Baja Adventure - Dualsport Plus
As I relax in the balmy climate of Southern California, drinking coffee and being mystified by Neal Peart, the drummer of Canadian classic rock band, Rush, I wonder what my friends are up to in the Great White North. Have they thawed out for the season? Have any of the riders been chased through the forest by a startled moose?
…It is time for them to fly south.
Meanwhile in Branford, Ontario, Dualsport Plus, a motorcycle adventure store had hatched a plan. When the leadership of this company decides to do something, they don’t fool around. When they decided to go on an adventure, they don’t fool around…So what was on their mind?
Cue Mariachi music…BAJA California
Many an adventure motorcyclist have been drawn to the beautiful, yet challenging terrain of Baja, most notably for the Baja 1000 race. From the beautiful Pacific Ocean to the serene and spiritual Sea of Cortez, this 1200 km peninsula stretches south of the border of California and west of the Mexican mainland.
In the spring of 2015, sixteen Canadian adventure riders decided to fly over the United States to see what Baja had to offer. In preparation, they decided to partner with fellow Canadian and Dakar legend, Lawrence Hacking to lead the adventure.
Just south of the border the riders were treated to a beautiful mix of single track, two track and paved highway along the coast of the Sea of Cortez.
At each stop, Mexican citizens stared in awe. One of the riders, Colton Long proclaimed, “We must look like invaders from the planet KLiM.” If that was the case, we were welcomed by Mexico which seems to be the soul of adventure motorcycle riding with the many rallies that they host. Smiles and photos were abundant as one local proclaimed, “Es bueno!”
The group traveled a long stretch the first day to cover as much ground as possible to make it to their destination. On a dark road, with nobody around for miles, they encountered their first dangerous obstacle. Cartel or Chupacabra…you might ask. Nope, a rusty nail to the rear tire culled the first member of our herd. Not to be deterred, a support vehicle was there to assist and the promises of tortilla chips and margaritas awaited our arrival at our first destination.
The following morning the riders awoke to the scene of the sun rising on the Gonzaga Bay. While they drank their morning coffee and sunk deeper in the chairs cherishing the moment, a refrain from a Jimmy Buffet came to mind.
“Changes in latitude, changes in attitude”
Lawrence had planned for the day that we stop at ‘Coco’s Corner’. This unique location was best described by Lois Pryce, a lovely adventure rider and writer for the English paper, The Guardian then described Coco’s Corner as an iconic and insanely weird cafe/beer shack on the route of the Baja 1000 race, about 22 miles from Gonzaga Bay on the Sea of Cortez. It’s run by Coco, who’s about 90 years old and has no legs. The whole place looks like something out of Mad Max – tons of junk and old trucks with no wheels and crazy homemade shacks. He and the place are something of a Baja legend.
Thirst quenched, we continued our jo4urney further south. It was an ever- changing environment with a mix of blacktop and dirt trails along a cragged mountain covered by cactus and other coastal desert fauna. We could ride for miles and not see a soul. Yet, when our thirst and hunger returned, a taco stand with cold cerveza would appear, as if by some higher power. Our next stop was delivered by some higher power, but it didn’t serve tacos.
Located in the central desert of Baja California midway between the Pacific and Gulf of California, stood the Mission San. The history here dates back to the mid 1700's when the Jesuit Order of missionaries, in charge of the peninsula's development, were seeking the next site to the north. Nearby rock art dates back even further in time.
After a full day of riding through the middle of Baja, Lawrence directed us east again towards the coast. As we got closer, we could feel the faint breeze and the salty smell of the Bay of San Ignacio. In the town a unique surprise awaited us.
According to Baja Discovery, every year gray whales migrate more than 10,000 miles between their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic and the coastal lagoons of the southern Baja peninsula. Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico is one of 3 lagoons on the southwest coast of Baja that are the winter home of the gray whale. The whales use these protected, shallow, warm waters as calving nurseries.
We rode out in small pangas. Not far offshore, a handful of these giants of the sea came up to our boats for attention. They were not shy and rolled over and allowed us to rub their bellies and fins. One whale moved in on Lawrence and with one burst from its blowhole, blew the hat off his head so casually It appeared to be this whale’s daily prank on the land loving tourists. It was classic seeing these dusty hardcore riders that came here for serious riding to be softened up by this unique interaction with our fellow mammal friends.
Prior to returning home, Lawrence reminded the now laid back crew to keep their guard up and mind their riding.
One thing that I may have failed to mention… On the desolate portions of the journey, gas stations are extremely rare. If it wasn’t for entrepreneurial locals that showed up with gas cans in the back of their trucks, we might have had to push the bikes home.
Once back on the bikes, it was miles of twisty roads. It was a perfect time for the riders to absorb the magnitude and beauty of the journey. For Baja enthusiasts, there was one more mandatory stop. Mikes Sky Ranch just outside of Ensenada, over-looking the Arroyo San Rafael Mountains. Named after its founder Mike Leon, Mike’s Sky Ranch is a long-time haven for dirt bikes and off-roaders and it has served as a checkpoint for the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 off-road races.
Last stop before entering Los Estados Unidos, the group rested and reflected on the amazing journey south. Each proclaiming it was “the ride of my life.”