By Bryan Rogers
YorkshireManx’s Belton to Baja
Day 11, Saturday.
Such an amazing sunrise over the sea of Cortez greeted us! A camera could never do it justice as the stars gave way to the sun for the day, a spot I’ll hopefully be back to one day! With the sun warming us nicely and the beach buggies playing on the sand we got our stuff together.
Breakfast seemed kinda early, but so was the sun, pork and scrambled egg burritos with fresh salsa! Something to get on the menu back home. Don’t think there’s a rush in either myself or Dan to get moving today! Just enjoying the view and vibe of the place.
Leaving San Felipe the roads south getting more and more barren, sparse enough for only a scattering of cacti and watching the turkey vultures circle overhead. Eventually we stopped for fuel in a nice little hamlet hugging the cove, don’t think it even had a name.
Lunch a little further along consisted of shrimp spaghetti! Not a combination I would have thought, but seasoned just right! I couldn’t tell you where we were, just a string of buildings hugging the shore. Never seen a sea so clear yet so blue. Or the track to the beach that doubles as a runway!
The next 30 miles were the highlight of the trip so far, never expected the little nc700 to be good off road but… he kept plodding. Only got bogged down once. Sand and road tyres, paddling like a trooper, we made it. Sure Tammy would be proud of her boy. And all this to call in on Coco the Baja Rally race legend! A hero to those in the rally circus and an exceptional racer, Coco unfortunately crashed losing a leg…
There are rumours as to how he lost the other, some say it was amputated due to illness, others say he recovered and learnt to ride again… Alas a crash took that leg too… so now retired he now lives in the hills… 80 next Feb and in frail health. Many fear it may be his last winter…
After the obligatory beer with the legend, we carried on south along the dirt tracks that pass as roads, towards The Bay of LA. Not sure I would have liked to be one of the early pioneers… this place is a prehistoric cacti filled oven! What took us a matter of hours, would have been days on horseback… making the trail as they went!
Daggarts campground situated just out of sight of the road, the days rest stop.
We checked in, chose the shelter within spitting distance of the ocean, a resident scorpion and a tarantula hole in the sand! So with luggage stowed and hammocks up,we rode into town.
Dan knowing the best places to chow down! The Villa Vitta hotel… and the friendliest mutts in the world.
Day 14, Monday.
“Haven’t written for a few days but made it to the bay of LA for a couple of nights. What a place to be! Camping right on the beach, definitely somewhere worth the trip to nowhere. Spent the day doing nothing, just in and out of the sea drinking beer and relaxing. Did over do it and got a little sunburnt.”
On the site we met Thomas and his Mrs, Helena riding a bike they had shipped over from Germany. The battery had died so into town we rode, and yup they had one in stock (the place is frequented by lots of bikes etc… so I guess it made sense. Three meals at Villa vitta hotel, all of them good. Dan was fine but “travelers tummy” struck me for a day or two!
Dan being full of sympathy, and knowing the symptoms calmly informed me that if I did shit myself in my sleep, not only had I bought the sleeping bag but also the hammock! Every bit of wind for 24 hours could not be trusted.
Riding north back from the bay, through a valley of giant cacti, some over 500 years old, was a sight. We rocked up later at Rosario for tea.
Mama Espinoza’s restaurant, check point for the Baja Rally since day one. Having decided to wild camp, checking the sat nav we found a nice spot down a dirt road and 8 miles from town.
A peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean, such a quiet and peaceful place, only punctuated in the morning by the birds and passing fishing boats. The curious seal watching as we packed up the following morning. Sleeping rough on the ground, bikes nose to tail and the tarp as a windbreak. Yup it was a little breezy but the fresh air in the lungs forced me into a deep slumber.
Day 15, Tuesday.
Back to Mama Espinoza’s for breakfast, and the rally was in town!
So with no great plan we whiled away a few hours, watching, photographing and blagging free stickers!
Following the only main road north, and past several military checkpoints, they gave up on too many questions when they realised we were tourists “No Espanòl! Espinoza? Gracias!” With no sunglasses and eye contact worked a treat.
Dan had an idea of the location of an old disused marine research facility not to far out of town. I did wonder when seemingly at random he turned down an unmarked track. Turning the bike to manual transmission, I had to follow. Knowing that ‘Scooter’ is no enduro machine, my pace was definitely more subdued than the BMW.
Knocks and bangs reminding me of the ground clearance, or lack of! Sure enough perched on the cliff tops, there it stood! In front the Pacific and the small islands in the distance. Breeding ground for some of the area’s large shark population. Behind the amazing sight of a collapsed sea cave, looking down we saw the family of seals that called it home. A little timid, they moved to the shadows when they saw us. The views were stunning but the biggest surprise? Being greeted by two dogs!, well fed and cared for, I guess someone is living there after all. Tonight we camp on a beach again, some campsite with hot showers ,name unknown but a table for a bed. A day of being tourists again tomorrow!
Day 16, Wednesday.
La Bufadora, Ensenada, Baja California, México
Mother nature strikes again and not the ‘mexican blow hole’ you would expect.Watching the amazing power of the waves, as it blows with the power of the ocean, covering those that get too close. Breakfast at Sara’s Place then we rode into Espinoza, for a day of walking round the old markets and promenades!
Meant to be a good sea food town. It was!
Well what a mix of a place, run down old buildings reeking of poverty next to a moored up 11 storey cruise ship. The old markets and fish vendors out of place to the rowdy Americans of the ship in the bar area acting like pissed up kids!
We had a wander, and settled back to the bikes, only after lunch of course! Lovely fresh seafood salad and tacos, one fish (bass) the other died and re-fried Marlin! Knew it would be safe to eat as the chef was eating it too, even prepared in front of us. The kiosk frequented few locals too, looking like 4 generations of the same family.
Back to the beach it was, tired of the stereotypical tourist trap, of fake goods and prostitution, a few brews needed to help watch the sun go down.
Day 17, Thursday.
Woke after some weird dreams, a picnic table, and the sound of the waves is all I need apparently!
Leaving the campsite and on to a local cafe for a brew before the battle with Ensenada traffic. It was quite fun, they don’t use mirrors or signals and the indicators probably don’t work either!
“Now 9:26 am and a blow out on the bike, unrepairable! So currently sat here waiting for Dan to jump the border 15 miles away, find a tire and return with it! Good luck!”
Sitting on the side of highway 3, sheltered under the blanket tied to the bike, I would have sat on the grass if it wasn’t for the ants!
Dan did eventually return with a tire strapped to the side of the bike. It wasn’t long before we had it fitted, and Dan’s compressor working its magic. Four hours start to finish, San Diego had the nearest one that would fit!
It was a brisk ride to Tecate to the border, one of those posts that isn’t open 24 hours. They let is back in the USA anyway without any hassles. And all those that say Mexico is dangerous, you’re wrong!!! Riding the freeway late at night was just plain crazy if not dangerous, filtering was out of the question. About 6 hours later than planned we rolled into the house to be greeted by John and Sylvia with a warm welcome and smile!
And a subtle hint. Shower? As we were told to clean up before food. We did stink tbh…
Day 18, Friday
The following morning we took a slow ride through to downtown LA (the place does nothing for me, give me trees and hills), and up to the Hollywood sign.
Leaving sharpish just as the tourist coach turned up! Following the famous Mulholland Drive, we headed up into the twisty Malibu hills for a brew at the Rock Shop cafe, nothing special really, but you can see why they crash on some of those bends!
A little way up the road we popped back out on the coast, Highway One. The PCH then following the beach back to town passing some very swanky mansions on the hills above and some nice small shacks by the beach. Hitting John’s suggestion for a spot of lunch, some bratwurst restaurant. Good call, and when in Rome! “Rabbit and Rattlesnake” was delicious. The rest of the day passed way too quick, sitting on the roof terrace supping beer and man chat!
The pizzeria for we went to that evening, jokingly they banned John for not eating his crusts!…
Day 19, Saturday.
Leaving the misery of the LA traffic behind this morning we were heading east for the first time. For some reason LA left me cold, sure it is a pretty place, especially in the suburbs but so many people living on top of each other and not knowing their neighbours or saying hello to strangers. On the freeway we had the first rain of the trip, not too bad, just enough to settle the dust.
Our first road back east soon gave way to the hills as we climbed up and over, down and around canyon after canyon. Watching the desert creep into view and the trees give way to shrubs. Soon enough we hit Joshua Tree National Park. And another side of America I was surprised with.
Something strange was happening with mother nature the day she created this place with weird and baffling rock formations, straight from the Flintstones. The odd shrub and the crazy armed spiky headed Joshua tree. We’re here for the night so with the wine out, music on, chill time… no better place to do it
Day 20, Sunday.
We headed away from the Joshua tree national park nice and early to beat the daily temperatures. It was a nice quiet deep sleep as I took my bed up on one of the rocks last night! Found a ‘cowboy hollow’ and snuggled in for the night. Woken in the early hours by the coyotes howling in the distance as it echoed across the valleys.The ride? Plenty of nothingness again as we crossed the open plains to Tucson. Watching the desert turn green and into ranch land as we entered the wild west! Reaching Tucson was really a relief if not uneventful, that is until we met up with Dale, our host for the night! Dale is an old army buddy of Dan’s and boy does he like a laugh! The bottles were opened before we even got off the bikes as I stood back and watched two brothers reunited after what must be too long! Many stories were shared that night over a steak meal and beers.
Tales of Germany and postings in Iraq and Afghanistan. The more he drank the louder Dale became.
Harmless fun and the soul of a restless man! And one who just doesn’t care what others think. I liked him instantly.
The next morning was meant to be a reasonably early get away but… with 3 hang overs, it had to wait until after a proper breakfast.
And trying to figure out the coffee machine!
Day 21, Monday.
Hitting the road later than planned wasn’t really a problem, just meant that when we hit Tombstone it was a tad warm.
Trick is to stay under the canopies on the covered boardwalks… Simples!
Kinda liked the place although it is definitely one for the tourist trap… a town raised on mining, gambling and prostitution!
Now relegated to the appearance of a theme park. Good but too cheesy! Will definitely have to watch the list of films Dan has given me.
The afternoon ride turned into a run in the dark as behind time we chased to get to Pancho Villa National park. Running the highway that runs parallel to the mexican border, or should I say where Trump wants to build his wall.Plenty of border patrols about watching the hills, as it is a known area for the drug runs and illegal migration. But we never felt unsafe, even having a laugh with a couple of check points, one because I had earplugs in and couldn’t hear a word of what he asked! Was ok, though. “Nationality?” – “British sir!” And the blank look gave me as I handed him my IOM Driving licence… A little tight on fuel, we made it to the campground in the park, about 3/4 of a mile from the border! The lights shimmering in the distance.
Setting camp in the dark let’s see what this place looks like in the morning..!
Day 22, Tuesday.
Our penultimate night on the road gave me the most spectacular sunrise, and a feeling of sadness as i knew the trip was soon to be over.
Watching on the hill, location of America’s last invasion by land forces.
Later we managed to find a little “mexican mama” ran restaurant in the town, coffee and eggs with more coffee. Waiting for the temperature to warm up, this morning, the first time I woke feeling cold on the whole trip! Sitting opposite us in the cafe, talking away in Spanish, four dudes, just like farmers. But their hand gestures didn’t match the conversation, that’s when Dan leant over and whispers “cartel” haha! They were cool, we’re not what they’re after.
We took the minor route instead of the freeway for the mornings ride to El Paso. Running alongside the border again. The border guards wave us by with smiles. In El Paso, time for tyre number two on the little honda, They had one in stock, but wanted $90 to fit it. Bugger that on a budget, so out came the tyre levers in the parking lot! The staff came out to watch too.
Back on the road, the pace was easy. A little freeway, then settling comfortably on to I90 to Balmorhea State park. Another wonder of the desert, a freshwater spring pops its head up in the middle of nowhere, the natives used it and now the locals use it. Around the spring they have built a pool and at a consistent 26c its very popular in the Texan summers. With the spring flowing 300,000 liters per day, the first settlers ran irrigation canals for miles across the now fertile valley.It was my last night in the hammock and although the evening temp dropped to near freezing, comfortable in my sleeping bag. Vivid travelers dreams set in.
Day 23, Wednesday.
As we took the to road for the last time that morning, feeling as if I wanted to turn around! The 400 miles went by in a flash, I10 then the I90.
Stopping for breakfast in Iraan, a town built on the oil boom, left us with a steady ride, stopping for fuel and to look at “Clear Creek”.
We stopped by an old fort built by the Spaniards, Presidio de San Saba, all was OK for a few years until the Apaches took it and slaughtered them all!
Serves them right for spreading their gods freedom, on a mission to convert!
100 Miles from home, Dan’s favourite BBQ smoke house, we picked up a takeaway and for the rest of the ride, the precious cargo strapped to the back of his bike. The best his ass has smelt all the trip!
Back in Belton and welcomed home by Tammy and the crazy dogs! A shower and a change of clothes called, then as we ate, the washing machine worked it’s magic. Wasn’t long before I sank into the mattress and dozed off to sleep. Dreaming of life on the road again! And the task of cleaning up the bikes tomorrow!
Day 24, Thursday.
The final few days were always planned as “nothing days”, allowing for a delayed return or mechanical gremlins. But it gave us chance to fettle the bikes. Dan making mental notes of what needs doing to which. And with a complete strip down due on the BMW, what parts to replace. Bikes cleaned and bodies rested, I had the sad task of starting to repack…. felt like throwing a kids tantrum!
But Tammy and Dan knew how to raise my spirits! A trip to the Long Horn Bar in Austin for some ‘chicken shit bingo’! It is what it says it is!
My last day in Belton was never going to be a busy one, and with Tammy working, myself and Dan shuffled around the area, and out to Temple station nearby. Looking at some of the old loco’s outside the museum. Closed Monday so we didn’t go in. Picking up some dinner, we headed home and prepared for my 6am flight. Steak and trimmings went down well…
Day 25, Friday.
It’s always sad saying goodbye, but knowing I had a flight to catch…. we just got on with it. Flying to Atlanta for an 8 hour stop over, I planned a trip into town. Wish I hadn’t really.
Sure it’s a nice place but the skyscrapers blocking out the sun and the people stuck in the world of the Internet?
More of a risk being barged ignorantly to the floor than ran over by the city trams! Virgin get me outta here!
Now sitting here back on the island, I have the heating on and a jumper! One thing I never thought I’d miss… warm weather!