Woke up tangled in my sleeping bag under a palapa just south of Mulagé with the rising sun painting fire in the sky. The mosquitoes flanked our palapa and hopping little insects annoyed my travel companions so much that in the middle of the night they erected their tents and fell for shelter from the heat and the biting bugs by cocooning themselves in -0 degree rated sleeping bags. I braved the bugs and slept under the stars.
Perhaps one of the biggest joys of traveling to me is meeting new friends on the road. And when your travel is fluid and fluid enough to alter your plans, there's nothing better than spending several days or longer with these new friends. So many stories to share. Many more to hear. Different backgrounds, different attitudes, different ideas. Yet so much in common. It's the road. And it does go on forever. But the sad yet inevitable times come when you realize it's time. Time to depart. Go your separate ways. Sean and Michael were headed for Loreto and then to Todos Los Santos, a Pacific coast magnet for surfers. Me? It was time to make the ascent up the Baja Peninsula toward home. And tonight I gaze out at the full moon glimmering in the waters of Bahia de Los Angeles. Following the moon's reflection I rest my eyes on what is the Island of the Guardian Angel. Now alone for the rest of my journey, I find some solace in spending this night under the moon and the gaze of the guardian angel.
I ventured through the Vizcaino Desert. A vast wasteland of sand, cactus and turkey vultures. The road is phenomenal. I'm cruising at 75 mph and faster when I realize, hey this is Mexico. Slow down. After about 100 miles into the desert, somewhere around Villa Jesus Maria, it begins to get interesting. The terrain pops up out of the sand yielding orange and brown mesas, exquisitely sculpted buttes, mountains and volcanoes on the horizon. The sage and juniper fly by my periphery and as the sun sets I gaze to my shadow whipping along in unison. Who is that guy following me? What is he thinking?
There are a number of checkpoints in Mexico. Sometimes there are military checkpoints complete with sandbagged blockades and green uniformed 18-year-old soldiers wielding automatic weapons. Other times there are sanitation check points. I'm not sure exactly of the translation. But at one today that I pulled into I noticed a wandering man with what appeared to be a pressurized tank on his back while carrying a wand or nozzle connected by a hose to the tank on his bank. Hmmm. Must be the exterminator. The gentlemen in the white shirt spoke. About thirty five with a round face slightly pocked from the trauma of adolescence. I said “Buenos tardes.” He mumbled a bit more. I couldn't hear him. Pulling off my helmet and earplugs, I learned he wanted to see my immigration papers. Now the hour I spent in Tecate would finally prove worthwhile.
Problem was during my little fall in Chihuahua where I did a number on my ankle, the poorly designed and bogus BMW panniers (saddle bags) broke on the right side. And since then I've had to strap this pannier to the bike every morning before venturing on my journey. A royal pain. The other pannier is sitting nicely on the bike and opening this one is relatively easy. A turn of a key and push the button. So I did just that. Shit. The immigration papers were in the other pannier. Ok. Imagine two twenty-foot belts tied around a box that needs no more than 3 feet. And you've got a rat's nest that requires unwinding the remaining 17 feet before I can open the box. So as the cars piled up behind me, I did the best I could in proving that the hour and fancy paperwork from Tecate were worthwhile. Meanwhile, a tall young woman appeared by the bike. Smiling and holding a clipboard she seemed to be checking on my pock-faced official. I shared the papers and everybody patiently watched me wrap 20 feet of tie down back on my bags. Whew.
About an hour later I ran into a military checkpoint. This was perhaps the 6th or 7th I'd passed since entering Mexico in October. The young guard wielded his rifle confidently, the visor of his green cap positioned perfectly to hide his eyes. I watched his mouth and teeth move as he pointed to one of my panniers. Yes. The one without the tie downs! Abierto. He wanted to look inside. I opened it As the door fell open there were my immigration papers shining and looking damn official. You see I moved the official papers to the more righteous pannier. Just in case. He waved his finger toward the setting sun and I was off.
Typically my conversations at checkpoints were about my origin, my Spanish and the officials' desire to learn some new English words. I guess I'm getting closer to Gringo territory…
My timing was real close. My number one rule when riding a motorcycle in Mexico is never ride at night. By my best calculations, I could get to Bahia de Los Angeles by 5pm. I didn't get to the turn off to the 40-mile road that heads to the coast until 5pm. The shadow that had been following me for the last couple hours was now right in front of me. The road was awash in light that the yellow line glowed and the white sidelines radiated intensely. The road started to get rough. Potholes, washboard and other deformation that made my front tire dance a tango in double time. It was freaking me out, but the sun was setting. I zoomed past a pick up carrying a couple 55 gallon tanks. A dumb truck was next. Then the smashed up Nissan. I looked up. The moon was glowing as bright as the lines on the road. It was full. I rounded an arroyo and as the road began to descend I saw the Sea of Cortez in its full cobalt blue glory appear in front of me. Wow. I'm sleeping here tonight.