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Chris Travels – Ottawa to Baja and back

Long time friend of the OGC, Chris Hurst, took solo trip from Pheonix Arizona to Baja Mexico on his BMW F800GS.  It’s a blog from a few years back, but it certainly deserves a repost!  Thanks Chris!

The full content credit for this articles goes to Chris Hurst and it can be found, in it’s entirety, here!

 


 

Tuesday December 16, 2010: Preparation

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Knobbly Tires!

The old tech savvy Chris has now got his blog going (with a little ok a lot of help from Alison B’s expertise) I will try to keep this blog going during my adventure. These are some pics and vids of the preparation for Baja. It’s Dec 16th as I write this,  The first video is me showing off my new knobbly tires that Jason Thoms from The Good Times Centre set me up with for Baja (not to mention the BMW bike it’s a F800GS, she’s a beauty).

I delivered the bike to Caprara Honda Dec 14th (I hate to think of the nick name my brother would come up with) in Watertown N.Y. and it is now in transit to Victory BMW Chandler Arizona. I fly out the 29th from Ottawa to Phoenix and will pick up the bike hopefully the 30th December. After re-assembling the bike, camp that night somewhere to test out equipement then head it to Baja to spend a month in the saddle. I must admit I am a little nervous but after my friend Tim Poirier said “what could possibly go wrong” I have stopped worrying !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(not)

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Big tank install (36 luvly litres instead of the stock 16) Whadya mean you got to disassemble the whole bike! Touratech didn’t mention this when I bought the tank!

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Good to go, let’s test her out!

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Testing out big tank install and equipment before crating/shipping. It was a little nippy! the bike was great but feels sort of like riding an elephant now. The boys helped crating the bike up

 

 

 


 

Saturday, January 1, 2011: ALL IS GOODIMGP2497

Hi All, Firstly I take no responsibility for my spelling from here on in, it is what it is. I arrived at Phoenix AR no problems on Wednesday night (cold and raining!!!). Went to Victory BMW in the morning and there she was all sodden and wet in the Harley crate looking very unwanted and bedraggled. The crate is finished, caput, the guys at Victory are going to get me another crate. I put the bike together (took hours). One of the guys there (lost his card can’t remember his name and his email ?)who has ridden around the world twice over years and years was amused with the amount of stuff I had, he said “other than tools if you don’t touch it every day you probably don’t need it” (anyway I think I am going to come up with a new classification for adventure touring, something with being a bit of a luxury oriented adventure tourer sub classification).  And off I go only to run out of gas about a mile away, hmmm hopefully not an auspicious beginning, as I am beginning to realize I can not  push this pig very far (oh my god its heavy it’s not like pushing a race bike back to pits) a guy stops offers to get me gas comes back with a gallon and promptly leaves not asking for a cent. I hit the road after filling up and ride for hours out of PhoIMGP2500enix and into the dessert. After getting completely lost I switch on the trusty GPS to no avail but by hook and by crook get on to the correct road heading west (I-8). It’s amazingly beautiful. As the sun goes down behind the mountains on the horizon of the desert I realize I’m not Ottawa. My mind drifts from a zen like experience of the bike purring along with gorgeous scenery to I’m F#%^ing freezing. The ambient temp gauge is 4 C and dropping and there is not a light in site I’m in the middle of a desert. Rounding a rocky out crop unveils town  lights, yeah civilization! First order of business hot shower! Next day ride into California, still cold but I got all my winter riding equipment on nice and warm. Ride through sand dunes (on I-8) that could be used to make a movie about a middle east dessert. Loving this day and riding the bike is great, I love my big gas tank, not worrying about filling up all the time. Arrived in Calexico (new years eve) in the US, border patrols everywhere. Tomorrow Friday cross the border, turn right go down HW 2 then the plan is to drive down Laguna Salada (Dried up lake 100 miles long salt bed) turn up into the mountains about half way down and camp at hot springs called ?? later!

 


Thursday, January 6, 2011: Laguna Salada/Canon de Guadalupe

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Changing the gearing to much lower, high gearing sucks, this is not a race.

Well the best laid plans of mice and men. I zoomed through the border no worries. Plan A turn right down calle 2 turn blast down the desert to the Canon Guadelupe. No problems (except I got lost in Mexicali and yes I used my GPS successfully), get to the desert and off we go no worries! he old racing mind set kicks in, gotta go fast, when will I learn, apparently not in this life time. Maybe 20 K in I am zooming along at 60 to 80K/hr thinking this is easy, Ewan Mc and Charlie B are whimps when I get a funny feeling. Stopping I do an inventory, my stove pumps gone ???? This is a deal breaker. No stove no food I think. Not actually true as I learned from my new Mexican friends (more on that later I spent three nights with these guys who burnt nothing but fire wood scrounged for free) Anyway, lesson one pack very securely, I think it fell of the back but I don’t really know for sure. …. (Chris’s solution)

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The view from my rock

….Driving up to the Canon de Guadelupe is fricking nuts, steep, rocky, deep sand, water crossing, really really challenging riding, all my riding experience is required including down hill mountain biking and motorcycle road racing it was crazy, way past the fun  factor. But what I didn’t know was the Canon de Guadelupe is an real oasis, literally you are in desert surroundings you go around a corner and there are palm trees, bushes, birds, just amazing and a water crossing about a foot or two deep with a deep sandy “landing” after you cross including a sharp right hand corner so after making it across my front tire disappears into the deep sand (feels just like a front end wash out road racing) and I land flat on my bum. I try to lift about I dunno 600 700 pounds maybe, no way I cant lift it. I removed everything I could including the pannier bag that’s buried in sand, (that’s a story unto itself) and with a herculean heave which I almost gave up on as my feet slipped in the deep sand managed to get it up. I arrived successfully in oasis paradise.  Things are looking up. My camp has a palapa (palm leef roofed protection, picnic table, sink with hot water tap from the hot springs, incredible view over the lake bed of the Laguna Salada, a rock to sit on and I think wow, but the piece de resistance is my  own personal hot springs hot tub which I basically lived in for a day

 


 

Friday, January 7, 2011: Down Laguna Salada to San Filipe

IMGP2562These guys were amazing. They came bursting into my life at Canon de Guadelupe and became my friends and support crew to cross the Laguna Salada  ( I needed them!) down to the bottom (south) where we hooked up with hwy 5 to San Felipe. We hung out, camped, ate Victor Mari (cook second from left) fine asado bbq food for days.  There is no way I could have done it on my own. Apparently only a handful on people have ever done it!? I entrusted completely in our confident jeep driver Arturo (leaning against door) who had done it before 3 years ago. There were 3 choices to go.  I said to Arturo you choose I trust your judgment. He took 24 hrs before choosing this route... (more on the route chosen)

 

After we set off, at the beginning we had to drive through deep deep sand. It was horrible. The fastest I could go was about 5 to 10Km/hr. I thought I can’t do this, this is just stupid. I crashed twice more. I was so pissed off. If you do the math it’s going to take along time and it gets very cold at night not to mention you really don’t want to be camping because it’s dangerous at night. I thought to hell with this I’m going back over to the hard surface back north to Mexicali (about 50 – 70K) take about two hours once I get out of this fricking sand then onto the wonderful paved hwy. But then I would have three hour drive down the hwy to get to San Filipe. I kept going (it’s lots easier lifting the bike up with 5 guys!) The sand ended after a couple of miles thank God. We filled up with water at a well in the middle of the desert! Some government project growing some seedlings of some sort…

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… The h.i.d head lights work really well except they take time to charge up. Once we finally got to the highway it was like heaven, so smooth and velvety! In celebration I ran my bike hard through the gears to about 130K AHHH Luvly!!!!!!!!!  We went through a military check point, they had a look in some of  my bags, lots of soldiers looking very tough with aka’s, I turned off my helmet cam as we approached not wanting to upset them with the recording light flashing away. Then an hour or so after that, we were all drinking beer on the malecon (board walk promenade) lots of saludos and merriment. It really felt special, what an accomplishment for all off us, they were pretty chuffed with themselves, hand shakes all around. Look out world here I come.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Thursday, January 8th-10th, 2011: San Felipe to Papa Fernandez (Gonzaga Bay) and onto Bahia de Los Angeles

After leaving my new Mexican adventure friends (who headed back up to Mexicali after safely depositing me in this motel) I spent a day in San Felipe, bought a cell phone (safety first) and rested up a bit after the Laguna Salada crossing. By coincidence I am following the same route as the Baja 1000. The road to Bahia de Gonzaga was great, after leaving the blacktop it became quite challenging off road but not crazy impossible, just fun. It was very desolate and with the help of my “adventure” GPS map I was quite happy to arrive at my destination of “Papa Fernandez” as the sun was going down. It’s an old fly in fishing camp. The road there is being paved now so the old off road track will be a memory soon, kind of a shame for people like me but good for tourism I guess. There were lots of photos in the restaurant of famous actors who used to fly in and go fishing with “Papa Fernandez”.  The restaurant was closed until you arrived and somebody would come over and open up for you,  the food was great.

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These fishing Trawlers were in the bay the whole time I was there day and night. I counted 15 of them at one time. Sometimes I could hear people and radios from my camp site.

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his is Coco who lost his legs below the knee in a horrible industrial accident and now has a business where you can camp and he will cook you up some taco’s if you ask.

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After leaving Papa Fernandez I travelled to Bahia de Los Angeles on very good roads like this

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My Beach! Very strong off shore wind, the tent is anchored to my bike, but the wind did a 180 turn during the night and blew very strongly onshore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Sunday, January 16, 2011: Bahia de la los Angeles, the stay.

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Sun rise every morning at Bahia de Los Angeles, camping I became an early riser.

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Ah, this is the life!!!

I stayed an extra night in B L A because I was invited to dinner with Antonio owner of Campo Archelon (Archelon is a pre historic turtle I believe correct me please Antonio if I’m wrong) He runs the camp sight and used to run a turtle research station next to the camp, very cool guy. In the mid 90’s two of his loggerheads bred in tanks when released made it to Japan which probably proves something Judith? The dinner was mostly Brit Canadians, Germain Canadians, Canadians and of course Antonio and his son Antonio (the 5th?). I ate fish no problem sea bass, was good! Lots of wine and deep deep discussions about life the universe and everything! April would have loved it.

By chance I met Mauro Rossini a Italian who traveled by motorcycle in the 70’s and 90’s with support vehicles and

doing product testing across China and the America’s and other places for months. We chatted for hours, one hilarious story he told me was his riding jacket and pants he was testing were soft and supple when warm and increased their insulation property’s when it got cold. He said it worked great but……………it quadrupled it’s size and became stiff and brittle when below freezing, so much so it was almost impossible to get off the bike and if you could you walked like a robot and had to point at things with a straight arm. I saw the pictures in bike mags, he looked like an American football player with shoulder pads, I was killing myself with laughter. He met Rene Cormier who I have met and read his proverbial book (a Canadian who spent 3 years ridding around the world on a 650 BMW and is a strong influence on me doing this trip) on the same beach I am staying at. As it turns out everybody on this beach knows Rene. I think Mauro found this place on one of his adventures, fell in love with it and stayed, he is married to a lovely American gal called Patty and has two children.

 


Wednesday, January 19, 2011: Bahia de L.A. to San Ignacio

IMGP2677Well actually Guerrero Negro, what a day! This was just the beginning. I stopped, pulled of the highway to take a pic, no problems when driving away all felt fine except I wasn’t going forward I was going down! the bike is resting on it’s belly pan.  Bahia de Los Angeles really doesn’t want me to leave. Off with all the bags, get out the trusty C.T.C camping shovel and start digging, made a ramp out but when I tried to ride it up it just got worse even deeper. Oh $&%*^. So I came up with idea to push the bike on it’s side (It’s used to it now) The back wheel popped out and left a huge hole. I filled the hole with rocks, embedded rocks in a straight line back up to the road and picked up the bike, good to go, just as I was about to try two trucks stopped full of construction workers, these guys (Mexican specifically) always stop to help. And poof we’re back on the road, hand shakes big smiles off they go. Re pack the bike second time today and off I go.

(The rest of the day can be found here)

 

 


Saturday, January 22, 2011: San Ignacio to Mulage and Bahia Conception

IMGP2752After leaving beautiful San Ignacio the road travels back into the desert back to the Sea of Cortez. Most of Baja is desert with oasis areas´s. I´m afraid this portion is rather boring, no whales, no crashes, no disasters. I stopped at a town called Santa Rosalia which is kinda cool because its actually an old mining town the French built so the architecture is not Spanish/Mexican but French has a completely different feel…

…At Mulage I realized I am running out of time, It’s funny a month in the saddle sounds like a lot of time but it´s really not. I thought I must keep the hammer down to complete my loosely planned trip which was to go around Baja, get to the  bottom and come up the other side (west side). But after some soul searching I thought what do I really want to do, I know I dint want to rush, I know I dont like sitting in the saddle on a boring road all day long (if it´s straight I hate it) and really don’t care if I see another mission, I do know I love camping being on the beach, swimming, meeting people and chatting, I love to ride my bike unladen off road also I want to kayak on Conception Bay and I want to  spend a little time in La Paz ( big town in south Baja East coast plus I want to snorkel at Punta Pulmo which has fabulous  reefs that are accessible from shore and great camping. It´s funny I felt compelled to “complete the journey” I don’t know why. But I have decided not to, I am going to fail on this great journey of circumnavigating the Baja Peninsular! I have decided instead to enjoy the last week and half and do what I love. Tough decision!!!!! thank god I figured it out.

 


Friday, January 28, 2011: Bahia Conception a La Paz

 

January 21st. Got up early (despite the previous night with Ed and Sandra) and watched the sun come up. I have become used to packing and people coming up and chatting. At the beginning I got upset because I was in a rush to get going but now I like it very much, chatting with all kinds of different people. So now I plan two to three hours to pack up camp. After chatting and saying goodbye to Ed I got going at my new record of 10:30. I filled up both tanks so I could make it to La Paz without stopping for gas. The beginning of the ride was through mountains, spectacular views and really twisty flowing corners with the occasional hairpin turn, great I loved it, wished I was on a sport bike.  By the time I got to La paz it was night and my bottom (aka bum) was killing me. Gotta do something about this seat before the long days in the saddle heading back up to Phoenix


Friday, January 28, 2011: Time at La Paz

Skate Crashing

watched some guys skatecrashing I think it’s called, Looked painful, I don’t know why people do this sort of crazy sport!

My plan is to cross over to mainland Mexico from La Paz but the “immigration” office is closed till Monday so I decided to stay in La Paz and relax a few days. I want to spend the last of my time in South Baja on a beach, if I continue round the peninsula and back up I won’t have time for the beach. I figure catching the ferry to Popalabampa on the main land (say that 100 times fast, the locals pronounce in some strange tongue, not Spanish, that only they can understand) will give me two extra days for the beach.
It’s a very funny thing, you literally just drive into Baja, through a border crossing, the officials don’t stop you and ask any questions, you just drive through, you have to stop and pictures are taken only. But going to the mainland is completely different, passports, temporary vehicle importation documents, tourist card document etc. It’s a pain in the you no what and very time consuming going to one office for this, one office for that, paying at a bank returning with receipts, lining up at counters and waiting for it all to be processed, it’s almost not worth it. It’s like Europe in the 70’s, worse. But once I got started I figured I may as well go through with it all. Beaches are a powerful motivator, yes.


Saturday, January 29, 2011: Jan La Paz to Cabo Pulmo

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But on the southern side of the sign, you are now in the tropics and it was uncomfortably hot! Honest.

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The ride to Cabo Pulmo National State Marine park was easy, at the Tropic of Cancer sign I stopped and it was the strangest thing, on the north side it was freezing cold (as seen in this picture).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Monday, January 31, 2011: Cabo Pulmo back to La Paz. Another crazy riding adventure

Thursday morning after going for an incredible 2 hour snorkel on the corral reef, I decided as I had completely not planned to, head it for La Paz for a comfy night in a motel and to be able to do some stuff in town before catching the ferry to Topolabampo at 3pm the next day. So I packed up and was ready to go by about 1. I decided to follow the coastal road instead of the main highway I used to get here from La Paz. My National Geographic “adventure” map showed what I thought looked like a  pretty good coastal road. The ride initially was breathtakingly beautiful, the riding was fun on smooth sandy roads, not too deep, the bike just floated underneath me all I had to do was make small corrections and let the bike do what it wanted. I was in heaven realizing this was my last day riding on off road  “secondary” trails. Oh but how quickly can things go wrong!

F800GS on its sideSo driving up into the mountains the nice smooth road slowly got worse and worse. I kept pushing forward because I thought it must get better soon, it didn’t, it just got worse and worse until I hit a steep, rutty, pot holes everywhere section and boom on my rear end again, erghhhgrgh!!!!!!!! I waited for about 15 minutes for somebody to come by (I did not see a single light anywhere for the next 3 hours or so) and help me lift my monster (it takes about an hour to do it myself) Nobody. Off with all the luggage, get the bike up, pulled my back out, unladen I still could not get the bike to the top of the hill, back wheel just spun whether or not I was on or off the bike. Trail is too narrow to turn it around so I slipped it backwards brakes on, sliding down to the bottom of the hill about 50 feet and then was able to get a good enough run up at the hill to the top. Then drag all me gear to the top and re pack the bike. Feeling a little hungry now.

‘ve got myself into this position and now that I don’t know whether to go back or go forward. If I go back I will have to camp at the side of the road which I don’t want to, if I can get through the mountains a nice warm hotel room awaits me. I think at this time it can’t be very far to cross so I push on. The road just went higher and higher and got worse and worse. It ended up a single track trail that followed the cliff edge, I’ve really got myself into the proverbial. There was not a single light in any of the valleys. I felt very alone. No problems with banditos just problems avec moi! My HID head lights thank god worked great (I angled the whole pod down and used both beams of course so the road ahead was like day time for about 30 – 40 feet which at 5 kms hour is ok) because now it was pitch I mean pitch black, no moon. The trail had really steep sections going up that ended up with a corner at the top so you had to have enough speed to get up but no too much speed for the corner. The trail had huge boulders and steep downhill technical declines, It was really really tough. At one point I thought I will camp but there was nowhere to camp, I would have to pitch my tent in the middle of the trail on top off rocks and boulders on a incline because it was cliff on the one side and a big drop off on the other side. Crazy. It took everything I knew to get through this, I could not make a mistake, I honestly drew on my motorcycle racing, downhill biking and my martial arts experiences, all played a vital part in getting through this little nightmare. It’s funny though because at a base level I was having a lot of fun?????Nothing like a challenge I guess

After two hours of intense concentration I saw lights of a town. Coming down the mountain the trail slowly turned back into a road of sorts. Keeping my concentration and being vigilant not to let my guard down suddenly I was engulfed in bright spot lights that completely out shone my HID head lights. A surprise military check point. Surrounded by soldiers I told them (in Spanish) I came from Cabo Pulmo, through the mountain pass and was on my way to La Paz. They all started smiling when they realized I came through the mountains and kept asking me if I came through the mountain pass. Once they actually believed me that I did they all started laughing! Even the “interrogator” smiled although he was trying to maintain a serious demeanor.

I reached the highway, back onto sweet sweet pavement, this kind of riding really makes you appreciate pavement even if it’s straight! I felt absolutely elated, I made it! At about 30mph completely naturally I stood up on the pegs my hands came off the handle bars and raised high in the air, I yelled in joy as if I had just won a world championship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Then I thought better sit down quick before my joy is ended by a pothole!!!!!!!!!

Two hours later I was checked into a good motel and sitting down at my favorite restaurant in La Paz eating assada and drinking Pacifico beer, hmmm happiness.

 


Friday, February 4, 2011: La Paz Baja To Snowy old OttawaIMGP2885

Going to Mainland Mexico as I said is completely different to Baja. The Mexican authorities don’t care at all when you go into Baja. But after going through 1960’s style customs at the ferry terminal I was pretty stressed out by time I got on the ferry! Riding crazy mountain trails at night, bandito’s and thieves (which I never encountered even once), or pot holes that suddenly appear on “good” roads don’t kill you, bureaucracy in Mexico will.
IMGP2908I got on the ferry and saw all the motorcycles carefully lashed down. I thought that’s good they tie the bikes securely. Told a ferry worker that my bike was ready to be tied down and he told me they dont do it, ahh! So I used the ratcheting straps I used to strap my luggage on with, worked great….
….No Messing around, To keep your speed down (and it also keeps you alert), these seemingly random speed bumps slow you right down and provide a great place for locals to sell there goods. This was my last day travelling and I loved it now my bum had it’s new luxo seat…

…!Muy Triste! As my bike is going into it’s new BMW crate to come home in. It’s going to Caprara Brothers in Watertown N Y where I will pick it up in a week or so in the crate and bring it back to snowy old Ottawa!


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