Mel Clark is originally from England and has been touring the North and South America
Continents for about 5 years on a KLR650. His original 2004 KLR finally had to be
replaced at 90,000 plus miles. While in San Diego he was able to purchase a new 2007
KLR650 and after a Top Gun prep, continued another 6 months traveling in Canada and
the US. In September 2008 he re-entered Baja at Tecate, Mexico with his ultimate
destination being Argentina. Mel will keep us updated on his travels via e-mail and we
would like to share them with you as follows.
September 23, 2008
Well, I’m very happily south of San Quintin and en route to Catavinia. As I was riding
through the pit of San Quintin I saw a sign for “Viejas” and for a split second I thought to
go in to see if they could get me out of this hole. I can’t believe that when I rode up
before, I thought Baja was the best part of Mexico. Well that now fills me with dread for
when I have to catch a ferry across to the mainland, as I have been, and am nauseated
by most of Baja so far. Elden is welcome to it. I do have to mention that I have had the
“Mexican trots” for 8 days now. A record for me, but one I’m not so proud of. But maybe
my internal situation is a reflection of the external!!! I must however exclude Rancho
Meling, where I laid up for 4 days, but that is basically American owned and run.
I sent this e-mail from Rosarito; I think it was at the point where after following the coast
the road turns inland. So in fact I had come through the worst. From there the road
winds up to the Valley de Cirios, Cardons even Ocotillo and the rock fields of Catavinia –
wonderful. Virtually no traffic, yes this is more like it! Also at exactly 40K is a cafe and a
badly signed turn-off for an old mission. I camped there before and asked the lady in the
cafe if she knew of anyone was there and she told me “no”.
Great, so I camped there again. There is an old adobe house which looks like someone
is doing up. It’s a nice place about 2k from the highway, with a nice creek and palm
trees. But this is still Mexico so garbage is strewn around everywhere. Such a pity. Why
do they do it?
Up until now I was hoping that I would be on the ferry to Guaymas. It’s currently being
given a re-fit and I was told it may be ready soon but now I’m being told it won’t be until
next week, or maybe another week
So although it is the crossing I would choose, I guess I will have to ride down to La Paz –
damn. I did meet an American who gave me some of his “mal estomago” (bad stomach)
medication and it has plugged me up and hopefully killing off the infection.
October 8, 2008
About 4 or 5 days ago I finally managed to get round the environs of Mexico City which is
to be avoided at all costs. By then I was in the state of Puebla and soon into wonderful
Oaxaca and it just kept getting better. Now I’m in Chiapas which is equally amazing. The
south of Mexico warrants a lot of exploration, but it’s a long way to get here.
I also knew that there was a good mechanic here in Tuxla, the state capitol of Chiapas. I
found him when the stator went out on my previous KLR (Mel’s only break down at
80,000K). Right now he’s working on it; giving it a complete service. Change oil and filter,
check doohickey with my otoscope, clean air filter, change plug, check valves, take apart
and grease Uni-Trak and lube cables. This will cost me $45 plus cost of oil (synthetic).
By the way, I used half a litre in my 4,000 miles.
At the same time I took off my seat and took it to a nearby Tapicero (makes seats, uses
foam). I told him that it was too soft and had to be mas tieso, rigido, duro i.e. hard. So
hopefully it will be better. It won’t cost much either.
I think the mechanic is a good guy to know, especially for anyone doing the same type of
trip, because from California it’s just the right distance for a major service. Finding
someone down here who you feel you can trust isn’t easy as many just say what they
think you want to hear.
Desert heat Can Kill You, by Elden Carl
A KLR650 adventure rider recently died in the California desert of heat related causes.
He had left the relative safety of his campsite which was allegedly equipped with some
water and a shade canopy that he had erected. Parked nearby was his fully equipped
pre-08 KLR650. His body was found out in the open with no water on or near it.
I can’t tell you how many guys I know of since the 1970s who have died after getting lost
and running out of gas. Often the victim walks in a big circle and consequently is more
difficult to find because he is not near the motorcycle which is usually parked adjacent to
a road or trail.
There is some conjecture that this latest victim of the desert heat may have been low on
fuel, but we don’t know for sure. In the picture of the victim’s campsite one can see that
the KLR had big metal boxes and a tall wind shield which could indicate excessive fuel
consumption, especially if he was a high-speed rider on the pavement. The more wind
drag and weight one has the more fuel gets used at higher speeds. Also, the heavier
weight of the motorcycle makes it more difficult to handle in sandy desert conditions,
thereby requiring that more energy be expended by the body. The harder one works,
the quicker one uses up his body’s reserve of coolant and fuel.
I’ve only been lost once in Baja, but by being sure that we had plenty of fuel, water and
snacks, everything came out OK. It helped a lot that cool weather prevailed throughout
the ordeal. It also helped that we stopped moving at dark so that we could rest and then
continue during daylight hours.
Since my companion Bob Kornafel was a cool-headed smart guy, we were able to make
good joint decisions thereby extracting ourselves from a potentially dangerous situation.
Some important hints for motorcycle explorers are as follows:
- Make sure your motorcycle is fully prepped and in top condition (shun too much
weight especially up front).
- Make sure you have plenty of fuel.
- Carry lots of water and some high energy snacks.
- Wear good protective clothing equipped with padded knees, elbows and
- Rest when you need to and don’t leave the trail or road on foot.
- Carry a good tool kit equipped with spare tubes, tire repair kit, air pump, tow rope,
and siphon hose.
- By all means be equipped with a GPS and if possible a light-weight satellite phone
(these weren’t available when Bob and I had our problem).
I can show you a remote box canyon in Northern Baja Mexico approximately 50 miles
south of our border that holds the record for Baja motorcyclists’ deaths. More than a
dozen victims have paid the ultimate price for having too little water and fuel while
negotiating tough sandy terrain in hot weather. The reason I know so much about this
canyon is because Bob Kornafel and I were there. Be careful!!
Lying and the Economy, by Elden Carl
There is a huge body of evidence that would lead one to believe that it has become
acceptable in our empire to lie if, (a) You are selling something or (b) are a politician.
Motorcyclists for example are being sold all manner of accessories and equipment that
not only aren’t actually necessary, but actually detract from the motorcycling experience.
Hemispheric traveler Mel Clark is our best example. After removing all the unnecessary
crap from his bike and redistributing his load, Mel reported that he felt safer and was
enjoying the ride much more than he thought possible.
The most current and outrageous example of dishonest selling came from “Chas” in Los
Angeles who is rebuilding the top end of his 2001 DR650. A vendor actually
recommended that “Chas” allow them to bore out his NSC cylinder followed by the
installation of a pressed in iron liner. The result would have reduced his cylinders ability
to dissipate heat thereby resulting in increased wear, which in turn could lead him
prematurely to another top end job. Bad idea!!
A DR650SE properly broken in and constantly equipped with full synthetic motorcycle oil
could last 100,000 miles assuming it has correct final gearing and is not lugged or run at
cruising speeds above 5,000 rpm (Top Gun’s tach will help here). I’ve got over 75,000
miles on three DR650s. My cartridge fork, dirt 2002 DR has 37,000 multi-surface miles
and is still in perfect mechanical shape using almost no oil between 4500 mile oil
changes. I did have to replace the leaky fiber base gasket from hell with the new metal
one, but then who hasn’t (I also replace the cam chain to keep timing sharp).
What was my advice to “Chas”? Send your piston, cylinder and head to Vey de la Cruz
(619 448-2077). Assuming the bore gauge finds no problem with the size and shape of
the cylinder, let him hone it. While you’re at it, a fresh valve job is also a good idea.
MMPs forged lighter, stronger piston for the DR650 is a great idea if your stock piston
flunks the measurement test (or if you just want to up-grade). If your cylinder won’t take
a honing, send it and the piston to Millennium Technologies in Wisconsin for an NSC
stripping and re-coating.
“Chas” was savvy enough to smell a skunk on the iron liner recommendation and we
wish him good luck in doing it right. He proves that you don’t need to see a skunk or
watch it walk; all you need is a little whiff of his fragrance.