Part XII: The Oldest Lady to Ride the Baja Divide
Saturday, October 27th
No matter how I slice it, yesterday’s 59 miles, over 3K feet of climbing, and riding on roads that have been all rutted out by Baja 1000 riders, wiped me out. It was beautiful to ride along the Pacific though.
Today marks a month of my departure from Tahoe. I am sitting on the side of the road overlooking numerous fields and eating a protein bar and a stick of string cheese for breakfast. I pass people walking to work in the fields. They are hard workers and they all have big smiles on their faces as I pass them. An ongoing theme of my trip so far: people everywhere in the world just want to live happy, productive, and meaningful lives. They want to work, so they can provide for their families and send their kids to school.
After I resupply with water and food at Ajido Benito Suarez, I am in remote canyons crossing water in arroyos that reach over my knees. I pass through a few rancho gates and the road climbs toward the high pass I have to cross before I get to Rancho Coyote where I’m assuming, a cold beer will be waiting for me. I am realizing that I feel the safest when I am really far out and away from towns. I love listening to the wind and the birds, and that’s about all that there is out here besides coyotes and bunnies, snakes and insects. A pickup truck and a 4x4 SUV pass me. It looks like the locals are taking some people hunting. Then the road starts climbing and it climbs as steep as any road I have been on so far. Loose rock and smooth slabs of granite prevent me from riding much of it, so I push The Beast and beg with it to cooperate. It doesn’t! I finally reach the pass and, as I am taking a bit of a snack and water break, the SUV comes down from around the mountain. It turns out that they aren’t hunters. A professor from Ensenada is taking some other scholars to look for the marmot migration! Who would have thought? Again, I make an assumption on looks alone.
Several very challenging miles of rough, rocky trail leads me up and down the ridges. If I was imagining how Mars looks like, this would be it. The shadows are getting longer which means it’s getting late, but the temperature is also dropping which feels really nice. Oh, did I mention the temperature throughout the day is in the mid to upper nineties? I suck on water like it is going out of style, but am also comforted that I have plenty of it. I’ve learned my lesson the first two days. I get a text from Jim, who is following my tracks on Garmin InReach satellite device.
”It looks like you have three miles to go!”
“Yes!” I reply by pushing a preset message function on my InReach. And then about another hour later;
”You can make it!”
I need this so badly at this moment. He must be able to see how long it has been taking me to ride such a short distance; how difficult the trail is. Most of the time I am pushing The Beast up impossibly steep, rocky uphills huffing and puffing and yes, a bit of cursing when I slide backwards. I develop this technique of push, squeeze the brakes, and make a step; push, squeeze the brakes, and make a step…
The last half a mile before I reach El Coyote Rancho, I am being led by an owl. It lands on the trail before me, flies up and away when I reach it, and lands about 20 feet away again. It goes like that all the way until I reach the gate to the Rancho. The Wise Owl shows me the way. I untie the rope of the barbed wire fence and I feel like I open the door to my home. It is pitch dark though, so I have no idea where to go. I pass a trailer that has no lights on and, just then, a truck comes down the hill. A ranch hand points me into direction of the main house. Alfredo, the son who runs the place, shows me a spot under the tree to set up camp and Carla, his wife makes me three bean burritos that she brings to me while I am setting the tent, along with a cold Tecate. I am so very grateful and exhausted as I was, I soon go off to sleep without brushing my teeth. I was warm enough and only had to inflate my pad three times throughout the night.
In the morning, I awake to a symphony of cows, sheep, and birds. I inflate the pad one last time and enjoy the harmony of this place before I even have a chance to see it. As I am making coffee on my Whisperlight stove, a guy followed by three sheep in tow like three puppies, is walking toward me with a chair in his hands. He looks like a gringo.
Mike and his wife Nanet moved to Vicente Guerrero 27 years ago. Nanet comes up to the Rancho on the weekends, but Mike stays up here pretty much full-time now. He’s 75 and he installs, or used to, solar power systems in and around the area. He’s a character, and we have immediate connection philosophizing about life. He shows me a log book of riders that have so far come through here on Baja Divide. It turns out that many people skip this section because it’s so strenuous, so I am only the 24th person to make it. It also turns out I am the first person this year that actually rode from the border. Three French people who are riding ahead of me by a week, started in Santo Thomas. That explains why I haven’t seen any bike tracks on the trails until I rode out of Santo Thomas.
I am also by far the oldest and the only solo woman to ride through here.
I decide in the morning that this will be a great place for my first day of rest. When I return from the bathroom, which offers a delightful hot shower, there is a gift from the gods on the fireplace next to my table. Mike brought over three eggs, two potatoes, a banana, and two granola bars.
And what a breakfast and lunch that made! I flavored it up with spices I got from the Louisiana Spiceman, oh so long ago now. I am in heaven sitting under the tree, Mike is fixing my sleeping pad and I have time to do absolutely nothing at all but to tend to a few things on my bike, fix my broken reading glasses with dental floss, read, plan my trip ahead, write, and rest.