Day 3: Dec 30, 2002
Lancaster to Ensenada (339mi)

Today I finally got some warm weather! The ride from Lancaster to the Tecate border crossing was uneventful and there was lots of good scenery on the way.

Near the Mexico border, there's a town called Potrero, which is the name of my neighborhood in San Francisco.

Welcome to Potrero

My first sight of Mexico was coming over some hills a mile before the border. From that distance, Tecate looks like a shanty-town. Small, poorly-constructed buildings cover the rolling hills. The actual border crossing was completely uneventful - I didn't even have to stop. Going south, they just waved us though. There was a long line to return to the United States, though - I guess they're mainly concerned with drugs and illegal immigrants coming into the U.S.

I rode around Tecate for a while, feeling a little bewildered by the different-ness of Mexico. Tecate was really dusty and dirty. It was hard to find my way around. I eventually stopped and got some money (Pesos) from an ATM, which was convenient and gave me a good exchange rate.

I took Mex. route 3 South to Ensenada, where I stayed at the Bahia Resort. The road was narrow, winding, and desolate. It would have been a really fun ride if I hadn't been so cautious. I was worried that there might be potholes or police (neither of which I ended up seeing on this road). The posted speed limits were between 40 and 80 kph (24-48mph). I was doing 60-70mph and still getting passed by the locals! I guess speed limits in Mexico are even more of a joke than in the United States.

Ensenada is a decent-size tourist town. My room in the Bahia was simple but clean, and only cost me $40 for the night, including a free margarita at the bar! They even let me park my motorcycle in the courtyard, right by the entrance.

Bahia in Ensenada - Matt with bike

Bahia in Ensenada - hotel

Bahia in Ensenada - bike by steps

The area around the hotel was infested with tourist shops and American tourists. I felt pretty lost - the culture shock of Tecate contrasted with the sickly-sweet tourist area in Ensenada was kind of bewildering. I ate at a tourist restaurant and returned to my hotel room to plan my travels for the next few days. My schedule was wrecked by my short 2nd day, so I had to re-plot my course.

In the morning, I had to run a few errands in Ensenada before hitting the open road. I had noticed that the oil pressure light came on when I was braking strongly, so I checked the oil level and it was really low! I tried to find one of the motorcycle shops that was listed in Motorcycle Journeys Through Baja, but I wasn't able to, so I just stopped at an automotive store and bought some oil. It took an entire quart (in a bike that only takes 2 quarts when changing the oil and filter!). I hope that running with so little oil didn't cause any permanent damage.

I also had to get a tourist card, which is ``required'' for travel south of Ensenada. Everything I read said that it wasn't regularly enforced, and in fact I was never asked to present it. However, obtaining the tourist card was a bit of an ordeal. I went to the tourism office and filled out the form, but I made the mistake of switching my street address with city on the form. I guess the clerk saw this as an opportunity to deride a gringo -- he really enjoyed calling me stupid and asking if I finished high school. His insults flustered me and caused me to make a much bigger mistake - agreeing to leave my passport while I went to the bank to pay the fee for the card. I had read that you should never trust anyone with your passport. Luckily I got it back when I returned without any hassle. And as it turned out, I was never asked to present my passport on this trip either (not even re-entering the United States!).

Next: Day 4 Ensenada to Cataviña

Day 1 San Francisco to Los Padres National Park
Day 2 Los Padres to Lancaster, CA
Day 3 Lancaster to Ensenada, Baja
Day 4 Ensenada to Cataviña
Day 5 Cataviña to Campo Miramar
Day 6 Campo Miramar to Stalton Sea, CA
Day 7 Stalton Sea to Las Vegas, NV
Day 8 Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park
Day 9 Death Valley to Minden, NV
Day 10 Minden to San Francisco