We set out from Bahía de Los Angeles early, eager to get some real off-road action for the first time on this trip.
Neither of us had much experience, but Brian gave us a tip: "Go fast! Then the bike is more stable". (Thanks, Brian!) We had to ride ten miles of dirt around the bay to get back to the town, but we promptly got lost in the criss-crossing tracks and ended up waddling around in the sand.
"Is this the road?" "Are you sure we came this way?" "Doesn't this seem deep?" Brian had told us to stay away from the sandy bay to the right and the deeper mud to the left, but we ended up fools in the sand, all the same. By the time we got to town, we'd spent 90 minutes traversing 10 miles. How would we ever make our way off-road?
We did another 20 paved miles and pushed on to the dirt road turn-off to Misíon de San Borjas, we were gassed up, aired down (10 psi on each tire), and we started our first real off-road journey. With a little Metallica to get us going, we set out, and the first obstacle was soon upon us: a steep, gravelly hill. I attacked the hill only to discover deep, rocky ruts at the top. La Tortuga bucked and stalled and I bailed, but Darren behind me was able to figure out a better line — basically go where I didn't. He helped me get my bike back up that time, but that wouldn't be the last drop for either of us.
With the large, loose rocks of the road we found ourselves picking a line between them, or occasionally we'd allow target fixation to take hold and we'd hit them. Large, wide holes in the road forced us to stand on our pegs most of the way, the bike dipping smoothly into and back out as we'd squat to absorb the shock. The bikes, weighted with so much gear, felt very stable.
Every five miles we'd stop and take inventory: "How's the pace?" "Getting better at this?" "Any gashes in the tires?" "Have some water, working like this in the desert you'll get dehydrated before you know it." Darren added an electrolyte tablet to his warm Nalgene water and it tasted like the candy, SweeTarts. It would be about 25 miles to the Misíon San Borjas, but with our slow pace and picking up our bikes, it ended up taking 90 minutes. I guess we were getting better.
At the mission, we were the only visitors. Six people live around it, including the one caretaker who emphasized that she was the only Catholic. She gave us the tour and lot of facts in Spanish, all of which I missed. Or maybe she was flirting with Darren, for all I know. I caught that the place is seeing investment from a local extraction concern. Also, Wikipedia says the place was abandoned when the indigenous population vanished. It doesn't say why they vanished, maybe it was the extraction concern.
Leaving, we would take a different road to Federal Route 1, and we asked if the road would be any better. "¡Mejor y más corta!" That was a relief, or so we thought. Darren's first spill after the mission consisted of bottoming out and tweaking his ankle. Seeing him go down in my mirror and not get up, I ran over. He was laying on the ground giving me a thumbs up and he asked me to get the handlebars out of his groin. "My ankle definitely took a hit on that one" — luckily not the one he had rebuilt with pins and plates a few years back. He had a big, cool-looking gash in his bash plate, we were unable to trace its cause.
Later we would hit deep sand going around a turn. Darren spilled, he smiled: "Landed on that ankle again". I simply went off the road and stopped into a tree, I got back going again when I decided to just go through it. KLR! We began to wonder if the road was really better or not. More alternating sand with large rocks banging off my bash plate, plus a reasonable-looking rut (not taken) that suddenly turned into a deep, narrow fuck-you bike trap. After 20 miles I began to wonder if the road was shorter, either. Meanwhile, I decided to enjoy the scenery and try to stay in the moment, I tried to pay exquisite attention to the bike and my body and feel being there then, feel the bike between my knees, feel my tired quads, feel my pegs and my feet. I began to feel the cool air of the Pacific in the unknown distance, and we approached what appeared to be impenetrable cliffs. I began to question, had we missed a turn off? Darren: "No, keep going". We was right, though we'd hit the deepest sand yet and he'd take another spill onto that ankle. An SUV went by, they said it would be only one more mile to FR 1, what joy! It turned out to be three more to the junction at Rosarito, where I'd never experienced such joy to see so little civilization.
We aired back up and took off with dirt-encrusted chains. When Darren took off onto the highway a great plume of dust came off his bike, and I could only assume the same was true for mine. We rode as fast as we had yet ridden in Mexico, tractor-trailers sweeping by on the narrow two-lane. We raced the sun to our right, the wind from the Pacific pushed us to the left, toward the east where the sky met a featureless horizon that looked like the edge of the Earth. It was a strange, haunting endlessness that we both remarked on later: "Dude, that was nuts". We rolled into Guerrero Negro just as the sun died and we rode up and down the strip and happened upon the best hotel (Hotel Malarrimo), where they gave us the best room in the joint (#19) and where we happened to order the best meal (scallop ceviche, octopus soup, crab au gratin, seafood casserole). After that road, this little town felt like a glizty metropolis. The next day, we would purchase provisions from their largest mercado, everything in it covered in dust.