mexico
baja california del norte

Although we had logged hundreds of thousands of miles collectively on cruisers, there was nothing in our
stateside experience that prepared us for our first trip to Mexico by motorcycle. Even the fact that I had
been traveling to Mexico for nearly thirty years was of little help. Over that time I had made the trip by
bus, by hitchhiking twice, and by pickup once. More recent trips had been reduced to flying in for a quick
couple of weeks at one or another of those "favorite" places. Any previous experience we'd had with off
pavement riding was perhaps the occasional long driveway. The only thing we were sure of, is that we did
not want to take our expensive Harleys. After riding to Tucson from Chicago by way of Washington--itself
a leisurely month long journey--we looked for a place to store the Harleys and for some bikes that we
could consider "expendable." Our choices reveal exactly to what extent our ignorance of the subject of
off-pavement riding reached. For me, the main criteria was that the bike be something you could afford to
part with. Folks in Tucson did their best to educate us about the virtues of dual-sport bikes, but at my age I
was afraid that a lightweight bike would beat me to death over the course of three months, and the bigger
bikes like the GS were still more money than we wanted to spend. I guess that part of my rationale was
that we would still be doing more than 70 percent of our riding on pavement.

The bikes we finally decided on were an eighteen-year-old Yamaha 1100 for me--chosen for its ample
luggage rack and saddlebags as well as its cheap price. The Yamaha ran great, and after a few minor
wiring repairs to the lights and some new rubber she was ready to go. Karen faired a little better, thanks to
the urging of a friend we had made in Tucson. She settled on a 1989 Honda TransAlp that turned out to be
the perfect bike for the ride we were making. The TransAlp also had a complete Givi luggage system that
turned out to be a major plus. I have to confess that I had misgivings about the TransAlp on the longer
stretches of paved road, but it proved to be almost as smooth as the larger bike. It was in fact the bigger
bike that kept us out of a few places that we would have liked to seen, and over time Karen really fell in
love with the Honda. In fact, whenever we were stopped at one place for any length of time we would just
park the Yamaha, and run around two-up on the TransAlp

We decided to put the bikes to the test as quickly as possible, and as close to the border as possible. In the
event that any thing major went wrong we would at least be a short tow back. We chose for our first day
a ride into a place known as Cañon Guadalupe.