First Rain Ride

Loreto Mexico - our accidentally stop.

Loreto Mexico – our accidental stop.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

Yesterday we awoke at dawn to leave Santa Rosalia hoping to make it to Ciudad Insurgents. Keyword – hoping. 

The man working our hotel’s front desk struck up a conversation with me on the patio about our motorcycles and mentioned that it was going to rain; I thanked him for the information and as Nathaniel and I rolled up our motorcycle covers and slipped our clothing bags into our panniers someone else wandered by and said it was already raining where we were going. 

Getting up early and watching the world wakeup is one of my favorite parts of travel. In the more touristed parts of the world I think it helps you connect with the soul of a city and gives you a wonderful sense of optimism about life. 

So, with the news that we were riding into a rain storm I was grateful for the information but I wasn’t ready to hunkerdown over a maybe

After a quick stop at PemMex we rolled out of Santa Rosalia about and hour after dawn with me in the lead. Since I am the only one of us capable of reading street signs other than ALTO I’m usually in the front. 

Everyone says Santa Rosalia is gorgeous but for me it totally lacked charm. It’s on the coast and has a beach but do you really want to go swimming or eat seafood in a town that is two miles south of a coastal landfill? No. No you don’t. 

If you make a similar trip through Baja I suggest stopping in Mulege (about 50 miles south of Santa Rosalia). Mulege is beyond adorable, it’s on the coast near the desert but because it’s located in a canyon it has greenery worthy of a rainforest just a few miles from never-ending cacti. 

As we rolled through it, I was envious of Mulege, and in a minute we were past it and driving down a perfectly paved coastal road, desert hills complete with Looney Tunes Cacti to our right, broad beaches and docked fishing boats to our left. Overhead loomed threatening clouds but even the sprinkle of rain couldn’t mask the movie quality scenery we were speeding through.  

Then – the rain really got going. And it kept coming. 

And coming.

Loreto After the rain.

Loreto After the rain. (Photo: Alex Washburn)

Nathaniel and I rode about 120 miles yesterday and all but the first twenty of them lacked rain. Sprinkling, dollops, mist, pitter patter, deluge… I think we experienced every kind of rain you can experience except for hail. It wasn’t cold but if you get wet even the mid 70’s can feel pretty chilly. 

We stopped in the city we had pre-determined and started to look for our first meal of the day. It was almost noon and we were soaked. We have gortex gear but it’s still not a substitute for true rain wear. We literally had to wring out our gloves before putting them out in the sun to dry today.

Being unfamiliar with the town we decided to grab food at a local supermarket and in the parking lot Nathaniel fell over (he says his kickstand was up) and hit the car next to him which was unfortunately a nice car AND occupied with people. I got off my bike as the guy got out of his car and in my mind I was already deciding how much money I though it would be worth to make this problem go away. Mentally I decided on 500 pesos and started to apologize to the man as he got out of his SUV.

He was actually very nice about the whole thing but he explained that it wasn’t his car, that he didn’t know what it would cost to fix and said that he didn’t want to call the police to ding Nathaniel’s driving record. After some casual chatting I asked him how much he though it would cost to fix and he thought for a moment before deciding on 200 pesos ($15 usd). I thought that was an incredibly honest answer and was feeling some white person guilt that we were able to pay our way out of a problem like that.

So I told the guy: “Si, gracias señor. Eres tan amable pero es su culpa y pienso que el necessita pagarte mas que eso.”

Translation: “Yes, thank you sir. You are really nice but it is his fault and I think he needs to pay you more than that.”

In english I asked Nathaniel to give the guy 500 pesos ($38 usd) and we all left happy the incident ended so easily although Nathaniel told me I am the worst girlfriend ever. 

After we bribed the gentleman in the SUV Nathaniel watched our gear as I ran inside and bought us tamales and Pan Dulce for brunch. We stood under a plastic tarp eating tamales and weighing our options. We were already wet so riding another 100+ miles didn’t seem that terrible, but there was no guarantee we would be able to get through any wash-outs in the dessert road we were about to cross.

We sat there a while hoping the rain would let up and it never did. Today at breakfast I overheard one tourist telling another it had rained for 24 hours and dumped almost 4 inches of rain on the area. Judging by the level of our hotel pool this morning, I wouldn’t doubt it. 

This afternoon we went to clean and oil our motorcycle chains because of all the water yesterday and they were already rusting. (Photo: Nathaniel Chaney)

This afternoon we went to clean and oil our motorcycle chains because of all the water and they were already rusting. (Photo: Nathaniel Chaney)

We ended up staying at ‘Hacienda Suites’ for $80 USD a night. Normally we would try and find a hostel for half that but we were kind of desperate. Riding through town yesterday the foot pegs on my bike were fully submerged at times and I was constantly afraid of riding into a pothole. The final drama of the day was when the hotel agreed to let us park in the patio and I fell over trying to ride up the water slicked ramp of the front steps. 

The front desk clerk ran outside and told me he thought it would be easier for us to ride in the back gate… and it was. 

In the morning we discovered the roads were closed in both directions so we decided to spend a second night in Loreto and enjoy ourselves before doing a little bike maintenance. Tomorrow we hope to make it to La Paz although at this point we are shooting for the Thursday Ferry to Mazatlan.

Overall – I’m glad for the rain because it forced us to get to know an adorable town that we otherwise would have blown through.

Motorcycle maintenance before we take off tomorrow. WD40 and some chain lube. (Photo: Nathaniel Chaney)

Motorcycle maintenance before we take off tomorrow. WD40 and some chain lube. (Photo: Nathaniel Chaney)

We Are Tumbleweeds

Something Nathaniel and I quickly realized on the Baja Peninsula is that it takes you twice as long to get anywhere as you would expect.

We’ve ridden about 500 miles in the past two days and they’ve been a long two days. Mex 1 runs through the center of a ton of small towns and they’ve constructed speed bumps and s-turns to keep trucks and tourist from blowing through at 70 mph.

Overall the asphalt has been wonderful and other than a few towns doing road construction a regular cruiser bike would be able to make the trip.

I’m sorry for the small number of photos on the blog thus far.

At the moment we are focused on making a boat in La Paz on the 15th which is why we haven’t had much time to stop and smell the tortillas.

We literally got up at 6:30am today – were driving by 8am and didn’t stop for the night till 4:30. Other than a quick taco/gas Mapstop in Guerro Negro it was all riding. 250 some odd miles of gorgeous desert, rolling hills and a roaring engine.

There was this beautiful sweeping turn on the way to Guerro Negro and as I came half way around it I saw a flock of vultures eating something just on the side of the road.

They started to rise up into the air as I barreled down on them and I didn’t have time to stop. Realizing how disastrous hitting an animal the size of a vulture could be I may have yelled inside my helmet.

I let go of the throttle and flattened myself on my gas tank praying that extra foot of space was enough to go underneath them. It was – but it was a close call that left me rattled for a few minutes.

Today we leave Santa Rosalia and hope to get more than half way to La Paz.

The Road to Farmersville

The view from the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was a 180 from the previous 24 hours' worth of events.

The view from the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was a 180 from the previous 24 hours’ worth of events.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

The silver lining of Wednesday, was my AAA premium service kicking in before the quoted 48-hour time frame and I received free towing to Farmersville California from Coalinga (score!).  We got to 360 Motorsports by opening time and proceeded to hangout with the mechanic and his Dad (the John’s) for the next seven hours.

John proceeded to go through the the bike step by step to see what the source of the stuttering could be, without much success. At one point, John suggested digging into Alex’s bike to swap out the CDI (Capacitor Discharged Ignition) which controls all the electronics for the bike and if that didn’t work he was stumped (this is one reason Alex and I have the same bike, so that we can use one as a reference for the other).

Alex and I meandered over to the one of only two food options close by to discuss the situation and our options.  I even called the former owner of the bike to see if he ever had the sputtering problem as he was familiar with the bike.  This was the lowest point of Wednesday- where our hope was running thin.

Re-fueled with coffee and a plan we headed back to the shop without much certainty that there would be a solution.  The CDI swap hadn’t yielded anything, and John’s last idea was the check the readings of all the individual electric components against the manufacturers suggested readings.

This is where we struck gold.

The ignition coil is supposed to read .4 and mine was at 1.8.  He swapped in the ignition coil from Alex’s bike, took mine for a spin, and came back triumphant.  The bike ran like a champ, with no sputtering at all.

The next issue, could we find a spare ignition coil locally….the answer was no.  Luckily John has a bunch of spare motorcycles around, and sourced a spare ignition coil from a 50cc Honda moped (they have the same electrical output).

Alex: “Like with organ transplants, there is a theory that the recipient sometimes takes on characteristics of the donor”

Me: “So my bike is now going to think it is a 50cc?”

Alex: “Yep.”

John threw it in the bike, took another ride, and the bike was ready to push on.  It took another thirty minutes for Alex and I to get all of the gear back on the bikes and get ourselves ready to go.

Alex wanted us to get to LA.  With the sun setting and the temperature dropping, we made our way down 99 towards LA.

It took us three and a half hours and two stops, but the bike held up and ran perfectly.  The one heralding challenge was riding the Grapevine at night, but we both stayed confident and vigilant, and before we knew it we were in the valley and in a warm house of a good college friend (shout out to Mac).

I ordered a spare ignition coil which will arrive in San Diego by Friday and give us one free day in Santa Monica!

Mac is in Los Angeles attending the MBA program at UCLA. Watching him iron his shirt before class was how we started our delightful day in Santa Monica.

Mac is in Los Angeles attending the MBA program at UCLA. Watching him iron his shirt before class was how we started our delightful day in Santa Monica.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

Nathaniel on the Ferris Wheel at the Santa Monica Pier.

Our second night in Santa Monica gave us enough time to hang out with Mac and Cristina!

Our second night in Santa Monica gave us enough time to hang out with Mac and Cristina!(Photo: Alex Washburn)

As a good friend commented on our Facebook page:

“Its good to earn those stripes early, on home soil, so when the real adventure begins you’ve got a few calluses.”

Tomorrow (Friday) we should be picking up my ignition coil at 9 AM in San Diego and heading to Mexico as soon as they install it.

Coalinga California

Welcome to Coalinga.

Welcome to Coalinga. (Photo: Alex Washburn)

In the last few days leading up to, what in our minds was, the glorious start of Autopista End Nathaniel and I have had some bad luck with our bikes.

It started when he took his bike to a mechanic in Sacramento and had them do a complete overhaul to get it ready for the trip. New air filter, new tires, new chain, they made everything new and shiny and perfect so of course it had to malfunction.

Less then two miles from the mechanic’s at 7:30 at night the bike started sputtering and eventually ceased to be ridable. Good piece of advice, AAA will only tow motorcycles if you have the premium service, so make sure and plan ahead if you have a motorcycle.

Nathaniel took the KLR back to the mechanic the following day and eventually the guy told him a piece of hay had somehow gotten into the intake valve – they removed it, flushed out the system, and it seemed to ride fine.

The day he got his bike “fixed fixed” (Saturday) my chain snapped on the freeway just hours after someone told me it was too loose.

I was told that a chain breaking while you are riding can be really dangerous but thankful nothing happened and a Kawasaki dealership near my house had an extra chain.

We are not mechanics. Before a month ago we had never taken any type of tool to a motorcycle.  However, Sunday we replaced my chain and sprockets in my garage with some tools donated by my wonderful neighbors.

Donnie fixed some of my wires that were severed when my chain snapped... and thankfully babysat us as we spent 6 hours replacing my chain and sprockets.

Donnie fixed some of my wires that were severed when my chain snapped… and thankfully babysat us as we spent 6 hours replacing my chain and sprockets.(Photo: Alex Washburn)

One of them is actually a mechanic by trade and he was awesome babysitting us through the process!

Anyways – these issues kicked our departure date back from the 7th of October to the 8th.

This morning we got on the road around 9:30 and started cruising south on I-5. Our goal was to take a break and get something to eat after hitting 150 miles.

Somewhere around the 60 mile mark Nathaniel’s bike started sputtering again while cruising at 70 mph. After a brief stop to discuss the situation and have our first bike tip-over of the trip (Nathaniel) we decided to try and hit the 150 mile mark and assess our options.

We ended up on a beat up patch of asphalt just off I-5 called Coalinga. After talking on the phone to the mechanic who had worked on Nathaniel’s bike in Sacramento we decided to try a few fixes ourselves.

We spent about an hour and a half next to Denny’s disconnecting the tachometer and playing with a few other things before calling it quits and heading to the nearest Motel 6 (which happened to be just a block away).

By this time the winds had shifted and the smell of cow was strong in the air.

After some fruit loops for dinner (thanks Chevron!) our spirits are a little higher and we have plans to take Nathaniel’s bike to a mechanic first thing in the morning.

“I didn’t know where I thought I would be spending tonight – but I didn’t think it was going to be a Motel 6 in Coalinga.” -Nathaniel

Sorry for the blandness of this post… Hopefully we will be eating fish tacos within 48 hours!  And always remember, even if its not part of the plan, it’s always part of the adventure.


Before we began planning Autopista End Nathaniel and I were already very well traveled. It was one of the things that first attracted us to one another.

Before we began planning Autopista End Nathaniel and I were already very well traveled. It was one of the things that first attracted us to one another. Before leaving on Autopista End Nathaniel had traveled 11 countries and I had traveled 24. (Photo: Alex Washburn)

Several Months ago Nathaniel and I were lying side by side staring at the ceiling of our nice apartment and mentally preparing to go back to our nice jobs the following day. Jobs- made possible by our nice college educations, stable lives and generally agreeable existence.

Despite all of this we had this overwhelming sense of being overwhelmed and sad. As I write this I realize it could be called bored housewife syndrome. There’s no particular thing that should be causing you to feel helpless or depressed but you do.

This is the ultimate #firstworldproblem.

Staring up into the dark Nathaniel inhaled a slightly deeper breath and in the form of a question said “We should just get some motorcycles and ride to Tierra Del Fuego.”

In our relationship and in life Nathaniel is very much an accountant and I am very much a photographer. When he is the one to come up with a nutty idea like taking up running, loosing insane amounts of weight or riding to Tierra Del Fuego there is no backstop for the idea to bounce off of. The idea just keeps going.

I laid there thinking… I inhaled deeply a few times to respond with “But we…” and realized there was no truly logical reason why we couldn’t make this happen.

We could afford it.
I speak spanish.
Our apartment was month to month.
My Mom could watch the cat.

“Yeah, okay. We can do that.” And we went to sleep.

The next day I presented Nathaniel with a logical departure date based on weather patterns and life events and a list of entry requirements for every South American country. I began bombarding him with travel concerns and logistics and his wide-eyed look usually reserved for my most frustrating and insane plans started to get bigger and bigger.

We had to have at least one more discussion about the trip before that look of his disappeared but it really didn’t take that long.

After our decision was truly made the path to actually leaving was made up of a relatively basic but long check list.

First: We needed motorcycles.