Some things are meant to be. It happens when fate puts in motion the events that produce a life-changing experience. The nurse in the hospital that takes care of you, after your last motorcycle crash, becomes your wife. Your car breaks down at the exact time and place where you can save a child from falling into a well. You get the idea.
A very long time ago, on a warm sunny fall afternoon, I walked into a motorcycle shop to get aquatinted. I had just moved to a new town and needed to establish a supply base for my addiction to off-road motorcycles. Behind the counter the salesman Larry, who wasn’t busy at the moment, and I struck up a friendly conversation. While discussing places we had been, and places we wanted to go, I mentioned an article which I had cut from a very old Dirt Bike magazine. It was about some guys who had ridden their off road motorcycles all the way to Mike’s Sky Rancho. I described the trip to him as leaving Tecate heading south on the Baja 1000 race course and, barring the possibility of running out of gas, ending up some 250 miles latter at Mikes Sky Rancho. I mentioned that I had even cut the article out and saved it. Imagine my surprise when Larry informed me that he had the same article stashed somewhere at his house. Fate had struck. It was predestined. We had to go!
A date was set in November and each of us invited another friend (adventurer) to go along. So, armed with nothing more than a AAA map and a four year old motorcycle magazine the four horseman of Baja were headed for the most exciting ride of their lives.We followed the article to the letter. We parked by the green house next to the gas station and paid mama $5 to watch our trucks. It soon became apparent that we were going to be lost most of the day. Our first clue was when we stopped to ask an elderly man where we were and he invited us to retrace our tracks to the end of his driveway. We got better at navigation, we had to or die. The article described the first gas stop; in the forest, at the old house, in the back of a jeep pickup, gas from a 50 gallon drum. Several hours behind schedule, from the top of a hill, we spied the old jeep and our hearts sank. The jeep with the 50 gallon drum in the back had obviously not moved in years. Up on cinder blocks, no tires or wheels, the drum rusted away in the back there would be no usable gasoline from that source today. But wait, there was a lady hanging up wash in the garden. One word, phrased as a question “Pemex?”, brought her from the garden waving two empty gallon milk jugs. She headed for the pig shed and the new 50 gallon drum full of gasoline inside.When we were all tanked and gassed we had our picture taken with Ramona and the family who were destined to become life long friends of the motorcycle riders that still buy gas and sodas from her at El Rayo. We had made the first check!
Several hours later we would make the second check at Valle La Trinidad. With less than an hour of daylight left we struck out for Mike’s Sky Rancho. The days are short in November and the weather can be seriously cold in the high desert at night. Stock motorcycle headlights are notoriously poor, and we were about to do some serious soul searching, to say nothing about searching for Mike’s, on a very cold dark night. We weren’t even sure that Mike’s existed. Then, about the time we had given up hope of ever finding Mike’s, we topped the last rise and there was the proverbial light in the window. Nothing has ever looked so good or as inviting as that light and it’s promise of a hot shower and dinner. But, we were due to get lost one more time. We ended up at the horse coral instead of the ranch. Once we figured out we had taken the wrong fork in the road the rest was easy. Across the river and up the hill to Mike’s. Mike himself was standing in the archway to the patio inviting us to bring our motorcycles across the fantastic tecate tile floor into the covered patio. He made room assignments and told us that there was just enough time for a hot shower before dinner. Of course all of this personal care came with no talk of money. Not even a credit card. And us without reservations. Where in the U.S. of A. can you check into a motel without first handing over your credit card?
It is true that Mike has to generate his own electricity, and pump his own water. It may be the clearest, purest, water in the world. It is also true that you can watch satellite T V while enjoying a drink from his well stocked bar. You can catch trout from the stream that flows in front of the rancho, I have seen it done. He hauls all his supplies in from San Diego. The lights go out at 10 O’clock and someone will light the heater in your room when it’s cold. It is also true that I know of no better travel bargain anywhere.
Mike was one of the great gentlemen with which God has graced our world. I have been told he raced the SCORE Baja 1000, sixteen times. The records show he won his class six times from 1981 to 1988. He made T.V. commercials for Isuzu trucks and was killed in a traffic accident on the road to his ranch. But, not to fear, his ranch was taken over by his son Mike Junior and is operated with no less hospitality than that of his father. The good news is, any SUV with a reasonable driver can make it into this retreat. The bad news is the landing strip is for the most part gone. I’m sure it’s been a long time since Mike has left the ranch in his jeep to pick up guests that have flown in.
If anybody is in search of an adventure, pick up a AAA map, get your insurance at mexinsurance.com, and head for Mike’s. It may be a good idea to call ahead these days. They get a lot more business than they used to. If you don’t own an SUV or if this is to far off the beaten path, just continue on down highway 3 from Ensenada; junction with highway 5 from Mexicali and continue on to San Felipe. Be sure to have dinner at Rubens and check out the new golf course at El Dorado Ranch Estates. A lot of gringos live there. Don’t let the check points worry you. I just found out we pay their wages. They are checking for drugs and firearms. You have neither! Right?
Have a nice trip,