Posted by: caryandjohn | February 2, 2009

Viva Mexico!

Hi all, John here … we’ve made it to Mexico! We are in San Filipe this morning. Yay.

Here is a link to some great photos that Kalle sent us a link to from our visit to Death Valley … Thanks, Kalle! 🙂

We left Tecopa Hot Springs went south on 127 on Tuesday morning [1/27] and had a nice breakfast in Baker at the Big Boy [remembering my visit there with Frank and Cathy in ’07 on our way back from Baja]. With Frank & Cathy it had been windy and rainy, Cary & I had a beautiful but cold day. We ground on to 29 Palms through Kelso & Amboy and made the smart decision to get a hotel room at 5pm due to the cold at that altitude. The place we stayed at was a nice older-style motel with carports for our trusty steeds. 29 Palms has prospered during the war and we had a lot of nice places to choose to eat, and wound up at a fine Mexican restaurant.

On 1/28, Wednesday morning, we lit out for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. We had a cold but beautiful lunch in Joshua Tree. We left that national park on Box Canyon Road on our way through Mecca, which turned out to be a fantastic road that did indeed lead through a wonderful desert canyon. We took 186 south, a busy four-lane road where we were a hazard to the cars and trucks zooming down to El Centro, and made a right on S22 [Borrego Salton City Hwy]. We camped out in warm weather at the State Park [$26! grrr.]

On Thursday we decided to try to head for Tacate and our border crossing. We took S3 to 78 to Julian, where we had a great breakfast with four CHP officers, the staff of the Fire Department and various local characters at a coffee shop on the southern side of the street. Cary spotted a local eating a tasty-looking breakfast burrito, which the pretty cook, after fussing about it not being on the menu and scolding the local man for eating it where the tourists could see it, deigned to make for Cary. The cook was actually nice about it, but it was fun after our Bob’s Big Boy breakfast to hang with the locals in Julian. The roads around Julian [we took 79 south] are justly famous motorcycle sport-bike roads, and we actually passed two cars! Joy.

We got to Tecate at about 12 noon on 94 West. It was still pretty cold up around 4000′ [we had ridden past lots of snow south of Julian]. We were back on the road in Mexico by 1 pm. The tourist visa was a bit of a pain because I had to schlep to a bank in the Tecate Town Square, about a six block round trip, to get the bank recipt. I got a blister from my riding boots. Woe. The bank at the border that Kalle used in ’08 was closed for some reason. We changed our money on the US side of the border buying pesos for 14.99/$1. [Here in San Filipe we are seeing 14.25/$1.

So … Joy. Off we went in the cold, windy conditions, East on Rt 2 Libre to La Rumarosa where we gassed up for the trip to Guadalupe Canyon. We had to pay the toll [15 pesos each] and plunged down the massive 2000 meter drop to Laguna Salada, dotted with the cross-memorials marking [presumably] deaths on the highway. It’s like Joshua Tree at a 50 degree angle and a super highway. At the bottom we dealt with our fist military check point. The solders were waiving most of the cars and trucks throuh, but they spotted the KLR and DR and waived us down for a check. The nice soldier just asked us [I think] where we were going. I just started pointing south saying “Canyon de Guadalupe.” He asked us in English if we had any guns and then waived us on our way. Joy.

It was much warmer down lower, and we made the right turn at the first sign for Guadalupe Canyon, and took the high road south. This road stays off the lake bed and is washboard-sandy. It was good practice for us, and the heavy KLR weaved quite a bit in some of the softer sand.

We made another right after about 27 miles and started up the canyon. After some more long uphill sandy sections we got into a rocky-sandy washy type road, visited the cactus patch once or twice, worked up a nice sweat, found the gate to the south-side campsite, figgured the going would be easyer, found it was harder, forged the water crossing [!] and made the final steep climb to the Guadalupe Canyon Oasis, where we were met by Adam, a very nice young man who welcomed us in perfect English.

This palm tree oasis is difficult to describe. Needless to say, after our long, cold, hot, sweaty, tough dirt riding day, we were overwhelmed by just how nice it was. Each campsite has a natural looking hot spring pool tucked into a huge bolder there, or onto the edge of a precipice there. We stayed in two different sites because there would be a 45 person group coming through with 22 VC Baja Buggies [Subaru powered flat-fours, limited to about 96 mph by restrictor plates that these people were renting for a four day trip for $12K per seat, two seats in each car].

We had the place to ourselves though, on Thursday night, and immediately took much deserved soaks in our private hot tub. Joy.

On Friday, we hiked up to a waterfall, further up the canyon. About 20 feet high, it was a graceful ribbon that fell past a tiny palm tree into a clear, cold pool that we had to wade into and around granite cliffs and bolders to get a view of the falls. Cary saw a small white frog, the color of the granite rocks. Each night here we were serinated by the frogs in the palm trees. Very nice, and suprising in such an otherwise harsh desert landscape.

Friday night the circus began, with the support crew from Wide Open the baja adventure outfit that will rent you a VC sled to race in their own class in the Baja 1000 for $85,000. Cheap. About eight guys pulled up at 0’dark thirty with a collosal 12′ high trailer loaded with gear for 45 people. Unreal. They were very nice guys, though, who were happy to answer my questions about what to expect on the road south.

On Saturday the circus continued, with 30 vacaros riding horses through the canyon, the Wide Open guys continuing to transform the campground with various tents, palapas, coolers, etc. for thier party that was expected that evening. Ice cream, steak, chicken and salmon where on their menu. Very impressive.

We took a swim in the large, natural looking warm springs pool [maybe 1/2 and acre] and took a walk on the north side of the canyon. The campground there still looked pretty devestated from a huge fire/conflagration that had decimated the canyon a year and a half ago. There were still large empty pools on this side of the canyon. We were glad that we had just made a lucky choice to stay on the south side of the canyon, which is pretty much fully recovered, except for the blackened trunks of the thousands of palm trees around the canyon. We ran into some Burning Man types who were there to make reservations for a 450 person party they’ve had there for four years now. I was flattered that they bothered to make a fuss at me about how they were sold out when I asked a few questions about their party. Didn’t think I look like someone who would be wanting to go to one of their gigs. Ha.

The VC buggies roared into camp at dusk, 22 snorting racecars. It was neat to be able to check out the crazy suspension, GPS, dials, gages and blinkin’ lights. A large crew of mechanics fell to work on them, washing, fixing, and basically getting them ready to head out on Superbowl Sunday at 7 am. We met Dave, Perry, Nick, Miguel and a bunch of other nice people who help keep the 44 cars in the Wide Open stable out making money. Wow.

Sunday morning we took a final soak in El Cayote [our second campsite, the first was La Zorra [The Fox]. Here is the Website: We paid about $35 US per night because we just showed up. The rates are higher for internet reservations, which are probably a good idea on weekends, but even with the 45 person group there there were still about 4 families from Mexico and us, and they still had room. If this palce was anywhere near a US city it would be hundreds of bucks an night.

I’ll be sure to come back here from now on. If you don’t remember anything about where you should stay here, just remember the south side of the canyon, because you are heading south. Sure, there is a killer water crossing, but it keeps the riff-raff out. Ha. Or just remeber that Burners stay to the north.

On Sunday, we took the eastern playa road north. Much easier way to go than the western road, when the playa is dry. We stopped to put air back in the knobbies at Rt 2. I’d been running around the bike for ten minutes or so when Cary asked “Where is your bag?” John: “Why, on my bike of course, why do you ask?” Ha. Of course one of Phils huge, wonderful Givi bags was missing. Woe. Left back at camp or lost on the playa. I hopped on the KLR to go try to find it, when Cary had the smart idea to look on the camera to see how far back we still had it. Photos proved I’d left the campsite with it and had lost it on Laguna Salada.

Of course, on the way out of the playa, there seems to be one direct way off it, leading straight to where you want to go. On the way back into it there were at least four roads heading south. I chose one and roared off on a no doubt fruitless effort to find our clothes. It became clear that I was not even following the same path that I’d lost the bag on when I hit sand and a ranchero I’d not seen on the way out. I jogged around on the playa a bit, and, wonder of wonder. Found that stupid bag. Better lucky than smart as my mother used to say.

So. Off East and then South on Rt 2 and Rt 5 to San Filipe. I’d never been this way, and it was spectacular. Not a lot of development like the way south through Tijuana and Ensenada to El Rosario. Just long, mostly straight roads, like in Nevada.

We got to San Filipe at about 4 pm, filled up the bikes, and went straight to the little motel that Jen, Slim Jim and I stayed at on our ’07-’08 trip. It was $40 US, has a small courtyard off the main drag, which they lock with a gate at night. We locked our money and wallets in a Givi bag, locked the Givi bag to the sink, put a chair against the door, and had a nice rest in a comfortable bed. Thanks Benny and Michael for the ideas about keeping stuff safe.

San Filipe is a little town that I’ve grown fond of. It has a picturesqe strand, and lots of tacky tourist shops, but they only go on for about four blocks or so, so it isn’t overwhelming like Tijuana. We had fun. We ate outside at a place just across the one-way street from the strand, waved at the honking soccer team with a huge trophy, had our first fish tocos and grilled shrimp and went off to go to sleep.

Today, 2/2/09, we plan to head down to Gonzaga Bay and Alfonsina’s.



  1. Good stuff…keep it coming

  2. Nice to read about a motorcycle adventure as I keep dry inside and wonder how I lived all those years in the midwest. While I have plans for tourings you all keep reminding me that I want to try more dirty stuff. Thanks for the updates and pictures of your Canyon R&R. be well ride well chris

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