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Peregrinations Mexico and Central America on Motorcycle: Open road, open heart, open mind.

Weeks three and four: Too much adventure in Northern Baja

MEXICO | Thursday, 14 April 2011 | Views [1548] | Comments [4]

Cacti in the high desert.

Cacti in the high desert.

Week four: Adventures in Northern Baja

I did not expect the last week to be what it was. After all, I spent it traveling with other people, male people! Things were supposed to coast, at least for a few days.

There is no coasting with these guys. Throttle is on, always. 

I left San Felipe on Wednesday the 6th, by myself, Ensenada bound. The drive across the peninsula was surprisingly lovely. I was previously informed that the drive cut through the mountains...I suppose I had simply underestimated the mountains in Baja. What I found, to my delight, was 100 miles of gently winding road through vibrant green meadows dotted with wildflowers and cows and boulder fields the span of CSU campus, full of round, sandy colored boulders the size of houses. Looking for an unexplored bouldering Mecca? It's along the road from San Felipe to Ensenada, closer to Ensenada. I hankered for my climbing shoes, but instead took photos. 

In Ensenada, I spent one night and a day by myself before Alex, Tom and Charlie arrived on the doorstep of my two-bed hotel room on the banks of the town's arroyo. 

Alex is a skilled, if somewhat reckless, motorcyclist. He makes me look like a midget. He's jobless and south-bound for at least nine months. Tom has been friends with Alex for years. He a milder, more thoughtful person than Alex, with an easy smile and a good sense of humor. They picked up Charlie in LA on their way south from Seattle. Charlie is beginning a road trip of [potentially] many years. He's Australian, very chill and very sharp, and easily rides the most envy-worthy bike of all of us, a Tenere 660. Drool. 

Looking at this picture, the only thing I can think of to say is that between the four of us, we put away a lot of beer. 

We chilled a few days in Ensenada. By "chilled" I mean we tackled the roughest off-road driving I'd yet done, and ate tacos for every meal. The off-roading was cool. I needed to learn while it's wasn't a do-or-die situation, and these are the guys for me to push the limit with. They know what they're doing, and how to fix anything in the event that I screw up royally while riding the learning curve. 

The first day we drove up into the dirt tracks beyond the housing developments in Ensenada. I only had to have someone drive for me once, over some terrifying ruts that left me unable to touch the ground at all. It was excellent to push myself and the bike a bit, and to see what we can handle already. Simply stated: my bike ROCKS. I just need to catch up now!

The next day, Alex and Charlie introduced me to The beach. After the roads in Africa, I knew that sand is a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately, I had the chance to learn on a beach with skilled riders. It was difficult, but I got through everything, upright, and drove my own bike the whole way. 

One thousand miles into my trip, and I'm finally learning how to ride my bike. Whew. Riding a motorcycle through sand is like riding through life itself: you have to relax and not try to control every inch of the trip, and it helps to speed through the deep, rough, difficult parts. 

We left Ensenada on Sunday, southbound for somewhere convenient that wasn't Ensenada. Along the way we passed through  rolling hills and winding coastal roads, past snowy-white herons startled from the roadside marshes, past a donkey chilling the bed of a pickup truck cruising at 100 kph, and past entire flocks of turkey vultures munching on dead dogs on the roadside. 

At one point, Tom and I drove up on Alex and Charlie. Alex was covered head to toe in mud, as was his bike. He'd gone careening around off road again, per the norm, but hit a patch of unexpected mud and slid for ages before coming to a stop against a stump. He was okay, the bike was fine, and only the panniers/frames (pelican cases) were busted. He got them fixed in the next town; and we were able to leave  Rosario  the next morning. 

Did the adventure end then? Did we cruise into  the next town, tired and sore, yet filled with the energy borne from putting 200 miles sadly under your tired in a foreign country? Of course not. Alex drove his bike straight off the side of the road, six miles south of the small pueblo of Catavina. 

No need to go into details. On my end of things, the most [horribly] memorable part of the situation is tied between a) watching Alex in my mirror as he drove off the embankment of the road, straight into a pile of jagged boulders, stopping in an explosion of red dirt, b) arriving on the scene, by myself, to a bike on it's side and a deathly-still Alex lying face-down in the dirt twenty feet away, and c) killing the engine on my bike, ripping off my helmet, and gasping with relief when I heard Alex moaning in pain, not dead after all. 

I'm writing this the next day, April 12th, my mom's birthday. We visited Alex in the hospital today. He's fine. in fact he was discharged with nothing more than serious bruising to his right side, and a concussion. His bike is seriously screwed up, but the Tatos bike shop in San Quintin claims they can fix it in less than a week, twisted frame and all, and he should be able to catch up to the rest of us soon. 

In the meantime, we're heading south, Tom and Charlie and myself, more cautiously than ever, and with even more respect for the sharp, steep curves this section of the world has on offer. 

Don't know what else I can even say about all that, other than it's behind all of us, and here's hoping the road ahead is less exciting.

Until next time,



I am so grateful for you, Tom and Charlie. You all made sure that Alex, my nephew, was in one piece, in good care and had a place to go after he was released from the hospital. For that I Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Here's to several thousands of miles of open road adventure. Happy Trails!

  Shelli Smith Apr 17, 2011 7:54 AM


Shelli: not a problem. We've only known each other for a little over a week, but every person in this group has everyone else's back, always. We'll all take care of each other!

  Sarah Apr 18, 2011 3:08 AM


Hi! Found your blog via advrider, we're in Guanajuato right now, if you're planning on passing through the area and would like to meet up with some fellow motorcyclists let us know.

Our blog is 2wheels2boots.com

Hope to see you in Central Mexico.

Eric + Sabrina

  Eric Starling Apr 23, 2011 2:52 AM


I am loving your blog. Thank you for these posts...I know it's been a few years since your trip but I am planning something similar, strangely enough also starting in Albuquerque...and this journal is an amazing find.

  Aileen Jul 23, 2015 2:34 AM

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