Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baja Kicks my Ass: Saturday, November 19, 2010: San Quintin – San Vincente: 80 miles, 7 hours(!).

Wake up and head out to cross the peninsula via the back roads. The word “roads” is used lightly. Head north to catch the turnoff to the start of the trails, the first stop being Mision de San Domingo. After skirting around a parade celebrating the Mexican Revolution, I see the turnoff and head right. The road is ok, hard packed dirt with dome rocks and I'm putting along in 2nd gear with the occasional jaunt into 3rd. Then the sandy stuff hits and I almost lose it a few times and remind myself of my limits and do the 1st –gear- crawl. I end up in a field of ricks and look up to see that Ive missed the path which leads up a hillside. I take it and continue on towards the mission. The mission is almost non –existent. I'm the only one there and the only thing left is the door, frame, and some mud – foundation reinforcements. I cant help but thinking about 2 things. One that its pretty cool that I just saw Saint Dominic’s tomb in Italy (the mission was built by Dominican monks) and that I'm pretty lucky these aren’t the super hot months, and what it must have taken for people to come all the way out here in the heat and build this thing. I take a look at the cemetery on the left and I'm headed back down the path. Next stop, a village called El Coyote and then the Sky Ranch. The sandy stuff is pretty bad now and Im taking it slow. Get to my first river crossing ever, say a prayer, gun it, and come out the other side. That was awesome. See a lone guy working on some generator equipment and wave. Although we are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains on all sides, there is the presence of some farming industry and some type of chemical processing perhaps, scattered here and there. I take a left turn onto a sandy track and the trail ends. I look left and turn onto a sandy field, and end up getting buried. I try to dig out to no avail, and realize the chain has popped off the sprocket. Shit, this is not good. I’m actually getting pretty hot now and as I walk back tot talk to the guy working on that generator, I cant imagine how bad this would suck during most of the other months, when the heat would be unbearable. 10 minutes later, Manuel and I are walking back to the bike. I unload my gear and we quickly get the bike back on the solid dirt trail. We cant get the chain back on however and I break out the tools as we try different things and ponder our options. I realize then that the chain has more slack then I thought, and that I was in gear when we were trying to roll the chain on (leaving the bike locked up and unable to roll). We try again and the chain pops on, and the slack is ok. Wow, that’s good. I thank Manuel out here in the middle of nowhere and give him the pesos I have in my pocket. Its only a few bucks worth but I don’t think he was expecting anything and he genuinely happy. And then he one arm hugs me. And then we say goodbye and I'm off. For the next hour and a half, I struggle though sand, rocks, several more river crossings (I should be loving these, they are awesome, but why do they make me nervous?- age again?) non-existent trails gates, and finally get to a point where the trail dies completely. I'm in a wasteland of rivers, sand and big ass rocks everywhere, trying not to dump the bike at every step. I scout out ahead a bit on foot and see nothing. I realize that it’s time to put my tail between my legs and head back and take the long highway route to San Felipe. . BTW, Ive only gone about 20 miles total in about 5 hours. At least I managed to remember an hour or so back that letting the a bunch of air out of your tires is optimal for off road riding (much larger contact patch, and therefore, control) as opposed to the rock hard max PSI Ive been running for the long stretches of slab back in the U.S. It makes the sand a little more manageable. Heading back is just as hard as going in. On on of the last of the 10 stream crossings, the bike dies in the middle of the stream. Oh shit. I'm worried I flooded the engine, but its not that deep here, flooding doesn’t make sense. I check the air filter cover. It seems wet, but only where some water splashed on, not soaked like it just took in a huge gulp of water. . I'm acting quickly, standing in water which is now flooding over the top of my waterproof boots, and my feet remain swimming in 2 pools of water for the rest of the day. Against my better judgment, I try to start the bike (bad if the engine is flooded). After a few tries, the bike starts and I ride out, hoping I'm not doing any damage to the internals if water got in there. I realize that I just stalled out when I didn’t pull in the clutch fast enough and let the bike bog down instead of keeping the throttle pinned. I like to think that I subconsciously knew that the engine couldn’t be flooded and that’s why I hurried to start the bike, which could have resulted in a disaster if water had gotten in. Haha. I ride by where Manuel was working but he is not there, and finally hit the highway. Stop for a drink and I realize that with 150 miles to go , I'm not getting to San Felipe till dark and Ill be breaking that rule again. Ill just have to ride slow and be as alert as possible. I really want to get there and hang out and if I don’t dawdle I can be there by about 7. Then it starts to rain. And that changes everything. There is a horrible accident up ahead with traffic backed up in both directions. I'm able to cut through it all on the bike. The rain is now coming down lightly, but steadily and after about 15 miles, I'm soaked and shivering, not having anticipated needed to don waterproof gear. At least my stuff is dry, locked up and sealed tight in waterproof cases. I look at the GPS and it says to turn onto a dirt road, which will be going on for about 30 miles give or take. The only other option is to go back to Ensenada and take the highway, adding 3 hours to the trip. I stop in the rain and realize for the second time today that Baja has beaten my ass down today and I need to get a room and a hot shower pronto. Head to the next big town, San Vicente, about 10 miles north and where I left the highway yesterday for the beach. Pull into a bit of a nicer place than I stayed at last night, get quoted 350 pesos and settle for 300. About 24 bucks. And worth every penny with the hot water offered. I stand under the shower for about 49 minutes, until there is no more hot water to be had. Head out to eat, have 4 carne asada tacos like you can only get here and a drink for about 4 bucks, get some pastries at the panaderia, hit the internet café and now back in the room writing this. Tomorrow, I'm gonna take a look at that dirt road shortcut to San Felipe again. If the rain hasn’t turned it into a river of mud, I’ll head down and see how far I can get. Gotta remember to be safe and ride my own ride. If it gets hairy, Ill just go back around the long way.

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