Saturday, September 25, 2010



The road swoops down from the plateau to the Sea of Cortez through narrow gorges of rose red stone. The descent is biker heaven. A shared joy draws us together as we lean into perfect curve after perfect curve, shed years, shed worries, become children in a playground. Then comes the sea, a shimmering sheet of lapis. Not to bathe in such beauty insults its creator. Yet on we ride, on and on and on...
And, rather than cool ourselves in the sea, stop for lunch at an air-conditioned Chinese restaurant.


below the pool


7 a.m and we are on the road again. Goodbye Hollywood Mansion, goodbye glorious beach that we didn't visit. Goodbye Cabo San Lucas, town that remains unknown. Arlene flies home this morning - business. Wonder woman, she has leant me her bike. The bike is a production model with a custom paint job. The bike's name? Coco Chanel, naturally.
We race north two hours to Todos Santos for breakfast and find the bypass round La Paz. The road cuts inland beyond La Paz and climbs 1500 feet to a wide plateau encircled by mountains. The sun bleaches and paralyses the desert. The dark grey road is an interloper. It runs straight as a steel yardstick between fluffy borders of dew fed emerald. Two glow-yellow bugs speed down the road - Joe and Big John in their biker jackets. The temperature at noon tops 103 degrees.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


big john


I have followed Big John for four days. John on a California Scooter Company bike is kin to a father riding his five year-old's tricycle. That the bike holds up is a fine advertisement for the bike. Big John and I in the Hollywood mansion's infinity pool is a sight for nature lovers sufficiently short sighted to mistake us for a pair of captive white whales. John wisely keeps to the shade. I am in the sun and thus the more gruesome.
However not the more terrifying.
Terrifying is John's laugh. The laugh is deeper than the deepest coal mine. Even his gentlest chuckle would make old ladies limp for shelter. Sell it to a Movie Company and John's fortune is made.
However John possesses something deeper than his laugh – his heart. Four days of his company and here is my one-word summation of his character, kindness. Extraordinary kindness...


joe not seeing big john in the pool


The pool is small and tiled in the obligatory blue Italian mosaic. Look down across (gated) roof tops to a wide golden beach on which Pacific rollers break in obedience to the tourist brochures. J and I are in desultory conversation. Four seagulls sit on the roof. Two pink bougainvillea blossoms drift across the surface. Such tranquility...
Big John's swim suit is locked in J's truck. Imagine a naked, shaven-headed giant. Elegant is not a description that comes immediately to mind. The four seagulls screech and take flight.



The Hollywood mansion is a rental property. It could sleep a dozen with ease which would make for a moderately priced holiday if you knew twelve people with whom holidaying would be a pleasure. The twelve need to be adults. This is not a house for kids. The floors are polished marble. Fall off the outer edge of the infinity pool and the servants would scrape the scraps off the rocks. The scraping wouldn't be an extra as the house is staffed with two housemen and a major domo. A mile-wide TV dominates the open-plan living room. A wall to wall mirror above the TV doubles the size of the room from big to mega and roller-blades would be convenient for exploring the kitchen/dinning area.




A year or two and the four-lane highway south from Todos Santos to the tip of the Peninsular will be complete. Stretches remain under construction. Dirt deviations are tough riding on a small bike with a unitary frame. The bikes buck and vibrate and shake the hell out of you and the afternoon temperature exceeds 100 degrees.
Cabo San Lucas exists for tourism. J has arranged for us to stay in a Hollywood mansion in a gated community on a steep hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The mansion is near the top of the hill. The roads up through the gated community are granite pave. Cobbles would be marginally tougher on our already tender rear ends.



La Paz is on the Sea of Cortez. An excellent four lane highway crosses the Peninsular to Todos Santos. Todos Santos is a neat clean town on a rise above the Pacific. Truck traffic is banned - as are high rises blocking the sea breeze. The town has charm. It is attractive to tourists without being touristy or over-run. Townsfolk are courteous. We take lunch under a palm frond roof. A triple deck fountain cools the breeze - natural air-conditioning typical of Islamic-Hispanic architecture.



La Paz is a hot sweaty city on the Sea of Cortez. We are hot and sweaty (other than J who travels in air-conditioned splendour). We miss the bypass and are lost. I ask a lady for directions. She begins describing the route. I understand individual words, even entire sentences. The whole becomes a jumble. My eyes betray a fatalistic acceptance of inadequacy. The woman halts her instructions. Her smile is familiar. It is the generous female's smile of understanding when faced by male incompetence. Men are men. They have their uses. However rational thought is not the male's strong point (expect even vaguely mature thought and you will be disappointed). Humour them. Lead them by the hand. Such is the Latin way...
In brief, she stops giving directions and says, “It will be best if you follow me...”



The desert is full of colour at dawn and dusk. Midday and it is sun-bleached. The sky to the East over the Sea of Cortez is a dark lapis fading to pale turquoise over the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific sleeps under a thick blanket of sea fog or low cloud. At altitude, the fog condenses on the tar and trickles to the verge. The road is a black strip between narrow ribbons of emerald green.


Senior moments are becoming the commonplace of my life. And they extend in length. Whilst writing during the past two days I have been attempting to place our journey into the calendar. We departed Los Angeles on the 10th, sleeping in San Vicente. The night of the 11th was the Desert Inn, Catavina. The Desert Inn,San Ignacio would have been the night of the 12th. We stayed overnight at the Oasis Hotel in Constitution on the 13th and reached CaboSan Lucas on the 14th.
I have checked this itinerary on paper, drawn diagrams, calculated mileage and hours on the road. It is correct.
Much of my journey south was filled with worry. The preproduction bikes developed electrical faults. The welds failed on the muffler supports. Would the production bikes hold up? I have flown from London to make this ride. Failure would be a major disappointment, not only to me, but to two editors waiting for me to file. Joe has more pressing concerns. This ride was conceived by him as proof of the bikes' reliability. Potential customers follow his Blog. And his leg hurts (“No it doesn't,” I hear him say). Ouch...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My bike died yesterday. Died as in dead. Death occurred at the entrance to a dirt bike competition. An electric fault. Probably minor. We could find the fault in five minutes or waste two hours. Temperature is above 100 degrees. Messing with the bike when we can load it on J's truck would be stupid. I ride in the truck a while, then ride Joe's bike while Joe rides in the truck. I wish Joe would stay in the truck. Hours of the bike vibrating over bad bits of road engenders pain in his leg. Joe will deny this. Suggest he rests and he claims to be fine. He isn't fine. The pain shows in his face. So does the determination. He is a good man, both serious and a magnificent recounter of immensely long jokes - those we Brits call shaggy dog stories.
I am having a great time. My four comapanions are fascinatingly disparate. Arlene is warm, humorous, brave and instant energy with a lightening mind and a PHd. She is also Gay and a great hug. Add talent as a designer and you have a tiny fraction of the whole. She sits very upright on the bike and wears a red hacking jacket – you know, slit at the back for riding a horse, except that this jacket is for bikers and part of Arlene's range. I compliment her on the jacket and on having a great tail (true). She seems pleased.
Loretta is a tourist town on on the sea of Cortez. The cops in Loretta are running a fund-raiser. First Big John is pulled over for doing a wheelie on main street – or was it for running a red light? The lights hang high above the road and are easy to miss against the sun. J's turn next, his crime, failing to stop at a stop sign. We gather at the police station, statements signed, fines only $20. Legitimate fines. receipts given. The cops are good natured, much humour. However we will give Loretta a miss when riding north.


Wrtiting is a solitary profession. I am accustomed to traveling alone and at my own speed. I stop where I will, chat endlessly with strangers, hope to discover a little of their lives, eat where local inhabitants eat (in Mexico, a plastic table at a sidewalk taco stand), discover a bed in my price range (under $20 and no bugs). This trip is different. We ride across Mexico without touching it. This apartness is born of the language barrier. Even Big John, married to a Peruvian and owning a house in Mexico, speaks no Spanish. And time is a factor. For people in the US, holidays are few and brief. A long weekend is Big John's standard ride. Mount that saddle and open the throttle wide...
Noon and Joe's thermometer registers 103 degrees.
A fractured weld on an exhaust pipe attachment adds to Joe's worries. For me a welder's shop is happiness. I act as Joe's translator while chatting happily with whomever drops by to admire the bikes. The bikes draw a crowd where ever we stop. So they should. Simply looking at them makes people happy. As to problems, we've had batteries go flat on both preproduction bikes. Joe calculates that the batteries are two to three years old. Age, heat and vibrations probably killed them.