Times are tough and with everyone tightening their belts and watching budgets, what’s a biker to do? We could all use a little R&R and an inexpensive mini vacation might be just the ticket. Baggers are of course the best way to spend some extended saddle time and at $7,999 retail, the new Triumph America is easily baggerized. For me, a competent touring bike needs floorboards so riders have a variety of leg positions and the America delivers. A windscreen is mandatory and Triumph offers a quick-release windshield, and with the addition of Triumph-branded saddlebags, a tall sissybar with luggage rack, and a touring seat, all the requirements are fulfilled. The ’11 Triumph America boasts a larger 130/90-16 front tire to chew up those freeway miles and the 170/80-15 rear balance nicely. The America is surprisingly comfortable with a wide seat and revised rider triangulation, making extended saddle time enjoyable.
Enough of the sales pitch, back to this budget thing. I had 100 bucks and that’s it, that’s all she wrote, so I needed to set some parameters. First factor: the cost of gas. Two tanks, one there and one back. The America has a 5.1-gallon gas tank and with 45-mpg average that’s an easy 200-mile range. I needed a cheap place to crash with spending money for food, beer, and fun.
To put my Budget Bagger theory to the test, I called my riding buddy, El Chiefo. Mr. Lucha Libre thinks he can under-spend Captain Chapter 11 in this Battle of the Budget Baggers. He may be right (El Cheapo has ammo cans for saddlebags). Of course, El Chiefo suggested Mexico, land of one-dollar fish tacos and cheap tequila, and it’s only 170 miles away. I booked a room at Rosarito Beach for 40 bucks (I’ll haggle once I get there). El Chiefo is freaked out about some other Lucha Libre heisting his precious paint job, so I told him to check with his insurance company. It turns out that Allstate includes full coverage within 50 miles of the American border and Rosarito is only 20 miles south. My brand-new ’11 Triumph America is a press bike, and well, need I say more.
I’ve got the best girlfriend, and a break from my snoring is welcome relief as she gave me a kiss goodbye and slipped me 50 bucks. “Stay two nights in Rosarito, it’s no biggie,” she smirked. I guess some backup cash is wise and what the hell, I may like Rosarito Beach. The “Large” Triumph saddlebags are smallish but that’s fine because the optional sissybar and luggage rack would easily keep you cruising all the way to Cabo. Though only a five-speed transmission, the high rev limits allow for top-end acceleration and the powerplant never feels strained. The long stretch of freeway through San Onofre to San Diego let me ponder the pleasing purr of Triumph’s classic air-cooled 865cc motor. The throaty pipes fueled by a pair of gutsy jugs made keeping up with the 90-mph flow of traffic a breeze. Triumph has set the world standard for a great set of Parallel Twins
The border crossing into Mexico rolled without a hitch. Lanesplitting is authorized but it’s akin to navigating roundabouts in Italy until you’re through Tijuana. We caught Hwy 1D to Rosarito (the Scenic Route) and our first cash outlay was $2.50 at the toll booth. 1D has its own perils; we saw someone literally stopped and another person actually backing up on the highway. It’s rather exciting, but as riders, we’re accustomed to a little chaos. The highway skirts the ocean and the views are fantastic.
The room at the Festival Plaza Hotel was six stories up with a great ocean view. Parking for motorcycles is indoors, with 24-hour security, no charge. We hit the cabanas on the beach for a couple of margaritas, coronas, chips, and salsa…our first (and last) mistake. The beach is clean and service stellar, I just didn’t ask how much and the 20-dollar pinch felt more like L.A. The Festival Plaza is surrounded by massive party places like Papas & Beer, Iggys, and Coco Beach, so if you’ve come for peace and quiet, avoid spring break. There is a cool pier here with a ton of shops and everything within stumbling distance. We stumbled across some fireworks and made a small investment of four bucks each for the evening entertainment. Rosarito is obviously a tourist stop but doesn’t feel at all cheesy; it still retains an old-world charm. Yes, vendors will hawk their wares, but that’s to be expected. Hitting the main streets to look for dinner, we passed a fully stocked cigar lounge and smoke shop, and realized I forgot my cigar cutter (three-dollar expenditure).
View from the $40 Festival Plaza Hotel room
We figured most visitors would spend the bulk of their entertainment cash on a good dinner. The El Nido restaurant, just a block away, is a culinary paradise. The interior is jungle-like with an aviary and waterfalls. Claiming Rosarito’s best margarita, and I have no reason to doubt, it was a truly serious pour. The handmade tortillas were without a doubt the best I’ve ever had, even El Chiefo was impressed. The meals included salads, a mound of giant garlic shrimp, fresh Chili relleno, quesadillas, polenta, rice, beans, amazing homemade salsa, and guacamole. All of it was superb, and what was the total price of this four star dining feast, for two (including four major mondo margaritas)? $530 pesos or about 44 American dollars.
Lighting fireworks at the beach with our cigars, we enjoyed getting out of the states. It’s a unique experience; you feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere. A bit wild and wooly but that’s the fun of it, you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Breakfast at an adjacent outdoor restaurant was again a culinary surprise. Egg burritos filled with fresh grilled red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions, a complete unique Tapatio sauce, lightly fried potatoes, a fruit plate with melons, banana, and guava with honey, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and rich full bodied coffee: $14…for both of us! I decided to peruse the local bazaar and found my own Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling mask and Captain Chapter 11 now claims the Mexican moniker of El Barato.
So how did the economics of a Budget Bagger Baja Bash really pan out? In the U.S. a full tank of gas was $19.45, and I still had gas left when I filled up in Mexico. In Mexico gas was $2.90 a gallon, that only cost me another $10.76 to get home. Total fuel expense: $30.21 roundtrip. Festival Plaza Hotel was 40 bucks, which I split with El Cheifo: $20 bucks each. Toll road both ways: $5 each. Expensive beach cabana tourist rip-off round: $10 each. Fireworks: $4 each. A one-dollar taco: $1. Splurge on an incredible dinner and the best margaritas in Rosarito: $22 each. More killer drinks from the hotel bar: $5 each. Breakfast at the hotel: $7 each. Total expenditure for me: $99.21. Oh yeah, I spent three bucks on a cigar cutter and eight bucks on a Mexican wrestling mask, well worth blowing the budget for.
When returning on motorcycles to the states you can ride to the front at the border saving hours of waiting or trying to lane-split between the throngs of vendors and exhaust-spewing cagers. Nothing is well marked, but there is a lane to the very right which is cordoned off by yellow barriers. If you miss it, motorcycles can easily slip between the barrier openings and ride to the front.
Now is the best time to visit Rosarito, Mexico. Everyone is really friendly and there was never a worry about our bikes or any security concerns. Just 15 minutes south of Rosarito is Puerto Nuevo, “Lobster Village.” There are no drug cartels kidnapping Americans or gunfights in the streets here—that’s typical media sensationalism. You’re 15 miles south of the border for goodness sake! No, it’s not the Casa Laguna Inn & Spa at $295 a night peddling $15 dollar martinis, but that’s the whole point. Give Mexico a chance. You’ll find warm, welcoming people, an extremely affordable getaway with the benefit of unheard of gasoline prices. This El Barato will definitely be back to Baja soon. B
You must have a current passport.
Your insurance may already fully cover you.
Your debit card may NOT work at gas stations and definitely not when buying Mexican wrestling masks at the bazaar —carry cash.
Your cell service provider will alert you that out-of-the-country phone calls may run you two bucks a minute.
Contemplating a great set of parallel twins.
El Chiefo compliments Rosa on her hand made tortillas.
Many photo-fantastic photo opportunities.