Who: Chilly White & Dean Potts (FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/Factory KTM Team sponsor)
Bikes: 2003 KTM 450exc, 2006 KTM 525exc
Here are a few pics from this week’s excursion to Baja. The weather was awesome. It had rained and snowed just two days before we left. Then the weather turned off warm and sunny. So at times in the mountains we were riding in the remnants of snow, but it was nearly 70 degrees out.
On day one we did a route up through the pine forest, around Laguna Hansen and continued south to Valle de Trinidad for lunch. Then it was an easy ride up the powerline road to Mike’s Skyranch. Being a Monday night, we found ourselves all alone at Mike’s, had the place completely to ourselves.
After a nice night at Mike’s we headed out south over the mountain and down to El Coyote. The wetter than usual spring weather has brought another banner year for rabbits and quail. Both California and Mountain quail are everywhere. It is hard to go more than a few minutes without seeing any. The rabbits are nearly as plentiful.
We continued west and headed out to the coast near Quatro Casas surf camp. The morning marine layer was still burning off as we rode through intermintent fog banks. We took the basic coastal route north towards Santo Tomas. Dean was starting to feel the pangs of hunger as it had been nearly 3 1/2 hours since breakfast. So we stopped in at Acambaro in Uruapan to see my buddy Juan and grab an early lunch. The crab burritos were excellent as usual. We left carrying a bottle of wine to take back to Neena. The local valley of La Grulla grows some excellent reds.
Dean wanted to see other parts of the typical Baja race course. It is often difficult to get out and see some of the more commonly referred to locations during race week. From Uruapan we took the old two track route towards Ojos Negros via Tres Hermanos. Dean found one of the climbs up the mountain a little challenging, but after some huffing and puffing he was able to make it up. We ended day two by taking the highway down into Ensenada.
I confess that I have a number of culinary indulgences that I consider a mandatory part of any visit to Ensenada. One is to eat a plate of shrimp toritos at Mahi Mahi restaurant. These are little cooked mild peppers that are stuffed with ground shrimp and marinated in Ponzu sauce. The second is to have a seafood cocktail from the street cart and the last is to have some tacos at my new favorite stand next door to Hussong’s Cantina. Sorry don’t remember the name.
Anyway I got the sea food and tacos on this trip. I was full enough from these apperitivos that a formal dinner was not really necessary. Finally a Margarita from El Corralito topped off the evening. Make sure to sit right at the bar and tell the bartender not to make it too sweet. Otherwise they might slip you some of the swill they serve the cruise ship passengers. Word to the wise, one is plenty, it sneaks up on you slowly and then hits with a bang.
We spent the night in Ensenada at the El Cortez. Nice little place close to the tourist center with good gated parking. It also has a nice restaurant that opens early so you can have a great meal and still be on the road early. I recommend the Huevos Motoleños, a tasty and hearty start to a day of riding.
For the last day we took the quickest route back north up the Compadre road. We were ready to get back a little early, so it was a good way to finish up the trip. Back at the border we had hoped to find a quick taco, but my regular stand was closed, so we went straight for the border crossing. We now typically just ride our bikes back and forth, leaving the pickup on the US side. This saves lots of time making the crossing. All back safe and sound, three days and just over six hundred miles of riding. No flat tires, no bike problems at all, so another great trip in the books.
I asked to Dean Potts to write a few words about his ride:
Life is funny. Cool stuff happens that you have no idea why. My meeting and becoming friends with Chilly White falls into that category.
In 2010, I had this dream that Bonanza Plumbing and KTM could beat Johnny Campbell and win the Baja 1000. All it would take is lots of talent, desire and money. I had desire and money but the only talent I had was being friends with then factory KTM rider David Pearson.
Long story short, while the team was testing the KTM 530 out in El Centro, this guy named Chilly White shows up and tells me he is the editor of Enduro360.com and he was there to do a story about the team and their progress. Since Bonanza Plumbing is not in the motorcycle business and sponsoring motorcycle racing is basically a publicity stunt I figure I had better get to know this guy to keep the positive ink flowing on the project.
As luck would have it, Chilly and I hit it off and became good friends and even occasional riding partners. Chilly White is a vet expert with a long list of motorcycle achievements including riding the International Six Days Enduro four times. He races hare and hounds and enduros almost weekly. He has ridden in Baja for years and rides and tests all brands of motorcycles all year round.
I on the other hand and am a 58 (59 next month) year old businessman that has spent most of the last 30 years behind a desk and regularly don’t lift anything heavier then the telephone. I raced a little motocross when I was young but never competed above intermediate. Today I have both street and dirt bikes and consider myself a good rider for my age. I do a little vet track motocross riding a couple of times a month to stay in shape and ride a few dual sport events each year.
Getting a call from Chilly asking if I want to do a couple of days in Baja with him is both exciting and terrifying. It is exciting because I really love the beauty and ruggedness of the Baja peninsula. It is terrifying because I am riding with not only an excellent rider, but a guy that knows every little bunny trail in Mexico. After just a few minutes of discussing some possible routes and destinations, we pick a day and I say I am in.
My regular mount for a ride like this is my 2006 KTM 525 EXC. Quick check of oil levels, filter and tire pressures and it is ready to go. The only thing I did different was purchase some Giant Loop trail bags for a little extra storage capacity since we were leaving the truck in the USA. We would ride across the border into Tecate carrying everything we would need in back packs.
Upon crossing the border Chilly hangs a quick left and 20 some miles of pavement later we are winding our way up to Laguna Hanson in the Mexican pine forest (National park) on pristine little jeep roads. Riding with a rider as good as Chilly is a little intimidating but the recent rains provided excellent damp tacky trail conditions so all I had to do was follow the freshly laid down “stripe’ in the soil and avoid the little muddy “lakes” in the whoops.
Riding in Baja is an art. If you ride too slow it gets boring and takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get anywhere because everything is miles and miles apart. If you ride too fast, you soon find things like hidden rocks or some poor framers truck bumper in a place you didn’t expect. With Chilly’s experience with the roads/trails and guiding tours, he knows when you can open it up and when a more sedate cadence is appropriate.
One minute you are cruising along at a leisurely pace looking at the breathtaking scenery and the next you are up on the pegs with the throttle pinned playing Larry Roeseler doing feet up power slides out of every corner.
The open roads in Baja can take a little time to get used to. Many times I said to myself, “Geeze, we are hauling ass!!” You know you are really flying when you have a KTM 525 screaming in 6th gear and your left foot keeps trying to find 7th, LOL. Not knowing the terrain, I had gauge when it was open enough to go fast. Just as important was remembering to keep to the correct side of the road just in case there was any oncoming traffic. Stopping fast is just as important as going fast.
The best part of riding with an experienced Baja guy, is that fact that he always knows where he is going. He finds little scenic routes that a mere mortal would never find in a million years. In three days, we must have gone through a dozen gates (Mexican gates are barbed wire polls with a looped rope to hold them in place). I kept asking, “are you sure it’s ok we go through here?” thinking we have stumbled across someone’s private property and he always said, “Don’t worry about it”.
The odometer on my bike read 160 miles by the time we got to Mike’s Sky Rancho at the end of day one. The warm sunny day turned pretty cold when the sun went down at 4,300 feet. Being the only two guests in the place, they served us a pretty good steak dinner and we called it a night.
After a delicious scrambled ham and eggs breakfast, we were back on the bikes heading southwest towards El Coyote. Chilly warned me that the first ten miles were a little rough and they were. Somewhere between Mike’s and El Coyote, Chilly put on a hill climbing exhibition climbing this huge hill! I got it on video, but being a better plumber than a photographer it didn’t come out as good as I had hoped. A few miles later, the road opened up to the breathtaking scenery of the Meling Ranch. After a quick stop for gas at Highway One, we were having our mid morning break sitting on rocks looking at the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
If you look at a map you think you just go north and follow the Ocean but the next 70 miles was a combination of old racecourse and farm roads. Baja racecourse on the Pacific Coast is like rock hard concrete squished into lumps of varying size and depth making the ride both slow and interesting. At a whopping 20 miles per hour, I was using all my KTM’s suspension travel and felt like I was riding a bucking bronco rider in a rodeo! In my mind, I kept wondering how the top Baja racers run this stuff at race pace with lights in the dark.
After a great lunch in Uruapan, Chilly said he would show me the road back up to Ojos Negros. Twenty miles of rocky up hills and rain rutted off camber trail later were back on the regular Baja racecourse at Tres Hermanos. From there to Ojos Negros is twenty miles of rolling, wide, rain rutted and fast road. Again, my mind kept thinking about the pros that must do that road at 100 miles per hour! After two long days in the saddle, a clean comfortable room in Ensenada was a welcome relief.
Riding from Ensenada to Tecate was just a spirited blitz (only about 120 miles). The weather had turned warm and the dust got thicker as it just lingered on the trail hundreds of yards behind Chilly. Other than buying a few gallons of gas at a farmhouse, I don’t think we stopped once before the crossing the border in Tecate.
In conclusion, this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Three days of breathtaking scenery, fun riding, great weather, great food, KTMs ran flawless and really nice Mexican people.