Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Family & Friends,

It has been an eventful few days.. After Copper Canyon we spent the night in a good size town called El Fuerte  in a beautiful, fairly modern hotel.. It was nice to at least have electricity and a warm shower!
The next morning I got up early and toured the town with Ivan the scholar. The man knows everything there is to know about the history of the area. The city of El Fuerte has Spanish, French, and American influences in it so it has a lot of history. It is a trading town that serves the mining industry in the area.
In the center of town there is a recreation of the original Spanish forte overlooking the city and river… The original forte had fallen down years ago but so many tourist kept asking to see the forte the mayor decided they would just build one…
From the top of the forte you get great view of the city. It is also right on a large river running next to the town. If you look over the river there is a beautiful lush forest right in the middle of this arid land. We have seen this several places where underground springs come to the surface in areas and it is suddenly a green oasis. If you go to my blog you can see lots of photos of the city, the forte, and the local mission.
We hoped to spend one more day on mainland Mexico and do some more exploring but a wind storm was moving in and we were told our ferry trip across the gulled was moved up one day earlier.

So from El Fuerte we rode a day over to the eastern coast of Baja. On the way we stopped in a town where one of our guide Alphonso lives and had an outstanding lunch at his family restaurant where is wife and son greeted us. His son went to an American university and has a law degree but decided he enjoyed the life in Mexico better.. Sometimes I can really understand that. A much more laid back, less stressful life style.. Their restaurant was a large outdoor patio and basically they served us everything on the menu so we could taste it all. They also video taped us eating it.. I am not sure if that was so they could make fun of us after we left or to use it for advertising. Either way it was fun.
It has been very interesting to get to know our guide Alphonso. He is one year younger than me and looks 20 years younger! He told me it was his Indian blood that kept him from graying… He is quiet and comes off a bit rough but the more I talked to him the more I realized he is a very intelligent and thoughtful man. Very interesting. All his kids are US University educated… Never judge a book by its cover..!!
After lunch we rode another few hours and arrived at the eastern coast of the Gulf of Baja. Our plan was to take an all night ferry to Baja.
Before we could enter the ferry we got a FULL interrogation by the police. They checked our papers, our luggage, had dogs smell our gear, and even put a TV probe into our gas tanks looking for drugs..!!
These are guys you don't want to fool around with … They all are in military gear, bullet proof vests, and carrying machine guns.
In fact so far on this trip we have been stopped and questioned or searched a half a dozen times… Sometimes the police can look quite scary.. Look at the expression of fear on my face here after being stopped by the police…

What a BRUTAL interrogation this officer gave me... I couldn't help but "talk"

We finally boarded the ferry for an overnight cruise.. We were warned this was no "Love Boat",  I wasn't even sure it was a sea worthy boat! We were told it was an old Norwegian Ferry designed to navigate the Fjords of Norway and had a very shallow draft so expect some rocking…..
The other down side was there was 13 of us and only 10 beds.. Being the thoughtful person I am I rushed to the cabins to get one of the beds…. Wow what a shock. I opened the cabin door  and there was a closet with 4 bunk bends jammed into it. It was in the lower deck of the ferry and it was hot and smelly… I decided I would take my chances on the upper outside deck..
I got to the top outside deck and it was just steel boiler plate… Luckily they had some 1/2" foam matt and some thin sleeping bags.  As it turned out it was a great decision.. The night was beautiful with a sky full of stars, it was warm and the ferry just gently swayed in the water. I put my earphones in and listened to music on my I-pod and slept great.. It was a wonderful crossing.  The only down side was when we arrived in Baja around  7am and were greeted my more army police with machine guns that gave us an even more thorough inspection. I am not sure what they thought we did, somehow picked up some drugs halfway across the gulf of Baja??
Once we cleared that inspection we went to the local sea village and had a good breakfast since the ferry did not serve food and we had no dinner.
After breakfast we walked a couple blocks to see the local church. It was built in the 19th century in France and was a pre-fab steel plate that was bolted together. It was used in Paris for a few years, then unbolted and moved to Belgium for a few years before it was take apart one more time and shipped to this small town in Mexico..The town was originally a mining town and the mine was owned by the French. That is how it wound up here... (see my blog for photos)
From there we spent the day riding across Baja from the eastern seaboard to the west coast. Most of it is boring desert roads but about half way we did come to a beautiful village out in the middle of nowhere. Right in the middle of the desert there is a spring that comes up from the ground and there was a large lagoon with palm trees and grass everywhere and a very old village built around a 16th century church.
Another couple of hours of riding and we made the west coast were we checked into a hotel and took our first shower in two days, that felt great!

After a long hot day of riding across Baja we arrived in Gueroerro Negro. It is right on the west coast and is known for three major things, the worlds largest salt supplier, the largest Osprey nesting area in the world, and the breeding ground for whales.. At any one time the bay has 2000-3000 whales in it. We were also told their annual rain fall on average is 1/4". That is dry!! How can you tell if you are having a drought?? It drops to 1/8" per year???? Would you notice a drought?

When we checked into our hotel we learned the foolishness of pretending you know a language…… The whales here are known as Balleenas, but the way the Mexican's roll their tongues when speaking it sounds like "Vageena Whales"….. Well when we checked in the lady at the desk asked one of the men what we came here to do and in his lame Spanish replied "We have come to see your VAGINAS, and if we are lucky we hope to pet them too!" Needless to say their was plenty of shock and embarrassment to go around… :(

Once we got past that moment we went to our rooms... The hotel we are staying in is fairly modern but this is a country of no regulations and no inspections so buildings get built with a few mistakes here and there. In my bathroom the sink counter over hangs the toilet just enough you can't lift the toilet seat up! The up side is my wife would never have to tell me to put the seat down, the down side is the seat may not always be that clean….. :(

After a good afternoon nap we went out for dinner at a local place and went to bed early.  
Sunday we got up early and took a bus to the harbor. First we went by the largest salt plant in the world making something like 125 million tons of salt a year. From there we went to the docks to board our whale watching boat. The boat's name was the Leviathan, so I expected a mighty ship to go with such a strong name….. It was just a skiff that seats 9 of us with an outboard motor…

We bravely left shore and went looking for whales in the large bay there. Soon we were surrounded by whales all over breaching almost everywhere. Sitting in the boat we had a 360 degree view of whales. The hard part was every now and then one would dramatically leap out of the water.. Having my camera ready and pointed at exactly the right spot when this happened proved to be impossible so while I got lots of photos of the whales breaking the surface I did not get one photo of a leaping whales… :(
After whale watching we went to town and had a great lunch of fish tacos. From there we again rode clear across Baja back to the eastern side. Most of Baja is just like California desert, only we ran into another dust storm which makes life difficult on a motorcycle… Eventually we made it to the beach town of Bahia de Los Angeles...

We were told we would have two days to relax and enjoy a "RESORT" hotel with a delightful pool, internet and a beautiful sea side town….. Well one thing you notice in Baja is every town looks like it is either half built or half fallen down, it is hard to tell which, but either way this was no exciting town.. The pool would be great but the forgot to tell us if we wanted to swing we would have to bring our own water…. The internet did not work because supposedly the wind storm we rode through blew down the system, and the town turns off the power at 10pm so not much night life either…
We still did manage to out for a delightful dinner in a proverbial shack on the beach only feet from the water and drank wine and ate great seafood so all was right with the world. 
Now for Monday I will explore the town, that should take at least 40 minutes….. then relax in a nice dry pool..
My mistake,, I just rode my motorcycle from one end of town to the other, that took 30 seconds.. Now what to do? Siesta time!
That night we all met on the beach and had a great seafood dinner and bonn fire.. A local joined us, an American who lived in a trailer nearby and was retired.. Obviously drunk he decided to make friends by telling us a joke….. It was a 30 year old Farmer Daughter joke that should have take 1 minute to tell but he managed to stretch it out to 5+ minutes and then he blew the punch line.. He made no friends that night..

Might as well rest up, Tuesday is going to be a LONG, HOT day as we ride 350 miles north to Ensenada… 
Tuesday we got up early to ride north and try to avoid the mid day heat.  The ride turned out much better than I thought. It never got that hot and the roads covered all sorts of different terrain, from deserts to mountains, to beaches… Half way we stopped at a famous restaurant known for two things.. The traditional first stop of the Baja 1000 race and OUTRAGEOUSLY good Lobster burritos.. The burritos did not disappoint! Delicious and loads of lobster meat in them. The lady who founded this place is still alive, 107 this year. I guess there is a health benefit to eating lobster?
After a long day we arrived in Ensenada, which the last time I was there in the mid 1960s was a small fishing village. Now it is a big city. Where we were staying was actually about 20 minutes pass the city in the hill between Ensenada and the Tacate. This area is known as the Rue de Vino. It is a very big wine area and has lots of fancy wineries, hotels and restaurants. The inn where we were staying was very beautiful and fairly modern. My room was the tri-fecta of rooms! The first room I had in over a week with hot water, electricity, AND a toilet seat.. Who could ask for more??
That evening we took a taxi back into town (so we could drink) and went to a very old and famous French restaurant. It was very elegant inside. We were told it was quite the Hollywood hang out back in the 1940s to 1970s. The food and wine was excellent and we had a fond farewell dinner since this was our last night together..
The following morning we got up early and rode 50 miles to the boarder and spent two hours in and out of the US twice to get all the paper work sorted out! eventually we were clear to go I head off by myself north.. I stopped in the Valley and had a nice visit with an old friend of mine and rode on to Ventura.. Finally fatigue set in (not bad for an old man) and I am settled in for the night. A successful adventure comes to a conclusion. Thursday morning I will ride a couple of more hours and be back in good ole SLO and in the arms of my wonderful wife.
Until the next trip over and out….

Our very nice resort in El Fuerte.. The best room in over a week although still not the trifecta...

Beautiful architecture all over this old town..

A beautiful inn full of grubby and dirty motorcycles and motorcyclist...

El Fuerte Mission.

The old Spanish Forte of El Fuerte

The tropical forest directly across the river from El Fuerte

I don't think this mannequin is an accurate representation of the local Indians that wore these outfits??

I think I can restore this.....

Inside the local mission. Once you've seen one you have seen them all. Looks just like the mission in my
town of San Luis Obispo...

The delightful town square..

Getting brutalized by the State Police... ;) Of course any woman as heavily armed as her has nothing to fear..

Our guide, Alphonso's wonder restaurant. Made a great lunch stop.

Alphonso's delightful wife giving us all a warm greeting..

Line up to board the ferry to Baja.

Love the "patina" on my motorcycle, just what a GS BMW should look like..

The committee to inspect us before we board the ferry. These guys you don't joke with.

One of the classy riders in our group. Spreading American goodwill where ever we go..

Now the "Welcoming" committee in Baja... 

Our guide told me the correct way to salute a female police offer in Mexico was to pinch her rear end... evidently he was not telling me the truth.... Actually this offer was very friendly and asked if she could take our photos so I asked her for this one..

Ferry and fishing town in Baja..

This is the completely pre-fab steel chuck I talked about.

We were definitely the center of attention in this small town when we parked all our motorcycle together in the town square..

This is a 16th century church built in the center of the oasis town in Baja.

The mighty "Leviathan" ship getting ready to take us whale watching.

The name is CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow...

Whales all around us where ever we looked..

Almost any tall structure in town had an Osprey nest on it..

Enjoying a moments rest in the middle of the Baja desert.

Doing what men do...... looking for a tree to go behind..

Sometimes we needed to find shade wherever we ccoud..

The "Beautiful " resort we were promised in Bahia de Los Angeles. After a long hot day of riding the fact there was no water in the pool was not going to keep is from swimming! Motorcyclist are resourceful!

Beach Party!

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