Part XI: Riding in Baja
Thursday, October 25th
I wake up to loud roosters and dogs way before I want to. Even with earplugs, I can’t ignore all the commotion around me. A $15 motel is a favorite for truck drivers, and they are definitely loud leaving at 4:30-5:00 am. Reluctantly, I head out as well.
The road takes me out of Ojos Negro along many fields. Soon, I leave the flat valley, and the road starts to climb at an even pace. After an hour, I stop at the top of the hill to have a breakfast of a banana and nuts. In the distance, I hear a loud roaring noise getting louder. From the mountain to my left comes a Baja 1000 race car practicing for the upcoming event. It crosses the road and soon disappears out of sight. I take the road less traveled. Pretty soon I am in a remote area climbing and descending for miles and miles. The eroded road gets so steep and rugged at times that I have to push and pull The Beast over granite slabs, huffing and puffing and cursing as well. Just a bit after noon I stop at, what I believe, might be close to the highest point for the day. I find shade under a huge tree. A gentle breeze is cooling me off, and as I take a pee, a doe, a deer, a female deer runs no more than 20 feet away from me. I snack on leftover pizza and have long sips of warm water. Today I make sure I have plenty of water with me. It gets over ninety degrees during the day. Sitting alone under the ancient tree, it really hits me.
I am doing this! I am out here all by myself, and I love the solitude. I wish I could share this beautiful place with you right now. I am alone but far from feeling lonely. I feel the love and support of my family and friends who, at the moment, are so far away.
Ok, lunchtime’s over! Get your ass back on the bike. The day isn’t over yet and as Jim would say, ”We are burning daylight!” Oh, by the way, I broke my reading glasses this morning, so I am kinda writing half blind. Send some down my way, please!
The descent is steep and eroded from the top, so I walk the bike. Over the roughest parts. There is no point taking the risk of falling and getting hurt way out here. It would take to long for rescue to arrive. Out in the distance, I see some palm trees and some structures. It looks like an abandoned ranch, but then when I reach it, a few cows scatter, and there is an old pickup truck, parked by what is more of a shack than a house. There is no way that the truck could possibly run any longer, although I’ve seen some pretty amazing and creative skill to keep old vehicles still chugging along down here. It is difficult to imagine someone would actually live this far out in the middle of nowhere. The dirt road stretches before me as far as the eye can see. It crosses mountain after mountain. I finally reach the valley of Uruapan, and I might as well have arrived in Tuscany. The area is known for vineyards, and they stretch into the hills on both sides of the valley. The village doesn’t have anything else but a couple of small stores. Somewhere along the way, I missed any signs that might have pointed to the hot springs where I planned to camp for the night. Even so, I stop and celebrate with a cold Corona then continue to Santo Thomas where I know there are a restaurant and a campground. After the whole day of solitude in the mountains, it’s shocking to be back on busy HW 1, but I look forward to tomorrow- I will ride along the Pacific coast. I will see the ocean for the first time on my trip.
Friday, October 26
Gooood morning legs!
The climb out of Santo Tomas is as steep as promised. I can feel my legs are still tired after riding through rugged, challenging terrain yesterday.
I pass several beautiful vineyards and wish I could just ride a horse in the hills. I am in high anticipation of seeing the ocean, but the road is still taking me up and down and around the mountains. And then it comes. I fly down a steep and rocky descent trying to avoid the really soft sand sections that want to throw me off The Beast. I can actually hear the rumbling of the waves before I even see the Pacific. The views don’t disappoint though. At a fish camp, I take a break and eat a snack of avocado and nuts. The road leads me along the spectacular coast to the town of Ejido Eréndira. It is an active fishing community, and I have my first fish taco meal. I contemplate staying here but decide to ride another 26 or so miles toward the town of Colonet.
If I stay here, it will add to many miles I’d have to ride tomorrow. I am sitting by myself at the restaurant overlooking the ocean listening to the crashing of big waves. I feel at home by the sea. I just wish I had someone to share this beautiful moment with. That’s the most significant price to pay when you travel alone. I ride along the coast for a while and waves are crashing onto rocky shore in a spectacular fashion, throwing high plume of foaming white water several feet into the air. Of course, it doesn’t happen when I try to take a photo of it on a self-timer! Once the road leaves the ocean, it becomes impossibly eroded with deep ruts and rollers from previous years Baja 1000. I now understand why they relocate the ride every year. The roads are practically impassable afterwords. The damage has been done.
I arrive at the town of Colonet by the guidance of a flashlight. I pass a hot dog and taco stands, but no motel or camp. I should have stayed somewhere along the coast and camped, I think to myself. I go to a store to ask directions, and a young guy tells me that there is a hotel either three kilometers back north or a couple of kilometers further south out of town. I start riding south but am skeptical as the dirt shoulder ends, and I have to get on the freeway. Not a good thing to do in the dark. I turn around. The guy must have been mistaken. There has to be a motel in a busy town like this. I pass a couple with a stroller, and they tell me the same thing. The only hotel is the one about a kilometer out of town and up the hill. I have no choice. I turn around. The road starts up the hill, has no shoulder and it is pitch dark. The trucks are driving fast. I walk the bike in parts so I can stay as far off the road as possible. I pray that my flashing red light on the back of my bike is visible enough for the cars and trucks to see me. I reach the Hotel Paradisio, and it does look like a paradise to me at that moment. I am filthy and exhausted but extremely relieved that I arrived in one piece. The restaurant, of course, is closed but the manager sends me a quesadilla and a Corona to my room. A shower and a clean, soft bed never felt better. I feel human again. I watch some crappy TV, write a bit and then stretched wide in a king size bed with crisp white sheets and soft down pillows, drift off to sleep.