Day 12 – Ensenada to LA

Our view from the balcony. Really? We have to leave? Shucks.

Our morning started with a great breakfast in the restaurant next to our hotel.  It was an interesting experience.  It appeared to be where the well-healed, local Ensenada “ladies who lunch” meet for breakfast.  It was awesome.  Not a gringo in the joint, and all the ladies were in full-on Sunday brunch gear.  Really interesting to see.  And breakfast was awesome.  Guess what I had?  Awesome tacos.  Duh.  Wasn’t expecting them to be so good at this restaurant, but they rocked.  And I ate too much.  Oops.

Our breakfast table's view. Sweet.

After breakfast, we headed downtown for…  You guessed it!  Tacos!  We had to go and check out the Mercado de Mariscos (fish market), and while there, shouldn’t we have some fish tacos?  I realize that I’d just eaten, but I couldn’t pass it up.  The boats pull in and dump the fish off at the market, and then the restaurants next to the market cook it up fresh.  You can even buy fresh fish and take it to the restaurant, and they’ll cook it up.  So rad.  Like I’m just going to walk away from that opportunity.  You must think I’m as dumb as I look.  Close, but not quite.

The Mercado de Marscos was great to see.  Fresh fish after fresh fish.  Most of them I’d never heard of before.  And so freaking cheap.  Ahi tuna steaks for about $3-4 a pound.  Other fish was $1-3 per pound and so freaking fresh.  My tacos were great, but they were deep-fried.  I thought I’d try it that way, but well, that was a decision I paid for during the first hour heading north to Rosarito Beach (where I was due to eat more tacos).  Good thing for Tonieh that we weren’t in one of those rolling glass cages…

Fresh fish as far as the eye could see.

Camarones (shrimps) anyone? Look at all the effort it must have taken to stack all the shrimp perfectly. Some of the biggest I've ever seen. For $5 US per pound for the largest.

Meet some of my friends. They were having such nice mornings too.

Look at the guy on top third from right. He's super surprised this is happening. "What's going on?! I woke up this morning swimming in the open ocean, and now all these upright landwalkers are staring at me?!? Guys, let's run1!!"

Some of us just have to be different. I respect that. Or, is he just a huge Dutch futbol fan?

And sometimes everyone just tries to fit in.

I just liked the colors in this one. 50 pesos per kilo is about $1.80 / pound.

Just because I took it.

Ah, if only we had this back home. A nice reminder that life does not normally come shrink-wrapped in styrofoam.

Yes, even Santa Claus winters in the Baja. He gets pretty thin for the summer down here. Sitting at our fish taco spot.

Tacos 7 and 8 during the magical 24-hours of tacos. I'm about to own this taco like it's my job. Could have done without the deep-fry, but hey, it tasted delicious.

The ride up the coast to Rosarito on the way to Tijuana was fantastic.  We floated along a great road right along the ocean past enclaves of resorts right next to cinderblock shacks.

Yea, 28 years they've been doing this. I think they have it nailed.

We made it to Rosarito, and after a bit of searching, found one of the taco centers of the universe – Tacos El Yaqui.  You’ll never guess what I did.  I ate too many tacos.  This was another amazing Mexican taco stand.  It’s off the main drag, so you either have to know where it is or have such a passion for tacos that you’ll search out THE one.  In our case, it was the latter.  And the search paid off.  When we first showed up, we thought, hmm, no one is really here.  Oh well, let’s order.  Then we sat down with our food, and the lunch hour must have kicked in.  Within minutes, the place was absolutely streaming with people – all Mexicans.  No gringos to be seen.  We knew we were in the right place.  And oddly enough, it was the cleanest bathroom in all of Baja.

And the tacos!  Oh man.  Perfectly done steak topped off with “everything,” which as far as we could tell was cheese, salsa, and more steak.  Then served with a plate of fresh, steaming, grilled jalapenos and magical salsa.  Why, oh why, is there not a place like this and/or Taqueria la Comadre from Ensenada?  I may have to do something about that…

We pulled up and parked in front of no more than a small, cinderblock shack. We knew we'd arrived.

They chopped up the meat on a big tree stump. It's gotta be clean. You can have any meat you want, as long as it's arrachera (basically flank steak). Genius.

And then we ate. Oh man. Those green things are fresh, grilled jalapenos, and yea, the tacos are as big as they look. The ride to Tijuana was a touch uncomfortable. But then, these were tacos 9 and 10 in the past 18 hours. Yaous.

We had to drive around the city for half an hour to finally find a road to take us under the huge Tijuana arch. Totally worth it.

The rest of the way to Tijuana was more Mexican contradictions as the variance in wealth is displayed so outrageously.  Huge, luxurious developments and LA-like waterfront homes set next to dilapidating shacks and muddy, dirt roads.

We got to Tijuana fairly quickly, so we decided to take a spin through town.  It’s just such a sight to see from the road – the hills are literally covered in seas of homes and small buildings.  It’s impossible to imagine any order, but it all works.  Somehow ordered chaos rules.  We had to take a closer look.  I’m glad we did.  Tijuana is a fascinating place.

Vibrant life in Tijuana.

There are only 1.3 million in the city and 1.8 million in the metro area, but it seems like they are all slammed into the center of town.  It makes for rapid changes between neighborhoods.  The downtown area is nothing like I’d expected, or maybe been programed by our media, to see.  It was very cosmopolitan and big-city like.  It could have been any larger, industrial city in the US with shopping centers that could have fit into Bluemound road and tall buildings that would rival those in Milwaukee.  And then we turned off into the bowels of the city because I wanted to get a photo of the arch.  And WOW!  The mass humanity!  People everywhere.  Just getting through intersections was challenging.  But, guess what?  No murders the whole time we were there.  Wow.  Who knew?

After a short tour and a quick photo of the Tijuana arch (above), we started to make our way to the border.  Somehow, we ended up in some super-secret, special line that took us past all the traffic.  I have no clue how we found this lane.  We just started making our way down this protected line until we found ourselves at some checkpoint where cars had to show some pass to get through.  Uh oh.  We don’t need no stinkin pass.  For some reason, they just waved us through anyway.  We drove past over a half-mile of 6 lanes-wide, stopped, bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Seriously.  It just all zipped past us.  This is too good to be true.  They’ll certainly send us back at some point.  We just stayed in this super-secret lane and rode all the way to the front.  Then, when we got there, we had to pass a couple officers, and I said that they’d surely send us back now.  Sure enough, a couple local policia stopped us.  But, rather than send us back, they pulled us out of the line and pushed us forward into yet another area, and all of a sudden we were 8 cars back from the gates!  We passed up a half-mile of stopped traffic to emerge 8 cars back.  The entire 2-3 hour process took us about 15 minutes!  Ha!  Traveling by motorcycle rules.

Driving into the US was a bit of culture shock.  First, all the cars looked road-worthy.  None of the trucks were overflowing with metal scraps about to tumble over.  All the tail lights worked, and the traffic laws were actually in effect rather than just mere suggestions.  Yuck.  That’s no fun.  Then, we started into LA traffic.  Ugh.  Suck me sideways.  Seriously.  I can’t believe people do this every day.  Apparently, adding more lanes does not move traffic faster.  It just makes for more cars on the road.  We were in 6-lane traffic for as far as you could see.

Welcome to Hollywood. You just gotta look really close.

Now, I know I’ve talked about this before, but once again, I was blown away by the fact that this lane-splitting thing was legal.  Thank god it is.  We clipped along through MILES of traffic riding the center lines while the rest of the traffic just sat still.  It was AMAZING.  Every once in a while, I’d pull into a lane thinking, “Well, I’ve gotten away with this for long enough.  I should quit while I’m ahead.  I’m sure to get busted soon.”  And then another cycle would scream past us at mach 2 between the cars.  Well, I guess it really is legal.  Once when I was cruising along, a motorcycle cop (it wasn’t Ponch, I checked) pulled up behind me.  I thought this as surely the time.  Shit, I’m getting pulled over.  Nope.  He just sailed past us at a speed that anyone would consider unsafe with rearview mirrors inches from either handlebar.  Yeehaaaahhh!

Pulling onto JB's sidewalk. Safely home.

The obligatory I'm Home photo. That's me saying, "Wow, my ass really hurts after all that nasty freeway driving." Time for some rest.

All-in-all, we made it from downtown Tijuana to LA in 3.5 hours with a stop for over-priced but high-octane gas.  It could have easily taken 6-7 hours by following the “normal” traffic laws.  Traveling by motorcycle rules.

And our reward for all of this travel was to get to hang out with JB in LA.  What an awesome way to end the motorcycle portion of the trip.  The last hundred miles are always a bit rattling – crashing at that point would just be so embarrassing, on top of painful.  You get a bit more cautious and uptight, and you just want to get there.  Getting to Jonathan’s was like finding yet one more oasis in a broad desert.

Just doesn't seem right to leave her outside, but I just didn't think Jonathan would go for having her in the living room...

Amazing trip with a great ending.  2,596 miles.  Not a hiccup from La Gigante.  I mean, not a single thing was even questionable.  She started up at the first pull in LA after sitting in a box for almost three months and ran perfectly every step of the way, often pulling me from danger on her own.  I can’t help but think of her as a living, breathing thing.  I actually feel bad about leaving her behind in LA for a month or two.  I know it’s irrational, but when you depend on something to that degree over that much time through some fairly harsh conditions, you create a bond – even with a machine.  You get to know every sound and twitch, and you operate it like you’re controlling your own arms and legs.  I’ll miss her.

I’m now home, and I’m already thinking about the next trip.  First, I have to rider her home in May or so, and then, I’m really not sure.  But, Mexico is definitely calling.  I’ll ponder that for a bit.

The author contemplating the shit out of his next trip. Just get home safely first you dumbass.

The final route.  Finished with an “O.”  Couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

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2 Responses to Day 12 – Ensenada to LA

  1. Cristin Hildenbrand says:

    Welcome home to you and your girls!

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