Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tourista Too

Saturday ....   Guerro Negro

I found a function which appeared to be put on by different agencies to educate kids about Ecology, History, and Culture.  It was well done, and it appeared that university students were orgainizing and presenting.  Guess what: the kids and their behaviour (read attention span) was exactly like our own.  It was very easy to spot the harried teachers trying to shepherd the kids to the different venues.  Some things dont change...

I had to find a bank or an ATM, and wandered around a bit, getting a flavour for the streets of Ensenda, which are not any different than Play del Carmen, or perhaps downtown  Jasper or Sedona...the trinkets are just different.

 Look closely, you will get it....

Everything is posssible.....

 Surfing at Sunset

My last night in Ensenada was terrible. Rule No. 47 : don't get a room in a motel with a bar attached to it. I could not believe that the bar guys were going wide open at 2:00 AM. This is not simply the click of pool balls, and the odd raucous ring of laughter: this is out and out 110 decibel Karaoke in Spanish from seven until way in the morning.   Good God!  After they settled down, three of the fancy alarm systems in the cars of the guests went after another..


I did not have a good sense of distances from the maps that I had looked at for travelling south.  My biggest concern was to ensure that I had enough fuel for Blondie, as she only carries 16 liters.  Why did BMW sell this bike as a "Adventure-touring" bike with such a rinky dink tank volume.  I have rigged up 4 sets of 1 liter bottles as a back up.  The down side to that plan is that if I ever low side, Blondie will be instant Torch material.  I packed up most of my gear the night before, fuelled up, and at first light, with a lot less sleep than I preferred, I was off on Mexico 1.  The good think about driving Baja, it is almost impossible to get lost, because there is only one significant hiway running north and south.

I talked to the owner of this rig. He said he is running it in the Baja 1000 in Noviembre.

I had programmed Mr. Garmin the night before, and by 10 AM. I found that I had completely run my route that I had planned.  I had a second wind, and the ride ran abreast of the ocean, so the cooling effect  of the ocean was making for a good ride.  I decided to push on.  Blondie wanted one last ride in the sand and a look at the ocean before we headed inland, into what was rapidly becoming a furnace.

The next few hours were probably some of the most interesting riding that I have had so far.  There is not any doubt in my mind that as soon as the highway moves inland, we are into big time desert country: I mean no cowboys, no Indians, just dessert.   A pretty scrawny desert too, except for the parts where there appears to be artesian percolation which green up the area.

Like they say timing in Life is everything, and I could not have done a poorer job of planning my ride across the backbone of Baja, through the desert and the heat of the day.  Mad dogs, Englishmen, and Boomers on Bikes I guess.  I knew that I was up against more unknowns than the Nevada situation where I cooked my goose, so to speak.  Here, I had the added unkowns of not knowing if gas stations were going to be open, as well as not being very clear about the size of the towns on the maps that I had.  I passed many little villages with a taco stand and a tire repair guy and that was it: No fuel, no water, and definitely no direction signs..

Grumpy and Hot...

Out  in the middle of nowhere, and I exaggerate not,  a crew was paving, I ended up having a pleasant  conversation with a flagman/loader operator.  When I told him that I use to pave, but I drank too much, and that it was hot and dirty work, he told me about his  native wife from Barrow Alaska.  It wasn't clear the last time that he saw her, but he must have felt like talking to a stranger.  Funny how that works, eh?

My sixth new hat, in case I ever go paving in Mexico.

I rolled into Guerro Negro just as the sun was setting, and found a decent motel.  After a few hiccups with the interweb, I managed to get things going.  Ended up having an interesting conversation with a party of 3 guys from the local university who are in a tourism course.  Unfortunately, they wanted to practice their English, so much of my pontificating was in English, when I should have been Spangling more.  I told the older of the fellows about my goal of going to school in Oaxca, and he turned me on to   a very cool website, run by a teacher friend of his in Oaxaca.  He also told me that there are people who work to protect different workers' rights in Mexico, and I think that he described them as "syndico's".
He told me a bout the gray whales in the harbour and how they give birth and what a great sight they are.  I said that i have seen the very same whales when they pass by Nootka Sound on their way north (and south.)  There apparently are some cave paintings in the region,  and I have read that their origin is still unknown.  That is the kind of tourist I would like to be, because you never know where those aliens are going to show up.....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and the downright Ugly

2 traffic busts in 10 minutes...

Before I get to the details, it appears that the adventure has begun.  Today has been a smorgsboard of emotions as I attempted to do what thousands of others do without any pain, embarassement or frustration.  Before I get into the teary details and attempt to describe the level of frustration and anxiety I was feeling, I need to cover off my Sedona experience some more, while it is relatively fresh in my mind, such as it is.

After I had settled on a spot for some wild camping (as the ADV guys like to say) I got the gear organized, and set out my thermarest bed and my MEC pillow (it has save my neck) and my great sleeping bag.  As I have said before it gets damn dark very quickly in these necks of the woods, and I knew that I had managed to find a good spot, well off the road, invisible to traffic,and free.

My experiences in  downtown Sedona had left an overall bad taste in my mouth, and the only good thing about the visit was a chat that I had with a young man who had just done a wall to wall hike of the Grand Canyon.  Now for those of you who know the Canyon, this is not any small feat, and I would guess that you are looking at a 35 mile trek,with huge elevation changes at each end.  He mentioned that he was from Connecticut, and that he had just finished working on a job in Mexico City, which he said he really liked, although he could not speak the language.  We got talking about the draconian laws that Arizona has instituted a couple of years ago.  He felt that the law regarding the right of sherrifs and law enforcment to roust Aliens was rescinded. I did not know if that was true, and I thought to myself that it seems that dumb ass laws are passed in both of our countries because not enough people take the time to inform themselves of who they are electing or not electing.  This  fellow explained that he, as an American citizen, stood a good chance of being rousted, because he is of East Indian heritage, whereas I , being an old white guy, (but not an American citizen) would in all likely hood, not be bothered.  As we talked I remembered that I have passed at least a half dozen maximum security penitenturies in my travels, and invariably they have been placed in the middle of nowwhere, in some of the hottest, driest  pieces of real estate that the good old US of A can find.  I suppose that it is not any different in Canada, and we certainly have some goofy laws as well, so this is not a dump on the Americans rant, but a comment about values and attitudes which can impact a whole region.  This conversation was worth the visit to Sedona.  The ice cream cone which I purchased from a surly teenager who clearly did not want the job and did not give a damn that 5 oz of ice cream was being peddled for $4 cooled me off a bit, and standing under the sidewalk misters gave me an opportunity to have a clothes on shower and really make the tourists wonder if this flake was part of the local scene.    After my conversation about Arizona politics, I got on the road, and headed south until I found the aforesaid campsite.

After I had settled in and the dusk was clearly upon Blondie and I, I heard a snuffling, snorting type of communication.  I thought that it was something that was trying to get a scent of what or who had invaded its turf.  The night was silent except for the cicadas, and the  periodic snuffling which seemed to be travelling in an arc about my camp.  There was not much to do but wait and see what appeared out of the night, and hopefully my 2 dollar LED flashlight would blind the beast or scare the bejesus out of it.  Sad to say, I never did see the source of the sniffing snuffler, and it will have to be left to my imagination as to what in fact the beast of the  Sedona plains was.  It was only after that experince that I did google Sedona to see what the witches and warlocks had to say about the votex around Sedona, and if I am right, it looks like I was camped right in the path of some weirds flow of energy and vibrations....I had an exceptionally clear and vivid dream that night, and it was one of those dreams which has not happened to me, chemically induced or not, more than half a dozen times in my life, and it was clear enought and vivid enough that I awoke knowing that I had been visiting some other place as I slept that night.  Overall, I had a good feeling, and was quite prepared to deal with the ride to Flagstaff, Phoenix, and further south.   So that rounds out my Sedona Story...

Yesterday I had ridden to El Centro because I wanted to be near to the border in order to facilitate a fast and easy crossing and get on the way to Ensenada.  According to Google, El Centro was only 20 minutes from the Border crossing in Mexicali, and I had read that Mexicali was  a much easier border cross than Tijuana or others.  Seemed like a good plan to me.

This pic is from somewhere in Nevada, probably on Highway 50.  Blondie is driving herself...

I purchased bike insurance and exchanged some dollars for pesos on the US side in Calexico, and moved right through to the Mexican border.  I knew it was going to be one of those days when the young chica Border guard with the sunglasses tells me to pull over and that she wants to see what I have.  (no sniggers, please, as it was hot already at 9 in the morning.  I of course smiled and undid my carefully packed gear. She wanted to know what was in the topcase, which was locked. I finally got the key, after telling her that it was only a computer.  I opened the case, and she briefly glanced in, not even looking at the stuff, and said okay you can go.  Clearly this was a case of young chick impressing her border guard buddies with the old white guy as the foil.  I smiled, did as I was asked, and took my time repacking, pissing off everybody behind me, but I was going to make this part of the experience for the guards, too.  I asked where I was to go for a tourist permit and a moto permit.  She pointed towards a white building and directed me there.

In the immigration building the old guy gave me a machine gun rattle of directions in Spanish, something about 5 km a la derecha, and that is where I needed to go.  I set out to go 5 km down the middle of Mexicali's main drag, all the while trying to figure out what I was looking for, and hoping that I did not go through a stop sign or run over a beggar.  Needless to say, this little venture was not going to end well.  After what seemed like more than 5 kilomters, I was getting more than a little freaked, and not to mention the heat of the day is climbing.  I finally saw what I took to be a tourist information building, which in fact it turned out to be exactly that.  I finally found a nice lady who spoke enough English to inform me that they didnt know what they are doing down there...I was pretty clear that they, down there, were not going to issue me a Tourist visa or a moto pass.  She decided that she whould help me out by phoning the tourist Police.  I thought to myself, the last thing I need is to be involved with Mexican police;  she insisted and I was told to sit and wait.  I waited for about 15 minutes, (or more like 10) and made the excuse that I would be outside with Blondie.  While I was out there, some dude in a beat up  pickup was motioning that he needed to park.  That was enough for me to pull out, and take off: I don't need no tourist police, I' ll find the damed Aduna myself. I retraced me 5 kilometer journey through the heart of Mexicali, and got to where I thought the building should be, but I was faced with a one way street, and it was going the wrong way..(drum roll: what does he do?)

Knowing that going against Mexican traffic on my first three hours in the country without proper documents could put a sizable dent in my travel agenda, I chose to go with the traffic and circle around a few blocks and approach from a different angle.  By this time I am getting hotter, more freaked out, and considerably concerned that I was: 1. not ever going to get out of Mexicali, and 2. probably get thrown in jail for being a dumb Canuck who can't speak Spanish well enough to understand directions...

I came around a corner, not sure if I was on a one way street, and I saw four cops on the side of the road.  They handing out tickets, but I couldnt figure out what they were nailing people for, so I pulled over and stopped right in front of their  operation.  I guess the foreign moto stuck out a bit, and they stopped issuing tickets.  I went up to the female cop (yeah I know...) and asked for directions.  She was nice but didnt have a clue where the Aduna was, her partner tried to give me directions as well, but these guys just dont get that Spanish is not my first language, and as my eyes glazed over, I could see the big cop getting frusteated with this dumb gringo.  Aha, we will call the tourist police. They will fix this guy up.  A bell rang in my head, but I didnt say anything, or try to take off. My goose was cooked.

In a minute a cop car pulls up, and these two, a female and male, open the window.  “Hey you, we went all the way out to the Tourist Center, and you were gone.”  Jeez Louise, you guys just don't get how freaked out I was, and now my blood pressure is really going to hit the roof.  I gave them a story, and they calmed down a lot, and Mr. Cop says he will fix things.  Follow me.

 I follow the cop car for about 20 blocks. “Put your moto up on the sidewalk in front of the police station, and my friends will guard it. (Mr. Cop could speak good English, as well as his partner, Miss Cop. ) So, with 8 cops watching, I have to get Blondie up  on the sidewalk, which has about a 8 inch lift from the road.  Christ I thought this is going to be good: I am going to smash into the copshop, tip over Blondie, and probably break my foot, and I have been in Mexico four hours now.    Well, I guess being so ass end heavy, I actually was able to climb the sidewalk with my front, getting hung up on the back.  I kind of expected the boys to give my a hand, but they all stood around waiting for the gringo and the moto to entertain them.  I revved the shit out of Blondie, and the Heidneaus bit in and she climbed up onto the sidewalk, and wanted to keep going, but I managed to come to a somewhat upright stop.  Okay you guys this is where you wanted her.  I said to the cops that I guessed they didnt see too many lost Canadians during their shift, and that broke the ice a bit, as I was quite giddy and probably in some stage of heat stroke by now.  I said to a young cop:”Guard her with your life”, but hindsight  tells me that I probably said to him something like “ your money or your wife”  who knows?

  Ms. Cop tells me to take all of my valuable with me.  I look at her, and point at the 8 cops in front of the cop station, and didn”t say anything but grabbed Mr. Garmin, not that he has been helping today at all.  

Mr. Cop makes Miss Cop sit in the back seat of the cop car, and I am to sit in the front seat.  By this time I am giddy with heat, somewhat releaved that I am not going to jail, at least not yet, and these guys are really trying to get this loco Canuck out of their town.  I think the truth is that they were enjoing themselves, and that they now had a case file to justify their roles as tourist police.  The Miss Cop kep asking me for details, and when I told her my age, she stated on about how far Oaxca was, and why didn't I just fly there, instead of riding....Mr. Cop said that his wife was from Oaxaca and that kind of shut up the back seat.  She was well meaning, but clearly did not get it about adventure riding, even if she had to ride in the back of the cop car, cause I was too tall.  I told her that I had never been in the back seat of a police car (a small fib) and that got her laughing.

The gang of three left the cop shop and the cops guarding Blondie and went to the original office where  I had started this ltitle quest only 4 and half hours ago.  Mr. Cop told me to stay in the car, and he would go in and straighten things out.  Miss Cop and I had a conversation about riding and airplanes but she still didnt get it, so I played dumber.  Mr. Cop came back and said that they (in the office) had told me what to do this morning.  He also explained to them that he (me) probably did not understand  a word that they said because they assumed that the whole world speaks Spanish.  (He didnt say that, but I think that he mediated for the foreigner a little bit.)

Back to the cop shop, and Blondie is still where I had mounted her.  Not a cop guarding her, however.  I guess my bad spanish and even worse jokes had made the boys think about getting out on the road and finding some tourists of their own.  Mr, and Ms. Cop tell me to get on Blondie and follow them.  Light flashing (no sirens), we cover the 10 km down the main drag with quite a show for the locals.  A yellow BMW chasing a tourist policia car through town.  I dont know what the locals thought, but by this time I was having fun, cause there was not any way that this could happen in my home town.

Mr. and Ms. Cop deliver me to the out of town, new? Aduna place and promise me that all is well.  First they had to get two big Aduna cops to back off because it appeared that the big mean motorcycle guy had chase Mr. And Ms, Cop into the compound, and they wanted to know what the hell was going on, and let us at this moto punk...Mr. Cop explained the situation to the Aduna guys, and they took their  guns and sped off.  Mr. Cop showed my what office to go into, and assured me that all personnel spoke very good English, and that there would be no problem.....(Edit: one guy spoke strange but passable English, and the other guys, not a word of English: which is understandable, but frustrating considering the degree of bearuacracy and regulations that the Mexicans authorities have surrounded themselves with.  I understand why it costs me 400 dollars to bring my bike into Mexico, because it is assholes like me who 40 years ago sold junkers in Mexico and messed things up, but that is another story for my grandchildren, cause my kids just roll their eyes.

 MS. Cop, and MR. Cop.  He was going to charge me $200.00 pesos, but I was too far gone by then to  be anything more than "loco".  It worked...

This is the document that I spent over four hours obtaining.  I wont be selling my bike in Mexico.

I can name the tiles on the floor and the fans in the ceilings, in both of these buildings.  The bad news is that I probably would end up doing it again.  The only thing I can figure is that I should have come through East Calixco, which is the new opening.

I spent the next 3 hours dealing with Migracion and the Aduna guys.  It was not that it was very complicated, it was that in each building, which I had to go back and forth about three times, there was only one person working.  The long and the short of it, at least the building was air conditioned, and I was making some progress.  Around 1:00, I finally had my papers (remember that I had crossed downtown about 8:30 AM, so I was a bit peckish, and heated up because I had my riding gear on, and there was not much opportunity to cool down.  I left the buildings, and headed in an easterly direction, as I knew that Tecate and Ensenada lay in the east.

About 10 minutes later, it looks like I have been nailed in a radar trap by three moto cops.  I decide to pull the dumb gringo trip, and before they can pull me over, I pull over and ask for directions, admiring their Hondas and generally sucking up to them.  They were as helpful as they could be, and there was no mention of speeding, as they were busy busting their own citizens who are no more or no less idiots behind the wheel than our own idiots.  Again, well meanng Mexicans assume a lot better grasp of the Spanish language than I have, but I kind of got an idea that I was heading in the right direction.  The problem is that I have trouble getting my head around the size of these cities, and when I expect to break out of traffic and city crazies, the journey has not even begun.  Anyways, I head out again, after my third encounter with Mexican police in 5 hours.  By this time I was a bit over the top, and not realizing that I was running a fever and probably heat exhausted too, I ran the gauntlet, genrally hoping that some of the directions sank in, and I would eventually get to the Highway.  

 Another 15 minutes of city traffic, and a moto cop rolls up beside me.  Very cool dude, and over a stop light asks me where I am going. I tell him Tecate, and gesture in the general direction of the Pacific Ocean, about 300 miles away.  I ask him if I am on the right track and I could see him thinking: god this must be the Canuck that I heard on the radio, or maybe he was just thinking God save me from Boomer motorcylists... he said “Digame”  Which I think means Listen you Doughead, and gave me directions, and the light changed.  He took off, and I took off.  At the next stop sign, my good kharma kicked in, and the moto cop says, follow me!

In the next 15 minutes, we blasted through the remainder of Mexicali, and he set me up on the road to Tecate.  During that time frame, he pulled over two different vehicles an gave the guys tickets.  He gestured for me to stay back a bit, and I did.  I guess he needed to be sure that he was not simply escorting another tourista and so the busts were recorded.

I watch while my moto cop friend does his job on the way to escorting me out of town, in a good way, for once.

We finally arrived at what was clearly the road to Tecate, and even I could not mistake it for anything else. (More on that later).  He gestured for me to pull over one final time.  I was just pumped from keeping up with a Mexican Moto Cop through Mexicali's goofy traffic, and I thought: Oh Oh, what now?

The cop takes off his lapel button, which is a logo of Mexico, and gives it to me.  I was blown away, and thanked him for his help.  I told him “vaya con Dios” and rolled away with a really good feeling in my heart, after all the craziness of the morning.  I don't know what the rest of my trip will bring, but I can say unequivocally, that the Mexican officials, particularly the cops, when out of their way to be patient to to recognize and help an old guy that was lost and confused.  I believe very strongly that the kind of vibes that you put out are the ones that you are going to receive, and I can see where there are cases where the authorities must shake their heads and wonder what kind of yard apes are being let into their country.

After Mexicali, there is a bout 100 miles of open desert.  My thermometer on the bike was registering 40.5 and I thought that I was going to cook and broil at the same time.  Fortunately, the hightway startted climbing through some of the most amazing twisties that I have seen.  I started rat racing with this crazy old Mexican in a beat up Honda.  It was an unfair race because he was using two lanes, and I stuck to mine for the most part.  I at least go rid of some more chicken strips, and Blondie was performing excellently.  It was a terrific climb, and I am estimating we moved up over 3000 feet in elevation in less than an hour.

 On the pay roads, the BC government has provided watering holes about every 10 miles.  I would guess that  that it is cheaper than picking up dead or cooked travellers.  I soaked my head and cooled off.  The good news is that I am not in a race, so when I start to heat up, I am hydrating to ensure that the ride lasts, as well as my head.

 Needless to say, I got lost again, somewhere west of Tecate and Ensenda. I ended up in this small village. If you look closely, the mushrooms look appealing.  Yet again, I was dumbfounded and struck even dumber by the beauty that ran the show.  I thought I was out in the middle of nowhere, and I am sure that she thought this old Boomer needs to get on the way... I had a coca and got straightened out, and left another waitress behind,,sigh.

Mr. Garmin said I was fairly close to Ensenada, and I could tell that the light was failing.  I missed two cows that had wandered onto the highway.  An ongoing trucker had signalled that there were things amiss.  

 Ah the mighty Pacific.  I could smell the water for miles, and it was a very good feeling to have salt air instead of dry heat in my brain...

I am writing this up the next day, safe and sound in Ensenda.  I have developed a chest cold as a result of the  tremendous heat of the desert, and I have managed to get some cough medicine and I have cranked up the dosage, with the hopes that I will crash for ahwile, and that the phlegm will break up in my chest.  I think that this cough medicine should knock me out for awhile, too.
One huge Mexican flag.  I think the boys will remember the one that we saw in Cancun, when we were different..

These sea lions have taken up the dock, not unlike their northern neighbours. I am surprised that they are not getting some .22 medicine, but then maybe it attracts touristas.

For you boaters out there, this is what happens when you don't look after your rig.  It may have caught a doarado or two in its day, but it was a derelict looking for a place to die..

Red's Charters, Version 5???
Same old story: too many charter boats and not enough business.

A Mexican Hero..

Now for all the teachers out there: a gratifying symbol that Baja California celebrates its teachers, with a statue in the park and an annual update of the best.....

I have had a couple of comments from some of my friends regarding the blog. I appreciate the feedback, and also the connection with others.  I am trying to immerse myself in the language so that I can really learn to get by, but it is also nice to know what is happening back in the cold North.  At this point, I think Montezuma is coming on strong, and I may not be riding out of here tomorrow.  I will down the medicine and see what happens.  At least I know to keep the Pacific to my right for the next few thousand kilometers...