Friday, February 8, 2008

Lucerne to Baja...

[UPDATE: sitting at LAX waiting for a plane ... next ride report will be an exploration of Nicaragua.]

… indirectly, but that’s the way it went.

A Baja run was already in the planning stages**

**NOTE: Extent of “planning” was a phone call – “You want to go to Baja?”

so a warm up ride was in order. A small contingent headed out to Lucerne where “warm up” was initially a very poor descriptor … it was freezing when we showed up.

Fortunately the cold temps were short-lived and things got beautiful very quickly … although we did find some evidence that there were those who didn’t appreciate us being there.

Odd thing about this particular trail was it was one of the officially marked “open routes”! The group was making a concerted effort to ride only on established trails & we encountered this shortly after one of the open route signs – forgot which one … guess I’ll have to go for another ride & get the trail number :D

Riding over these blockades got ridiculous after a while & it was off to the hills to find another option.

The day was full of surprises on the established trails. Following one … a full-on road, ended when the road when straight up a hill that had suffered some pretty severe damage from rain it seemed. The group deemed that route impassible & we opted for what seemed to be an easier option.

Not so sure we were entirely spot on with that assessment.

Nonetheless, all the feedback I received was that the day in the desert was a good time – though I suppose there was probably a lot of feedback I didn’t receive about the ride :evil

SO … on to BAJA

From 7 or so, the group whittled down to three. Jeremy, Brandy, and myself.

Starting off on another cold December morning…

Our bikes covered a pretty good spectrum – 950, 426, and a 2-stroke 200.

Brandy is probably one of the only people around who has literally 1000’s of miles on a KDX 200. Carries oil & a graduated cylinder & just dumps oil in at the Pemex stations, shakes the bike a bit, & rides off…

Our route was going to be a fun one – follow racecourse from Ensenada up to Mike’s & back down to the coast – we went up Simpsons along the way …

The “fast part” of the course looked about the same coming out of Trinidad:

The rest of the course was normally very fun, but a grader was going through while we were riding (we literally had to ride around it) – leaving a foot-thick layer of sand & silt with hidden loose rocks under it.

I’ll let Jeremy tell you about those :evil

This water crossing was funny … a little deeper than usual … VERY soft.
The 426 & 200 just sort of floated across.
The fully-fueled 950 just plain sank into the mud … well over the hubs. Made it across, kept the boots high & dry, but it wasn’t pretty.

Things got a little more interesting heading up Simpsons :D

The group finally rolled into Mike’s – the sidestandless Yamaha, the 2-stroke, & the behemoth.

Actually it was one of the more diverse spreads of bikes I’ve seen there recently. 950, few “regular” dirtbikes, 2-stroke, V-Strom, and a Honda 50.

Always popular among the visitors :D

From there it was more racecourse toward the coast.

Brandy mixing fuel at El Coyote:

Funny thing is, we would meet up with the couple in the background many hours later that night when I was fixing a flat on the 950 in Santo Tomas.

Trail to the coast


Greeters, version 2.

We did quite a bit of exploration down near the coast – contemplating a pretty steep down hill:

Once Jeremy & Brandy were (well) clear of the trail, it was the 950s turn…

All of us got down unscathed.

And hit some flatter terrain:

Until flat #1 happened.

Flat fixed … over the dunes & onto the beach:

Getting off the beach was a bit more of a challenge (you can just make out the singletrack heading up the ridge:

We were quickly losing the light – something of a concern as Brandy’s bike didn’t have a tail light & Jeremy’s bike just … didn’t have lights.

Quick fuel up in Erendira & we’re off…

Somewhere between the coast & Santo Tomas the light was no more…

Jeremy had some pretty bright mountain bike lights with a 4-hour burn time, put those on at Santo Tomas & they worked pretty well for getting through Ensenada back to the truck:

They loaded up straight way & headed back to the border … I was left to my own devices with a smaller bike :D

and something of an unplanned extension...

Long story, but I had cause to burn back up to the US for work and then straight back to Baja in a few days ... just happened the biggest storm in years decides to hit the west coast at the same time.

...and my rain gear is up in Orange County.

The schedule is such that I can't really wait it out, so I get all set to leave in the middle of the rain from just outside Ensenada.

...and then notice I have a flat tire

(That bird in the background is bizarre - most social pigeon on the planet I think. Hung around the entire time I was making the repair, pecked at all the various parts of the bike that had been removed ... just wanted to see what I was doing I think.)

Soon enough I get the tire set up, gear up & get rolling. All I had to wear was the same riding gear from the past few days ... NOTE: Klim vented pants are NOT the choice for rain.

Not at all ...

About 5 miles into my 200 mile trek home pretty much everything was soaked through.

After a while I guess you get used to it or something - not great by any means, but I didn't notice nearly as much as when I finally came to a stop at the border. Pulled up to the booth so they could check my passport & such ... it was at that stop that the true nature of the cold hit me ... and indeed it was pretty chilly.

Nothing much to do except keep rolling ... I've still got 150 miles to go.

At least there was no traffic at the border so I wasn't stopped for long:

Over the next 25 miles of riding the wind started to pick up & it got really cold as the wind cut through the clothing & had a radiator-like effect with all the water. Pulled over to put on all the extra layers of clothing I had - even if wet at least they'd cut down on the wind some I figured. Fortunately I had my Olympia jacket liner that's pretty waterproof for the most part - that kept my chest dry right up until the rain channeled down my neck...

Note wind blowing the sign:

I had some neoprene/suede gloves - found out they work pretty good when dry - not so much when soaked through. The neoprene just absorbed the water like a wetsuit, but without the "smoothie" stuff on the outside, the wind just cut right through. It got really bitter after a while - I finally figured out to stop & heat the gloves up on the exhaust. It was an extremely temporary relief (newfound warmth lasted right up to the end of the onramp), but I figure getting the feeling back into the hands once or twice on the ride home couldn't be a bad thing.

Soaked glove:

Plus hot exhaust = STEAM:

And now it looks like later this week I'll be able to rename the thread "Lucern to Baja ... to HB & back to Baja".

Doing laps...

After the rainy ride home concluded - it allowed for just enough time to get some work done and prep the GS for the return trip to Mexico in a few days.

Not much prep really, just some wiring to try out an idea for routing a headphone cable...

A fully-loaded GS is a beautiful thing...

I arrived in Baja just before sunset & started prepping camera gear for the following day:

I woke to perfect weather the next day... at least inland the weather was good.

Just before the coast the fog hit HARD. Made for a tough day of shooting...

Met a guy who had a pre-SCORE Baja 500 metal commemorative piece:

Bike hit 9000 miles around Santo Tomas...

Loaded up the equipment & headed for home ... only to return in a few days to much better weather...