10.28.2002-11.22.2002       San Diego, CA to La Paz, BCS
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The next leg of the trip would be similiar to the roots of the journey in some ways. The landscape would be vast and often stark. Services would sometimes be scarce and roads in poor condition. Nonetheless, I would be passing into a new country and culture and new, unique experiences would likely follow. And it would be a bit hotter.

Blair and I decided to forego the chaos of crossing the border at Tijuana and instead subjected ourselves to the hills outside San Diego in order to cross at the more sane Tecate. There is little between San Diego and Tecate so when we crested the final ridge before the border the sprawl of Tecate in the distance came as somewhat of a surprise. Crossing the border was a non-event. Such was the lack of officialdom that we didn’t know that we’d crossed and had to return and do it again to take the obligatory photos. Dominique and Marian greeted us just down the road, having crossed earlier in the day. They left town while Blair and I settled in at a small cafe to have our first Tecates and take in the new sights and sounds. Through a strange course of events we all met up again that night and found ourselves camping on the grounds of an unoccupied villa at the Tecate Country Club. We all rode together the next day through more hilly terrain and arrived in Ensenada. In Ensenada our routes diverged again, they continuing on Highway 1 and I on Highway 3 en route to the Sea of Cortez and eventually to a rough road that would take me back to Highway 1 further down the penninsula. I had travelled the penninsula by bus/bike on Highway 1 on an earlier trip and did not want to retrace all my steps. By the time I had reached Los Angeles the tediousness of riding the same route for the second and sometimes third or more time had began to wear on me. Highway 1 through Baja would be even less forgiving on my senses so I wanted to avoid it for at least some duration. I also wanted to have some variety in road conditions. I had not done any gravel since the Cassiar and I missed the “Out There” feeling I felt while traveling remote gravel roads.

The road from Ensenada from San Felipe is a hilly one and on it I ascended to heights I had not reached since British Columbia. As I had hoped traffic was light and I was able to enjoy the different landscapes associated with the different elevations. As I joined the road from Mexicali the temperature increased as did the traffic, as weekenders flocked down from the States. I had by luck arrived in San Felipe for the annual Shrimp Festival. The carnival atmosphere of the festival lent some charm to what it is an otherwise unappealing town. I rested up in San Felipe, knowing the road ahead would be an arduous one. As I set off down the coast from San Felipe the pavement went from fresh to potholed to disentegrating to non-existent just north of Puertocitos. The town of Puertocitos is nothing more than an eyesore and the traveler is glad to be beyond its city limits. The road beyond treated to beautiful vistas of the Sea of Cortez but punished as well. Endless washboard and large rocks were the norm. I had difficulty reaching speeds of more than 5 mph, as anything faster left my bike careening off the loose rocks. Any hopes of reaching Gonzaga Bay by day’s end dwindled with my speed. However, I was not alone on the road and passing motorists more often than not stopped to chat with me. One of these vehicles contained Phil, Margie and Wayne. They were driving down from Nevada and had a place at a campo fifteen miles North of Gonazaga Bay. They told me I was welcome to camp there if I couldn’t reach Gonzaga. Campo Delphines came into view when I was several miles away. Nonetheless it seemed an eternity passed before I finally arrived at the access road. Another eternity passed as I traversed the two mile, sandy access road to the campo. There I was welcomed by the friendly Mexican landlords--Reuben, Elsa and Manuel. The Pan-American cyclist’s favorite post-ride activities followed--a hot shower and a delicious meal. After dinner a session of star gazing at a crystal clear sky helped me forget the rigors of the day’s riding and appreciate where it had taken me.

My gracious hosts had given the title “The Road from Hell” to the road and I could not disagree. I had fought the road on my first day but after that I was determined not to let the road frustrate me. In contrast to the first day, I often dismounted my bike and walked when the conditions made riding difficult. I still fell off numerous times but I never became as demoralized as I had on the first day. The road turned inland at Gonazaga Bay so I stopped to spend the night there and enjoy one last night of beach camping. By then I had learned to position my tent such that I need only roll over on my side in the morning to watch the sun rise through an always clear sky over the Sea of Cortez.

Locals repeatedly told me the road was very popular with cyclists and that many had traversed it. But time moves at a different pace in the desert and further investigation usually revealed that the time frame was years, not weeks or months. Between Gonazaga Bay and Highway 1 there is a single instance of civilization, Coco’s Corner. Any cyclist choosing not to stop at this establishment would have to exhibit a level of insanity far beyond that required to embark on the road in the first place. The proprietor there nearly demands that all visitors sign his guest book and so it serves as a fairly accurate log of traffic on the road. A quick perusal of the book suggested that the last cyclist had passed through nearly eight months prior.

I rejoined Highway 1 for the last section of the Desierto Central, probably the finest stretch of desert on the penninsula. It’s a lonely section of road and services are far between so I knew my comrades would most likely be stopping at every opportunity. I stopped at the first restaurant I encountered to inquire about their whereabouts. As I had suspected my slow progress over the last several days had left me a full two days behind them. The last section of Baja Norte is fairly boring as is the first stretch of Baja Sur leading into Guerrero Negro. Guerrero Negro is not the type of town you would normally look forward to arriving in. It’s windy and dusty and one needn’t look any further than its claim to fame--home of the world’s largest open-air saltworks--to know that quaintness is not one of its characteristics. However, after several days of primitive desert camping the cheap motels that line the approach into town were a welcomed sight. After a good wash and night’s sleep I set off back into the blowing sand and monotony of the Vizcaino Desert. I was not discouraged though as I knew the oasis of San Ignacio was not far away.

An attractive town in itself, San Ignacio also marks the beginning of perhaps the nicest stretch on the penninsula. There I met another cyclist, a Frenchman, who was traveling light and fast. I learned from him that there were several cyclists just days behind, including some Pan-American cyclists. I didn’t know if I would meet these cyclists on the penninsula but knowledge of their presence brought me some comfort. From San Ignacio it was a short ride back to the Sea of Cortez and another attractive town, Santa Rosalia. A company town built by the French company Bolero decades earlier, it distinguishes itself from other penninsula towns with its wood-based architecture. The string of nice towns continues with Mulege, another oasis and former mission settlement. Beyond Mulege lies Conception Bay and some of the finest beaches on the penninsula. Choosing amongst them is akin to being a child in a candy store. Stays of weeks or months are the norm at the these beaches so I had difficulty leaving after a single night. Loreto completes the string of fine towns. Another former mission settlement that once administered a region stretching almost all the way to Alaska, it served as my final resting point before the final push to La Paz. The ride south from Loreto continues along another picturesque bay before turning inland. The Sierra del Gigante looks imposing enough from the coast but it is a narrow range and with a single long climb I was past the mountains and back into the flat desert of the interior. Tedious riding followed but thoughts of La Paz and the end of my penninsula riding pushed me along. I pulled off into a rancho the night before arriving in La Paz. It would be my last night of desert camping in Baja and the full moon promised a fine night. I found a secluded spot amongst the cacti to set up my tent and then watched the sun descend over a nearby arroyo. Throughout the night I watched the moon arc its way over my tent whilst cows mooed in the distance.

After three weeks of cycling on the penninsula La Paz seemed a near metropolis. Gorging commenced immediately as cheap and varied eats were plentiful. A trip to La Michoacana(ice cream parlor) usually followed any meal as I tried to regain weight lost in the desert. I also finally caught up with my three amigos. The union would be short-lived again, as they took the ferry to Mazatlan while I would cross to Tobolobampo and then travel by train to Copper Canyon. After their departure I met a German cyclist who was also heading for Copper Canyon. We had tickets for the same ferry so another union seemed likely.
DistanceElevation GainFlat Tires
Leg1045 mi/1681 km51480 ft/16889 m
Trip6845 mi/11015 km64 mi/103 km4
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