Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Crash: Tuesday, November 23, 2010: San Vincente – San Felipe- Bahia de Los Angeles: 280 miles, 2 days.

Head out of San Vicente and go 10 miles south to the turnoff for a 35 mile shortcut to the Highway to San Felipe. The sun is out and the dirt looks dry. The next 35 miles are amazing. The road, although a bit tricky, is well graded gravel, winding up and down the mountains across the peninsula. The views are impressive and after a couple of hours I am looking at the highway to San Felipe. The only problem is, although I’m right there, the road ends in a mishmash of rocky paths, winding among scattered houses and steep little hills. I get to the top of a hill after wandering around for 10 minutes and see what I think is a path to the highway. The drop is really steep and I decide to go for it. Bad decision. I do everything wrong. I pick up speed immediately and instead of feathering the brakes or trying to control with light throttle, I pull the clutch in and just coast, speeding down the hill. Then I see the 5 foot drop-off I’m barreling towards. I know immediately I’m going to crash. I launch off the cliff and hit hard on the front wheel, and slam down on my side. I feel the helmet chinbar smash into my lower lip, and feel my teeth digging into it. I get on my knees in a daze and the bike is still running. I manage to hit the cutoff switch and turn off the fuel petcocks. A few small children and a couple of teenagers on horses have rushed over, having seen what happened. I take off my helmet and spit blood onto the sand. I stand the bike up and take stock of the damage. Not too bad for the bike, a cracked luggage bag and the topcase is hanging off, but it’s a Pelican so no damage whatsoever. I look at my lip in the mirror and see a nasty, deep gouge. I’m pretty sure I am going to need stitches. Meanwhile, a guy whose name I couldn’t pronounce ( something- Coyote he says) stops by in a truck and begins to help me out. I roll the bike to his house next door. I immediately see that he is the proud owner of many animals including a pony with a foal, a horse with a foal as well, a couple of tiny dogs with even tinier puppies and 3 ostriches. Yes, you read that right, 3 fully grown ostriches in a pen in the yard. He has me get in his truck with his 5 year old son and takes me to the local clinic. I wait about a minute and the doctor (who I make the mistake of calling “Senora”, which she quickly corrects) has me lie down on a table and begins doing her thing. At this point, I have to be honest and say that I pretty much started to bitch out. I was getting really nervous here for some reason, I think it’s because she was about to jam a needle into my throbbing, cut and bleeding lip, and sew it up. I think I would have been fine if the outside of my body had been cut, but the inside of my mouth/soft tissue thing was making me ill. I let her know I was pretty nervous and she was really cool with me, speaking to me in hushed tones like a little baby. I winced a but when she stuck me with the needle to numb my mouth, and I was getting kind of nauseous and sweating pretty hard, but she stitched me up in a few minutes and that was that. Hey, at least I didn’t cry! She then said “see that wasn’t so bad” and gave me a lollipop. Haha, ok I get it, I’m a little kid and I made it through this, so I get my little treat. She also lets me know that the stitches are dissolvable, and I won’t need to have them removed by a doctor, which I am more than happy to hear. After writing me a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, I walk next door to the pharmacy to pay for everything. Total for 2 packs of meds and the stitching – 20 bucks. El Coyote has reappeared by this time and we stop by a gas station. I offer to pay for his help but he refuses and we head back to his house where we speak for a while with his son in tow. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself working for the water company out here and I check out all of his animals and take some pics, as well as checking out his truck and quad. I say goodbye and get on the highway, right down the road from where I crashed. Funny, after 35 miles of dirt I manage to crash at the last few hundred feet.

I’m now heading down the well maintained highway doing 65 and feeling like I’m going 100 after all that slow riding in the dirt. The asphalt is super smooth and follows a straight line through the northern Baja desert, with a lot of big dips in the road and some ferocious crosswinds which I have to fight to keep from being blown all over the road. I come to a military checkpoint and am stopped and asked to open one of my cases, but after a short conversation describing my accident and how long it will take to unload my stuff, I am waved through. 45 minutes later I’m in San Felipe and take a ride down the malecon and check out the Sea of Cortez up close. I find a coffeehouse with internet and walk over to the hotel where Mike and Steve stayed at and manage to get a room for $20. I walk around for a while, snap some pics and take a hot shower. A little later, 2 guys roll in on fully kitted out KLR’s and park next to my bike. Neil and Seth are on the final leg of their own Baja adventure. We meet up later on to discuss routes through Baja and they end up giving me their sweet Baja atlas since they are headed to the States tomorrow. We go out and I have the best chicken torta I’ve ever had and head back to the coffee house to use the computer again. There is a building next to the hotel with a sign that says “Iguana Table Dance” and me, Neil and Seth decide we have to go into a place like that a little later. However, they end up sacking out early and I hop into bed myself and check out Domino on TV (damn Keira Knightly is fine in that movie). Unfortunately, it seems Ive missed Sondra by a day. Steve had sent me an email saying she was in town and keeping an eye out for me but I couldn’t find her tonight. As I'm lying in bed, I begin to take stock of the accident that day and my mind is racing a bit. I’m still kind of stunned about the whole ordeal and how bad it really could have been. Baja is different than riding alone in the States. I had a close call but I realize even more that this is not a place to fuck around and get cute in. I need to be honest about my abilities and respect my surroundings even more and just take it slowly and carefully on these back roads from now on.

I wake up the next day at 7 and see Seth and Neil about to roll out but I'm too tired to get up. When I do a couple of hours later I see they have left a note on my bike with their info, and wishing me a good ride. After Gorilla taping the cracked saddlebag and checking over the bike and loading it, I’m headed south. The goal is to make it to the beach town of Puertecitos, only an hour away, and see if its somewhere I want to stay the night. If not Ill push farther south to Gonzaga Bay. The road is fast and straight, with some curves thrown in for good measure and in an hour I'm in Puertecitos. Wow, it looks pretty shitty and depressing from where I stand so I continue farther. The road is still paved until about 20 miles further south, and I hit a gravel road. I'm taking it slow in 2nd and 3rd gear. The terrain starts going through hills as well, and the route become washboard at times, rattling the shit out of me and the bike. A couple of hours later I'm in Gonzaga Bay and while it seems like a nice enough spot, there isn’t too much to see here. I decide to head even further south on more gravel and get on a computer in Chapala, the town that marks where the gravel and the road reconnects to Highway 1. From there I will see if I got a message from Sondra. I think she is in Bahia de Los Angeles camping with a few friends tonight so Ill probably head there. The roads are straight and faster here and I actually manage to get into 4th gear at times. 40 minutes later I hit Coco’s Corner, a place Ive wanted to see for a long time. In a nutshell, the proprietor Coco (who is missing both legs) has created a unique place to stop and chill in the desert. It is a desert modern -art masterpiece some would say, with beer cans strung everywhere, non-working tv’s mounted on poles, old toilets set up as chairs, and huge pairs of panties hanging from all over the ceiling. The only serve 2 things here, beer and Coke, and there are a few trailers if you want to stay the night for a small donation. The place is a legendary stop for dirt bike riders and a famous stop on the Baja 500 and 1000 races. Unfortunately I don’t meet Coco because he is in the hospital, but Javier, who is looking after the place is super cool. I have a Pacifico beer and hit the last 20km’s of gravel before I finally get to the asphalt of Highway 1. Somehow, I completely miss Chapala which seems impossible and I get to the turnoff to the Hwy 50 to Bahia de Los Angeles. Its getting dark now and although the road is in good condition, I'm breaking that rule again and need to take it really slow and watch out for animals. Almost on cue, I see a family of cows on the side of the road, then more cows, and several miles later a family of donkeys is crossing the road. The full moon jumps out from behind the coastal mountains and helps to light the way and 66 km’s later I'm in Bahia de Los Angeles. I stop for my first meal since a light breakfast this morning at a taco stand. The old woman makes me 2 carne and 1 fish taco with the flour tortillas rolled and fried right in front of me. Even better than the ones in Ensenada. I have 2 more. I meet and converse with 2 American couples and one of them offers to let me camp on their property free of charge in a nice safe place by the beach. I politely decline and go looking for a room but they are all way too much. I head to the internet spot but they are closing. I'm now wishing I had taken the couple up on their offer, but 15 minutes later I'm in a nice campground on the beach 10 bucks lighter where I set up, take a shower, get some free water off a Mexican team who just raced in the Baja 1000, and settle in the tent watching Mad Men ( I know, I'm addicted to this show even though its not that great). I open up the tent door right before I go to sleep and look at the moon, the sand, the waves and think about how glad I am that I'm not in a motel right now.

I wake up early as the sun comes up and don’t feel sluggish at all. There is something to be said for waking up like this, I guess its just not natural for man to wake up early in a dark room , like Ive been doing my whole life. I decide to stay here today to take care of some maintenance and repairs to the bike, and just enjoy this nice beach town. I have some breakfast and meet another team racing Baja who recommend a mechanic up the street. Through miscommunication we get a late start, but in the meantime I have caught up on a bunch of computer shit, taken a good look around town and sampled some more fine tacos. Samuel fabricates me a new rack for my topbox fairly quickly. The one I mad got thrashed by the backroads of Baja and was hanging off by a screw. I also saw that the rack frame had cracked and got that repaired as well. I cleaned and oiled my air filter but we ran into a snag when adjusting the chain. After an hour, I remembered about a hidden bolt that needed to be loosened and sheepishly told Samuel what the problem was. Bike back together, I give 20 bucks to the shop and 26 to Samuel and everyone is happy. Now sitting in the front of he shop by my bike on a lawn chair typing this up and about to head across the street to get online again. In the morning, Ill stop by the hardware store to get a couple of bolts I need, tighten some shit up, and head on what I think is my last major backroad track to El Arco, and then the oasis town of San Ignacio and possibly Santa Rosalia further south if time permits.

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