Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Wrong Bike can be the Perfect Choice.

... or not.



"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't."
~Erica Jong

"What tires should I use?"
"Should I worry about a final drive failure in Mexico?" (Hi DJ! :wave)
"Is this oil leak bad?"

Solution? Don't ask questions to which you might not like the answer ...(?) :dunno

So ... anyway, I just rolled in from this Cross-Country Ride which saw some offroading up in Vermont with knobbies, then several thousand pavement miles on streetish tires back home. After a long ride like that, heading down to Baja is just around the corner - figured it wise to take the new ride down south & see how it fared offroad in "stock" form. Picking up oil & such as a local BMW dealer we chatted about the planned ride & invariably the comment was "you're going to put some appropriate tires on there aren't you?"

Not wanting to drop a few hundred on extra rubber for such a (relatively) short ride - figured it best to just roll down as is. Design4D happened to have a couple days free as well & was up for the adventure ... with about a day's notice the whole thing came together & the group assembled.

Notice the Harley in the background ... us three would ride south for a bit, then the two GSs would continue when the pavement stopped.

We headed south not being quite sure what the situation at the border would be given the fires. From MILES away it was painfully obvious that things were less than perfect down there...

Right off the bat things got random. Not having any sort of helmet-communication system, we pre-arranged stops as best we could. The 1st was a 'rest stop' just off the 5. Turns out the 'rest stop' was actually a viewpoint - I was in front & blew right past it & when I got to what I thought was the correct rest stop, it was closed - not just closed, the exit was blocked. So ... onto the next pre-arranged spot. Turns out the next few offramps didn't quite match up with what was described so the 'foolproof' spot was a gas station just shy of the Mexican border.

We regrouped under the shelter of a thick blanket of soot:

What followed at that gas stop was a legal parade... FAR more official vehicles went by that I could could. To say at least fifty would NOT be an exaggeration! Dunno what was going on to the west, but something was up ... prolly better we didn't know ... ignorance being bliss & all that...

It took about 10 minutes for all the official vehicles to whiz by, after which we headed south to where they had just come from. No immediate evidence of the fire as we were right in town. Pulling off the road just 50 feet or so showed that indeed the fires were much closer to the town than we were aware.

As we continued south the terrain became more surreal as the daylight faded. Burned-out valleys created charcoal shadows across the landscape that would not fade along with the light. Takes the brain a moment or two to adjust to seeing a massive shadow being cast from a mountain to the valley floor when there is no light to produce it.

The highway were headed toward the Tecate border crossing turned out to be closed. People were literally camped out along the sides of the road, in parking lots, campgrounds, many times with hotspots & flare ups all around! Unbeknownst to us at the time the road being closed was a blessing in disguise as the border crossing at Tecate had been shut down & would remain closed for several more days.

Turn right, head to Tijuana.

By this time it's just plain dark. So much for wanting to arrive during the day. Regardless, we were headed for the coast toll road - very nice, well-maintained road. Stopped to grab a bite in San Diego before heading south. The fray of the border crossing is what it always is ... fray. Not so much organized madness as much as madness with a sort of grain to it. You just have to "feel the flow" of things & you'll roll smoothly through - if you're not looking for rigidly defined rules of the road ... or road markings ... it's not so bad.

Next rest stop was one of the toll boothes.

Living in the shadow of the booth.

Full-moon ocean viewpoint:

Before too long we pull into the school that was the subject of the ride that was the impetus of buying the GS in the first place.

The Bavarian bike comes home ... in a sense.

After a quick breakfast, we head south - first through Ensenada. There was s cruise ship in the harbour so the tourists were out in force. D4D rolling through town:

Just a short distance from town the pavement ends:

The going gets steep in parts - this was actually an "option" trail. Test # for the "street" tires. The sheer weight of these bikes seemed to offer so much traction that the tires didn't seem to present much of a drawback - at least not on the slower-speed relatively hardpack stuff.

We saw some quads go by in the distance on the "go around" for this descent:

Miles of scenery:

This used to be a silt bed! One of the sections of this ride I wasn't really looking forward to on the big bike ... we get there & someone has taken a blade to it :D ... smooth sailing.

Head through town, then hit the pavement for a bit:

This is where we met a true KTM fan. First thing noticeable was the 950, then all the gear, the KTM watch, but it was the other side of the arm that sealed the deal...

The irony of this meeting being that D4D & I, both 950 owners, happened to be riding BMWs when we rolled up.

We chatted for a bit, then rolled on.

Then, none too soon, it was back to the dirt.

Destination closing in...

The loosest part of the trail is the last 150' ...

I had a VERY simple objective for this trip ... wanted to get a shot of the Vermont temporary transit paper plate by the Mike's Sky Ranch sign before it expired.

Objective achieved ... we can go home now :D

But not before poking around a few of the other bikes...

We figured out two bikes would be the biggest there:

And to be sure, they were ... BUT ... they certainly weren't the most 'inappropriate' rides up there.

These three bikes comprised what is probably the most eclectic group of bikes I've seen at Mikes. Turns out their ride was ... interesting as well. The Ulysses, stock tires ... took the left up into the pine forest off Compadre.

Many of you reading this know what I'm talking about.

Those that don't, suffice it to say the bike on the far left of the above photo is fine for the aforementioned trail ... the one on the right ... not so much.

The owner, with busted up hand, pointed out the evidence that the bike was somewhat ill-suited for the terrain they found themselves in.

Next morning, neither D4D nor I were terribly hungry & we both wanted to cover some distance, so we split early & decided to put a few miles on before grabbing something to eat in the valley.

Over the bridge...

Down the rocks...

Through the sand...

...and right to the spot where D4D's bike stalled out :bluduh

Don't know exactly what happened ... either a dirty switch or the CANBUS system freaked out ... whatever the case it seemed to fix itself & wouldn't be a problem for the rest of the trip :dunno

We were off again.

The 1000 is this month ... we ran into several prerunners. The concern about these things is them running into you...

Arriving back at the coast.

Oddly enough, as tinder-dry as most of Baja is ... this is the only fire we saw while we were there:

The Tecate border still being closed, we headed west for the fray of the Otay crossing in Tijuana, then the 5 freeway, one failed headlight bulb somewhere in San Diego, then on home.