The youngish Mexican guy rode past me, Kristen, standing with our bikes outside a small shop while Ville was inside buying water, and when I nodded and said, "buenos tardes" he spun around and rode up to me asking where we were heading (this in Spanish, because people speak Spanish here in Mexico). I told him "Argentina" just as Ville came out and he was so excited to talk to us about our ride and show us pictures of his bicycle group there in Ixtlan del Rio on his phone. Ville asked for recommendations on a cheap motel and taco shop to eat at and the boy, Angel, invited us to follow him back to his house to eat. Super sweet of him, we filled our water bags and headed off behind Angel through the town. This was after a long hard day of hill climbing in baking heat along the 15D, after leaving our good friends, Greg and Lee in Tepic.
After leaving the Baja, the mainland of Mexico has been an insane amount of climbing in pretty intense heat. We filled our bags with rehydration packets from the pharmacy to add to our water and try and help to stay hydrated on the long grueling days of heat, but it's almost a losing battle. The moment we suck down water, we watch as it pours down our face and soaks our clothes. And on top of that, for some reason I, Kristen, have taken to getting intense nose bleeds every single day for some unknown reason. Either from the change of weather or the stress of constant traffic zooming inches from the handle bars, I don't know. But are just hoping that it will straighten itself out somehow and the weather might cool off somewhat.
Arriving outside Angel's home, we walked our bikes through to the back yard and sat inside at the table in the single roomed home with dirt floors and concrete walls. His mom made us a tomato soup with noodles and tortillas and we ate and Ville chatted a bit in his ever improving Spanish. After, Ville offered him some money for food and he was almost offended he offered and told us we were his guests. He pulled out his cycling jerseys and vests and was so proud of his cycling group. After the meal, he led us to a hotel on the second story off the main square in downtown Ixtlan del Rio. One of the cheapest hotels we had found in Mexico, Ville paid for the night and Angel helped us carry up all our bags and bikes to the room. Then took us on a walking tour of his town and introduced us to his friend, a lady in his bicycle group, who makes hand-made sweets she sells in a cart at the square. She loaded us up with bags of goodies and then also refused our money, throwing it back at us and insisting it is a gift.
After heading back to the hotel to shower and hand wash our clothes, we met back up with Angel and his friend to walk to the square where their bicycle group, Ixtlan en Bici, was meeting up for a night ride. It was incredible! One of the group leaders had bungee-corded a large speaker to the back of his bicycle and with a microphone introduced Ville and I to the large group of mainly kids and young teens all on various kinds of bikes. We posed for a photo and they were so excited to hear about our bike trip. Then Angel presented Ville with his very own Ixtlan en Bici bike shirt and they headed out for their night ride.
The next morning, the elder nightwatchman asked Ville where we were headed and to be very careful because the president was speaking on his little handheld radio about Trump, and he was worried about us and our safety. While I, Kristen, waited outside with the bikes, an elderly man walked up to me and asked if I am American. I said that I was from Finland. And he walked away. I felt really saddened that I had to lie about my own nationality. We walked with Angel to a local breakfast hall and bought him breakfast to thank him for his hospitality. We gifted him with a We Lost The Map Bracelet and he hugged us both as he headed off on his bike to his job in a veterinary office.
Once back on the bikes on the 15 D toll road and heading towards Tequila, my mind was swirling with thoughts and emotions I was having a hard time letting go of. When I tried to talk to Ville about it, just to process through it all, I found I kept getting choked up and tears were running down my face. Ville and I try very hard to respect others and their opinions and stay out of politics, but this is not just politics anymore, we are in it! We can't just turn off the news and ignore social media and keep our opinions to ourselves. We are bicycling through Mexico and USA (Trump), has decided to build a wall between USA and Mexico and make the Mexicans pay for it by imposing a tax on goods coming into the US from Mexico. After spending a month and a half bicycling through Baja and mainland Mexico, we have had nothing but kind, welcoming, positive experiences with Mexicans and the people living in Mexico. So we are at a complete loss to know what to say, do, behave, help, and all while reverting to speaking in Finnish and saying we are both from Finland or Canada.
After a very long, emotional day on the bikes, we arrived in Tequila, checked into a hotel and went to bed. The next morning, our Canadian friends Greg and Lee drove from Tepic to meet us to spend the day checking out distilleries and drinking Tequila. First we drove to Miravalle Distillery, Home of Azunia Tequila in Amatitan, where our friends Rick, Brenda, and Jim had set up a tour of the distillery for us. Really fascinating to see the whole process of making Tequila and we were gifted with a couple bottles of really good tequila at the end. Thanks so much all of you for a fun Tequila experience! After we drove back to Tequila where Greg and Lee took us to La Alborada Distillery to sample a bunch of different tequilas and we watched a large group of college kids whom had gathered from all over the world, whack at a pinata while having a hysterically good time.
On our walk back to the hotel, we were ambushed by a group of Guadalajarans who pushed beers in our hands and insisted we dance in the streets with them. These happy Mexicans really know how to party! We all took turns dancing and posed for a bunch of photos and then we said our goodbyes to Greg and Lee as they headed back to Tepic and we headed to bed. Just before bed, Ville headed out for a short walk and returned upset because a very sweet little black dog had followed him for blocks and jumped in his lap for loves and now was waiting outside the hotel for him. It's pretty hard to see so many stray dogs in Mexico and not want to rescue so many of them, but while on a bicycle tour through numerous countries, we cannot. We hope in Tequila, a bit of a wealthier town than some of the towns we have biked through, Ville's little buddy will have someone take him in.
The next days ride took us east back through Amatitan and then south through fields and dirt paths onto highways where there was less cars thanks to it being a Sunday. In Mexico, Sundays are Family Days and most Mexicans spend the day together in parks, beaches, back yards and such and leaving less drivers on the road. We have found that Google Maps Bike Routes are horrible in Mexico, many times taking us a "short cut" through a town that the road turns into farm roads a lot of times that just dead-end or are really unsuitable for biking on, like gravel, sand, and boulder fields. But we managed to get as far as Santa Cruz de las Flores where Ville asked a man where we might find cheap accommodation. A very elderly man, who was very dirty, with an old broken bike, missing most his teeth, but with a very sweet smile gave us very detailed directions to find a nearby hotel. Then he offered to show us, but said he would not be as fast because of his bike. We followed him up over a walkway overpass, down a couple streets where there was a sign for a hotel. We profusely thanked him and when Ville offered him money he refused and said, "next time." He was embarrassed to shake our hands because his were so dirty, but we insisted and asked to take a photo of him (to add to our Kindness page.) Both Ville and I almost moved to tears by this mans incredible kindness and refusing money, just helping us to be a kind person.
The hotel was actually even cheaper than the last, at only $6.50 a night, and filled with lots of semi truck drivers. Excited to get to Lake Chapala and see our friends Peter and Madeleine, we got up early and hit the road after a quick breakfast street taco stop. There was a group of men there who were really excited to chat about our ride and asked if we still like each other so far? They wished us a safe journey, as has been with most of the Mexican people we have encountered, and off we headed the last 25 miles into San Juan Juan Cosala where our friends live. We spent a relaxing day catching up with our Canadian friends, both whom we met on Vancouver Island where they had been Warmshowers hosts to us there, and are now able to visit them at their winter place on Lake Chapala.
We are hoping to take a few days rest off our bikes, maybe make a bus trip into Guadalajara to see the sights (we have read how not bike friendly Guadalajara is being such a large congested city), and catch up with our friends before heading back on the road going east towards Mexico City. Thanks all for your love and support on this journey and keep spreading love and kindness. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
The last time we were on a ferry, BC Ferries, was in British Columbia. Once we arrived back in La Paz following our tour of the tip of Baja, we biked up to the ferry terminal about 12 miles north of the city and met the BC Ferry, now Baja California Ferries. The boat is the size of a small cruise ship, very clean, and we even booked our own cabin for $35 extra. This was worth it for us not to have to listen to karaoke until midnight up in the lounge or a blaring TV where the passengers are seated in chairs much like airline seats. Oddly enough, we had to clear customs even though we were not crossing any border, but the guy seemed very unconcerned with the mace Ville was carrying and just chatted us up instead of X-Raying our bags. On the boat, we stood in line for our free meal at the cafeteria, listened to some eccentric karaoke, and watched as the guys pulled up the ropes and the ship shoved off at 8 pm. Once at sea, these old farts went to bed. After all, 8 p.m. is late for camping cyclists that go to bed soon after the sun goes down. Our cabin had separate small beds, no window, but with a bathroom and even a shower! We arrived at exactly 8 a.m. and disembarked with Curtis and Jenny, other cycling friends on the same ride we had met earlier on, and cycled through Mazatlan together heading to a cheap motel to stay.
Once Curtis and Jenny and we had checked into rooms, Ville and I headed out for breakfast and to explore the town of Mazatlan. We spent the 2 whole days walking all over the old city, along the Malecon, up to the top of tower hill and the lighthouse hill and ate lots of great food. The buildings were really colorful, the people incredibly friendly, and the town alive with music and theater. On our last evening in town, we attended a Women's March along the Malecon for women's rights and human rights. Felt empowering for a moment to realize there are a lot of people out there globally who care about loving thy neighbor and treating all humans with love and respect. We are a part of that movement.
After riding south out of Mazatlan, we wound through the chaotic streets until finding the toll road or quota. For two and a half days we were on this road, two of which were pretty flat along the marsh land of the coastal area with intermittent mango groves. In complete contrast to Baja of dry, cool desert, with a ton of wind, and minimal climbs we are now in very hot, humid mountains with perpetual climbing. What use to be a full day on the bikes of 60-80 miles and felt fine, we now are completely wiped out after 40-45 miles. And since the toll road bypasses all the small towns, we are struggling to stay hydrated and find enough water. But the shoulder has been spectacular and the traffic could not be more amazing and inspiring! The giant semi trucks are almost always moving over and giving us room as well as the cars, all while honking, waving, cheering, and flashing their lights to alert other drivers of us on the road. Every town we do ride through we are constantly greeted by people on the street, smiling, waving, and telling us "buen viaje" (good travels) or "mucho suerte" (much/good luck). We couldn't be surrounded by kinder people.
On our second days ride out of Mazatlan, we had pulled over at a gas station to get water (which there was hardly any) and met an awesome couple, Greg and Lee, from Ontario, Canada. They were kind enough to give us some water and told us they live in Tepic and invited us to come see them on our way through the next day. Since we only had 20 miles into Tepic and the road had been only flat to mild rolling hills, we were excited for a short day. Wrong! It was over 3,000 feet of climbing in under 20 miles. By the time we showed up, we were completely soaked in sweat and completely spent. Greg and Lee welcomed us into their home, let us shower, do laundry and stay a day to drive us around and do much needed errands. Thank you both so much for all your kindness and generosity!
Tepic was a much larger city than we had imagined and lucky for us to have locals showing us around, were able to see so much of the sights. After so many touristy towns on the Baja and Mazatlan, it was great to finally be in a city wandering around that we were the only white skinned people we saw the entire time. Riding out of Tepic, will be a lot more heat and climbing, but we have a plan to try and meet up with Greg and Lee in 2 days ride in Tequila for some distillery tours and party! Until then, keep on keepin' on...
The last couple weeks have been one big party, with a bit of biking in between. But mainly relaxing, spending time with great friends and fun in the sun. It was much needed. Baja was a rough ride. Lots of sand, not a lot of water or food stops, and a thousand miles of it. Since our ferry leaves tonight out of La Paz, we had no need to cycle more south, but we wanted to see friends and celebrate the end of the Baja and it was well worth the trip!
In El Pescadero, Jesse and Sherri spoiled us rotten. They lent us a vehicle to get to the beach with a surfboard, lounge chairs and cooler in tow. We hit up the local farms for fresh produce and lobster and they chefed it up every breakfast and dinner. They took us sightseeing in Todos Santos, rescued turtles, snorkeled, drank a lot of margaritas , and met lots of their great friends. We had a complete blast and we thank you both like crazy! Expect a visit again when this crazy ride is complete.
Next we rode to Cabo San Lucas (a decent shoulder and along the coast but hotter than the surface of the sun) where we met up with Rick and Brenda who drove us out to their place in La Fortuna and also showed us a great time. Ville surfed, we swam in their pool, played with their pups, toured San Jose del Cabo and ate like kings. They had some neighbors over for dinner and a whole slew of friends stop in on Jeeps on a Poker tour. We were connected with Rick and Brenda through a friend from home, Tony, and my cousins in Orange County, Jeff and G.K. and now consider them friends of ours. As they hopped a plane home, we biked north to Los Barriles where Rick and Brenda have a hotel and insisted we stay. The road was fairly pleasant and meandering but with no shoulder and little traffic. And man, what a treat when we arrived at the hotel!!
The Agave Hotel in Los Barriles was magical! After all our tenting it and splurging on cheap motels we shared with Ryan and Lydia (although a great bonding experience), it was SO great to have our own cushy bed in our own room right next to the pool and ocean. We were lulled to sleep every night by the waves and kayaked, swam, walked on the beach, cruised through town and just relaxed! When we arrived we met a great group of Canadians who welcomed us to dinner and fattened us up. Thanks all of you for fun conversations and great food! If your looking for a easy place to get away with relaxation in mind, check this place out. It was awesome. Thank you Rick and Brenda!!
It was a very sad day when we had to pack up our bikes and get back on the saddles heading northwest back to La Paz. A lot of steep hill climbing up and down and then headwinds on our homestretch to La Paz. By the time we made it through the miles of busy La Paz traffic to our motel, we were both wrecked. Today is our big day leaving Baja and heading by ferry to Mazatlan and the mainland Mexico. If any of you will be in our path, hit us up! Would love to see friendly faces. Otherwise, keep following and keep on keepin' on...
Barely had I rubbed the Sandman sand and literal Baja desert sand from my eyes and a quick movement of a critter caught my eye. I rolled over in the sleeping quilt to catch a glimpse of something the color of sand climbing from Ville's bicycle bag to just under me in the tent. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a small scorpion trying to find a comfy place to crash. Not only do most all desert plants; cacti, scrub brush, and such unknown plant material have thorns on, around, and strewn about the sand, but the animals are not the friendliest folks either. The wide open desert does, however, present some of the most epic star-gazing nights we have yet seen on this bike tour yet. Many wishes on stars should take us safely to the end of Argentina and beyond. And even if the plant and animal life keeps you on your toes, the Mexicans and people of Baja so far have been some of the happiest, kindest and generous folks we have met (of course, the Canadians are an even contender in that evaluation). The road, Mex 1 south, has been very hit or miss with a shoulder or even a decent pavement (we have heard the entire road was more recently paved in stages), the traffic on it seems to do their best to move over, give us room, honk, wave, cheer, and especially the big semi-trucks.
Our first big day off the bikes from the time we left San Diego and crossed over the Tecate border into Mexico, was spent splashing around in a giant downpour of rain in Guerrero Negro while K.G. and Ryan were trying to beat crappy colds in bed at the cheapest motel in town. After a day, we rolled back out of town splashing through the giaint puddles heading to Vizcaino pushed on by glorious tailwinds. The next day brought forth more zoning-out wide-open desert until we dropped into an oaisis of palm trees at San Ignacio. San Ignacio had a very endearing downtown built around a beautiful misssion built in 1728. Ville kindly volunteered to help build a roof on a patio of a casa de ciclista in town, and the next morning we were back on the road heading east to Santa Rosalia.
Heading out of San Ignacio, Ryan, Lydia, Ville and I had a slow steady climb into the mountains of sandy, cacti-littered desert near the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. After a very windy summit, we rocketed down the windy hills into the valley of the Reserve before a long hot climb into the sandy hills that border the coastline and Sea of Cortez. Dropping to the waterfront and south into Santa Rosalia, the city was a chaos of Christmas Eve partiers. We were able to find a tasty fish taco shop open and somehow managed on Christmas Eve to find a room at a very delapidated, over-priced inn to spend the night drinking Tequila, eating Peach-Os and celebrating the holiday together. Aparently Christmas is a huge drinking holiday in Santa Rosalia, for there was music and partygoers all night long and into the morning. We rose early into the quiet, abandoned streets and made the journey south to find a beach to camp on. Upon hitting the coast, the cacti landscape now included various grasses, flowers, and organic plantlife. With that brought an array of colorful butterflies, birds, and bugs. The road south was easy rolling hills with a slight tailwind and we flew through miles, passing Mulege and into the beaches of the Bahia Concepcion.
After just shy of 600 miles since crossing the Tecate border, we had finally arrived on a camping beach, Playa Santispac! With a slew of RVers (lots from the US and Canada), we pitched our tents on the sandy beach and borrowed some kayaks, snorkeling gear, and fishing gear from the incredibly generous RVers. Ville caught a decent sized Trigger Fish and he cooked it in our little pot for our Christmas feast. Was a pretty memorable Christmas I have to say. We decided to take a day off on the beach relaxing in the sand, watching dolphins feast, reading, and not biking before our next days long ride to Loreto. Since leaving Ensenada, Loreto was our first touristy town, chalked full of mini to full on resorts (they even have a Starbucks, folks). We stayed a couple of days in Loreto due to timing and weather issues, for us Loreto didn't seem that attractive but it might be because the weather was rainy and gray while we were there. However, they had some pretty tasty fish tacos.
Dec. 30th was my, K.G.'s, birthday and luckily the rain broke long enough for a breakfast place to open and I had french toast complete with candles on top! We packed up and cycled 20ish miles south to Playa Ligui where a local fisherman directed us to a deserted georgous beach where only the local fisherman seemed to come. It was one of the most beautiful places we have enjoyed on our trip yet. We decided to ring in the New Year on the beach far from any town or chaos and were joined by another cyclist, Helena from Florida. Climbing the giant rock at the end of the beach, Ville and I watched the sunset over the mountains and reflected on a pretty kick-ass full year of travel! New Years Resolution: keep right on traveling.
On a mission, we climbed back on our trusty steeds and began the long slow climb away from the coast and back up into the hills that took us to the top of the plateau and back southwest towards Ciudad Insurgentes. The long climb was cake compared to the side winds we hit once back out on the open desert. We had a nice roadside visit with Rick and Brenda (thanks a million you guys for taking our papers to mail in the US for us!!) whom we met through a friend in Bend and have a place in Los Barriles. We arrived in the tiny town pretty wiped out and the boys scored a really nice room for us at one of the only hotels in town. Once we hit Ciudad Constitucion, only 15 miles down the road the next day, Ryan had the stomach bug and I had a migraine and we decided to hit the market and another motel to rest. Poor Ryan was still sick by the next day and they scored a ride into La Paz, and Ville and I climbed back on the bikes for the last big push into town. Out of Constitucion we pushed through nearly 80 miles of some of the most dangerous and crappy road ride yet! Until now, the drivers in Mexico had been fantastic, but on this stretch we completely lost the shoulder and most drivers seemed in too much of a hurry to give us any room. I counted at least 6 near death experiences as did the other cyclists we talked to on this same stretch. I would not bike from Constitucion to La Paz again, unless I had a death wish.
At dark we found an open gate and piched our tent with Helena amid the cacti. The open desert made for some fantastic quiet sleep. Cool nights, no crowing roosters, sewage, barking dogs, loud music, jet brakes, or just the chaos of a city. At first light we ate our super tasty oatmeal and headed into the hills towards La Paz. The traffic was still unnerving and the winds maddening, but we had only 55ish miles to town and were on a mission. But a mere 15 miles out from town, Ville spotted one of the coolest things we have seen yet on the side of the road: a giant black dildo! And after stopping to kick it around and snap a couple pics, he kicked it up on the road in the hopes Helena would get the pleasure of seeing it too. The last 15 miles we cruised downhill in, finally, a big bike lane to town where we met up with Ryan and Lydia recouperating in a motel downtown. We spent a day together enjoying eachothers company and said our goodbyes the following morning as we headed south towards Todos Santos and they had a plane to catch out of Cabo back home to Pennsylvania. Thanks for the fun times in Baja you guys!! :)
Once on the outskirts of La Paz, a giant bike lane appeared complete with tailwinds to push us all the way into Todos Santos. It's what touring dreams are made of. Todos Santos was named a pueblo magico, and riding through it you could tell that they have put money into this small town: cobblestone roads, painted and cared for buildings, and lots of quaint touristy fashion, food, and hotspots. We stopped to grab some margaritas, but the menus were in dollars and about 6 times the price of any we had seen since coming to Baja Mexico. We got drinks at the OXXO (like a 7-11) instead and sat and people watched on the street. Just before dark, we rode the 8ish miles south to El Pescadero where our friend Jesse and his girlfriend Sherri live. We had chatted about this bike trip with Jesse way back in Bend while white water rafting and he said if we made it down the Baja alive, we should come for a visit. And, well, here we are!
K.G. & Ville
In Cuenca, Ecuador. Next stop, Loja.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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