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Baja Norte Dec 26-31 2014

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This is a trip we have been doing every year for a few years now.  This year it was:  Me, Rich, Mike, Mark, Erik, Tomek.  Along the way, we joined up with Dave Coe, his girlfriend Mel and Steven Green.  I decided to bring my good camera along this time but I'm nowhere as good as Steven Green.  


We normally meet at the Denny's in La Mesa but this year Franco invited us over to his home nearby for a hot Italian breakfast and espresso.  Stefano, a professional chef, helped prepare our meal and was joined by Bruno, Eric and Sam.  They escorted us via some scenic twisty back roads to Tecate where they said goodbye and wished us luck.




Mark on his sweet HP2




Mike on the BMW F800 GS



Erik on his GSA




And Tomek on his GS




Chris Parker of Rottweiler Performance and his crew of 950/990 riders happened to be on the same track as us, so we leapfrogged each other a few times and then eventually met up at the gas station and then lunch.  Great bunch of guys.






(Kevin Bresnahan)



Mark at the water crossing








And Rich





Lunch in VDT




Chris's bike




Mike was already tired.  I could tell.




Mark Stickelmaier.  Mark has a lot of years on a bike down in Baja and was very valuable to have with us.  I learned a lot of great stuff. He and some others are starting a new expedition and training group called "Black Swan" that I look forward to hearing more about.





Rich laughing at something





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We made it to Kiki's in San Felipe with no issues.  It was there we met up with Steven Green and Dave Coe with his girlfriend Mel.  We passed a little place on the way in called La Vaquita that looked decent, so we went there.


It seemed decent enough.  They greeted us, took our drink order and then some cheeseball guy started chatting us up for no apparent reason.  Steven said this guy is probably the music "act."  I looked over my shoulder and saw there was some kind of amp set up with a stool and a microphone.  At that point I was like "oh no.  please no."


Sure enough it was THE WORST lounge act you could possibly imagine!  Uncle Cheeseball and  Granny Blue Hair proceeded to belt out countless bad versions of tired said oldies.  It was painful to our ears!  On top of that, the food came out not all at once but in onsie twosies.  Erik and I basically never got our dinners.  Erik cancelled his but I finally got mine after everyone had already eaten and were ready to go.  I wolfed my down, we paid and got the heck out of there.  It's basically the kind of place old white ex-pats feel comfortable going but not anything like the authentic San Felipe experience we were looking for.  I was probably too hard on them as the food was actually pretty good.  It was just terrible service and bad restaurant theme for us..


Here's Granny Blue Hair rocking out some song I don't recall but involved her using a Kazoo.  You can really FEEL her angst can't you?




I felt bad so I went with Erik and Mark to a restaurant on the Malecon (El Guero) where we got him some decent grub.  It was good, fast and cheap and hit the spot.


Day 2 would have us riding south towards Bahia de Los Angeles with bfast in San Felipe, some beach riding, twilight at Coco's and a night ride into BDLA.

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Day 2 began where it ended the night before, at El Guero for breakfast in San Felipe




Food was great




Rich hadn't had his coffee yet I guess






We headed south and turned off at a beach to do some sand riding for fun.  Erik wasn't having any of that (fun)




Mike isn't afraid of the throttle for sure












I saw some vultures and then found what they were eating... Sushi!




Rugged man of adventure!




Dave and Mel kissing (aw)




And planning their route further south



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After playing around on the beach some, we made our way further south to Gonzaga Bay.  We had lunch at Alfonsina's.  Instead of having a bunch of gringos order nine different things for lunch, they wisely asked us if we'd just like a huge plate of fried fish for tacos with all the fixings.  That was awesome!










My mouth is watering right now just looking at this






Everyone seemed to be happy with that decision on fish tacos




Something in the fish I think caused cervical dystonia in Erik




Dave too




Next stop:  Coco's Corner




He insisted everyone sign his book.  You haven't really ridden in Baja until you've signed the book.










The road is paved nearly all the way to Coco's and because of that, the government isn't that interested in maintaining the remaining dirt section anymore, so it can be a bit rough.  Lots of little rocks to dodge but Erik's front tire found one and punctured his sidewall pretty bad.  Funny how there's a Llantera shop right at the end of this road where he got it patched up.




We ran into another moto couple; dude was on a Triumph Tiger 800 and his wife on some roadster asking how to get to San Felipe.  Before he took off though, his side stand just buckled right there and we had to help him get the bike up and on his way.  His wife wasn't too thrilled of the idea of riding that dirt road after only having ridden for about 6 months.  Hopefully they made it safely.






We ended up getting into Bahia de Los Angeles after dark.  The hurricane took out a road and there was a little detour I think I missed for that.  That must have been what those barricades I blew through were all about!  Lucky I stopped in time because the next morning on the way out I took this picture.  Imagine going off that into the wash!



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We stayed at Costa Del Sol hotel in BDLA and it was okay.




The lady who runs it was pretty nice and had this 6 month old great dane puppy named Scooby Jr.  I guess she used to have another great dane named Scooby and he died.  She said a former guest gave her Scooby Jr.  I called him Azog the Defiler because his coloring and one eye reminded me of the character in the Hobbitt movie




Steven covered his bike, which I thought was funny but it probably makes sense.  It keeps the salt air off his new GSA as well as discourages prying eyes.




Steven and Dave/Mel took off for Guerrero Negro that day and then Erik and Tomek had to leave early, so it was just Rich, Mike, Mark and I left to explore.  We wanted to go check out this mission called San Borja.  This was the road in.  It looks worse than it was.  The road in from the North was very good and seemed to have been re-done since the hurricane.  We took a different road out to the West and that was a bit more jacked up but not terrible.




It was at this point I found that my GoPro didn't have the SD card in, so no video this time :(




The desert here is quite lush with lots of cactus.  I grew up in Arizona and this is much more dense.




Seeing the mission for the first time was quite impressive.  This place is so remote and it's been there so long that it's quite remarkable.




We were greeted by a man named Enaro (or something that sounds similar).  His family has owned this place for generations and takes care of it, conducts archaeological digs and does restoration work.  Enaro is also an archaeologist and works other sites in Mexico when he's not home.  The basic story is that an original adobe mission was established in 1762 by the Jesuits and a subsequent larger stone mission was built that was in operation until 1823.  The mission ministered to the local Indian population who spent their summers in the mountains hunting deer and bighorn sheep and gathering nuts in the summer and then fishing at the coast in the summers.  The mission was just about half way in between that route, so they'd catch them coming and going.  Some would also just stay put at the mission.  We were told the native population simply moved away to other areas which was why they closed it.  There are vineyards and orchards still there along with something like 7 springs; 2 hot, 2 warm and 5 cold springs.  The government helps with grants for restoration and protection and I think actually owns the mission itself within the chain link fence.  Enaro's brother is the custodial priest and there's a big festival on Oct 10 every year (San Francisco de Borja).




















I'm not sure the whole story but apparently different orders of Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans ran the place.  I think he said the Jesuits were kicked out; by whom I don't know.  The church or the locals?   :D


What they most likely used to wear (priests)




Arrowheads found in the vicinity




Other artifacts from the original adobe ruins like this inkwell




The original windows were these carved rock designs and this is the only original remaining one




I thought this sunlight shining on the baptismal font looked cool





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The original adobe mission behind the existing one




All the stone was quarried locally up on that hillside




Nice spiral staircase






The black stones were used to "point" or reinforce the softer stone (limestone?) which was prone to cracking like this one






Hot spring that's great at the end of a long day of riding.  For some reason, they didn't want four sweaty adventure riders jumping in it that day.



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We took the road to the West out and it was worse than the road in but not that bad.  Here's a short stretch of silt we took it easy in.










I fell once coming out of this one sand wash where there was a rock ledge sticking out of the sand.  Minor off; no big deal.  But then I fell again in another silt bed when Rich blew past me and distracted me.  See?  It was his fault!


Had lunch here then made our way north on the highway to Cataviña.  




Mark likes to mix up his Spanish words and I kept hearing him call it "Cantavina."  This hotel is a bit on the expensive side (for Mexico) but it's really quite nice.  They have lots of cool art displayed around their grounds.












Nice bar w/pool table.  We watched "Rise of the Guardians" in Spanish.  It's a Christmas-themed animated movie :)




This little dog was super cool.  Great personality.  Wasn't that dirty either.



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170 miles of tracks to cover today from Cataviña to El Rosario.  I didn't want to take my hard panniers so I borrowed Tolga's Tillamook dry bag from Giant Loop with their Pronghorn straps.  Worked great.  No sense in bringing a lot of stuff if you're staying at hotels.




Beautiful desert on the way out to the West coast.






Had our lunch on the coast and then sped back up this really fast road to the highway and on into El Rosario


Had some time to relax at the Baja Cactus Hotel.




Reclined and sipping on some El Jimador Mike and I bought the night before.




This was half tequila induced and half trying to keep my broken reading glasses on my face.




An early dinner at Mama Espinosa's.  Last year it took 2 hours but this time they had plenty of help there.  It's definitely more expensive than most places in town but it's also a short walk from the hotel and I didn't want to ride after having a few adult beverages.



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Day 5 we left El Rosario headed north for Erendira and had a bit of highway to get through before the dirt but Mark showed us a stretch of beach we rode a few miles on that led up to the Mission Inn on the beach south of San Quintin.  Riding north from there we rejoined the dirt at Camalu and stopped for the obligatory photo of the shipwreck




A little lunch break




I didn't have any, I just thought this made a good photo




Men of adventure






Here's something really cool...  There's this dirt track that comes into Erendira from the south but I hate it because it's all a bunch of hard whoops from the 500 course.  There are some hard trails that are fun but this is the kind that's not fun.  I had done it many times before and it's my least favorite.  Of course Mark, with his years of Baja experience, knew a more big bike friendly way into Erendira from the south, so we took it.  That was a LOT of fun.  It was still a challenge and it got us into Erendira near the beach where I promptly got stuck.




You can see it was my bald rear tire.









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Coyote Cal's was to be our last stop.  I think this is a really great place.  The food is always good, the bunks are simple but comfortable and Ta gives the best massage I've ever had.  The first time I got one I told her "Ta, everyone who has ever given me a massage up till today is a complete fraud."  I used to have a membership at Massage Envy (lame?) and none of them measure up.  My only complaint is there's no wi-fi.  Every other hotel we stayed at in Mexico had wi-fi.






They have a nice bar and fire pit in the courtyard.






Rick knows his tequila and has a book he wrote on it you can read at the bar






Fresh eggs!






Sticker window of course.  Can you spot the Beyond Starbucks?




There it is




And a Lost For a Reason sticker




Rick isn't "Coyote Cal."  That was his father and "Coyote Cal" was his cb handle.  He and his wife Ta run the place with a small staff.  Lulu used to tend bar and still does sometimes but she's living up in Ensenada and going to college.



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Day 6 we all headed for home.  I wanted to get going early but didn't want to ride alone, so I waited.  I wanted to stop at a market and get some vanilla and tequila and needed someone to watch my stuff :)  We were all set to go and then Mike's battery died!  Mark got out his little jump start battery and in no time we had it going.


We stopped in Ensenada to get my stuff and then headed up hwy 3 to Tecate and it started to get REALLY cold!  It was maybe 60 in Ensenada but the mercury kept falling the further we went.  We got to the south end of Tecate and there was snow on the ground and flurries!


Poor Rich was on his 690 with no fairing and had summer gloves with no grip heaters.  I felt bad for him but then when I remembered he had a heated jacket, I just started laughing inside my helmet at how cold his hands must have been.  Heck, my hands were freezing too even though I have grip heaters.  I have some foam grip covers and they don't conduct heat very well.


We got to Tacos Mis Tios in Tecate and all of us were shivering.  What was kind of cool for me though was this was one of those times I was glad to be on the GSA.  I was way ahead of them most of the time and had to stop a few times for them to catch up.  They said it was just too cold to go that fast but I figure why prolong it?  Better to get through it quicker.  At least it's good to know how well that bike is on the highway and is a great example of the flexibility and value of that bike.  I can ride to my dirt experience and then ride home with no truck or trailer!


Our last stop of the trip.




All in all it was about 1200 miles and 6 days.  Mike rode all the way back to Hollywood on his 800 and Mark rode all the way to Ventura on his HP2!  I pussed out and hitched a ride w/Rich which gave me time to catch up on email and warm up a bit.

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My Baja trip started a bit weird. Going to to Franco's i run over a grocery bag which went inside my brake caliper. Took an exit, realized I had no front brakes (scary).

I had to remove pads to get rid of all the pieces.





As Eric mentioned we met with the group of riders on KTMs





Picture ops at the San Felipe beach



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After Coco's we hit a rough portion of the road. It was very rocky with most of them being small and sharp. I hit a couple of them and decided to slow down a bit, in no time Erik blew past me. it took less than 5 minutes when all of the sudden I came upon Erik slowing down and trying to stay upright. He got a sidewall puncture which would not get plugged easily:





Fortunately Mark knew about tire shop about 5 miles down the road so we escorted Erik there.




Got some work done:




It was getting late and dark. Riding at night is not best idea which was to be proved very soon...



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