Excerpts from “Journal: Motorcycle Trip – Baja Peninsula,” Part 4

Part 4: Cabo San Lucas > San Ysidro

 

By Rick Albertson

October 14:  Cabo San Lucas > Ciudad Constitución

Anxious again through the night. Fortunately, it is Sunday morning and the streets are largely deserted. I just needed to round one block and head in the other direction on the next street over to be on my way towards Todos Santos and La Paz beyond along Hwy 19. The road to Todos Santos is a newish four-lane highway hugging the Pacific coastline. A pretty drive, though it can’t compare to the incredible waters of the Sea of Cortez.

I am so glad there was little traffic through La Paz. Taking advantage of this I didn’t attempt a second futile effort to find the psuedo-bypass and ended up riding through the city along its very attractive malecón.

Riding out of town I realized I’d soon come upon the three mile sandy gravel road upon which I must detour around ongoing highway construction. No problems this time with no stop and go required as in last time’s heavy traffic. The stretch ended in no time. I gave thanks and opened the throttle.

A straight rocket ride followed to Ciudad Constitución. Interestingly, I passed far more bicycles and horses than cars. Seems to have been two organized events. Perfect day as temperatures had cooled and the humidity took a hike. I actually had to stop and slip on a turtleneck to keep warm while riding fast.

Basically an extended crossroads, this town is mostly run down and seems old, although it actually began in 1940. It’s located about 25 miles inland from the Pacific port of Magdalena Bay.

I debated just stopping for lunch and continuing on for another 85 miles to Loreto for the night, but I was tired and sore and want to pace myself the next few days, hopefully crossing the border Thursday. Reaching the Hotel Conchita, which I had chosen and booked online based on its website and photos, I just about changed my mind. At least this room, though dingy, is clean looking, the plumbing works and there’s hot water, the A/C blows cool and quiet, and the motorcycle is stored safely away in the indoor garage.

Chanced a pizza lunch with Marilyn Monroe and then stepped into what appeared to be a dollar store to buy a snack for later.

baja california

Tried taking a nap, amidst the sound of a nearby radio. Dozed in and out of a daze but somewhat restored.

Walking to lunch I had passed a very nice looking, modern design restaurant billing itself as a coffeehouse. The glass of its windows were darkly tinted and silk-screen etched with an eye-catching logo. I visited tonight to eat a light dinner. It is extremely well designed inside, so impressive and so far removed from the rest of the town’s buildings.

I haven’t eaten particularly well on this trip. I have had little appetite and have been careful trying to avoid intestinal issues. Tonight, however, I decided I really need to eat more vegetables. I did. I ate a carrot cake!

A little reading and hopefully a decent sleep. The day ends with anticipation of an early start and hopefully brunch in Loreto at Carlotta’s cheese shop and then a revisit to the wonderful El Morro in Santa Rosalía for an afternoon soaking sore muscles in the pool and a very comfortable room.

 

October 15: Ciudad Constitución > Santa Rosalía

Fortunately was able to get a few hours of restless sleep, though with very strange dreams. A quick shower, a change of clothes, a swig of Coca Light to wash down an imitation Hostess cupcake, and I’m off.

So great to be on the road again. Channeled my inner Peter Fonda riding easy on a straight stretch of good two-lane asphalt, though sans forward foot rests, sissy bar, and ape hangers.

After transversing the peninsula once more I was soon in foothills and crossed Mulege’s river slicing through groves of Palm trees. Couldn’t discern any evidence of Sergio’s passing a few days ago.

Sixty-five miles into the ride, the amazing coast of the Sea of Cortez came into view. An absolute fantastic ride between rugged green Grand Canyon-esque mountains and the fluid gradient of turquoise waters meeting white sand beaches, mountainous islands galore in the bay. Visually this scenery is about as pretty as anything I’ve seen.

Soon arrived in Loreto, a small town that I looked forward to visiting again. Brunched at Carlotta’s cheese shop with an interesting retired Mexican who spent much of his life in California working for plane manufacturers as a mechanical engineer. He hadn’t expected to be in Loreto. On a cruise from San Diego to Panama he became ill and was put ashore to be hospitalized in Cabo. Like me he’s slowly advancing northward a couple of hundred miles a day, though he’s doing so by luxury bus. (Bet his butt, neck, back, and thumbs don’t get sore!).

 

An uneventful remaining 120 mile ride to Santa Rosalía. Arrived to a warm welcome from the receptionist at the El Morro Hotel in Santa Rosalía. It was comforting riding today knowing that this was my destination.

A few laps in the pool high above the Sea, and I feel great. A quiet nap, a good meal, and a peaceful sleep will more than prepare me for tomorrow’s shorter, but not so pretty, drive west back across the peninsula to Guerrero Negro. More importantly, at least for me, the Halfway Inn there is decent with no other hotels for many miles to the north (I’ve given up on camping for the five longer distance drives on the return trip).

Strong wind from the north has developed. Looks like it’s going to be around for a couple of days. I’ll be riding into it. Will have to go slower and use more gas. Great day today.

 

October 16: Santa Rosalía > San Quintín

Had planned to stay in Guerrero Negro, but after leaving early to avoid the worst of the expected wind, I was there by 10:15am, shivering. Was cool all day, about 45 degrees with wind chill. Ate a good breakfast of french toast and scrambled eggs at the Halfway Inn. Cancelled my reservation there and phoned ahead to change my reservation in San Quintín.

I knew this would make for a long day, but I’m ready to get home. Rode 375 miles. Roads were good and clear of traffic heading north. Apparently the great migration is beginning, however. I passed a lot of luggage-laden SUVs, campers, and a dozen or more loaded motorcycles heading south.

Southwestern-like desert most of the way though with incredible as-far-as-the-eye-could-see cactus forests. Stopped for a snack midway in Cataviña and met a couple of serious off-roaders from the Inland Empire. I think they’re training for the enormously challenging Baja 1000 Race. I also had to use my reserve gas through this 195 mile no gas section.

Arrived in San Quintín back on the Pacific side 10 hours after leaving at dawn this morning. It’s said that pain is the body’s way of talking. Well, we had a long drawn out conversation. In addition to the tales of increasing sciatica in my left leg, my neck talked on and on, just would not shut up! The difficult discussion centered on the large vertebrae at the base of my neck. Talking slowed after stopping for a brief break and 10 minute nap in El Rosario.

Staying at Hotel Jardines, highly recommended. Wonderful, wonderful place a mile off the highway in a date palm and olive grove. A very welcome oasis.

jardines san quintin

Great restaurant, too, where I had delicious carne asada. Will save a few bites for breakfast. Very happy to be here. If I awake exhausted I’m going to stay an extra day, lounging in the beautiful gardens. Did I mention that this place is wonderful? It is wonderful! Really, it is wonderful.

If I’m ok in the morning I’ll ride the final 185 miles to Tijuana, cross the border, pick up the truck, load up, and head for San Diego. We’ll see.

Was just served the most wonderful cheesecake desert. Did I say wonderful? I think I’m wonderful starved. This is helping one bite at a time.

My eyes are no longer obeying commands to remain open. Going to feel my way back to the room. Goodnight.

 

October 17: San Quintín > San Ysidro

A few bites of last night’s steak, a quick shower, and some maintenance. Lubed chain. Checked oil — way low (!) from yesterday’s long, fast ride. Added oil and took off concerned that I may have damaged the engine. This concern + knowing that I’d be riding through three cities of traffic + the hassle of crossing the border + worrying whether or not I’d actually complete the trip safely today, was emotionally draining. I was quite anxious riding out of the hotel’s loose gravel entranceway and down the very rutted dirt road a mile back to the highway.

Made it through busy, dusty San Quintín. A few miles later the excellent highway high above the coast afforded beautiful vistas below. Passed the beach camp-ground at Playa Saldamando where Nancy and I spent a few nights on one of our last trips together. Good memories of a wonderful time, Nancy so happy to be in Mexico; one in particular of her being serenaded by a gentle, smiling old street musician.

The bike was running great so I put that worry pretty much behind me.

Stopped twice to pay tolls and three times at a variety of military/police checkpoints. Soon on the outskirts of Ensenada. Had to navigate for a half hour through very busy traffic searching for Highway 1D, the scenic coastal drive to Tijuana.

The signs nearing the Tijuana-San Ysidro border crossing we’re pretty good at the outset, but the closer I got the more I had to depend on the force (may it be with you) to access the correct approach lane. I had read that motorcyclists were allowed/expected to cut to the front of the line. I’d also read that U.S. Custom officials have been known to angrily detain riders improperly using the Sentri Pass lane—the lane I ended up in!

An agent stopped me and pointed past several lanes of cars indicating that I needed to be in one of the Ready Lanes. So, I found myself duck-walking the unstable luggage-laden bike in a westerly direction. Drivers, many of whom had likely waited 1-2 hours to reach this point, were very accepting of my dilemma suddenly imposed on them. At any rate I made it through and found myself just a few cars from the front of the line. A quick comparison of my passport photo (groomed) with my helmetless (appallingly ungroomed) reality and the young agent passed me on. An amazingly quick twenty minute crossing. Scratch that worry.

I did it! I made it!! I’m back in the USA!!!

Probably not a big deal — the same trip is made by many, many riders each year. But this 66-year old, anxiety-ridden, non-Spanish speaker, bucket list-checkeroffer did it, solo, on an old bike. For me quite an achievement!

Thanks much to all of you who rode along with me. Your company was very much appreciated.

 

 

Rick Albertson’s limited-edition coffee table art book, “On the Street Portraits: Baja Sur Mexico,” featuring street portraits, travel photography, and his travel journal, can be purchased at the link here.

 

 

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