to offer their help. Because of their generosity I was looking for an opportunity to “pay it forward” of sorts. Little did I know that an opportunity would come later that day.

    Dead end

    One of the highlights of this particular beach was seeing the remains of the Mexican coastal freighter Isla del Carmen. Apparently the rumor is that she was run aground for insurance reasons in 1982. All that exists after 35 years of pounding ocean waves is the metal backbone of this once proud vessel.

    Isla del Carmen shipwreck

    Old painted boat

    Boats and bikes

    Overlooking the beach

    After taking a short break at the Isla del Carmen, we returned to Highway 1 for a short nine-mile stretch of pavement before following the GPSr track through the town of Vicente Guerrero. As we were approaching the beach I realized our chance of paying it forward had arrived. There was a group of high-school-aged kids stuck in the sand with there two-wheel drive truck. They looked like they had been stuck for sometime. Although we could not understand each other we tried to push the truck free from the sand but to no avail. Realizing that we only had an hour before sunset I opted to reduce the tire pressure in the rear wheels. They seemed to understand what I was doing an offered a screw to help press the pressure release valve on the tire. Before long we had reduced the pressure on the rear wheels to 20 lbs. Next I motioned for a few of them to jump in the bed of the truck and put weight on the axle. As the driver pressed the gas, the tires dug in and the truck moved along without that much effort. They were free of the sand! We snapped this quick photo of the kids and me before waving goodbye. This good deed later paid off on day nine of our trip…

  6. #6
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017
    Baja Day 2 continued...

    Helping out and making friends

    It was getting dark so we rode south a bit more to an isolated section of the beach and set up camp. Although it was blowing pretty hard, we managed to set up the tent and get it staked down with some large rocks for anchors. Once inside the tent it was relatively cozy. With the sound of the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean, we both drifted off to a deep sleep within a short period of time.

    Shadow peeps

    Sunset silhouette

    A foggy sunset

    Mules parked in the sand for the night
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-02-2017 at 10:07 AM.

  7. #7
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017

    Baja Day 3, Monday, April 24rd. Beach south of Vicente Guerrero to El Rosario.
    43 miles paved + 33 miles dirt = 76 total miles (122 km)

    Although the wind howled all night, we hardly noticed. We slept hard. The morning reveled that the beach was as remote as it was when we went to bed; not a soul for miles and miles of ocean. Today was one of the days I was really looking forward to - the day we planned to ride on the beach of the Pacific Ocean.

    After packing up the tent and sleeping bags we coaxed the mules out of the deep sand. This is not an easy task since they weight about 540 lbs with all their fuel, fluids, and luggage. Throw on another 200 lbs of rider and gear and you’ve got a bike that doesn’t handle the sand well unless it’s at speed. Getting it to speed often feels like you are trying to steer a wild bull that pitches from side to side. It is exhausting!

    Deep sand sucks

    I was hoping for some magically paved road to the hard packed sand of the beach but it was not to be. Getting to the promised land was going to take some work. I searched for a reasonably short section of deep sand and went for it. The efforts were challenging but oh were they worth it!

    Riding on the beach with an adventure bike is a joy. You could travel quite easily on the sand just above the tidal zone; an optimal area between the deep sand and the ocean waves. We rode for quite a long time up and down the beach. The entire time we only saw one truck and a dog. Miles of miles of beach to enjoy!

    Beach bikes

    The mules on the beach

    Sand peso

    Beach dune

    Chantil enjoying the beach

    Beach riding

    Boat on the beach

    Getting off the beach was another story all together. We rode as far south as we could before the ocean joined the rocky cliff walls. There was a seriously deep sandy section that climbed away from the beach. I attempted it but was unsuccessful. We got the bikes turned around and headed north looking for a better way off the beach. We found it at a privately ran camp-site that we used to get to the main road. The owner wanted us to stay for the day but we explained we had to get to El Rosario. He waved us well as we continued south along the dirt road to Highway 1.

    By now it was pretty late in the morning. We were hungry from all the work getting the bikes through the sand. We continued along the shoulder of Highway 1 looking at all the hand-painted signs and smelling all the restaurant food trying to find something that we felt like eating. I was in the mode for a breakfast burrito and we found it after riding south for about four blocks. It turned out to be a quite restaurant with fast internet, great service, and well prepared food. Two breakfast burritos and a bottled juice for each of us only costed 77 pesos ($4.09 USD)! This is why folks love Mexico. On our way out, one of the waitresses showed us her smart phone with Google Translate installed; the screen read “Have safe trip.” It warmed our hearts that she would take the time to reach out to us in our own language. Life is good!

    La Moreliana for breakfast and internet

    Hand painted church sign

    Baja bus

    We topped off our water and fuel shortly after eating and continued along roughly 36 miles on Highway 1, to our next waypoint - The exit to La Lobera. We did a lot of research on different places to visit along our route and La Lobera seemed like one of the more interesting - A huge sea cave where the ceiling collapsed exposing a “secret beach” that is enjoyed by Sea Lions.

    A field of small red flowers

    Flower closeup

    The road to La Lobera was enjoyable and offered some rutted climbs along a hard-packed dirt road. The decent into the parking area was breathtaking, with sand-stone colored cliffs and crashing ocean waves. The only civilization was a white building, that looked unfinished with a white car parked near it. It looked like we were the only people there. As we descended the hill, a floppy-eared dog happily greeted us. After we parked and shut down the bikes I reached into my food bag and offered him a small piece of beef jerky. He rewarded us by showing us all the wonderful views around La Lobera including a cliff-side view up the road from the cave. Making four-legged friends.

    Ocean cliffs

    Floppy-eared dog

  8. #8
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017
    Baja Day 3 continued...

    La Lobera

    No moleste

    Enjoying the Sea Lions

    Lobos marinos

    Cliff restaurant (unfinished)

    Seaside cliffs

    We took our time to explore around, enjoyed lunch at the viewing area, and then slowly made our way back to the mules to finish the last leg of our trip to El Rosario.

    Alex Chacón inspired

    The last six-miles of Highway 1 was uneventful. There was a military checkpoint but we were quickly waved around the semi-trucks and on our way.

    Military check-point

    Once we arrived in town, we topped off our tanks, and then checked into the Baja Cactus Hotel. I had no idea what to expect of the hotel and was really quite impressed from the moment I walked into the small hotel lobby. I was even more impressed at the price - a mere 550 pesos ($29.24). A Hotel 6 in San Diego costs over twice as much! The quality of this hotel is definitely above the standard of Baja. I’d say four-star for less than a budget hotel price. ¡Viva México! We were very happy and even considered staying an extra day.

    Baja Cactus balconies

    Nice comfy king-sized bed

    Baja Cactus rooms

    Quality bed linen

    Hotel details

    Decorative sidewalks

    After a short nap, we walked a half-block south to the famous Mama Espinosa’s restaurant. This is another spot that is popular among Baja race folks. The race memorabilia is tastefully displayed along the walls and various display cases. We enjoyed a quite dinner of beef and chicken tacos before returning to the hotel for the evening. The king sized bed provided blissful sleep for what would be a long pavement-pounding next day. Dulces sueños - Sweet dreams.

    Build a T-rex and you'll get visitors

    Mama Espinosa's

    Stickered sign

    Tasteful decorating?

  9. #9
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017

    Soapbox rant…

    How likely are you to die traveling in Mexico? This was a question that occupied my thoughts during the planning for this trip. It was perpetuated further when you explain to folks that you are traveling to Mexico… “What about the drug lords, the corrupt police, and all the murders?” Yes, this is true, those things exists. They exist here in the USA as well. Our cities are not immune to violent crimes.

    I’ll share with you my research. Admittedly I spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME researching this topic. The odds of dying in Mexico are so infinitely remote that I shouldn’t have spent more than a few seconds thinking about it.

    From January to December 2016 there were 264 documented US deaths in Mexico. During that same time-frame, there were 84 death in Baja California and Baja California Sur. A large proportion (31.8%) of deaths are in Baja; most likely due to the close proximity and ease of travel for most Americans.

    Of those deaths in Baja, traffic vehicle accident (auto, motorcycle, ATV, or pedestrian) and homicides both accounted for 27 deaths each. This statistic surprised me; I expected vehicle accidents to be much more common than homicides; not equal. The homicide rate in Baja is substantial.

    This would be more alarming if not placed in context with the amount of travelers that enjoy Mexico every year. From January to October of 2016 (not the entire year), there were roughly 7.86 million travelers. When you do the math that accounts for about a 0.0034% chance of dying in Mexico or roughly 34 deaths per million travelers.

    Compare that to heart disease in the USA. 465,000 folks died in 2014 from heart disease! With a US population of 318.9 million that equals about a 0.1144% chance of dying of a heard attack or stroke; roughly 1,144 per millions people.

    Here is the take-away: You are nearly 34 times more likely to die of heart disease just by sitting around and eating poorly in the USA than you are of dying while visiting Mexico. Think about that the next time you order a Double-Double at In-N-Out Burger.

    Yes, Mexico can be dangerous; so can those Double-Doubles. However, the level of danger is so small that it’s not really worth being frightened or scared about. If you don’t do drugs and ride responsibly you drastically decrease the already slim chance of dying. Ride smart.

    *This data is obtained from the US Department of State. They track US Citizen deaths in all foreign countries.

    ...Soapbox rant over.

    Last edited by travisgill; 11-04-2017 at 09:57 AM.

  10. #10
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Oct 2017

    Baja Day 4, Tuesday, April 25rd. El Rosario to Guerrero Negro
    227 miles paved + 0 miles dirt (oh the GS rider horror!) = 227 total miles (365 km)

    Since we knew that it would be a long day of pavement, we set the alarm and woke up at 6AM. We needed a few grocery items and breakfast, so we left our luggage and bikes at the hotel and ventured to find a mercado (market) on foot. Just a few blocks away we bought some bottled water and a tube of super-glue to fix my tripod phone mount that broke the day before. On the way back we noticed a car wash sign and figured it would be a good idea to wash off the ocean salt and sand before hitting the long stretch of road.

    At Mama Espinosa’s, we enjoyed a quick but enjoyable breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese burritos. Back at the hotel, we put on our gear and rode the bikes down the road to get them washed up.

    Distinguished painting of Mama Espinosa

    As we pulled into the rectangular patch of concrete, a young hombre greeted us. We exchanged our customary “buenos días” and he went to work to set up the pressure washer that was operated from the trunk of his SUV. Before long he was joined by another kid and together they went to work to clean up the bikes. They seemed surprised when we laid the bikes on their sides so they could spray the skid plate and undersides of each bike. After spraying everything they took a small drying nozzle and cleaned every nook and cranny with pressurized air and a rag. The mules had never looked so clean!

    Washing the mules

    We returned to the hotel where we loaded up all the gear onto the mules, put on a coat of chain oil, checked out, and were pounding pavement on Highway 1 just before 9AM.

    Based on my research (see rant above), a traffic accident was the most likely way of being shipped back to the US in a body bag. This was on my mind during much of the paved portions of our trip. I had already witnessed numerous traffic law violations; ALTO signs, speed limits, and no passing signs seemed like recommendations for most. The only folks obeying the traffic signs were US plated vehicles. All we could do was to be extra vigilant and look out for each other.

    Enjoying the open road

    We often pulled over for faster moving traffic. We were content moving at the pace of the speed limit signs, even if most Mexicans were not. Although a lot of time was spent watching the miles disappear from the GPSr, we did pull over and capture some memories using the tripod.

    Our first stop was a large cactus on the left of the highway. It looked like a popular stop since the cactus has multiple names and dates carved into its flesh.

    Cactus stop

    Carved names and dates

    Left only tire tracks but kept this memory

    We also stopped when we came across a memorable or picturesque part of the road. I’d set up the shot on the tripod, turn around to meet Chantil, ride through the camera shot together, turn around again and pick up the tripod. We did this on more than a handful of occasions and captured some memorable videos and photos.

    Long isolated stretches of Mexican Federal Highway (carretera federal) No. 1

    Painted tires are often used to mark small towns

    About half-way along the route we came across a sign that pointed left and read museum. A short dirt road brought us to anything but a museum. It was an abandoned slab-city hotel for travelers. The architecture and artwork painted along the walls was interesting. The torn roof also made for an interesting picture. We enjoyed our lunch of peanut butter on tortillas and some trail mix.

    Dome home

    The torn roof resembles the continent of Africa

    Artwork inside to dome.

    Shortly after lunch we came across the town of Catavina where gas was being sold from the side of the road via cans that are poured directly into your tank. 100 pesos gets you about 3 liters. This was definitely a defining part of my memories of the “Baja experience” and highlights some of the key differences we have in the USA.

    Roadside gasolina

    Gasolina for the mules

    In the town of San Agustin we passed through a military checkpoint but no military was there. It gave us a chance to take some photos of the interesting child-drawn sign of a soldier that warns of the checkpoint; perhaps it’s their way of humanizing the military so tourists don’t fear the checkpoints.

    Military checkpoint marker

    It was well into the afternoon before we reached Baja California Sur and Guerrero Negro. Once there, we topped off our fuel tanks, drove around back-alley dirt roads looking for a way to Scammon's Lagoon (We later discovered a route but never did make it out there - perhaps in the future?), and found a great little taco place (oddly, right near what looked like a small town dump). Although we had no cell service the entire trip, most restaurants had WiFi so updating Facebook and keeping in touch with family and friends wasn’t that difficult.

    Welcome to Baja California Sur

    Our hotel for the evening was the TerraSal. It seemed popular with tourists and adventure motorcyclists. Cost for a room with two queen beds was 640 pesos ($34.01 USD). It was time to get a good nights sleep in preparation for the next days Grey Whale watching tour.

    TerraSal Hotel

    Hand painted room tile

  11. #11
    ride what you've got; enjoy the ride!

    Turbo Fluffy Motoclub - IBA 50182 - BMW MOA 69187

  12. #12
    sMiling Voni's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    53 sMiles south of Alpine, TX USA
    Wonderful!! You make me want to pack the bikes and go!

    Live fully. Laugh deeply. Love widely.
    BMW MOA Ambassador Emeritus / FOM / Roving Forum Moderator/
    Selected Friends of Wile E Coyote/ A Million 100 thousand BMW sMiles

  13. #13
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Baja Day 5, Wednesday, April 26th. Grey Whale watching with Mario’s Tours.

    The half-way point and highlight of our trip was to experience the Pacific Grey Whale up close in their breeding and nursing waters of the Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

    We set our phone alarm for 6AM and hustled out the hotel door in order to meet up with the tour company before their opening time of 7AM. Our morning plans were flawed for two reasons:

    The first problem was the tour company we had picked; The Laguna Whale Watching Tours. Their website listed that they would be open at 7AM. Since we didn’t have any reservations booked, we hoped that we could get there in the morning and get two seats on the morning or afternoon tour. The problem is that Laguna Whale Watching closed their tour season the week before.

    Welcome to the second problem - the time. After arriving at 6:30 AM we noticed my watch and the bikes showed 5:30 AM!?. Apparently Baja Sur is one-hour ahead on Baja. Fortunately, our phones updated when we connected to WiFi or we would have been an hour late and missed an opportunity all together. Thank you auto update feature on the iPhone!

    Once 7AM rolled around, we began to feel that Laguna Whale Watching was not open for business. We went down the road to Malarrimo where they had whale watching advertised. It turns out that they were closed for the season as well. It looked like our window of opportunity to see the whales was fading fast. A huge bummer. The señor at Malarrimo got on the phone and found another company that was still doing tours. The tour company was Mario’s Tours and Restaurant and they were only about a 5 minute ride away! ¡Sacarse la lotería! We thanked him and hustled our way back to Highway 1.

    Whale Xing

    Pacific Grey Whale migration

    Once we parked the bikes in front of Mario’s Restaurant, an English speaking female approached us and relayed “You must be the motorcycle riders for the tour? You’ve got plenty of time; the tour starts in 40 minutes. Grab some breakfast or look around the museum.”

    I paid the price of 900 pesos each ($47.83 USD) for the tour. This ended up being the most expensive thing we did in Baja. This industry is defiantly tourist based and the high prices reflect that a bit. On the other hand, where else can you experience the chance of touching a Pacific Grey Whale in the wild?

    Mario’s Restaurant is highly recommended. It’s a beautiful building with great food and service. I enjoyed a breakfast omelet and Chantil enjoyed french toast. After breakfast, we made our way to the briefing area where the Pacific Grey Whale was discussed. Although we were the only US tourists in our group of ten, the guides did a great job of explaining everything in English.

    Museum at Mario's

    Tour guide briefing

    Window decorations at Mario's Restaurant

    Dogs relaxing in the morning sun

    After a thorough briefing, we loaded up the passenger van and made the 40-minute ride out to the boat. Our guides left us in the very capable hands of Captain Tito and his first-mate. A joke was made about how Captain Tito was the great-great grandson of the captain of the Titanic. Funny stuff.

    Our boat for the next few hours
    After issuing us all life-jackets, and rain coats, we were skimming along the water towards the entrance to the lagoon to find some whales. We stopped near a huge salt barge to talk about the salt mining that made this area so lucrative. We also stopped to look at a large group of seals lazing about on one of the mooring buoys. Before long we were idling along in search for some whales.

    Tug pulling salt barge

    Salt barge

    Seals lounging about

    Over the course of a few hours we ended up seeing quite a lot of whales and got pretty close to a few but never close enough to have them come alongside or pass under the boat. It was late in the season and the weather was a bit overcast so getting to pet or touch a Grey Whale was not in the cards. It was still a wonderful and memorable experience and a true highlight of our Baja experience.

    Whale tail

    Nice back

    Capturing the memory

    Mommy and baby

    It was well into the afternoon before we returned to the pier. Along the way back, we ate the provided sack lunch of a sandwich, an orange, a small Coke-Cola, and chocolates. As our boat nudged into the rocky shore and pier, we were greeted, once again, by our guides.

    After returning back to Mario’s, we thanked everyone for a wonderful morning and then made our way back to Guerrero Negro for a nap at the hotel. All that time on the water made us a bit tired.

    Not a Baja Bug but a Baja Civic. What a beater.

    For dinner, we rode down the main street smelling all the wonderful restaurants before we decided to pull in front of the Taqueria Viva México. My staple meal was a Coca-Cola and three tacos; Taqueria Viva México didn’t disappoint. The couple who ran the restaurant seemed really nice. We asked about a dessert Churro and they pointed us in the direction of a place about a block away. As we returned to our bikes we exclaimed “¡Churro!” and they seemed to enjoy that by laughing and giving us a thumbs up.

    Taqueria Viva México

    Once we returned to the hotel, we discovered a huge group of Mexican GS riders had taken up residence there. They seemed to be enjoying each others company and the Spanish party music went well into the evening. We had miles and miles of dirt road to cover the next day so we packed our panniers and tail bags, and then drifted off to a comfortable sleep…

  14. #14
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    Baja Day 6, Thursday, April 27th. Guerrero Negro to a few miles west of Punta San Francisquito.
    18 miles paved + 84 miles dirt = 102 total miles (164 km)

    Today was going to be a surprise for Chantil. She loves to hike and explore different places so I did some research and came across the website with some information on the Painted Cave of El Carmen. I hoped that this surprise side trip would be worth the short diversion from a long day of dirt road riding.

    We woke up early and loaded the bikes for what we expected to be one of our longer dirt days. After checking out of the hotel, we quickly made our way south along Highway 1. This first 18 miles was going to be our only pavement for the next two days so we enjoyed the good time we were making.

    The first 20 miles of dirt road was along a wide and very straight section. The road didn’t get interesting until you reach the Baja California border. There are no signs at the border; just a white concrete marker with a metal pole sticking up from the center. We stopped at the border for a break and ate a quick breakfast.

    Morning sun and Saguaro Cactus

    Some sections of the dirt road were washed away and marked accordingly.

    This is the start of what I would consider to be off-the-beaten path. We rode for miles and miles without seeing another vehicle, person, or dwelling. You really have to be emotionally prepared and have a vehicle you can depend on when choosing to go this route. Personally, I find it comforting to get away from people and enjoy the solitude of the isolated road.

    Enjoying the open road

    Cactus forests and well traveled dirt roads

    Chantil making good time

    12.8 miles after the border, we reached the waypoint N 28° 7.522’ W 113° 18.527’ marking the road to the painted cave. After a short two-track road, we parked our bikes on a dead-end section just below the base of the hillside. The hike to the cave is via a short, easily identified, and well traveled walking path.

    Beautiful forest of Saguaro Cactus

    Boojum Tree

    The Painted Cave of El Carmen was not the largest example of native american artwork, but we found it to be very impressive. We were surprised at how well the place was preserved; there was no trash or graffiti anywhere to be seen! We enjoyed the peace and solitude of the cave while taking some pictures and flying the Mavic camera. I ended up capturing some great video of the cave entrance and the cactus forest below.

    Well preserved by its isolation

    Painted Cave of El Carmen

    Cave folks

    Eight miles further from the painted cave trail, we arrived to our lunch spot - Rancho Piedra Blanca. As soon as we turned off the bikes and put down the kickstand, we were greeted by a smiling couple welcoming us to stay for a while. Since this was the longest distance between fuel stops for our mules, I asked the señor if he has any gasolina. He quickly returned with a funnel, and a full plastic jug to top off both tanks. We were a bit hungry so we asked about lunch. The señorita said it would be about “veinte minutos" and made her way to the kitchen and dining cabana towards the back of the rancho.

    Horses and a donkey at Rancho Piedra Blanca

    Old cactus marking the way to Rancho Piedra Blanca

    A small group of RZR ATVs arrived from the northeast. They were traveling the opposite direction and offered some advice on places to stay along the route. When we mentioned we were considering camping in Punta San Francisquito one guy mentioned an alternative since San Francisquito had lost a lot of its charm since the earthquake some years ago. I made a mental note and thanked them for the advise (Later that day I wish I had taken the advise).
    After a cold soda, the señor led us to the kitchen and dining room cabana where we were served a small salad and baked steak taquitos. I used the Google Translate app to chat with the couple a bit; letting them know we had two kids and we lived in San Diego. We relayed that they were very kind and generous and thanked them for the wonderful lunch. “Sometimes It's not about the journey or the destination, but about the people you meet along the way.” - Nishan Panwa.

    Chilling in the hammock at Punta San Francisquito

  15. #15
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Baja Day 6 continued...

    As we continued east we came across some of the most beautiful and largest Saguaro Cactus forests we have ever seen. It was a bit awe inspiring to see just how tall some of them were. See for yourself in the pictures…

    Not an optical illusion - that's one HUGE Saguaro Cactus!

    Cresting the dirt road and seeing the beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Cortez was moving. Although we were a bit tired from all the dirt riding, it gave us continued motivation to reach the sea and find the perfect camp spot to capture the spirit of Baja.

    Taking a break

    The sign marking the trail to Bahía de Los Ángeles

    We heard good things about Rancho Escondido but never did stop

    Boots used to decorate the sign to Rancho Escondido

    Unfortunately, we didn’t find the spirit of Baja that we were looking for in Punta San Francisquito; all we found was run-down homes and beaches. Definitely not the picturesque place we had imagined. Apparently, this small town has suffered recently from an earthquake and never seems to have recovered. We decided to make our way back to the intersection marking the trail north to Bahía de Los Ángeles and see how much road we could cover before dark.

    As the sun dipped below the small mountain range we realized our day of travel was at an end. We found a place to pull off the road near a dry creek bed. We coaxed the mules through about about 100 feet of deep sand and then set up our tent among the mules and the cactus forest.

    Although, we did a pretty decent job of packing everything we needed for the trip, we realized, day two into our trip, that the fuel pump portion of our MSR Wisperlite stove was attached to a fuel bottle that was left home in San Diego. No fuel pump. No hot water. No freeze-dried dinners. Sad face.

    Fortunately, Chantil came up with the idea of making a small camp fire using rocks to support the pot for boiling hot water. I went to finding tinder, kindling, and wood, while she found the rocks. Before long we had everything we needed for a genuine camp fire and had boiling water for our red beans and rice dinner.

    Who needs a camp stove?

    After dinner, we enjoyed a small camp fire under the peace of a billion twinkling stars; thus ending our sixth day in Baja.

    Dried cactus husks make for great campfires

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