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900 MILES SOUTH OF THE MEXICAN BORDER

It was a lonely yet beautiful ride as the warm winter sunshine beat down upon our faces.

By Scooter Tramp Scotty
6/24/2014


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(The second story in a series of three)
 
Memory does not always serve me well, but I believe that the year was 2008, or was it 09? 

Michelle had been living from only the back of her $700 motorcycle for five consecutive years and her heavily loaded bike now brought up the rear as my just as heavily burdened Electra Glide beat its fateful rhythm against the warn pavement of this small Mexican highway. Highway 1 was neither crowded nor was it deserted and we saw few vehicles for many a mile. It was a lonely yet beautiful ride as the warm winter sunshine beat down upon our faces.

Baja is mostly a barren desert peppered with strange cactus that often grows to enormous heights. In some places 20 foot saguaro cactus (like in the Roadrunner cartoons) grows across the land and beaches only to eventually end at the shoreline where the Sea of Cortez meets the meets land. 

Behind was the town of Loreto and many others we’d recently visited, while ahead lay La Paz; the largest city in Baja. Houses became more abundant as we rode the coastline until eventually the city came into view. Hugging the coastline, I followed the road that led along the malekon (Spanish word meaning coastal road through town) as it brought us past the boat harbor at left, then into the tourist section with its quaint coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants at right, while sandy beaches owned the street’s left side. From past experience I knew that the large city kept most of its tourists at the beach front while it quickly became a truly Mexican city farther in.

The first order of business was accommodations (namely a place to make camp) so I continued through the city and farther into the less congested desert at its far side. Before long we found a grove of small trees surrounded on all sides by low hills that offered complete privacy. Although it was tricky to get the bikes in and out, the place was ours alone. I deemed it home.

The rest of that evening was spent swilling coffee at the sidewalk tables of a downtown café and talking with so many people who frequented the malekon area. The following day a trip was made to the boat harbor where we did laundry and purchased showers for a small fee. Many of the people there were Americans or Canadians who lived on boats. Although some were wealthy, others had very little money at all. It was pretty cool.
 
Horhay on the left - President of the Baja Bikers Motorcycle Club
Horhay on the left - President of the Baja Bikers Motorcycle Club

 

Over the next week we settled in around town. Baja boasts four major motorcycle clubs and we began to meet these guys. The largest is the Baja Bikers; many of whom we already knew from our dealings with them back in Loreto and the party at the Del Borracho Saloon. 
 
La Paz - another biker club
La Paz - another biker club

 

Baja is a long and relatively narrow peninsula with only the small two lane highway-1 that spans the 1,050 miles from the US border to its end where the town of Cabo San Lucas rests along the southern coast of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Baja Bikers live in the high dollar tourist town of Cabo. For them, geography leaves little riding choice except to cruse up hwy-1…then back down. That’s why we’d seen so much of them on the ride south. La Paz was no exception. Whenever we encountered these guys they’d always drag us along to whatever bar or event they were attending. 
 
Barbara, La Paz rider and boat dweller
Barbara, La Paz rider and boat dweller

 

One night as we followed, I was informed that we would soon be attending the wedding of one of their members. The lot was dark as we parked among the many motorcycles with our MC amigos then strolled inside of what I’m not even sure was a church. The entire club was in attendance. The minister was a woman and, to my surprise, the bride had no idea that she was getting married. But it seemed that the couple had already been together for six year and even had children. I watched the alligator tears of great joy flow from the bride’s eyes as the ceremony was performed. Afterwards the groom’s “brothers” hit him in the face with a pie.  I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
 
The days passed.  Michelle and I had originally planned to spend a month or so in Baja before riding one of the huge cargo ships across the Sea of Cortez, unload our bikes at the far shore, cross the Mexican mainland, then reenter the U.S. at Texas. The problem was money; for every time I ride one of these huge Mexican ships they’ve raised the price once again. It was now $150 per bike and passenger. Michelle was dangerously low on funds and I was certainly not feeling rich either. For the time being we simply chose not to think about it.
 
Michelle on Barbara's boat
Michelle on Barbara's boat


It was while on a Sunday ride with one of the other clubs that we met a very interesting American woman. At the age of 60, and without much prior thought, Barbara had loaded her Softail into the bed of her truck then simply driven into Mexico. After a hurricane, when boats have been grounded or left derelict, it’s legal to take possession of them and that’s what Barbara had done. The ”Inertia” was engineless and docked in one of the slips at the harbor. She and Michelle hit it off right away and it was only a matter of days before Michelle went to live aboard Barbara’s boat for a while. This seemed a great adventure for her.

In Michelle’s absence I decided to visit Cabo San Lucas. This short ride stretched into two days as I took time to enjoy the road, its sights, and its people.

I’d been to Cabo many times and upon arrival stopped to visit an old buddy. A retired American Dyna Glide rider and member of the Baja Bikers, Doug offered use of the bamboo “Jungle Room” that sits atop his garage. I accepted his generous offer. The small communities of retirees who choose to winter in this place throw parties all the time and everyday we attended at least one.
 
Baja Bikers
Baja Bikers


It was night again… The Hard Rock Café stands two stories high at its place beside the main drag downtown. Music flowed from various bars to wash over the heavy foot and auto traffic that filled the small streets on this warm winter night. I was alone and soon parked the old FL among the line of club bikes sitting at curbside. A crowd of 20 or so Baja Bikers milled around the sidewalk talking shit while their president, Horhay spoke with reps of the nearby Red Cross truck.
 
The older Evo Softail was easily recognizable from a ride I’d previously made to the very tip of southern Mexico. Its young owner lived in Cancun, spoke fluent English, and had been a good friend back then. Oscar spotted me from the crowd and moved to make re-acquaintance. His grin was infectious. After the reunion we moved off to explore the Hard Rock together. Once returned to the street, Oscar informed me that this was a charity event. He said that some of the guys would stand in traffic to raise money for the Red Cross. I volunteered right away. “Okay then. You can work with me,” Oscar grinned.

Red Cross workers gave us each an orange vest, a book of little stickers with a cross on every one, and a small plastic jug with money slot and a lid that—in true Mexican style—had been zip tied to keep volunteers out of the cash. So I stood at a stoplight beside Oscar as we solicited donations from each car. When someone gave, we put a little sticker on their windshield. Some of the drivers had already acquired quite a collection. It was great fun and Oscar laughed when I said that I was probably the only gringo in Mexico standing in the street begging for Red Cross money.
 
Ship to the mainland
Ship to the mainland

 

Later, when the club had settled into another bar for beer and conversation, I sat talking with their president. In his poor English Horhay told me that in two weeks the club would be riding aboard a ship bound for the mainland to attend the Mazatlan Motorcycle Rally. He invited us to accompany them. I told him of our plans for shipping to the mainland. Our problem was the cost. Horhay informed me that some of his members were influential men and the club’s passage would be half price. He’d do the same for us if I cared to show up at the Cobo ferry station day after tomorrow. I was elated. Two days later Horhay handed me our reduced price tickets and I realized with some excitement that we’d be making the six hour ride across the Sea of Cortez aboard a huge ship and with a Mexican motorcycle club! 
 
Cargo hold on the ship
Cargo hold on the ship

 

The following day I returned to La Paz.  The day of departure arrived. On vacation now, the Baja Bikers were in high spirits. As the 14 motorcycles traversed the ship’s rear gangplank I noted how small the semi trucks already loaded aboard this enormous metal monster looked. The ramps that lead deep into the beast’s belly resembled any other huge multi level parking structure. With the bikes secured into place, everyone ambled to the upper passenger decks. High spirits and laughter among the Mexican riders was infectious and I felt fortunate to be in their company.
 
Bikes in cargo hold
Bikes in cargo hold

 

Over the years my old FL had been tied into the cargo holds of far more ships than I can remember. But each is so different, so intriguing, that again I took time for exploration. Last time I’d crossed this stretch of water it had been aboard a beat up freighter that had never been meant to carry passengers. That thing had bad stabilizers that allowed it to rock dramatically from side to side for the entire voyage as oily smoke from the leaky exhaust stack seeped heavily into the makeshift passenger lounge. But in contrast, this ship afforded all the amenities of any American passenger/vehicle carrier.
 
Top deck of ship
Top deck of ship

 

Afternoon faded to night as we hung on deck, in the bar, or lounge, to enjoy the voyage. It was 1:00 am as I watched the shoreline of Topolobampo begin to swell in the distance that lay beyond the bow and far across the inky black water. 
 
Ships bar
Ships bar

 

Excitement was at the boiling point as everyone unshackled their motorcycles then road up the ramp and onto the Mexican mainland. Pretty soon we all pulled into a wide open beachside parking lot. Mexican culture is uncommonly nocturnal and even at this time of night the lot bristled with lovers and partygoers. Harleys are not so common in this country and the startling appearance of so many caused quite a spectacle. It brought back memories of times past when our motorcycles were not yet common in the US. As the Baja Bikers basked in the celebrity-hood of so many female eyes cast keenly in their direction, Michelle, myself, and a few others stood at a taco stand stuffing our faces.
 
Ships lounge
Ships lounge

 
Topolobampo seen from the ships bow
Topolobampo seen from the ships bow

 

Eventually the riders mounted up as Michelle and I watched from the distance. “They’re taking off. We’d better get ready.”

“Let them go,” I told her. “This is where we part ways.” The club would stay in a hotel. Tomorrow they’d hit the toll roads for the 200 mile ride south and ultimately into Mazatlan. This road would cost each rider an additional $30, $60 for Michelle and me. It wasn’t gonna happen. The Baja Bikers were on vacation with plenty of pesos saved up. We were not. 

After the last bike had gone we moved off into the desert to make camp.
 
Part three to come soon.
 
 

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Back to Real-Life Gypsy Stories with Scooter Tramp Scotty, Two Wheeled Tales




Reader Comments


Enjoy following this guy's travels. He writes well and reminds us all that we can really break away. I have done it for short periods , like a few months but always wanted a bit more money. Keep the articles coming.

ed hardison
corolla, NC
Friday, June 27, 2014
Editor Response Scotty is an amazing individual, resourceful, and can't be tied down.
--Bandit
Nothing promoting Mexico or Mexicans or Mexican affiliated bike orgs until they release Marine Cpl Tahmoreesi. One of the clowns in the pictures is sporting a Federales style shield patch.

What on earth does Mexico offer us? If you want to meet, hang with, or date a Mexican, we have 12 million+ on our side of the border. Mexican culture... LA, San Diego or hundreds of communities in the US have barrios etc. Scenery....come on!

Look at a picture. Mexico is not our friend. Piss on them and their B.S. fascist government. I know, ours ain't exactly the poster child for democracy, but at least it's ours.

James Williamson
Minot, ND
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Editor Response Thanks for this!
--Bandit

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