Baja California, Mexico is a dream place with beautiful scenery, fun roads and legendary places. This trip to Baja was to explore more places and make the journey to Coco’s Corner. Places in Baja have mystical names: Mikes Sky Ranch, Coco’s Corner, Mama Espinosa’s and many more.
This was my third trip to Baja. Again, traveling with Alan Hirst and Greg Brenneman. This trip was planned for 5 days. The trip would enter Baja at Tecate, travel Mexico 3 to Ensenada, then Mexico 1 south to Bahia de Los Angeles then back tracking to Mexico 5 north to San Felipe and back to the USA through Mexicali then home.
Meeting at the border at Tecate is the most convenient and easy border crossing. Traveling as if going to San Diego (interstate 8) from Arizona, the Tecate crossing is off the CA 94 south exit from i-8. CA 94 offers some nice twisty sections but also maintains a healthy number of California Highway Patrol.
The Tecate crossing is the simplest crossing into Baja. It is only 2 lanes in each direction. The California side is primitive with a number of money exchange and Mexico insurance places. The most important place is the gas station with the little mini-mart. Get your last tank of US gas.
Alan has been traveling to Baja for 20+ years and knows all the routines for crossing the border. Baja requires a visa which is extremely simple to acquire (more travel information in part 2). A Mexican government website helps you fill out the form before you arrives. After a short stop you proceed south though the town of Tecate. Endless taco stands, fruit stands and businesses line the road. As you exit the town you see signs for the Ruta De Vino (Winenery Route).
The road rolls through the mountains, through endless wineries.You can stop and visit the wineries. There are restaurants at a few of them. The scenery is beautiful. As you progress west the temperature starts to drop. You are heading toward the Pacific Ocean. Ensenada comes in about 3 hours.
Ensenada is a busy town. Most famous fo the start of the Baja 1000 off road race. The town is bustling with stores, all the fast food places you would see in the US and all variety of hotels. There is a main seaport there. Ensenada sees a lot of truck traffic from all over Baja. The roads are busy with traffic. We overnight in Baja to avoid riding the highways at night. There is an abundance of decent rooms for 35-50$US.
Day 2 starts early. We roll south through Ensenada stopping at the the traditional town signs created for Baja cities, a large set of colorful letters spelling out the city name, along the ocean. These locations are popular stops for all people, Mexicans included. Don’t hesitate to wave your phone at people at the signs, they are glad to help you take a picture. El President of the AZRATPack, Victor always talks about the Fender Guitar factory in Ensenada. It happens to be right off our route south. We decide to see if we can find it. After a little searching we easily found it. It was a nice facility and they offered tours. Workers and people outside were happy to welcome us in for a tour. We are saving the tour for another occasion. We found it !!
Our next stop was the Bufadora (the blow hole). This quirky tourist stop along the ocean was good for a food stop. Being a tourist trap the food was expensive. My fish was good but I dont think the guys liked their burgers. The Bufadora has a street that goes to a parking lot at the bottom of the hill. Many street hawkers would have you park at the top and walk down. We ride down. The 3 city blocks from the top to the bottom are lined with vendors selling all variety of wares. It is definitely a fleas market in over-drive. One vendor selling sandals said he guaranteed his sandals “could take you to New York City without wearing out”, that’s why I have a motorcycle.
We are now heading south to San Quintin (pronounced San Ca-teen, no like San Quintin CA where there is a famous prison LOL), our stop for the day. South of the Bufadora the Wine Route ends abruptly, and you even notice a change in temperature. The road now travels through large expanses of farms and greenhouses. The road has a lot of traffic, buses taking people to work and home. All traffic travels on the main highway. The roads are busy, kinda unpleasant. Wow, this stretch seems gritty and smokey with car fumes. We arrive at our stop for the day. The Mission Hotel right along the beach. What a blessing!!.
Mission Hotels look like Spanish missions and have restaurants and beautiful facilities. This is a great stop and short walk outside the hotel you are on the beach, just beautiful. Dinner was great, along with a Pina Colada…
Day 3 – South to Bahia de Los Angeles.
We leave early in the morning heading south. The road is very entertaining with a variety of long sweepers and crossing over a variety of mountains. Road conditions are good and 65-70 mph is easy on these roads. The road twists and turns for over an hour or so. Crossing over the top of a hill and a steep grade down you enter El Rosario. El Rosario is home of Momma Espinosas restaurant. This place for 20+ years was the first checkpoint on the Baja 1000 race. The restaurant serves food and the building is loaded with Baja 1000 history, pictures of all the famous racers. Of course we see a chance to place a GOAZ and AZRATPack sticker on the signs. What Baja racing and the ALIEN tour? What is the world coming to?
Breakfast and a gas stop and we are rolling again. We will cross from the west to the east side of Baja to reach Bahia de Los Angeles. On the road in the middle of NO WHERE we run into another Mission Hotel. It is in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE. The scenery here is beautiful, beautiful with all the huge cactus blooming. The scenery through is is like no other place. It’s a sort of dense cactus forest. There is a shell of a gas station here but NO GAS. There are people sitting on the side of the road with 50 gallon drums of gas. I dont need gas the 4.2 gallons in my bike seems to get me where I need to go (of course riding to totally empty :-)).
As you ride you see the shadows changing on the mountains and these huge cactus plants reaching for the sky. Trying to spot the tallest becomes a challenge. We reach the fork in the road for Bahia de Los Angeles. There is a primitive tire repair service along the road, nothing else for 20 miles minimum in each direction. We work our way over a mountain for 40 miles then we crest the top to see a spectacular panorama shot of the Bahia de Los Angeles. You feel yourself looking constantly at the scenery, it’s beautiful. The whole climate has changed. It has heated up considerably and the air is much much drier.
We head down into town. The town is small but there are a number of fishing village compounds and hotels. The main town is about 6 blocks long with small restaurants and hotels. Fishing is the big thing here when the races aren’t coming through. We end up staying along the water and are treated to the beautiful scenery and fishing boats coming and going. This town got constant power about 6 years ago. Prior to that diesel generators ran everything. Food was good and the accommodations were very comfortable.
In Bahia del Los Angeles sunsets are behind you as you look at at the Gulf of Baja California (facing east). The next morning treated us to a beautiful sunrise, with a dose of clouds. We are as far south as we can go on this trip with the time allotted. We chose to not push everyday so hard that we would not have time to see things. Dinner at the hotel along the ocean was nice. We ate breakfast in town and decided to get on the road around 10ish.
End of Part 1
The trip to this point has been GREAT ! The scenery is beautiful and the roads wind through the ever changing environment. For me Baja feels kinda mystical. It’s just simple without the clutter of cities (American cities) and is simply beautiful, fascinating and rugged. We have not left the pavement for any part of the trip so far.
The trip from Bahia de Los Angeles to Cocos Corner and San Felipe will be in Part 2 in next months newsletter. The next part will also talk about driving in Mexico and some of things you need to be aware of. Please enjoy the Flickr pictures from the trip. If you have questions contact ElChinoLoco at ElChinoLoco@live.com