The mission: one guy (me), one tattered motorcycle, a prayer and $50 in pocket heading for Puerto Nuevo, Baja Calif., Mexico, in search of a good time.
Inching my way toward the San Ysidro border crossing on southbound I-5, the sun slaps my face with a tan, the heat emanates from my motor to scorch the denim of my pants, and my belly aches for some south-of-the-border fare. Finally, I reach the point of no return-The Border.
I proceed with a hint of hesitation. Do I hop off here and walk across? Should I have taken the trolley (always a good option for TJ, about 40 minutes from the Old Town station, $5/day trip) and hired a taxi for the rest of the journey (about $30 each way, but you can haggle), or do I throttle on through, continuing the journey by bike? I opt for my bike and my wits and cross into the Land of Lobster unescorted.
The I-5 quickly turns into something that vaguely resembles a road that winds through TJ, up and over a large hill that opens up into a view of the great vastness of the Pacific Ocean. From there I catch a toll road and hit virtually no traffic, just beaming sun, hot asphalt and miles upon miles of the most gorgeous, unpopulated coastline these eyes have seen since Perth, WA (Western Australia) which is inhabited by nothing at all.
Hauling ass along the highway, my thoughts return to the food that I am about to devour, but those thoughts are fleeting as the scenery unfolds before me. Before I know it, I come upon the signage that directs me to my destination: "Puerto Nuevo""1 km."
Pulling off the highway, I am immediately thrown onto the dirt roads that seem to permeate this land, surrounded by buildings that reflect the wear and tear of military partying since the '60s. I'm hounded by "hosts" from the area's restaurants, taunting me with deals at unheard-of prices for lobster, shrimp, margaritas, chips, salsa fresca and beer, sweet beer. (Is this really a story assignment, or just the coolest job in the world?)
Ten bucks for a pound of lobster, rice, beans, tortillas and a margarita? Sounds good. Perch me on that balcony there, overlooking the ocean, the small fishing village and all the people meandering on the streets below. Vantage point secured, margarita freezing my hand and hot-ass salsa complete this leg of the journey, and I could not be happier.
The food was not as good as anticipated, but the point of this was not to critique restaurants. The point is not the destination, but rather the journey. Food in belly and roller doors on shops propped open, I brave the natives imploring me to buy silver, leather, Cuban cigars and fruit dried and seasoned in ways I never knew existed.
With $35 left in my pocket after gas, food and drinks, I'm feeling liberal and shell out a wallet-thinning $3 for a "silver" trinket. The pig ears are perfect for the dog, but the shopkeeper insists they make great soup stock. (Yeah, the dog got the ears.)
The sun is getting a little low on the horizon, so I decide to get back to my steed and head home, back the way I came. Still paying the damn tolls, I watch some federalis look at me sideways as they thrust a bayonet into a punching bag. Nervous again, going faster. I reach the border crossing, anticipating it will take hours like the fair-and-balanced news informed me it would, seeing as how the country is at terror-threat-level mauve or chartreuse or something. But it takes only 10 minutes and I'm back in the land of milk and honey. (Or is that irk and money?)
So not bad-leave San Diego at 2 p.m. with $50 and come back in time for the sunset at a nondescript beach bar, where I reflect the sun into my eyes with my new "silver" while sipping, ironically, a Pacifico. I pay the tab with the change left over from the meager stipend for this assignment.Five hours, 50 bucks, a head full of Mexican memories and a strange anticipation for tomorrow.