Most motorcycle riders in Winnipeg would agree there aren’t many interesting places to ride around the city. So what do you do if you want to ride smooth, winding roads? You have to head out on the highway and find them.
Motorcycle travelling isn’t for everyone. You spend long hours on the bike, exposed to the elements. There are constant concerns about the forecast and how far it is to the next gas station. Each morning, you pick the potential destination for the day, and learn to be satisfied if you make it 70 per cent of the way. Everything takes longer than you expect.
Free Press photographer John Woods and I recently completed an 11,560-kilometre ride from Winnipeg to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, at the tip of the Baja peninsula. From April 22 to May 8, we rode through 10 American states, two Mexican states, seven tires and all four seasons.
Woods was riding a brand-new KTM 690 Enduro, a dual sport bike perfect if you’re planning to hit the trail as well as the road. But its knobby tires weren’t ideal for long highway sections. They wore prematurely and, because they were a rare size, proved to be difficult to replace throughout our journey. My sport bike, a BMW S1000RR, is more at home at a track then putting in long days of travelling. My body suffered because of the race-oriented riding position, but it was worth it once we were on the endless stretches of twists and turns that run up and down the Baja.
Our first few days were spent heading south towards Council Bluff, Iowa, then west through Denver toward Las Vegas. We dealt with cold temperatures and snow through the Rocky Mountains, which was uncomfortable and challenging. From Las Vegas to San Diego, extreme winds proved to be our next adversary. It often felt as though we were riding at a 45-degree angle while driving in a straight line, as the wind tried to blow us over.
While crossing the border from the United States into Mexico, Woods and I stopped to get our immigration papers. Owing to some vague instructions from a border official, I accidentally parked where the denied travellers wait to be returned to the U.S. This almost cut our trip short. Thankfully, despite a language barrier, we were able to explain the error and continued on our way.
The next two days were spent travelling the entire length of the Baja to get to its southern-most point. There are hundreds of kilometres of incredible mountain roads, often running along either the Pacific or the Gulf of California. The views are breathtaking, and the people along the way are friendly and warm. Our lack of Spanish was an inconvenience, but not a barrier.
A few days spent in Cabo was enough to recharge our batteries for the long journey home. Woods and I had ridden from Winnipeg to Vancouver and down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco on a previous trip. This time, we planned to ride the PCH up to San Fran from the south. This is a beautiful part of North America, worthy of a trip all of its own.
From San Francisco to Reno, Nev., we crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The high altitude once again caused a lot of grief. It was pouring rain and very cold. There was no relief the following day, as we rode to Idaho, with temperatures again far below what we had anticipated and enough rain to completely saturate my "waterproof" riding gear.
On the final stretch, we ended up riding from Pocatello, Idaho, all the way home. It was more than 2,000 km in a 24-hour stretch of continuous riding.
This was an unforgettable trip, fuelled by trail mix, Red Bull and a desire to ride some of the greatest roads in North America.
Trevor Hagan is a Winnipeg freelance photographer.