Mexican Backroads by Motorcycle 2008 travel blog


Today was certainly full of surprises. As we noted yesterday, we failed to get our Mexican permits in San Felipe so were forced to head back north 200 km to the border crossing at Mexicali.

As we left San Felipe this morning the weather was perfect. The wind and cool temperatures of yesterday were replaced by calm and warm sun. The trip north very pleasant other than the development of a slight vibration at high revs that I had not noticed before.

We entered Mexicali and stopped on the street in front of a private parking lot a few blocks from the border crossing. A fellow by the name of Carlos was standing outside the parking lot and approached us offering his help.

He turned out to be a great guy and a extremely helpful. He worked for the store across the street that owned the private parking lot and soon gained us permission to park.

We walked down to the border crossing and found the immigration office where we were told it would be. Despite the warnings that we should expect a couple of hours going through the process it took about 15 minutes to get our paperwork processed and cross over to the bank to pay the fees. In no time at all we were in possession of our tourist visas.

Next step - vehicle import permit. At this point we learned about the "new border crossing", about 25 km east along the border fence. This is the only place to get a vehicle permit. No wonder we had trouble finding it last Sunday!

We got back on the bike and made our way to the new crossing. What a difference. Everything was clearly marked with signs and the whole area had an air of professionalism. We drove right up to the permit office, walked in and had our vehicle permit in les than 10 minutes!

So this was the good news.

We left Mexicali and headed south towards San Felipe to start our trip south once again, feeling good, all nice and legal.

The vibration I felt on the trip up this morning was quickly becoming more pronounced and it was soon obvious the clutch was starting to slip. About 30 km south of Mexicali I opened up the throttle hard it to see if it really was the clutch and there was no doubt in my mind. A quick sniff of the oil confirmed it. Burnt clutch plates have an unmistakable fragrance.

So, here we are roughly 50 km south of the US border in Baja, Mexico. The clutch is going fast. We still have three months ahead of us. Finding the right parts and a competent repair shop anywhere south is unlikely at best. No deliberation needed; back to the border.

This was the bad news.

We head north back to the "new border crossing" since we did not see the huge line ups heading to the US there like we had seen at the "old border crossing". Of course we had been warned to expect a couple of hours wait trying to get back into the US.

The reality was, there were only half a dozen cars ahead of us and US customs gave us no hassle at all. Ten minutes and we were through.

Calexico, California was only about 12 miles away so we headed there, found a hotel right and contacted BMW roadside assistance. San Diego BMW is the closest shop. They suggested we contact them directly and make sure they could do the repair right away, and then call roadside assistance back to arrange a tow.

Oddly, if we get the bike towed at BMW's expense, it becomes an emergency roadside assistance situation and the other benefits such as trip interruption hotel, meal and rental car reimbursement kicks in. If we ride it to San Diego the benefits do not kick in. San Diego recommended a tow since there was no telling how much further we would get.

San Diego can do the repair quickly although they will need to overnight the parts. If we get the bike to them tomorrow we will likely have it back by the end of the day Thursday.

Tomorrow morning we will arrange the tow through BMW and hopefully we will be heading south again by the end of the week.

In retrospect, everything seems to happen for a reason. If we had obtained our Mexican permits on Sunday when we first entered Mexico we would have been a couple hundred km south of San Felipe on a remote dirt road. Having the clutch problem there would have been a bigger problem that we now have.

We left home a week ago yet it seems our trip is yet to begin in earnest. Oh well, there are worse things than being stuck in San Diego for a couple of days in mid January. Most times the only difference between bad news and good news is perception and reaction.



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