Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Saturday, September 13, 2014

B is for Baja


The Malecon in LaPaz

On a rainy Sunday in January of 1997, I rode out of Bakersfield to meet up with a group in San Ysidro. Our 12-day excursion riding the Baja was billed as a “Women’s Tour with a Few Good Men.” Never before had I taken off in a downpour, but I had no choice. Straight down I-5, through Los Angeles, the rain did not let up. Since motorcycles are allowed in the freeway diamond lane, I rode there, feeling safer, exposed to only one lane of traffic on my right.

Heavy rain flooded my windscreen. I stood on Big Red’s floor boards for miles so I could see over it and at the same time let the wind blow the stream off my face shield. Though I wore rain gear, water seeped in and everything was damp. My boots and feet were soaked from passing vehicles causing pools of water to fantail over the floorboards. I arrived at San Ysidro wet to the bone but ready for my new adventure.

At our orientation meeting, the organizers provided us with maps, breakfast vouchers, and information about riding in Mexico and how our “friends tour” would work. We’d arrive at each day’s destination before dark to avoid hazards like potholes and wild animals, and we’d chain our bikes together at night in sets of three for security.

I roomed with Tammy, a woman from Arizona who rode a white Harley Davidson “dresser.” Neither of us had been on a tour like this before. The next morning, we discovered leaving our boots on the heater overnight didn’t dry them out. Undaunted, we plunged our feet into plastic bags then put on our boots and headed out to face a drizzle that would turn into two more days of wet riding.

Crossing at Tijuana
Before this trip, I had only been to Tijuana. Now I would see the real country. In those first miles, the juxtaposition of Mexico’s natural beauty and the poverty -- the mountains of litter and tiny, dilapidated shacks -- overwhelmed me with sadness. Yet, there was hope. I saw women bustling about, sweeping their dirt yards and hanging their laundry and men at work on the roadsides.

Our little band of riders with one of the men driving the chase vehicle made our way down to the tip and back. On winding roads, never too far from an ocean view, we ticked off the towns: San QuintÍn, Rosarita, Guerrero Negro, Mulegé, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas. 
Cabo San Lucas
The Baja trip is where I grew as a rider. Previously squeamish about riding on gravel or dirt, I got over it after the first few times we fueled up at the Pemex stations. From the road, we’d cross a large expanse of gravel to get to the pumps. With a dozen bikes in our entourage, we often had to wait on the gravel, moving up to the cement platforms as other bikes finished fueling. Then we’d move forward onto gravel to wait while the others fueled their bikes.

Loreto
I learned a lot about safety in group riding. Using a CB radio, the last rider warned the rest about cars attempting to overtake us.  When we were ready to pass vehicles on a two-lane road, the leaders stayed in the left lane to signal a clear roadway to the riders who were behind.


One new friend schooled me on my first complete Spanish sentence: “Un Pacifico, por favor, con limón!” Sampling tortilla soup up and down the peninsula, I discovered the large variety of recipes.

And, I learned that I took the safety and freedoms I felt at home for granted.  Several times we rode by young men, who looked more like the 14-year-olds I taught,  wearing military style clothing and standing by with big guns in their hands or strapped over their shoulders. 

On our last leg, a number of miles from the border crossing at Tecate, we came to a roadblock. These militaristic boys ordered us to stop. A humorless, ramrod-stiff woman patted me down and rifled through Big Red’s trunk and saddlebags. “No drugs?” 

I tried to lighten the moment with “Oh, no. No drugs. I’m a teacher.” She never cracked a smile or gave any indication that she understood. And I realized I just needed to be quiet and try to stay out of trouble.

Too soon, having landed in the U.S. at Tecate, we all pulled over. From there, everyone would split off in many directions. New friends, bound together by our adventure and our love for motorcycling, we hugged, saddled up, and rode off for home.



~ xoA ~

 All photos from the Internet


14 comments:

  1. Quite an amazing adventure. I'm glad you pursued through the rain and gravel and had such a wonderful time. Did you ever meet up with any of those women on another ride?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Joan, it was fantastic. Jean, the one who taught me to order beer in Spanish, and I have stayed in touch over the years. We've ridden together in Colorado and she and her husband have visited us in Oregon.Look below to see her comments on the Baja ride. Thanks for responding, Joan. xoA

      Delete
  2. Thanks, Annis, for the memory! You remember far more about this trip than I do! I, too, furthered my riding skills on this trip. We were always on the alert for road hazards... animals, potholes and traffic, with no shoulders to give us some margin. We crossed innumerable dry stream beds marked with signs that said, "Peligro Arroyo". What a memorable trip!
    Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Jean! How great to have you read and comment on this adventure we shared. YOU are the one who taught me to order beer in Spanish! And, I'd forgotten about those dry stream beds. Hard to believe that was 17 years ago. Hugs and thanks. xoA

      Delete
  3. Traveling, riding motorcycles, writing, and meeting unforseen challenges are all spiritual journeys. Wow. Wow. Wow. Life is an adventure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So it is, Anke. And, happiness is being on this journey. Thanks for your comments. xoA

      Delete
  4. It amazes me to think of you out there on "Big Red." Your friends prayers were not in vain. She deserves to win the lottery! XOD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She will love your comment. You make me laugh, too. Thanks, dear one. xoA

      Delete
  5. I had no idea you rode. Some of my earliest memories are riding behind my dad on his bike. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Clarissa. Yep. I'm a rider, but I didn't start until I was darn near 50 years old. It's been fun. xoA

      Delete
  6. Annis, you're so adventurous. I remember riding on the back of my uncle's motorcycle as a kid. I loved the speed and the wind on my face. I didn't care when the muffler (I guess it was a muffler) burned my thigh when I wasn't careful. But I've gotten more stuffy in my old age. I'd never hop a bike again. I thought. Now, I don't know...it sounds exciting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your childhood memories, Mandy. I'm glad you had fun on motorcycles as a kid. Ouch on the muffler burns!

      There's risk in everything we do. If you become interested in riding, take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Rider Course. They provide motorcycles; you need a helmet, gloves, and high-topped shoes. xoA

      Delete
  7. Yet another tidbit of advice to tuck away if ever I brave such an adventure...no teasing the enforcers at the roadblocks. Got it! Vicarious life lesson learned! Love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smart woman, Anna. Thanks for stopping by. xoA

      Delete