I’m a hardened road trip man. Give me a stretch of road, an engine with wheels and a few days and I’ll be on that road faster than you can say, “see you on the other side”. I’ve traveled on old Harley Davidsons, in beat up RV’s, regular sedans, convertible sports cars and as a passenger. I’ve done short trips, long trips, unexpected trips, incredibly planned to the last detail trips and I have also been stuck on the road for days. There’s nothing I like better than hitting the tarmac on my trusty Elecrta Glide, ready to see what the world has to offer. Traveling by motorcycle, expands the mind, relaxes the spirit and enriches the soul.
I thought I had every sort of journey on a bike covered, until a friend of mine suggested I join them on a “road trip” down the Baja coast in Mexico. I use the term “road” very lightly, since a large portion of it would be on sand and beach. I’m used to my heavy Harley, glued to the surface at a real cruising pace, sticking to the road and arriving at my destination, ready to check into a motel. This would be a completely different experience on a very different type of bike, a BMW R 1200 GS. So instead of my regular cruiser, I would be on an Adventure Touring bike. Last time I rode something like this, I was a teenager and it was a measly 50cc’s. This bike is a monster in comparison.
I’m used to sitting fairly low on my 700 pound bike, large saddle to cover my ample rear and a back rest for my long cruises, chilling back and watching the clouds race by. My new animal was taller, lighter, thinner and a lot quicker off the mark. I began to have second thoughts about this. Was I too old and stuck in my ways to enter such a challenge? After 40 years on a cycle had I met my match? My friend assured me I could handle it. “The first day of the trip was mainly on the road”, he told me. “There would be other rookie riders with us, that would also be learning the ropes”, he explained. “There will be a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of the working of the bike”. What he neglected to tell me that the other newbies on the trip were youngsters and a few girls too. Feeling secure that I would not be left behind or injured, I committed to the seven day trip.
I seriously did not take into account how different this whole trip would be for me. All of the equipment is different for an off road adventure. Helmets, shoulder pads, kidney belts and even gloves are different to ones you would take on a road trip. I felt I was preparing for a scene out of the Mad Max movie. There would be ten of us on this ride. It would start off in Ensenada and end up in Cabo San Lucas where we would fly back to San Diego and have the bikes shipped back to the USA by a motorcycle shipping company. Along the way we would criss cross the peninsula, cross a dry river bed at full speed, ride some of the trail of the famed Baja 500, cross rivers, zig zag through cactus fields, conquer mountains and cruise the beaches at low tide. In between all of that, we would be setting up camps in varied spots along the route, eating local flavor and enjoying the incredible desert scenery this unique part of the world has to offer.
The first day, my friend was correct. We stuck mainly to the road, visiting the little tourist spots out of the port town, visiting a natural blow hole, finding a beach that was on the San Andreas fault which allowed you to dig a hole that created a natural hot spring and then ending the day at a little fresh seafood eatery on the cliffs which served rattlesnake tequila. I knew from then on, this would be an adventure for the books. The day was a perfect introduction to my new bike. I became accustomed to sitting much higher on the bike, hearing a buzz instead of a roar during the gearshift and the different handling of the bike. To be quiet honest, I felt like a gymnast on this machine as opposed to a sumo wrestler on my heavy road bike. I felt comfortable very quickly, and any trepidation I had was rapidly waning. Or perhaps that was the tequila talking!
What was to follow on the rest of my trip far exceeded any expectations. The vastness, dryness, ruggedness and heat of Mexico are perfect for such an adventure. These bikes are built to handle any terrain and Baja has a slice of everything to offer. One of the most exhilarating things I have ever done in my life was speed across the dry riverbed. Ten people strong in a cloud of dust, our machines zipped across the bed at a speed I would never do on the road. We rode through a maze of cactus 8 feet high. This is where the amazing handling of the bikes really came into play. Their lightness made maneuvering through the spiked enemy a cakewalk. We encountered beaches full of dunes that became our playground. Along the way we encountered rattlesnakes and scorpions, cowboys and cattle, one horse towns, fishing villages, day of the dead parades and in general friendly Mexicans willing to direct you to the best lobster or the prettiest view.
By the time we got to Cabo San Lucas, I had totally accustomed myself to this new mode of transportation. My body was tired and weary. It was definitely not used to such a workout. I was happy for it to be finished, but certainly eager to do it again. It was the most unique road trip I had ever taken. A lot of activity, challenges and excitement. I’m sure as a young man I would be willing to do this every weekend. But now, in my more mature years, I’m happy to do this once a year. The rest of my rides I’ll have on the comfort of my beast, which has my butt cheeks molded into its saddle. Way more comfortable.