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, 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. I wave to people, and they always wave back as I ride by 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.

Passing many fields on the way to the mountains

Passing many fields on the way to the mountains

   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 realize 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. I am a bit uncomfortable because I am only riding in my liner bike shorts and a jogging bra. It’s scorching.  It looks like the locals are taking some gringos 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 at all. 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 the rough, rocky trail leads me up and down the ridges. If I imagined 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 I 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!” 

This is what Mars looks like

This is what Mars looks like

“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. Jim must be able to see how long it has been taking me to ride such a short distance. The trail is difficult, and I am making slow progress. 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 backward. I develop this technique of push, squeeze the brakes, and make a step; push, squeeze the brakes, and make a step…

Pet sheep

Pet sheep

   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 catch up with it, the owl takes off again and lands about 20 feet away. 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 the 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 fall asleep 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. 

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    Mike and his wife Nannet 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. Mike is a character, and we have an 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 in the book. 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. 

My camp site

My camp site

   I am also by far the oldest and the only solo woman to ride through here. 

Mike’s gift of food, so I can stay another day

Mike’s gift of food, so I can stay another day

   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. I decide that this will be a great place for my first day of rest. I have been on my bike every day for over a month now. Since I am pretty much out of food, the food that Mike brings over, makes it possible for me to stay here for the day. 

   And what a breakfast and lunch that makes! I flavor 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. 

  

Rancho Coyote

Rancho Coyote

The ranch lays on a Plato at 3,000 ft elevation. Surrounding mountains of Sierra San Pedro Martir range reach over 10,000 ft and are spectacular. Massive white granite boulders of all kinds of shapes can make your imagination run wild while you ride by them, especially in an evening light when shadows run long and the sky is colored red. 

   The ranch was established four generations ago by Salvador Felipe Meling Johnson. Although they still export cattle to Mexico and the mainland, it is now open to the public, and they offer cabins, camping and eco tours to people who come visit from all over the world. There is actually a road that comes to the ranch from the other side through National Park grounds. I  rode on the wild trails much less traveled where they take people hunting for California quail and Bura deer. If you are lucky enough, you can see a Giant Condor that has been reintroduced as well as Pumas, Bobcats and Big Horn Sheep called Cimarron.  Although I am comfortable hearing coyote’s all around me, I am glad I didn’t know about the Pumas and Bobcats when I arrived in the dark last night. I would have made a nice dinner for them,  had I came across one of them! Does pepper spray work on them if you are attacked? I hope so, but I don’t want to be tested.

Alenka Vrecek