October 12, 2009
Baja Trip Day 0: Denver - Phoenix - San Diego
It is odd to wake up where it's cold and snowy and then drive to the airport and land, an hour or so later where it's warm and sunny. In Denver, they had to de-ice the plane when we left. But at Phoenix and San Diego, people were peeling off layers. When I left my house, it was 17 degrees F. When landed in San Diego, it was 67 degrees F. I'm not in a position to say which is better. I'm not sure that I know. I can tell you that, if you talk to people that have spent a lot of time in San Diego, to a man, they miss the seasons.
First thing I did in San Diego was rent a car and drive to Baja Designs in San Marcos where I picked up my 4.6 gallon IMS desert tank, a rear view mirror, and a brake light. I spent the rest of the day working on the bike. I installed the desert tank, replaced my broken front brake handle, installed the new rear view mirror. I didn't even attempt to do the brake light yet, as that's a little bit more tricky.
I didn't have all the tools that I needed, so I actually had to ask a woman to loan me some tools. Borrowing tools from a woman was not only a demoralizing, crushing blow to my male ego - it also made me question my preparedness for this venture.
I have spent much more time blowing dust off my cameras' sensors, charging batteries, and loading map points into my GPS than I have with the bike. Of course, in Colorado, there was a limit to what I could do. But, the whole time I was here in San Diego, the bike just sat idle and I never even bothered to check the oil.
Today, I checked the oil dipstick, and it had no oil in it, essentially. I added a quart and that brought it up to where it appeared on the dip stick.
I had planned to go down to Ensenada tonight, but I couldn't get everything done that needed to be done. I went to Wal-mart more times than I could count. At least three, but possibly more. I bought a small collection of tools so I wouldn't have to borrow from the woman any more. This was actually part of the plan, sort of. There is a limit to what you can carry on the plane, and I didn't want to bring a suitcase, as there's really no room for it on the bike.
Once I got all of the things fixed on the bike, I kicked it and it fired right up. It actually runs really well. I worked like a rented mule all day to get the trip rolling today so that I could drive down to Ensenada and spend the night. But, at the end of the day, I just couldn't get it all done and it was killing me but, at the end of the day, I had to postpone driving across the border until the following morning.
So, I took the rental car down to the border to get some insurance for the trip to Mexico and to convert some currency. I actually had practiced on the conversion. I knew what the rate was. I knew how much I wanted to exchange. And I knew how much I should get from the deal. But, when I was standing there at the window of the money changers on San Ysidro, I couldn't figure it out. I couldn't use the calcuator I had brought to do anything. I was just standing there like an idiot with my calcuator. I was totally lost, and I have a degree in math. Suddenly, I realized how women must feel when they check out at the grocery store. They're presented with a number, they write a check, and they move on.
I was baffled. Dumbfounded. And the guy screwed me. I converted $500 into Pesos. The guy quoted me an exchange rate that was reasonable....13.189. It was a fair rate. But then, he cheated on the math. He said that $500 * 13.189 was 6,270 Pesos. And I was so stupid that I believed him. And couldn't get my calculator to do the math to prove him wrong. Argh. I figure that he stole approx $25.00 from me. But, I'm smarter now. I'll be more careful from here on in. The b@stards.
I also got insurance on the motorcycle for Mexico across the street. They didn't work me over quite as bad, but I won't go into the numbers on that. Let's just move on, shall we?
When I came back, I talked Kim into following me while I dropped off the rental car. So, I've painted myself into a corner. Now, I'm going to have to ride that silly motorcycle. I have no choice.
The funny thing about Baja is this...I've asked several people who've been down there this same question "Is it legal to drive my motorcycle on the street down there?" And, without exception, they start talking about how to deal with the police. No one ever gave me a straight answer on whether or not it was technically legal. Moreover, they tend to give the impression that you can do anything that you want down there, and then when the police show up, you just give them a polite bribe. A tip, if you will.
So, I find this interesting. I mean, I would have expected someone to say "well, it's illegal and the law says you have to do this to your bike to make it street legal..." But no. Instead, they say "we were really high down there, riding quads down the highway and the police stopped us and we just gave them a $20 and they let us go."
It doesn't seem that the goal of the police is to enforce the laws, it's more to collect illicit revenue, so far as I can tell from afar.
Everyone warns me about Tijuana. And, with good cause, I'm sure. They tell me to blow through town without slowing down and that's what I intend to do tomorrow.
The thing that has me most nervous right now is getting the bike into Mexico. I deathly afraid of being stopped by the police in the United States. If they stop me before I cross over, then I'm hosed in a big way. The smart thing to do would be to find a truck to carry the bike across the border.
When I was coming back from the money changers in the rental car tonight, the police came flying up behind me with their lights on and of course, I was in a full scale panic. Not that I was doing anything wrong...speeding possibly....I was going 80 in a 65, but still. In any event, he was after two motorcycles...two guys on crotch rockets and he pulled one of them over. I dunno what happened to the other guy. But one bike pulled over and the cop pulled over behind him, and of course, I kept going.
But this place is crawling with police, and justifiably so, I'm sure. Part of me thinks that I should just break for it. Just make a run for the border in the morning during rush hour. But another part of me wants to do things a little more legal like and take the bike down there in the back of a truck. Hmmmm.
The flower above is probably related to the Red Bottlebrush (Callistemon) of the family Myrtaceae. However, it's different because the flowers are round, and the leaves are different as well. It's more of a vine or bush than a true tree. I see these at the San Diego Airport.
Posted by Rob Kiser on October 12, 2009 at 11:31 PM
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Be careful and post soon! MKM
Posted by: Molly on October 13, 2009 at 7:08 AM
remember some spare parts, if you can... May be hard to find them in Mexico, expecially in the desert
Posted by: Enrico on October 13, 2009 at 9:27 AM