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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Brown

Exhaust Echoes in the Desert: Riding Among Cacti on Two Wheels

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

In the realm of Mexico, the border crossing behind us marked our entry into the small town of Sonoyta. Navigating its streets, we stumbled upon a completely unmarked building just feet from the border. Without my wife's Spanish proficiency, it would have gone unnoticed, leaving most of us lost. If your stay is brief, rolling on is an option, but we needed to secure our tourist visa.

With my own ability to speak Spanish adrift, my wife adeptly handled the visa process, making it one of the smoothest border crossings. A short journey down the road brought us to a plywood shed offering the best USD exchange rate at $17, a welcomed find.

Our Ajo welcoming committee had forewarned us about speed traps in Sonoyta, urging us to keep a vigilant eye on our KPH. Merely 98 km away from Puerto Penasco and a late start with insurance matters, the day unfolded as an easy one, a straightforward path towards the coast and our night's destination.

After securing an RV spot on the beach, we discovered comfortable accommodations next door. However, the $100 per night price tag for a modest room seemed steep, especially considering the hotel's near emptiness. Despite this, the weekend promised the 23rd Rocky Point Motorcycle Rally.

Our first night in Mexico unfolded in Puerto Penasco, a city that had evolved significantly since my last visit almost 20 years prior. Settled in, we found ourselves on the beach bar at the RV park, enjoying the seaside ambiance. The bar, with its tiers spilling onto the beach, featured plastic furniture, a pool table, a bar familiarly placed in the center with patrons as fixtures sat adorn in normality of is all as if they had assigned seats. As the sun bowed for the day, casting its warm glow over the waves, we savored 2-for-1 Margaritas, matching their pace with the falling tide.

Vendors weaved through, presenting their wares, sparking negotiations over blankets and silver rings. The sea, envious of our prolonged attention, offered an evening show as the sky transitioned to orange and pink. Dolphins emerged, dancing and breaching the water, captivating the entire bar for a splendid ten minutes.

As the night progressed, we decided to call it, leaving the bar aglow with happy, red-faced patrons. Following the advice of the welcoming party in Ajo, we opted for an Uber ride, an unexpected convenience in Mexico. However, our lack of planning resulted in a cramped ride in a four-door Volkswagen, making the 15-minute journey a bit rough. Along dirt roads, our driver's familiar dance of questions was interrupted by a collision with a man on a small motorcycle. Silence enveloped us, contemplating if we had committed a hit and run. Eventually, the motorcycle veered off, our driver sped away, and the margarita-induced awe lingered as we arrived at our unassuming destination.

Jesse's Carreta, nestled in an outlined barrio, turned out to be a hidden gem. Housed on the main floor of a two-story building, its dining room was a converted space typically used for parking. The eccentric owner, a polite and well-spoken man, exhibited a unique drink-ordering ritual, adding to the charm. The place, with its reasonable yet stiff drinks and basic food, was utterly captivating and entirely unexpected.

Nestled in a quaint barrio, Jesse's Carreta restaurant beckons with its enchanting ambiance. As you step through its doors, you're welcomed by a tapestry of vibrant flowers, intricate sugar skulls, and a warm glow from twinkling lights that adorn the space. The air is filled with the rhythmic notes of lively music, adding to the lively atmosphere. The decor, a delightful mix of rustic charm and artistic flair, creates an unexpected yet inviting setting. It's a place where each detail, from the floral arrangements to the carefully placed sugar skulls, contributes to an immersive and magical dining experience. Jesse's Carreta is not just a restaurant; it's a journey into a world where culinary delights intertwine with a feast for the senses.

Our Uber ride home was far less eventful, and a sigh of relief filled the air. The following morning, we decided to move on, driven partly by the impending Motorcycle Rally causing inflated hotel prices. Although staying for the rally would have been enticing, we opted to continue our journey down Baja, looping over to San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez, a seemingly manageable four-hour ride that proved more challenging than Google Maps suggested.

Machaca, a traditional dish with roots in Mexican cuisine, is a savory delight that has stood the test of time. This culinary masterpiece features dried, spiced, and shredded meat, typically beef or pork, that is slow-cooked to perfection. Bursting with flavors derived from a medley of spices, machaca boasts a rich and tender texture that captivates the palate. Often enjoyed in breakfast burritos or paired with eggs, this dish has become a beloved staple in southwestern cuisine. The process of crafting machaca involves a careful balance of seasoning and meticulous preparation, resulting in a taste that transcends generations and beckons aficionados to savor its delicious authenticity.

Leaving Puerto Paenasco, we asked an attendant at the Pemex for a good place to have breakfast. Rosy's, suggested by the attendant, turned out to be excellent, especially the amazing beans. As we zigzagged through seamlessly broken roads, the landscape shifted, and the desolation of the desert enveloped us. The harsh 20mph headwind became the most unwelcome adversary, making this stretch the most arduous. I soon found myself in a relentless battle against the unyielding elements. The sun, a relentless companion overhead, cast its searing rays upon the vast expanse of arid landscape. Each mile, a testament to endurance, unfolded with a persistent headwind that seemed determined to test the limits of both man and machine. The motorcycle, my steadfast companion, labored against the invisible force, its engine humming a determined tune. The open road stretched endlessly before me, the only constants being the shimmering heat waves and the rhythmic thud of tires against the barren earth. In the face of such adversity, every passing minute became a testament to resilience, a solitary hour etched in the annals of desert travel, where the relentless wind whispered tales of both hardship and unwavering determination.

In the distance, a small line of trees signaled relief, gradually revealing a charming farm. The road curved, descended, and life returned to the landscape as we approached a town. The once-empty desert transformed into a sea of green, blooming flowers, and the welcoming blue hues of the Cortez greeted us. The warm air pushed us forward, and the road unfolded before us.

After a refreshing stop for our first south-of-the-border coke at a dusty pull-off, we encountered a barrel-chested firefighter who shared stories and questions at a store. The young man at the store, on a bicycle journey to Alaska from Chile, added to the array of fascinating encounters. We exchanged stories, encouraging him to look us up in Washington and buy dinner when he reaches his destination.

With just 30 minutes remaining to San Felipe, the stop for the night, the desert plain transformed into traffic and buildings. Palm tree-lined boulevards led to large white arches, creating a picturesque entrance to the city. Most of the town was stacked upon the beach, with RV parks, hotels, guest houses, and beachside restaurants. We settled into a place we had stayed two decades ago, now constructed into a hotel where the room felt as if time had stood still.

As we unloaded our bikes, hunted for plugs, and attempted to use the so-called internet, we reflected on the day's challenges and the sheer beauty of it all. Thoughts of the French guy cycling to Alaska, the loud man, the small farm, and the adventure lingered in our minds.

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