Saturday, March 30, 2019

American Trail Race 2019

This needs to be done.

63 days I think, until we're on the beach at Cape Lookout ready to head west.

More training to be done, more rides, getting the bike tuned ( having those sticky SRAM pistons replaced right now at TEPC ) and making sure that everything is ready to go.

I know what I need to do. I know how to do it. I know what to take. I know what to leave behind. It's all just a matter of putting the thing into perspective and getting out there and doing it

Clock is ticking ....

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Baja Divide 2019 ... Finishing of UnFinished Business

So last year, I rode a big chunk of Baja Divide, and aside from the crash in Erenderia I had a pretty darn good time. But if you read my ramblings you'll remember that I missed a piece ... from where I bailed at Nueva Odissea to Vizcaino.  I thought about that quite a bit and resolved that it needed to be fixed, so made plans to do just that, and to pick up a bit of the west side of the Cape Loop that I didn't do last March.

A rainy night in Tucson when I left, bundled up and rode downtown to Amtrak and headed off to LA. It was freezing when I got to LA. A sunny day, but the wind was blowing and a cold front had dropped in and I think it was about 39 or so. Google has a route that I followed to get to San Diego, it takes you through several city streets and I warmed up at a Starbucks for a bit, then followed the LA River to Long Beach and taking bike paths along the coast southward.

When I got to NewPort Beach, I tried the inland route that GM showed. It went along an estuary for a few miles, working inland to UC Irvine and I stopped in Irvine for the night. The next morning I rode back to PCH and southward. Again I got on I-5 and then it got interesting .... there was a big traffic slow up, one of those bottleneck things on a freeway that occur for who knows why. Anyways, I had a tail wind and I'm in the breakdown lane, and I am passing cars like crazy on Interstate 5 !  Did this for a couple of miles out of the 7 or so at least. Felt pretty righteous about the whole thing, got a few thumbs up from passengers in some of the cars :-)

Oceanside Pier

Sunset - Pacific Beach

Got to Pacific Beach, snagged a hotel room, walked on the Boardwalk a bit, had breakfast at the same Mission Bay restaurant I ate at last year and headed for downtown SD. I took the trolley to San Ysidro, and stopped at the ABC bus station in downtown Tijuana and was off to Vicente Guerrero. I get into VG about 7 pm after dark, head for the hotel and we're ready to start the next morning. Also, when I changed buses in Ensenada, I noticed a cleanup guy for the buses had a flashlight that looked just like my FD-22, down to the strap !  I looked for mine and realized I had dropped it on the bus ... I asked the guy a couple of minutes later and he denied having one, so I let it go. First lost thing ... my fault for digging through my crap on the bus when I couldn't see what I was doing.

Dec 31:

Was riding southward from VG on Mex-1 to pickup the route when I heard something clatter around, like a rock being thrown up and then falling back down. Went up a big hill and stopped to take a picture and happened to look at my bars and noticed my Leyzene light was missing in action. Well, crap ... that's what that noise was.  Debated not worrying about it, but had already lost one light and still had another, but loosing 2 out of 3 was worrisome, so I turned around, rode about 4 miles back and I found it and it had not been ran over by a truck !

The rest of the ride through San Quintin went great. There were little spots with some mud in them, but we rolled through that, easier than last year. I took pictures at a little cemetery close to the Bay, one was pretty poignant, a pretty little house -tomb with a wall full of photos of the girl who had passed. She was loved very much.

I got to the hotel in Cielito Lindo about 2:30 in the afternoon on New Years Eve and the retirees were setting up for their party. Lots of smokers in that bunch ... a group of American/Canadians who live down there to extend their Social Security benefits ... not a bad idea actually.  Went to bed early with the knowledge that it might rain and it did.

Where we are

Jan 1:

It rained off and on, very lightly. When I got up it was lightly raining and I decided to roll out anyways. I got over to Nueva Odissea and the little store was closed, so I didn't have the resupply I wanted, and the road away from the pavement was pretty muddy. I headed up Mex-1 to an OXXO, got everything I needed and went back to the hotel at Cielito Lindo.

Jan 2:

A sunny morning and time to go. This section is where I bailed last year. The first parts are pretty rideable and then you get to a section of rock rubble and the whole day is climbing, except for a few little steep downhill sections, again full of rock rubble. So there was walking, lots of walking. But I felt so much better than last year. I passed the spot where I stopped at sundown last year at around 2:30 or 3 pm, and went until the road met up with another road and the route turned southwards. Found a place off the road and camped on a little hillside with an awesome view and probably no one else around for 15 or maybe 20 miles in any direction.

End of the Day

Jan 3:

Cold. Ice on the tent, ice crystals on the bicycle. Waiting for the sun to actually show itself before packing up. A cup of Starbucks VIA coffee to start and the knowledge that the boojum trees await me.  I climbed quite a bit  that morning, and as I was cresting a pretty steep hill, 4 trail bike riders came up. They asked if I needed anything and then were off. It was a really pleasant day and the cirios trees were amazing. A combination of cirios and cardons, big ones, and they were all green and beautiful.

Cirios and Cardon


the cirios look like Venusians !

Giant Cardon

A little later in the afternoon I made it to El Sacrificio, a little roadside restaurant on Mex-1. I had some great burritos and a couple of cokes and used their wi-fi. About 3 miles up the highway is another restaurant, El Descanso, and I stopped there also and had another burrito. Was pretty stuffed by then and the route went away from Mex-1 and I found a camp spot off the road back in the bushes. I could see headlights of trucks on Mex-1 a few times in the night. The stars were amazing.

Jan 4:

Packed up camp and headed out. Right off the bat the road took a turn down a hill with more rock rubble and big ruts in it from the Baja races. It was a tough morning, I stopped at the infamous well structure that may or may not have water in it.

Possible water

More cardons and more cirios trees along the route. Sometime later in the afternoon, I got onto a really nice road with a tailwind and I was zooming along. I could see cars on Mex-1 ahead and for a bit I thought I was at San Augustin already. Alas, the road took a turn to the south, got worse and then I managed to miss a turn. I went a few hundred yards too far to the east, and doubled back. Had to navigate through a thicket, and then climb through a fence but finally got to San Augustin close to sundown. The burritos at the restaurant were great and I met a couple of guys doing a road ride down Mex-1. We camped out near the restaurant.  I got up in the middle of the night and noticed my Camelback had been dragged ( or levitated ). I looked at it and didn't notice any damage .. maybe it was dragged by a dog while the "norteno" music was being played by some guys fixing a tire near the restaurant.  Lucky, and I resolved to keep the Camelback inside the tent for the rest of the trip.

Jan 5:

We knew it was going to rain. Enough wi-fi at the restaurant to be able to look at the weather forecast, so I decided to head straight for Catavina and the couple of hotels that were there. I was sitting in a restaurant by about 10:30, and got there just as the sprinkles started.  It was a nice relaxing day with the only problem being some worrying about what the trail would look like tomorrow. I ran into Peter from Amsterdam at the restaurant, and a bit later JD from Alberta rolled in. And then later Gretchen showed up.  It rained more in the afternoon, and I petted a cat at the hotel and used a bunch of these wi-fi tickets that you had to buy from the hotel for 20 pesos each that lasted for a hour or so.

Boojum Christmas Tree at Catavina Restaurant
Mission Hotel Catavina

Jan 6:

Breakfast and a late start. Gretchen and I rolled out at almost 11, and Peter next and JD next. I got ahead of Gretchen and rode by myself for quite a while, stopping a a little structure several miles down the road. Peter showed up and then Gretchen. We wondered where JD was, and then rode some. As evening came Peter and I were together and we found a campsite. JD showed up and said he missed the turn from Mex-1 ( he had GPS problems the day before ), and that Gretchen had lost her phone.  I had my water off the bike, the tent setup and pretty good lights and started backwards to find Gretchen and JD followed. We found her and she had found her phone, so everyone made it to camp.

We built a fire, cooked a bit and then started to go to bed. I think we all thought it was 9 pm or so ... the time was 6:58. Bed comes early on the Baja Divide.



Jan 7:

It was cold again, and I got up and started packing. All of a sudden, I am packed, have eaten something, had my coffee and I look around and Peter, JD and Gretchen still have their tents up and I wave at them and roll away. Really thought they'd all catch up later in the day, but only Peter did.  I waited at the "town hall" for a bit, and then for a long time at San Jose del Faro. Peter came up, he had had some trouble with his rack, having sheared a bolt.  He and I rode the rest of the day and we camped at about 3:30 thinking it early enough for the others to catch up.

A truck rolled by on the main road. It stopped, and then it drove up through the desert. The fellow said he was the landowner, and wanted to charge us for camping. So we paid him 100 pesos each. There were signs around indicating the land was owned by the local Eijdo, so perhaps it was legit.

San Jose del Faro Fishing Village

"Hey Buddy you got anything to eat"  Pup at El Cardon

Jan 8:

Another early departure and lots of riding along the Ocean. Some times it would be close, sometimes further away. There were several surfer encampments and we waved at them. We climbed and we bounced over washboard and got to one place where it looked like we "might" be able to make Santa Rosallita by nightfall. Peter and I decided we would re-evaluate at about 4:00 and decide to go for it or to just bag a camping spot.  So 4 came and we didn't even stop, we just kept going. All was well until we got to a place where someone had dumped a thick layer of gravel over the road. That made for really slow going. Peter got ahead and I could see him in the far distance, but couldn't catch him at all. Gravel, gravel, gravel and bad words were said. Finally I found pavement and we got to Santa Rosallita. The hotel room was great and they had burritos on the counter in the little grocery store and the sunset was beautiful.

Pacific Coast - Surfer Camps

Lichen clinging to a small boulder - I put it back exactly the way it was
Bits of Dampness on the road

Jan 9:

Santa Rosallita seems to cater to surfers a bit. A couple of restaurants, the hotel and a couple of little stores. I made my coffee and walked down to the beach. Some dogs followed me and the little group of us walked over to the playground and looked around.  I was packed and ready and Peter came out and then we headed along the coast and over the hill towards Rosarito.

Santa Rosallita
Checking out the Beach at Santa Rosallita

Need My Coffee

Sandy at first, the road became "Martian" looking. I felt good, actually rode most of it. We made good progress and hit the first restaurant on the way into Rosarito. Note to other riders ... the first place has the best wi-fi, it has great bandwidth. The bandwidth at the Cactus Hotel sucks.

Looking for Martian Rovers

We stayed at the Cactus and ran into Anthony, a fellow from Korea who is doing an around the world trip.  He's doing an amazing trip.

Jan 10:

Peter and I got breakfast next door and started east towards the other side of Baja. The road to Mission San Borja was pretty sweet and we were at the Mission by perhaps 11 am. The caretaker came out and gave us the tour of the Mission. He showed the work that he and his son had put into keeping it up, the robes of the friars and cooking rooms and everything. It was a fun little tour, all conducted in Spanish. I could follow a few things he was saying, about redoing the scuppers, the room used for cooking, for the nunnery, etc, but a lot went over my head. It was a pretty fascinating little place, this impressive church in the middle of an area inhabited by almost no one now. ( The original inhabitants died out due to overwork, slavery, disease, etc )

Mission San Borja
Enjoyed the Tour

We left and the first three or four miles were a bit tough and then we got this awesome downhill that was fast ! Still dirt, we were smoking along for a bit.  Then we had a slow section of sandy stuff and got to pavement. About sundown we got to Bahia de Los Angeles.

We got a couple of rooms and walked next door to a restaurant. I had fish burritos and they were just excellent. It was a good stay, even with the weak wi-fi in the hotel ( and BTW, there is no cellular service in BOLA, surprising as big as it is and the fact that a lot of gringos reside there ).

The next morning Peter and I went to another restaurant in the older section of town next to the Bay. The breakfast was great and the wi-fi was perfect. Oh well, notes for next time.

Breakfast in Bahia de Los Angeles

Jan 11:

Off to San Rafael.  Peter and I stopped at an auto repair facility and he found some zip ties to help with his broken rack. He got ahead of me and I was bouncing around on a bunch of washboard for maybe a 10 mile climb out of BOLA. It was kind of an annoying ride until I got to the top of a hill, crested a little pass and then had this big beautiful valley ahead of me. It was a great afternoon of riding and I got to San Rafael about 4 or so. Pancho, the resident of the area wasn't there and I looked around and then saw Peter. He was eating a meal with a family. They had prepared some fish tacos, and they were quite good. But these folks were incredibly poor, living in a couple of tar paper shacks on the hillside above the ocean.  I ate and then Peter and I gave the lady about 150 pesos each ... she would not take it until I said please. Sure hope it was enough, their hospitality was pretty impressive.

Just a big beautiful valley
Roadside Beauty
We setup camp on the beach next to a little shed. I managed to loose a tent peg .. had the thing in my hand, walked 6 feet, looked down and it was gone and I looked and looked and couldn't find it. Glad I had a couple of spares and only lost one of them.

Jan 12:

It was cold by the Sea of Cortez. We could hear the waves breaking all night. I took a pretty nice picture of the bikes lit up by the rising sun, and then packed my junk and rolled out.  The goal was to get to Rancho Escondido ( or maybe Piedra Blanca ) by day's end. I got to Rancho Escondido and was warmly greeted by Oscar the owner, and his wife Georgina and daughter Samantha.  Peter rolled up about 20 minutes later and we had a nice lunch of tacos made with goat head meat they had been cooking. We drank a 2 liter bottle of Coke, got a casita for the night, and then Oscar went off to El Barril to get fish. He came back with a yellowtail, a beautiful fish about 3 1/2 feet long. They fixed up fillets of it and we were invited inside their home that night to eat. I was still crazy hungry and it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. The next morning we feasted on smoked yellowtail along with eggs, so we left Rancho Escondido with full bellies and big smiles on our faces.

Good Morning on the Sea of Cortez
Climbs to be Done

Jan 13:

Sweet Baby ran to Piedra Blanca a couple of days later following another group of riders
Vultures drying their wings
Oscar fixed the yellowtail for us !
Ladies of Rancho Escondido
Casita Time

The ride over to Piedra Blanca went pretty well. We stopped, petted the doggies, met Carmen and had more burritos and scored some snacks for the road. I would have stayed, but it was still pretty early in the day, just too early to stop.  We thought we might be able to make El Arco, and rolled again.

El Arco is a mostly empty place. There are shells of homes, a church that may or may not be still used. Kinda one of those "world after mankind" places. Glad we didn't need anything, so we moved along. It was going to be 27 miles to Vizcaino, and we knew 8 or 10 miles of that would be sandy, so Peter and I got another 4 or 5 miles in before stopping for the night.
More Roadside Beauty
EL Arco
Cleaning up from Last Night

Jan 14:

When I got up, I made my coffee and was standing there and a coyote comes up and was eating some tortilla scraps near last night's fire. I had fixed tuna mixed in with some fettuccine alfredo from last night ... and he was happily cleaning up.

It was a sandy ride, but I did well, the sand only got me stuck in a few places. The unmentioned rocky sections were more worrisome, nothing too hard, just a few little steepish places with enough rubble to get off the bike. It was good to have it behind us and was good to get to Vizcaino.

Vizcaino was going to be my stopping place, and Peter was going on. He had intended to use the ATM at the bank there. Lots of other people have had trouble at that ATM and Peter joined them. He tried several cards, and none worked.  I tried mine and pulled out 3000 pesos ( about 150 USD ) the first time. We got some tacos and I went to the hotel. Was looking for a laundry and walked over to one that turned out to be closed, so I washed my stuff in a trash can with shower soap, and spread it outside to dry. Peter even rode up the highway about 3 miles to where a bank was supposed to be, it turns out that is just bad data on Google Maps, there's nothing there.

So he was really low on money and then I came up with the idea that he could setup a Paypal account and send me some and I could give him the cash I had pulled out earlier and that worked just fine.  He was able to continue down the route to where ATM's seem to work right.  ( My guess is their network connection is a little flakey and when they get to the part that actually communicates with your bank to see if you really have any money, that's where it fails and the thing just stops the transaction ... everything looks peachy up till then )
Hotel Pension California
La Paz

Jan 15:

So Peter and I have breakfast and he heads south and I head to the bus station to bag a bus to La Paz. It was a long ride, the bus passed Peter on the way down, I got a shot of him riding along.  I got into La Paz about 9 pm, went looking for food and scored a pizza at a place close to the bus station. I stayed in the Hotel Pension California ( $15 USD/night ) but the water in the shower was cold this time.

Jan 16:

Up, loaded, breakfast, outta La Paz headed up the big 15 mile long hill towards La Huerta.  I'm, looking at my GPS and the screen starts this crazy flicker and it looks like the current track extends out into the South Atlantic ocean.  So I stop, diddle with it for a bit, start up a new track and everything is fine again.

I ride down to Los Divisaderos, stop at the store there, get more sodas and some chips and make my way to El Triunfo close to sundown.

A sign directed me to casitas, so I follow it and get to some. They're pretty nice, a little expensive, but very pretty, with a beautiful pool outside. I ask the fellow about food in town and he says the restaurant is closed, but he takes me into the kitchen for the hotel and shows me a pot of chicken & beans and a package of tortillas and says "have at it" ( he needed to attend to a bride photo shoot that was happening ), so I filled up on a free dinner.

El Triunfo ( everything was still closed )
Nice Room - Cold Shower

Well, just because the hotel is more expensive doesn't mean the water is hot, so for the second night the water was freezing cold. And there was a little stream behind the casita and it was full of frogs that were croaking just about all night.  All in all, I slept well, got up early and headed out. The restaurants and coffee places in town didn't open until 9 and by then I was down to El Rosarito.

Jan 17:

El Rosarito was great. I met Liz and Milton at the Cactus Cafe and they were wonderful. Liz brought out a place of oatmeal, bannanas, apple and honey, and then another of eggs, beans, tortillas so I was well fed when I left. I think I stuffed myself for maybe 150 pesos and it would have been worth a lot more !  And they have a donkey and a peacock and lots of dogs. Wonderful people.  As I left a couple of their dogs followed. I stopped, but the dogs kept on going up the street, sure hope they got them back ok. ( its a pretty small place, sure they did ).

Burro Buddy at Cactus Cafe
Liz and Milton at Cactus Cafe
Todos Santos Mission

Getting to Todos Santos was hard. Some good riding, some jeep road stuff going straight up and then down, a bunch of stream crossings and a piece that used to be a road and is devolving into single track. It was 30 miles and took the better part of the day.

When I got to Todos Santos I had two suppers, one at a taco place and then another where I got shrimp. More eating and the little hotel with the laundry in front had a great room with a hot shower for 500 pesos .. that felt so good.

Jan 18:

Breakfast at the Hotel California. Loaded up and got started on what I knew would be a hard day. When you leave TS you ride on pavement for a bit, then take a turn which seems to go by a dump site. Lots of vultures and some serious stinky stuff. It was a really good day of riding though, pretty good roads, passing several small ranchos on the way to the mountains.

I was riding along and looked up and two people were relaxing in the shade of a mesquite at a road intersection. It was Tom and Ellen, from London. They have been doing a trip from Patagonia, and had come over from Mazatlan to do the Cape Loop. We chatted for a bit and then I started off. A couple of miles later I could look up and see where I was going to have to go.
Tony and Ellen
Getting to the Top
Top of Naranjos Road - Pacific in the Distance

The road started to get steep and a little beat up. It was warm and I was getting tired, but the views were great. You could see the ocean off in the west in the haze. The elevation was probably about 2500 feet, and I got to the spot where the landslide had been cleaned up. Was sure glad I didn't have to portage my bike over a boulder field like some other past riders have had to do. When I got to the top it was pretty close to sundown, but fortunately the road on the other side was in pretty good shape so I was able to ride off nicely. It was getting cooler and so the search for a place to camp began. I was able to find a little road, started up it and it opened into a 1/2 acre field where someone had camped before, and I setup back in the back of that area. I could hear cows off in the brush and frogs down in the wash below. It was a pleasant night.

Jan 19:

Thought this would be the last day of the ride. Was a beautiful sunrise, and the road was well graded. A couple of water crossings and a little pass to go through, but nothing remotely as hard as yesterday was. I stopped at a place with water crossing the road and frogs croaking in the pool above me and did a little video. There was a fun little descent on the other side, a flattish section and then a turn onto a piece below a section of power lines. Except for a few little places that was all rideable, I had a tail wind and in short order was on the outskirts of San Jose del Cabo.
Better Road on the Other Side
Chilling in front of an OXXO

I stopped at an OXXO, got a soda and rested a bit before riding into town on my way to Cabo San Lucas. It was a 4 lane road for the most part with a nice wide shoulder until we got closer to the more built up area of town ... I was going as fast as the traffic, as they would get held up by a stoplight and i would catch up with them. I got to the Old Plaza, and got the first cheeseburger I've had in perhaps three weeks.

The rest of the days ride over to Cabo San Lucas went nicely. It's a busy 4 lane highway, with a median in the middle and a bike lane for the most part. Quite a few smaller hills, and I think I was in CSL by about 3 pm. Already knew where I was going, so I pedaled past the Marina and over to where you can see the Friars that mark the end of the mountain range that is the spine of Baja.

I stayed again at the Hotel del Angel. Spent the next day getting the beard shaved off, getting a haircut, getting my laundry done.
The Friars and the End of Baja
Sunday Morning Cyclovia in Cabo San Lucas

Getting Home:

Last part of the ride was to get up at 4:30 in the morning, load up and head for the Aguilla bus terminal in Cabo San Lucas and get on a 5:45 bus to La Paz. In La Paz I got breakfast and a 10am bus headed to Tijuana. It's a crazy long bus ride, but trivially easy to do, just get on the bus an go, the bike goes under the bus, no extra charge, just take off the front wheel and a couple of the bags and we're off an rolling.  Crossing the Border was a piece of cake, basically just walked over the bridge, got asked "why were you in Mexico" and "do you have anything to declare" and then we're at some outlet Mall in San Ysidro. A trolley ride to downtown San Diego and we're back in a different world. I took the Pacific Surfliner up to LA, and then the Sunset Limited home to Tucson and rode my bicycle back to my house.
San Ysidro Border Crossing 
Midway from Broadway Pier in San Diego

Was a fun trip. I felt good all through the trip, ate well, felt strong, the bike performed just fine, didn't have to do anything other than lube the chain and brush the cassette a few times. I readjusted bags, and readjusted the brakes a couple of times as they seemed to be rubbing a little bit, but nothing serious at all. Love to go back, the countryside is just absolutely amazing and the people are really friendly and welcoming.