Baja Trip – Day 3 of 9
🗓: 24 Apr | 🌍: Vicente Guerrero to El Rosario, Baja
Day 3 – 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow we get to experience getting gas from a roadside stand in the middle of nowhere Baja…
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 in 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 sitting and eating in the USA than 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.
Baja Trip – Day 4 of 9
🗓: 25 Apr | 🌍: El Rosario to Guerrero Negro, Baja
Day 4 – 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join us tomorrow as we learn more about the Pacific Grey Whale and then go on a boat ride to see these amazing animals in the wild…
Continued on PAGE 3…