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Baja California Information Pages
A Gas Crisis Story

In January of 1984 my wife and I set off on a three-week motorcycle trip through Mexico. Our itinerary took us down the Baja Peninsula to La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, and then to the mainland by ferry from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta. On the mainland we rode south to Navidad and then over the mountains to Guadalajara. Finally, back northwest to the Pacific coast and up to Tucson.

Our second night was spent in San Quintin at the La Pinta Hotel. The next morning we set off to take on the Central Desert and the long stretch to Guerrero Negro, with only a few possible gas stops available. Upon arriving in El Rosario I was prepared to exercise the correct Baja fueling procedure for a motorcycle traversing that section of the highway: fill up whenever you can. As we pulled into the station at El Rosario there was a very large crowd of Americans in a very festive mood littering the entire station area.

We very quickly found out that the crowd was waiting for a gas truck to arrive - there was no gas available in El Rosario! Or, for that matter, all the way to Guerrero Negro according to the rumors sweeping the station. Okay, so its now party time in El Rosario.

"How longs the party been going on?"

"Oh, about two days."

"Hmmm. When do you think the gas truck will arrive?"

"They're now saying one o'clock this afternoon . . . but there've been lots of similar predictions which didn't work out."

While we were waiting for the greatly anticipated arrival of the gas truck, two motorcycles from British Columbia pulled in and the riders assessed the situation. After waiting about 15 minutes, they began negotiating with one of the locals hanging around for the party. Like magic a large container of gas appeared and was promptly emptied into the two motorcycles. They paid about $5 a gallon for gas, but were on their way while the rest of us awaited the promised truck.

About 2:30 in the afternoon we decided to ride the 35 miles back to the La Pinta in San Quintin for another afternoon and evening on the wonderful beach there. While I was walking back into the La Pinta a man walks out of the bar and introduces himself as Happy Miles, the owner of the other motorcycle parked in front (I was wearing a Honda jacket which identified me as a "biker"). This turned out to be one of those fateful encounters which change lives, for Happy and I have been great friends ever since, and have accumulated lots of shared adventures under our belts.

Cycles at the Eagle Monument
Marilyn Metcalf, Happy Miles and our gas jug (28th parallel)
(Click for photo)

I explained the gas situation to Happy and we decided to head into town and get a plastic jug to carry some extra fuel. It wasn't easy to come by, but Happy managed to secure a beat-up old jerry jug which held about 2 1/2 gallons. (Happy is very proficient in "street Spanish," and can handle any situation in Mexico.)

The next morning we set off in tandem with Happy - the full jerry jug strapped to his sissy bar. As we went through El Rosario the party was still going on, now into its third day! We waved at our friends from the day before and headed south. I have no idea of when the gas truck finally arrived, but there were about 50 tourists who got more of a taste of El Rosario than they had expected.

As predicted there was no gas in Cataviña, although that was normal in those days. While stopping there we emptied the gas jug into our two tanks. Our next scheduled stop was to be the Punta Prieta station at the junction with the road to LA Bay.

Upon arriving at the junction there appeared to be gas - but with a hitch! The hitch was that a line of about 30 vehicles stretched to the south backing up along the shoulder of the road, and most of these vehicles were large RVs. We parked the bikes behind the buildings and wandered over to the pumps to check the situation out. They had their one-cylinder pump drawing gas from somewhere and trickling it into the vehicle at the head of the line.

There was a young lady operating this pump "system" and, after a few smiles and some complimentary conversation, Happy arranged with the woman that we'd slip our plastic jug in for a "quick fill" when she was finished with the current customer. This did, in fact, take place - with lots of folks in line glaring daggers at us. We crept off with our ill-gotten booty and emptied the jug into the motorcycle tanks. However, it was still a long ways to Guerrero Negro and, while my bike had the range, Happy's did not.

Back to the pumps goes Happy with jug in hand. He pulled it off, but at the expense of now having those in line doing more than staring daggers. We quickly strapped the full jug in place and fled down the highway.

We encountered no further fuel shortages on that trip. However, the ingredients for more adventures had been cast into our trip by this shortage. The Canadians from El Rosario were to play a further role in our trip south, and Happy Miles reappeared in Cabo San Lucas to travel with us to Puerto Vallarta.

Moral:   Don't rely on the next station ahead having fuel!

Contents Page: Copyright 1995-2011 Fred T. Metcalf