Fish Stories

Someone posted a link to Everything You Need To Know About Genetically Modified Salmon to a mailing list I'm on. I can only offer this paraphrase:

Q: What is AquaAdvantage?
A: It's an Atlantic Salmon with some genes from Chinook salmon and a
fish called ocean pout.

Q: Does it grow very fast?
A: Twice as fast as an unmodified salmon.

Q: Isn't that a little uncomfortable for the fish?
A: We have absolutely clue whatsoever but we hope we can make you feel
bad for the fish by telling you a story that some unspecified other
animals that underwent a completely different process ended up with
skeletal deformations.

Q: But is the AquAdvantage™ salmon safe to eat?
A: We rely on the logical fallacy that unless something is absolutely
proven to be safe, it is unsafe - and of course we'll make up the
standard of safety to be something vastly beyond any other activity or
food involved in your daily life. There is no reason to believe that
this fish is unsafe in any way, but by telling you irrelevant things
(they only tested 12 fish! they only tested fish grown in Canada, not
fish grown in Panama!) we hope to create a seed of doubt in your mind.

Q: Wait, the AquAdvantage™ salmon is being grown in Panama?
A: Yes, with eggs grown in Canada.

Q: But they'll be labeled as genetically modified salmon so I know
what I'm eating, right?
A: No. They will be labeled as "Atlantic salmon."

Q: But why are they being grown in Panama?
A: First, surrounding warm waters make it less likely (probably
impossible) for escapees to survive to contaminate the gene pool.
Second, we want to scare you by making you think that things grown in
Panama aren't safe! Nevermind all the bananas, caught fish, or other
agricultural products you consume from that region. Oh, and we won't
mention the biggest likely reason: Panama has a stable government,
solid currency, good infrastructure, an educated workforce, a thriving
economy, and is a zillion times cheaper than most of the "first

Q: What about the food miles required to ship those eggs and salmon
all over the place?
A: Here's where we make our hypocrisy clear because in a couple
paragraphs we're going to suggest wild-caught Alaskan salmon as a good
alternative. Fortunately Americans are so ignorant of geography that
they won't notice that Panama is closer to most of the US than Alaska
is. And they probably have no idea that fed-exing a box of salmon
eggs is a nonissue.

Q: Only 10 percent less feed? I thought less feed was the point
A: No, growing twice as fast is the point. Which sounds like a point
in the fish's favor but we're going to try to confuse you with a buch
of weasely but scary-looking statements that all begin with
"Greenpeace asserts that [the salmon] may..."

Q: But then who benefits from this faster growth rate?
A: AquaBounty. And all the consumers of salmon, but we won't mention
them because, if it's not obvious enough by now, we're in this because
we think humans shouldn't fuck with nature, not because we give a shit
about the consumer.

Q: But won't having more salmon on the market take pressure off
endangered stocks of wild salmon?
A: Well, actually, yes. But that's not what we'll say. We're going
to tell you that the wild stocks haven't been exhausted yet, so don't
worry about it! Also, here's where we suggest you eat Alaskan salmon
- fortunately you flunked geography.

Q: Still, AquaBounty says that it will grow its fish in closed
containment facilities and that this will be better for the
environment: no escapes, no disease transfer, right?
A: Yes. But we're still going to draw this paragraph out, change the
subject, and talk about other farmed fish that don't grow twice as
fast. We don't know why, we just like talking.

Q: Is the AquAdvantage™ salmon "inevitable"?
A: No. Neither is nuclear energy, the computer age, or the existence
of this parasite called humanity. With enough agitprop, you too can
save gaia from the two-legged menace.

Q: Which organizations are opposing the FDA approval of the
AquAdvantage™ salmon?
A: Food and Water Watch and The Center for Food Safety are
particularly active. As is everyone who owns a fishing boat.

Q: Would you eat the AquAdvantage™ salmon?
A: I would not. Unless I got really really stoned and my buddy was
like, try these potato chips but they were really chunks of salmon and
OMG I was expecting crunchy but they were squishy and that was so
funny but I thought what if I sliced the salmon really thin and fried
it could I make salmon chips that weren't squishy?

Protesters are Morons

At this very moment there is a big angry pro-gay-marriage protest at the center of 18th and Castro, right next to my apartment. They're loud, blocking traffic, and assaulting cars that try to squeeze past. Full of self-righteous indignation and causing as much trouble as they can... for all the people who live in the Castro.

Fucking morons.

...and cowards. This needs to happen in Salt Lake City, not here.

Day 12: San Evaristo

Monday, April 13th

I'm writing this on the morning that I leave for a monthlong ride to Alaska. Sigh.

Our goal: The tiny beach town of San Evaristo.

Leaving Loreto, we rode the transpeninsular south until Ciudad Constitución. After a last gas, we headed east onto the dirt roads - right through the city garbage dump. This was about as foul an experience as you can imagine, but fortunately it will stay with your imagination - we didn't stop to breathe, let alone take pictures.

A little farther on, the road became remote and picturesque, although a few stretches of silt kept the day exciting:

We stumbled across a large hydraulic project and might have considered riding down into the concrete basin if we hadn't had a lot of miles to put on that day:

The Bicimapas are pretty out of date for this region, and we ended up on a few abandoned trails:

Finally we had to take a nearly cross-country section to get back to the main road. More sand!

While I'm helping extract the stuck KLR, my bike was demonstrating why you should REALLY BUY that stupid Touratech sidestand foot. It took me five minutes to find a place I could set down the bike:

...and it didn't work:

On we went, only slightly the worse or wear:

El Mision de San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui, built in 1753 in the middle of bloody nowhere:

The road went up and across the mountain range:

...and finally down to the Sea of Cortez:

...but not without a couple crashes:

Obviously Jon was paying more attention to the view than the road:

...and the KLR's muffler FELL OFF!

After a quick repair (always bring extra bolts!), we pulled into the tiny town of San Evaristo just as the sun was setting.

There are no services in San Evaristo, but there was a cute little bay with a couple sailboats anchored and plenty of space to camp on the beach. Dinner was canned tuna in chipotle sauce, yummy:

It was a great place to wake up.


Day 11: Rock Garden

Sunday, April 12th

This would be the most technically challenging day of riding on the trip, although you wouldn't guess it from looking at the map. Fortunately we had been warned about the condition of the road, so we were prepared for what we got. The plan: Southeast to San Isidro, southeast San José de Commondú, east over the mountains to Loreto.

The ride out of San Juanico was easy, solid ground:

San Isidro is a small inland town around a palm oasis. No ocean view but it does not lack for scenery:

We found a single "restaurant" - really the backyard of a shop with a woman willing to make us a few tortas. While there, we did a little work on the KLR. Unfortunately Nicole's new brake lever had been made too short, so it needed a riser built to the proper standards of KLR repair:

Stocked up with full stomachs, plenty of gatorade and water, and a small reserve of food... we're off!

...or not:

It was Jon's turn for a flat. Fortunately we were only ten minutes from San Isidro, so we hauled the tire back to town. I hate to imagine what trouble this would have been deeper in the wilds, especially after I watched the professionals struggle to seat the bead on the low-profile tire.

Patched up, we headed on up the mountain... into rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.

Our first attempt at repairing the KLR's rear brake lever didn't hold, so we tried "advanced KLR engineering":

The rocks got UGLY - and steep:


Nicole had it the toughest. There are two ways to get through rocks like that. One is to stand up, grab some throttle, and let momentum, suspension travel, and the absorptive capacity of disposable KTM rims carry you through:

Another is to slowly plod your way through, wrestling your bike on your feet. Nicole could do neither - the lowered KLR suspension wasn't up to the task and the bike was too big for her to manhandle. Nevertheless, she toughed through it without complaining - I think she even had some fun.

Of course, she wasn't the only one to drop a bike. Jon and I managed this two-fer:

Just to make Jon happy I'll add his favorite view of this particular incident:

It finally smoothed out a bit...

...and finally we were in the picturesque little village of San José de Commondú.

On the way east we stopped in the road as a handful of WILD HORSES tentatively approached us. They walked forward, got spooked, ran back, walked forward, chickened out... finally we rode on, slowly chasing them up the hill until they could get off the road. This is the first time in my life I've ever seen wild horses. I had no idea they existed anywhere... it's almost like finding a wild, free-range Buick.

The rest of the way to Loreto was not without mechanical incident... the KLR's speedo cable broke and had to be tied off (yes, we taped over the hole too):

...and we performed Professional KLR Repair(TM) #3 on the rear brake lever:

We rolled into Loreto just after dark.


Day 10: Submit Your Lolwhalez Entry Here

Saturday, April 11th

We woke up to cold, howling wind.

Two hours on the ocean in a panga in gale-force winds was not an option, so we waited a couple hours before giving up and packing the bikes up in disappointment. But just as we were preparing to leave, the weather calmed!

Fortunately I had charged my (waterproof) camera from the camp's wind generator. Fifteen minutes after stepping on to the boat, we were surrounded by whales!

This curious baby got pretty close:

...and then got closer:

....and then got CLOSER!

It swam up to us several times and we actually petted a baby whale! It felt blubbery. Go figure.

Eventually we moved around to a different pair of whales, this time two very friendly adult females:

I mean REALLY FRIENDLY! They practically tried to jump in the boat.

I will never again be able to enjoy regular whale watching on a big boat with binoculars. I can't believe we nearly missed this experience - if the wind had kept up for another 15 minutes, we would have lost out.

Packed up and back on semi-dry land, we headed south along the coastal mud flats.

It really does just go on and on like that. It wasn't entirely dry, either. Here's the evidence of Jon nearly learning how hard it is to push a bike in mud:

Of course, we're still in Baja, not on the moon, so there is the federal mandatory minimum of abandoned cars:

The road eventually turned inland, and ran over these hard-packed dunes. It was the smoothest, most pleasant surface I have yet ridden over in Baja:

We landed in San Juanico, a small surf town, and called it an early day.

We ate good food, drank beer, did laundry, and - most importantly - found the local vendor of barrel gas.



Day 9: Gold Rush

Friday, April 10th

We woke up early. Well, most of us woke up early:

Jon's wrist was feeling better, although it was turning a lovely shade of purple:

I've got to say, this is one of my favorite scenes to wake up to. Motorcycles and beaches!

Our plan was to head across to the Pacific side, to the Laguna San Ignacio where the gray whales spawn:

We rode off with a little over 20psi in the tires, decent for the graded baja road we were expecting. But the GPS told us to take a sandy little turnoff. Now, I realized at the time that the GPS was getting stupid, but I actually like it when the GPS gets stupid. Little sandy roads are fun, especially when I have some degree of confidence that they will take me where I want to go.

It turned out to be a bit too deep for 20psi. I couldn't pick this one up myself, at least not without dismounting the gear. This made Jon happy :-)

We found a route back to the graded road and headed southwest. My camera battery was dead so Jon has the only pictures from this day.

We stumbled across an old mining town called Los Arcos, surprisingly still populated. Since we hadn't done anything sufficiently dangerous yet today, we played around on old rusty mining equipment.

Jon got artsy with the camera.

Next step, an 80mph race down a wide, straight, boring gravel road:

At this point, the KTM and the DRZ were running on fumes. And then I ran out of fumes. Once more, suckling from the giant boob that is the KLR:

We stopped for a late lunch in San Ignacio, a cute palm oasis in the near-center of Baja. They were preparing for some sort of desert race. I'm guessing this is a popular hobby in Baja.

Leaving San Ignacio was surprisingly irritating. Upon leaving town, first the road turns to dirt and sign says (in Spanish) "badly maintained road ahead, 4 wheel drive strongly advised". We dropped tire pressure down to 16/17 psi. Then, as soon as we hit the town limits, the highway turned to this:

I was not amused by another 20 minutes of tire-filling while daylight fades. By the way, am I the only one that thinks Jon is carrying WAY TOO MUCH CRAP on the DRZ?

Of course, because Mexican highways are never paved completely, the asphalt ran out after about 20 minutes and we had to air back down. Ugh.

We reached the mud flats on the Pacific coast just as dusk was descending:

Camp Kuyima was a little hard to find in the dark, but find it we did. It was incredibly windy. Camping was cheap, but for only a few bucks more we camped on cots in a tent they already had set up. We were the only ones there, and yes they would take us whale-watching in the morning!


Day 8: Little San Francisco

Thursday, April 9th

Breakfast in Bahía de Los Angeles was like most of our meals on this trip - good, but not exciting by Mexico standards. The problem with spending all your time on dirt roads in out-of-the-way parts of Baja is that you're lucky to find food at all, let alone really amazing restaurants. I suspect the difficulty of obtaining fresh produce in a state that's mostly desert doesn't help.

On the other hand, the views in Baja are fantastic:

...and the whole beach is your driving range. I love the lack of tort liability in Mexico. This is a free country!

Our plan was to reach a little point on the Sea of Cortez called Punta San Francisquito.

Nicole and Jon were feeling a little better, so they joined me for some fun in the sand. At this point we all have sand riding pretty much dialed in. Whenever we hit dirt, we drop the tires down to about 16 psi and it makes all the difference. Smooth, whoopy sand is far more fun than hard rocky washboard.

...and then my front tire went flat. I was riding sweep, but fortunately Jon and Nicole were within radio range. They couldn't talk, but they could hear me yell "FLAT TIRE!".

We were carrying enough tubes to replace any tire twice. All I needed to do is remove the wheel and pry the tire off.

A confession: I'm really bad at this. After ten minutes of brutalizing my wheel and tire, I decided to seek professional help. We were only 45 minutes out of Bahía de Los Angeles, so I loaded the wheel onto Jon's DRZ and speed back to town. It took me 25 minutes.

These guys have REAL tools:

The actual failure was not obvious, a small pinch flat on the tire that the Ride-On sealant couldn't fix.

My high-speed antics with low tire pressures probably aren't helping the matter.

They fixed the tire in about a half hour. After another 25 minutes racing back to my poor disabled bike, I have a whole new appreciation for KTM suspensions. The DRZ weighs next to nothing and makes powerslides joyous ("it's like a toy motorcycle!"), but the suspension can't keep up with rough terrain at high speed. Part of this may be the poor state of factory adjustment - the front was way too stiff and the rear was way too soft. I complained to Jon and he promised to do some fiddling.

The graded road continued:

...and continued:

...and continued:

...and continued!

Jon finally caught me in a drop again... but wasn't fast enough with the camera. It's amazing how fast I can pick up the Katoom when Jon is just about to come around the corner behind me! FWIW, he dropped his bike in the exact same place immediately after I did :-)

San Francisquito is a nice place to go if you don't like people. The beach is pretty. There is one restaurant that also rents palapas, which were quite welcome because the wind was howling like crazy.

The full moon rose over the sea right in front of us:


Day 7: Well Trodden Ground

Thursday, April 9th

Jon's wrist and Nicole's ankle were still recovering, so we stuck to fairly mild roads on the way to Bahía de Los Angeles.

Deserts are beautiful when you aren't about to expire from thirst.

Reveling in my newfound riding skills, I spent every possible opportunity riding in the sand ruts that parallel the main road. With far less rocks and washboard, they make for much more comfortable (and occasionally much more exciting) riding!

We came upon that famous Baja landmark, Coco's corner, and said hi to The Man.

Sadly, we skipped the Calamajué wash. It's high on my list of future adventures, though.

Once more, we refill the tires. This process will be repeated many, many more times on this trip. My new rule is a minimum of one pump for every two bikes. The CyclePump is far too slow.

The road into Bahía de Los Angeles is paved.

We stopped at a combination restaurant and hotel on the beach. We weren't sure if we were going to eat and ride south, or eat and stay. The availability of cold beer made the decision for us.


Day 6: Alfonsina's or Bust

Limping along, we set the modest goal of reaching Alfonsina's at Bahía de Gonzaga. This follows a nicely graded, pleasant coastal dirt road.

I've been hearing talk (and sighs) about this road getting paved for years. Well, it's finally happening.

December 2008, on the way south to Panama:




Still, progress is very slow. At this rate they'll reach Coco's sometime in 2030.

The views are breathtaking:

Just in case you haven't been to Alfonsina's or don't read every Baja report on advrider religiously, it's the building on the end:

It's not a pretty hotel, but it's the only one around. Very popular with 4x4s, sandrails, and motorcyclists like us:

They had a room for three:

...beer and fish for dinner:

...and a killer sunset:


Day 6: Damage Report, Mr Scott

Wednesday, April 8th

We spent the morning in San Felipe, taking inventory of our damage and repairing what won't heal by itself.

Nicole was walking with a serious limp from the ankle injury she suffered the previous morning. Jon's wrist had swollen up but didn't appear to be broken; he had it x-rayed at a doctor just to be sure. They gave him a wrist brace and a prescription for a very appropriately-named pill (click the image for larger size):

The DRZ was scratched up and needed some body parts bent back into place but was otherwise not much the worse for wear. Later in the trip we would discover that two of the attachment points for Jon's rack were broken off the subframe, no doubt in large part due to the crash.

The KLR's forks were twisted but easily fixed:

The brake pedal required some aluminum welding. Fortunately this is Mexico, they can rebuild anything!

Total damage to the Katoom? One of my Ortlieb bags is starting to come apart from all the high-speed bouncing through sand whoops. From here on I secured them with an additional bungee.