Baja Virus Run – Part 1

We had a plan. A plan to ride with some friends to Baja California Mexico in March 2020 just as the world wide pandemic was starting to spread in the United States. One of the first US viral hot spots? Seattle, our city of departure.

Deby and I have ridden the Baja peninsula many times over the past 10 years and have become pretty familiar with the roads, hotels, restaurants and tourist stops. We have a list of our favorite places and easily fall into a familiar routine whenever we visit. In November of 2019 we joined our friend GPS Kevin on his Baja “Lucky Explorer Ralley.” (If you’re interested, click on the link to learn more and check out some pictures of the trip.) On the way home from that trip Deby suggested it would be fun to return to Baja on the big bikes and invite some friends to join us. We have a group of friends we frequently ride with from the Northwest Norton Owners who have expressed an interest in riding in Mexico so we immediately thought of inviting them.

In December I started planning the trip and we invited five club members who had “Adventure” style motorcycles suitable for the trip, were extremely competent riders and easy going friends,that we knew could all get along for two weeks travelling the back roads of Mexico. Almost randomly I picked two weeks in March an put together a ride plan. Everyone in the group worked out their home and work schedules and the trip details fell into place.

Wednesday March 11, 2020

President Trump speaking about the virus on March 10: “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Reassured, Deby and I calmly loaded up the truck with her BMW F750GS and my Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sport motorcycles. The news about the virus was getting more frequent and disconcerting. We could wait for the virus to go away or, I figured, we could go away. The same day, the governor of Washington banned gatherings of 250 people or more and 5 more deaths were reported bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 29. It seemed like a good time to stay calm… and leave the state.

One of the club members, Kris, recently moved to the California mountains near Yosemite National Park. Six of us from the Seattle area would truck our bikes to Kris’ house and we would ride from there. This meant we could avoid riding motorcycles on the boring stretch of Interstate 5 and avoid potential snow in the mountains. On Thursday March 12, we all convened at the luxurious Super 8 Hotel in Redding CA.

Left to Right: Gary, Deby Garry, Greg and John

These would be our riding partners for the next two weeks plus Kris when we got to his house. As is usual, when we dropped out of the mountains into Redding, CA, the weather warmed drastically and the sun warmed our bodies and souls. We spent some time sitting around the pool but decided not to go for a swim after seeing this sign.

Ok, sure, it’s California but is this sign really necessary? Maybe it’s been a problem in the past… who knows?

Friday March 13, 2020

The governor of Washington state orders all public and private schools closed for six weeks.

We weren’t too worried and frankly, weren’t really paying too much attention. We arrived at the beautiful mountain home of Kim and Kris and got to work unloading the bikes. That’s Kris on the right instructing John and Garry on the proper use of Kris’ bike ramps.

We spent the rest of the evening getting the bikes unloaded, ready and quenching our thirst with a few cold beers. That’s Kim talking to Gary next to the truck.

Saturday March 14, 2020

San Luis Obispo County has confirmed its first coronavirus case a day after the county has both declared a public health emergency and closed down its schools.

We decided to dedicate the day to making final preparations on the bikes and going for a short shake-down ride. The video below shows the route:

We ended the day at the Wagon Wheel restaurant where all things were normal, no virus worries here in the small town of Ahwahnee, CA. Food, beer, people, we had a great evening and were looking forward to the ride south the next morning! Gary won the biggest hamburger prize.

Sunday March 15, 2020

Washington’s governor Inslee bans dining in restaurants and limits all public gatherings.

This is it, we ride south for the border. With nearly 700 miles to ride before the border crossing in Tecate we decided to break it up into two days of riding. Kris had a friend who planned an excellent route to Barstow, CA along the western edge of the Sierra National Forest.

We were too busy riding the nice twisty mountain roads to take too many pictures. The weather was unusually cool and I was glad for my heated liner and heated grips. We arrive in Barstow and walk around town for a while looking for a restaurant… everything is closed. What? Virus? No, restaurants in Barstow are closed on Sundays. Deby, Kris and I split from the group and ended up getting “dinner” at an iHop. It just didn’t seem right. Here is the Relive video of this leg:

Monday March 16, 2020

From Wikipedia: As of 16 March, President López Obrador (Mexico) continued to downplay the impact of coronavirus. “Pandemics … won’t do anything to us,” and accused the press and the opposition for its reportage.

The plan is to cross the border late afternoon and stay at a hotel in the Mexico side of Tecate for the night. We weren’t thinking much about the virus situation and were glad to continue our ride south in search of warmer weather and sunshine.

Bikes ready to ride in Barstow

The ride was cool with lots of wind… soon, soon, we could take off our winter riding gear. I was beginning to wonder…. my buddies didn’t seem very convinced either.

Here is the route south from Barstow to Yucca Valley and through the resort towns of Palm Springs and Palm Desert where we exited the cities up an incredible winding road up the mountains to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Here is a picture of the road from the top.

We crossed the border at 3:30 PM with almost no issues…. Garry didn’t have the receipt proving he paid for his tourist card and was holding things up in the office. Evidently, these kind of mistakes can be fixed for $10.00 US dollars. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of this but as these things go, it was easier to pay the $10.00 “fine” than argue. We arrived at the Estancia Inn at 4:00 eager for food in the bar in restaurant. Or not…. they were closed. Why? The virus? Not enough people staying at the hotel? No…. in Tecate, restaurants are closed on Mondays! Geesh, we walked down the street to a sports bar and managed to get some relatively good Mexican food and beer so all ended well.

The gang at the Mexican side of the border

Here is the day’s video:

Ok, I’m going to wrap up here for Part 1. Next starts the Mexico part of the trip. Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

Motorcycling in Spain Part 3 lists the road to Cain as one of the most dangerous roads in Spain. A quick check of a map showed we were within 300 miles of this deadly road so we quickly decided to route south through the Parque Nacional de Los Picos de Europa and take the long way around to meet our friend Emily in Donosta San Sebastian on the northern coast.

As a “dangerous road” I wouldn’t really say it was too life threatening but it was a beautiful road through a narrow canyon.

It’s hard for Deby to keep her eyes on the road when riding past shear rock walls.

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The End

Let’s ride south! Back into Argentina the roads flattened and the wind picked up. Our destination was the booming (not) town of Gobernador Gregores, 257 miles to the south. When Deby and I were there last time there was no gas at the only gas station and we participated in a big party in line. For some reason this is a recurring problem in this part of Argentina so we were sure to keep out tanks full. Nothing but big wide open spaces in this part of Patagonia.

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Dr. Science Rides South

This is officially Part 2 of the trip, the “guided” trip that Michael won in the drawing. For this part of the journey, the company, Ride Adventures, organized the route and made all the hotel reservations. This was a new thing for us. For the first half of the trip we had a few hotel reservations but mostly played it by ear and made reservations as we entered a city or maybe the day before. We were generally content with more “economical” accommodations that were nice but not necessarily the most expensive places in town. The day we took Dee Dee to the airport we moved from our nice but… cozy.. airbnb in downtown Pucon to a swank resort hotel 15 km west of town on the shores of Lago Villarrica. Hmmm, nice for Deby and I but I’m sure not as romantic for Michael and his new room mate Chris a.k.a Dr. Science.

Dr. Science and his first ham and cheese sandwich in Chile
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Gravel Travel and Dancing

Wow, sorry for the delay. Finally….. bandwidth. I’m writing this from Colhaique, Chile. We are here, and so far, safe and sound and having too much fun. Our route is the bottom magenta line.

I’ll pick up where I left off with Michael and his wife Dee Dee riding two up on the Africa Twin. We left Chiaten for the south along the northern part of the famous Carretera Austral. It was another beautiful day for riding with nice roads and views behind.

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Good days in the sun

Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth….. Ok, that’s my excuse for not posting more often. Yes, it’s easy to upload the text of my posts but who really wants to spend time reading my blah, blah, blah?? The bandwidth intensive part of the post is uploading the pictures which just wasn’t happening in the last few stops. In a way it’s nice not having much connection with the outside world and we can enjoy the ride.

So far the trip has been amazing and all good. Yes, I know that travel trials and tribulations make for interesting and exciting reading in a motorcycle travel blog but so far it’s just been all good. I’ll try to recap a little here and add a bunch of pictures. The map below shows our days, each day in a different color.

GPS Route – Each color change is a day
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Day 1 Riding!

On our last trip to Patagonia we had to wait one month in Buenos Aires for our motorcycles to be delivered. This time…. one day! Oh, yea. Of course, we were not waiting for OUR bikes all we had to do was take a cab to the offices of Ride Adventures in Pucon where they had our bikes shined up and waiting.

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We leave in a week

Wow, thanks for all the comments here and on Deby’s Facebook page. I hope this is an adventure worthy of everyone’s time. You just never know….

So, what’s the plan? Well, like most things it started out simple and became more complex. That’s OK, I’ll start at the beginning.

Because of Michael’s “win” of a free tour we are going with an outfit called Ride Adventures – Tours and Rentals. They specialize in adventure motorcycle tours around the world taking people on grand adventures in amazing places. But…. they have one, select, very special tour in the United States. Guess where???? WISCONSIN! What? Most of you probably know Deby and I grew up in Wisconsin where we met and moved to Seattle after college. We learned Eric Lange, the founder of Ride Adventures is also from Wisconsin, small world.

Michael’s free tour was one of the more basic self guided Patagonia tours they offer so Michael decided it would be worthwhile to pay for an upgrade to what they call “The Patagonia Experience“, a 14 day motorcycle tour.

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