Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ensenada to El Rosario

Sat 30th July

Ensanada is a seaside holiday spot with the usual trappings. Our motel was on the main street so we were treated to the sounds of the street entertainers and revellers until the early hours.

Bob got into the spirit by trying to replace his lost Peruvian hat. Fortunately none quite fitted the bill.

The city was bigger than I realised and as we rode into the suburbs, it reminded me more and more of the chaos in India minus the tut tuts, bicycles and mopeds.

The housing, roads and shacks masquerading as shops, cafes and workshops were similar to those we've all seen in the less developed countries. For some reason I expected Mexico to be more advanced and in some respects it is. As we travelled South, great swathes of the countryside has been cultivated over the past few years with huge areas now growing vines, tomatoes and strawberries etc. There are also huge greenhouses covering many acres. All these enterprises look to be very modern, efficient businesses that must be contributing considerably to the Mexican economy but probably not providing much employment.

Although we were on the main highway all day, some parts are little better than a dirt track where they are slowly being upgraded.

At one point I stopped to take a picture of Bob, suddenly these friendly guys came out of the vines and wanted to be in the picture.

Lunch was at a small farm shop where we had dried chilli mango pieces. Yes, you’re right, it is a strange combination and no it didn't really work.

Terry on more dirt road

Today we were stopped at a military checkpoint. All our bikes were subjected to a cursory search. Unfortunately ’hola’ wasn’t sufficient to answer all the questions so ’no entiendo’ was the next best thing. One of them put on my sunglasses and intimated that he would like them. Probably thought they were Ray Bans or Oakleys. In fact they are Dewalt tinted safety glasses that cost about a fiver. Any way I didn’t relinquish them and we were eventually waved on.

We stopped for the night at a very cheap motel, the condition of which matched the price but it had three beds and hot water so who were we to complain.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Hesperia to Ensenada (Mexico)

Thur 28th to Fri 29th July

It was with a little sadness when we said our goodbyes to Craig & Linda this morning although by the look of it Bob wasn't going anywhere.

Our first day on the road together since the trip started in early May. It was good to see Terry back in the saddle after his mishap. Now there are three old gits on the same old bikes trying to get to the bottom of South America.

Twenty miles from Craig's the unmistakeable stench of overheating brakes assailed my nostrils. At first I thought it was coming from passing lorries but soon realised it was my bike. The rear wheel was red hot and refused to revolve…….

………..fortunately after a little cooling time and a bit of adjusting and we were back on the road.

The roads were pretty uninspiring, being either freeways or going through an urban sprawl with traffic lights every few hundred yards.

First shot of Terry riding, not very exciting I know but we needed it for the record.

Our destination was El Cajon, a few miles from the Mexican border Our challenge for tomorrow.

Friday 29th

Goodbye America. That’s the end of the easy ride both in terms of culture and language. We have had a great time and met some lovely people. Now it’s time to start working the grey matter to make ourselves understood as well as understand what is going on. You can count on two hands the number of Spanish words we know between us.

We arrived at the border crossing at Tecata and passed the American side without even realising it. Good start because we had to let them know we were leaving and Terry had to show them his bike was going too. Back to the States before finally entering Mexico properly. First task was to obtain tourist permits and temporary importation of vehicle permits. Four hours later and 25 dollars each lighter we got the tourist permits but couldn’t get the vehicle ones (we have to go somewhere else for them).

The first thing that struck me was how different things were, even in the immediate border area. Poverty was more prevalent and few people spoke much English.

The Baja peninsula... Lots of barren mountainous terrain although they have started cultivating vines and a few modern wineries dot the landscape

We have been continuously warned that Mexico was dangerous and the people unfriendly. First impressions are the opposite. I saw these guys herding cattle and stopped to take a photo…………

…….. By sign language I asked if they minded. Obviously not as they came over and posed for me.

Clearly it's not all sweetness because we passed two military checkpoints within the first 20 miles, however, the soldiers, armed to the teeth, were more interested in lorries than the likes of us and we were waved through with a smile.

We stopped at a roadside stall selling fruit to practise our communication skills and buy some oranges, however, the girl who was not much older than about 16 spoke excellent English. I asked if she was still at school but she said she had left and has a two month old baby!

It was only a short ride to Ensenada, our destination for the night, and we were cooling off in the pool by about 4 o’clock. Food and beer followed!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Morro Bay to Hesperia (Craig & Linda's)

Sat 23rd to Wed 27th July

I snoozed in bed this morning, luxuriating in the knowledge that I wasn't going to be woken at 7am by Bob saying "time to get going". It was 11am before I got on the road and I felt like a naughty schoolboy having been so decadent. The pressure was on though as it is a 350 mile trip to Craig and Linda’s. Bob and Terry were already there being wined and dined and I had been promised a dinner of baby spare ribs.

Oil wells off the coast

Fortunately the mist was slow to disperse again, so the decision to bypass some of Highway One and stay on the Freeway to make up time wasn't too difficult.

By the time I got to Santa Barbara the mist had finally cleared and I took a break riding down to the beach for a look around.

There is loads of money around here. The grass under the palm trees was so green, it looked artificial and from the size of the houses nestling in the hills, many of the rich and famous live hereabouts.
Birds of all varieties were parading up and down the beach strutting their stuff..........

....... and the boys were enjoying themselves too.

After Santa Barbara it was head down to get the miles done. By my calculations, unless I got my finger out, not only would it be dark by the time I got there but I would miss dinner too and incur the wrath of Linda.

The Joshua Tree, native to the Mojave Desert.

It was a little after 8 o'clock when I eventually arrived at Craig & Linda's. I was sat down, given a bottle of beer and Linda put a large plate of spare ribs, mash and salad in front of me. What more could I ask for? Another bottle of beer, that was delivered too.

Feeling weary and ready for bed I was informed we were going to Death Valley in the morning and I had to get up at 5am. Ugh....... (my punishment for this morning's laziness)

Sunday dawned and we dragged ourselves out of bed. It was already hot and promised to be well over a 100 degrees in Death Valley. It had been our intention to ride the bikes through the valley but Terry's bike was still with the shippers and Craig suggested that at this time of year it would be too hot on bikes with all the gear on.............. this was our transport. Linda very kindly donated her air conditioned Cadillac for the day and we were chauffeured by Craig who doubled as tourist guide.

'Bad Water Basin', not that there was much water about. This area is 282 ft below sea level and the lowest point in North America.

Our first group shot with Terry.

'Artists Pallet' an area that has amazing coloured rocks

Not much survives out here. At Furnace Creek where we stopped for lunch the thermometer was reading just a fraction under 120 degrees (49 deg C) and as the name suggests it was like a blast oven when we got out of the car. Water is a scarce commodity in these parts..........

...... even the birds have become adept at catching the drips.

Although a little disappointing we didn't manage to ride through this inhospitable terrain, we had an enjoyable and relaxed day thanks to Craig. He did all the driving whilst we watched and occasionally snoozed.

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday was spent servicing the bikes, replacing tyres, packing up kit to send home, sorting out insurance and a multitude of other chores to get ready for Mexico.
Jim a friend of Craig's came to visit on Monday. He also stayed a couple of days, entertaining us with his stories.

Many, many thanks to Craig and Linda who have treated us royally, let us use their home as our own and ensured our weight continues its upward curve, whilst helping us to sort ourselves out before we head off for the next stage.

Time To Catch Up

Finally after 10 weeks of frustration I’m finally on my way and arrived at Los Angeles airport 2 hours late around 9pm to be met by Bob with a short pillion ride to the local Motel 6, following check-in a quick trip to the liquor store across the road for a 6 pack an early night was called for in anticipation of getting my hands on the bike the following day.

Following location of the correct customs office & someone who knew what they were doing all formalities were complete by 11am so off to Virgin Cargo for the re-unification with H425 GCR, after 40 minutes of ‘standing in line’ at the wrong desk you can imagine my disappointment when I was told that the bike was still in Las Vegas awaiting road shipment to LA.

What to do now!!! The options were to stay in LA or travel with Bob to Craig & Linda’s at Hesperia about 100 miles East of LA, there was a small chance of the BMW arriving on Saturday but more likely to be Monday so the trip East was the better option.

The nice receptionist at Motel 6 agreed to keep my luggage over the weekend so with only the clothes I stood up in I reluctantly jumped on the pillion with Bob for the next 4 hours from LA to Hesperia, I hate being a pillion but Bob was great & the route along Highway 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) was a real joy & included a visit to the Admo Tours office at Wrightwood to meet Joyce who organised our Grand Canyon tour back in 2005.
For the next 3 days my mood fluctuated between the joy of being here in the USA at last & the anxious disappointment of not knowing when the bike would arrive, the hospitality of Craig & Linda & the local beer eased the situation however & the call from Virgin late on Sunday to say it had arrived put me out of my misery.

Finaly it's Here!!

Craig & Linda kindly offered to take me back to LA (Thanks to you) so around 2pm after another couple of hours wait the crate finally emerged from the warehouse, about 20 minutes later it was unpacked & finally I was underway back up Highway 2, for me the adventure begins NOW!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

2nd on my own

Morro Bay turned out to be a nice fishing harbour, which have been scarce on this trip.

I started a lazy day at 08.30 hrs. and tried to continue on hwy1 but it is coupled with 101 at this point so 101 it was. It was not at all bad and stayed on it until Santa Barbara where I fuelled up with our favourite “Chevron” which the bike likes. She told me so!

When I got to Ventura I saw hundreds of RV's parked along the sea front on hwy1 so this photo is for my cousin David. They can stay for one week and there was no space at all. The line was at least 1.5 miles long.

Carried on to Los Angeles and found the Motel very easily and despite the traffic delays I had 3 hours to sort myself out before Terry was due to land. Got myself cleaned and eventually on to the internet but had to go to the airport, mustn't be late. Went round and round the terminal ring road and no sign of Terry. Stopped and texted to say come out to the Virgin sign, went round some more and the police were giving me some funny looks so I stopped and asked them for motorcycle specific parking. "Terminal 1 has that" was the reply so went and found that and walked to the correct terminal and found the flight had been delayed and was due 2 hrs. later. Starbucks was spotted so headed that way and slowly drank a small coffee. Eventually Terry appeared and we loaded the bike up and got off to the motel.

Terry arrives at last.

We celebrated with a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada beer and fell asleep happy.

Bodega Bay to Morro Bay (via San Fran)

Wed 20th to Fri 22nd July

Bob set off for LA early this morning and I took advantage of the fact it was only seventy miles to San Francisco, so we lazed around for most of the morning

Bodega Bay

All started off very relaxed as we headed off down Highway one but on getting near Golden Gate Bridge I tried to set the Sat Nav to take us to the motel but it was having none of it. The cantankerous Garmin refused to calculate a route so we had to revert to Anne on the back trying to read a street map and shout instructions at me. That’s always good for harmony! Matters got worse when I rode up what must be the steepest street in the city. At the top there were several vehicles waiting to cross the junction. I stopped in line only to find the bike sliding back down the hill with both wheels locked. I won’t bore you with the details as I’m sure your imaginations will paint a better picture. Suffice to say I dropped the bike into the kerb to stop it going any further. We eventually got ourselves to the Motel where the bike stayed until we left the city.

Thursday Anne and I walked the streets of San Francisco and explored the hippy area around Haight Street as well as all the shops and coffee bars.

The murals on the walls provided an interesting photo opportunity. This guy was so made up when I took his photo, he insisted a miracle was going to happen. Well, the Sat Nav started working again when I checked to see if it would get us to the airport!

For some reason I wasn’t feeling my best today, maybe something to do with the wine that was consumed last night but this guy looked how I felt. In fact the similarity was so striking I’m thinking of using it as my avatar.

Friday and the alarm went off at some inhuman time so Anne could get to the airport. It was great to see her, and both Bob and I enjoyed her company. Mind you we were admonished a few times for inappropriate comments. The trouble with being in male only environment for the previous ten weeks!

After dropping Anne off I headed over to Highway One and started following the iconic route south towards LA. Unfortunately it was a grey day with the fog hanging on tenaciously and refusing to give up its grip on the coast. I thought about moving inland but was forever hopeful that the sun would eventually burn through.

Out of the mist an apparition appeared. Apart from all the British paraphernalia adorning the place, the bar has ‘London Pride’ on tap. (Bet that made you wake up Bob). Unfortunately he didn’t have any in bottles!

Paddle boarding Santa Cruz style

Another view of the stunning coast, although it doesn't look quite so impressive in the gloom

'Johnny no mates' on the dunes at Monterey Bay

This is why Highway One is so good!

Bob having deserted me I couldn't get the usual shots of him riding great roads but there was a constant stream of sports bikes heading for the Moto GP at Laguna this weekend.

My first spotting of a whale. Yes I know it's not 'Moby Dick' but it is the first one I've seen, so you get to see it too.

The sun did break through eventually but it wasn't til about 6 pm.

Somehow, I failed to mention that although there were no bottles of ‘London Pride’ he did have some ‘Speckled Hen’. (There's a couple in the pannier boys).

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Days on my own

In order to meet Terry in LA on Thursday evening I had to get a move on so left Dave & Anne at Bodega Bay and headed south on Highway 1.
This is a nice coastal road but really slow with stunning views of the coast. So everyone wants to drive along it and look at the views, so it takes forever. Like all the others I wanted to see it as well.
I started on the 1 for 30 miles then had to get over to an Interstate 101 which is a motorway to us Brits. This of course meant joining the rush-hour crawl towards San Fran. I chose the motorways that skirted around the city and found myself heading to San Jose, singing the song to myself as I went along. I thought I should look at Santa Cruz as I'd heard of that place and it must be good. Well it wasn't, more traffic and just another city by the sea. Got out of there and headed for Monterrey.
Well there wasn't any smoke on the water, it was fog off the sea. Still built up to much for my liking, so kept going to Carmel. No sign of Clint Eastwood, he must be on Holiday somewhere, which is surprising as I thought he would be following the blog.

Carmel Beach

South of Carmel the road gets a lot better, twisty and more twisty, diving up and down around every cove and river estuary. Got fuelled up at the most expensive petrol to date, $5.49.9/gal, normally we pay just under $4.00/gal. And that was for the cheap stuff.
Finally the road opens up and we got going with less traffic around so managed to cover some mileage, making it to Morro Bay. Which is a real fishing harbour and serves real fresh fish in the restaurants. Lovely!
Only 213 miles to go to LA.

Morro Harbour and some of the fishing fleet.
note the small version of Gibralter and the fog.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fort Bragg to Bodega Bay

Tues 19th July

What a difference a day makes. I know I’ve said that before and it could become our signature phrase. When we got up, the fog was still quite thick and we decided that if yesterday was anything to go by it would be pointless to go along the coast road. We decided to move inland and go across to the Nappa Valley, however, by the time we had finished breakfast the fog was clearing, so we reverted to plan one, Highway one, the Coast Road.

We fully expected the fog to roll back in and our plans to change again. You could see a bank of fog all the way along the coast sitting a few hundred yards off shore with some blowing in over the cliffs.
Our first stop was the pretty town of Mendocini where Anne took the opportunity to dive into an art gallery, Bob chatted to a R100 GS owner and I stood helpless as my bike rolled off the stand and ended up on its side whilst I was taking a photo. No one was around, and fully loaded I couldn’t get anywhere near to lifting it. I was just starting to unload everything when a knight in shining armour appeared. (If you ever read this, thank you).

After the exertions it was time for coffee. It was here that we found out that there are motorbikes in the USA other than Harleys, Hondas or modern GS’s. Outside the coffee shop was an old Triumph, a BSA and an Airhead, without a Harley in sight. Needless to say the coffee stop wasn’t a quick affair but it was good to meet to you all.

The weather remained sunny, the fog stayed offshore and we enjoyed the slow cruise down highway one...........

.......... stopping frequently to take in the views.

The roads were twisty and the views impressive all day. It was quite a challenge to take in the scenery and keep an eye on the road at the same time

Apparently it is quite common to spot whales off shore in this area but we were not that fortunate, however, there were plenty of sea lions, pelicans, cormorants and other wild life to watch out for.
We stopped for the night at Bodega Bay after only having ridden about 100 miles. It's here Anne says bye to Bob and he and I part company for a few days whilst I take Anne back to San Francisco to see her off and Bob rides down to Los Angeles to meet Terry.

On our last night together we went out to paint the town red. Dinner was fish & chips washed down with a couple of bottles of beer, an ice cream from the local supermarket for dessert and a coffee back at the hotel before going to bed. We know how to party!!