Here we are, two other Bend friends, Ryan and Lydia, and Ville and I cowering under our sleeping quilt under scraggly desert chaparral being pelted by desert sand and gail force winds howling over our heads. The fear of falling too deeply into sleep and letting go of the edge of the sleeping quilt and having it ripped from our bodies would make for a fiercely cold sleepless night. How did we wind up here and what were we thinking getting into this mess cycling Baja?
After getting a lot of friend love from Dan, Jeanne, Peter, Kristyn and Kaitlyn, we were very ready to get back in the saddles and start heading south into the Baja and out of the US.Heading east we decided to forgo the crossing at Tiajuana and instead opted for crossing at Tecate. The hill climb up to Tecate went from sea level up to 3,000 ft and was an extreme push after sitting and fattening up in OC and SD for so long. Crossing was easy and the ride out of the city was followed by baking hot hill climbing in open desert with patches of vineyards littering the valleys. The road beautifully paved with a huge shoulder and the passing trucks and cars gave us loads of room and even honked and waved. This was a good start Mexico.
We camped in Guadalupe, in a campground where proceeds went to run a school for the deaf, and there we met Ryan and Lydia. Originally from Pennysylvania, they had both spent the last couple years living in Bend! What are the odds?! After camping a night, we head out going southwest together to Ensenada. After more hot winding hills, we had a steep, fast downhill into the coast and turned south into the sprawling city of Ensenada. There we found some delicious street tacos of stingray (Ryan's first meat in 8 years, go big or go home Ryan!) and they were what we had all been waiting for. We biked a 14 mile side trip out to the point with images of camping on the beach dancing through our heads and instead camped in a parking lot of an RV park for $20, on the other side of the beach. *sigh* Can't win them all.
The road south from Ensenada took us unfortunately back inland and climbing through more baren desert landscape. Very similar to what we imagine LA, OC and SD to look like if you deleted all the people out of it. It was a peaceful, pleasant ride, save fpr the miles and miles of random construction and deep bumpy gravel. By evening we rolled into San Vicente, where we asked at a small family run restaurant where to camp and they showed us their backyard. We set up camp near the chicken coop, played on their kid's teter-totter, made friends with their dogs (I like to think their puppy liked me the best because he would not stop humping my leg and I renamed him Hump-a-tron), had a tasty dinner in their restaurant, and hit the hay. Sadly the roosters were a bit confused and began crowing at 1 am and then on the hour every hour thereafter, NOTE: don't camp near a chicken coop.
From San Vicente south the shoulder began to dissapear and although there was heavy traffic, they respected our space and still continued to move over for us. After a big breakfast, we stopped a few times for road tacos and burritos, but the road was pretty flat so we moved through the miles pretty easily. When I got distraceted by a stray dog that nearly got hit by a car, my tire went off the road and I hit the pavement pretty good and got some scrapes and bruises but was able to hop back on the bike and keep on keepin' on. When we arrived in the busstling city of Vicente Guerrero, we stopped at a fish taco stand and a man and his wife (he originally from there and his wife from LA, now live in Klamath Falls, Oregon) came up and asked to help us find a place to camp. They followed us to a restaurant and RV park, and tried to pay for us to camp. He said that he knows what it's like to be in another country where you struggle to understand the language and don't know where to go. We are grateful to this couple for the reminder of having sympathy/empathy for others.
From Vincente Guerrero to El Rosario, it was a very narrow road with a ton of load, dusty, obnoxious traffic that we put our heads down and just tried to fly through it. We passed miles and miles of massive greenhouses full of farm workers growing food for hungry Americans. Thanks Mexicans for all the hard work feeding us, without you who really would feed America? At the very end of the day we had a very long and steep climb up and over the hills into a fast and steep drop into El Rosario. The first restaurant we came to Mamma Espinosa, a famous checkpoint on the Baja 1000, and we were able to camp out back. Out back put us right next to the busy highway at a huge hill (lots of jett-brakes all night) and next to the open sewer. Note: scope out the free camp site in someone's yard and maybe try the next yard if it is loud and smells like poop.
The next morning we had a hard start when we watched some guys in a pick-up run over a stray dog and drive away. We are pretty sure it ended fast for the dog, but always hard when traveling in other countries and remembering that the differences in culture are far reaching. In America we put sad looking pooches on TV with Sarah McGraphlin sappy music to raise money for rescueing them. Mexico and many, many other countries we have traveled, dogs and cats are stray, mangy, and littering the streets. They don't have sappy commercials for the starving children here, or for the starving children in the US for that matter. Cultural norms are weird aren't they?
Leaving El Rosario we would have a long dry stretch inland throug the desert without any stops, so we packed up food and headed out east on Highway 1. The first night we camped in Guayaquil, a one building town. The homeowner let us camp out back in his garbage/tire pile and drunkenly made us quesadillas before camp. Guess it was the local truck stop because it was super noisy all night. Note: Don't camp at a truck stop unless you want to stay up all night drinking with the truckers. And a garbage pile is not an ideal campsite.
The wind howled through the night and continued to blow into our faces as we trudged east all day and once we made our 50 miles, we found some cool rocks to set up camp early and relax a bit. Wrong. As soon as we ate, and the sun was setting, the winds picked up and began to howl and rip at our tents. We made a quick decision to pull down the tents before they shredded and blew away, laid out the tarp under the trees and all four of us spooned for warmth and huddled under our sleeping bags and quilts while listeneing to the gale-force winds howl outside. Not a lot of sleep was had that night. As the sun lit the sky, we packed up and trudged back to the road to try and get somewhere out of the terrible winds. And they only became worse through the day. It was the most insane side winds I have every experienced. We took turnes trying to ride leaning into the side-wind, walking bikes, and trying to make some miles. For a brief period, the road turned in our favor and we flew 35 miles an hour on flat and rolling hills from the tailwinds! It was surreal! Somehow we managed to ride nearly 80 miles in the chaos of winds and made it to El Rosarito where we splurged on a room to wash the sand from our eyes and get some actual sleep.
One more day of not nearly as bad side/head winds and we arrived in Guerrero Negro. So weird to roll into a large town after fighting the desert for so many days in completely wide open desert. Beautiful, but man, it was a rough stretch. Today we are taking a rain day off here in town to finally get WiFi to catch up with all of you and call our families. Thanks all for your patience, we promise to write again and post more pictures soon when we get some stronger WiFi. Until then, keep on keepin' on...
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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