Border to Border Ride Trip Report - - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 6:55 pm Thread Starter
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Border to Border Ride - Trip Report


On 8 and 9 July, I rode an Iron Butt Association “Border to Border” ride from Tijuana, Mexico, to Vancouver, Canada on my BMW K1200GT. The ride was mostly uneventful. I have wanted to make this ride ever since I bought the K1200GT.

I had a great time, it wasn’t boring, and the scenery along the route was wonderful. If you don’t understand why I like it, I can’t explain it to you.

Last edited by XMagnaRider; Jul 16th, 2009 at 7:07 pm.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 6:56 pm Thread Starter
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I did a lot of route planning (timing, traffic, border crossing and safety concerns, sunrise/sunset times, etc.). Frankly, it was overkill, but I don’t like surprises.

Iron Butt Association wisdom says not to install last minute items, but I got lucky and worked through the problems.

Two weeks before the ride, I had a Bill Mayer seat fitted. It is definitely better than stock, but not as comfy as I had hoped. Perhaps a refit would help.

Four days before the ride, I replaced the Pilot Road 2 tires with Avon Storms. The PR2s had nearly 10,000 miles, but there was plenty of tread still left. They looked as if they would have lasted for the B2B ride, but I didn’t want to take chances, so I replaced them. After getting advice from friends, I took the wheels off myself. I busted the 3/8 inch drive side of the axle remover tool. I searched everywhere for a replacement, including a couple of auto parts stores and Harbor Freight tools and even asked to borrow one from the tire change shop, but none of them had what I needed. Finally I went to the motorcycle dealer, which was a good thing. They sold me a tool and reminded me about the pinch bolt, which had been hidden by the Pit Bull stand - - Doh!

I got the tires changed at a local shop that specializes in motorcycle tire changing. I had called ahead to make sure that they could handle the extra large hub on my K1200GT rear wheel. When I got the wheels back, they told me to take the rear wheel to a nearby auto tire place to balance the rear wheel. The specialty shop didn’t have the large cone to balance the rear wheel - - Doh! I took it to the auto tire place, which charged me $10 for the balance. Next time I will buy some Marc Parnes balancers and do it myself.

The Garmin Zumo 660 mount proved problematic. It arrived only a few days before the ride. Using their software to plot various waypoints and routes, that’s when I found out that “North America” does not include Mexico. I quickly ordered a Garmin SD/MicroSD card with the Mexico maps, which arrived just in time.

I had a choice of three different GPS mounts: The Z-Technik mirror hole mount, the Z-Technik mount that attaches to the base of KGT handlebars, and the black plastic BMW mount that also goes on the base of the handlebars. Unfortunately, the Zumo 660 mount is new and different, with a bulge on the bottom of the mount where the wiring goes in.

Z-Technik mirror hole mount: Rejected because it won’t work with the Wunderlich horn guard, and I didn’t want to mount the Zumo on the right.

BMW mount: Rejected because I would have had to redrill the holes to bypass the Zumo bulge, or shim it. I didn’t like the low placement, either.

Z-Technik KGT handlebar mount: Good, because the extra plate holes were “good enough” to fit the Zumo 660, and it offered flexible positioning in a good place. The only drawback is that the mount limits access to the motorcycle ignition key. I figured that I would get used to it in time.

I went to install the mount, and discovered that the provided screws are the wrong length if you have bar backs installed. Doh!

I called friends at the local “good ol’ boys” plumbing shop to ask for advice, and they recommended Hillco Fasteners ( They have every kind of bolt, nut, screw you could ever want. I got there just before closing and bought the bolts that fit.

I got the Zumo installed and tested the night before I left. There was no way to enter routes that crossed the US/Mexican border, but the border checkpoints were points-of-interest, so I used them to create separate US/Canada and inside-Mexico routes.

On the Mexican side, I created an Otay Mesa to Pemex route and a San Ysidro to McDonalds route. The Otay Mesa crossing looked very easy, but it was about 8 miles inland from the main San Ysidro border crossing.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 7:00 pm Thread Starter
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The day before the ride, I rode down to San Diego BMW to have my IBA witness forms signed. After that, I checked into the Days Inn motel about 4 miles from the border.

I recommend the Days Inn at 1101 Hollister Street, San Diego, CA 92154. It was clean and inexpensive, and the location is ideal for a Border to Border or Coast to Coast IBA ride. It didn’t show up on several travel-oriented web sites, so don’t get discouraged when you search for it. Because I was checking out in the wee hours of the morning, they gave me a couple sweet rolls, some fruit, and two cups of orange juice to put in the fridge for the next day.

After checking in, I left my side cases and top cases in the room and proceeded to the border via I-5. I purchased 24-hour Mexico auto insurance. Some insurance providers at the border provide liability only for $16, but I found one who included theft/collision for $23. The deductable is $5,000, but you can “enhance” the value of your motorcycle by $5,000 for replacement purposes. (Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, 223 Via de San Ysidro, San Ysidro, CA 92173. Take the next-to-last exit, and you will see them with a covered 24-hour drive-thru booth on your right side at the end of the offramp.)

Next, I checked a San Ysidro gas station for a receipt, in case I chose to take a photo on the Mexican side, instead of getting a receipt. It was a waste of time. I stopped at a Chevron, pulled up to pump #4, bought $1.00 worth of gas, and heard the receipt ejection motor make a “bad sound”. No receipt. I tried a different pump, and it rejected my Mastercard. This caused a problem at every Chevron station on the route, where my primary credit card was rejected. I had to use a backup Amex credit card where needed. (I called Mastercard that night, and they said that Chevron was rejecting the card; they weren’t even seeing the transactions.) I gave up, waiting to see if I would have a problem with receipts once I got inside Mexico.

Next, I crossed into the main part of Tijuana via I-5. This was my secondary crossing, but it might have saved me time if I could have gotten it right. Despite many assurances from friends that it was easy, it wasn’t. I was unable to get to the traffic circle with the McDonalds easily. There were just too many road fork options, spiral streets, road hazards, traffic, and distractions. Tijuana does not compare with Cairo, Egypt for driving challenges, but it was not easy. Rules of the road were laxly followed at best.

It was hard to match up the street signs with the Zumo indications, and I could not pay attention to riding, avoiding obstacles, and watching the Zumo’s instructions at the same time. I found the McDonalds, but it didn’t seem to be that convenient. I decided to head over to the Otay Mesa crossing next.

Getting out of Mexico was easy. There were clearly labeled signs for “San Diego”. With my cases back at the hotel in the US, it was easy to split lanes. The cars were wide apart, because of the many vendors hawking their wares in between the lanes. I rode slowly between the lanes. Sometimes the vendors would move out of my way, and sometimes I would work my way around them, but it was easy and a friendly “thank you” wave went a long way. When I got to the final single lines, I took off my helmet and made sure that my passport was ready. The border guard was friendly, and wanted to talk about bikes.

I rode along 905 to the Otay Mesa crossing. Traffic was moderately heavy, but I was in no hurry. The Otay Mesa crossing was super easy. I got into Mexico, took the first right turn, and the Pemex was clearly marked on the right side, only two blocks away. I got $2 worth of gas and a good receipt and was on my way. All it took was one quick U-turn and a left turn to head north to the border. At the start of border entry road there was a high speed bump; my pipes bottomed out on it with a sharp thunk. I noted a gap on the right side for the next time. The rest of the road was very bad, with groves, large holes, chunks of rock, etc. It was only a half-mile at most, but I had to be slow and careful.

That night I went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in San Ysidro called San Marcos, on Beyer and Coronado. The menu had descriptions of the food in English, and the servers spoke enough English that communications were not a problem. The food had an authentic homestyle feel, not Americanized, and was very tasty. I will definitely seek it out the next time I am in the area.

On the way back from dinner, I stopped to fill up my tank for the long run north (leaving room for fuel in Mexico). My tire pressure was low, so I got air. The gas station compressor wasn’t working right, and my tires lost air. Grrr. I went to another nearby station, and the filler wasn’t working right. I lost more air. Double-grrrr. I went to a third station, same problem. Triple-grrrr. At this point, I was running on very low tires, and couldn’t find air. Finally, I found good working air at the fourth station. I lost about an hour looking for air.

I got back to the hotel room, packed my cases, and arranged my clothes and gear for the next day. I laid out LD Comfort longs, Olympia Air 2 pants (without liner), BMW long socks, and a inexpensive lined leather jacket. I left the Olympia pants liners and heated jacket liner in the cases. I went to sleep around 10:00, about 90 minutes later than I wanted.

Last edited by XMagnaRider; Jul 16th, 2009 at 7:44 pm.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 7:01 pm Thread Starter
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The Ride (first Day)


The morning of 8 July, I awoke at 2:30 AM, took a quick shower, ate my breakfast, packed my last minute items, and headed out to the Mexican border at the Otay Mesa crossing. The roads were fairly empty. The border crossing into Mexico was a non-event. There was one male and one female border guard at a desk, nearly asleep. When I stopped at the stop sign, the woman waved me on. I had the feeling that most people don’t bother to stop at that hour of the night.

I went straight to the Pemex station. I gave the attendant a dollar and asked him to be careful not to overfill it. I told him that the important thing was the receipt. My Spanish is poor, but he understood what I wanted. The time on the receipt was 3:47 AM.

After thanking the attendant, I turned around quickly, made the left turn onto the border entry road, and avoided all the obstacles I had noted before. To my surprise, there were still vendors hawking drinks and snacks and souvenirs, even at that hour of the night.

I headed back to the motel. The roads were empty. I mounted my cases, turned in the room key, and got on Interstate 5 heading north. The GPS steered me to I-15 to I-805 to I-5, bypassing downtown San Diego. In retrospect, I should have trusted my gut to take I-5. Oh well.

When I got to the Orange Crush around 5:30 AM, I chose to take the I-5 rather than CA-57 to I-210 to I-5. My normal rule is never to use I-5 through LA, but I took a chance. Traffic was heavy, but it moved well, and I made it past LA with no serious slowdowns or issues.

By the time I got to Santa Nella, it was almost 90 degrees and I was hot. I stopped at Pea Soup Andersen’s and changed into my LD Comfort shorts, replaced the leather jacket with the Venting Machine mesh jacket and put on the summer gloves. By the time I got back on the road, my Canada border arrival time had changed from midnight to nearly 1:00 AM. I lost a lot of time changing clothes (boots and pants had to come off to change underwear) and protecting my tank bag and GPS. Ouch.

As I rode further north, the arrival time pulled back to 12:40. I didn’t exceed the speed limit by more than 5 mph, but obviously I exceeded the Zumo’s expectations a little. Unfortunately, at each gas stop, I lost a little time for fill ups, refilling my water bag, etc. Ouch.

North of Redding, just before the Mt. Shasta area, the yellow “tire pressure” warning light came on. Temperatures were in the high 90s, and I expected that the high limit temperature or pressure had been exceeded but there was no other information in the readout. The temperatures both read “- - -“. I pulled off to look at the user manual (what does that icon really mean?) and check the tires with my gauge. The pressures were both very high. The rear tire was 50 psi. The normal pressure should have been 42 psi. Considering the ambient air temperature and the fact that I had been riding for a long time, I didn’t know what was normal. I let some air out of each tire, and continued on my way. The warning light turned off, and the temperature-compensated readings were one or two psi low for the remainder of the ride. I lost another half-hour there.

It started getting cold in Oregon. When I started getting chilled, I knew that I had to change again. At the Wolf’s Creek gas stop, I took more time to change back into my longs. I was warm, but I lost more time. Ouch.

I was still south of Portland around 9:30 PM and the GPS was indicating an arrival time with less than an hour of slop time to make the 24-hour “Extreme” certified ride. I was tired, and the risks were increasing significantly. I wasn’t sure that I could keep my gas stops short enough to make it all the way without running out of time, and I had no idea about border crossing delays. I was concerned that I would fall out of my “safety zone” as the late hours grew on. I decided to bail out and rest at my brother’s house in Vancouver, WA (just north of Portland).

Once the decision was made, I took time to make a few calls to let the appropriate people know my plans. It was a good decision, because I got caught in heavy traffic in Portland, where the I-5 went from three lanes into one for road construction. There is no lane splitting in Oregon, darn it. I lost at least 45 minutes there, and would have never made it to the border in time.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 7:02 pm Thread Starter
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The Ride (second Day)


I got a good night’s rest and left around 7:00 AM for Canada. The last stop before the border is in Blaine Washington. I think of it as the “Las Vegas Strip” of gas stations, because of the many stations there with huge well-lit signs, catering to those who want to avoid the much higher gas prices in Canada. I stopped there around noon the next day. I had until 3:47 that afternoon to cross into Canada and get a final receipt.

As I came down the offramp, I noted that the onramp to the border was closed for construction. After filling up, I had to detour south for 6 miles to the next exit, and then backtrack north on I-5 to the border.

The border crossing was uneventful. I used to live in Canada, so I knew my way around. I switched the GPS to kilometers, and headed to Pacific Yamaha BMW in Richmond, BC to collect a receipt and get my witness forms signed. They didn’t have anything I wanted to buy, so I went to a nearby gas station and added a litre of fuel to get the receipt. The nice people at Pacific BMW signed my witness forms.

I stayed with friends in Vancouver (RFW and family). Bob is one heck of an engineer. They were truly gracious hosts, and their generosity will always be remembered.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 7:03 pm Thread Starter
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The Return


The next morning, I headed back to my brother’s in Vancouver WA. I made a few stops along the way, including South Sound BMW in Fife, WA, which is worth seeing. I wanted to visit friends in Tumwater and Hoquiam, but they were both travelling that day.

I got to Vancouver by early afternoon. We paid a visit to Langlitz Leathers. Later we enjoyed a nice dinner and good company. We took a long walk along the Columbia River.

The next day I headed south. I got a leisurely start in the morning, took my time on the way down, and stopped in Redding by early evening. I took time to see the Sundial Bridge in Redding. It is definitely worth seeing if you haven’t seen it before.

I got a 5:30 start on the last day south. It was nice in the early morning, but the Central Valley heated up quickly into the high 90s. By mid-afternoon, I was soaking my shirt in water at each gas stop. The peak temperature was 104 degrees in the Santa Clarita Valley, near Magic Mountain.

What a hoot! Would I do it again? You bet, but this time, I think I know enough to make it in under 24 hours.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2009, 7:03 pm Thread Starter
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Lessons Learned


Keep stops short. There is no time to change boots or pants. I would have been fine with LD Comfort shorts under the mesh pants all day and night. Limit clothing changes to shirts and jackets – stuff you can do in public, preferably while the gas is pumping.

Avoid unnecessary bookkeeping. I write down all kinds of stuff at each fill up in a little book. I should have written the numbers into my ride log sheet, and transcribed them to the book later.

Keep stops simple. My passport, camera, and other valuables were in my tank bag, so I had to remove and replace the tank bag and GPS at each stop. I should have locked the valuable items in one of the cases. The only things that I should have to take to the washroom are the GPS and the keys to the bike. The tank bag is really there to hold my camelbak liner. About halfway through the ride, I started leaving my helmet and gloves on the bike, trusting that nobody would want those sweaty, smelly items. It would be very bad if they were stolen, but it got to be too much trouble to carry those with me at every washroom stop. Eliminating the long clothing changes would reduce exposure, too.

I figured out how to ride from tank to tank. The secret is to take a break about once an hour and stand on the footpegs (on the safe open road) as you ride. Exercising and stretching legs, arms, and neck helps too. The more you ride, the more you build up your endurance.

On the dry open highway, avoid the normal 1/3 or 2/3 lane positions, especially when crossing from one pavement type to another, such as bridge expansion joints. They wear unevenly, and are much bumpier than the middle of the road. Worn tire ruts can also shimmy the bike from side to side. It is kinda’ fun, but only for a while.

Pack your easy access stuff in the right side case, and the stuff you won’t need until you reach your destination on the left. When the bike is on the side stand, the right side is angled up conveniently.

Make sure the side cases are balanced. I packed some heavy gifts with me, and put them in the same case as the tools. As I rode, I had to add counter pressure to keep the bike from leaning, which was extra work. I adjusted the load during my night rest stop. Next time, the spare tools and other emergency gear will be balanced on each side.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 17th, 2009, 10:42 am
Would rather be riding
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Location: Mountain View, CA, USA
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Wow, congrats on the long ride, sounds like a real adventure. My one attempt at the basic ironbutt award (1K miles in a day) ended early on account of snow in New Mexico, but I keep meaning to make another attempt. Mexico to Canada in a day is definitely extreme.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old Jul 19th, 2009, 6:36 pm
IBR# 366
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Oxnard, CA, USA
Posts: 3,140
Great report, David. It was fun watching your SPOT tracker link, too. I wondered why you pulled off in Vancouver, but a free bed is always worth a little detour. And yes, that was the right decision to make at that point. It's just not worth pushing on into the danger zone.

One of these days, I'll have to write up my Border 2 Border ride as well. I did make it inside 24 hours, but it was a really long slog up I-5 . . .

Pacific NorthWet
'13 Dark Graphite Metallic K16GTLD, 24K miles and counting...
'09 Magnesium Beige Metallic K13GT, 60K miles miles and counting...
'02 Mauve Metallic K12LTC, 106K miles and sold
BMWLT#145, IBA# 366, MOA# 111996, SCMA# 24032

All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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