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Friday, 01 January 2021

Outrunning COVID while Living Abroad in Baja

Written by Michael Huber
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It was April and it warm for that time of year, which means it was rather hot in the Arizona desert, however, the wind made the heat of the mid-day sun tolerable as we sped across classic Americana backroads with burnt out neon signs from a time that once was. Our BMW GS's engines were humming in unison to the rustling sound of dust devils that whirled around us. The worn black handgrip of the throttle on my BMW GS1200 felt tight and seemed to sense my overwhelming Zen state I was succumbing to as I slowly twisted it as if to further our connection. I was fully bonded with this machine that hurled me northbound towards an unknown desert camp that unbeknownst to that piece of the desert would soon be my home for the evening.

It had been some time since I felt this content, and at peace. Even though it would be a fleeting moment, it was one that is still cemented into my memory as a snapshot of harmony, a feeling that had not embraced me for quite some time. It was sobering to feel my TKC70 tires gripping the hot American pavement that they stuck to like glue over each rotation down this path of beauty sprawled in front of me. It was the first time these tires had gripped American soil in 10 weeks after what seemed to be an eternity of change over that time.


Reality Sets In

5 weeks earlier I was waking up in Loreto, Baja Sur, Mexico with a foggy mindset due to the previous night when I said, “Sure, I can meet you guys for one margarita at Augie’s Bar and Bait Shop” and of course, in true paratrooper fashion, the evening led to many more than just one margarita. The couple that we had been leapfrogging with all through Baja were riding GS800's and had some spectacular stories of their Baja adventures and I was not one to pass up an opportunity to swap moto adventure stories, or pass up on margaritas. The following morning I made an extra strong pot of coffee in my Airbnb kitchen while listening to the chirping of parakeets wishing me Buenos Dias in an unusually loud manner (I partially blame the margaritas).

I began to prepare for work when the weight of the COVID situation hit me like a concussion grenade. The US State Department raised its global travel advisory to a Level 4, something that no one has ever seen before that clearly stated “return home now or plan to hunker down wherever you are for an indefinite period of time”. As those words hung heavy with me, my phone began chirping constantly with friends and family back in the United States begging for my return ASAP due to the COVID-19 outbreak spiraling out of control and the advisory that was issued. A few moments later my manager was messaging me about COVID and confirming I was safe and sheltering in place. I emotionally opened up on my concerns, explaining that I was in Mexico and wasn’t sure what to do. She corrected me and said “You mean you are in New Mexico”. I corrected her and said “No, Old Mexico on the Sea of Cortez”. The conversation didn’t last too long after that and I was left alone with still having some serious decisions to make. Although living freely has incredible benefits of agility, having too many options can create an analysis paralysis and as a wise man once said “Many a false move was made by standing still”. Well for me, standing still was not an option during this or any other crisis situation.

Loreto had abruptly changed from our visit 4 weeks prior where coffee shops, restaurants, and bars were bustling and now were eerily silent. This historic mission city was now a ghost town with more businesses closing daily and warnings for tourists to return to their home countries. Within a couple hours my decision was made. It was time to ride north, and with a purpose.

We loaded up the BMW's and rode north on Highway 1 which is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever had the fortune of riding. The road is in perfect condition as you navigate mountain switchbacks, passing rattlesnakes sunning themselves in the road, until you begin a downward ride towards the sparkling clear aqua waters of the Bay of Conception. We decided to camp at Playa Santispac, which is about 25 miles south of Mulege.

Beach Camp2

As we set up camp in a beachfront palapa I was haphazardly gathering firewood when a couple of locals who were RV camping in the next palapa invited us to dinner and a fire. As we walked over we noticed another couple that had also been invited. It took all of a second to realize we had met these people four weeks prior when the world was different, while off-roading in Cabo Pulmo. We had stopped to chat for a while and discuss our favorite areas we had been to and the places we planned to visit while on the peninsula. We quickly picked the conversation up almost exactly where we had left off, telling about our adventures and our next day’s plans. One of the most beautiful parts of this evening was there was not one mention of COVID-19, or how the outside world was burning around us, as we ate tacos and drank tequila around a glowing fire on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Without saying it we knew we were in an impenetrable bubble for the moment, which all of us seemed to relish in.

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Last modified on Friday, 01 January 2021

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