Saturday, June 9, 2018

American Trail Race 2018 .. inauspicious start

American Trail Race. 5100 miles of pavement and dirt between Cape Lookout and the Oregon Coast. Was pretty sure I could do this, even though I wasn't so sure about being able to keep to a race pace.

I flew with my bike from Tucson to Jacksonville, NC. Got off the plane, found my bike box and started to assemble it all right in the baggage claim area. It's a little airport and everyone was friendly, asking questions about "where are you going" and such. I got the bike assembled, and then went outside into a major rainfall event. I think it rained about 2.5 inches that afternoon and I was right in the middle of it all. Soaked. Totally. My cash in my wallet was all stuck together. When I got to a Motel 6, I left a giant puddle in the lobby trying to sign in.

Atlantic Ocean near Emerald Isle, NC
Next morning I stopped at Walmart and bought a couple of things. The bike shop didn't open until 10 and I rolled out thinking I could get the chain lube I wanted along the way. I went along US 24 past Camp Lejune, a place I was at some 50 years ago for about 22 days. Then I took a turn and headed down the strip that Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach were on. Got to see the Atlantic for quite a bit. It was a fun easy ride in a little rain. As I turned back toward Morehead City I got dumped on again, hid out under the eaves of a long closed restaurant for a while.

Found that the bike shops didn't have that much, hoteled it for the night and the next day I rode from Beaufort over to Cape Lookout. I took the ferry with my bike, and first thing up was to climb up the stairs in the lighthouse. It was pretty neat, with great views at the top. I then rode along the beach for a good bit, found that "right place" between soggy wet sand and loose "I can't ride here" sand and I rode down to the tip of Cape Lookout. Then went up the other side, got hot, sweaty, took a path through the woods and found a few ticks and finally got out of there and back to the Atlantic side on the beach to camp for the night.
Cape Lookout Pier
Tip of Cape Lookout

Had a great breeze and kept cool that night ... only mistake was to leave the tent unzipped and I found a few sand fleas biting on me early the next morning. Around 8:30 or so, the boat came back and I got on and started riding.

Mill Pond ... about 2 miles from where I crashed

The first 30 miles went really nicely, flat, paved, pretty light traffic and then I had a problem.

I was checking traffic to my back, there was a bit of a drop off into mowed lawns on my right and I saw a styrofoam cooler in front of me.  I didn't want to swing into traffic and decided to just hit the thing. Bad mistake. It took me right out ... I went down hard on my shoulder and back.  I got up, winced from the pain, kicked the cooler hard and found it was one of those thick heavy things ... not your 99 cent Circle K job, but a heavy thing for shipping steaks or something in.  I thought I could just ride it all out and so I did ....... got to a gas station and consumed a bunch of ibuprofen and aspirin and kept going.  I made it to where the route got close to Jacksonville again and went off route, found a bike shop and got the sealant I wanted and some chain lube and a hotel for the night.

Up the next morning and still hurt but I was riding along. Had roads with lots of traffic for the first part and it was hot and humid. I made about 78 miles and got to Mt Olive. My shoulder was still hurting and I found a hotel around 5 pm or so, and got a small pizza.

I started for Newton Grove the next morning and the shoulder was really hurting. I found I could get into my aero position but getting out was hurting and riding on the bars was hurting and I think I walked about 2 miles on a perfectly flat road trying to get my act together. After a couple of ham biscuits at a Hardee's in Newton Grove, I made it to Dunn. It was still pretty early in the day, looking like rain and I stopped.

The next morning I rode a bit and stopped near a truck stop. A semi was turning in and I hurt when I stopped and then hurt when I started back up again. And I found I couldn't look over my left shoulder at all. So in that black pit of despair, I decided to quit and I went to Fayetteville to get a rental car.

Bike in car, Mississippi River bridge in the distance
I drove from Fayetteville to Johnson City, TN on Sunday and when I took my shirt off I saw this big red splotch on my left shoulder. Decided to look for a walk in clinic the next morning and the Doc there checked things out and thought I didn't have a break. Went to xray and it clearly showed a break.  So I guess I had been riding on a broken clavicle for about 3 1/2 days.

Still had the rental car and so I met some relatives along the way, in Jonesborough, in Knoxville and in Oklahoma City and got back to Tucson late on Thursday night. Had an orthopedic person look at my xray on Friday morning and she said nothing for 2 weeks, some PT for 2 weeks and then another xray in 4 weeks. And so there we are.  
obvious break

I want to go back. This thing needs to be done.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

American Trail Race 2018

Sent an email to Billy Rice a couple of days ago:

" ... unless something nuts happens in the next couple of weeks, planning to show up and give it a shot"

And with that, I am going to do the American Trail Race. About 5000+ miles of dirt road, mud, washboard, bugs, hungry and who knows what else to get from Cape Lookout, NC to Oregon.




We start on May 31 at 05:00 I believe. Think that's about 50 years from when I started another journey at Parris Island.

So wish me luck, this will be one hard ride.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Baja Divide 2018 Part II

Got home from the first part on Jan 18. Wanted to go back to Baja on the 28th but still didn't feel good enough, so I put it off till the 11th of Feb. Another Amtrak ride to LA, leaving Tucson at 8:30 pm and getting to LA about 4:30 in the morning. I got the first ride south on the Pacific Streamliner and was in San Diego in about 3 hours.  Got on the San Diego Trolley and went straight for San Ysidro. Stopped at two money exchange places to exchange cash for pesos and walked across the Border into Mexico.

Getting Started:

In Tijuana, I took a taxi to the Central Autobuss Terminal. I was there about 11:45 or so. I go up to the ABC counter and ask about a ticket to Catavina. I had thought I would restart there, but they said they didn't serve Catavina ( even though it appeared on their website ). Was discussing it with them and the lady behind the counter even called someone and they said "we don't do that".  Meanwhile one of the lady's suggests another town further down and I picked Vizcaino and found out that the bus was leaving in 5 minutes. So I paid for the ticket and she takes me out to where the bus was getting ready to leave and by 12:00 we were rolling south to Vizcaino a stop south of where I had stopped that was actually on the route.

Turned out that Vizcaino was a bit further south than I wanted to go, and I thought about getting the driver to dump me off in Catavina anyways, but with my lack of Spanish it just seemed too darn hard. And then there was a lingering suspicion that I wasn't ready anyways, so maybe the section from Vizcaino to San Ignacio would be a good place to start.

So at about 2:30 in the morning ( after leaving at 12:00 ) I end up under a street light, in Vizcaino, getting off the bus and putting my bike back together.  Started down the road to the center of town and found an open hotel, rang the bell, got a room and went to bed. Was beat from the bus ride.
I got up at about 9, found some breakfast and started out.

Vizcaino to San Ignacio:

It was a pretty good ride, at least the first third or so, some dirt road, some pavement on Mex-1, then followed a power line for a bit then a turn onto a sandy section and THEN a turn into a total sand pit of a road that went on for about 5 miles.  There is a little agricultural operation that this road went around and it was slow going. Finally it got a bit better, actually rode through a lot of big cardon cactus, a ranch and back to pavement. Rain started coming down and I was at the northern end of the Laguna San Ignacio ( the part without any water ). I think the GPS said I was at -5 feet ( probably not right ).  It rained a good bit that night and when I got up the ground was a bit sticky.  This time I took the pavement option and instead of going straight to San Ignacio, I rode pavement to Mex-1 and then to town.  I made a swing past the Mission and then back to the Rice & Beans hotel and got a room even though it was only a little after noon. Was probably a good call as I got to eat and rest up still more from the train/train/bus ride.
Tecate tienda
Vizcaino Desert

San Ignacio to El Datil:

Out the next morning with a little light rain, but on pavement until we were almost to the Ocean. At a little place called San Zacarias, I ran across Jahn a rider from the Czech Republic. The owner of the Diconsa had a log book where Baja Divide riders were signing in, and we both signed it. Then we were off to the Laguna.  The road turned to dirt but was pretty fast. I ended up with about 84 miles for the day, my longest for the whole Baja effort. When we turned south we picked up some good hardpacked salt flat stuff ... and a tail wind. It was great riding !
Mission San Ignac


Getting later in the day and we got to El Datil. There was a little store there and in the back I knew they had a kitchen. Stuck my head in ( after bashing my helmet on a low beam ) and started trying to figure out what they had ( they have no menu ) and just started ordering carne asada burritos and frijoles and arroz ...  A Columbian couple were there, they were riding north with their dog.  The food was great, and the only mistake was to forget to order some to go !
El Datil -- unloading fish
Osprey nests

I think I got about 10 miles in after the stop, and set up the tent in light rain and light wind.

El Datil to Mulege:

The next morning it was the start of a leg to get to Mulege which is on the other side of Baja !  First I had to contend with a bit of stickiness, that soon went away to a really washboarded road. And then I was at La Ballena and made the turn towards Mulege.

More rain, not too heavy, then it got steamy.  The road and the GPS track diverged several times and once I found myself climbing down over a bunch of boulders only to get into the river bottom and then look and realize I was south of the actual road and it would have been a lot easier over there !
Beautiful rockforms
River bottom ... I would cross this dozens of times

It got warm, I would ride across a rocky stream bottom, plow through a pool of water, then get stuck in a sand pit coming out the other side before I could go again. Lather, wash, rinse, repeat.  Ran across a couple from Washington on ATV's, then 3 guys from Canada on motorcycles who had seen me at the Rice & Beans place in San Ignacio two days before.

I got about 45 miles or so in and found a sandy spot along the stream bed and bagged it for the night.
Cow'd up stream
roadside creche

Up the next morning, more riding, and passed a little blue sign that said soda's for sale !  Got a Coke and a Fresca, and they hit the spot !  Then I began to realize that the switchbacks on the map might actually go down instead of up !  I kept riding in the expectation that sooner or later I was going to see the Sea of Cortez. No such luck. I rode all the way to Mulege without seeing so much as a glimpse of big water. In fact I didn't see it until the next morning after I rode through town.
So Good !

Found a hotel in Mulege, found a good restaurant and then found a good restaurant the next morning for breakfast.

Mulege to San Javier:

On the way south there are two options, one is to go south on Mex-1, the other to go to the waterside and find a fisherman boat and get a ride across and then go down the other side of the Bahia Concepcion.  I had fiddled around until almost noon, way past the fisherman time and it was Sunday, so I just went on the highway.
Sea of Cortez

Stopped at several places going south, lots of RV's parked along the water, and lots of them from Canada. Didn't really push it and camped at the south west end of Bahia Concepcion.
Camping spot

The next morning I got a few climbs in to get away from the Bay, and stopped at Rosario for breakfast. Tiny little spot on the road, basically a couple of houses and the restaurant, but the food was great.
Restaurant Rosario

The rest of the day was spent riding along to San Isidro. Some of it along a streambed and a lot of nice rim rock views. Towards the end of the day I was looking down at San Isidro from an overlook that had lots of bicycle tracks on it. ( you could tell that every rider had done the same exact thing ). A quick ride down into the town and stopped at the little store. The lady came out and she smiled when I petted her little poodle. ( some people had said she was grumpy ).  Turned around, rode back out of town, up a crazy steep hill. Tried to find a camping spot ... one looked pretty good, but had a dead goat in the middle of it.  Passed on that. Went a little further and found a good spot. The area was really rocky all around, it was a good find.
Internet cafe/store Comondu
Comondu Mission

The next day I got to San Jose de Comondu around 11 in the morning. There was supposed to be only one store, but I stopped at the first place I found that was also an Internet access point. I paid $12 pesos for a password, and logged in with my phone, posted a couple of pictures and goofed off for a while. Then I rode up past the other store and the Mission and then up a giant hill to get out of town.
Tree growing out of the rock at the top of a ridiculous climb

San Javier Mission
The ride over to San Javier went pretty well also.  Some parts were really quick and the scenery was nice. I got to the pavement around 5:30 and into San Javier. I stopped at the restaurant but they were closed for the night, but the fellow invited me in for coffee, and then said I could camp by the Mission. So I setup close to the Mission with a plan to head to the restaurant at 8 in the morning when they opened.

San Javier to Ciudad Constitucion:

Up in the morning, hit the restaurant and this time I got a to go order !  Three macha burritos. They were great in the middle of the day on the road to Ley Federal #1. Thought I would make it to Ley Federal, but darkness fell about 5 miles north of it so I stopped there. There were so pretty big sandy sections after you came out of the mountains ... another one of these riverbed things where you get stuck in the river bed for a couple of miles of slogging through sand.
More Cow'd streams
Lunch Break here


Ley Federal had a nice little store. I scored a couple of bananas, some bread, sodas, and a little water. Still amazed at how inexpensive things were in these little stores. I could get four or five items and it would be less than $100 pesos.
Oranges !

Ciudad to San Evaristo:

Next stop would be Ciudad Constitucion. I got there about 2 pm or so after riding past some orange groves, a sand and gravel pit, some farms and some desert. I found the local bike shop Probike and got them to install a set of new brake pads for me and I bought a bunch of Honey Stingers for the next section. Found a hotel with a laundry next to it. Was able to get my smelly stuff washed for about $65 pesos.

Got breakfast the next morning, and I stopped at a store next to the hotel and after a while found a resupply of wet wipes, some ibuprofen and some dental floss. Took a while in that store, but they had everything.
the dump

On the way out of Ciudad, you get to ride through the city dump. It's an area about a mile and a half long and it was on fire. Stunk pretty good and it had several people there who were digging through the stuff looking for goodness knows what. It wasn't as bad as I had read.  Kept on riding and I thought I saw someone ahead of me.  Right outside of San Luis Gonzaga I caught up with Gary whom I had briefly talked with in Ciudad yesterday afternoon.  We stopped at the Diconsa, went around back and got some drinks.  While I was there three of the local kids showed up and got some sodas. I asked them if they liked "stickers" and they said yes, so I went to the bike and got some El Grupo stickers that I had gotten from Emily Yetman at Living Streets Alliance. They were a major hit ( the kids in El Datil liked them also ). Got a couple of pictures of their bikes with El Grupo stickers.
El Grupo !
More El Grupo ! ( glad I brought the stickers ! )

We rode out headed for San Evaristo. I got about 40 miles from there and camped. Woke up the next morning with dew all over the place. The bushes and cacti were simply dripping and I was up in the hills a long ways from the Ocean. Packed up the tent wet, rode past several streams and as I crossed one I stalled out in the sand on the far side. I was pushing my bike up a little hill to a spot where I could get on and a rancher came out and said hello and motioned that he wanted me to come in. So I parked the bicycle and went with him into his house. He was having lunch and he invited me to sit down. He spoke no English and I speak about a dozen words in Spanish, and his wife offered me some beans an a tortilla a some goat cheese. It was really good. They lived in a little palm thatched house, eating outdoors with wind blowing hard all around, the goats a stones's throw away. I tried to make small talk, asked about the distance to La Soledad, the next wide spot in the road. His daughter was there and I asked her about "stickers" and went and got a couple for her.  I said goodbye and got back out to the bike and they waved as I rode off. I wish I could remember their names ... my hearing of Spanish is so bad, it just didn't stick. He gave me some peanuts and I still have one of them.
Fixing the evening meal, little hot water and we have soup  and then coffee !
so quiet, I loved the sundowns

On to La Soledad. You don't actually go there, but it the next thing that shows on a map. After that there was about a 5 mile climb up a mountainside with a great view of the Sea of Cortez at the top. Then followed by a crazy steep descent. Lots of walking going up and down. Way too much. Whatever. The wind was blowing straight in my face, the surface was slippery .... almost fell down a couple of times just walking down the hill. At the bottom there was a road going straight up another smaller hill and the main road continuing towards to Ocean and no sign saying anything about San Evaristo ... all I knew was that it was on the other side of the hill. Took the risk of going up the hill to see it that was the right road and it was ( even though the wind almost blew me back down the hill .. seriously ! )  At the top I could see San Evaristo ... yay !

San Evaristo to La Paz:

I had heard of Magnolia and Lupe's place, but didn't know where it was. And there aren't any signs. But the fellow at the store ( which is inside someone's house ) pointed me in the right direction and I found it.  Lupe was standing outside and greeted me. I was really happy to see him. It was getting cold and the wind was blowing hard. I got a couple of Cokes and he fixed me up some delicious fish tacos. Then I had a beer and got one of his casita's for the night ... it was good to be inside and I slept well.
Lupe at San Evaristo

Lupe was up fixing me breakfast at 8 am and I got a good start. The wind had died down overnight. The first few miles were pretty uneventful, a little bit of sand, but that's pretty normal.  Then I saw some places on the Garmin ahead of me where the road went inland and I knew I was in for a hill or two. It turned out to be a pretty steep climb, a few hundred feet at least and took a while. And there were these really pretty rocks, some were a deep green. I meant to pick one up and take it with me, but nuts, my bike is heavy enough already, not bringing a rock along !
have to figure out what the green is 
Sea of Cortez .. everyone takes this picture !

that's what I'm talking about

Rode some more, now up and with a good view of the Sea of Cortez. The further south I went, the better the road got. Again I was next to the water for a while, then would go inland for a bit, then back to the ocean. I got to Punta Coyote which had a store, but it was Sunday and wasn't open. After some more sandy sections there were some pretty nice fast sections getting to San Jose del Faro. Near sundown, I found the little store there, got some goodies for the night and headed further south. I had thought about trying for La Paz, but that was going to have me riding for three or more hours at night and getting on a busy road into La Paz at night, so I camped, pulling off the road at a place with no fence and I was about 100 yards from the water. Could hear the waves against the rocks all night and I was in a little place of bushes all hidden from any neighbors or traffic on the paved road.  Pretty sweet !
Hotel .. drying my shir

The ride into La Paz was great. I got to the intersection with Mex-1 and stopped at a little restaurant and got a couple of burritos and a couple of Cokes. Some road riders came up and I went outside to talk to them. Decided it was time to leave and I rode off, riding really fast into La Paz. I stopped on the Malecon, at the La Paz sign and took a picture of some tourists and they took one of me. Then I headed up to the Hotel Paradise California where all the Baja Divide groupies stay. I checked in, got into my room and started to take my Camelback off ... and it wasn't there.  I went out front and looked around. No Camelback and no one had come by in the last five minutes. Thought maybe I took it off taking the picture, and I remembered to look at the picture the tourists took ... and guess what, no Camelback there either. So that meant that I left it at the restaurant.  Went outside and there was a line of taxis, so I'm in my bike stuff, phone in one hand, hotel key in the other and I ask the fellow to take me to "restaurante y Pemex in El Centenario"  He says $400 pesos and I go Ok and jump in and here we go.  Few minutes later I'm going in the restaurant and right there in the chair where I left it is my Camelback !  Said gracias many times to the kid behind the counter and the lady running the register ( think it was his Mom ) and back out to my waiting taxi. The important thing in the Camelback was my Passport and my Mexican Visa .. would've been a pain without those, so was glad I managed to recover them.
La Paz on the Malecon
La Paz Hotel

La Paz to La Ventana:

I stayed two nights in La Paz. Went and bought a replacement chain brush because I managed to loose the one I had, and met Deiter, a rider from Germany who had just finished the ride. We went to dinner a couple of times, he actually recognized me from that video that Iohan made at Butts Cabin in Canada back in 2015 !  There were other riders setting out on the Cape Loop, they left the morning after I got there.

I elected to go to La Ventana after La Paz, so followed the course to the highway and instead of turning right I went straight. Managed to get off the course for about 3 miles or so, was down in a stupid wash, plowing through sand and a major headwind, while the actual real road was about 300 yards to the north. Didn't figure that out until I got to the end of the thing.  I know where I made the mistake, I had the Garmin zoomed out just a bit too much and followed the truck tracks into the wash.

Didn't think I was ever going to make it to La Ventana, but I finally got to Playa de Central. Got a couple of Cokes and a ham and cheese sandwich. I had plans of staying there for the night, but on then way there had seen a sign for a hotel just down the road. Instead of waiting for Olivia to finish talking to someone and asking her, I wandered out to my bike and just got on it and headed back to that hotel. I was totally fried, completely unable to fulfill even the simplest social interactions.

Los Barilles:

Restaurant in San Juan de Los Planes
Next morning was an easy ride back to the course, got breakfast, another huevos rancheros order with cafe con leche and a Coke and I rode up another good sized mountain to get to the Sea. This road was high right along the Coast. It went up and down, a couple of places it went away from the Coast, but mostly along it all the way to Los Barilles. As I got closer to Los Barilles, I started seeing nice housing, lots of it for sale and lots of gringos on ATV's. Found a little hotel there, the Hotel Los Barilles and got a great shrimp dinner.
Above the sea
such a great ride 

Another morning on Baja Divide, I am up looking for breakfast and a car comes up. Cannon from way back in Vincente Guerrero and Nueva Odissea rides by in a car and talks with me for a few minutes. He had finished and was hanging out for a while with his girl friend.  After that I headed for La Ribera and then Cabo Pulmo.  I got to Cabo Pulmo about 1:30 or so, ate again and then looked around. It seemed like a pretty nice place to check out, so I found a casita for the evening and took an easy day.

Cabo Pulmo & San Jose del Cabo:

Well, now we're in striking distance to the end. I walked on the beach at Cabo Pulmo, watched the pelicans do their thing and got up early in the morning and started riding. About 15 km south of Cabo Pulmo is a little restaurant at Boca del Vinorama. Great French toast. I had decided to not go inland on the route, but to stick to the Coast for the rest of the ride ( I can ride in mountains in Arizona, can't ride on a Coast here ). Someplace south of Vinorama, the road turned inland and was newly paved ( with concrete ) .. think this was at about the 25 k mark to San Jose del Cabo.  I think it might have been better to have continued straight as this new road took me straight up and inland at a right angle to the Coast. Then it made a turn for San Jose that seemed right, so I kept going on it. A couple of miles later, I look ahead and darn if it isn't taking me straight up the side of some volcano. At least when I got up there I was only 6 miles or so out of San Jose, and it was too late to change plans.  I think it was probably the same distance as staying on the Coast, but there was a lot of climbing and no more ocean view. But pretty soon I was right in the middle of San Jose del Cabo and found a great restaurant, ordered a cheeseburger ( first in a while ) and got a hotel. This was all next to the old square in the Old Town area, and I just had a pleasant evening hanging out there.
Cabo Pulmo beach

Cabo !:

That leaves us with about 25 miles to go to get to Cabo, so on a Sunday morning I get in the middle of a running event with blocked off streets exiting San Jose del Cabo, and then get on the main Mex-1 corridor between the two. With the exception of a couple of places it went well ... those two had a pretty narrow shoulder with a big retaining wall on the right side, so no place to go. Otherwise I had pretty good shoulders all the way and the traffic while fast wasn't that heavy.  Didn't find any place to eat along that road, but it didn't matter, pretty soon I crested a little rise and could the the Friar's and the arch going out in to the sea. I rode past a Walmart and the bull ring, made the turn into town, rode on a closed off street ( where the street was closed for children and peds, like our Cyclovia ), got some food, rode to the end of the marina, took some pictures, rode back the other way, found the #CABO sign and we were done. Got a room at a little Mexican hotel, the Hotel Del Angel for $ 600 pesos a night and I carried my bike up two flights of stairs.
Cabo, about as close to the end as you can go on a road
about 10 pelicans on this little boat
That's the End

Coming Home:

I hung out in Cabo until Wednesday morning and then started the journey home. Rode up the street to the bus station and got a ticket to La Paz. Then in La Paz, I had about a 2 hour layover before the trip to Tijuana. I ran into Gary from San Luis Gonzaga and the two of us were on the same bus.  The bus ride went well, someplace about sundown and Loretto, the bus stopped and the Federal Police came on and checked everyone's ID's against a list they had. Few hours later we came across the first military checkpoint, where they had everyone get off the bus with their carry on's and they took stuff out from beneath the bus and poked around it, looking for drugs or guns or something. They did this again near Santa Rosalia and again at San Ignacio. Nothing like getting awakened at 2:30 in the morning with uniformed guy telling everyone to get off the bus. They were nice about it though, no complaints. There were two other checkpoints further north, but the bus just stopped and then rolled again. Arrived in Tijuana with a quick taxi ride to San Ysidro. Walked across the Border, stopped at the CBP desk, got asked where ya been, what did ya buy, and on into the USA. Took a train from San Diego to LA the next morning and another back to Tucson and the trip was done.

So all in all I think I did about 1200+ miles of Baja Divide, not exactly the whole thing but a big chunk of it, am happy with that.  Might go back and do the whole thing sometime, who knows ? Nice to have some real knowledge of what lies ahead. Not sure what comes next, have to think about that.








Baja Divide 2018 Part I

Wow, what a trip ! I am writing this about a week after I got on a bus from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz. Went for a ride this morning and I am already missing Baja. Hopefully I can remember enough of the details to make for an interesting read, so here goes:

The short version is that I started with a group of 9 other Baja riders ( and a couple of road riders who were going to Barrett Junction with us ) on Jan 2. A few days later I crashed along the Pacific coast, got myself sewn up and continued to ride for a bit. I think the antibiotic that I took messed up my digestion and I found myself sick on top of a mountain, and bailed, some 400 miles into the thing. Got back to Tucson, decided that I needed to return and I did. Took a bus down to Vizcaino and I finished riding in Cabo on Mar 4. I rode sections 1-7 and 11-18. So not exactly the whole thing and one day I'll have to go back and take care of those others.

Before the Ride:

I decided to take the Sunset Limited Amtrak train from Tucson to LA. You have to buy a $20 upgrade to take your bike along but you do not have to take it apart. Just remove the bags and then go up to the baggage car and hand it up to them. They strap in in ( someplace ? ) and you go and fetch it at the baggage car at your destination. The Amtrak rules mention 2" wide tires and I had a 3.0 in the front and 2.8 in the back, but didn't get any negative feedback from them. The bike arrived unscathed, but my rear light was broken ( apparently the strap went around in that area, probably should have taken that off ).  In LA, I parked next to the Starbucks at Union Station and started to put the bike together. Around 5:30 am I was ready to roll, and had three or four miles of city streets to navigate before I got on the bike path that runs along the LA river.  That went well, and soon I was in Long Beach, seeing the stacks of the Queen Mary and looking for a breakfast place.

The day went well, I found a bunch of bike paths and rode through the beach towns. Probably the sketchiest thing was to ride through Laguna Beach. There were two lanes of traffic and a lane of parked cars and not a heck of a lot of room, plus the sidewalks were full of people.

All in all, it was a great day, lots of boardwalk riding, a few Beach Boys tunes on the iPod, and I got to San Clemente and found a hotel.

Next morning, I found the bike path that uses parts of old US 80. I used a Google Map description of how to get from LA Union Station to San Diego and that was working pretty well. It was fun to ride along the coast, between the Amtrak tracks and I5 and the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Things went really well, and we entered Camp Pendleton. And then I found myself routed along I5 for a bit !  Somehow I thought that piece was only a short 1 mile section, but at the rest stop, I figured out that I still had about 7 miles to go on the Interstate to get to Oceanside. I ran into a couple of guys on road bikes who had followed the exact same instructions, and the three of us hauled it from the rest stop to Oceanside ... me fully loaded on a mountain bike and them on road bikes ( I was in front )

Rest Stop on I-5 ... there's Baja !


The rest of the day was great, got to Pacific Beach, found a place to stay and then spent the next couple of days riding around downtown San Diego, catching sunsets, going to Ocean Beach and out to Point Loma to see the lighthouse.

San Diego to Barrett Junction:

Packed up my stuff at the Comfort Inn in San Diego, rode past the airport and the Midway and the rest of the group started showing up at a little park close to the Midway. We had a couple of road riders show up, who were going to ride to Chula Vista with us, and about 10 of us who were doing Baja Divide.  After getting a bunch of pictures taken, we headed out.
Baja Divide 2018 - San Diego start

Baja Divide 2018 .. before Otay Mountain


The first few miles were bike path stuff that followed the Stagecoach 400 route, out to Bonita. Then we took a back alley and some city streets. We stopped at a Trader Joe's and everyone resupplied like there was no tomorrow. Then we found the singletrack around Otay preserve and got a few road miles in. And then it was time to get real. I was actually surprised by Otay Mountain. I think I was a little dehydrated and probably should have hung out at the little store at the bottom of it, but charged ahead. Otay was the real deal, a pretty good road, but steep in places and it kept going. The views were great, but I walked too much. And I looked in front and some people were walking also, and then later found out that a few riders blew it off and went around on the highway to Barrett Junction !
Nice views Otay Mountain 

After getting to the top, there was a pretty good descent, and then a really steep descent, and then this piece of old road that ran along the side of a defunct irrigation canal. It was getting later in the day, maybe 3:30 and the shadows were getting longer and I was wondering why I was stuck out here in the middle of this stupid irrigation ditch and then it all got better and I found myself at Barrett Junction.

The restaurant there was open until about 6, the burger and fries were great, and I downed a couple of Cokes and a lot of iced tea. Then I went to figure out where to pitch my tent and ended up in the middle of a field of thistles and other crappy stuff.

Barrett Junction to Ojos Negros:

Got up early the next morning, packed and went to the front of the restaurant, thinking the rest of the group would come by in a bit ( there was an electrical outlet there and I was recharging my phone ). A lady drives up and needed help with the hood of her car ... I helped her and walked back to my phone. Suddenly she's hollering and I go over and she had put ATF fluid in her oil instead of oil ( she grabbed the wrong bottle out of the back of her car ). I look something up with the phone that either says .. don't drive it, or ... drive it slow and get it changed ... tell her that and she puts oil in it and drives off.  Started wondering where everyone else was and went around back and didn't see anyone. So I start out on the route. I get a few miles in and then crest a hill and see the whole group in front of me and I pull in right behind them .. how they got ahead of me I still can't figure out .. they should have come right by when we were messing with that car !

The group split up right at Tecate. Some headed straight over to exchange money on the Mexican side, and to score phone SIMMs, some stopped at the grocery. But it all worked out and in a few minutes were were all in Mexico, in front of the TECATE sign. We scored some burrito's at a place a stone's throw from the Border and then took off.
Tecate !  We're in Mexico !

Not all desert ... nice oaks 


When I say took off, we literally did so ... it was like a full fledged race past the Brewery up these really steep little hills ... then we got to an open spot and waited for one fellow to catch up. After that there was a section on pavement, a stop at an OXXO station, buying more food and we were rolling along.

About this time we lost the Canadian's and two other guys, their being way ahead. The group of six of us rode and rode through pretty country, lots of big rocks, some good road sections, some that was pretty rough. About 3:30 or close to 4, a group of 4 of us passed what looked like a pretty good place to stop, that even had a fire ring and we did. The guy and girl who were riding together came up in a bit and thought it was too early to stop and they rode ahead. That took our group from 6 down to 4.

We built a fire for our first night in Mexico. A little later a rancher rode up with two vaqueros and about a dozen dogs. He spoke great English, was German, apparently had a house there, one in California and one in Germany. He said the big green building we had passed was built with drug money, was supposed to be a drug rehab facility. And he just wanted to make sure we weren't idiots who were going to burn the countryside down !

running stream north of Ojos Negros
It was really cold that first night .. I got up freezing, with everything on. I was packed and Adam, Rob and Ron were just getting out of bed so I rolled out, figuring they would catch up with me soon. I managed to make one wrong turn until I looked at the Garmin a bit better and realized my error. The ride into Ojos Negros was pretty nice, the road wasn't bad and there was water flowing across the road in one place. Sadly the area where the pine trees was had been recently burned, that was a bit of a bummer.

In Ojos Negros, I found a restaurant, got some tacos ordered, found a hotel for the night and then ran into the other 3 guys the following morning at breakfast.

Ojos Negros to Santo Tomas

After breakfast had a good ride. Something in the description mentioned being able to view the Ocean after Tres Hermanas ... I don't think I ever did figure out exactly where this was :-)  Might have seen from the top of a hill there, but not sure. I remember the GPS track taking us straight up the side of some hill several times when it turned out there was a perfectly good road that went around and then up with a much easier grade. Parts of these roads had been used for the Baja 1000, and you would see little signs with arrows on them pointing out the way ( that race had been in late November I think ).

At the top of one of the hills there was a really steep descent, rocky with a giant bike eating gully in the middle ... I could see tracks where it looked like most people had ridden it .. but I got off and walked a good bit. Nothing like surviving for the next day !
farm outside of Ururapan

Ururapan came up, and I stopped at a little store. They had everything in there .. from clothes, to Barbie's, batteries, food, soft drinks, car parts ... you name it ... all in a little tiny place.  I rode on, got to Mex-1 and did a few miles to get to Santo Tomas.

At Santo Tomas, I passed the Pemex station and missed the hotel that was there. I found the next one over the hill, a place with the words "hostel" on the side, painted blue. I stopped at the grocery store adjoining it, signed in and got myself a room for the night. Then I realized that they had locked the outside gate and there wasn't any way out.  I banged around a bit, got the guy to open the car gate at the top of the hill, went back to the Pemex station ( which had a restaurant ) and got a good meal. Came back to the hotel and got in my room. When I got up the next morning that gate was locked again, but a guy saw me wandering around and opened the gate and let me out. I now call this place the "prison". But the water was hot in the shower and it was quiet.

Santo Tomas to Ejio Erenderia:

Nothing opened for breakfast, I started up this giant hill on the west side of Santo Tomas. It was great riding all the way to the Coast. The excitement builds as you get closer and you see the Ocean and then ride to it, going down this big hill ... there are two ways, one crazy steep, the other has switchbacks and is still steep. 
Chupacabra's nearby

All of the places that people take pictures of are down there, the "No Easy Street" sign, the "Chupucabra" sign, etc, things that people who live there have put out.  It's getting to be about 11 am or so and I am rolling along nicely.
Breakfast spot - Castro's restaurant
wild Pacific Coast


I had a stick that I was carrying to fend off dogs who run out barking at the bicycles. I had successfully used it a couple of times, holding it in my right hand, swinging at a dog, and that worked. For some reason I decided to move the stick from my right hand to my left ... and in the process of doing that, I crashed.

Just remember going down and I pretty much hit on my face, hands and ribs. It was a smooth dirt road, no traffic and I lay there for a bit. It really really hurt. I remember running my tongue over my tooth to see if it was still there ( yes it was ! ) and then started to get up. I spit out dirt and blood and then realized I was bleeding pretty good from a cut on my left small finger. I picked up my stuff that was strewn around, and tried to figure out which side was up. Then a guy came by on an ATV and said there was a clinic in Erenderia, and he would go up there and tell them I was coming. So I started riding the three miles or so to the clinic.

They got me right in. Started stitching my face up, almost passed out and had to lie down, and what needed doing got done.  They asked my name and my age, and gave me some Clindamycin and a pain killer and charged me $94 (pesos ), about 5 dollars. The two guys working on me ( PA's ) and the lady doctor ( MD ) all insisted that I stay the night, and a phone call was made and they pointed me to a place near the Ocean. I ended up with maybe four sutures in my finger, and I think about 6 in my face.

I actually felt ok otherwise and planned to continue, so got up the next morning and rode out after a breakfast at a place overlooking the Ocean.

Erenderia to Colonet & Rancho El Coyote:

Rode through Erenderia in the morning, past the "Malibu Surf Club" ( a little area of gringo houses ), got slightly confused by the chain link fence that runs to the beach ( apparently a newer GPS file bypasses it ... I had to go down to the beach and back up ). It was beautiful riding along this wild coast, with waves crashing against the rocks and spray in the air.
more Pacific Coast 

Then we turned inland and there were some sandy sections and some steep gullies to go down into and back up and out of.  I passed the Johnson Ranch, could hear the surf in the Ocean to the west and then climbed up a bit and down to Colonet.
sorta banged up .. still running

I felt good at Colonet, no reason to quit here, started up and into the mountains towards Rancho El Coyote.  The road was great at first, then started winding through a sandy wash. It grew late and I wild camped, built a fire, heated up a can of soup and slept well.

The next morning brought a little more sandy wash, a couple of water crossings and then a set of pretty steep climbs. Some bike pushing involved !  Got to the top of one climb and had an awesome view of the road leading several miles further to the east. More riding more great views and then a section of maybe two miles of total road destruction, just all tore up by Baja 1000, full of sand, total suckage !

And right after that, I was at El Coyote Ranch. Mike who lives there says "you've made it" and "there's other riders up at the house".  I go up to the main house and there are Rob, Ron and Adam sitting around drinking a beer. Apparently they had camped a couple of miles further east than me last night and had just gotten here.
Rancho El Coyote

El Coyote Ranch was great. Great food, nice grass to pitch the tent on. A swimming pool that I did not go into !  In the middle of the night, it started to rain. My tent was working great, I was nice and dry and the rain broke in the morning enough to get ourselves all packed up and ready for the ride to Vicente Guerrero.

Rain Day:

The first six miles out of El Coyote were great. Nice smooth dirt road, a little tacky, but nothing to worry about. Got to the pavement and actually started down it for a second, then realized that was wrong and turned. In hindsight I should have gone down the pavement !

Went past Meling Ranch and up the hill into the mountains and Rob, Ron and Adam soon passed me. And then the rain started. At first it wasn't bad, we were just getting wet and were making progress. Then I rounded a corner, and Ron and Adam were stuck in the mud. I stopped, picked up my bike and walked through the muddy stuckage section. We rode some more. Got to an intersection, turned up a hill and the bikes became immovable objects. Drag, push, dig mud out, repeat. Finally got to the top and then there was the big grassy field.

There's a picture on http://theredheadednomad.com 's site of Onna riding through this section. She's riding fast, smiling, and happy. The four of us found ourselves in a very different state, as a mixture of grass, rocks and mud would stick to the tires and jam between the frame and the tires. Again the bikes were these unmovable objects. I think we got into that area about noon and we were still there around 4 pm as we slowly made our way to a farmer's place, the only ranch in the entire area. For a period we were all four stuck out on this grassy plain, all strung out in a line. One would get ahead, then another, then another, as each of us cleaned up his bike enough to advance 50 feet and then get stuck again and get passed by the other. I started to wonder if Carbon would burn ?  ( could I just make a bonfire and walk out ? )

Rob went up and talked with the rancher ( Estevan ) and he allowed us to stop for the night in a house that he was using for spare parts and maybe for guest workers to stay in. It got us out of the rain. I was frozen and I think Rob, Ron and Adam were pretty miserable also. To the good, I had a dry sleeping bag, a dry pair of shorts and a dry shirt, so managed to put those on, got in the sleeping bag and started feeling human as we could hear the rain on the roof that night.

The next morning, we got up, walked outside and began to realize "we ain't going no place"  The barnyard was just mud, mud, and the road outside was the same.  Not sure if Rob asked him or if Estevan just made the call, but he comes by later and says his friends are coming in a truck later. The sun came out a little bit and a few things dried out but the road was still trashed.

Around 3:30 or 4, his buds show up. Three guys in an old pickup truck drinking Tecate !  The four of us pile in the back of the truck and away we go, slipping and sliding even with our weight in the back of the pickup. They got us to within a mile or two of Vicente Guerrero at sundown and we made it to FASS bike shop and left our bikes there and walked to the Mission Inn hotel and got a couple of rooms.  The shower was awesome, did some clothes washing in the sink, mud everywhere. Salvador at the shop did a little video of our muddy bikes. 
Adam getting ready to ride to Vicente Guerrero

Next day was major bike maintenance. Cleaned them up, replaced brake pads, I got a new shift cable and housing. Even replaced the rear tire because the rocks had rubbed some of the outer casing on the sidewalls away and I didn't trust it.  Salvador worked his magic on all of our bikes, even working a minor miracle to replace some bearings on Rob's bike the next day !
FASS Bike Shop -- Everyone signs the big map

And we ran into Cannon, who was riding behind us and who had stopped at El Coyote and then took the pavement to Mex-1. Smart man ! 

Vicente Guerrero to Cielito Lindo:

I did a few miles on Mex-1 the next morning and then reconnected with the GPX route. Was pretty uneventful, but when I got to San Quintin, I was looking for a place to get my sutures removed. I stopped with Cannon and Ron for fish tacos ( some of the best fish tacos ever ! ) and then rode backwards a bit. I finally found the local hospital, Santa Maria, and go inside. I type "I need to get sutures removed" into my Google Translate app on my phone and hold it up to the receptionist, and she reads it and then goes away for a bit and returns writing "doctor out in 30 minutes".  So I sit for a bit and she comes out and the sutures come out and I am done. Cost $200 pesos. ( About $10 US ).

Cielito Lindo is a little hotel/resort close to Molino Viejo a set of two or three volcanoes along a little bay on the Pacific side. Rode some sandy stuff to get there, made a couple of shortcuts due to muddy roads and met the other guys there. So five of us sat down for supper. My appetite was pretty much gone at this point. Wasn't sure what was going on but I tried to eat some supper and wasn't very moved by it, had a beer and went to bed. In the morning I pushed some eggs and bacon around my plate and then we loaded up and headed out. The next section would be a long one, into the mountains, getting to Catavina.

Cielito Lindo to the hills and back:

I rode well when we started out. Got to Neuva Odissea and we resupplied at a small store and then started a long climb. It was about 2000 feet of climbing and I dropped back as the other 4 guys rolled on up the hills. I got weaker and weaker and camped at sundown, about 20 miles from Mex-1 in the hills. I couldn't eat and I drank some of a flavored mineral water thing that I had with me.
Resupply in Nueva Odissea 

A couple of hours later I came quickly out of the tent on hands and knees and threw up. Obviously I have some sort of problem going on. Managed to get back to sleep, trying to figure out what to do.  It was something on the order of 50 some miles to press ahead towards Catavina before I get to a resupply place and 20 back downhill and then 6 to get to Cielito Lindo. When I got up in the morning I headed downhill.
Desert

Finally made it back to that hotel, checked in and I think I had about half of an order of french fries and a Coke, and went to bed. Up the next morning, and pushed some French toast around my plate and checked out.

So I headed up Mex-1 to San Quintin where there was an ATM machine to get some cash, thinking I was going to hole up in a hotel there someplace. I passed the bus station and something said to me "this is hopeless" and so I stopped, checked out the price to get to Tijuana and for $400 pesos I was on the bus and headed north.
Tijuana Central Autobuss

Riding north on the Pacific Streamliner - Excellent bike accomodations !

Well, at that point I was pretty much committed to going back home, so that's what I did. My appetite was still gone and it didn't really come back until almost a week after I got back home. I think I did one little ride to get coffee after I had been home for a few days ... was pretty slow.  Think I made the right call in stopping, but maybe I could have holed up in SQ for a few more days ... maybe it was too easy to just get on the bus. In any event I did want to come back, so that's the second part of this thing !