Girl Meets World on FZ-07 Motorcycle: Chapter 3, Part 1

Done with the States, Tiff makes her way to Mexico!

Tiffanis FZ07 map 1
We made it over the first hurdle and started off strong in Mexico.©Motorcyclist

I'm happy to report that my first foray into Mexico can only be described as Pinche Suave. After one last photoshoot with Julia at the Motorcyclist headquarters and saying goodbye to all of my family and friends, we crashed for the night in San Diego planning to head out with my racing buddy Mike, along with our friend Stacy, who we had met while corner working at Laguna Seca over the 49 states tour and had become a fast friend. Mike lives pretty close to the border and having spent much of his life exploring, surfing, and skating the Baja, he was gung ho about showing us around a little. Sitting around a fire with some of my closest friends was the first time since we started planning this trip south that I finally felt slightly more excited than scared. Not that traveling to new places isn't always exciting, but while I grew up in Los Angeles in a pretty diverse and cultured neighborhood, I never even made it as far as Tijuana, so I had no honest idea of what Mexico was actually like. My confidence wasn't helped by the endless barrage of bad news that the media always used to paint the country, but as most firsthand accounts had been much more positive, I hoped for the best.

Tiffani and Hollywood about to start journey to Mexico
If you look at the bikes from right to left you can slowly watch each bike descend into being less and less appropriate for the task at hand.Photo: David "Hollywood" Hayward

On a damp Saturday morning, we left for Tecate midday under a light drizzle. We had an eclectic set of bikes fitting of the circus that is club racers, me being on the FZ-07 still trying its hardest to be an adventure bike, Hollywood still on his FZ1 that didn't even pretend to be an adventure bike despite all of the adventure he forced it to do, Mike on a Triumph with clip ons angled in such a way as to make the Harley racers of the 30s proud, and Stacy on the only bike that even sort of made sense, with a KLX250.

I made one last minute stop at Staples to print out our Mexican Motorcycle Insurance papers, one of many sets of documents we were going to need for a long term stay in the country, and Mike lead us through some beautiful, green, sweeping mountain roads toward the border. The rain kept us to a modest pace, but after a month and a half of “taking a break” among Los Angeles traffic, it felt like I could finally breath again. We crossed the Tecate border with no todo at all (unlike Canada where we got drilled for 5 minutes each on whether we had a gun, the Border guards didn’t even bat an eye at our bikes and waved us right through). The hardest part of the crossing was probably just getting over the topes- a horribly designed style of speed bumps that was clearly made to spite motorcyclists. Since Hollywood and myself would be going to the mainland eventually and not just staying in the Baja, we parked and went to the office to get our Visas and Temporary Vehicle Import Permits, giving us 6 months to get through the country. I was told these services weren’t offered in Tijuana, as people rarely use it as a hub for the mainland, which is part of why we chose the Tecate crossing. There weren’t any lines, but we had to jump around back and forth to different offices getting different paper work, stamps, and photo copies, and it took about an hour and a half for everything to be processed. But after a $25 visa, a $59 permit, and a $400 deposit on the FZ, I was poised to go explore!

Tiff makes it through the Mexico border
Made it through the border without even so much as a “Can I see your passport?” I think the topes are tougher border control than the guards.Photo: David "Hollywood" Hayward

Once we finally got to ride through Tecate, it became immediately obvious that we had entered a third world country. Drivers already had a palpable lack of care and order, the buildings were run down, and stray dogs were speckled generously around the streets, and there was just something about the aura of the place that felt completely different from anywhere I had stopped in the US. We cruised down the 3, where the recent rains had left the valleys and hills shades of green that were reminiscent of my favorite fantasy story books, and crossed under a huge sign reading “Bienvenidos Ruta del Vino” before eventually stopping at Encuentro Guadalupe, a winery built on a mountainside. We walked through their elegant art gallery and toasted glasses of Sangria on the balcony overlooking wine country. Who knew being homeless on a motorcycle in Mexico was going to be the classiest I’ve ever been in my life, haha!

Tiff and friends in Mexico
Cheers to Mexico!Photo: Tiffani Burkett

A few more miles down the road, Mike lead us down a dirt trail to a small hotel. The rooms were full for the night, so we instead rented a small house to share among the four of us. I'd travel way fancier if I had more people to split the bill with all the time! We then got back on the highway and turned down another dirt road toward a pizza place called Ochento's. I was nervous about all the dirt I was going to encounter, having not done much off-roading since way back in Montana and being a bit out of practice, but the roads were all hardpacked, if maybe a little rough, so it wasn't any worse than, say, traversing warped asphalt in downtown New Orleans.

Tiff and friends eating Italian food in Northern Mexico
Worth it! Apparently you can get some great Italian food in Northern Mexico. More food than we could eat costs hardly anything even up in the tourist laden wine country. I think I’m going to like this place.Photo: Tiffani Burkett

Well, until the turn off for the pizza place where the whole road was uphill on uneven, tiny cobblestones. I climbed the road, doing my best to stay loose while dreading the steep ride back that was sure to come. Fortunately, as we parked, Mike informed me that there was a much easier road that we’d take out, he just wanted us to see that side first. These freaking guys. I’m starting to think Mike and Hollywood might be the same person.

Tiffani on the cobblestone streets in Mexico
The cobblestone looked pretty harmless up until my bike was wobbling around like a drunk dancing in marbles. But the funny thing is, every time I take a road that scares me, the end results are always worth it, so I can never really complain. Well, except for when I’m told there was an easier way that we conveniently didn’t use, hahaPhoto: Tiffani Burkett

Much to my surprise, though, pizza in Mexico may just rival the best pizza I’ve ever had in the states. I’m still wrapping my head around Hawaiian pizza on cinnamon sugar dough. I’m going to have to request they use this to line my stairway to heaven, please and thank you. We walked out with way too much food for hardly any money, and Stacy strapped the pizza to the back of her KLX. No carb left behind!

We rode back to our house for the night under an intimidating darkness, trying my best to pick careful lines while skirting around opposing traffic, and dodging a few more dogs in the road, and spent the night enjoying good company. But the first day in Mexico started strong, With all of our affairs in order and the biggest hurdle of the first step finally out of the way, I can’t wait to see what this country has in store for us!