Agave Maria's Restaurant & Cantina, Big Sur CA, Blue Iguana Inn Ojai, BMW F800GS, CA-166, CA-33, Caliente Range, Cape Hurricane, Cape San Martin, China Basin Beach, Chumash Indians, Cuyama, Garrapata State Park, KLR 650, Los Padres National Forest, Monterrey CA, Morro Bay CA, Morro Rock, National Recreation Trails, National Trails Database, New Cuyama, Pine Mountain Campground, Pine Mountain Ridge, Pine Mountain Ridge Road, Rocky Creek Bridge, San Martin Rock, San Simeon, Sea Otter CA, Ventucopa CA
Canada 2015. Days 27 & 28 (Aug 25 & 26, 2015). It took us two days to go back home from Marina, CA. This is a trip that one would normally do in one day on a car but we wanted to take time to enjoy the California shore and we did not want to cross Los Angeles during the rush hour traffic of the late afternoon. So, on the 27th day of our trip we rode to Ojai, CA, a touristic town nested in the Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County, north west of LA. We left Marina after breakfast at around 9:30 pm. A few miles south of Monterrey, CA, CA-1 begins to runs along the shoreline although usually high above the sea level. Our first stop was to watch a group of at least three whales that were swimming (and perhaps feeding) in the kelp forest close to the shore. The whales would take short dives and then emerge spouting water. Sometimes we could see large portions of their bodies out of the water. We managed to take a few shots of the plumes of water shooting out from one whale’s blowhole. The next stop was at Sea Otter to enjoy the view of the beach below and of the Rocky Creek Bridge. We continued riding south and stopping frequently to take pictures and to enjoy the breathtaking views of the shoreline. After passing Big Sur the traffic was lighter and the ride more enjoyable. I have done this stretch of CA-1 many times on a car but it is so much better on a motorcycle; there is no comparison. The next major break was to visit the elephant seals near San Simeon. The bulls were quite content lying on the sand. No major fights erupted while we were there. From San Simeon we rode to Morro Bay to visit the impressive Morro Rock—a 581-foot-high mountain of volcanic rock rising from the water. You cannot visit the rock without wondering about the decision of placing an ugly power plant across the bay from it. The plant started operations in the 1950s and it was officially shut down in 2014. Dynegy, the Houston-based company that owes the plant, put it on the market for a while but then took it off claiming that the offers for the plant were too low. I can’t wait to see that disgusting thing demolished but that might never happen.
From Morro Bay we took CA- and US-101 south. Right before Santa Maria we left the freeway and took CA-166 towards New Cuyama. The road runs along the Twitchell Reservoir (which is normally empty except after significant amounts of rainfall during the winter) and the Cuyama River (also dry) on a canyon between the Caliente Range of San Luis Obispo County and the Sierra Madre Mountains of Santa Barbara County. At the end of the canyon CA-166 opens up into the Cuyama Valley passing cattle ranches and large irrigated fields planted with vegetables that grow well in sandy soils, like carrots. The name “Cuyama” comes from the Chumash word kuyam, meaning “clam”. We did not see any but apparently fossilized clams are very common in that area. A few miles after New Cuyama we turned south onto CA-33, known in that area as the Maricopa Highway. From Ventucopa, CA, to Ojai the road is a lot of fun to ride as it crosses the Pine Mountain Ridge (part of Transverse Ranges of Southern California). We took a 5-mile detour onto Pine Mountain Ridge Road (a single lane paved road) which takes you to two campgrounds (Pine Mountain and Reyes) located at 7,000 feet in a dense pine forest. There are two additional campgrounds (Raspberry and Chorro Grande) that can be accessed from that road but one must hike to get there. These campgrounds offer breathtaking vistas of the areas around. To the north are the dry, rugged Cuyama Badlands; on other side are the tree-covered mountains of the Los Padres National Forest and the ocean beyond. We sat for a while under the tall pines of the Pine Mountain Campground admiring the amazing infrastructure that “yanquilandia” offers for outdoors activities. Campgrounds, trails, visitor centers, view points, National, State, and County Parks, National Seashores, State Beaches. The US National Forest alone lists 2,383 developed campgrounds. The National Trails Database lists 1,256 National Recreation Trails (NRT) in all 50 states. Many more trails are yet to be granted the status as an NRT so there is a lot of hiking trails to choose from in this country. The US is a great place to play outdoors. We arrived at Ojai in the late afternoon and checked in at the Blue Iguana Inn. After unpacking the bikes and getting out of the ridding gear, we went for dinner at Agave Maria’s Restaurant & Cantina. Adrián had fish tacos and I had fajitas. We enjoyed Stone IPAs and a lot of water. It was a long day of riding.
On day 28 after a lovely breakfast at Blue Iguana we rode for two hours on the well-maintained but still awful freeways of Metropolitan Los Angeles to get back home. We completed 5,592 miles (9,000 kilometers) on our motorcycles and rode through some amazing places. We have built so many memories; we have met so many interesting people on their own journeys. A fortuitous encounter with Craig from Calgary in a hostal in Argentina was the trigger for this adventure. Our minds are already thinking about the next one.
ps: In the days after our arrival to Claremont, our dear nephew Nicolas purchased a beautiful KLR 650. We are very proud of him and hope he can endure the huge amount of shit he will get from his friends for acquiring such a low performance motorcycle.
Days 20, 21 & 22 (February 27, 28 & March 1, 2014) After spending two days visiting my friends Hector and Sylvia (and Andrés, the oldest of their two children) we rode the last 730 kilometers of our trip. My KLR almost run out of gas near Marcos Juarez (Córdoba). I rode the bike until exhausting the gas in both the tank and the reserve. Adrián and I had to lean the bike over to the left side to allow the fuel caught on the right side of the tank to flow over to the left (where the petcock is). That maneuver provided enough gas to ride to a gas station in Marcos Juarez.
Throughout this long day of riding we took a few breaks to rest and to get gas. The last rest stop was in the town of Navarro, barely 35 kilometers from home. As we were entering General Las Heras and riding by the house where we grew up we saw our dad sitting on the porch. We stop to say hi and then rode to Adrián house, our point of departure 22 days ago. We covered more than 7,130 kilometers through some amazing landscapes in Chile and Argentina. We met wonderful people; we visited dear friends. Our sister Mariel was in our minds every minute of this unforgettable adventure.
Day 15 (February 22, 214) Today we left Purmamarca in the direction of Cafayate. A few kilometers south of Purmamarca we visited the charming little town of Tumbaya. From there we dropped into the city of San Salvador de Jujuy, the province capital. From the sun of the Quebrada we rode into the clouds and the rain of the Jujuy valley below. From Jujuy to Salta we took—like we did two years ago—a section of the old Pan American route (Ruta 9) known as La Cornisa, the cornice. This narrow road through the cloud forest is truly special. The beauty of the lush forest was enhanced by the intermittent rain. We stop frequently to take pictures, listen to the birds, and marvel at the tall trees covered with epiphytes and hanging mosses.
From Salta we took route route 68 to La Viña and Cafayate. Approximately 100 kilometers from Salta, the old train station at Alemania offers a sad reminder of the destruction—by corrupt civilian and military governments—of the once very extensive railroad system of Argentina. Alemania was the last station of a line that provided access to the valley of the Calchaquí River (Valles Calchaquíes). Today, the buildings of the station are used for a snack bar, a gomería, and a auto repair shop. In Alemania we met Reginaldo, a Brazilian cyclist who had ridden his bike all the way from San Pedro the Atacama. We did the same road in our motorcycles and find it amazing that Reginaldo was able to ride his bike at those altitudes (most of the road stays between 3,000 and 4,900 meters). It took Reginaldo several days to cross from Chile to Argentina so he had to carry extra water and had to camp up there several cold nights. Amazing! Reginaldo told us that Cafayate was a zoo and that we were going to have a hard time finding a hotel there.
South of Alemania, route 68 goes through one of the most colorful quebradas (valleys) in Argentina, Quebrada de las Conchas. I will let the pictures do the description for me. The reds, ochers, yellows of the mountains on both sides of the rive—Río de las Conchas—are unforgettable.
Reginaldo was right. There was a festival in Cafayate so the normally charming town—located in one of the major wine-making areas of Argentina—was jam-packed with of people. It was hard to move through the town let alone find a hotel so we decided to continue south in search for lodging. We were very lucky to find Hostal Río de Arena at El Bañado de Los Quilmes, located only 3 kilometers from the entrance to the Quilmes Ruins. Staying at the hostel was Craig—a Canadian motorcyclist on a 2007 KLR650—who joined us for dinner. We had empanadas and humita with Río de Arena wine—produced by the owner of the hostel.
Day 24 (August 16, 2013). We got up early today to try to cross Death Valley as early as possible to avoid the expected overwhelming heat of the afternoon. The plan was to enter the park through the 27-mile gravel road of Titus Canyon rather through the normal paved west entrances. We left Las Vegas at around 7 am and reached the town of Beatty, NV, two hours later. A few miles from Beatty on route NV-374 is the access to the one-way gravel road to Titus Canyon. The road—which is recommended for 4×4 or high clearance vehicles—climbs up first into the foothills of the Grapevine Mountains in the direction of Red Pass (5,250 feet / 1,600 meters). From there the road slowly descends into the Titus Canyon wash first and Titus Canyon proper later. A few miles from the pass is the ghost town of Leadfield, CA—a mining town, built on false advertisement, which only lasted a little over two years from 1925 to 1927. The road offers great views of the colorful Grapevine Mountains and the section that goes though the canyon is quite magnificent. The progress on the road was slow; we rode carefully trying to avoid the many steps produced by protruding rocks. As soon as we came out of the canyon at around noon we could feel the heat of the Valley. We rode quickly to the general store at Stovepipe Wells where we took a break for almost an hour. We had some Gatorade while sitting at the tables under a large porch adjacent to the main building of the store and next to the parking lot. Several cars, driven mainly by Europeans, came and went while we sat there resting. Three tamed little birds, their beaks wide-open to dissipate heat, shared with us the shade of the porch and a bit of our drinks offered by Adrián in a plastic cap. By the time we were about to leave Stovepipe Wells at around 1:30 pm the thermometer on my bike registered 116.6° F (47° C). We took CA-190 in the direction of Towne Pass and Panamint Springs. The 17-mile climb from Stovepipe Wells at 5 feet above sea level to Towne Pass at 4,963 ft (1,513 m) is quite significant. A few miles into the climb Adrián noticed that the KLR was overheating and losing a bit of power. Thankfully, as we gained in elevation the air temperature went down and the bike begun to cool and to respond better. We took another Gatorade break at the Panamint Springs Resort, which was full of patrons both foreign and domestic. In the 45 minutes that we sat at the porch there, the restaurant lost power twice. A large contingent of Italians who were hoping to be sat indoors left tired of waiting. We paid seven dollars for two regular size bottles of Gatorade, exactly double of the price we paid at Stovepipe Wells a few miles away; what a rip-off! After another climb through the Inyo Mountains we got to Lone Pine at around 3:30 pm. We showered and hung out in our room until dinner time. We had OK hamburgers and a large pitcher of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant. The guy serving us tried to hurry us into leaving while we still had half a pitcher of beer left (no tip). It was a long day of uncomfortable riding today but we were very happy to have crossed Death Valley in August at high noon.
Bald Mountain Pass, BMW F800GS, bolete, Brigham Young, Butterfly Lake, Fehr Lake Trail, Flaming Gorge, Hoover Lake, KLR 650, Manila UT, Mirror Lake Highway, Moosehorn Campground, Picturesque Lake, Pika, Scout Lake UT, Shepard Lake, Tiger salamander, Uinta Mountains, WYLD beer, Yellow-bellied marmot, Zion
Days 16, 17 & 18 (August 8, 9 & 10, 2013). Our next stop after the Green River was the Mirror Lake area in the Uinta Mountains of Utah (one of the few ranges in the US that goes east–west rather than north–south). Lucas, Lucía and I visited the area a few years ago and took a great hike through a series of lakes from where we collected hydra and green sponges. Adrián and I left the campground at the Flaming Gorge early in the morning and took route 44 in the direction of Manila, UT. We saw many deer, death and alive, by the road (Trevor’s story came to mind). We stopped frequently to take pictures of the wonderful views of the Flaming Gorge and some cool rock formations. Several of the different geological strata that we traversed were labeled with road signs. Somebody spent a lot of energy trying to educate travelers about Earth’s geologic history. At Manila we stopped to take a look at the rodeo. We then move north and crossed back into Wyoming. We had decided that we would camp for the next few days so we stopped for provisions at Evanston before moving into the mountains. The weekend was approching and we wanted to find a place before the campgrounds got crowded. Dark clouds were hovering above the mountains so we expected rain. We took route WY/UT 150 (Mirror Lake Highway) south from Evanston and quickly started climbing into the Uinta Mountains. The first campground we checked was Butterfly Lake. We found a campsite there but neither of us were thrilled about it—thankfully, my brother and I had a similar taste when it comes to camping. We wanted to check other places but did not want to loose that site. Thus Adrián stayed at Butterfly Lake and I continued south. At the Moosehorn Campground near Bald Mountain Pass I found a campsite I liked. It was a bit harder to secure the site because I had to track the hosts who were riding around the campground on a golf cart. I paid for two nights, left one of my bags at the table on the campsite, and rode back to Butterfly Lake to get Adrián. It was pretty cold and the road was wet. We set up camp quickly and immediately started a fire since more rain was imminent. Our campsite was at 10,443 feet (3,183 meters) so we were short of breath due to the altitude. I took a short nap in the tent while Adrián stayed tendering the fire. It rained a little while I was sleeping but then the rain ceased and we had a very nice dinner sitting by the fire to fight the cold. At breakfast next morning we met Anissa and Whitney from Salt Lake City, who were camping across the road from us. Whitney showed me a detailed map of the area and recommended the Fehr Lake Trail which turned out to be the one I had followed with my kids. So Adrián and I went for the 3-mile hike to Hoover Lake (and neighboring Maba Lake) passing by Fehr Lake and Shepard Lake on the way. When we got back to the camp a few hours later, we found that Anissa and Whitney had left beer, corn, and wood for us, together with a short note wishing us luck. Nice people! We cooked the corn wrapped on aluminum foil on the glowing coals of our fire and drink a nice cold organic WYLD beer. It rained for an hour while we were sitting by the fire. The following day we took another hike to Picturesque and Scout Lakes following the Lofty Lake Loop trail. We had lunch by Picturesque Lake where Adrián discovered several axolotl-looking creatures that were probably larval stages (efts) of the tiger salamander. On a rocky outcrop we saw a sunbathing yellow-bellied marmot (see picture) and an American pika. Later that day we rode our bikes to Bald Mountain Pass to enjoy the magnificent view of the valley below. While sitting there we met a man who told us that from out of space the Uinta Range looks like an arrow pointing at Salt Lake City, “Zion”, the promise land that Brigham Young selected for the Mormon pioneers. With a little bit of imagination, in the terrain view of Google maps the Uintas look like a fish evolving small legs in its way to conquering land. The mouth of the fish does point toward Salt Lake City. Back at Moosehorn, Adrián cooked the rest of the corn on the fire while I sauté—with onions and carrots—a wild bolete mushroom (we hoped) that was growing at the campsite.
Day 16 (Sunday February 12, 2012) After breakfast we brought the bikes from the parking garage to the front of the hotel and began to load them up. A friendly man greeted me with an American sounding “buenos días” and we started to talk—in English. He turned out to be from Southern California (San Clemente) and owned a KLR 650 back home. He had actually grown up in the city of Arcadia, very close to my home in Claremont. The man was traveling with his wife in a rental car. They were planning to drive south to Chos Malal, the same direction we were traveling, the next day. He had hurt his hand rock climbing in Mendoza so we could not shake hands. I regretfully did not ask for his name—if you are reading this, please tell me who you are
A few kilometers south of Malargüe near Cascadas Manqui Malal we made our first stop to rest and to collect fossils—the same type of fossils that Charles Darwin collected here in Mendoza more than a century ago. Her Majesty Ship Beagle spent quite a bit of time sailing up and down the Patagonian shore. In Patagonia Darwin had the chance to collect many fossils of giant mammals that would later became significant evidence for his theory of Evolution by Means on Natural Selection. After the Beagle sailed around the Cape Horn, Captain Fitzroy ordered a lengthy stay in Chile to plot the shore. Darwin took that opportunity to cross the Andes from Santiago, Chile into Mendoza. He made some interesting geological observations up in the Andes and also discovered many fossils—of particular significance were the remains of a coniferous forest. Darwin also collected several mollusks—Ostrea, Turritella, Ammonites, and a small bivalve—that according to his description are very similar to the ones we collected here. We took pictures of the fossils but did not bring them with us. There is little room on a motorcycle to drag rocks around!
As I mentioned before, Southern Mendoza feels very Patagonian including the presence of many old volcanoes and lava fields at the foot of Andes. South of Bardas Blancas the road follows the valley of the Río Grande. East of the valley is La Payunia provincial reserve, a unique place soon to be declared World Heritage Site because it features the largest concentration of volcanic cones in the world. At a given point the Río Grande enters an expansive lava field and cuts through the black lava. At La Pasarela (the footbridge), route 40 crosses over the river offering a splendid view of the narrow gorge carved by the Grande on the thick layer of black basalt. It seemed like a perfect place for kayaking—may be on my next sabbatical.
South of La Pasarela, Ruta 40 turns into a rough gravel road with serious wash-boarding and frequent dust pools until it reaches the area of Ranquil Norte. I rode a large portion of the approximately 50 kilometers of this rough section standing on the foot pegs to allow the bike to bounce around freely beneath me. My legs, arms, and torso were tired but my butt was thankful for the break. As soon as we got to the asphalt it began to rain. Despite the heavy thunder and the lightening the views were lovely. From the descending road we had very broad views of the steppe and its mesas. Patches of showers alternated with sunny areas. The wet creosote bushes—close relatives of the bushes in the Mojave and the Sonoran deserts—released a sweet perfume that made the ride more pleasant. We crossed the Barrancas River to enter the Province of Neuquén. In almost every Patagonian river valley people plant columnar Lombardy poplars as windscreens. Even during the winter months the dense leaf-less branches create an effective wind barrier. We rode past Volcán Tromen and saw the snow covered peak of Volcán Domuyo at a distance. A year ago I was at the Domuyo hot springs collecting cyanobacteria for some DNA studies. I would not have guessed that I would be back a year later looking at the Domuyo from a motorcycle. After two quick rest stops at Buta Ranquil and Chos Malal, we crossed the Neuquén River and continued south in the direction of Las Lajas where we wanted to spend the night. We could not find a hotel at Las Lajas so we continued on route 40 to Zapala. As we were arriving to the city, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and lit the thorny bushes of the steppe to produce a gorgeous Patagonian sunset.
Dinner was bad and expensive. A dog bit a piece of my sandwich.