Thursday, July 6, 2017

Farm Fun and Associated "Recipe"

When the calfs are fed, dinner plates cleared, and the Alpenglow* shines on the mountains, what's a farm girl to do?**


Ride around the pasture, that's what!
Flutists always wear full face helmets, even if they are not quite as stylish on this particular motorcycle.


There's no need to rush home before dark when home and riding ground are one in the sameWhy not have a cool drink and enjoy the sunset, instead? It's easy to push the bike through the gate and into the shop.  The safety of my  summer "tiny house" is only a little footbridge away.

PBR: The choice of farmhands everywhere?  Certain activities DO pair well with certain drinks.


Recipe: Stroll over to the garden, and select the vegetable most in need of harvesting (in my case, kale).  Chop it into rather small pieces and saute/blanch/cook as appropriate.  Toss your result in olive oil, garlic, and chile flakes. Maybe add a touch of mashed anchovy (just enough to make one wonder), or a squeeze of lemon, or both.   Take a slice or two of day old baguette, and fry it in butter or oil - both sides! - until golden. Voila! You have a big, crispy crouton.  Top that crouton with your vegetable, a fried farm fresh egg (thanks, neighbors!), and a bit of cheese.  In the case of kale, might I recommend the Desert Red Feta?   Of course, if it's a lovely spring leek you have returned with, don't be ridiculous. Saute it in butter, toss in a splash of that lovely Alpine white*** you've recently become enamored with, and finish with a generous spoonful of the fresh cream you've skimmed from yesterday evening's milking.  Oh, and do trade the Desert Red Feta for some Wasatch Mountain Reserve.   Pop a dried date and a slice of Zwitser Gouda Reserve in your mouth for dessert.  Of course, if there are fresh market cherries in the house, have a few with the Farmhouse Gouda, instead.

* Technically, it's not actually Alpenglow, but the warm low light on the moutainsides is beautiful enough to deserve a romantic name.
**Let us, today, look beyond the obvious answer of "practice her flute."
***Yes, you CAN drink white wine with cheese. Alpine wine with alpine cheese: if it grows together, it goes together.  (I found the 2016 Les Rocailles Apremont Vin de Savoie at our little wine shop, and it's been my go-to drink with cheese all summer.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Baja: One Taco at a Time


Days One and Two: Tucson to Ensenada 
I really didn’t think I’d actually be in Baja today, but here we are, climbing slowly, slowly up the switchbacks that comprise the Rumarosa Grade.  Only yesterday, as I rode away from home, I tried to muster up a little self-doubt, to imagine a suspect engine noise or two, but I could not. I was as steady and even as Li’l Burro himself, no different than if I was just heading for a short jaunt over Gates Pass.

But like three slowly blinking GPS arrows set on a collision course, Adrian, Pilot Guy*, and I all pointed ourselves towards Calexico, CA, and met with our toes touching the international border.  When I crossed into Mexico earlier this morning, the reality of my actual destination became suddenly present. I was so surprised at it, to tell the truth, that I nearly allowed myself to be squashed by a bus while simultaneously negotiating a traffic circle and deciding that Mexicali is a bit nicer than Calexico, if only because it lacks a Wal-Mart. Turns out I was wrong on that point.  But at least I was able to dodge the bus.

Even before leaving, I find a challenge. My new-to-me-hand-me-down-camera doesn’t have live view, and I can’t quite see through the viewfinder when I’m wearing my helmet.  My pervasive photographic theme for the trip will be… “guess.”


Even though the Rumarosa Grade is a toll highway, it’s as fine as a twisty mountain pass as you’d ever want to see.  Li’l Burro and his 225cc engine, laden with bags, mount the hill slowly, though, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I had forgotten what it feels like to corner on aggressively knobby tires.**  I’m going to have to get used to this. And so is Li’l Burro.  Before we even finish celebrating our ascent with a war cry of “Clippity Clop!,” we ride smack into a cloud of bees.  Adrian and I pull over and take our helmets off in record time. I’m stung at least twice, Adrian once or twice as well.***  I’ll take it as a good sign: it’s our token injury for the trip, and we’ve gotten it out of the way.  Now all we need is a sacrificial-yet-inconsequential mechanical mishap to protect us completely. 

Rumarosa Grade Viewpoint


It’s strange to be on the frontera, a place that has been so much in the national eye of late. I consider the stretches of wall, built following the contours of the steep hills in the area.  It all seems just a bit ridiculous to my eye.  But when we turn south onto MX-3, there's much to distract.  The northernmost section meanders in and around steep hillsides covered with big splashes of fragrant yellow wildflowers.  But now I notice something else. We are, without question, in wine country. Wine country? Wine country!  Count this as “Baja: Who Knew?” Moment Number One.  There are row upon row of grapes growing along the road, and olives, too.  Turns out, Baja is Mexico’s primary wine making region, and this portion of MX-3 is designated as “La Ruta del Vino.****” Judging by the Santo Tomas Tempranillo I would have later that night, I’d say it churns out some good drink.  And won’t I be surprised to find the area featured in the New York Times only a few days after my return.

Ensenada is fish taco ground zero, and I’ve got some intel on where to find the best. We are not disappointed.

"Is there a bit of mustard in the batter?" Adrian asked. I think he's spot on.

Our fine and happy hosts.

Freshly made to order. It makes a difference.


We're back at our hotel in time for the sunset. A sea lion appears. The tide rushes in, reminding me of the dramatic bore tides of Alaska. A moth feeds like a hummingbird in the petunias. It is, in a word, lovely.

 


A sphinx moth, I think. In any case, in the low light, catching a photo of this flittering fluttering darting wonder is quite a trick!

Day Three: Ensenada to Cataviña
The next morning my prayers are answered. Adrian’s disc lock is spontaneous shrieking, and the gas cap to my new Clarke fuel tank is cracking.  Sacrificial-yet-inconsequential mechanical mishap? Check! We’re good for the trip.

Hm. Gonna have to keep an eye on this. (Clarke has a new one, on the way. Thank you, warranty!)

Zena lock repair session. The Allegra is for my bee stung face, which, in a few days time will be so swollen that my left eye will consider taking the day off. As far as the lock goes,  little tape, a little plastic stolen from unrelated packaging... voila!


We’d opted for deluxe accommodations last night, and all deluxe accommodations offer over-priced under-tasty Sunday buffets. But it’s the simplest option today, so I grumble inwardly and shell out the pesos.  I am the sort that insists on breakfast food for my first meal of the day, no matter what time of day it happens to be.  I’m sure I could have fulfilled the prophesy of $30 bad French toast, but somehow… my mind opens. I hop from station to station considering my options. I take a taco, with its warm corn tortilla patted and grilled before my eyes and intriguing fish and octopus filling, a little bowl of puerco colorado, a bit of fresh fruit.  And for the first time in my life, in “Baja: Who Knew?” Moment Number Two, I am weak in the knees and nearly weeping over a hotel buffet brunch.  The flat crispy buñuelo, with its delightfully gritty cinnamon sugar adornment is just as good, as are the syrupy sweet potatoes.  I always knew sweet potatoes belonged on the dessert table, and, finally, I found someone who agreed.  I text Pilot Guy: “We. Are. Flying. Here. For. Brunch.”  I still get teary eyes at the thought of it.

Tummies full and palates rejoicing, Adrian and I ride south.  The little towns fall away behind us. The briny ocean scent wafts into one side of my helmet, a flowery fragrance into the other. The yellow wild flowers give way to a tightly woven brilliant red and white carpet that stretches all the way to the sea.  It’s a beautiful thing, this ride.  A beautiful thing.

I'm too mesmerized to stop for photos, but on another day, I'll grab a few under-representations.





As we approach El Valle de los Cirios, the road turns inland, narrows, and twists tightly left and right, up and down. No one ever describes Baja, epicenter of off-road racing, as spectacular asphalt sport touring territory, but so far, it has been exactly that.  Who knew, Baja, who knew? But Li'l Burro hesitates.

"What is it, friend?" I inquire.

"My heart will explode if I run up these steep hills, carrying all these things!" he cries. "And if I run down, how will I ever stop in time? My hooves are not made to grip this hard surface, and all this leaning to and fro addles my brain.  The wind is blowing me this way and that, and I can't see the road ahead of me, it twists so tightly.  There are great beasts lurking around every corner. Why, I counted as many as 18 wheels on some of them!  Why rush, only to brake hard just a few meters later? Besides, there is much to look at in the valley."

While the Ducati generally has a different philosophy, Li’l Burro is right on that point. The cardon cactuses seem to dwarf even our aptly named Carnegiea gigantea, and they branch and flower more enthusiastically. The bizarre stick-like Boojum trees are just as tall, and the familiar ocotillos grow twice as high as those at home. Conversely, there are trees that resemble giant cottonwoods, except they are a tenth the size.

"Don't fret, my friend," I say. "You shall see."

I let Li'l Burro climb the steep hills at a modest trot, downshifting whenever he asks.  I allow him to nose around corners and over the crest of hills cautiously, giving his tiny brakes ample time to stop, should something unexpected in his path frighten him.  I even give ourselves a moment or two here and there to admire the strangeness all around.

"Good boy," I say when we reach easier terrain. "See?"  A day or two later, when we reach the wider, flatter curves outside Loreto, I catch him leaning a bit this way and that.

"If it's not too steep, and if I can see further ahead, and if we're going a bit downhill - not too much, mind you - perhaps, just perhaps... well, I can see why another motorcycle might think this fun," he says with a twinkle in his headlamp.  


It pains me greatly when I don't stop to take actual photos of th glorious places I pass through. Although I hold in many in my mind, I did at least digitally record this Boojum Tree, near the parking lot of our hotel in Cataviña.



The art at Hotel Misión Cataviña capitalizes on the nearby petroglyphs and cave paintings.

Day Four: Cataviña to San Ignacio
I'm counting on a serviceable, if not memorable breakfast, at what seems to be the only hotel on a nearly 200 mile stretch of road, but my omelet, expertly and delicately rolled in the French style, and filled with salty satisfying ham, appeals immensely.  Expectations are exceeded again.  I nod to myself in approval as we roll southward.  What a delight you are, lovely Baja!

From the moment I departed Tucson, I've been cautiously testing Li'l Burro's newly expanded fuel capacity: 130 miles, 145 miles, and now, a number so unthinkable it seems important to document my safe arrival at the PEMEX at Villa Jesus-Maria. 232 miles!

232 miles between El Rosario and aptly named Villa Jesús María, all without touching reserve!


Li'l Burro is sated, but I am not. Hunger must be driving my punchy demeanor.  One can't deny that I haven't sampled a taco in what must be over 24 hours.  Plus, I'm feeling a bit giddy, having just crossed the border into Baja Sur (B.C.S., for those in the know) without incident. When Adrian and I reach Guerrero Negro, I ride directly up to the window of a taco truck, clearly marked, in English, "Fish Tacos."  Still mounted, I sit up tall and snap open my visor dramatically, addressing him in a tone so stately, self-important, and formal, I could be a modern day XT riding Don Quixote.  "Hola, Señor, hay tacos hoy día?" (Of course there are. It's a taco stand.)

Tony, the proprietor, rewards my silliness with a big wide smile, and joins me in the charade while taking my order. I roll my r's ridiculously for effect and Tony laughs.  But suddenly, I'm confused. Tony's smile has disappeared.  "Is your motorcycle okay?"

Looking down, I see a stream of gasoline leaking from my steed.  "Oopsy!" I squeak, falling out of character, and rushing to shut off the fuel valve. *****  Another inconsequential mishap solved, just in case.

The tacos at El Muelle are fantastic, rivaling those sampled in Ensenada yesterday. 


They seem so simple, especially before crowning to taste with a tantalizing selection of  salsas, cremas, tangy pickled things, and crisp cool vegetables...  But the devil is, as always, in the details: the freshest of the fresh seafood, coated with perfectly seasoned batter, cooked to order at just the right temperature, yielding succulent flavorful shrimp or fish, in a shatteringly crisp and light coating. I can feel my tastebuds contract as I type this.  The tortilla holds up to equally high standards.  Nothing else will do.


Adrian's sticker "snownut," as well as many others, are displayed, but, after years of saying I need an E2W logo, I still do not have one to share. Anyone?


The desert landscape between Guerrero Negro and San Ignacio is not the sort that one imagines recreating in so much as one imagines dying in. It's bleak, hot, and as unforgiving as it gets. But if you survive the 90 mile trek, you’ll have arrived at an actual oasis. Date palms grow as thickly as blades of grass, and a spring fed pond and river can be found not far from the main square of town. Water in the desert is miraculous enough that one can't help but contemplate religion.  The Jesuits must have felt the same: behold the Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán!

You may recognize this from the last time I passed through San Ignacio, via an altogether different means of transportation.


But, you know, it's probably been, oh, two hours since we've had a taco?

Oh, look! It's Adrian's favorite taco stand!

In the main square, we just can’t help ourselves. It’s taco time! (Not really, but who’s counting?)  At first glance, I’m not impressed with the offerings of “Lonchería La Misión de Kadakaaman.”  Beef tacos seemed appropriate, since we were no longer within sight of the sea, but the star attraction is hidden by too much of the same pallid shredded cabbage and tomatoes one sees on bad tacos ‘round the world. When I get to the meat, however, my dinner’s shredded, tender, and flavorful core comes to light.  Oh my! I’m glad I’m sitting down. The tortillas themselves are done beautifully as well. These crispy, crunchy shells – an unusual method of preparation for the area - bear no resemblance to the stale tasting factory made "Old El Paso" taco kit variety I knew as a child.  We just can't stop winning!

Day Five: San Ignacio to Loreto
The next morning we take a breath and dive back into the dry desert, towards the opposite coast, the Sea of Cortez.  Adrian checks off an item on the Baja Ride Must Do List by hitting one of the hundreds of stealthily concealed and fearsome "topes" (speedbumps) unexpectedly. A watery rocket launches from his motorcycle. I hope it's not an omen, that loss of a water bottle.  But we reach descend the final steep twisting slopes and reach the sparkling ocean side of Santa Rosalia without incident.


It's obvious Adrian gets the credit for this photo, right?


I track down some much needed pesos and celebrate my fattened wallet with an ice cream cone.  Thousands of any monetary unit are so exciting!

Neveria "Splash," while not purveyors of the very best ice cream I've ever had, offers a colorful and fun treat to the overheated rider.

Pistachio

Perhaps more unexpectedly than a cheerful ice cream parlor, Santa Rosalia boasts a building designed by Gustav Eiffel himself. (Yes, Paris. The tower. That guy.)  It was purportedly shown at that very same World's Fair in 1889, and later acquired by Carlos La Frogue (nothing to do with frogs, depending on how you see it), owner of French mining company, Companie du Boleo, which mined copper in Santa Rosalia for some 70 odd years, beginning in 1885. The steel constructed church was transported here by sailboat (sailboat!?), perhaps to console the homesick French.  Further down the road, I remember that excellent French bread is also to be found in Santa Rosalia.  I kick myself for not tracking it down.




Our good riding fortune continues. I manage, this trip, to keep Li'l Burro upright on the beach at Mulejé.

To be fair, I wasn't wallowing in deep sand like last time.


We wander about the beach for a short time, Adrian collecting shells for his wife, Cyndi, I collecting photos of pelicans and the sinister silhouettes of frigate birds.






We somewhat reluctantly move on, but rewards await us.  There's more fine sporting asphalt near Conception Bay, but the views are killer - literally, if you're not careful.  The road demands my attention, but the view laid out before and below me makes it difficult to focus.  The aquamarine water and rugged cliff-lined coastline, interspersed with cloistered sandy half moon beaches, call to mind travel brochures of the Adriatic.  If only there was a safe place to stop to capture the scene at its best!  But there is one photo that can not be missed...

Li'l Burro, Eating on Two Wheels!

We stop for a cool drink at a colorful vacation spot full of happily tipsy beach vacationers, who have taken the long walk across the street for refreshment.

Tipsy vacationers not shown.  Everyone was, of course, crowded at the tables closer to the bar.

Playa "El Burro"


By the time we reach Loreto, find a room at the Santa Fe Hotel, discover that one needs to know to remove the photo on the wall and activate the hidden circuit breaker in order to have any sort of climate control at all******, we’re more than a little hungry.  A seafood bonanza of clams, two types of fish, a lobster tail, crabs, and scallops seems like the only dinner that will satisfy us. Tasty without being amazing, La Palapa clearly caters to excess seeking tourists.  But it's so fun, it doesn't matter.  We demolish the entire dish.


It's dark, the photos are grainy, but at this point, I'm too hungry to care!
The one time not being able to ride at night pays off.  Dark = I ride pillion to dinner = cold beer for me! 
More impressive looking than tasting, truth be told, but that didn't stop us from eating every last bite.


Day Six: Loreto Wanderings, Loreto to San Ignacio (Day Five in Reverse)
It's not just the restaurant that caters to tourists. Loreto itself has all the trappings, both good and bad, of a town thriving on out-of-towners. A paper map of the sort often found free at information booths costs $8 dollars. (Yes, dollars.)  The streets are spotless, and lined with beautiful flowers and topiary. Hotels are $100 and up a night, some of which, admittedly, would be two or three times that price back home.  There are, in theory, cheaper rooms to be had, but all are marked with disappointing "No Vacancy" signs.

The Posada de las Flores Hotel, and its captivating courtyard filled with palm trees, flowering vines, wooden doors, wrought iron accents, a fountain, stone arches, and - look up! I can see up through the bottom of the roof top pool! - precipitated another text to  Pilot Guy. "We must stay here after we stay at that other place in Ensenada!"




Yep, that's Adrian.


The Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was "the first mission and capital of the Californias," according to the nearby descriptive plaque.


Here's a corner of the mission, at least.



There is a rope hanging down from the bell tower. Do I dare? (I didn't, but oh how I wanted to!)
 

The mission gardens


A walk on the malecón had me considering the crabs on our dinner plate last night.



No matter how many times Adrian and I rework the math, if we want to return home by the appointed hour, we must turn northward today.  La Paz and Cabo beckon, so it's difficult to wrest my front wheel in the other direction. Adrian consoles me. "I've heard that the rest of the ride isn't that great, anyway." I nod in agreement, but I don't really buy into it. Either does he. Obediently, bergrudingly, we acquiesce.

As we begin our return, we capture a few under-serving photos of Conception Bay...


This one is Adrian's work.



... and stop at El Candil, in Mulegé proper, for - yes - a taco. The little town is a adorable, but the meal is not quite up to the standards to which we've become accustomed. Still, the cheerful hopping sparrows and enormous bougainvillea in the courtyard almost make up for it. I'm intrigued by the signs advertising "date bread," here and there, but somehow, the acquisition of the curiosity eludes us.

Our hotel two nights ago at San Ignacio, casa de that wonderful ham omelet*******, was reasonable and pleasant, so it makes sense to revisit it again tonight. I can not believe I am ordering an actual quesadilla for dinner (What, no taco?), but it, too, is elevated here. It's cheesier, stretchier, smokier, somehow.  And the salsa has definitely never seen a jar.  After dinner, Adrian and I independently come to the same realization.  While we may not have had time for La Paz and Cabo, we do have time for a short side trip to Bahía de los Ángeles. Victory triumphs over disappointment: we'll check off one of our destinations-never-reached of 2013!

Day Seven: San Ignacio to Bahía de los Ángeles
I'd been told that Bahía de los Ángeles is beautiful, and it's true. The road leads us through more of the curious Valle de los Cirios, made possibly even more bizzare by an oncoming pick up truck toting a horse in the bed, and the approach to the ocean is yet one more astonishing moment after another of the unlikely partnership of desert and sea.  But the town itself is dreary and empty. When we find ourselves booking a room at the nearly vacant and unquestionbly run down Villa Vitta Resort, our host, Mario, looks at his computer for an absurdly long time before announcing that, yes indeed, he does have some rooms available.  The hotel is... well, not quite what we had been getting used to. We hear an unpleasant altercation in the only other occupied room, there are large beetles crawling into my room through the large gap under the door faster than I can evict them, and my window A/C unit is making such a noise that I, after I hear the quiet hum of the unit in Adrian's room, uncharacteristically decide to inquire about my options. There are, of course, plenty of other rooms, and Mario quickly accommodates me. Indeed, there are upsides to our stay, as well. We have a canine companion for the evening, there are adorable murals painted in the rooms, and there is table side whale watching over dinner. Plus Mario has piqued our appetites with promises of a "special breakfast" tomorrow.
Sad face after "No, no! Muddy paws off my bed!"

Room Number One

Room Number Two.

I laughed maybe a little too hard at this than was necessary.

This, too.
Yep, more gorgeous.

Day Eight: Bahía de los Ángeles to San Felipe via Coco's Corner
Our special breakfast may not have arrived promptly, but the meal belies the establishment by far.  Oh my!  The chorizo omelet is tender and savory, with a poblano cream sauce that is simultaneously spicy and rich. The accompanying potatoes and tortilla live up to our ever heightening expectations. Job well done, Mario! Our heads loll back as we taste it... oh, but it is so very good! We savor each bite slowly, but as always, it's time to roll, because... today's the day! The day we go Off Road! Or off pavement, anyway. Li'l Burro, who has clippity-clopped over what will be 2,000 miles of inhospitable pavement, is ready! Am I?

Chapala Junction.  Not exactly terrifying, is it? Suspiciously, the only building as far as the eye can see is a tire repair shop. Something tells me there will more than meets the eye at the moment.

As the asphalt gives way to pavement, I - street rider at heart - hesitate.

"What is it, Friend?" Li"l Burro inquires.

"The earth moves beneath your hooves!" I cry. "There are bumpy rocks and ruts, and maybe even soft sand! What if we should slip and fall?  Then what would we do?"

"Fear not," Li'l Burro says. "You shall see."

True to his word, his knobby tires bite into the soft earth. His head bobs up and down over ruts and rocks, smoothing my ride. Lest something unexpected in my path frighten me, he carries me, in second gear, as slowly as I ask, and never stalls. He carries me up hills just as slowly and smoothly, even in first gear, if I wish. 

When we reach firm, unmoving asphalt again, I say, with a twinkle in my eye, "If it's not too rocky, or too sandy, and the hills not too steep, perhaps, just perhaps... well, I can see how another rider might like this." I give him a pat.

"Good girl," he purrs.  "Good girl."

"Coco's Corner" is on every dual sport riders' destination list.  It is, quite simply, the storybook "shack in the middle of nowhere," that just happens to be well equipped with Coco, the cheerful host, meticulously recording the hometown and make/model of each visiting riders' motorcycle; photogenic oddities; cool drinks (alcoholic or not); and the happy company of Coco and those who are passing through at the moment. 

Beer cans tinkle in the breeze like wind chimes.
Oddities amuse.


You will not find any of my underwear here.  I need them elsewhere!
Coco himself, holding his record book. He is at least 80, as indicated by a celebratory birthday banner on the wall.


The unpaved portion of our journey, between La Chapala and Puertecitas, is becoming obsolete as fast as I type. Probably faster, actually.  Baja, once a back country land of dusty dirt roads and less, as it were, is quickly become paved over.  Mixed feelings, trapped between resistance to change and the convenience of progress abound, and I am no exception. I'm glad to have experienced at least a tiny remainder of what once was.  We wonder and worry what Coco will do when the paved road, now under construction, is completed.  Progress does not serve everyone.

The old and new roads often diverge, but at this point, the stark contrast is clear.
Return to the safety of virgin pavement. The shift from Coco's Corner to this brand new but strangely vacant rest stop feels bizarre. Notably, it's the only official rest stop I've ever seen in Baja.


Adrian and I spend a little time trying to find the site of his accident, but even that area has changed too much for us to find it unequivocally. "Imelda's Mexican Food," the definitive marker of the event, appears to be long gone.  I don't expect we'll ever know for sure just where it happened.


"Here?" "No, perhaps it's around this bend." "I seem to recall there was an island in sight." "No, I think it was here..."  It seems we'll never know.
These are the scenes I was kicking myself over not capturing in 2013. It was our first good view of what was should have come, but didn't.


While the unpaved portion of our trip was not terribly challenging, and the pavement just north brand new, the stretch of pavement immediately to the south of San Felipe may be among our most challenging moments. I'm tired and ready to complete our day, but the potholes, deep, numerous, and unavoidable, are feeling like a test of even Li'l Burro's capabilities. I have chosen wisely. Baja is no place for the tight suspension and titanium rims of one certain Ducati.  There is at least one moment on every wonderful trip that feel, undeniably, like a slog. That moment has arrived. But like all things, the feeling is temporary.


Arrival!


We quickly book a room at the familiar "El Capitán" and wander out on the town. What a difference from January, 2013! San Felipe is hopping, with street vendors, brass bands, and overflowing restaurants. I look forward to another pleasant meal at "The Taco Factory," remembering the ceviche of 2013, but am as disappointed with my dinner as I will be with my breakfast tomorrow morning.  Perhaps we've been spoiled and lucky, perhaps it's the trying-too-hard-hip waiter, or possibly I'm simply sad to be almost done with our journey, but these tacos taste decidedly and disappointingly like something from an inexpensive chain restaurant in the U.S. No matter! There are beach side churros, hot and freshly made, that do much to console!  Fortified, we climb up to a hillside shrine of sorts, and take in the view.




Day Nine: San Felipe to Tucson, via the Algodones Garita
The next morning, our last day in Baja, I stupidly order pancakes for breakfast. Now I have two reasons to be glum.  They are Not Good.  I could have done better at Denny's.  Afterwards, Adrian and I drag our feet, quietly packing up. There's so much left unseen, undone, unridden!  Neither of us is ready to come to the end of the road, moreover, I find myself wondering if I'll have trouble at the border, like I did in 2015.  Not much to be done about it now. 

There is one more sight to see, however.  "Big Flo," a Boeing 727 crashed in the Baja desert not far from here, in 2012.  On purpose, even!   I jam my camera through the holes in the chain link fence to document the damage.


The plane was loaded up with test crash dummies and data collecting sensors before take off.
Real pilots started the flight, which was then completed by remote control, after they parachuted out. It was quite a trick.


Much of the rest of our all-too-short path to the border is spent behind the pleasantly pungent smell of a truck loaded with onions. It offers a bit of distraction from the unavoidable fact that our trip is ending. After a bit of confusion over our migration papers in Algodones, there's nothing left to do but cross over.  It's hot at the border, and, lest protective gear laden motorcyclists die of heat stroke while waiting in the long line at the checkpoint, we are shuttled directly to the front.  The only border delay I suffer is when the U.S. immigration agent tries to sell me his own motorcycle.  I opt out, but am relieved.

Look! It's Pilot Guy waiting to meet us!  There's not enough daylight for me to get all the way to Tucson today, and Pilot Guy is leaving the day after tomorrow for a trip of his own, so Li'l Burro graciously concedes. We'll travel the final leg to Tucson in the back of a truck. Besides, an alarming number of knobs on Li'l Burro's tires have been all but sheared off, likely on that bad bit of pavement south of San Felipe. A hundred or so miles of hot freeway on questionable tires just doesn't appeal as much as a nice reunion evening with my "beloved enabler."  Before we part ways, Adrian gets a bear hug, and then he's off, all to soon, towards his own home and family.


Two months later, in the midst of perhaps one of my loveliest summers to date, I can't shake the melancholy feeling of seeing this photo. 2017 Baja Adventure Concluded.  Surely there will be more?


Pilot Guy and I watch a documentary on "Big Flo," and I've found some Baja wine right here in Tucson. The quiet is pleasant. Tomorrow I begin a two week scramble of work and preparation for my annual transhumance to the greener pastures of gainful summer employment. A new life adventure awaits!

Note Bene: Adrian is the gold standard of riding partners. He cheerfully sets a pace comfortable for my little 225 machine, and never suggests I push my comfort zone about reaching our destinations before nightfall with time to spare. He seems to know before I do when I want to zip up my jacket vents or find a restroom.  He freely loans pesos when I'm out, and freely accepts them when I'm flush from the ATM. Neither of us has the need to keep close track of the exchanges, being content to trust the laws of equilibrium between two reasonable people.  He is personally supplied with the trifecta of an excellent on-board tool kit, and both the knowledge and experience in using them.  That he is in the midst of restoring a pair of Royal Enfields, making one out of two, in his garage tells you a thing or two about his skills.  Thank you, Adrian, for all the gifts you add to the adventure!

*Bat mobile/rolling office test ride, just to Calexico and back.  I suspect this machine, complete with solar panel array and enormous flat screen that silently rises from cabinetry at the touch of a button, will appear in a future post.
**In a word, awful.
*** Later, just as I'm contemplating Baja, the land of extremes, a gnat or small fly was funneled more deeply into my left nostril than I ever imagined possible. It must have made it round a bend or even two before lodging itself into the delicate tissues of my airway. Had the opportunity for research been immediately available, I would have run to the closest anatomy book to detail just what sort of spiraling death flight this insect enjoyed.  I spent the next mile or two sneezing. Baja extremes indeed.
****There’s also La Ruta Gastronómica, La Ruta de las Misiones, and one or two others that I can’t remember, which is making me crazy. Cave paintings? Art? Gah! 
*****Li'l Burro is leaking fuel from the float bowl overflow, or maybe I have a fuel pressure issue which would explain the gas cap problem. Either way,  I'm gonna have to fix that when I get back, but until then, I need to turn off the fuel valve immediately at every stop.
******Upon awakening in an icebox, we discover the reverse is also true. 
*******The next morning, I finally fell prey to the French Toast. But it was delicious. Sometimes a simple dusting of cinnamon sugar is best.