Oregon to the Baja

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August 26th 2009
Published: August 26th 2009
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My friend Bruce and I left the Portland area on Monday morning, and went out to the number one highway on the Pacific Coast. It was out plan to ride the coastal highway for most of our trip south. It made sense to us to avoid the interstate highways and enjoy the journey a little more. Besides, the coastal roads would be the kind of roads that motorcycle enthusiasts like - lots of scenery, and lots of twisty sections. We weren't disappointed. The only thing that did get in the way was fog and cloud, which we did see a fair amount of.

Despite taking the slower roads, our plan was to get to San Diego relatively quickly. Bruce had booked motorcycle maintenance appointments for Friday, which gave us 4 days to get there. We decided that in the 6 weeks or so that Bruce had available for his time traveling with me that we would rather spend most of it in Central America.

The day we left Portland area, we made it down to just north of the California border, which we crossed the next morning. It was surprisingly cool in the clouds and fog, the temperature was only about 15 degrees. We put on extra layers. As the coastal road meandered down the coast, it occasionally ventured inland a bit where we discovered the clouds would disappear and the temperature would soar upwards. Later in the day, this got quite dramatic with the temperature variance moving 20 degrees in a very short distance. From 18 degrees on the coast, we would go up to 38 degrees inland. We had to stop to take clothes off, only to put them back on when the road turned seaward again. We decided we should take the extra time to get south of San Francisco so we weren't faced with rush-hour traffic heading into town in the morning. We employed a similar strategy for Los Angeles, leaving Santa Barbara late so we would get into LA after the rush hour. The problem was, it seems to always be rush hour in LA. We followed the number one down the coast through Malibu, then cut inland on Sunset Blvd. We went up into Beverly Hills, then my B.S. protection kicked in and I had to get the hell out of there. I had my GPS plot an escape route, which took us onto I5. This turned out to be pretty much a 6 lane parking lot most of the way to San Diego (SD).

We took some time off in SD, had some maintenance done on the bikes, and visited some museums - the USS Midway aircraft Carrier, and the Maritime Museum where we got to tour a Russian and American Submarines. Definitely a highlight of my trip so far.

After a bit of a mix-up with our Mexican road insurance, we left SD on Monday morning and crossed the border into Mexico. Entering Mexico is certainly easier than what happens going the other way. After sailing past the border I noticed the mile-long lineup of cars waiting to go into the U.S. While not necessary for people sticking to the economic zone along the border, we had to get visas and the proper import documentation for our motorcycles. That took a bit of running around, and we were on our way.

The Baja California is not quite what I expected, which was essentially flat desert. So far, It has been covered with mountains, and low scrubby vegetation. The number of farms is surprising, all using irrigation of some kind I presume. We saw the largest greenhouses I have ever seen, growing what I don't know. They went on for miles, and extended back about a half mile.

The road so far has been surprisingly good. We are slowly getting used to the speed bumps “topes” that are frequent when passing through the towns along the way. They seem to be used to slow down vehicles in congested areas, usually there are lots of shops and pedestrian traffic around those areas. Then, sometimes, there doesn't seem to be a reason. I was jolted awake a couple of times before I got used to looking out for them. I'm sure they are hard on shock absorbers. I did bring spare seals for my front forks, it may turn out to be fortunate.

Like in California, the temperature has been directly related to our distance from the ocean. The further we got from the ocean, the hotter it got. Up to nearly 40 today. We could tell when the road was heading back towards the ocean because the temperature came down, as low as 20. Three was a fog sitting over the coast, and we got into it a few times.

So far, the Baja landscape reminds me much of the area around Kamloops, the Nicola Valley, and Ashcroft. It's just that it is so much bigger. It is certainly a desert or close to it. There are bridges all over with dry creek beds under them, so there must be heavy rains and flooding once in a while. Southern California is essentially a desert too, it is clear that without man bringing in water, there wouldn't be much green stuff around. The day we visited the Midway museum, there was a bit of a local rain shower around where the motorcycle shop was. The service manager said it was the first rain they had in 112 days.

We have a couple of more days of travel on the Baja peninsula before we take a ferry to the mainland. My next blog entry will probably be after that.

You can find a detailed set of photos at my Flickr Site

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Dennis the Menace Park 1959Dennis the Menace Park 1959
Dennis the Menace Park 1959

Here's me in the same(?) train in 1959, 50 years ago. The plaque on the train said it was donated to the park in 1957, but it looks different now, starting with the number...
Baja CaliforniaBaja California
Baja California

Fog meets desert

26th August 2009

I feel like I'm riding with you in spirit. You seem to be moving along at a good clip. Don't forget the guest room is available in Quito. Felipe

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