Baja Divide

Sunday January 14th

Well the adventure has already begun.  My flight for today was cancelled due to heavy fog.  We have had a lot fog in the last month, I would say 12-14 days.  Very depressing.  Any way now I fly out on Wednesday, back Feb 3rd.

I was sick last week and still not fully recovered.  Should be fine by Wednesday and start the ride on Thursday.  The Universe moves in mysterious ways.  Not sure it had to delay me by 2 days though, 1 would have been enough.

January 17th

After an uneventful flight I arrived in San Diego and my new friend Chris picked me up at the airport in his Toyota 4Runner, the perfect vehicle for cyclists with big bike boxes.  We headed off to REI to pick up a foam sleeping pad, so that thorns would not deflate it.  It was very uncomfortable.  Will just protect the inflatable pad in the future.

Turns out Chris’s daughter trained to be a yoga teacher and the whole family is vegan.  It was so great to be picked up in a strange city and given a bed and a place to stay.

I put 3.0” tires on the Salsa Fargo and was worried about damage from the flight as we had to put a chain tensioner on to get the wheel far enough back to prevent rubbing on the chain stays.  Everything was in fine working order and so I set off the next day.  The ride along the Pacific was not all that interesting (passing by a naval yard and industrial area) but going up the Sweet Water River Trail was excellent.  I arrived at the Sweet Water Reservoir campsite after a tough dirt trail that required walking up hill, but with a magnificent view and spectacular sunset.  I slept in my new Rainbow I Tarptent for the first time.

The second day was the ride to Tecate, Mexico.  Arriving at the border I had to change money.  Since they would not take $ Canadian, I had to use an ATM and get $ US and then convert them to pesos.  Crossing the border you must pay $29 US to get a 6 month visa.  The officer in the customs house showed me his home remedies for cold and keeping warm.  I don’t think you would get a Canadian or US border guy doing that.

As soon as you cross the border it is like entering a whole new world.  You are immediately confronted with mess, noise and no English.  First item was to get a room in a hotel.  The first hotel wanted 3 hours to get my room ready.  Since it was already almost dark and I was tired, needed a shower and dinner, I kept going and found a nice room in the Tecate Hotel right on the plaza for $350 pesos (about $24 CNDN).   Almost all the hotels have WIFI now (pronounce we fe).  I spent a rest day in Tecate and walked everywhere around the town.  It has a nice small city feel to it and is home to Tecate Brewery, which takes up a whole city block.

The climb out of Tecate was on pavement and was steep and long.  I was glad I had put a new chain ring and sprocket on to lower my gearing.  I used that low gear a lot.  After 14 km’s, the route takes you off the highway and in to the desert.  It was tough riding in the desert, but it felt safe as there was some local traffic, a few motorbikes and ATV’s passing by during the day. Often people driving SUV’s would stop to check that I was ok. I met a couple from Vancouver returning to Tecate as they felt it was too tough for their gear setup.  After a long hard day, I found a place to wild camp off the road behind some bushes and went to bed just after dark for a long sleep.  It was below freezing most of the night and I was just barely warm enough.  It was very beautiful to watch the sun going down and the silence broken only by the wind.  I heard coyotes howling during the night.

The next day I rode 76 km’s to Ojos Negros arriving just at dusk.  I ran in to rough surfaces, loose rocks, hike-a-bike climbs and soft sand.  I was glad for the 3.0” tires and amazed at what I could ride through.  One time I came to an abrupt halt, the sand was so deep.  At one point I passed a couple of cattle, including a young steer.  It was very interested in me.  It started kicking up its heels, as if it wanted to play with me (a metal steer?) and started following me.  I had to tell it to go home.

I spent a rest day in Ojos Negros.  The restaurant had the most delicious authentic food with terrific rich flavors.  It was so cold in my room that I slept in my sleeping bag.  They don’t heat their homes on the Baja as it gets warm during the day, but those cold nights……brrr.

The next day of riding took me to Aruapan.  The guide said 4-6 hours.  Well I found it very tough going with lots of climbing.  I left at 7 and arrived after dark.  The campground was closed and across from it is the Santo Tomas winery.  I ended up getting invited to ‘camp’ inside the winery.  Even inside I slept in everything I had and shivered all night.  The young security guard showed me pictures of his 4 months old twin girls and made me coffee in the morning.

At this point I decided to ride on the highway.  The loss of 2 days travelling made me feel tight for time, I could not get any $ until Vicente Guerrero and was running low on cash and because it was so cold I didn’t want to camp anymore.  I didn’t wear a short sleeve T-shirt until the last 5 days.

Arriving in Santo Tomas I found a nice restaurant at the gas station with a fire burning in the fireplace, the only heated place I saw the whole time on the Baja.  I had only some nuts for dinner the night before, so a big breakfast restored my energy and my spirits.  Heading out of Santo Tomas was a very long steep climb, maybe 10 kilometers or more and 7-8% grade (my gps says 18%!).

Parts of the highway have been upgraded and have nice wide paved shoulders so it feels quite safe to ride and traffic, although heavy at times is not bad.  I arrived in San Vicente early in the afternoon and found a hotel and some good food.  The next day I arrived in Vicente Guerrero, my goal accomplished.  The last 14 km’s were the worst, as the road was all broken up with heavy traffic.  I ended up riding most of it on the sandy track beside the highway.

Arriving in V.G., I was excited to find an espresso bar and F.A.S.S. Bikes.  I met Salvador, his wife and two boys, all involved in the family bike business.  There is a map on the wall with signatures from all (including myself) who have stopped by.

fassbikeJanuary 27 2018 – 02:32  We keep getting more surprised everyday, today we receive Peter from Vancouver, he’s 75 years old and now holds the tittle of the oldest person that attempts to ride the amazing Baja Divide, this make me thing that i still have some time to do it..

There is a photo of me in the bike shop in my Baja album.

Only the week before, Bob from Colorado had the record for the oldest rider at 70.  I caught up with Bob taking a break with his partner Teresa in Ensenada and am invited to stay with them when I pass through Colorado on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route later this year.

After a day of rest in Vicente Guerrero, I headed back north with money in my pocket.  I was cruising along just past Punto Colonet, on the way to San Vicente when a fierce wind came up.  It was so strong that I was riding in my lowest gear at 6 or 7 km’s/hour on the highway.  It was already early afternoon and I figured there was no way I was going to reach town before dark.  I turned back to a hotel just 2 km’s back and stayed the night.  I had no food with me, but there was a rodeo going on close by and they had food and drink there.  Ironically, 2 hours after I had stopped the wind shifted back.  It howled all night, but was fairly calm in the morning.  However, again after about half an hour a strong cross wind came up.  I had to lean my bike on angle and hang on to avoid being pushed in to traffic.

Impressions:  Mexican people are very friendly.  Many people live in very poor conditions, but family and friends make their lives rich.  I saw a lot of happy people with very little in terms of possessions, living and working in run down, dirty conditions, but content.  They are also very hard working people.  Victor asked me how much I pay for an avocado here in Canada.  I said around $2 or more.  He pays $5 pesos, which is around $0.35.  I bought a container of fresh olives from a farmer at the market in San Vicente.  They were not packed in salt like the ones we get here, very tasty and inexpensive; I think around $1.

So a made it to San Vicente and took a bus to Ensenada to catch up with Bob and Teresa.  We spent a nice evening having dinner and chatting.  Bob is now much further south, intending to complete the whole route soon.

Six years ago I spent 2 ½ weeks in Ensenada studying Spanish and met Victor and his wife Damaris.  From Tuesday until Thursday they took me to their place and then involved me in their everyday activities for a couple of days.  I led them in yoga on the beach one morning and next morning we meditated on the beach.  Their 12 year old daughter Natalia is an avid ballerina.

I met several friends, members of the family and the last day we drove out on the Routa del Vino to see their country property, which is now a B & B.  Victor has a garage door business, but his passion is architecture and art.  He designed their multi-level house and has been slowly renovating the country property.  The art work and attention to detail reminded of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  You can see photos on flickr –

Victor’s cousin Patricia has a 1 bedroom apartment for rent later this year.  I may stay there for 6 months this coming winter and teach yoga and meditation.  We may offer a weekend retreat at the B & B.

Returning to San Diego by bus and train, I spent my last day going for a trail ride with Chris in the Mission hills not far from his house.  I arrived home to rain and dreary weather, but feel stronger and ready for more adventure.