Baja 2020: Day 2 - Julian, CA -> Ensenada, BC 🇲🇽
4 March ’20
Julian is known for its pies, so up at 5:30am isn’t so bad since the pie shop opens at 7! After a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, we wandered over and bought 2 whole pies for tomorrow, then began the process of cat herding to get everyone ready to go at 9am, Rider meeting, and then off we go!
…only to stop a few miles later, as 2 of our riders blew through the first turn, less than 200yards from the hotel, and had to get chased down 10 miles later 😂 Could happen to anybody but once sorted we wound down through some pretty country towards Campo, CA, where we stopped around 11am just shy of the border to go over the crossing procedure and make sure everyone’s documents were present and accounted for.
From there, we blipped down 10-15 miles to the border crossing into Tecate, BC, MX. 4 lanes, only one was open, all very quiet and compact; reminded me of the old Sumas crossing into BC, CA or the Vermont/Quebec crossings I’ve done — this isn’t a crossing for tourists or industry the way Tijuana or the Peace Arch at Blaine are. We rolled through one by one, the automated system photographing us and lifting the gate. By this point, you’re legally in Mexico, but you are not legally in Mexico — for that you have to park behind the crossing building, go around the gates into an office, where 4 at a time our passports are checked and we fill out our FMM forms (required for the vehicles apparently).. So great, now you’re in Mexico legally? Nope! Now you get to exit the office and go to the kiosk run by a local bank where you pay the $33USD/$575MX to get a stamp on the receipt of payment, THEN you get to go back into the original office and talk to the same guy and he stamps your passport.. its all very inefficient, but I also can picture in my mind the exact way this system evolved and why it doesn’t change.
One happy surprise was when we pulled into the teeny-tiny parking area behind the checkpoint, who should I see but RoKo chatting with Dusty Wessels, who did some private training with a few years ago. “Hey Kerri!” he yelled as I pulled off the helmet, and gave me a big ol’ Dusty hug. He introduced me to one of the folks he was traveling with and we exchanged pleasantries; they were just finishing their paperwork and heading down into Baja to do some kind of scouting trip for something.. what a small world! Yet again I prove that I am my father’s daughter.
Riding through Tecate was a serious lesson in Baja driving culture - lane markings are more of a guideline than a rule, and speed limits are there as a guide to how much the Federales will charge you if the catch you. Stop signs are SERIOUS BUSINESS but stop lights are negotiable; neither are terribly large or well functioning, so you need to pay attention. You will be tailgated, passed, and cut-off no matter the speed or conditions; uphill into a blind curve with a cliff on one side in a construction zone? Perfect time to blow past a motorcycle and cut them off! (True story..)
Like so many places, you cross some invisible line and suddenly you’re in the country. We’re riding south on Federal Highway 3, running from Tecate to Ensenada through wine and olive country. Silver-grey olive groves forest the hills, and more and more vineyards spread their tendrils over the verdant hills. I’m honestly surprised how green everything is, although it is still winter, so lush grasses and healthy trees in a landscape with so many tells of being dry and arid is hardly surprising I suppose.
We stopped at a ridiculously posh winery perched on a hillside and had a very posh meal on their balcony overlooking the valley. Portion sizes were off the chart, and we all collectively ordered (and ate) far too much food.
One scary thing happened. As we were packing up, Nancy and I noticed one of our riders was bleeding from his leg quite badly. He’d dropped the bike on the ride up the short but steepish driveway, and gotten his shin banged up on the cylinder head of the 1200GS. Our guides patched him up and we got him on his way to the hospital in Ensenada ahead of us; you hate to see anyone get injured, since as motorcyclists we’re all sort of making little gambles with how much risk we’re willing to accept each and every second, so to see risk up and bite someone hard is sobering. He turned out to be ok by need some serious stitching up, and had to leave the tour early.
The rest of us continued on, rolling into Ensenada and our ocean front hotel round 5pm. A bunch of us jumped immediately into the hot tub, had a few beers, then headed out into downtown Ensenada to a semi-infamous mariachi dive bar - 2 bands, peanuts on the floor, and a steady stream of expats and locals. The 8 of us who want out made friends, killed 3 buckets of Tecate, and then drunkenly wandered the streets of Ensenada looking for tacos… alas, all the we could find was a pizza place, so taco pizza had to do.. a quick stop at Oxxo (think “Mexican 7/11”) for hydration supplies, and I was back in bed asleep by 10:45pm.
A short day of riding, but just about perfect, giving us a chance to get across the border, adjust to Mexico, etc.