A Run For the Border!


Day 3-Sunday, April 22, 2007

Around four o'clock in the morning it started to rain...hard. Hard enough to wake me up.

We had all decided to get together for breakfast at 9 so at about 8:30 I got my gear on (it's all waterproof) and started loading the bike. It was pretty grim. I arrived at the restaurant right on time. All 250 Corvette owners and their families and friends had arrived at 8:30. Fortunately Carolyn and Andrew had arrived early and scored a big, round table in the corner that had lots of room for our piles of wet gear.

It was 10:30 by the time we'd finally gotten served and had eaten. The rain had quit momentarily and we all went outside and mounted up. We rode a couple of miles together and then parted company as they headed inland while I continued on down the coast.

By the time I reached Morro Bay the rain was back, with a vengeance.

For my next stop I wanted to visit the Solvang Motorcycle Museum...in Solvang, naturally. The GPS did a dandy job of taking me right there.

Wow, do they have some lovely bikes in this place! There must be a couple of hundred drop-dead beautiful motorcycles here. Like this VERY RED mid-fifties, Moto Guzzi 500 c.c. Milan-Taranto-Falcone...

...or this wild 1965 MV Agusta triple.

...or this amazing 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary with a Wankel engine.

But the real reason I came was for this...a 1955 Moto Guzzi replica. It was the only V8 (500 c.c.'s) ever to race motorcycle grand prix and is a legend.

In the pictures I've seen of this bike it always had a huge, "dustbin" fairing covering most of it. Now for my first ever, close up encounter with one the fairing had been removed and you could actually see the engine...it is amazing.

Almost as amazing (some would say more) as the V8 Guzzi is this bike, a 1995 Britten 1000. Only 10 Britten motorcycles were made from scratch by a handful of New Zealand enthusiasts following the dream of John Britten. In the early 1990ís these were probably the fastest 4-stroke motorcycles in the world, able to do wheel stands at 150mph. This was the last bike made by Britten and the only one never to be raced. It is a thing of beauty.

After leaving the charming town of Solvang (VERY picturesque) is when the real horror started. Urban Southern California in the wind and pouring down rain. There are no pictures of this section of the ride. I had my hands full at speeds in the 80 to 90 mph range (ah, SoCal traffic) trying to wend my way across over to Anaheim in Orange county to spend the night with Robert (BMW-K) and Trina at their house. Robert had kindly offered up a route that avoided most of the really ugly parts of L.A. "Take highway 192 to 150 to 101 to 23 to 118 to 210 to 57 to 91 to the Imperial Highway" and poof, you're there. Right. To start off the GPS let me down...it didn't even recognize the town of "Anaheim" and just had a black hole in the map where it should be. Suffice to say I got lost at least a dozen times and had to call Robert on three separate occasions (find a place to stop, stop the bike, pull off the gloves, pull off the helmet, get out the cell phone, call, put away the cell phone, put on the helmet, put on the gloves, start the bike, try to find my way back to the freeway) before I finally arrived at their lovely home.

I arrived to this. I felt like I was landing a Boeing 747 at LAX or something.

I was SO happy to have finally arrived!


(photo courtesy of Robert Novielli)

To make things even better ST.N legend Ken Sann (ksann) stopped by the house on his new BMW K1200S to visit! While Robert plied us all with "some" (read as: "much") 18 year old, single-malt scotch, Trina prepared us all delicious foods (mmm, tasty chicken salad, perfect!). All this and hours of charming conversation and wonderful hospitality was exactly what I needed to put the ugly trials of the day's ride behind me.

All was right with the world again and I slept like a baby.

Miles ridden this day: around 300 hard fought ones


Day 4-Monday, April 23, 2007

I slept in (we'd been up to 11:30 the night before...waaaay past this old guy's bedtime). Trina was off to become physically fit and Robert was working out of the house and would be busy until about 9 o'clock. I busied myself with cleaning the grundge from the former days ordeal off the Guzzi and prepare it for today's ride. I only had to cover about 180 miles today but did have to deal with the border crossing, something I'd been excited about but also dreading. I've never been in to Mexico any further than the border towns before and was not sure how many of the urban myths to believe.

As I was packing the bike Robert noticed that somewhere during my wild ride across Hwy 210 the day before the Guzzi had vibrated the cover off of my clutch reservoir. It was a sweet, aftermarket, anodized red Ducati cover...damn! I had noticed a change in the clutch pull during the ride but thought nothing of it...a "Guzzi thing" and besides I was busy at the time. Fortunetly the rear brake reservoir uses the same cap so I decided that if I had to choose then I'd rather have a clutch than a rear brake so we swapped them. Robert then went all "McGuiver" on me and busted out the duct tape and zip ties. Voila, I had a bit of rear brake. Better, but it plagued me the rest of the trip.

As I was pulling on my gear to go I couldn't find my leather riding gloves. I had worn my Gortech, waterproof gloves the day before but the weather had turned off fair and they would not be appropriate for today's ride. Alas, they were no where to be found...Robert to the rescue again! He had an old pair of Held Steve's (same brand and style as my missing glove...which I never found until arriving home in a side pocket assigned to "cold weather gear"...sigh) to loan me.

I finally got back on the road somewhere around 10:30.


(photo courtesy of Robert Novielli)

Time to say goodbye to Orange County...

...and "hello" to Mexico (the hillside behind me). Of course I got lost several times in between, including a stop at a Ducati shop on the way that turned out to have no reservoir caps on hand. I thought about "borrowing" one from one of the used bikes out front but decided that I really didn't want to deal with that kind of bad karma especially after the day's ride I'd had the day before.

In my mind I'd built this border crossing completely out of proportion. I called Becky "one last time" before I was swollowed up by Homeland Security and probably thrown in some dark, dank, Mexican jail. I thought I'd covered all my bases. I was totally clean, had all the paperwork (passport, copies of proof of ownership for the bike, registration (and copies of registration), license (and copies of license) and proof of Mexican insurance (purchased online weeks before) but still I was nervous.

The crossing was, of course, a piece of cake. You come up to a light that is either green or red. Green just ride right on through, red stop and be questioned/searched. I saw no one get stopped.

Tijuana was as terrible as I knew it would be...what a hole. Awful pavement, piss poor signage, endless smelly trash and poverty...but eventually you come out on the other side and discover that Baja is actually beautiful.

From the coastline (in danger of serious, unplanned overdevelopment by American investors with no cares for things like water or sewage)...

...to inland and small villages, mesas and bluffs.

I opted to only take the toll road from Tijuana to Ensenada only for its first of 3 legs and then decided to travel the parallel free road instead...I was missing too much. The toll road is in 3 segments and costs about $3 U.S. a segment. It's MUCH more efficient and fast very like our U.S. freeways. The free road is a bit rough and travels though all sorts of little towns with a top speed of 45 mph. I wanted to experience it all so I went with the beauty and ugliness of the free road.

Of course I got lost in Ensenada. But it was a good chance for me to get a sense of the place. I wandered the tourist areas and I also rode through the "working" areas. I found it to be a much more likeable town than I had thought it would be. I had pictured it as a kind of "Tijuana South" and that wasn't the case at all. In fact that can be said of all of Baja that I saw (admittedly not much), it is a MUCH more delightful place than I had ever anticipated.

Finally I stumbled on "hotel row" down by the bay and decided the time had come to commune with the locals. I tried one hotel...full. Could they give me a recommendation? Sure right next door at the "Costa Baja."

The Costa Baja was perfect. My room for the night was $65 U.S. In northern Baja it is not really all that important to exchange your U.S. dollars for pesos, most everyone takes both and most people speak English. There are just enough people who don't take dollars and don't speak English to make it nice and force you think on your feet.

The gentleman at the desk asked me if I was riding a motorcycle. "Si" (in full gear at the time). He proceeded to step out and look at the Guzzi. "Senor, I will open the doors in back, please park your beautiful motorbike into the lobby...it will be safer there."

It was at that moment I fell in love with Mexico and more specifically Baja. It was the same level of respect for the mighty Moto Guzzi that I encountered time and time again during my too short of stay in Baja. They love this bike! Every time I would step out of a store, cantina, or gas station there would be one or two guys standing around, looking sheepish staring at the bike and then wait for me to fire it up. As I rode down the streets in small towns people would look up to watch the Guzzi pass by. You've got to love a people who recognize this greatness that is Moto Guzzi!

The totally adequate room at the Costa Baja...still no coffee maker though. I had the forsight to include a small jar of dehydrated coffee, an immersion heater and a stainless steel cup on this trip. They saved me.

The view from my balcony...

The boulevard out front...

So I donned my "warm weather gear" (t-shirt, shorts, sandals), steeled myself and headed out into the local "scene."

First order of business, buy a little tequila and sample it.

I ran across some most excellent graffiti on this local creek/sewage pit (ah Mexico...land of contradictions).

Some local color...this sort of thing must be humiliating for the locals but hey, who doesn't prostitute themselves daily for the almighty dollar/peso?

One of my quests for this trip is seeking out the elusive "al pastor" taco. I have only recently become aware of this phenomena after living most of my adult life in California (shame on my ignorance). It is apparently a pork dish similar to the Turkish kebabs, Shawarma, or the Greek gyros. It's rotisseried vertically and it has something to do with pineapples. I want it bad.

I started a restaurant crawl hitting all the little open air cafes I could find. Bravo, I have stumbled upon the "real deal!"

These little cafes are open on two sides to the street. They generally consist of a bar and a few tables. Most people just "belly up to the bar" and eat. I did likewise. It's a huge amount of fun, mostly it's locals who inhabit these places and speak about as much English as I do Spanish...very little. It's all about families and friends having a good time together at the end of the day.

I found tacos pastor are pretty small, so I headed down to the next cafe and had more, then the next and had more...

As this gentleman was preparing one of my meals I asked if I might take his picture. He struck "a pose" for me.

On the counter in front of me were quite a few bowls of different types of condiments. Many types of salsa, radishes, limes, peppers, onions, etc. As the lady next to reached over to grab some radishes one slipped away from her and rolled in front of me. Before she could chase it down I grabbed it and popped it in my mouth and grinned at her. She thought this was hysterical and started laughing and explaining to her family what I had done. They all laughed, we all laughed, we chatted, no one understood what the other was saying, we all had an excellent time.

I walked back to the hotel for another Tequila and was ready to call it a night.

First off though I filled my "Platypus" water bottle with the spring water next to the elevators. I'd seen warnings online that one must still be careful in Mexico about the water. I never drank any that wasn't bottled so I can't speak to whether or not it might make you ill. I will say that I never felt sick while in Mexico and I ate and drank (other than the water) to my heart's delight both in restaurants and from street vendors with no thought to the consequences.

Back to the hotel room to watch Mexican TV which seems to consist mostly of endless episodes on multiple channels of "The Simpsons" in Spanish...hey, I'm good with that. There is something about this 30 year old series in Spanish that cracked me up...maybe it was the tequila. Watch a bit of it HERE.

That's it for me...stick a fork in me I'm done. Long day. Many adventures. I slept like the living dead.

Miles ridden this day: 185

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