Las Vegas to Los Cabos

   
Lover’s Beach, Cabo St. Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

I recently rode my DRZ 400 from Las Vegas down to Los Cabos, Mexico. I went through Arizona and crossed into Mexico at Sonoyta, which was completely hassle-free. I then continued south through the state of Sonora to the city of Hermosillo where I spent the first night.

This was not my first time in Hermosillo. I first stayed there during our 2007 motorcycle trip from Toronto to Buenos Aires. After Ted’s crash in the mountains west of the city, we spent about 4 days in Hermosillo so that Ted could convalesce in comfort before setting off for another 20,000 km of riding. I have a soft spot for Hermosillo because of the kindness and generosity that we encountered in this area on our previous trip, especially following Ted’s crash.

On the current trip I courted danger by riding over an hour after dark (with a tinted visor no less) just to get to Hermosillo. I wanted a hot shower, a decent meal, and a comfortable bed – all of which I knew were available in abundance in Hermosillo but not necessarily in the villages to the north. When Ted heard of my night riding his response that I had not gained any wisdom as a Neurology resident. My response is that true wisdom is knowing when a menu is just a wish-list. That may be the most profound statement I’ve ever made on this blog. Also, it takes wisdom to to be able to take one look at a town and realize that no hot showers are in the offing. Just because I have endured tough conditions on past adventures does not mean I would not chose comfort if it were available. And Mexico is a land of comfort if you know where to look.

The next day I set off for Los Mochis, where there is a Ferry to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula. After indulging in an exquisite seafood feast at El Farallon (“if you like seafood there’s no reason to eat anywhere else” according to the guidebook), I took the overnight Ferry to La Paz. Yes, I admit I paid extra for my own private cabin and slept soundly for the crossing. It was worth every penny. But I suppose a private cabin was not even necessary as the ferry was one of the nicest I had been on. I had been expecting the worst after some previous dubious crossings, such as from Aqaba, Jordan to Nuweiba, Egypt or from Aswan, Egypt to Wadi Halfa, Sudan. This was more civilized than even the crossings to Vancouver Island.


Pacific Highway No. 1, Baja California Sur, Mexico

As soon as I rode off the Ferry in Baja California I felt like I was in a different world. The rocky cliffs and desert landscape seemed so at odds with the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. I was treated to some fantastic riding along the Pacific coast highway from Todos Santos to Cabo St. Lucas. Unfortunately I fear that this area is too beautiful for it’s own good. Scores of new resorts are being built and the fun little twisty two lane highway is being replaced by a twinned superhighway. Construction has already started from both ends. I hope that development doesn’t destroy the isolated beauty of the area known as the Marlin capital of the world.

I left my motorcycle in the care of the Finisterra resort where I relaxed for 4 days at the end of my trip before flying back to Calgary. I look forward to the second stage of my trip which will take me the length of the Baja peninsula and up the west coast of California. My plan is to ride from Los Cabos to San Francisco in February.


Finisterra resort, Cabo St. Lucas, Mexico. I would often see gray whales going by from the pool.

On this trip I used Spot Satellite technology to track my progress using GPS coordinates. You can view my route on an interactive google map.

Mexico Motorcycle Trip


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A Tour of Southern Africa

The last adventure was a KLR tour of Southern Africa by Jerry, Ted, and myself in May and June 2010. Since then we have all started various residency programs and, alas, we now have limited time for motorcycle adventures. Nonetheless, I do hope to ride my DRZ from Calgary to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, albeit not all on one trip. More on that later.

I thought I would post a quick update on what may prove to be our last adventure for some time. We rode from Jo-burg down to the Transkei (Wild Coast of South Africa) and then along the Indian Ocean to Vilanculos, Mozambique before cutting inland through Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls. We then cut across Botswana and Namibia before heading south along the west coast of South Africa to the Western Cape. Our final leg of the journey was along the garden route to Port Elizabeth for a World Cup match and then back to Jo-burg.

I didn’t post any trip updates en-route for a couple of reasons. One: fast internet connections were few and far between, and two: we covered 10,000 km in only about 3 weeks of actual riding. For Tom, Sam, or Peter this would have been taking it easy. However for those of us that like to dawdle, this turned into hard work, especially since we of course dawdled for the first week and a half anyway, putting added pressure on ourselves to finish our planned route in time. We were partly motivated by the fact that we had FIFA World Cup tickets to a match all the way down in Port Elizabeth on June 12, two days before we had to be back in Johannesburg for our return flights to Canada.

 
View of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa from our B&B run by “The Cake Lady”. We watched South Korea defeat Greece 2-0 from the second row.

The trip started with an unfortunate event. Our good friend Andre, who had been working hard on repairing our KLRS, which we had left in his care in Johannesburg at the end of the last adventure, had a health scare just as we were about to leave for South Africa. Naturally we were concerned for him. It was good to see him again, but we would have all preferred that the reunion take place on a motorcycle ride rather than a hospital room. Luckily he made a fantastic recovery. Within a few days, and against medical advice, Andre was back in his shop reassembling our bikes with our “help”. (He only kicked us out of the shop for the head assembly to his credit). I just hope that it wasn’t the silicone he found in Jerry’s engine or the spark plug washers from Jerry’s Egyptian clutch job that finally pushed him over the edge during one of his all-night assaults on Jerry’s bike.

 
Andre and one of his friends supervise as Jerry installs new tires during one of the late night sessions in Andre’s shop. Andre would let us do a lot of the monkey work, but even then his trust in us was misplaced at times. Jerry managed to pump his brake line full of air and I personally managed to puncture 3 tubes trying to install my tires. The tire irons were too big of course, but it was still embarassing.

Andre also generously lent Ted one of his KLRs. This was an amazing gesture, and I only hope that we can show our appreciation by providing Andre with one of our bikes if (and hopefully when) he comes to Canada for a ride up to the arctic circle to see the Northern lights. We were lucky, under the circumstances, to be on the road just two weeks after landing in Jo-burg. Unfortunately, Andre was not able to join us for part of the trip as we had initially hoped. This left us only 3 weeks to cover our planned route of 10,000 km. Not a problem, right?

Trip Highlights (Chronological Order)

1. The dirt tracks along the western border of Lesotho.
 
 
 

2. The mountains bordering Lesotho

 

3 The goat trails of the Transkei
 
 
 
 

4. The beaches and seafood of Mozambique
 

5. Mist shrouded mountains of Zimbabwe
 

6. Victoria Falls
 

7. Botswana wildlife
 

8. Vast expanses of the Namibian Kalahari
 
 

9. Fish River Canyon
 

10. Winelands of the Western Cape
 

11. Schwartzberg pass
 

12. World Cup Match

The Next Adventure

A lot has happened since my last post, which I wrote in an internet cafe in Butte, Montana while waiting to hear about the nature of my DRZ`s mechanical woes. Happily I have long since made it back to Toronto from Montana (although my bike took much longer). I have also have finished medical school, planned a second trip to Africa, and have matched to Calgary for residency (Yay!).

The next adventure begins in a matter of days. I will be leaving for Johannesburg, South Africa on May 5, 2010 along with fellow team CanUK members Ted and Jerry. We plan a tour of Southern Africa. Both Jerry and I left our KLRs in the care of Andre in Jo-burg who has been feverishly working on getting them adventure ready for our arrival. Both Jerry and I have decided to install Schnitz Racing 685 cc big bore kits. Both bikes were burning a significant amount of oil by the end of the last trip, so hopefully this will solve that problem. Plus of course there is the added bonus of some extra horsepower, and who wouldn’t want that?

The other member of team CanUK, Tom Smith, has beat us all back to adventure having been riding around Southern Africa and South America for nearly 3 months now. Reading his blog and looking at his photos has certainly wet my appetite for my own upccoming trip.


Tom’s bike recently rose rom the ashes of a seized engine and has been rechristened “The Phoenix”. Tom took the above photo of the Phoenix in the othewordly Bolivian Altiplano. It certainly brings back memories from when Ted and I crossed Bolivia on our Americas trip in 2007.

For the upcoming trip, we plan on doing a circuit through Sub-Saharan Africa that includes South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland. We will be gone for just over 5 weeks, which seems way too short but with residency starting on July 1 there really wasn’t much choice. As it is we will miss our convocation ceremony in June. There is also the small matter of moving from Toronto to Calgary. My plan is to ride my DRZ 400 out to Calgary once I get back from Africa. 

When I last left off on this blog, I was in Montana awaiting word on what was causing my mechanical problems. It turned out that the impact of the chain popping off and lodging in the front sprocket sheared all the teeth off of 5th gear. There was metal everywhere inside but they flushed it out and I tried to limp back to Toronto with only 4 gears. I ended up ordering a smaller rear sprocket that I installed in a parking lot in Rapid City, South Dakota. This changed the gearing enough that I could ride at highway speed in 4th without revving the crap out of the poor ol’ engine.

 
Installing a rear sprocket in Rapid City, South Dakota.

This strategy worked until I was almost home. It was just after midnight and I was on the 401 just outside of Chatham, Ontario, when I lost power and coasted to a stop. The engine would not turn over. I had to get the bike towed into town where I spent the night in a hotel. The next morning, the folks at Bob’s Motorsports broke the bad news: my engine had seized. I guess all that metal floating around in there and revving it in 4th gear for thousands of kilometres was just too much. I had to leave my bike at Bobs and take the train home. Eventually I found a replacement motor on ebay from a 2007 bike. I ended up packing the engine on the train with me to deliver it to Bobs. I went back to ride the bike home about a week later. I am happy to report that the new engine purrs like a kitten and the bike has never run better.

I am glad I was able to salvage most of the ride back without 5th gear. Yellowstone park was a highlight of the trip, as was riding through the open range in Wyoming. The badlands in South Dakota were also cool.

 
Above: I was treated to a herd of bison crossing the road at sunset, with geysers in the background, at Yellowstone.

 
I took a ride down the incredibly scenic, but oddly named, Crazy Woman Canyon Road in the Bighorn mountains in Wyoming.

 
The badlands of South Dakota. I felt like I had ridden onto the set of an old Western.

More photos of my jaunt across the USA.

PS – After much planning (some of which I was involved with such as the always fun route planning sessions at Cafe Volo), fellow KLR adventurer Adam Tworkowski has recently set off on a solo adventure from here to Argentina. I wish him luck and adventure. Happy trails Adam! You can follow his progress on his blog .