Gonzaga – Friends in Far Places

Vince, a dirt and adventure rider from San Diego, issues a warm welcome, “Welcome to Gonzaga!”

Curiosity has brought him over from his encampment with six or so dirt riding buddies, to talk to us as Kevin and I decide which Palapa to set up our tent at, “At first I thought your bikes were V-Stroms, but at a distance the front end looked like Goldwings.”

That’s lead-in to bike talk. Then trip talk. Vince is on a breather from a South American trip. In kind we start talking about last year’s “Arctic Challenge”, then a slight pause and Vince asks, “Are you Neil?”

So here we are, 30kms of grinding dirt, front-end stepping-out rock and battering washboard from the pavement’s end, about 50kms south of Puertecitos the nearest “town”, and Kevin and I have been made. In truth though, it is an honour to meet a rider of Vince’s caliber who knows and respects our work. The warm welcome, the instant camaraderie and the offer of the use of Vince’s own KTM 450 (tricked to the dirt nines) rather than slugging the Varadero through the sand to grab dinner for our impromptu campout are all greatly appreciated.

Later, over beers in the camp, we realize a truism of the Internet; none of us are simply receivers in a broadcast model. Communication is now a two-way street, even if we don’t realize it explicitly. Vince is telling me tales of his South American ride, he’s just returned from Guatemala to take care of some business in San Diego and was talked into going for a dirt ride with his buddies. The more I hear though, the more Vince’s ride seems familiar. Then he drops the title of his ride report thread on ADVRider.com, and I realize I’ve been following Vince’s adventures too.

The star of the show though is Gonzaga, a hardly developed bay sitting on the Sea of Cortez. Still we’re not entirely without amenities; Campo Beluga is equipped with showers, generator fed electricity, and toilets. For those not so keen on “roughing it”, the turnoff for Alphonsina’s Resort is just “next door” a mile up the gravel just by the Rancho Grande Pemex.

We’ve been hearing about Gonzaga since pulling over on the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu, and having BMW R100GS rider Thad Wolff (a former contributor to Cycle Magazine under the editorship of Cook Neilson) instruct us that this is a must do destination.

There are definitive moments of any trip, for Thad it was riding on the beach with pelicans flocking up ahead of his Honda XR650R on Gonzaga. Contemplating taking the Varadero’s into even deeper sand, we choose not to exercise that option. For us, the moment comes with the sun rising over Gonzaga. The golden light pours through the open tent flap. A pelican skims the water like a prehistoric threat. All set to a near deserted beach soundtrack of rolling waves.

Welcome to Gonzaga.

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