Monday, March 14, 2016

Baja Trip on a Motorcycle March 4-7 2016

The Baja California Peninsula has always sounded interesting, so close to Southern California, but yet a different country and I haven't been there. Very little information is available for mountain biking, although a bike route is in development by Lael Wilcox and Nicholas Carman. The informal inaugural full ride from Tecate to the southern cape will be winter 2017, the full loop could be about 2000 miles and 90% off pavement (Baja Divide route). Seems like fatbike territory, though,, 3+ tires for all the sand. So unlikely that I'll try that. A 2.35 rear is the biggest I can fit on my current bike and I have enough sand in SoCal. Still, some first hand experience was needed before dismissing it.

So exploration seemed to be indicated and a motorcycle seemed right for it. However, I'm much less of a moto rider than a bicyclist. Not just less experienced, but also more hesitant to take 400 pounds of metal and plastic into remote areas than 30 pounds. 

Just lifting up my KLR is a chore, forget about getting it out of a ravine alone (which I've done many times with a mountain bike). Trailside repairs are more challenging than on a bicycle and there are a thousand more things that can break (I think, never counted it). At least there are an awful lot of parts, just checking the valves takes several hours and I can replace a whole bicycle dive train in about that time. 

I therefore joined a group organized by Mark and Luanna Stickelmaier, who not long ago moved to San Felipe in Baja. Lisa and Simon Thomas are two long distance world tourers from Britain, sort of the motorcycle equivalent to Lael/Nicholas or Ez Horanyi and Scott Morris, who acted as additional guides. They have ridden almost 1/2 million miles on their motorcycles over the last 15 years and are only on their second set of BMWs.  The rest of us were mostly from Southern California, although one rode all the way from Seattle and another flew in from the East Coast and borrowed one of Mark's motorcycles. Our group was a total of 11 motorcycles. On my KLR, I was way underdressed among this middle-aged bunch. Probably the next cheapest moto was 3X the value of mine. 

We crossed at Tecate and headed up to Mike's Sky Ranch for the first night. No paved road. Mike's Sky Ranch rests on a hillside overlooking the Arroyo San Rafael, which is a somewhat wooded river valley with steep, brush-covered mountains. 

The ranch offers motel-type accommodations, cheapish and primitive, but very much at Baja touring heaving. A waterrfall is 1 mile hike up the canyon, but generally not very impressive (depends on time of year). This small secluded backcountry lodge in the middle of nowhere is on the Baja must-do list and hundreds of bikes and jeeps each year make it to this destination. There was one other, much bigger group than ours, younger and rowdier. 

Dinner being cooked at Mike's Sky Ranch. And the bikes are parked around the pool.

Heading back along the Pacific on the last day