Part -1; lobster burritos… you read that didn’t you? We left off Part – 2 in Loreto. I had arrived tired, dusty, and sweaty to an empty cheap resort. Home to Guinness Book of Wold records – ‘crappiest of nachos’ (just kidding they have not been rated but surely are a contender), shameful even for New York City, which I ate anyway because….food. The lemonade was great though and the swim in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez …much better than great. I went to bed and fell asleep, an instant after laying my head down, only minutes after dark.
I woke up too early because the air conditioner was making a crackling and popping sound. It sounded like a fireplace; but not quite electrical but also not quite un-electrical. Little bit of investigation was required or else I could be running into the courtyard in my boxers while the building burnt. My investigation led me to believe that the gears in the motor of the wall mounted air-conditioner which directs the fan lever up and down were going out and starting to strip and pop, what I imagine are, plastic gears. While it was annoying… it was not dangerous. I pressed on the AC housing and gave it a sharp smash… it stopped making noise. (there I fixed it 🙂 BEAR SMASH!)
I sure could have used that last hour or two of sleep but once awake it is difficult for me to get back to sleep. Instead I took the time to post up some pictures and prep for a couple of sunrise Photos.
I packed my stuff onto the bike, juggled the remote controls and keys in my lap (they are issued under a deposit when you check in), then turned the bike to get out of the narrow place I have crammed the bike up behind a car. As I negotiated a 6 point turn to point the pachyderm toward the hills…I smelled gas. My feeling was just gun it and see how far you get… but then that thought ended with me thinking about a flaming ball of gringo rolling down the road. Again, time to investigate. Off the bike and down to ground level to see one of the two fuel lines feeding the engine dripping at a significant rate. The rough road conditions must have helped me out with that…. ‘Crap! Well let’s get that sorted before we get on the road.’ So I dug out my tools, took off my jacket, and set up shop next to the bike.
When I unrolled the tool roll one of my Allen wrench sets had vibrated completely apart right in the pocket where it was stored! ‘Oh boy another project!’ So I put the Allen wrench tool back together and replaced it back into the pouch where it belongs before starting my repair on the bike. ‘Okay now can I fix the fuel leak?!’ 1) Popped off the access panel 2) loosened the hose clamp holding the hose 3) pushed it together a little tighter 4) tighten it back up. ‘Well, while I’m down here this throttle body might need some adjusting.’ So I tightened up the cable for the right side throttle body and started the bike to test it. ‘Hey! That sounds better.’ Let’s get this pachyderm on the road… I put everything away and again proceeded to check out (about 30 minutes later) and get my deposit back for the two remote controls. 100 pesos (roughly $5 USD)… That’s my breakfast money!
Check out completed by a ‘muy bonita chica’ with a great smile. That was helpful to boost my mood after the false start with the bike. I am okay with the help starting to look better! Haha! I make my way down the road to find Mission de Loreto. I got directions from an older lady in front of the abandoned hotel and tried to follow them as best I could. No success… ended up in a Plaza instead. Not a big deal, the cruise through the plazas of Loreto was still very nice. I stopped for a 4-way monitored by a policeman with a whistle around the block from the Mission (I caught a glimpse of it) but then I was distracted by 8 or 10 adventure bikes heavily loaded with Mexican gents wearing shorts and tennis shoes. Obviously not out for a long ride. This looks like their breakfast run! Operating under the impression that know where their going…. I fell into ranks and parked next to them in front of a restaurant.
I was seated alone in the back of the restaurant and ordered huevos rancheros with a café negro. Moments later the waitress asked me if it would be ‘okay if one person was seated with me because the restaurant had gotten busier and there were no seats for a single person’. I’m down for anything! ‘Un persona? No problemo!’. A lady sat down across the table from me and introduced herself as Rosalia just as my plate arrived.
I asked her about the lanyard around her neck and she told me that she worked for the census department. Most of the questions she asks have to do with city services to see who has toilet, running water, electricity, etc. We had a long conversation over breakfast which was great fun and great practice for my Spanish. As it turns out she just became a grandmother, she works in La Paz but is traveling to Santa Rosalia where I had just come from… we talked about our trips, children, Mexico, and how we grew up. Her mother worked in a bicycle factory and painted the bikes but also liked very much to ride them. It sounded like she might have been quite accomplished as a writer as well. We wished each other safe travels and exchange the information. If I ever am in La Paz or if she is ever in San Diego I gathered that we would be welcome at each other’s casas. It is an amazing and humbling experience to meet people at each turn and be invited in so easily. A feeling I have had the pleasure of knowing in many places…but rarely so close to home.
I laugh out loud at a elderly gringo man and his dog eating breakfast. The fat little guy watched so intently as the old man ate.
I had finished breakfast, made a new friend, but was still yet to find the mission! Off I went to The Google, found the mission, parked around the corner, then walked around to the plaza in front of the mission.
A security officer started asking me questions but I wasn’t quite picking up what he was saying (he spoke too fast). A young lady walked by and said that he wanted to be sure my bike was safe because people steal helmets here. I told him that my helmet locks to the motorcycle, and the girl translated for me as she continued to walk by, he responded with ‘yes, but they use bolt cutters and steal them anyway’. My plan was only to be at the mission for 5 minutes (I knew I would spend more time on the way back north) so he agreed to watch my bike for a moment while I snapped a picture. It was very nice of him and a huge contrast to the start of the conversation where I thought I had done something wrong.
Back to the bike – helmet was still there; ha ha, ‘Thank you kind sir’! Now make haste to La Paz!
As I rode out of town the highway twisted between the mountains and the Sea of Cortez. It was easy to see the blue marble as we imagine the Earth from space. Us being only fleas on the blue marble that screams through space uncaring about cellphone bills, soccer practices, or politics. Absolutely incredible… the contrast between the sea and the desert. The Sea of Cortez thriving and dense with life abutting directly to the desert which is sparsely populated by only the hearty and determined.
Shortly outside Loreto the landscape had changed again slightly, more green. The desert had burst alive due to recent rains or maybe of my progress South towards more tropical latitudes. In either case the heat had increased making it nearly unbearable to sit still for too long with gear on. I made my rests shorter and drank extra water. As I came around one corner there was a Vista pull out four pictures. So I stopped… La Virgen de Guadalupe in a window which made for an interesting view because of the beautiful landscape behind her.
La Virgen de Guadalupe – Patron Saint of Mexico. As the story goes, in 1531 a native gent named Juan Diego had the Virgin appear to him and ask him to convince the bishop to build a church in the Mexico City suburb. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego and asked for proof. Juan had the virgin reappear to him and she told him to carry a couple dozen roses to the bishop. Juan diligently did and and when he dropped the roses out of his cloak the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe was imprinted on his cloak.
The people of Mexico have used the virgin as a symbol of patriotism, carried her into battle on flags, and Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego in 2002….. now San Diego…A whales vag…never mind. Interesting that in a way there are two Diegos sainted. The man with roses and the namesake of the city; San Diego de Acala (Saint Didacus).
A few miles later the road turned inland towards Cuidad Insurgents. The landscape became much more desolate and dry again. No more and bougainvillea dotting the landscape. The landscape stayed pretty much like that most of the way to La Paz. Very desolate dry and much hotter. I pound water all day but still dehydrated. This was the hottest day yet. With the additional wind speed a rider dries out quicker in the desert.
About 30 miles North of La Paz the highways are being ‘improved’ on MEX-1. This sounds like great news but they are in progress mostly so it is quite the opposite result . Similar to previous construction detours a side road is created wall of the main road is improved. This meant much more dirt detour roads. Not a big deal if you have a small bike, it is cooler, you’re not tired, and the road condition didn’t alternate from loose rocks, to potholes, to deep sand, with huge billowing clouds of dust filling one’s nostrils and mouth. On the pachyderm this road was a huge pain in the ass (and specially noted since I would be traveling back across that road). Even with the visor closed I got bits of sand in my eye that had me contemplating pulling over. The big bike did fine on the hard pack but wallowed incredibly in the sand. At one point the light loamy sand was nearly 18 inches deep. As I went into the sand I put my feet down like skiis to stabilize the bike; I was moving fairly slow. After a mile of this I began getting comfortable with the speed of the caravan moving through the construction… then I heard a big rig right behind me hit his Jake-Break as we came down the hill. The truck couldn’t have been more than 10ft behind me. My nerves were shot after that. I DID NOT want to go down in front of that truck! Exercising extreme caution with intense concentration and taking the ‘Slow is Pro’ approach I made it through the construction without putting the bike in the dirt (and a big rig on my head).
I rolled into La Paz covered in dust, nostrils caked inside with dirt, thirsty, hungry, sweaty, stinky, and tired. I needed to get off the bike, needed gas, and I filled up before grabbing a quick bite which was nothing special to talk about here but would form a turd. Burger King; Mexican style burger that came with jalapeno sauce in a packets. La Paz looked too busy for me and the thought of finding a hotel in a big city was overwhelming. Knowing that my old work friend (and salt of the Earth/Just plain good guy that I never get to see enough) Dave had set me up with his brother-in-law (JOHN) for a beer in Todos Santos … the draw to the smaller town and some local knowledge goaded me back onto the road for a final hour ride. I looked at the time and made the decision that I would push for Todos Santos that afternoon. It was only 45 more minutes (by bike) and after zooming out on the Google Map I did not see significant slowdowns which might indicate construction. The road from La Paz to Todos Santos was perfect. Nearly as good as an American Highway. I made very quick time while nervously watching some storm clouds form on the horizon. I’ve been here before! This time it did not result in me getting drenched for 2 days.
I rolled into Todos Santos which is a Dusty little town but much nicer atmosphere than most along the route. Most of the roads are paved! Well okay maybe not most…let’s say some. I followed the phone’s directions to the hotel that John had directed me to and ended up in a dirt alley in front of a chiropractor business staring at an unattended horse in the road. ‘Hmm, this cannot be right.’ I asked the horse for directions and he just walked away.
I called John and tell him I am in front of a green gate looking at a rude horse. He says, ‘I know exactly where you are I’ll be right over’. Three minutes later a truck pulled up, beer on the window sill, and I make acquaintances with John. He’s a retired expat living in Todos Santos. I follow him back to his place where he has a nice palapas, table under the fan, and his friend Jeff offers me a beer. I think to myself, ‘I’m going to get along just fine with these guys!’ As I said before sometimes it’s not quality of the beer that matters it’s how much you earned it. This is one of the best beers of my life and it’s a Pacifico!
I am introduced to John and his friends Jeff and Pat. We sit around and tell stories, tell lies, history, and crack jokes. It’s perfect ending to the day… But wait there’s more! John offers me a cot under the palapas; which I accept because it’s free and I get to hang out with these guys. Pat says, ‘Well he can use the guest house.’… and all of the guys reactions told me that I should except this offer. So I did. As it turns out Pat had a fantastic adobe guest house on the hill looking out at the ocean. Pat is an architect and had built the place. It is absolutely stunning and to this day I still am amazed at the good graces and fortune.
After a quick shower I walked around the property and made friends with one of the Chihuahuas that greeted us when we pulled up.
Pat and I hopped into his pick up truck and we slowly tracked down the dark sandy road into town like the locals we surely are (well him anyway). He is a similar minded fellow in his objectivity and understanding of how the world works so our conversations wandered easily and wildly but never with any conflict. As we rolled thru town he pointed out some of the more interesting buildings. Being an architect, and with some of the buildings being historical, Pat had lots of cool knowledge of these old buildings owners remodeling them as businesses or restaurants to cater to the tourists and expats.
We pulled up to an open palapas restaurant with tacos al pastor. He explained that this family was from the mainland and was famous in Todos Santos for their tacos. ‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘I love tacos so this should be a good fit.’ We walked into the palapas and took a seat. The lady came over and I thereby began to stutter out my order in Spanish; Pat knew both the menu and Spanish better so took over. He got one taco and two tacos for me; both got a bowl of bean soup. The tacos came out quickly and I was directed to the salsa bar where they had the standard offering of cucumbers, cabbage, onions, salsa fresca, and a few other types of hotter salsas.
I loaded up on my usual cool fresh toppings and sometimes regrettably hot sauces. Making my way back to the table to devour tacos. We continue conversation and I got more of his story which could be a great book if he ever were looking for another project.
Pat had moved to the Baja peninsula in 1989 and has worked since as an architect building houses mostly for expatriates from the US an Canada. Based on what I have seen of this house he has significant skills! He has always opted to use local materials rather than trucking them from The States all the way down the peninsula. He and I discussed supply chain and how the global economy is ruinous to the planet. Understanding how to locally source materials can in most cases be better and more appropriate for the task at hand. Case in point when he mentioned the storms that come into Totos Santos every couple years: The houses that have Western style roofs (Trusses and shingle) nearly always lose the roof. As the wind moves over the roof the air pressure inside becomes greater and the air pressure above becomes less which pulls up just like the lift in an airplane or a sailboat. Where as the house with a semi-porous roof (like a thatch) the air can move back and forth to equalize pressure. Therefore the thatch roofs almost never blow off during a hurricane. I thought this was extremely interesting. Who knew that the indigenous people’s 10000 years of testing might actually have resulted in the best solution!? Pat has a bilingual, dual national, good looking, genius daughter in La Paz (pre-med)…a testament to the quality of life that can be had in Baja. Finally, from what I could tell…no regrets about moving to Mexico. In fact I got the feeling if pressed he might say it was the best thing he had ever done. Truly an inspiration to those wanting to live the expat life. (Pat follows B-oustide so will correct me if I am wrong :))
After dinner we went to a market so I could buy a couple of gallons of water to fill my pack and water bottle for the daily adventurous to come. Before making my way to the guest house he offered for me to stay as long as I want. ‘What a great gesture,’ I thought to myself. ‘I will try not to wear out my welcome….could just stay forever!’
As a lay in bed listening to the surf crash against the cliffs off in the distance, through the thatch roof, I thought to myself… ‘AMAZING DAY! Maybe two days here and then consider heading North again’.
Part – 4 is in the works! Stay tuned for more BAJA! Thanks for reading down all the way. Please follow as it does help motivate me to keep going. As always, happy to hear from you. Please share!