I have a love hate relationship with Baja California. It started several years ago during my well spent youth at the end of the Reagan-era when my good friend had his vehicle confiscated at the border of Mexico at Mexicali. I spent a long overnight trip getting from the border through El Centro on a Greyhound bus. Other wrought journies through Ensenada or Roasarito Beach navigating my way back to my room through a minefield of vomit, piss and drunken loud gringos and mexicoanos. And I won’t even mention Tijuana.
But my impression changed a couple years ago when I took my first motorcycle ride through mainland Mexico and then ferried over to Baja from Guaymas to Santa Rosalia. With Route 1 from Santa Rosalia to Ensenada already under my belt from this previous trip, I convinced Sacha that we should avoid the busy Route 1 and cruise to San Felipe and follow the road to Puertocitos and take a 120 mile dirt road and meet back up with Route 1. When I was in Phoenix Al Jesse and I hunkered over a map of Mexico and he espoused recommendations and experiences from many of his trips south of the border. This route was among the highest on his list.
Eager to get out of the city we meander through the Ensenada street maze and finally find Route 3 which will lead us to the small settlement of Ojos Negroes where the plan is to stop for breakfast, fuel and our first military checkpoint.
Even though the signs are in spanish and placards on everything from storefronts to backboards on baskedball hoops are splashed with logos of beer and soft drink companies, I don’t feel like I’m in Mexico. Dollars are still accepted in addition to pesos and I still spot California and Arizona license plates.
But was we wind through the desert, pass the turn-off to Mike’s Sky Ranch and head toward the Sea of Cortez I start spotting the rusted out relics of burned cars dottin the side of the road. The patinua burn orange and umber color of these cars offers a unique contrast to the miles and miles sand, sage and cactus landsapes. Like sculptures these insurance fraud remains appear more frequently and soon meld into the landscape too.
San Felipe enjoys its close proximity to Mexico and a modern 4-lane highway that zooms from the border to the slightly shanty but developing beachside resort. Bars, taquerias and restaurant after restaurant touting mariscos (seafood) line the beachfront. Palapas dot the sand and paint a serene tropical scene – that is if it weren’t for the constant barrage of loud quandrunners running up and down the boulevard and the sand. If you come here for peace and quiet, you won’t find it.
Somehow Sacha loses his only gloves while taking photos, after a couple hours of looking for adequate motorcycle replacements, I convince him to settle on a pair of gardening gloves we find at a hardware store and we move on the road South toward Puertocitos, a tiny fishing port an hour south of San Felipe.