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2010 NBMC Baja Adventure (updated)

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NBMC Baja Ride Spring 2010

By Brian Pecore

Every once in awhile, you get an offer that you just cannot refuse. It happened to me just recently. North Bay Motorcycle Club was planning to do another club ride in Baja and asked if I would help out as a guide. Oh, and also pay most of my expenses. They didn't have to ask me twice. Since I had missed out on the DirtDogs Thanksgiving ride, I was more than happy to jump in on this trip.

The plan was to ride Friday Feb 12th through Monday Feb 15th. Starting at Rancho Ojai, which is just outside of Tecate. We would ride to San Felipe, then to Mike's Sky Rancho and back to the start area. Next decision, how many riders would be going? A quick survey at the club and we had a tally of somewhere between 20 and 30 riders. Yikes! That is alot of riders to try and work with. Especially 12 hours away from home. As the trip got closer, the number of riders changed daily. Plus one, minus two, plus two, etc. etc. Finally, we got a final count. 25 riders total. This included the 6 DirtDogs that would be guides. In order to manage this amount of riders, we decided to split up into 3 groups. Dave Froman and Roger Fletcher in the Green group ( 9 riders). Dave Callagy and Mark Lagomarsino in the Red group ( 8 riders). Myself and Colin MacDonald in the Yellow group ( 8 riders). Preparation is always essential when you go riding, but I am always extra careful when I go on a ride like this. We would be out on our own (no chase truck) for multiple days. Factor in all the bikes, riders and potential issues that can come up and it starts to get a little stressfull. This winter, Baja has recieved some severe weather and we were recieving mixed reports on what we might expect for conditions. Everything from roads washed out, to guys getting helicoptered out of the snow, to dry lakebeds not being dry any more, etc, etc. Thankfully Baja.net's Jimmeege from San Felipe stepped up and gave us some up to date reports on the conditions. This allowed us to plan our routes around areas that might be impassable.

(To be continued)

Edited by CyclePro
Updated

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Day 1; We were to meet up at Rancho Ojai and be ready to ride at 9AM. After almost 30 years of driving from Santa Rosa to Baja, which is about 12 hours drive time. We have developed a system that we feel is the optimum way to travel. We take a motorhome and trailer that will hold 4 to 8 riders and their bikes. We drive all night, taking turns driving and arrive in the morning ready to ride. This time it was 5 riders and 5 bikes. At first, it sounds kind of crazy, but the benefits far out weigh the disadvantages. You don't have to take extra days of work for travel, you get to sleep in a bed, you drive a couple hour stint and you are there! We arrived right on schedule, about 7:30AM. Plenty of time to unload, get geared up, have a riders meeting and brief everyone on the days plans. One vehicle had already had an incident with the locals in Tecate, getting in a minor fender scrape and paying $100 for it to go away.

My group was the last to leave the parking area. We had planned on taking the most direct route, so we figured we would stay out of the way of the other groups. We hadn't even got to the first turnoff, when we see the other groups heading off the wrong direction. Minutes later, after they figured it out, they started to catch us. The groups started to get mixed together. This is something we had talked about and wanted to avoid. Luckily, we had placed a colored tape on each rider and bike to signify which group they were in. I had my group pull to the side and let the other groups pass. I did this just to keep the confusion to a minimum. Conditions were perfect. The temperature was comfortable and there was plenty of moisture in the ground. There were puddles, wash outs, high water marks and plenty of evidence of the previous storms. After seeing the damage, I am thankfull we weren't there during the big storm.

Since each of the groups had planned our own routes, we weren't sure if the other groups were ahead of us, or behind. It wasn't long after the first gas stop that we found out. Jose, layed his bike down in the sand and folded the radiator back, cracking it in the process. In this case, a two part epoxy was the right fix. It stopped the leak and wasn't a problem for the rest of the trip. While we were waiting for the epoxy to cure, the red group caught and passed us. It wasn't long before we caught them back. There was a severe washout and they were scrambling around looking for a way through. Once a path was found through the obsticle, everyone was back on track. We waited a few minutes to let the groups separate and we were back on our way. At the next gas stop, I told Colin to fill up first and head down the road to San Mateas to order us some lunch. I stayed back to make sure everyone else was set and to pay the bill. I finished up and started heading down the road. It wasn't long before I see a group of riders at a resturaunt. I think to myself, must be the red group again, but no, wait, it's our group. Colin had gotten confused and stopped at the first place that looked good. No problem, the people were real nice and the food was great. Back on the bikes with a full stomach, we continued south. This time, we passed both the red and green groups. They were on the side of the road, at the start of a wash going into Diablo Dry Lake. We had been warned that the lake bed was wet and not to try and cross it. They decieded to take the pole line for a bit until it met up with the bypass road. While I took our group directly to the bypass road. At this point, our group was doing good on time. A stop at Jose's Beer Shack was in order. Since discovering Jose's we always make it a point to stop and buy something every time we pass through. This in appreciation for him just being there. As soon as we stopped, the Federales came flying up to us in their HumVee. One of their leaders was with them, so not much playing around this time. We all gave them our ID's and had a cold beverage. Our Jose speaks fluent Spanish, so he talked with the Federales, they laughed and joked. I don't have any idea what they were saying. Then our Jose talked quite awhile with Beer Shack Jose. It was very interesting hearing his stories about how he actually worked in the US and came about living in the location he is at. We hopped back on our bikes and off we go again. The Federales had driven towards us from the lakebed, so we figured it was plenty dry enough for a motorcycle. As soon as we took off, I could see other riders on the bypass road. Come to find out, it was the Red group again, only this time, mix in Chris Steward and his Trail Boss Tours riders. They were on there way all the way to Cabo. Not only did we have a mess of riders all heading the same direction, but it was getting dryer and dryer. Which means dustier and dustier. No problem, we just took extra care to make sure everyone in our group made the proper turns. It was just getting dusk and I was dying to try my new headlight, but decided I would not need it if I did not take the time to stop and uncover it. We pulled into our motel, El Capitan just at dark.

After a shower and changing into our street clothes, we walked into town. It just so happened that it was "Canival". Lots of people, displays, music, rides, etc. Heck, we even found a booth handing out free Tequila samples. Woo Hoo! Personally I didn't know what I wanted more a bacon wrapped hotdog or a fish taco. No worries, we easily found both. Everyone was on their own, different bars, resturaunts and establishments. I retired early, looking forward to a good nights rest.

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Guides;

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Dave Froman

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Roger Fletcher

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Dave Callagy

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Mark "Lago" Lagomarsino

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Colin MacDonald

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Brian pecore

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Day 2; Up the next morning, time for some minor bike maintenance, breakfast for all and it was time to ride again. For this day, we leave our backpacks in our rooms, lighten up and have fun. We split into two groups for this day. I was to lead the "Light Day Ride". Dave F and Dave C were to lead the longer Matomi ride. My group rode to Percebu, got to ride the beach, played at the MX track and slid around on the mud flats. Heading back to town, we decided to cut cross country for a bit. The route we chose went right through a dump like area and Jimmy got caught up in a old fishing net. When I say caught up, I really mean caught up. It took four of us about 45 minutes to cut the bike free. It was wrapped around in both wheels! Once we "set him free" we headed back to the motel. For most in my group, the day was done. Colin, Dean and myself headed off to meet Jimeege. Jim was the one I was getting accuate information about what the conditions were like. We had met on Baja.net, but not in person. We rode into his comunity, not knowing an address. I had seen photos of his house, so I was pretty confident that I could find it. Sure enough as we rode up, Jim and Karen came out of their house to greet us. What nice people. Retired (young) from San Diego area and loving life, living in Baja full time. They invited us in and gave us a tour of their place. We visited until almost dark. Jim told us we should take the beach back, instead of the highway. Sounded good to us. I finally got to uncover my headlight and give it a test. 190 watts of headlight power is awesome!!! We took off down the beach, but I think turned in at the wrong place. We went round and round a bit and then took the most direct road we could find out towards the main road. Soon there was a security guard coming at us and it looked like we were stuck. He wanted us to go back the way we came. We told him that we were nearly out of gas and needed the most direct way out. He radioed someone and soon let us out a locked gate that was blocked by an old school bus. We rode around the bus and out onto the highway. As we pulled back into the motel, everyone was back. Some still in riding gear. Stories we flying around about what had happened on their ride. They had a blast, but the guys on that ride learned a few things. Like why we asked them to pack extra gas. Half of them nearly ran out and had to beg a local into syphoning some from his car. Others learned the true meaning of the buddy system as Roger took a pretty good fall and was really buised and battered. His cousin Mike's ride changed drastically. For the rest of the trip, he would stick closely with Roger. This meant the easiest routes, pavement and slower speeds until we got back to the trucks two days later. Dinner reservations had been made at El Nido for that evening. It is a very nice Steak and Seafood resturaunt. It took a little bit to get everyone together, but we made it and had a great meal. After dinner, we walked into town to check out the activities for the evening. I had read about Al's Backstreet Bar and their homemade tequila. A few of us walked over to give it a try. I must say, it was really tasty. At this point, everyone dispersed to go thier own way. Since it was Valentine's day, I needed to do some shopping, so I went off to check out the street vendors.

Edited by CyclePro
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Morning in San felipe

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Percebu

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Beach Time !

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Beach Fun!

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Fish net!!!!

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Jimeege's Place

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Dinner at El Nido

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Day 3 was an easy day. We headed North towards Diablo Lakebed and ended up meeting up with the other groups at Jose's Beer Shack. I know I mentioned stopping there on our way south, I didn't really explain what it is. Jose has set up his little store on the edge of the dry lake. It is literally a plywood shack with no signs, no windows, not really even a door, just a shack. But, Jose is generally there and has cold beers, water, gatorade, TP, and even batteries. A small convenience store in the middle of nowhere. I guess an oasis of sorts. As we pulled up, the other groups were already there, along with the Federales. They were checking ID's again and couldn't wait to talk with our Jose. The group leaders had discussed trying to cross the lake bed, since on this end it was very dry. It looked ok as far as we could see from Jose's. The plan was to test it out and at the first sign of getting wet, cut across to the bypass road. Since the other groups took off before ours, I was confident to follow their lead and do whatever they did. The farther we went out onto the lakebed, the more it looked like we could make it across. Then I saw the tracks and dust from the other groups cutting over to the bypass road. I though, geez that is odd, there is moisture, but mostly in the car ruts. It really looked dry alongside. We kept going. I kept a close eye on the ground and kept looking at my tires to see if I was taking my group into the unreturnable mud. No, no signs of that. We just kept on going and came out on the other side, just as the last of the Green group was coming around the bypass. Dean, who was now sweeping for their group stopped and we exchanged experiences. He was asking about us crossing the lakebed and I was asking about Karl's muffler, or lack of. I guess Karl's muffler had come off or loose one too many times and he tossed it off in the bushes. Now riding with a straight pipe, Karl could be heard for quite some distance. Off to San Mateas in hopes of finding gas so that we didn't need to ride all the way to Valle De Trinidad. Success, as we rode into town, there were our compadres at a house, fueling up out of gallon milk jugs. I believe the sheer amount of bikes overwelmed the lady. The green group paid almost twice as much for basically the same amount of gas that our group used. Time for a quick lunch and up the road to Mike's Sky Rancho. The road into Mike's was in great shape. Mike had one of his workers fix the road with a tractor as soon as he could after the storms were over. We arrived at Mike's with plenty of time to relax, do bike maintenance or whatever. Some of the guys went for a quick evening ride, just to get a few more miles in without backpacks. Dinner was awesome. Afterwards, lots of stories and tales were told .While there, we met 3 travelers from Germany. They were heading South for about 2 months. No set destination, just as far as they could get within their time frame. Their plan was to ride to La Paz, ferry the bikes across to the mainland and continue south into South America. Find somewhere to store their bikes, fly home and continue the journey next year. Talk about a small world, this year they stored the bikes and started their journey in Sonoma County, not 5 miles from my house, amazing.

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Experimental Replacement muffler

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Ride reports like this are the essence of this forum. Great job- always an adventure in BAJA

Thanks

Dude Bro- I think you you have some competition now:

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I woke up the next morning to some of our guys talking with another group of 4 riders. I thought, that is wierd? I didn't see them last night. I asked and found out that they had just rode in. That was wierd too? From where? And what time would they have had to leave in order to get to Mike's at 7AM? I soon found out that they had spent the night out on the trail. They were trying to get to Rancho El Coyote, but had headlight issues. Lack of lights and many washouts were more than they could deal with in the dark. They said it wasn't that bad out there, as they made a fire to keep warm and heated up rocks to put inside their wet boots. I am thinking that the warm breakfast they got that morning was probably one of the highlights of their whole trip. It was nice to talk with them. We found out that we didn't want to take the back way out from Mikes and that conditions up in the Sawmill area were awesome and we shouldn't miss it.

All three groups decieded to take the same route to Valle De Trinidad. We did end up criss crossing paths a couple times. The conditions were awesome, but definately there were some big washouts to watch out for. They were no problem to get around, but definately kept you on your toes. We caught the tail of the red group when Brian L had a flat and Mark L lost his front brake. As Brian fixed his tire, the rest of us helped out Mark. Somehow his banjo bolt was leaking. We tightened it and proceeeded to take a valve stem cap full of brake fluid out of everybodys bike to refill his reservoir. It filled it enough to bleed the system and we were all back on the trail. After getting gas in Valle De Trinidad, my groups plan was to go up the goat trail, then back out to the road. Burn pavement to Indepencia. Turn in towards Santa Caterina, up to the sawmill and back to the trucks. The first part of the plan worked perfectly. As we headed in the road to Santa Caterina, we came across something that just makes you shake your head. The locals were laying a section of 2 lane cement roadway, about 1/2 mile long. What makes it wierd is, we were probably 5 miles down a dirt road to get there. Weird??? Soon after that we found the Green groups tracks. we followed them for miles. It was great. Easy to follow, conditions were perfect. Then I made a tactacle error. I saw their marks go in one trail, then back out, then in another and back out. I thought they were lost and I thought I knew where the next road turn was. The next time they turned in, I didn't follow. Well, come to find out, I should have. That was the right way. My group kept going farther and farther back towards the highway. At this point it was obvious we were not going up to the Sawmill, but down towards the highway. So we stopped and took a little break. We had a little picnic. Shared some Power Bars and Jolly Ranchers and said "oh well" we will just take the easy way back. So at the next intersection we were back on Compadre Ranch Road and heading back to the trucks. It actually worked out great. The Red Group was already there. At Rancho Ojai they allow us to use their showers when we return. This is one of the reasons we like to park there. Just as we finished our rounds of showers, the Green group pulled in. It wasn't long before we were loaded up and our Baja Adventure was basically over. As we were waiting in line at the boarder crossing, a street vendor walked by sellin fresh tomales. We bought a couple of each kind for everyone in our rig. Awesome! Just can't get enough of that real authentic mexican food. Once through the boarder, it's drive all night and back at work the next morning. I don't know what it is with these NBMC trips, but they must have the inside line with the weather gods. Weather and conditions were perfect, again. What a great trip.

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Bench Racing in Mike's Bar

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Mike's Early Morning

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Heading to Valle De Trinidad

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Heads Up

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Up The Goat trail

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our picnic lunch

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