Giddy up and go time arrived to Joshua Tree and once again it was time for me to pack up and go. Some places are difficult to leave but there are a lot more places to see. Also I had a few appointments. Tiggy Moondust was showing signs of wear and tare and needed some TLC. She needed new tyres and a full service. Her last full service was in Holland at 22,000 km but her valves were not checked and she desperately needed them checked out. I had mailed all the Triumph dealers in South California, Nevada and Arizona. North County’s House of Motorcycles in San Diego County replied promptly, friendly and professionally to all my mails and gave me a really good quote. Other dealers either did not reply or where way out with their prices.
I was mailing through the locate a dealer link on the Triumph website. Somehow the American Triumph importer read the mails ‘cos I got one from them asking me exactly in which state and city I was looking for a dealer….. A bit embarrassing as the answer was, of course, the cheapest. I wasn’t too worried about where. Once the service dates were booked I then had to find an Airbnb in the area. That of course meant that I needed Wi-Fi. Managed to arrange everything whilst staying in Joshua Tree. Used the Library in 29 Palms and good old Starbucks in Yucca Valley.
I also had a date to keep, 20 December the Ride Live Explore backup team was arriving, lifelong friend, long suffering travel companion, website moderator, my administration affairs in Europe fixer…. Zsuzsa or Suzy was flying in from Amsterdam and landing in Ciudad del Carmen in the Yucatan. Which was about 2500 miles (4000 Km) and one land border away. We were gonna do a 6 weeks tour of the Mayan ruins together. This was a must. Also my visa was running out. I had a 6 months visa for the States. So for the first time in a long time I had a schedule … panic …. stress… But I had loads of time.
So it was off to Vista. Stopped for the night, in Lake Cahuilla, just outside Palm Springs and in the Palm Desert. Palm Springs is a desert town but you would never know that by looking at it, it has an abundance of water.
Stayed on the County Park Campsite on Lake Cahuilla. This whole area was inhabited by a native American tribe called the “Cahuilla People”. They lived pretty much in isolation, hunting and fishing. The camping site was really nice, situated on the lake and it even had a little internet spot. Major luxury.
Next morning headed on to Vista. Passed through some really fantastic suburban areas. You would never know that it was a desert. Arrived in Vista after a super run, scenery was fantastic. My Airbnb host was a German girl who had worked as an airline stewardess for different airlines and now had settled in California. She was really brilliant. The house was also dead close to the garage.
The next morning bright and early saw me outside the shop, North County’s House of Motorcycles, www.nchouseofmotorcycles.com. Tiggy Moondust was scheduled for 10 am, but had to be there by 9 to let her cool down. The shop was huge by our standards. They are a multi dealer shop as are most of the bike shops in the States. They also sell ATVs, snowmobiles and jet skis.
Met up with Dennis and Ian, the technician who was gonna take care of the bike. He is an expat from England, so no better person to have tinkering with her innards. The bike has done a lot of hard kilometers, clock was somewhere around the 57.000 Km. Had taken the snorkel off and replaced it with an uni pre filter. These are made in Australia and marketed by Touratech. Mine was coming apart at the mounting piece. These are not throw away cheap filters so I was not happy to see that. Ian managed to glue it back and as it’s just a pre filter it should be okay.
It was really dirty, full of dust. Too much desert riding. But the K&N main filter was clean, so it works. Valves were way out so Ian shimmed them up. The service was a whole day and a couple of hours the next day, just to make some final adjustments. I have to admit they were extremely thorough though and he did a lot of small things at no extra cost. I was made welcome in the shop and could sit there and log into their wi-fi and work on the blog. Had lunch in a big supermarket across the road.
Then on to San Diego and to 8 Ball Motorcycle Tyres. I had also been in mail contact with them and was gonna get a new set of tyres fitted. Booked into a motel for the night.
Next morning it was off to Borrego Springs in the Anza-Borrego Desert. There is a really nice road leading, passing through a town called Julian. This town is famous for it’s apple pie. Took the Hwy 8 out of San Diego and switched to Hwy 79 to Julian where we pick up the 78 ….. where the fun really starts.
These are gorgeous roads, winding and weaving their way up over mountains to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The scenery was spectacular, the roads really nice winding their way through some fantastic places like Cuyamaca State Park, Julian, Whispering Pines, Scissors Pass to name just a few.
Then the Anza Borrego State Park itself, this park is in the Colorado Desert. Got a spot on the Tamarisk Grove Campground, at least I think that it was that one.
This site is set in the shade of Tamarisk trees, from which it derives it name. It also offers some spectacular desert night sky views.
Unfortunately it was here that received some bad news, the death of an old colleague, mentor, team leader and friend….. he lost the battle with MS, a really horrible sickness. Rest In Peace Ron, gone but not forgotten!
After a quick look around the desert it was off to Salton Sea where I wanted to visit Slab City and East Jesus. http://eastjesus.org/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slab_City,_California
But disaster was waiting. Pitched my tent on the campsite Salton sea recreation park and headed off to visit Slab City. Took the 111. Felt the bike weaving, that dreaded type of weave that heralds bad news. Pulled over to the side of the road and yes a flat tyre in a brand new tyre and tube. It was, of course, the back tyre. Fixing it, on the side of the road, was not an option. Road was narrow and had virtually no hard shoulder and trucks were whizzing past really fast. So phoned for roadside assistance. I have roadside assistance coverage via my American bike insurance so phoned the provided number. They told me that a tow truck would arrive in one and a half hours. They would take me back to the camping site. The tow truck finally arrived 5 hours later. Total time from puncture to being back at the tent, just under 6 hours. America does not have the same type of roadside assistance that we have here in Europe, it’s way behind. No little yellow vans running around with a mechanic and loads of tools who arrive and get you going again, you get towed and that’s it. The biggest problem also was that I had a prepay phone and only had 10 dollars on it. The insurance company kept putting me on hold. Some people stopped to offer help. The first guy wanted money to use a cannister of fix a flat, that goo that is supposed to seal the hole. I refused as I had already phoned the tow truck. Another guy stopped in a 4+4 and handed me a cannister of fix a flat for free, he was also a biker. By now I was waiting hours, so I took it. Had a look and saw that the tyre valve was ripped off the tube. Then a car stops and an English guys asks if I was okay. Told him the story and he phoned the Insurance company, answer was any minute now…. Yep. He was staying out in Slab City for the weekend and carried on to drop his wife off and have some dinner with some friends. He promised to come back in an hours’ time to see If I was still there. He did and I was, he brought some cold drinks, granola bars and chocolate. His name was Andy. He immediately phoned the insurance company again, then he waited with me, using his hazard warning lights to alert oncoming traffic as it was pitch dark, until the tow truck arrived…. More than an hour later. Turns out that Andy was an expat living in California with a high profile job and to chill out and relax he goes up to Slab City and does some artwork. He also rides a bike. Andy Thanks. I didn’t get to Slab city or East Jesus, but click on the link to check it out. It’s worth it. There is also a you tube video.
Finally I was brought back to the camping site where the next morning pulled the wheel off and set to work to remove the tyre, replace the inner tube and all would be okay…..
No way. Got the tyre off and no inner tube, it had disintegrated and melted bonding with the tyre. Meaning my tyre was finished. I couldn’t believe it. Had stopped within a hundred meters of feeling the bike weave so didn’t ride with a flat tyre. Plus the tyre bead was still securely bedded onto the wheel, had to use my bead breaker. In all my years I have never seen anything like this.
But now I needed a new tyre and rim tape. I was really pissed at this, had paid round about 300 dollars for that tyre including new innertube and fitting just 4 days before. To add to the problems my prepay was running out on my phone. Then along came Caryl and Laura, two biker girls, living in San Diego, who were on holiday in their little camper van. They offered to help and began phoning around for a new tyre. They lent me their phone so that I could phone 8 Ball to see if they would compensate me with a new tyre and to ask their opinion. They didn’t know what was wrong either and compensation was not being offered. He did, however offer to bring me a new tyre out and let me pay for it the next day in San Diego. But by now I had had enough. A new Heidenau was found in San Bernardino and Laura and Caryl had phoned their insurance company and a tow truck was on the way to take me and the bike there. I had to then stick the tyre back onto the rim and replace the wheel so that we could roll the bike up onto the truck. Heidenaus are a hard compound tyre and extremely hard to get on or off.
The tow truck arrived within the hour but lucky for me the driver, a Mexican, was patient and waited until I had finished mounting the wheel. We then manhandled the bike up onto the truck, me and the driver holding and pushing the bike whilst Caryl operated the hydraulic lever raising the truck loading bed. Then it was a 99 mile drive to San Bernardino. I had also phoned Doug and Micae, two friends in San Diego, with whom I was gonna stay. Doug had offered to drive out with his pick up truck and cart me and the bike back to San Diego. This would have been a last option ‘cos it was a long drive there and back for them plus Tiggy Moondust is a big heavy gal and it would have been extremely difficult to load her and kinda iffy, if she fitted. But dead decent of them to offer, thanks guys.
It was a holiday weekend so the roads were jammed packed. Arrived at Chaparral Motor Sports, unloaded the bike and handed it over to the technicians. A couple of hours later I was once again in possession of a ridable motorcycle and was 294 dollars poorer. I could have saved myself 75 dollars by fitting the wheel myself but in the haste to get the bike loaded and to get to San Bernardino I had left my toolkit behind, big expensive mistake. Then had to ride 99 miles (160 km) in the dark, back to the camping site.
Found a note from Caryl and Laura on my picnic table with a nice little message, with their telephone number and offering to help out if I needed that in San Diego.
The next morning packed the tent up, made breakfast and went for a shower. Nothing more can go wrong….. wrong again. I slipped and fell awkwardly in the shower, felt a pain in my left wrist but could move the fingers, so could operate the clutch. I was getting out of there as fast as I could, that place was jinxed. I dosed my self up with pain killers and started to ride. Decided to use the freeway, longer in road miles but quicker in time plus it was easier on my wrist. The other route was shorter but full of twisties and they were all small roads. Another disaster. The roads were jammed packed with RVs returning to Los Angeles and it was really hot. Took me the best part of a day.
Night was falling when I finally arrived to San Diego and to a super warm welcome, a super home made spaghetti dindins and a warm bed. Life was looking up. The next day it was off to the first aid clinic.
Wrist was now swollen to twice its size. Went next morning to medical center where after being X-rayed it was diagnosed as fractured and badly sprained. Cure…. a brace and rest. Stayed a few days with Dough and Micae then, Saturday, on to Tijuana Mexico.
Lady luck, however was still in a bad mood. At the border the Mexicans couldn’t process my bike in. They could only get into the American Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) data base and not the European one. My original plan was to cross at Ten Cate where I knew that they could process the bike in. But with the wrist situation I was running late and didn’t want to do to many road miles more so decided on one of the busiest border crossings….. Tijuana or TJ. That should be okay
After 3 hours they told me to come back on Monday. They gave me an address of the main customs clearance post in Otay, Tijuana. I went 80 kms to Ensenada. One thing I learned over the years is that you never sleep within a 100 km radius of a border. Spent Sunday exploring the town. Really an American tourist trap. Inflated prices and everything in dollars. Cruised around looking for a hotel, they were all expensive and quoted the price in dollars.
Saw a nice looking one, on an intersection of two roads, parked the bike and went in to have a look. The manager gave me a good price, he liked bikes so decided to stay there. He also had secure parking for the bike. Went out to ride the bike round into the parking lot and couldn’t remember where I had parked it. Some Americans came out of the hotel and one of them asked me if I owned the parked up Triumph Tiger, he was wearing a Triumph fleece jacket. “Yes” I said, “think so, mmmmnnnnn where exactly did you see it and where is it parked, I seem to have misplaced it”. He pointed across the road and just around the corner and there she was, parked up under a tree, just where I left her.
The Americans were a group of bikers out for a holiday riding in Baja and were on their way home. The hotel was brilliant, an old building dating back to the 50s. It was called Hotel Mission Santa Isabel. The manager also gave me a good tip for a restaurant. This was a small local place run by two women. Had my breakfast there it was really good and normal prices.
Monday back up to Otay in TJ . Once again 4 hours waiting and the bike was finally legally in Mexico. Mexico has an exclusion zone of about 200 kms from the border. So it was possible to go further. They had to do the process twice, the first time he gave the papers, I read them carefully and discovered a big mistake. My name….. My Christian name was right but my surname was my middle name. So once again they had to do the whole process over again. Seemingly to process the VIN number they had to go through Mexico city and they are only open Mon. to Fri. I really hope that the rest of the crossings are not the same. It was getting late now so made it as far as Ensenada and stopped once again for the night and once again in the same hotel. When I posted the facebook album I discovered that I didn’t make any pictures of Ensenada, think with the stress of the border crossing and my wrist was painful it just didn’t happen. Also had the feeling that I was still in America. All the way from TJ, along the coast, there were super big apartment complexes, already built or being built. These were all aimed at the American market. A lot of Americans have houses in this area. Also they all seem to go to the dentist, physiotherapy and other medical services in Mexico. The border, at TJ, going into Mexico is a bit like an old style European one. Green lane you just drive through. There was an electronic gate that took your picture but no control. I would dearly love to see that photo, me dressed up in my bike gear riding the bike through with a full face helmet and sun visor down, yep they really could recognize me again. I had to go into the red, something to declare line, in order to get the bike and myself into the country as I was going further than Baja the exclusion zone. Going the other way, into the States, however, is a different story, it’s pretty much fortified.
Then time to head down Baja towards La Plaz and the car ferry to the mainland. Went first to the little restaurant for breakkies, “nopales omelet”. Nopales is an edible cactus plant and tastes really nice. Met an American expat living on a sailing boat. He and his brother spend the winter living around the coast of Mexico, either Baja or the mainland. He refused to let me pay my breakfast, a really nice gesture, thanks.
Then it really was time to go. Off down the Baja California Peninsula, a peninsula separating the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. It extends 775 miles (1,247 km) from the border with the United States to Cabo San Lucas in the south. It has 4 main desert areas, the San Felipe Desert, the Central Coast Desert, the Vizcaino Desert and the Magdalena Plain Desert. It is also home to the famous Baja 1000 off road race, the Score desert challenge, which is the final round of a four race series. The 2017 race was the 50th score Baja 1000 that took place from November 14-18 starting in Ensenada and ending in La Paz. http://score-international.com/raceinfo/2017-baja-1000/ So we were in good company here.
Took the famous Mex 1 highway. This is a brilliant road, running all the way down to Cabo San Lucas. The scenery here is breath taking, it’s also pretty much a lonely road, nor much traffic. Stopped of in a place called El Rosario.
Now there is one place that you have to stop at when riding down the Mex 1 and that of course is Mama Espinoza. I stayed the night and had dinner there. Not only is it famous for it’s sea food it has also served as a checkpoint since the beginning of the Baja 1000 in 1967.
There are a lot of relics of this famous race in a kind off museum room. http://mamaespinoza.com/english/
I met up with a couple of interesting people. A young couple traveling and living in a beat up old Volkwagen van. They were from the states and teach outdoor survival. They live mostly in the wilderness for months on end. The other person was the opposite in a way, he was an estate agent living in California and on an exploration vacation in Baja. He was also in the process of indecision and change, having sold his house in Baja and also in California. Good luck my friend, every decision is the right one just as long as you are happy.
The next morning it was off again, the Mex 1 was calling. The next bit promised to be a good one, hundreds of kms through cactus desert. Road was reported to be bad, potholes, but had that already and to be honest it was okay for bikes, we can easily weave in and around them. Filled the bike up with petrol and I was off.
I was not disappointed. I have never seen so many Cacti in my life, growing in their natural environment. It was amazing. Hundreds of kilometers. There was also nothing on this road, no services or houses. Was busting for a pee, saw a kinda lay-by and pulled over, only problem there was a car stopped with a lady driver, car had Canadian registration plates.Stood beside the bike debating what to do, the driver came over so asked her how she was doing, she pointed to her front wheel, tyre ripped to shreds and wheel rim bent, she had hit a pot hole. “Okay no problem”, me says “You turn around and no peeking, I go for Pee Pee’s and we change your wheel” what could be simpler…. But this is the desert and Mexico. First bit was easy. Went back to the car where the lady was busy reading the owner’s manual. We started to look for a spare wheel or a get me home donut, there was a jack, air compressor, a tin of fix a flat goo, but no wheel. Owner’s manual said that the automatic model doesn’t come with a spare….. the tyre was ripped so fix a flat was not gonna work.
She, her name is Marcie, had roadside assistance and started to look for the number but then another car stopped and two men got out, Mexicans. They saw the wheel and immediately pulled a garage jack out of their car and set to work, the other one asked for the spare wheel……. Back to square 1. They offered to take the wheel and Marcie to a garage but all her worldly processions were in the car and she did not want to leave it so they ended up taking the wheel in their car and off they went. Marcie has a house on the peninsula where she spends 6 months of the year … the winter.
I carried on as I had a long way to go and riding at night on desert roads is not a good thing. She later mailed me, the two men came back, an hour later, with the wheel, a new tyre and the receipt, two complete strangers stop to lend assistance to another perfect stranger and this in a country that most people tell you not to go to ….. would this happen in Europe??? The only people that stop for each other are bikers and then the old school ones, the new generation don’t. Carried on down the Mex 1, marveling at the cacti, some of them really old as they where tall. No petrol stations were appearing, but I had my 5 ltr jerry can so wasn’t too worried.
Then up in the distance a figure standing on the side of the road in the sun, slowed down and was confronted with an unusual sight. A small oriental man staring at a push cart with a skateboard beside him. I stopped, he told me that he had a puncture and didn’t know how to fix it ….. “Bugger” I thought I hate fixing punctures and had only one hand, also I had a long way to go. Parked the bike on the side and got to work. He had tools and a spare tube so we set to work. I showed him and let him do it. We got it together so he was dead happy. He was from Korea…. No it wasn’t Don’s friend Rocket Man …. and was skateboarding his way from Alaska to Argentina, his worldly possessions in the push cart …. I forget his name but refer to him as Skateboard Man. You really meet some people on this route…. The Pan Am highway.
To date have met bikers, 4x4s, trucks built into campers, bicyclists, a skateboarder and hikers. All different nationalities but all fantastic people. Some of them remain in your thoughts, some of them you meet up with again, like Jyl and Chris, an English couple whom I met on a petrol station in Alaska and unbeknownst to me were a couple of weeks ahead of me on the Pan Am. But reality, it’s getting late and it’s time to carry on. Skateboard man was happily mobile again.
There were no petrol stations along this stretch of the road. But there were people selling petrol from jerry cans at different places. I had my emergency 5 liter can on the back so was not to worried. You never know what the quality of the petrol is that you buy like this. After about 320 km a petrol station finally appeared. By then I was getting empty.
Stopped in a town called Guerrero Negro and stayed in the Malarrimo Motel. An amazing place, really super. Had a little cabin like room in the garden with Tiggy Moondust parked outside the door. It was also normal prices. This is a little seaside town where you can go whale watching. From January to April the gray whales stop off here on their way from the Bering Sea, 6.000 miles away, to give birth to their 1000 kg calves.
The largest concentrations are to be found in Scammon’s Lagoon just to the west . This is the first lagoon that the whales reach on their journey. Be warned though, this town gets full in whale watching season so you have to book months in advance.
But whales or no whales the Mex 1 was calling so Giddy up and go time was upon us again. The first part of the Mex 1 was still running through a protected nature area called Reserva de la Biosfera El Vizcaino,
this is a vast coastal wildlife sanctuary harboring endangered native land & marine species, including whales. The wind was picking up and started to be annoying. Then we reached the east coast of the peninsula and the Gulf of California.
Stopped off in Santa Rosalia, a small harbor town. Wanted to check on a Ro-Ro ferry (roll on, roll off ferry) that was supposed to go from here to the mainland and was a lot cheaper than the La Plaz one, but although the ticket office and the dock were there and still manned, but a big sign said that all sailings in 2017 had been cancelled due to ecological reasons…. Polite way of saying that the ferry was bust. This was a haphazard ferry as it went when it had enough people.
So carried on down the coast. The scenery was brilliant, equal to or better than the US Hwy 1. Stopped of for the night, 420 km later, in a small town called Loreto. This is a small seaside town famous for its sport fishing. If anyone wants to have a live look at the sea then click on the link of the webcam. webcam Loreto
This is a brilliant little town, stayed in a really nice friendly place, Hotel Posada San Martin. Met a couple from Switzerland who were cycling their way down the Pan Am, they decided to spend a week in Loreto, chill out. They were also having a lot of trouble with the wind.
Woke up next morning to that dreaded sound…., wind, it was blowing a storm. Would liked to have stayed a day longer in Loreto but wanted to catch the Saturday ferry to Mazatland on the mainland. This ferry only goes every other day.
So checked the map out and saw that the Mex 1 winds up over the mountains heading back over to the Pacific coast. Was thinking that I would run out of the wind so off we went, down the Mex 1. My gamble paid off, the wind eased off as I crossed the mountains. Stopped in a small town for breakfast at the restaurant of Hotel California…. Brilliant, just a small wee local hotel. Had a good breakfast, cheese omelet and coffee.
Fortified it was back onto the Mex 1 . This is a brilliant little road, it now headed back over to the eastern coast and the wind. Last 60 kms were windy but amazing scenery. Then La Paz appears. Rode straight to the Baja Ferries main office, bit of a job to find. Holly, my Garmin navigator whizz, couldn’t find it so had to resort to Hal, old windows phone with maps of here, between the two of them found it, but it was more by chance than anything. The mapping, for Mexico, in Holly leaves a lot to be desired.
Got the tickets and it was off to find a hotel. Got a nice motel on the waterfront with secure parking. Also found a lovely little local eatery place, which proved to be a challenge with my limited Spanish vocabulary. But had one off the best meals, this was a little hole in the wall place but it was full which means it was good. Wandered back to the motel and pretended to work on the blog.
Had a lazy start the next morning, had to be at the ferry terminal by 5 in the afternoon. So went and explored La Paz. It’s a nice wee town.
Then a 15 km ride to the ferry terminal. Here, for the first time, I was stopped by the customs who wanted to check out my TVIP (Temporary Vehicle Import Permit). She wanted to match the VIN number, which was covered in mud, plus it was dark, so she made a show of checking and let me go through.
Then I had to ride Tiggy Moondust up onto a large scale where I was charged an extra Harbour Tax…. Okay I got a receipt for it and all the cars, bikes and trucks had to do it. Then onto the loading area where I had to park up and wait.
Two other bikers showed up, two Mexican bikers on a GS1200 and 800, Alberto and friend. So I was not gonna have a boring crossing.
Tiggy Moondust was tied down in record time and I was off to find my cabin and to settle in. The ticket included dinner and one drink, so made my way to the restaurant where I met up with the two Mexican bikers and spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting and laughing.
Then time to return to the cabin to watch a film or in my case to work on the blog, before going to sleep. Tomorrow morning at about 8 am we were to dock in Mazatlán, but that will be another story.
Thank you for reading this and following. I will be posting a photo album of this trip on my facebook page Ride Live Explore. So until next time Adios Amigos….