Adam writes on 2013-12-17:
I am writing from La Manzanilla, Jalisco. Internet access has been sketchy for the last couple of days. We are camping under a palapa on the sand amongst coconut palms. While rustic, the campsite is quite nice with cool showers, and add your own water toilets. That said, we are right against the beautifully warm Pacific Ocean. The morning was spent swimming in the very comfortably warm water, watching pelicans dive, and fish jump.
We are located on the edge of town amongst other RV parks. On the way in there is a small crocodile preserve and we counted no less twelve crocodiles from easy viewing distance (starting at about a meter) from the fence.
It was a lazy day spent swimming, walking to the store for eggs and other breakfast items, cooking food, drinking coffee and doing a load of hand wash including our motorcycle suits. We are going to stay put for a few days as this is is our very first really warm taste of weather.
The ride in was long but very good riding with hours of twisty turns up and down the jungle (not sure if it is technically jungle) coastline. I recommend the ride from San Blas through Puerta Vallerta to La Manzanilla. Some of it is quite empty of tourism while other parts show opulent water front homes amongst humble local villages.
The previous day we were in San Blas. We arrived with a decent amount of time and decided to stay at the local RV park. The next day we found several much better looking parks closer to San Blas and regretted not travelling a little further. The mosquitoes in this RV park were TERRIBLE during dusk. We were fairly quick to get into out bug suits and apply bug spray but we both got hit pretty badly. I am covered in bites and in some discomfort. Our camp chairs have mesh backs so I understand how my back got hit, but my ankles were also absolutely swarmed.
The previous day, we were in Hotel Oasis in Mazatlan, Sinoloa staring at our own private pole dance stage. Yes, we stayed in our second “love motel” or a hotel that has hourly rates. These strange accommodations can be useful for motorcycle travellers as they are often on the outskirts of town, fairly cheap compared to a large hotel chain, and secure as they often have their own car ports – probably mainly in the name of discretion. We also stayed in one the previous night in Los Mochis having taken the Baja Ferry across from La Paz. I would say that the room at Motel Oasis is little short of being a dump but does have hot water and is mostly clean.
I had heard of these before but never stayed in one until our new friends Gord and Linda from Canada (riding a V-Strom), Ian from Yorkshire, England (riding on a Triumph Tiger down from Alaska), and us followed Gord’s friend, Jose, who met as at the ferry dock into Los Mochis. It was late – as in close to midnight – by the time we found rooms and Jenn had just got past a bad case of sea-sickness from the ferry.
Actually, while the boat wasn’t all that rocky, she felt quite ill, and while she didn’t vomit – sort of afraid to use the toilets which were already decorated in vomit – she was really dizzy. We didn’t opt for rooms on the ferry since it is only a six hour crossing so the five of us encamped ourselves in the most comfortable part of the lounge/bar area. We had a couple of beers and having missed the cafeteria lunch rush, and then lunch period, we piled all of our snacks including peanuts, granola bars and bananas on the table and ate those.
The entertainment went from watching retro 80s and 90s music videos to something with more local flair. Mexican music videos with guys in cowboy hats, heavy tuba baselines, and older men hitting on younger women, some with detailed and intricate tragic love stories. The motto here seems to be: The bigger the brass section, the better and more desirable the singer (or so their egos would like you to think). Music videos were eventually replaced by karaoke including various numbers from passengers imbibing in the beer special that we were not able to understand – something about “for a limited time” bring back eight Tecate to your table for X number of pesos.
All of this noise wasn’t helping Jenn feel any better. Having sent Linda into the women’s washroom to keep Jenn company, Jenn requested that we find a quieter place where she could just rest. Once the clerk was summoned back to reception we tried to communicate our request. Eventually, we asked if there was some sort of infirmary she could rest in. We were told it was closed (i.e. the chance of needing emergency assistance on a fairly large ship is only part-time).
Eventually borrowing a blanket from the boat, she tried to relax her nausea on a bench in a quieter area. At this point the clerk realized that she was actually feeling quite ill and we found our way to a now open infirmary. While the needle looked like it was coming from a clean package, the (possibly) doctor’s first response was to jab her in the butt with some unknown anti-nausea drug. Having read the box and not knowing the substance, and knowing that she had to get on a motorcycle following the ferry ride, we declined the jab. He was a little grumpy and persistent but we still refused and I gave her another Dramamine. Gord, who has spent some time working with accu-pressure (Eastern medicine), offered to have a go while she was relaxing on a bench and finally Jenn drifted off. With only several hours in the trip remaining, she felt quite a bit better and we managed to meet Jose without incident.
Having refused Jose’s several first hotel suggestions (international type hotels and pricey) and without secure parking from what we could tell, we eventually found our way to a newly built (or at least renovated) love motel outside of the city. In actuality, it was probably the second nicest hotel we have stayed in during our trip so far, second only to the Holiday Inn Express that Mike put us up in in San Angelo.
The decor was nice – flagstone – and it was very clean and included a car port – in that you park, close the garage door and walk into the room. At the time I was a little annoyed at the price (Mex$500 – about $50) given that we really just wanted to sleep but it was only slightly more money than the next love motel (dive) and included internet. Both menus were comparable – a bit of booze, snacks, toothpaste, condoms, etc., which were sent through a little door not dissimilar to the milk boxes of the olden days but operated more like a subway turn-stall.
I will back track a bit as there has been a little drama over the last couple of days:
Several days ago we arrived in Camp Maranatha on the outskirts of La Paz, Baja California Sur. While catering to RVers, the place is primarily a Christian organization providing camps for children. We were a little puzzled by the fact that there was one operational teepee here as well as structures for several more and what seemed to be dormitories with bunk beds. We “googled” it and it all makes sense now. No matter, there are no children here at present so it is quiet and being the only tenters here, there was no contest for the teepee and it had been our home for several days at no extra cost.
La Paz is one of several cities with a ferry crossing. Having gone to the ferry terminal directly upon arrival at La Paz, we found the price list on the building door to be confusing – or maybe we didn’t read it well – but the cost looked like it was going to be significantly higher than what we expected.
We booked in at Camp Maranatha and attempted to buy tickets on-line but the ferry website turned to be pretty cranky and while I was just about to post payment for our tickets, it sent me to an error page suggesting that I contact the “Call Center”. We “went into town” to Baja Ferries office and realized that the price list is inclusive of the driver whereas the web site had you select a person, and then add a vehicle. In the end, the pricing was correct and we paid for our tickets.
That morning we were completely packed up and ready to head off to the ferry dock. My bike wouldn’t start. It turns out that the engine was flooding. Again. I say again because the very thing happened the prior morning in Ciudad Constitución. We spent the night with our tent under a “palapa” (or thatch roof hut) in a very charming and well kept RV park, only to find that my bike would not start the next morning, and was stinking of gasoline.
Upon inspection we found that the air box was full of gas, meaning that the carburetor was having issues. Since we had neglected to close the fuel tank petcocks (fuel valves) the previous night (which is always a good idea), gas leaked into the air box, into the engine cylinder, and eventually into the engine. Knowing that the consequence of trying to run the bike like this is severe,I drained the air box slightly off premises, and by the timeI had wheeled it back into the park, a staff member named Jose Manuel got involved and offered to drive me to the store to pick up oil. Upon return, Jose Manual provided us with the lower part of a bucket which he had been using as an oil pan, and I got to work. Not too longer after, we were ready to leave.
Having arrived in La Paz, and sussing out the ferry ticket situation, and landing at Camp Maranatha, I attempted to order tickets on-line. This didn’t work out since as soon I was about to post payment, I was referred to the “call center”. The manager of the grounds pointed me to Allan and Julea who were from London, England area and were travelling down to Panama from Louisana in their RV. We had a good chat with them about the ferry and hung out with them several nights, hoping to meet up with them on the road again soon.
On the Thursday that we were booked to take the ferry, we were completely packed up and ready to start the bikes and say goodbye to our teepee. My bike wouldn’t start. I realized shortly that the fuel issue was still happening. Recognizing that I definitely had an issue that would need to be dealt with, I was sure that I had turned off the fuel petcocks when the bike wasn’t running – except that I had forgot to do this the night before. Having attempted to start the bike, I knew that something was up. Again, I opened the airbox but found little fuel. Nuts! I had a hunch this wasn’t going to be good in that the bike was parked slightly downhill meaning that the 300ml or so of gas I found in the air box the previous day would have instead gone into the engine.
We immediately went into slightly panicked problem solving mode. Firstly, we didn’t want to blow our Baja Ferry tickets, and secondly, blow up the bike. With the help of the grounds manager, we confirmed that our tickets were valid for six months (and we ended up skirting the re-scheduling fee), and then proceeding to buy new oil and a gallon of water which was only purchased for use of the jug as a makeshift oil pan. I removed the oil plug and the oil just puked out. Normally it sort of “gluts” out, even when warm. This oil had been rendered completely useless by the addition of what seemed to be close to a litre of gas.
If I had ridden the bike for any significant period, it probably would have destroyed the engine pretty quickly. I should note, that the previous night I did try to address the carburetor issue but didn’t find what I was looking for. At this point, I disassembled what I needed to and pulled off the carburetor. The issue was instantly apparent in that there is a plastic part in the carburetor pertaining to fuel delivery which is sealed and held in place by two rubber o-rings. One of the two was completely used and possibly degraded from the use of ethanol fuels. Luckily, prior to departure I had asked Jenn to pinch of couple of each of the o-rings from her Dad’s big kit – even though they are SAE and I require metric, I found one that was close enough and the problem seems to be fixed, at least for now.
So, with the intent of catching the ferry the next day, we loaded everything up (again) and even though we made a pact to “start the bikes in the morning” to determine if there are issues, we forgot to start Jenn’s (not surprisingly since it was only my bike having issues). Jenn’s wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. Perplexed, we pulled everything apart, removed the plastic side covers, seats, etc. and began jumping her bike off of mine. We eventually got it going but couldn’t figure out “why”. She had charged her phone and helmet comm the previous night but this should not have caused issues.
Eventually I noticed something was slightly weird. Her grip heater switch was pressed “on”. This should be no matter since they are operated by a switched relay meaning that they are only on when the ignition key is on. Or not? I did a little wire trace and realized (stupidly) that something was off. When wiring up our bikes with their various accessories, I had attempted to keep the bike pretty much in-line, as for the most part, using colour coded wire. Upon closer inspection I found that I had swapped two red wires. The one that was supposed to always be on as it was associated with a power connector plug was on a switched relay, and the one for the grip heater was always live! Eureka!
I was pretty happy to have this revelation as it is a simple, tangible answer to a mystery which also showed up one the second day of our trip in New York State when Jenn’s bike wouldn’t start to to drained battery. At that time, the only thing that we could think of was that we had left the key in “park” (rear tail light on) mode instead of in “off”. It didn’t seem likely as you would think that we would notice this. Anyway, the day that I had made this installation happened to be a day which I suddenly came down with something resembling the flu and was in bed dealing with it for the better part of two days afterwards.
SO the next bit of drama involved our Los Mochis to Mazatlan trek. We were not planning on travelling that far in one day. Back in La Paz, I took careful note of the locations of reasonable tenting camping friendly spots might be in the mainland from Los Mochis south to Mazatlan. Long story short, not wanting to hand write these, I noted GPS co-ordinates and descriptions onto my phone giving up on a Google to Garmin facility which was suppose to make it easy to copy Google map waypoints to the GPS. Our first big urban centre of Culiacan seemed a little early to stop. We tried to find what was to be an RV park but it turned out to be a posh hotel downtown, which it may or may not have been wise to stay at in hindsight even though their “RV price” seemed a little expensive for tenters.
We headed for the next cluster I had in mind which was a coastal area called Celestina. We kind of took a risk here knowing that we would be arriving close to dusk but didn’t find much just outside of Culiacan which seemed hospitable. We had been traveling the “libre” (free) highway route, eventually heading to the coast with signs stating “tourist region”, and found ourselves in a little town called La Cruz. Not dismissing the possibility of finding somewhere to stay here as it was getting late. We didn’t see any obvious places to stay and when following what seemed to be a seemingly strange route by way of the GPS, crossing train tracks on the way out of town, through the communicators I asked Jenn if she was coming to which she replied that she had just been hit by a car. I was in disbelief as she had just been behind me a moment ago.
We have decent lights and a decent amount of reflective material on our suits and bikes. I quickly turned around and found Jenn only meters behind me with her bike on its right side and Jenn getting up off the ground. My brief mental depiction of what might have happened was much relieved as it quickly became evident that it was a minor bump, as opposed to a major collision. Jenn, as of writing, survived the “accident” without any aches or pains. It was explained to me that she was stationary waiting to make a turn behind me and the car had hit her from behind. The only thing that could explain the idiocy is that the guy didn’t have lights on (or was on his phone). If he was traveling at any speed, she and/or the bike would have been far more damaged. I think that he must have slowly glided into her and knocked her over. He was apologetic and didn’t try to leave. In the end there was no (obvious) harm done but it was a little scary.
At this point, we decided to continue to the nice sounding RV park that we were thinking of going to. The GPS dumped us on the major toll road, which seemed right, but now being completely dark, the suggested turn off either didn’t happen, or came far to late. It turns out that there are no provisions for turning around on these toll roads for extended periods of time. By the time we found an area to return back, we were so far out of the area, that it made more sense to continue the 75km to Mazatlan – breaking the “don’t drive at night” rule. At this point, with Jenn still being rattled by her car strike – we would have been happy with anywhere reasonable to stay but this didn’t turn up until Mazatlan. We eventually found a nice little taco stand, had our dinner, and found the love motel close by.
Sorry if all of this is confusing – we are currently in La Manzanilla 🙂