After getting the full run down on the house, the pool, the steam room, the hot tub, etc we settled in for a serious week of relaxation. My special, beautiful, talented, lady friend, Eliza, her sister Hannah and Doug Marvin aka "Marv" came down to join us for this phenomenal experience.
Our stay at the Walton's was nothing short of amazing. Bill and Lori went above and beyond as our hosts, giving us full run of their main house and all of their awesome facilities. Bill turned on the hot tub which had not been on for 8 months. We both feel so lucky to have been able to spend so much time with them. .
We arrived on a Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon, Neil aka “The Bike Doctor”, had our bikes fully overhauled and cleaned. Neil's cleaning job surpasses any bike detail I've ever seen and I really hope that he shares his secrets with me someday. The bike doctors resume overqualified him for the work he preformed on our bikes, and we are so thankful that Bill was able to provide us with his services.
Bill hosted a Press conference for us on Friday afternoon at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park, San Diego. Bill woke up early that morning to promote our ride on the local radio stations. Please take a listen to this humbling display of support and enthusiasm ...
The night following our Press conference Bill and Lori hosted a dinner party in our honor. The Walton's and the Pedalers brought together a remarkable collection of friends and family. It was a perfectly awesome evening. .
Thanks to Bill's publicity efforts and our local support, we left the San Diego Hall of Champions with an armada of cyclists. Among the riders we had, Kathy from the SD Bicycle Coalition, a couple who just completed their own ride from Vancouver, BC to San Diego, Bill, Danny, Mike Fasel and others. Lori and Eliza drove the support vehicle. On Bill's recommendation we followed a beautiful route that took us through downtown and out to Coronado Island. We zig-zagged our way through the residential border town of Imperial Beach and eventually popped out right at the Tijuana pedestrian crossing. After taking a few minutes for photos and goodbyes, Parker and I were directed by the border patrol to join the car traffic. It was about this time that I noticed my heart rate was significantly elevated.
In the weeks approaching our crossing, dozens of people had taken the opportunity to try and scare us with Mexico horror stories. Despite my Tijuana jitters, we did our best to clear our heads and we pedaled the first 58 kilometers without incident. On the top of the hill leading out of TJ we were greeted by a large military encampment which was equipped with huge machine guns, sand bagged turrets and tons of military vehicles and camo. It is obvious that this area of Mexico is at war. It is an intimidating sight to anyone but especially to two gringos on bicycles.
Northern Baja is a far cry from the easy cycling we'd become so used to along the Washington, California and Oregon coasts. All of a sudden we were dealing with shoulderless-broken roads, exhaust, dust, and drivers that were not expecting to see or used to dealing with cyclists on the road.
Despite all of this, Parker and I still found solace in the roadside taco stands, the new scenery, and the PEOPLE. We both noticed very early on that everyone, including the military and Federale seem so stoked to see us. Every 5th car would honk, wave, yell words of encouragement or my favorite....throw a huge fist pump out the window.
On our second evening in Mexico in Santo Tomas as we searched for a campsite we heard an American voice from behind a small blue pickup truck. When we poked our heads around the back of the truck we came face to face with Peter. This guy was straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Equipped with amber colored aviators, a leisure hat, and groomed moustache, Peter was a spot on Raoul Duke. Peter immediately offered to cook us dinner. With no agenda, Parker and I made the simple decisions to park our butts behind Peters truck as he made us a multi course dinner out of his favorite Wok. He said if he was robbed of everything he owned he would be the most disappointed about loosing this Wok.
Peter has been in Mexico for 10 straight months and only plans to go back to the states after he runs out of money. After we finished dinner Peter asked us to forget our friendship and honestly rate the quality of his food. I gave it a 7 and Parker went with a solid 8. For real this guy makes some quality tailgate food. He entertains himself by preparing meals for the extremely poor population around Ensenada. He said the local people ask him why he subjects himself to the hardship of living out of the back of his truck but for Peter there is no better way to live. He has surrounded himself with every luxury that he has ever wanted.
The next morning Peter met us to cook us breakfast and prior to us parting ways he pulled me aside and dropped me with this gem. He said that if the situation calls for it I should abandon my North American ideals and poop into a plastic bag and throw it away in a trash can later because “let's face it, sometimes you're not in a good area to take a poop.” I am having trouble visualizing where I will utilize this technique but I've stored it away just in case.
Our next stop of significance in Northern Baja was El Pabellon. 10 miles past San Quintin we took a small dirt road that lead us out to our favorite beachside campground in all of Northern Baja. Because of the American misconception that all of Baja is a war torn, dangerous, state we found ourselves virtually alone on this amazing beach. We heard a rumor that the shores of El Pabellon are loaded with the rare Pismo Clams. After a very small amount of investigative work we confirmed this rumor and had a gourmet clam dinner.
On our way out of El Pabellon a white Ford F150 with Iowa plates passed us and I didn't think too much of it until I saw the same pick up pulled over about a half mile up the road from us. As we approached I could make out a blond haired gringo holding a water jug. Smiling we both pulled over and after, some introductions the man (Steve) offered us bananas. We graciously accepted and Steve watched as we inhaled the bananas in a couple of seconds.
Steve has been donating his time for the last 6 years!!!!!! at a local church where he recruits US doctors to help the migrant worker population with medical services. This guy is amazing. If that's not enough Steve, showed up on the two subsequent afternoons with milkshakes and cookies. Get this, on the third afternoon, Steve drove 240 kilometers one-way with a Honda generator and a blender and made us fresh roadside milk shakes. Steve gave me grief for video taping such a mediocre gesture. I had to reassure him that this was the first and last time anyone would take 7 hours out of their day to drive a generator to us in order to make us milkshakes. Parker and I owe the traveling community some serious support when we finish this journey because we have been absolutely overwhelmed with the generosity of people we meet along the road. Steve you rock!
Climbing a hill into El Rosario a van pulled up next to us and a whole group of youngsters leaned out the windows to give us words of encouragement. Peering back over my shoulder I noticed that the entire top of the van was decorated with mountain bikes. After briefly telling them about our journey the group of cyclists pulled over, gave us burritos and cokes, we traded a few stories, took a photo and then the group was on their way to tackle their own ride across the Baja peninsula on dirt roads.
Just when I accepted the fact that all of Baja was going to be one dusty roadside town after the other, the highway made a right hand turn at El Rosario and we headed inland where we ascended into a majestic high plains desert. With no real town in sight Parker and I were forced to camp roadside. We made a small fort among the cactus. The fog rolled in the next morning and I could've sworn that I woke up on a different planet.
Over the next week Parker and I traversed Baja from west to east through some of the most dramatic desert landscape I have ever seen. At altitudes of 3-4k feet, we traveled through boulder strewn cactus fields, dotted with Dr Suess trees (cirio trees), amazing rock formations and small oasis towns. At night the stars were extraordinary. The traffic even began to lighten and for the first time I saw the color return to my knuckles.
An obvious highlight would be our our stay in the small town of Santa Ines just past Catavinia. This place is literally a desert oasis among a hot, harsh environment. As we rolled into the two house town we met two older gentlemen on their way out who gave us the combo and directions to their house in the desert. Parker and I made our way up a series of dirt roads to the amazing Casa de Senor Marvin.
A couple of days later as we passed the turn off for Bahia de Los Angeles a silver Jeep Wrangler rolled up to us and I thought I was having heat stroke because I swore Spicoli from dazed and confused was throwing me a thumbs up out of the passenger seat. As I peered into the car I thought for sure this car just got dropped here from the Eighties. As it turns out, Danny the driver is driving his Jeep to Tierre Del Fuego and he started in Prudhoe Bay a few days after us which means he has passed us on the road at least once prior to this encounter. We spent the night with Danny and Duke, shared some awesome stories, some route ideas and Danny provided us with some much needed water and food. We split ways the next morning but we have a good feeling we will rendezvous again soon. Danny's website is http://dangrec.com/
After pushing a couple of big mileage days Parker and I ended up in San Ignacio, another desert oasis. As we toured around the old Mission we noticed two gringo's sitting at a small cafe adjacent to the town square. It had been a few days since we'd seen any tourists so we made our way over to make introductions. It turns out that the two retirees were down in Baja on one of their monthly surf trips. Frank and Rick told us they were staying at the San Ignacio Springs Resort and that we should stop by on our way back out of town to see if the owners might let us camp on the front lawn.
Parker and I made a quick stop in at the local internet cafe where we received word from a new friend Steve, that we needed to high tail it to Loreto to get there in time for the most epic kayak trip of our lives. Steve has kayaked all over the world and informed us over the phone that this is hands down his favorite. Parker and I looked at each other and knew that this meant putting in two one hundred mile days but regardless we knew there was no way we could miss this trip.
Well it turns out that Frank and Rick arranged for a bit more than a campspot. They ended up changing to a four bedroom yurt so that both of us could stay indoors and use the shower. That night the two surf legends, bought us dinner and beers and provided us with all the encouragement we would need for two big days on the road.
Apparently, the caretaker decided she was going to outdo us with the quantity of food at breakfast the next morning. Little did she know Parker and I are always ready for a challenge. We each consumed a massive quantity of food and I'm pretty sure I now know what it feels like to ride pregnant. We didn't stop for food that day until mile 70!
Breaking our own personal rules of not riding after dark, Parker and I rode well into the evening. Tired and grouchy, we entertained ourselves with roadside arguments and we finally found the “hidden beach” after a half hour of trying to locate the washed out dirt road. I once again had to reprimand Parker for not double checking my direction. The next morning we rose to find out that we had put ourselves in the middle of a beautiful white sand beach and we made breakfast as we watched the sun peak up over Bahia Concepcion.
We had another big mileage day into Loreto but we pedaled easily knowing that we were about to slip our legs into some kayaks and sink our feet into some virgin sand. When we arrived in Loreto and realized that once again our cell phones didn't work we put in a solid effort to get in contact with Steve. Steve met us downtown and escorted us back to his local residence which is actually an addition of Casa De Senor Jose Cruz, the prison director and big time Loreto politician.
To view the pics from this segment of the trip click here:
Note: Seth is suffering from a sore paddling wrist so I have been called in to relieve him.
Note: Seth is suffering from a sore paddling wrist so I have been called in to relieve him.
The next morning we stored our bikes and got shuttled out to Puerto Escondido where we would begin our week long kayak/fishing adventure. In addition to the group of Steve's friends that we would be traveling with, another group was also beginning their trip. After the paying customers were squared away and cast off, we geared up and were assigned the kayaks we would be paddling for the next 5 days. After a brief instructional pow-wow on the basics of kayaking and our probable route, we hit the water and were immediately surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery we have ever seen. There was a slight breeze coming in from the north and both the fresh ocean air and crystal clear light blue water was a perfect 75-80 degrees. The horizon was scattered with deserted islands in all directions and you could not help but feel that you had entered into some magical paradise. Our first destination was on the back side of Isle Danzante which is a small protected cove with a long lava-rock point protruding into the sea. Both the snorkeling and fishing in this location was excellent and Seth and I immediately set up a couple rods and went to work.
The next morning we crossed over to Isle Carmen where we hopped around from beach to beach for the remainder of the trip kayaking, fishing, snorkeling and exploring the surroundings. The second day of the trip Seth broke his floating line in half on a sharp lava-rock snag. While it sucks to destroy a $70 line, Seth and I discovered that we could use the broken line to troll flies behind our kayaks while paddling between camps. Seth hooked into one of the biggest rooster fish of the trip using this method, then fought the fish with his hands while be towed around in his kayak. The last two days of the trip we camped on a beautiful white sand beach which was surrounded by huge masses of bait fish which created a perfect environment for schools of slashing rooster fish. Starting at sunrise Seth and I would catch rooster fish and trigger fish non-stop for a few hours before breakfast. Over the course of the trip we easily landed over 15 different species of fish. In preparation for the last supper of our Sea of Cortez adventure, our pongero, Ricardo, took us around the island to another long sandy beach, to dive for clams. After observing Ricardo locate and extract a few clams from the sandy sea-floor we were able to harvest about 40 pounds of the delicious little morsels in under two hours. That night we feasted on clams sauteed in butter and garlic over pasta, which was the perfect finale to a perfect week.
Needless to say we highly recommend this trip and will go as far as to say that this was one of the best traveling experiences of our lives.
If you have any interest whatsoever please contact Steve Hayward at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Sea Trek website at http://www.seatrekbaja.com/. Seth and I had little to no kayaking experience before this week and there is no better person to learn from than Steve and his guides. In talking with Steve he informed me that they cater trips to accommodate kayakers of all ages and skill levels.
We are now back in Loreto and in the middle of planning another fishing trip with Steve out of a town called Agua Verde which is about 100km south of here. We will then head to the Pacific side of baja to fish Magdalena Bay before heading back east to catch a ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. We have also decided that we will be incorporating Belize into our route as well as the some islands off the Caribbean coast of Honduras.