Delivering Motorcycles in Baja – Day 2

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Sunday, February 5th, 2017 – Ensenada, Baja California North to San Felipe, Baja California North: ~220 miles

Missed Day 1 and the Intro? Saturday, February 4, 2017 – Los Angeles, California to Ensenada, Baja California North. ~250 miles

We finally get to explore some dirt!

Morning! The beautiful sunrise is all the sign I need that this is going to be a good day.

We get an early start on our way down south. Our primary objective today is to visit Mike’s Sky Ranch, but we start on pavement just south of Ensenada.

There’s a few military checkpoints set up along the main route, but the first one we encounter is abandoned so we ride right on through. Just a few corners down the road, we spot a Ford Ranger that seems to be missing some pieces – namely the tires, glass, and paint!

Turns out it had been on fire, and while I can’t figure out you the cause of the flames, I can show you the results.

All the tires had melted and popped, the interior was scorched, and there was a Spurgeon visible through the windshield. Oh, wait.

Unlike the Ford, our BMW’s feel great so we continue our attack on the ribbon of two-lane pavement that is Mexico’s Carretera Federal (Federal Highway) 1. The road itself is in generally good shape – the pavement is nice and there’s lots of corners that wind through the terrain. There are definitely some portions that American road engineers would not be allowed to get away with, but it’s interesting and fun on two wheels, as long as you stay alert. One of the big concerns for those of you used to American roads is the guardrails. They’re usually non-existent and even when they are present they don’t offer much protection. There’s a simple fix to that, though: don’t crash. Otherwise you might end up like Baby Jack’s new friend:

At a gas station, I peek into an abandoned building an am rewarded with this exquisite work of art. As I admire, a local tells us about a nearby dirt stretch that’s occasionally used as part of the Baja 500/1000 courses. Well, we know where we’re going next!

Finally, we get on some dirt and have a chance to see what the bikes can do. It starts off easy and I’m enjoying the scenery.

We take turns jumping in front of each other to get some photos. Even just riding on easy dirt has a way of making you feel adventurous…at least until a local in a Toyota Camry comes the other way, just going about their day.

I’m feeling pretty good here, but it wouldn’t last for long. The road gets gnarlier but my confidence is high so the needle of my speedometer doesn’t drop. This apparently proves to be a mistake when I hit a rut at speed…

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

I don’t notice anything wrong at first, but Spurgeon honks to get my attention as the right luggage box is no longer connected to the bike and it’s hanging off loosely. This is my first trip with the Aerostich R-3, and until now it has been flawless. But as I stand in the Mexican heat, I briefly wish I was wearing a 2 piece suit so I can shed the jacket while I attend to this issue.

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

After loosening up the bolts securing the luggage rack, adjusting it as best as we can, and then re-tightening, this is as good as we can get the aftermarket SW-Motech racks to line up. It’s clear that they have not held up perfectly after thousands of miles of rental usage and (presumably) the occasional drop. If you’re looking to really get dirty with your GS, I highly recommend that you stick with the factory bags or find another option, as these were pretty much garbage. In fact, over the entire trip this would end up being the only thing that I found to be disappointing about the MotoQuest experience. I can understand why they use aftermarket luggage – it’s much cheaper to replace Pelican cases than the OEM BMW bags when customers drop bikes. The cases are fine. The racks? Not so much. Spurgeon gives me some zipties because this is the best I can get the racks to line up otherwise:

Just a few moments later, I ask Spurgeon to jump ahead of me so I can get a photo of him…and I see that one of his luggage racks has made a similar sacrifice.

Now it’s his turn to fix away with zipties. It becomes clear to us very quickly that this luggage situation might be a problem if we want to keep doing dirt.

In the next town, we stop at an auto parts shop and buy a 20-pack of zip ties. Down here they’re called “cinchos de plastico.” For some reason, that amuses us greatly.

There are two roads into Mike’s Sky Ranch, one off the 1 highway (coming from the west) and one off the 3 (coming from the north). The latter is said to be easier so we decided it would be more appropriate for our big enduros.

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

I had been saving one of my Bike-urious stickers for an appropriate landmark, and this one seemed as good as any. This is where I learned that jumping in an Aerostich suit is difficult!

The road was fantastic and perfectly suited for big bikes. A little bit of sand kept things interesting in the corners but you could also flirt with triple digit speeds on the straights. I had gone into this trip expecting very little from the Shinko 805 tires that MotoQuest put on these bikes. So far, they were doing just fine. The reward at the end of the road was my first ever true water crossing. Spurgeon is surprised by this fact but there aren’t many opportunities to ride through water in the deserts of the Southwest! Having no idea what I am supposed to do, I just get my weight back and keep the throttle open for my motorcycling baptism.

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Everything seems a bit too quiet when we pull up to the ranch. We’ve arrived in the late afternoon during a lull as we are too late for lunch and too early for dinner or drinks.

The interior has more hints about the shenanigans that must go on here during busier times. This should give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Parked next to the pool is the fleet of some riding buddies. They’re on mid-sized KTMs, which are perfect for Mike’s. Treat the ranch as a staging area and you’ll have access to plenty of trails with a central location you can come back for food and drinks. They all seemed a bit surprised to see us and had lots of questions about the comfort and on-road abilities of the GS.

I wanted to hang out and shoot the shit with the KTM guys, but we had to leave if we were going to stick with the schedule. We came back up the same road, but now that we had already done it once our pace was much faster. This resulted in a minor shock as I came around a corner with a quad coming the other way on my side of the road – a not-so-polite reminder to slow it down. After all, we had to get these bikes down safe and sound for MotoQuest customers to ride back!

We cover some generally uneventful kilometers on pavement on our way to San Felipe. At one point I have to pull over because the visor mechanism on my Arai Signet-X is acting up. This is the first trip I’ve brought my Arai on, and while I’m enjoying it so far I can’t get over how needlessly complicated the visor system is. I take it all apart, blow a little dust out of the hinges, and put it back together again.

After finding a motel, I take Spurgeon to the malecon (waterfront walkway). He makes some friends along the way.

As we walk up and down the strip, one guy in a restaurant keeps trying to engage us. We humor him by sitting down in front of his shop, and his wife immediately starts cooking up some tortillas.

This is how to ensure a happy Abhi. I tried every single one, and my favorite was the habanero sauce on the right.

It’s just about impossible to go wrong with fish tacos in Baja, but I have to go a little further with a shrimp cocktail. They didn’t have any beer, but my bottle of Mexican Coke hit the spot.

I check the score of the Super Bowl and the Patriots are getting blown out, so I don’t mind when Spurgeon decides to go on a shopping spree.

In his words, he wanted to “blend in with the locals.” Mission not-so-accomplished.

To my surprise, we get back to the hotel bar and the Patriots have started to make a comeback. You all know how it went by now, but I end up watching the end of the game with Spurgeon (who doesn’t care about football) and a bunch of Falcons fans. There are better environments for a Pats fan to watch a game, but I was so overjoyed with the final outcome that it didn’t matter.

I find a spot that’s relatively hidden-away, tuck the bikes in, and then lock them together. Don’t worry, I brought Baby Jack in for the night!

Tomorrow we’ll head down the east coast of the Baja peninsula. Let’s see what wonders we’ll spot along the way…

On to Day 3!

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