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October 8, 2009

The Curse of the Village Idiot

I would say something clever about how tired I am right now, but if you're used to working 15 hour days in the wrong time zone, you probably already know how I feel. I'm not able to type words longs than a few letters with mucking it all up. My speech is mostly word salad.

I'm rolling off the project in San Diego. I came out here for a two week gig in April and now, six months later, I'm finally rolling off.

And I will miss San Diego. I've come to really like this cool little border town. The climate is about the mildest climate I've ever found. It's not like San Francisco where you're always wishing it was about 9 degrees warmer. It's perfect in San Diego. The flowers here bloom all year round.

I'll truly miss the Birds of Paradise, the Jakaranda trees, Coral trees, Agapantha, Plumbago, Bottle Brush trees, Tulip trees, Butterly Iris, Natal plums, the date palms and toothpick palms. The Alliums and ice plants. I'll miss them all. Crazy to think how nice it is here.

As the project winds down, I find myself perched on the border of Mexico with an XR 650 and enough money to fill the tank and roll around for a few days.

And, of course it's easy to plan it and talk about it. Travel seems alluring from a safe distance. From a comfortable job beneath pallid florescent lights, anything seems better. Anything seems better than deadlines and 15 hour days and stress and work and sleep and bills and then suddenly, everything comes to a grinding halt.

The elevator stops and someone says "it's time to get off. thanks for playing. this is your stop."

And now, it's time to put up or shut up.

I'm in San Diego with an XR-650. In October. This is the perfect time of the year to be in Baja. It's cooling off. They're gearing up for the Baja 1000. All the motorheads are going to be down there, racing across the desert like mad. It's going to be a zoo down there. Insane.

And nobody out here makes you want to go. Without exception, everyone I talk to says "don't go. it's not safe. You'll be robbed. Or killed. Or kidnapped and held for ransom"

And, it's not like I haven't been here before. I have. The last time I pulled this, I was working in San Francisco and when I rolled off that project, I got in my prelude and drove down to Chula Vista. Right on the very border with Mexico. I got to the last U.S. exit and I pulled over for the night. I was planning on driving down into El Salvador. Same deal. But, the problem I ran into then was this. The further I run, the further I have to come back. So, that sort of sucks. I mean, I drove for 2 days straight to get from San Francisco to Chula Vista. I spent one night in Slo-town on the way down. But I recall that when I got to the border, I felt old and tired. So I turned around and drove to San Francisco and left the car at the airport, threw the plates a trash can, and flew back to Denver. So, that was the first time I chickened out on this trip.

And that was 5 years ago I'm sure. Maybe longer. So, it's not like I've gotten any younger.

And now, I've to got to go and do something that seems pretty crazy. I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone. I'm going drive across the Baja peninsula to Cabo San Lucas and, make no mistake. It's a LONG way to Cabo. It's over a thousand miles from San Diego. It's further than driving the length of the entire coast of California. If you look at Rosarita (the last place I went in Mexico), it's basically a suburb of San Diego. I think it's 60 km south of San Diego. It may as well be in the United States.

And, it's not like the XR is a good shooting platform. It's not. It's a great way to sight see, but a lousy way to take photos. The helmet makes it impossible to shoot through the view finder. The rear LCD panel does have a Live Preview mode, but then the auto-focus won't work (don't ask - i don't understand it either). So, you have to take your helmet off to take a photo. Shooting on a parked, idling motorcycle introduces unwanted/unnecessary vibrations into the photography process, so basically, to take a photo, you have to stop, kill the bike, take off your helmet, take a photo or 3, and then kick-start the bike again. Did I mention it's a 650cc bike without an electric start? It's hard to kick start, because there's a lot of compression. Like, without the compression release, I'd never make it past Top Dead Center.

My brother asked me today what kind of clothes I was going to take and I was like..."I'm taking the clothes on my back. That is all." It's not like the bike has a trunk. Or saddle bags. Or a brake light. Or anything like that. It doesn't have turn signals, a speedometer, an oil pressure gauge, a temperature gauge. Nada.

I'll be taking a small assortment of tools, a money belt, some pesos, a passport, a GPS, a helmet cam, two cameras, a laptop, and a cell phone. Just what will fit in my backpack and nothing more.

Again, for those of you playing the home game, this is not the brightest thing I've ever done. I don't even have a clear title to the thing yet. I tried to get it done, but the State of California was giving me grief, so I just pulled the plates off my bike in Colorado and threw them on the California bike.

And this is the curse of the village idiot, I think. Because I'm going to have to do it now, and, I mean, let's be honest here, sitting on a motorcycle for 10 hours at a time is not the average person's idea of fun. I have a lot to lose here. It would suck if I got paralyzed or tossed onto a cactus. Or broke down or ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Or got run over by some clowns pre-running the Baja 1000 (the Baja Mil). That's actually my biggest fear. Getting clocked by some clown running balls out through the desert.

But I could be robbed, of course. Or kidnapped. So, there's always that. I'll be flying solo...."gringo loco", was how Juan said it, I think. The crazy white guy wandering around on his own. Gringo Loco.

I'm not exactly sure how Gringo translates. I know that that's what they call white people, and I've even heard rumors of the origins of the term, but I'm still not sure exactly what they mean by it, as when I say "gringo loco", they always seem to laugh a little harder than they should if it just means "crazy white guy".

But, be that as it may, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. I mean, I'm going. If it's my role in life to play the roaming moron for the entertainment of others. So be it. If this is my cross to bear, then I'll live with it. If this is the curse of the village idiot, then it's a burden I'll try to bear with dignity.

I plan to spend the weekend in Colorado and then return and cross the border into Mexico on Monday afternoon. Probably drive down to Ensenada for the night. I'm going to notify the U.S. Embassy of my travel plans, and then head down to Cabo, taking 2-3 days getting down the peninsula. At Cabo, I'll check it out for a bit, and then hop the ferry across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland. From there, depending on how things are shaping up, I'll either try to get down into Guatemala, or I'll turn tail and head back to the U.S. Depends on how I feel when I get there, I think.

Posted by Rob Kiser on October 8, 2009 at 12:40 AM


Have fun and be safe Rob. I want to hear about your trip when you get back... maybe you can put together a photo book of Baja when you are done and even make some money. We will be in Guatemala in December. Be safe there. Gringos with expensive equipment around their neck (cameras) can be a target. We know a few americans there, if you need any safe connection.

We'll pray for you. I do envy the adventure...


Posted by: Enrico on October 8, 2009 at 8:20 AM

Be safe. I'll keep you on the front burner. Try to be back for the 90th Birthday. *-)

Posted by: sl on October 8, 2009 at 8:37 AM

I'm going to nominate you for a Nobel Peace Prize for this.

Posted by: anonymous on October 9, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Before you disappear don't forget to call me so I can get the high resolution versions of the photos I want. Would hate for your disappearance to affect my decorating plans:)

Posted by: MKM on October 10, 2009 at 7:15 PM

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