We found a cheap place right in Cabo for the first night and headed out to some clubs in Cabo.  Tourist season was low and many of the people were locals, was a great time everyone we met was awesome.

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The next morning we poked around online and found a great deal at a resort close by.

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We dumped our gear, avoided the timeshare lady and cruised around exploring Cabo.

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Feels strange to have my own transportation in Cabo.  Its a nice change from Cancun as you interact much closer with the local population.  Funny how all the warnings of Mexico were completely wrong, everyone we have met has been friendly and helpful, not once asking for anything in return.  Anywhere you go has risks, even in Canada tourists can run into troubles with sketchy people, however, the Mexicans we have interacted with were genuinely warm and easy to interact with (aside from obvious language issues).  I feel a bit sheepish having my guard up the whole time, and I was probably a bit short with people who were no risk to me, but its at this point its better safe than sorry.

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We took some time to take advantage of the downtime and made sure we made the best of our time in Cabo.

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Hasselhoff

Hasselhoff

We head out from Loreto prepared for our last leg to the bottom of Baja on our way to Cabo.

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The ride from Loreto was great, our first day of welcome overcast weather.

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The dogs appeared friendlier in Baja Sur, could be the heat or just that they are well fed.

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I had wanted to stop in Totos Santos for some surfing, but the day was burning and we still had to make it through La Paz and on to Cabo.  By this time I noticed the oil level on my bike was off the registered sight glass.  I had already used all the oil I bought in Vegas and needed to find a place that sold motorcycle oil. Every gas station I stopped in only had car oil.  A motorcycle (or at lesat this one) has a wet clutch (meaning its soaked in oil).  The bike needs motorcycle oil which is designed to work with a wet clutch, car oil will over lubricate and cause the clutch to start slipping and wear out.  Every place wondered why I didnt just put in car oil “its fine” they would say.  I know about 10-15 words in Spanish, so I saved the attempt of trying to explain the why car oil slip additive was bad for my wet clutch.  Instead I just said ‘no gracias’.

My buddy John in Calgary had given me a map of Baja from his trip.  He broke down in La Paz and had circled the place of a motorcycle shop he got some work done – perfect.  I followed his map into La Paz and found the place.

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Perfect, I go to the front door to find it locked.  I walk around back and see some guys working through a gate.  The coversation goes something like this:

Tyler: Hola

Worker: Hola

Tyler: ummm, oil por favor

Worker: <something in high velocity Spanish>

Tyler: si si oil

Worker: tapping his wrist talking even faster

Tyler: hmm, no oil?

at this point Ryan comes around back.

Ryan: Hola

Worker (in Spanish): Sorry we are closed

Ryan (in spanish): Closed?

Worker: si

Ryan (in spanish): Open when?

Working (in spanish): an hour

Ryan (in spanish): one hour, great thanks

Ryan to Tyler: Its closed, we’ll come back in an hour and they will be open.

Tyler to himself: Dammit you gringo, learn some basic Spanish

We head into La Paz for lunch and kill some time.

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We head back to the Cycle shop and the mid afternoon siesta closure was over.  I walk in and a ask for oil in my broken Spanglish – the owner was a French guy who definitely knew his bikes.  He looks out the window at my bike, walks over to the shelf, grabs two liters of oil and hands them to me.  I ask if this is the right oil, he says “Its French oil, its the best”.  I wanted to say “but its not German”, but decided not to push my luck.  I topped off the oil pig and we hit the road for Cabo.

We arrived into Cabo in late afternoon just as the sun was hitting the horizon.  We followed the road until it ended at the tip of Baja.

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End of the road

End of the road

 

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I had brought some Monte Cristo cigars for a celebratory cigar when we reached the destination.

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Mission Accomplished – time to hit Cabo and have some fun.

We woke up in Guerro Negro, a town that obviously celebrates its celebrity status as a whale breeding groud, yet seems to be in more disrepair than most places we’ve seen and is missing the charm of towns like El Rosario that celebrates its staus as a Baja 1000 destination.

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We take the road across Baja to the Sea of Cortez on the east coast of Baja.  Our first glimpse of the Sea in the town of Santa Rosealia.

Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez

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My buddy John who had rode to Baja a few years earlier told me about an old steel frame church that was purportedly a production from Gustave Eiffel, the same man who was the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Apparently 3 of these churches were built in France to be sent out to colonial destinations.  One was lost a sea, this one ended up in Baja.  There is a controversy regarding whether this was truly one of Gustave’s creations or a recreation, however, it was impressive and interesting regardless.  The town was busy and children were shuffling out of schools at in their matching uniforms as the school day was ending.  Was great to be in a town where people looked happy and relatively prosperous (compared to some of the dustbowl towns we have gone through).  As we hung out in front of the Church we could see it was an important focal point of the town, people came and left visiting the church and chatting with friends.  I’m not religious but there was obviously something special about this impressive building.

Santa Rosalia

Santa Rosalia

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We continue on and arrive at an oasis in the middle of the desert.  After days of sand and scrub brush was cool to see freshwater and palm trees.

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We follow the coast and stumble into many isolated bay that look ideal for beach camping.  Unfortunately we skipped the camping gear and just hung out for lunch instead.

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For the most part the road is smooth and empty, this far south we would ride for hours before passing another car.  I’m guessing it was because of the summer heat, but we never passed a motorcycle since entering Baja.

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We roll into Loreto which was built by the government to be the tourist destination in Baja.  The highway down was purpose built by the government to get Americans to drive down to the destination of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California).  For some reason Loreto never picked up, even with an airport built.  Instead funds were diverted to build out Cabo which is now an international destination and eclipses the neglected town of Loreto.

That being said, many nice resorts were build and now sit operational, yet totally empty.

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We had our pick, payed little and had first class service and cold beers.  It felt like we were the only ones at the resort (see The Shining), which instead of being creepy gave us an opportunity to relax a bit.

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Our room was on ground level and backed out towards the ocean.  The beach was more gravel than sand which may have been an intermediary step before sand was brought in when the town was ditched in favor of investment in Cabo.  Regardless it was nice and the weather was perfect.

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I had an awesome meal of lobster tacos and as many Pacificos as I could take.

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Basic yet perfect accommodations:

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Waking up the city looks complete different from the night prior.  The street which were full of drunks and thumping club music are now cleanup of an busy with the hustle of tourists and people daily lives.

Out our hotel window

Out our hotel window

We head out to explore Ensenada a bit, get some good Mexican breakfast and strong coffee.

Largest Flag in Mexico

Largest Flag in Mexico

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South of Ensenada the traffic dramatically trails off and the scenery returns to arid desert

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Eventually we stumble across the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this trip – stunning amount of totally empty beach front.

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The road was in great condition, but locals often hug the inside of a blind corner, possible to ensure their truck will make the turn, unfortunately that means that going around a corner you may have a transport truck in the oncomming lane.  After a close call that sent me into the ditch I just took every corner assuming there as something coming into my lane and it was fine.  Motorbikes have enough space and agility to hug the shoulder, had I been in a car I’m not sure what I would have done.

Many of the corners had memorials for truck drivers that had taken the corner too fast and plunged off the cliffs that dropped off the soft shoulders. Looking over the edge you could see all sorts of trucks, cars and produce crashed and burnt out over the other side.  Authorities dont bother to pull them out, but leave them to rust away in the sun.  Interesting to see many of the cars being old Volkswagen Beetles which were still common in Mexico.  Lots of produce littered the corners which indicated how fast trucks were taking the turns to have produce sloshing out the top.

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For lunch we stopped at a little roadside Fish Taco stand that litter the Baja highways.  The food was amazing and we were told to pay after eating.  Not thinking after we ate we walked over to our bikes and started packing up to leave.  Just before we pulled out a guy ran over and politely asked if we had paid.  He said the lady who runs the fish taco stand said we didn’t pay yet, and she was correct, we forgot.  Embarrassed and glad we were stopped, we walked back over to pay.  The bill for 4 tacos and 2 drinks was around $5.  We gave her $10 for almost ditching on the bill and although she didn’t speak English was very appreciative.

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Our destination was Guerro Negro a hook shaped peninsula on the Pacific coast that is the winter breeding grounds for whales.  We arrived just as the sun was going down and the town was dead and appeared a bit sketchy.  I slow down to around 20 looking for a motel and a pack of dogs runs out on the street after me.  I stop not wanting to run them over and one takes a nip at my leg.  I’m wearing high motorcross boots so it doesn’t hurt but startles me into getting going again.  The dogs chase me nipping at my wheels.  At this point I figure f**k it, if one gets in front of me I’m just going over it, better than then be mauled.

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Abandoned Pemex Station

Abandoned Pemex Station

Escaping the dogs I just wanted to find a place and lay my head down.  The fist motel was a dive and wanted a lot for Mexican standards.  Its difficult to walk into a motel as a gringo and not get pegged as a pigeon willing to pay whatever.  On principle we hop to a few places playing the prices off each other until we get what we perceive as acceptable but likely double the locals rate.

The place was one of those where you sleep in your clothes on top of the sheets and shower in your sandles – welcome to rural Mexico.

Waking up early, and a bit hung over, we took it easy getting out of Vegas.  About an hour outside of Vegas the heat of the day kicked in and we were on a long straight empty stretch of road.  Cruising down the road I nod off for a split second, my head drops and immediately pops back up – I fell asleep while riding on my motorcycle, not good.  Up ahead I saw the typical diner with large CASINO sign that marks every state entrance.  I pull over and tell Ry that I need some coffee and a rest, he tells me he nodded off on the last stretch too, not a good idea to be riding in that state.

The face of exhaustion

The face of exhaustion

We grab some coffee and greasy breakfast and agree the mileage is not worth risking an accident, now that we have made some miles we agree to just stop when we get tired.

Golden Gates of Nevada

Golden Gates of Nevada

After breakfast we cross into California the last state prior to Mexico, traffic at this point is sparse and we stick to back roads.

Last State before Mexico

A delay waiting for a train crossing was a good excuse to do some offroad exploration

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We took a direct route through southern California which goes close by death valley, the hottest place in North America.  I love the desert, probably the novelty, but also because my eyes drift across to the endless terrain that is ready for offroad riding.  The temperature gauge on my bike was burried, Ryan has an electronic gauge which isnt impacted by the sun, it stopped reading when it hit 45 and just started blinking.

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My gauge

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Ryans Gauge

Throughout the day we stopped and guzzeled water, I went through more than 4 liters without stopping to take a leak.  Your body sweats it out as fast as you can get it in.  Wearing black riding gear was brutal, and when your moving it feels like your standing in front of a hair dryer.  You never feel wet as your sweat dries as fast as it comes out.  What your are left with is a crunchy tshirt that is covered in salt rings.  It was great, all part of the experience we were looking for.

Hitting Blythe CA we stopped in a gas station to load up on more water.  As we were parked a motorcycle cop pulled up and came over to chat.  He was heading into the station to cool down in the air conditioning and couldnt believe anyone was out on the bikes.  Great guy, talked about he area, asked about our trip and showed us his custom modifications including a shotgun mounted to the back.

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The people we have bumped into have been awesome, friendly, helpful and inquisitive about our trip.  The common theme however is their general concern about us headed into Mexico.  Most warned it was not safe and that they dont recommend we go.  Everyone had a “my buddy knows a guy who went down there and <insert bad experience here> ” story.  Made us feel a bit cautious, but most who warned against going had never actually been.  I was actually amazed how many people were a days drive to the border yet had never been into Mexico.

Later on in the day we came accros the expansive sand dunes of Southern Cali – absolutely amazing, looked just what expected to see in the Sahara.  I tried some off roading but my 500lbs loaded bike quickly sank into the sand and got stuck.

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As we got to the Mexican border at Mexicali the terrain changed to more mountainous and forested.

Before Mexican border

Before Mexican border

The border was easy with little lineup.  It consisted of an open gate with a guard sitting on a chair casually waving you through.

Viva Mexico

Ry had the awesome idea to stop and try to ask the border guard where we can buy Mexican visa for our bikes.  The visa is an apparent requirement for driving in Mexico, many go without, but we thought for the $25 it was an easy piece of mind to avoid unwanted situations.  The guard got a bit agitated and waved Ryan through, he stopped his bike and tried to ask about insurance.  Likely in retaliation for Ry’s lack of obedience, we waves for Ry to pull his bike over and begins to search all his bags and gear.  I’m finding this pretty funny, but also a bit concerned that we may get hassled further, but after a quick ‘shakedown’ he tells Ry to pack it up and move on.

We find the insurance shop a block away and get ourselves legal with Tourist visas.  Before hand we had also purchased Mexican insurance, another inexpensive, but piece of mind document.  The visas are only good for Baja which has a special easier to get permit for people headed down.  In the 80s Baja really pushed the idea of American heading down for vacation.  They created the number one highway which is a beautiful well maintained strip of smooth asphalt.  Tourist never came in cars, but did book flights down to Cabo.  The legacy that remained was the #1 highway which we intended to take down to Cabo.

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We head from Mexicali to Ensenada as the sun begins to dip behind the horizon.  I begin to get nervous as everything I’ve read about Baja is AVOID riding at night because the roads have hairpin turns and can be full of drunk drivers after the sun goes down.

We get into Ensenada which is a buzzing costal city used for docking of cruise ships.  We check into a little hotel and head out for some local nightlife.

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We quickly realize that young male gringos wandering around in Mexico are a hot target for strip club promoters.  Most joke around but some can got a bit hostile about getting you into their place.  Trying to avoid trouble we stuck to the activities out on the street and called it a night relatively early (by Mexican standards) after a very long exhausting, but rewarding day.  We made it to Mexico and the next leg of our adventure begins.

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Day 5 was a total fiasco.  Jen made an awesome breakfast that I promptly dumped on my lap.  After having just washed my pants for the first time, I’d have to ride with sauce all over my lap for the next leg of the trip.

Breakfast Results

Breakfast Results

Then we head out to the parking lot, load the bikes go to start the bike and the KLR is dead.  I peel my gear off in the 40C (100F) heat and begin to check what is going on.  There is no power so I pull the battery.  It is completely dead and I open it up to notice it is completely dry.  Not sure if it was the heat, but I fill the battery up and give it a quick boost to get the bike going.  As I load the bike back up I notice there is no oil in my sightglass and there is oil all over the left side of my bike.

ARGH!  just as we are heading out the bike fails.  It looks to be leaking from the countershaft seal so I call around and find a shop with the part, but too busy to do the work.  I ride down and pickup the part then call around to find a shop to replace it.  I talk to a guy at Carter Motorsport who said to bring it in.  They were great, realized I was on a trip and got me right in.  Said it would take a couple hours so Ry and I head out to kill some time.

 

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Red bike was a guy from Quebec on his way around North America

Killing some time racing shopping carts in Safeway.  The lady who worked there was totally unimpressed.
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One last rip down the strip.
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When I got to pick the bike up the service guy tells me that they took the seal out and it was fine.  He said the bike was likely burning oil due to the heat and highway speeds (more about burning oil later).  The ‘oil’ all over my sprocket and bike was actually coagulated chain wax that liquifies due to the heat and splatters everywhere.  I’m begging to realize motorcycles really hate this heat.  He doesnt charge me anything and tells us to have a good trip.  I can not say enough good things about these guys.  I top off the bike out and buy an extra liter of oil for the road.  Little did I know at the time, but KLRs are oil pigs.

It was nice to have a day of light riding and Jen and Griff were nice enough to let us crash again at their place before we hit the road the next morning.

Viva Las Vegas.

Ry is up early performing his series of pushups and situps.  I make a bet with myself that as the trip progresses these morning workouts fade.  We made plans to stay with our friends Griffin and Jen and their family who are living in Vegas.  They graciously offered to let us crash at their place for a night as we make out way down.

We cross into Arizona on our way to Vegas.

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The desert makes amazing dual sport riding.  I would love to have more time to explore the desert, but out timeschedule demands we keep moving.

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By now we are getting into the heat of summer down south.  Both our bikes are running hot and the temperature gauge I have on my bike has the needle buried.

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We made a plan to hit up hoover dam before getting into Vegas, was well worth it.

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We finally make it into Vegas and take a trip down main street.  Feels weird being in Vegas with a vehicle let alone a motorcycle after being down here so many times before.

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We arrived at Griff and Jen’s and went out for a few beers and caught up.  Always good to connect with good friends while on a trip.

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Pocatello is a common stopping point for Canadians heading south.  We stop at the local Best Western and crashed after long day ride yesterday.  Nights usually ended by pouring a glass of Rye and Coke before crashing.  Makes me feel a bit like Julian, except the plastic hotel cups and lack of ice just doesn’t do it justice.

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Waking up early we load the bikes and hit the road.  The way through Utah was pretty uneventful and full of freeway riding.  Like Calgary who hosted the Olympics in 88 and only recently took the Olympic signs down from the city entrances, Salt Lake still clings on to the fact they hosted the Olympics many years prior.

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The weather was great and we stopped periodically for minor adjustments of luggage and water breaks.  People are super friendly and usually stop to chat at gas stations.

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Southern Utah starts to turn into red desert.  Its an amazing landscape and makes me want to head out to Moab one day.  Vegas is one of our destinations, but the day is getting long and we decide to crash in St. George for the night.

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Judging by the number of white steeples in St. George, I get the sense there is a very strong Mormon presence in the St.George area.  We dump our gear and head out without our riding gear for a quick bite to eat and a cold beer.  We find a great Thai place that serves cold Singha beer.