South To Baja California
With a few friends who came to see me off standing in the street and waiving goodbye, I started up the engine and was on my way. The first few miles were a combination of excitement and mentally running through check lists. Did I remember everything? What about this and that? Of course I forgot the papers of Essential Spanish I had printed out! I should have started seriously learning Spanish a year ago. I’ve met people who’ve done similar travel through central and South America and didn’t know any and they survived. I know a few basics. I spent the past few months using the free language app, DuoLingo to help me prepare.
It was a quick ride down to San Diego and after running a few errands I was ready to cross my first border. It was a simple process to get my tourist visa and 20 minutes later I was traveling through Mexico. I had crossed the Tijuana border many times so I knew my way south. Mexico has their own Highway 1 that runs north to south so I just followed that. I rode to Ensenada where I stopped at a Telcel store to get a SIM card for my phone and get Pesos from the bank.
Once I passed Ensenada I was in new territory for me. The highway leaves the coast and soon I was riding along twisting mountain passes and then into a valley known for its vineyards. The sun was about to set so I stopped for the night in the very small town of Santo Tomas.
Unless there was a town nearby that I missed, it consisted of a couple houses, a campground, and a hotel. Not many options so I stayed at El Palomar Hotel, a well known spot for dual sport riders. I figured there would be at least one other person staying there but the place was empty. The windows and doors of the hotel (and most every other place in Baja) are covered in stickers from motocross and baja rally teams from decades ago. There’s a large restaurant there with the ceiling covered with hanging beer cans. A woman came from kitchen and brought me the menu and a bowl of tortilla chips that could have fed a family of 8. I had a quiet dinner with myself and a cat that was meowing by the door. The night before I had only slept for 3 hours, so while I planned on writing a blog, I fell asleep after writing one sentence.