Baja North (Sierra Columbia)
Starting on Friday, October 11, 2002, 10:11:04 AM
After I left the Bay of Conception I made my way up the coast and to the small town of Santa Rosalia. From there the highway took off to the west again and again across the mountains.
Just as I was leaving the area, out ion the middle of the desert I saw the most amazing thing. Like I had said before, I thought that the turkey vultures spreading their wings out was just a myth. I was riding past a group of them and hoped that at least one would have its wings spread out. None of them did and I knew it had to be a myth.
But then, just as I was riding past them, one of them looked right at me and slowly opened up its wings. I quickly stopped the bike and looked back to see all of them turn towards me and slowly open their wings up also. I was stunned and turned the bike around hoping that I could just get at least one shot of this incredible event. They all looked at me for a moment with their wings wide open as if they knew what I wanted them to do. I was able to get a few shots before they all dropped their wings again and didn't open them back up again. I was so thrilled that I had captured that magical moment.
Heading across this stretch of Baja I could see that the landscape was getting even more harsh and desolate. I passed this mountain that had to be a dormant volcano. I could see fields and remnants of ancient lava flows.
I came into the town of Guerrero Negro and a military outpost on the highway. There in the middle of this post was the largest flag I think that I have ever seen. The actual town was a few miles off of the main highway. I met these three guys at the gas station that were riding motorcycles all the way down to Todos Santos from San Francisco. I talked to them for a little while and was considering riding with them into the town to get something to eat when I realized that I would have to go back through an inspection that I had already came through. I didn't feel like waiting and going through that so I headed on my way.
Just past this point the desert had changed dramatically. I immediately ran into a strong cross-wind from the west. The landscape got even more harsh and dry. Many of the other cacti had disappeared and I could tell that even the ones that remained were having a difficult time thriving in this brutal environment.
I was heading through this area and at about 150 miles since my last fuel stop I was getting a little nervous about my fuel level and when my next fuel stop would be. I passed one little stop with an old guy selling gas from barrels, on the side of the road. This made me even more worried. I was up to 160 miles and was getting concerned. I then passed one of the familiar blue signs with a picture of a gas pump on it which gave me hope that a station was near. I pulled into a small town in an oasis. There was a hotel and a few stores there and an abandoned gas station but no available gas stations around. Another old man was selling gas there out of the back of his van. This did not look good and I really didn't want to have to buy gas out of the back of a van. So I headed on down the road a little further in hopes that I'd find a station or at least a sign somewhere telling me how far it would be to the next town. There was nothing. I had gone ten more miles until I finally stopped at a small restaurant to ask somebody. I asked how much further it was to the nearest gas station. They informed me that it was 120 kilometers further down the road. I only had enough fuel to only go about another 50 miles. Certainly not far enough to make it. I gave a few of the kids there some of my toys and got their picture and headed back to the man selling gas out of his van.
Since it was getting later in the afternoon I rushed back, hoping that they would still be there. I made it back and bought four gallons at an extremely high price, which I gladly paid. The man took out a funnel and put it in my gas tank as he poured one gallon at a time from smaller plastic jugs. Being a little concerned I leaned forward to smell the gas that he was pouring into my tank. It looked like gasoline and smelled like it would burn so I took all that would fit in my tank. I thanked the man and went on my way feeling a little more comfortable in knowing that I had a full tank of something that seemed to be burning quite well.
The desert then had me worried. The sun was going down and I was still way out in the desert. I was worried that the next station would be closed and I would have to spend another night somewhere in this barren wasteland. I was running out of cash and was wondering if there would be another ATM machine somewhere. Would I have enough money to get back to the states? I was getting a little concerned about all these factors and not to mention that I was getting hungry.
I made my way into the next town, Rosario, where there was a gas station still open and filled up again. From there, along the coast line the highway was full of life again. There were towns and gas stations all over. I made my way into the small town of San Quintin where I stopped at another road side restaurant. The owner seemed to speak a little English. I had bought four tacos and a Coke. I was hoping that I'd still have enough money to get back across to the states when I looked behind me and saw a bank across the street. I asked the owner if it had an ATM and he assured me that it did. I paid for my food and went across the street and got some more cash. I came back across the street and bought four more tacos and another Coke while onlookers laughed and watched.
As I was getting back on my bike a guy from the window of a truck started trying to talk to me. Without either of us speaking each other's language we managed to communicate and talked about my trip. He told me about a Suzuki that he had and told me how he had much respect for me for riding so far. We talked about Cabo San Lucas for a while and about San Quintin. We shook hands again and he told me to be careful and I headed on my way.
I only made on more stop on the way to get gas and made my way up towards Tijuana and San Diego.
I dropped into Ensenada, just south of Tijuana. There were no signs along the way so I kept on the main street heading north. I ended up going up a slight hill and the road ran out. I was a little upset and headed back to retrace my steps and find where I was suppose to turn. Again, I looked and could find no signs. I stopped and asked a girl at a gas station and she told me which way to go. I couldn't really understand her but got headed off in the right direction. Again, the road showed no signs and I got a little confused but drove around enough to find the access to the freeway. The road from Ensenada to Tijuana was lined with three toll booths. At least the highway was more appealing than most I had been on.
I finally made it to Tijuana which had some flaky road signs but eventually found the right way to the border. I had expected to get thoroughly searched at the border so I was ready to take a break as they went through my things.
At the border I was quite surprised when the guard just asked me a few routine questions and told me that I was okay to go. He never even asked to see my driver's license or look through any of my bags. I thanked him, of course, and went on my way. But still felt a little bit disappointed that they didn't think I was worth searching.
Then it dawned on me. I had made it through parts of Mexico and all the way up Baja and through many guarded check points but hadn't been searched at all. I never even had to show anybody my driver's license or anything. The only time I did have to wait at a check point was the one time that the guards wanted to listen to me play my guitar. Otherwise they just always let me go through while they searched everybody else for weapons and drugs.
I was so glad to be back in the states. Although, as you can plainly see, I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure in Mexico, it is so good to be back in this country and to one of the languages that I can actually somewhat understand.
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