Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is there any good riding in Orange County?


Words by Jim Foreman ©2014
Images Jim Foreman and Kendal Foreman ©2014

Southern California is well known for having some of the most diverse and exciting roads available to motorcyclists.  Very few regions in US and even the world can compare to excitement and beauty offered right here in the southland.

Why is Orange County, in particular, mostly devoid of these spectacular offerings?  In truth, we’re not… completely.   

Orange County may never boast the magnificence of AngelesCrest Highway or the breathtaking views of Palomar Mountain.  We will never have a ‘Palms to Pines Highway’ (CA 243 to Idyllwild) or the nearby CA-38 to Big Bear Lake either. 

Fortunately, for all who ride, those roads and many more roads of greatness are nearby.
So, what do we have?  Most riders will immediately identify Ortega Hwy (CA 74) as Orange County’s best road.  That assessment may be absolutely true. 

Ortega Highway (CA 74)

Ortega Hwy stretches from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.  If not surrounded by so many other roads of greatness, in surrounding counties, Ortega would be considered a phenomenal destination road. 

Elizabete on Ortega Highway with her BMW F 650 GS
Most Ortega riders simply get there by taking I-5 south and exiting at Ortega Highway.  There’s a Shell Station right there, though it’s really positioned to benefit westbound traffic.  Riders who have a bit more time and know the area opt to take the back way in via Live Oak Canyon and Antonio Parkway.  For most motorcyclists, Ortega Hwy really begins at Antonio Parkway. 

There is a quality about Ortega Hwy that is quite unique.  The road gradually builds in intensity.  It begins as a nice meandering run with wide sweepers.  Later, moderate speed switchbacks present fun peg scraping opportunities.  Ortega Hwy builds to a spectacular crescendo of awesomeness as a rider descends the mountain.

Jim Foreman and Daniel Rice on our S 1000 Bikes
There are two roadhouses along Ortega Hwy.  The loud-pipe friendly Hell’s Kitchen in El Cariso Village and The Lookout with a stunning view of the lake and valley below.  The Lookout is the quieter of the two.  If you find yourself riding on a holiday, Hell’s Kitchen is open early for Breakfast and throughout the day.

The best time to ride Ortega Hwy is Sunday after 3pm and during the week except for typical rush hours 7:30am to 9:30am and 3pm to 6pm.

There are two spin-offs from Ortega Hwy that do deserve your attention.  There is very little traffic on either and both are unique.  Offerings of fun, adventure and scenery are yours for the taking.  Both of these roads are on opposite sides of Ortega Hwy and the roadways are just 1000 meters from Hell’s Kitchen.

Look for this sign after Hell's Kitchen
North Main Divide Road is a giant loop that services many of the campgrounds in the area.  There are many beautiful vistas.  It’s also a great place if you want to be left alone to think, write, reflect, make-out, or just take a nap on a park table.  The road starts off quite nice. Lack of regular maintenance produces much rougher surfaces, as you continue.  The name of the road changes several times to El Cariso Road, Forest Route 3S04 and finally Long Canyon Road.  It eventually loops back to Ortega Highway.  Early on, one can ride a little aggressively, but soon the conditions of the road make the going slower.  Though it can easily be traversed on a road bike, it’s much more fun on a dual-sport like the BMW GS.

South Main Divide Road is a fairly well kept secret for motorcyclists.  Most don’t take it all the way to Murietta but instead turn around at some point to rejoin Ortega Hwy.   This road can be a thrilling and interesting day ride, all on its own.

A back way into Ortega Highway via Antonio Parkway, previously mentioned, is a lot of fun, too.

Santigo Canyon/Live Oak Canyon

General Store on Live Oak Canyon
Santiago Canyon is a fairly high speed road that offers up wide sweepers and interesting vistas.  It begins at Chapman Ave and Jamboree Road and continues down to eventually become El Toro Road. 
For newer riders, this is often cited as a superb road to run.  It’s a nice mild stroll with no big surprises.  With that mentioned, one should not become complacent when riding Santiago Canyon.  Sadly, this road does claim several bikers each year, though most of them are alcohol related.
At the southern end of Santiago Canyon, is Cook’s Corner.  Cook’s is a roadhouse that is primarily frequented by the shiny chrome crowd.  That said, sport bikes touring and adventure bikes are also seen frequenting this roadhouse. 

Cook’s Corner also marks the beginning of Live OakCanyon.  Live Oak is a beautiful tree-lined road with many interesting elevation changes and moderate corners.  It’s not terribly long, but it is quite enjoyable leading to an interesting uphill switchback just after the river crossing.  The road is well maintained but narrow in most places.  Small ranches and residences line this lovely road.  Please be mindful of that as I’m sure most people wouldn’t want to have loud rumbling or squealing pipes blasting through their neighborhood at all hours.

Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1)

PCH and Jamboree Rd
Pacific Coast Highway is many things to many people.  The part many motorcyclists find most enjoyable is from Jamboree south all the way to San Clemente. 

Of course, through much of PCH one has magnificent views of the ocean.  Among the highlights are Crystal Cove State Park and San Clemente State Beach. 

Along the way are some unique and interesting places to stop and take a break.  Ruby’s Shake Shack at Crystal Cove is just one of those places.  Owned by Ruby’s Diner,  this popular place offers rich and creamy shakes in a variety of flavors.  Being on a motorcycle is an added benefit as there is often a lineup of cars waiting for parking.  Being on two wheels, just ride up to the front, park without impeding traffic and place your order.
Ruby's Shake Shack

Laguna Beach is also a favorite place to regain feeling in your bottom.  Whether it’s watching the beach volleyball or looking for the dolphins that jump about, at sea, there’s plenty to keep one interested.

In Dana Point, PCH Splits in half with the northbound and southbound sections as one way streets.  On the southbound section, just past Violet Lantern, on the left is the Bonjour Café.  It’s a great place for Breakfast or Lunch and happens to also be the former production office forBruce Brown.  Bruce Brown was the director of the motorcycle cult classic film, “On Any Sunday” and the epic surfer film, “Endless Summer.”  One can gather, quite quickly, where the inspiration to name his film director son Dana came from.

Carbon Canyon Road - Brea, CA(CA-142)

Carbon Canyon Road is a nice little retreat for the soul.  Carbon Canyon Road starts off as Lambert Road east of the 57 Freeway.  The surrounding rural atmosphere instantly transports a rider away from suburbia and into the countryside.  Several small hamlets line the drive with a wicked ‘S’ turn near the end.  The elevation change through the ‘S’ turn often spooks new riders.  Just take it easy the first couple of times and keep your chin up.  It’s much worse if one is looking down.  The road ends in Chino.  One can either continue on toward their destination or turn around and run it again.  Avoid Carbon Canyon Road during rush hour (west in the morning and East in the afternoon) as many motorists try to use it as a bypass for a jammed up 91 or 60 freeway.

Turnbull Canyon Road – Whittier, CA

There's a lot of Awesome on Turnbull Canyon Road.
The inclusion of Turnbull Canyon Road is a total cheat.  Turnbull Canyon Road is in Los Angeles County, but it’s proximity to the Orange County and genuine awesomeness earns its place on this list.  Anyway, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

Turnbull Canyon is among the most fascinating destinations due to its interesting, curious and bizarre history.  A plane crash, attempts at weather manipulation, a mental asylum, Hollywood celebrity party spot and the rumored former home of Anton LaVey (founder of the Church of Satan) all have claim to history on this four mile stretch of roadway.

Turnbull Canyon runs between Painter Avenue as Beverly Blvd in Whittier and S. Vallecito Drive in Hacienda Heights, CA. 

Turnbull Canyon(or Turbo Canyon in the 80’s) is a technical canyon.  Think of it as a short Glendora Mountain Road.  Turnbull has two stages.  The half closest to Painter Avenue is straight-up canyon.  No residences or intersections.  The other half is residential and a good rider will respect that.  There is a beautiful, elevation changing, mini-carousel and some breathtaking views of the valley below, in this half.  Please take it easy in the residential section.  The last thing we need are angry residents causing heavy police presence, as has happened, in the past.  Run quiet through this section and be mindful and respectful of the residents.   It’s well worth it.

Honorable Mention

Though not spectacular or even awesome, there are several other places in Orange County to get some two-wheel therapy in. 

Hacienda Road between La Habra and Hacienda Heights is a great road for beginning motorcyclists. 
Add Colima Road between Whittier and Rowland Heights for beginning riders, too.  Colima Road is a good way to introduce higher speeds to a new rider. 

Brea Blvd/Brea Canyon Road between State College and Pathfinder Road is also a pleasant little run.

The end of Laguna Canyon Road.
Laguna Canyon Road (CA-133) Between Irvine and Laguna Beach is also a nice little treat.  It’s nothing fantastic, just a pleasant, pretty road except during traffic hours.
Approaching the 'S' Turn on Carbon Canyon Drive

Crystal Cove State Park

Colima Road

Mini Carousel on Turnbull Canyon Road

Heavenly sign on South Main Divide Road off of Ortega Hwy.

Pacific Coast Highway

Jim Foreman and Terry Rollinson taking a quick break in Laguna Beach

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When Training is Part of the Ride...

I wish I could ride that good!
-Overheard at the 2013 OCTOA Police Motorcycle Rodeo.

Words, photos and video ©2014 Jim Foreman

In SoCal, we are truly blessed with perfect 365 weather.  Because of that we also have some of the best motorcycle training found anywhere in the world.

If you're looking for race school, one can not do better than California Superbike School and Jason Pridmore's Star School.

For off-road riding, RawHyde Adventures is the most excellent training one can receive.

If one is looking for advanced street riding and real-world, highway speed cornering skills, Walt Fulton's Streetmasters is the best in the business.

Let's say, you're pretty safe on the streets but want to learn how to control your bike in slow speed situations with precision and confidence.  SoCal has the finest and best course to teach you how to fully control your bike.

Police Riding Technique Academy was developed by Bert 'Q' Quechenberger and Sonny Singhanate.  They took the premier training they offered officers of the Los Angeles Police Department and developed a program for current police officers wanting to join motor enforcement and civilians, alike.

Bert was directly responsible for training over 8000 officers throughout California and the world.  Sonny is a 17 year motor veteran and currently an active duty lead instructor.

There are many reasons why a non-officer would want and need to take this class.  Among them is the need to build confidence and experience in ones riding skill.  Another reason is to learn to effectively manage a bike in emergency situations.  Lastly, everything one learns and masters at slow speeds directly transfers to higher speed applications.

A Day of Training
You've decided you wish to dramatically improve your riding skills and have signed up for the course.  Here's how the day progresses.  In the morning, coffee and baked goods greet students while an introduction and review of the day's program is outlined. 

Most of the course is spent on your bike so the team gets you riding as quickly as possible.  The first ride is a Follow-the-Leader setup.  Sonny leads the group single-file.  Bert will follow and gauge each attendee's skills and cater some of the instruction to each rider.

Immediately after, the first course is placed before each rider and mastered.  From there, every new challenge builds upon what has been previously mastered.

The beauty of this course is that results are immediate.  Riding techniques one previously believed was impossible becomes mastered and able to be repeated all-day.

Lunch is provided and breaks happen regularly so that in all the intensity, one has a chance to process the skills and let everything sink in. 

Because the day starts at 7am, lunch happens late in the seven hour course.  After lunch, the final 'Police Rodeo' course is set up.  This will be the final evaluation.  Each attendee is given multiple times to run the entire course and fine tune some skills before the course final.  Because of this, a friendly challenge with scoring for time and errors will bring about a 'Winner' who receives a valuable prize.

The training is applicable to all bikes.  Owners of big cruisers, supersport, touring, dual-sport, standard and sport bikes all benefit from the knowledge passed along.

The instruction is serious and spot-on.  The skills gained will definitively lead to safer, better and more skilled riding.

A bonus offered by PRTA for returning riders is a 50% discount on repeats of the class to freshen up one's skills in the future.

PRTA class information can be found on their website http://laprta.com.

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Sonny giving instruction on a trainer.

Bert offering insight to master a technique,

Bert addressing the riders.

Explaining the technique.

Running an excercise.

Motorbike Slalom.

Big head turns, slip clutch and drag rear brake.


Monuments, Corners, Bridges, Canyons, a Dugway and a Mexican Hat... Whew!

I think it's time for a little overnight trip. 
Words and Photos ©2014 Jim Foreman

DETAILS OF THE TRIP
Destination:  Grand Circle of a beautiful part of the US Southwest starting and ending in Flagstaff, AZ
Round-trip Mileage: 668 Miles 
Motorcycle Ridden: 2004 BMW R 1150 RT-P (Former Torrance CHP cruiser) 
Best time to go: Fall, Spring
Number of statelines crossed: 4 (AZ, UT, CO, NM) 
Fun Factor: 10+ 
Passenger Fun Factor: 10+ (Estimated)
Natural Beauty Factor: 1-10 (10 is best) 11 
Cost of a National Park Annual Pass: $80.00  
Number of times one believes they are on Mars: 3
Map Link: Google Maps.


Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is the definite start and stopping point for a run through the southwest.  The route taken could have been easily modified to include Grand Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ, Antelope Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and much more.  All of these sites are well worth the trip and should be visited.  For this trip, one overnight hotel stay was all there was time for.  The goal was to visit Monument Valley, Four Corners Monument and Canyon De Chelly.  

Monument Valley 

The first major destination was Monument Valley.  To get here from Flagstaff, take Hwy 89 north to the 160 East toward Tuba City.  From the 160, Get gas and head north on the 163 at Kayenta toward Monument Valley.  Hwy 160, between Tuba City and Kayenta, will have you wondering if you were transported to the surface of Mars.  The terrain matches the images returned from the rovers on the red planet's surface.  Monument Valley straddles the Arizona and Utah Border.  Unlike Sedona, in Monument Valley, the formations are spread apart.  It gives an eerie and awe-inspiring perspective to the beauty and how on earth these formations originated.  
Monument Valley has been used in numerous movies and television shows.  Most recently it was used in "Breaking Bad" and "Disney's The Lone Ranger." 
Monument Valley was also featured in 1968's "Easy Rider," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Back to the Future III."  Legendary director John Ford used Monument Valley as a backdrop for countless films including some John Wayne classics, "Stagecoach," "The Searchers" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon".  John Ford also directed Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp in "My Darling Clementine."  "Forrest Gump" and "National Lampoon's Vacation" also had memorable scenes shot here.
In addition to the numerous movies set here, Monument Valley is a source of profound beauty and inspiration.  Let yourself connect with nature and let it speak to you while you are here.
As you continue north on Hwy 163, turn around and you'll see the iconic stretch of road used in so many pictures and movies leading up to Monument Valley.  

Mexican Hat
Mexican Hat is a small town along the San Juan River.  Nearby is the namesake's formation which certainly looks like an upside-down sombrero.  It's worth taking the hard-packed dirt road that leads to the formation for a close-up view.  It's only two minutes out of your way and very easy.  Mexican Hat is also one of the few nearby towns one can find lodging.

Moki Dugway

From Mexican Hat, continue on the 163 Westbound until you reach the 261.  From here, you will reach the Moki DugwayTwo interesting and worthwhile trips off of the 261 are Goosenecks State Park and the Valley of the Gods Road.  Valley of the Gods Road is a dirt road.  As you approach the sheer cliff face, it's easy to wonder in amazement how you would get to the top.  Moki Dugway is mostly hard-packed dirt and gravel.  Any motorbike can easily navigate it in dry weather.  Just mind the shoulder in the straightaways, as it is often soft sand.  Each switchback offers spectacular views.  Don't put your camera away.  You'll be often stopping to take magnificent pictures.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument is really close to the end of Hwy 261.  At the T- Intersection, at the end of the road, head left or west on Hwy 95 and the indicated turn off will be about half a mile away.  If you're into camping, this is a great place to make reservations for campsites. This park consists of three natural bridges, some Native American ruins and a Pygmy Forest.  All of this is connected by a nine-mile loop of paved road with easy access parking and turnouts.  Each of the bridges has well laid out hiking trails leading up to the bases.  The longest ones are about a half hour each way with about 200m elevation changes.  A telephoto lens will come in very handy at this site.

Town of Bluff

Bluff is a historic town that offers good lodging, great food and very attractive locations and scenery.  Bluff originated as a Mormon settlement and played a key role in the expansion of the west in addition to developing relationships between less-than-friendly Native Americans.  Fort Bluff is a great place to visit and spend a few moments.  The interpreters are quite knowledgeable and friendly.  If a meal is in order, you have a couple of options.  Many of the towns and counties in Utah are dry.  This means they don't serve or sell alcohol.  Nearby Blanding is one such town.  If you're done riding for the day, and you don't mind a glass of excellent locally-brewed cold beer or wine, head to the Cottonwood Steakhouse.  The food is delicious and they feature both indoor and outdoor seating.  Near the east end of town is also the Twin Rocks Cafe.  Lodging ranges from $55 to $190 a night.  Recapture Lodge is a 'best bet' offering comfort, price, location and amenities.  Reservations are highly recommended in Bluff.

Four Corners Monument

From Bluff, head east (right) on Mission Road (Hwy 162) to get to Four Corners Monument.  At the Colorado Border, the 162 becomes Hwy 41.  Continue on until you reach Hwy 160 and head west or Right.  Admission is $5.00 per person.  Cash only.  If you don't have cash, you will need to go five miles to the town of Teec Nos Pos for an ATM.  Light food, restrooms and Native American artwork and jewelry are available.  Here you will find the surveyed marker point indicating where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah all meet.  This is the only place in the US where four states meet at one point.  This one is well worth a visit and is quite reasonable in cost.

Canyon De Chelly

From Four Corners, head south on Hwy 160 until you reach Teec Nos Pos and make a right.  Continue west on Hwy 160 until you reach Hwy 191 South.  North comes first, but you want to head south.  The road south will tease you with beautiful formations such as Point Rock and quiet and easy elevation changes.  Occasional wheelie bumps keep a rider from getting too complacent.  In the town of Chinle, look for the sign indicating Canyon De Chelly.  There is fuel, lodging and some very good restaurants.  The Visitors Center at Canyon De Chelly closes at 5pm, but one can follow the road to the north and south rim of the canyon without stopping at the Visitors Center.  If it's open, please do stop by.  There are many interesting displays and helpful rangers to offer advice and recommendations.  Campsites are also available.  Canyon De Chelly is spectacular!  It's not particularly deep, but the natural beauty, formations and colors will take your breath away.  This spot really deserves at least half to a full day to truly feel one has experienced it.  Hiking trails are abundant and each offers a unique perspective.  When you're ready to continue, ride back and southbound on Hwy 191 until you reach Interstate 40.  Then go West.

Route 66 and the Wigwam Motel Holbrook, AZ

Nearly everyone knows the line from the song "Route 66"... "Get your kicks on Route 66!"  Back in the day, Route 66 was a major east-west corridor in the US.  Many small towns were built around catering to travelers with kitschy cafes, attractions and gift shops.  Alas, with Interstate 40's construction, much of the original Route 66 towns were bypassed.   Since Interstate 40 actually utilized some of Route 66, some of the towns retain their charm and glory while others have been left to rot and crumble.  In Arizona, in particular, Route 66 is alive and well.  From east to west towns of Holbrook, Winslow, Winona, Flagstaff, Williams, Seligman, Peach Springs, Hackberry, Kingman and Oatman retain much of their charm. Other towns such as Twin Arrows, Two Guns and others are right off the interstate and can be explored, in ruin.  Two Guns, in particular, has a rich and historical past that can be easily explored and is well worth a stop. One can easily explore the Apache Death Caves.  Just bring a flashlight.  
Route 66 was featured in many movies including "Easy Rider," "Thelma and Louise" and "Little Miss Sunshine."  The 'Mother Road' was also lovingly depicted in the Pixar film, "Cars."  In the film, the fictional town of Radiator Springs borrows faithfully and re-imagines many Route 66 landmarks.  One such landmark is the 'Cozy Cone Motel' which is an inspired reproduction of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.  Yes, you can stay in a Wigwam for around $65 a night.  
Since the release of "Cars", The Wigwam has acquired many of the original cars used to create the characters in the movie.  A red Chevy tow-truck which became 'Mater, along with many other classic cars, are on display.  This is a textbook example of reality inspiring art which inspired reality.
Flagstaff, AZ

Interstate 40 is a 75MPH highway that will quickly get you where you want to go.  Be mindful that DPS Arizona Highway Patrol does aggressively monitor and issues citations for speeding so keep it below 84, if you want to avoid paying the Arizona Luxury Tax.
Flagstaff is a great town with a rich historic district and lots of dining, drinking and lodging options.  'Flag', as it's called by locals, is an ideal base to explore this rich and majestic region of the southwest.  While in Flagstaff, be sure to enjoy a meal at Granny's Closet.  Look for the statue of a lumberjack and a tractor.  The pair also makes a cameo appearance in the film "Easy Rider."  
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On the Moki Dugway

Beautiful formations near Blanding, Utah.

Looks like an alien.

Bridge over the San Juan River in Mexican Hat, Utah.

The Comb Bluff near Blanding, Utah
Utah state line from Arizona

Oft photographed southbound Hwy 163 entrance into Monument Valley

Twin Rocks Cafe and Trading Post in Bluff, Utah.

Colorado state line from Utah.

New Mexico state line near the Four Corners Monument

Rock Point, Arizona
The Lumberjack and Tractor in front of Granny's Closet in Flagstaff.  Also seen in "Easy Rider."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arrrrr! Spend ye a night at the Pirates Cove... In México!

Hey Mike... Want to run down to México with me?   ...Sure!

Words by Jim Foreman Photos by Jim Foreman and Mike Kurthy

Be careful and put your ID in a Baggie in your shoe...  AAA advice when traveling out of the country.  -Mike's FB friend Teri.

DETAILS OF THE TRIP
Destination: La Cueva del Pirata Hotel and Restaurant.  Camalú, BC, México.  
Cast: Jim Foreman (Blue BMW K 1200 RS) and Mike Kurthy (Blue H-D Deluxe)
One Way Mileage: 270 Miles  
Best time to go: Fall, Winter, Spring
What You MUST Bring: Passport or PassCard, Mexican Auto Insurance and a Great Attitude.
International Border Crossings: 2 (One Going, One Coming)  
Fun Factor: 10+ 
Passenger Fun Factor: 10+ (Estimated)
Safety Factor: 1-10 (10 is best) US - 8, México - 9.5  
Cops seen: 6 in the US, Doesn't matter in México.
Total US Dollars Spent on the Entire Trip <$120.00 ($1,500 Pesos with money left over)
Place to get good México Motorcycle Insurance: Mexican Insurance Store
Best Travel Insurance for Overland Motorcyclists: World Nomad  
Highest Speed Attained in México: 225Km/h  (You'll need to do the math.  1 mile = 1.6 kilometers)
Map Link: Google Maps
 

I already know what some of you are thinking...  Will I be kidnapped by a Drug Cartel, accosted by corrupt cops, or be forced to do untoward things to a burro?  Those who watch too much TV, instead of riding a motorcycle, are very prone to this thinking.  Especially avid watchers of the 24/7 news outlets, are prone to believe the worst about nearly any topic.  The reality is that México is quite safe and especially in Baja California and Baja California Sur.  These two states in particular have significantly lower crime and violent crime than California and most of the rest of the USA.
Well, this is a ride blog and not a political commentary.  Let's believe you have a streak of adventure, a passport, Insurance and a couple days to have an amazing time in México.
Let's get a couple details out of the way...
Things you need to bring….

    • Passport or Passcard
      • ID and Birth Certificate is NOT OK anymore.   They may let you in, but you’re going to get a secondary screening.  Then again, they may not let you back in.
    • Any Prescription Medications in its original bottle.
    • Mexican Auto/Motorcycle Insurance
    • Proper Full Protective Riding Gear
    • Knowledge of a couple Spanish phrases.
    • Excellent running motorcycle with fresh tires with at least 75% tread life.
    • Great Attitude!

DO NOT BRING….  Guns, large knives, pepper spray, Medical Marijuana and most importantly, DO NOT HAVE a superior attitude or a demeaning attitude.

 It’s very wise to bring….


    • Emergency Satellite Locater (Delorme InReachSE)
    • Travelers Insurance (WorldNomad.com)
    • Maps (Guia Roji is best.  AAA maps are a decent start and free for members)
    • Smart phone with a Spanish dictionary app.
    • GPS if you already have one, but you really don’t need it except for big cities.
    • Tire Repair Kit and inflation system.
    • Alka-Seltzer or Tums
    • Lightweight Cool and warm weather gear.
    • GoPro or similar camera. More than one is better.


Traveling down I-5 to Mexico
Once you're packed and ready to go, start early.  The mileage may seem fairly short, and it is.  Riding in Méxcio requires more attention and focus.  You'll need more breaks.  These are excellent times to drink some water.  

It is recommended that you do NOT ride in groups larger than 4 riders.  This way, similar riding skill levels can be grouped.  Also you are less disruptive to traffic and everyone can have a great time.  Simply arrange to meet at the first Pemex station in a particular town.  

If you have never ridden in México before, it may be wise to travel with someone who has, the first time.  The riding style is very different and can seem intimidating to some.  Also, be honest with yourself.  If you don't have good to very good riding skills, and can put a motorcycle exactly where you want it, it may be better to gain more skill in the US.


When riding into Tijuana, stay to the right.
The best places to gain skill in SoCal are Angeles Crest Hwy (CA-2) and surprisingly, Ortega Hwy (CA-74).  Both of these roads have a lot of what you'll encounter riding in Mexico.  Lots of high speed sweepers, occasional debris on the roadway and high speed straightaways.  Streetmasters taught by Walt Fulton is also a highly recommended course.

Take Heed... When entering into a town, you MUST slow down.  Towns throughout México have topes or speed bumps on the outskirts of town and in the town center.  This is also where you'll have any issue with the police about speed.

Let's talk speed for a moment.  On highways, there are ridiculously low speed limits posted.  These are even ignored by bicyclists.  It's the Darwinian Speed Law in México.  Only travel as fast as your personal evolution will allow.  In other words, ride at your skill level, but hold some skill in reserve for an unexpected occurrence.  If you go too fast and get into a collision.  It may be some time before help will reach you. 




Topes!  The blue building on the right is a perfect place to get pesos.
It's easiest to travel I-5 South to the border at Tijuana.  For a simple overnight, this is the best way to go.  Getting into México is usually no problem.  In México, Lane Splitting is completely legal.  You can certainly split through lanes to get ahead.  Generally stay to the right when entering México.  Most cars bunch to the left leaving the right wide open with no waiting.  
When you reach the actual crossing, slowly cross the topes and follow the directions.  In most cases you'll get a green light to proceed, but if you get a red light, just wait to be told where to pull over and expect a search of your bike.  It's typically no more than 5 minutes. 
While you're here, make an immediate U-turn to the blue SAT Building on the right.  Pay no mind to the direction arrows on the ground.  Park your bike and use this as your best opportunity to get Pesos from a bank ATM (Best Exchange Rate) and use the super clean restroom.  Also it's a great opportunity to snap your first picture in México with the enormous Méxican flag in the background.  There are federal attendants.  nearby.  If you ask nicely and smile, they will keep an eye on your bike if you are riding alone.
Great place for Pesos, Baños y Fotos.
Riding in México, you'll quickly notice that being on a big bike, You will have a lot of respect.  It's true.  despite the large numbers of cheap 150cc Chinese bikes in cities, big bikes are quite rare in México.  Only those well-to-do have them.  Most people in México, from the cops to the truck drivers, wish they were you.  Wave to them.  They think you're super cool or 'Chingón!', as they put it.  When filling up, it's common for people to ask, 'How Much is it?'.  Do NOT take offense to it.  You can answer in US Dollars or better yet convert it into Pesos.  $10,000 would be $130,000 Pesos or $130mil.  You'll also be asked how many cc's is your engine.  You may even be asked if you like the Méxican women.  
Speaking of women...  If you're a woman riding your own bike in México this will be of great interest to Méxicans.  Not in a bad way.  Simply put, it's super rare for a woman to ride a big bike in México.  Smile a lot.  You'll be fine and respected.
One thing to know is what town or city you started your day and where you're headed.  This is the most common question asked by authorities.

Once cashed up, pressure relieved and photos posted on FB, turn off Cellular Data on your phone or you will have a rude awakening when you get your mobile bill.  Head toward Ensenada using the Cuota or Toll Road.  It's not a very direct way, but pay attention to the signs and you'll be on your way.  Never mind the stench as you pass near the river.  This is the only place you'll experience it.  Also, stay out of Tijuana.  TJ has always been a magnet to those who wish to liberate naive Americans of their money.  That will never change.  Avoid it and you avoid 99% of any potential unpleasantness.  
The toll for motorcycles on the Cuota is $15Pesos.  ($1.20USD).  They will give change.  If riding in a group, save time by having one person pay for the group.
Paying at the toll booth.  It's only $15 Pesos for Motos.
On the toll road, you can experienced a beautiful run toward Rosarito and Ensenada.  This high-speed run will help you get your bearings for riding in México.  As of this writing, the road was in the process of being partially closed between Puerta Nueva (South of Rosarito) and Ensenada.  It's highly recommended that your first break be taken in Rosarito.  Just follow the exit signs and stay to the right.  You'll want to go to the tourist zones.  Here, about half-way through town but a block before a tall high-rise hotel, both on the right, is the El Nido Restaurant.  Look for street parking in front of the restaurant or just take a right at the corner.  Look for the parking lot on the left for El Nido.  There is usually an attendant who will watch your bikes.  This is an amazing steakhouse that has been there for many years.  they hand make their tortillas and you can enjoy Méxican Coke.  They do offer alcohol, but please don't drink while riding in México.  It's not that you'll be pulled over, but that you need all of your skills and experience running at 100%.  Riding with even one drink can impair that.  Drink all you want when the bikes are put away for the night.


El Nido Steakhouse looking northwest toward it.


Amazing riding on the mountain pass approaching Ensenada.
At El Nido, the food and service is excellent.  The prices are quite reasonable but still more American.  It has a wonderful ambiance and it's a great place to break.


After enjoying Lunch at El Nido, continue south but don't get back on the toll road.  Stay on the side road that parallels the toll road.  It's more interesting and just as fast.
Regardless of when they repair the toll road, you are wise to keep on this side road and follow old Mex-1 down into Ensenada.  It's a spectacular mountain road that will leave you with lots of smiles.  You'll run through part of México's wine growing region, smaller towns and away from all the Californians in too much of a rush to slow down and enjoy themselves.  In México, bikes typically pass slower vehicles like trucks.  Often they will flash their left turn signal to let you know the road ahead is clear.  Still use your best judgement.  If passing, pass and get back into your lane with haste.  Decide and act quickly or just back off and take it slow.  
One very important riding tip...  STAY AWAY FROM THE CENTER LINE IN BLIND CORNERS!  It is not uncommon to see drivers and trucks drift into the oncoming lane in a corner.  Slow down a tad and hug the right section of the roadway.  
There are some serious elevation changes and you may get a bit chilly.  You may want to put on something to keep you a bit warmer.   
Approaching Ensenada is awesome.  It's the biggest non-border town in Baja California.  It's a busy port town similar to smaller Long Beach, CA.  It's also a cruise ship port.  Saturdays and Tuesdays see a flood of cruise passengers experience Ensenada.  It's a great place to find a coffee shop, take a break and update your friends on FB.  If you leave early enough, a fun side-trip is to La Bufadora.  It's about 30Km south of Ensenada and worth a visit.  Huge signs on the road make finding it very easy.


Tuesdays and Saturdays bring Cruise passengers from Long Beach, CA
South of the Ensenada Tourist Zone is where 'Real México' begins.   This is where the desire to appear the way visiting Americans want to see México ends and authenticity begins.  Besides some easy Military checkpoints, it's a beautiful ride over mountains toward Camalú.  Camalú is about 100 miles south of Ensenada.  You will pass some agriculture areas and small villages along the way.   
A couple things worth mentioning.  Oxxo (Oh-So) stores are similar to 7-eleven stores here.  They're a great place to get water, snacks, beer (for later) and cash, if needed.  Also don't hesitate to fill up at Pemex stations.  They don't use ethanol in México.  Your engine will run cooler and your fuel mileage will increase.  It's recommended you run the red, premium (Roja), fuel in your bike.  It costs a little less than it does in the US, but not much.  A motorcycle fill up is between $200 and $250 Pesos.  Some accept credit cards, but most don't.  Also they will take US Dollars but at a posted exchange rate of between $12 and $12.50 Pesos per dollar.   
Mike and I at Pemex.  Look for the ones that sell Premium.
In México, the gasolinerias (stations) are full-serve.  Make sure the counter is set to zero before filling.  Most attendants will point it out to you.  They are usually experienced in filling motorbikes.  Don't be afraid to ask for 'poquito mas' (little more) if it's not filled to your liking.  Don't be shy about tipping the attendant a couple pesos difference if it comes to a difference of 5 pesos or less.  If the charge is $196, consider just giving $200 and saying 'Gracias!'.  Tips are not mandatory.  The attendants do typically take pride in their work.

Along the way south on Mex-1 you'll pass through a town called Colonet.  The next town of this size will be Camalú.
Once in Camalú you can relax.  You've made it.  In the middle of town will be a street light with a billboard with an arrow at the top indicating a 'Beach Two Miles'.  This is where you want to turn.  Just beyond the billboard is an Oxxo and Pemex Station if you need anything.
The road to La Cueva del Pirata is dirt, but it's hard packed dirt and gravel.  It will be no problem taking streetbikes on this road.  just keep it in second gear and use the rear for most of your braking.


Look for this billboard at the stop light in Camalú.
The building you're looking for is still under construction, the rooms are clean and comfortable and only $400 pesos ($30USD full price).  If you are looking for two or more rooms, ask for a special discount.

Please plan on eating at the restaurant.  It is awesome!  The lobster is brought in fresh and the cook is awesome!  He will make it exactly the way you want it.  It's also priced Méxican not American so you will feast and drink like kings but pay like a meal at Norm's.  

You can also ride or hike down to the beach, but it's a bit rocky.  There is a lot of privacy if you wish to be left alone.  

Two things that will make you cheer is that the restaurant has free high-speed wi-fi and there is cell service out there.  


The restaurant and main hotel building.

Bring enough Pesos because sometimes the credit card machine is not working.  You're in real México now and these things happen.  México is still very much a cash culture.  While some nicer restaurants, hotels and gas stations take credit cards, most don't.  Make sure you have Pesos on hand.  It's wise to generally keep no more than $400 Pesos in your wallet.  Keep the rest in a discreet pocket in your jacket or in your armor pocket in your pants.  This way you won't appear like a flashy rich American when you pay for goods.

The two of us thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and made a point to stay again when we return.  It was simple, but the food, drink and value made it stand out amongst other choices nearby.  

If you are traveling to Mexico with your partner, this is a great destination.  Just be mindful that it is NOT a 5-star resort.  It's a clean comfortable room on a clifftop overlooking the beach with an amazing restaurant and view. 


Sunset at La Cueva del Pirata.  Camalú, BC, México.
This place draws in many locals who want to impress their loved ones.  This is important.  Though you just rode in from SoCal, this is considered a nice place and it's good manners to act appropriately.  Don't be loud and obnoxious.  Have fun, but be respectful and you will have a great and memorable time.  It's probably a good idea to have a flashlight if you want to head down to the beach after sunset.  México is a country with overreaching rules and too many signs.  They expect you to have common sense and to take responsibility for your actions.  If you get hurt doing something unwise, don't plan on suing someone else.  It won't work.  That said, if you want to go to the beach at night, no problem.  Just be aware that if you get hurt, it may be a while before help comes.     Mike chose to nurse some Johnnie Walker he picked up in Ensenada.  This led to the only concern about safety in the entire trip.  Mike said he was sitting on the chair contemplating life.  All of a sudden he noticed a series of ten or so headlights heading toward him.  Fearing a scene playing out from the movie, "Traffic", Mike began to worry. A short time later he realized it was just some cars traveling on the main highway.  With little ambient light to mess with ones depth perception, objects did appear closer than they actually were.


The beach in the morning at La Cueva del Pirata, Camalú.
We both laughed over lobster omlettes for breakfast the following morning.  Both of our bikes were completely safe that night. 
Well rested and refreshed, we decided to hit the road and have lunch in Ensenada.  
A quick stop at the Pemex station to top off our tanks and we were off.  
In Ensenada, there is this spectacular cafe that's only a few blocks from the tourist zone, but it's really a locals restaurant.  
Cenaduria El Parian in Ensenada.

Mike Kurthy enjoying riding in México.
Military checkpoints are common in México.

The Author enjoying some sport riding in México.
Jim's GoPRO Camera Mounting System for riding in México.

Wave to truckers, cops, kids, pickups, etc.  They think you are cool!


Dining room of La Cueva del Pirata.  Complete with Pepe Aguilar playing on the projector.
Oxxo is like 7Eleven in the US.  Good place to get water, Pesos, snacks, beer.
Big Motorcycles are special in México.  You can make someones day by letting them sit on your bike for a photo.