Remainder of week 31 & week 32.
On the road again.
After a rollercoaster of Christmas and New Year festivities in Belgium & Holland; sad moments when saying goodby to Sam, feeling welcomed and spoiled by family & friends, we are back on the road to continue Spinning South.
Let’s say that the first week biking required re-adjustment of body and soul. No more chatting with girlfriends, no more sauna, great food from sister and mama, no more fun with nephews and niece, no more discussions with dad, no more chilling on the couch with friends, but biking instead. We will try to reach the required average of 50 km per day, that will take us to Argentina by January 2019.
But before we could head off Frank needed to do some maintenance on the bikes: new “non-flat” tires, change oil in the Rohloff hub, install new USB chargers etc.
We also still had visiting the USS Midway on our wish list, as we did not get to that before leaving San Diego for X-mass.
An aircraft carrier that served between 1947 and 1992, carrying 4,500 staff to ensure 120 planes could operate from this huge ship. I don’t say I support every action undertaken from it (Korea, Vietnam), but it was amazing to wander through the whole ship and understand how it works. How faster planes forced a change of the layout of the landing deck. The lectures given by former pilots were eye openers.
As Frank had to work in the morning 😉 we only had 2 hours the first day to visit the USS Midway, I presumed it would be more than enough, but we were really happy we could come back the next day to wander further through the belly of the ship. How must it have smelled when in full action, imagine!
Then finally the bikes were ready and body, mind and machines were ready to get back on the road.
13th of December.
A month after we flew to Europe for the holiday season, we finally start at 7:00 in the morning to find our way out of San Diego.
At the last big shopping mall we want to buy some last outdoor stuff but the REI shop has closed down. We meet George and Kubi from UK & Sweden, who also restarted today heading to Argentina! Will we see them again?
After 6 hours on the bike we realise we won’t be able to reach the border and are happy to find a camping spot at a “1000 Trails” campsite, 30 km before the border. Fun to meet Julia & Colleen, both locals who are checking out the location as Colleen wants to have her birthday party with all her friends & family at this great, secluded area.
Must be awesome to be able to have it here! Small secret: she definitely does not look almost 50! Wishing you all a lot of fun!
We also meet George & Kubi (as of now G&K) again who are still going to bike to their airB&B 25km further.
Next day is the day that we reach the border, we are really happy having decided to stop on time yesterday as it takes us 4 hours to bike to the border, we never would have made it before dark! And it is a very scary, narrow, winding road (US94) with no shoulders! Good start, NOT. At the border office we fill in the forms for the visa and guess who drop in, yes G&K!
They made it, but had a scary adventure yesterday as they had to bike part of the road we took today, in complete darkness for 1 ½ hour, which was definitively no fun!
And then we are in Mexico, we crossed at Tecate, as it is a smaller town which is recommended at several sites as being a more safe area to cross especially if you are on a bike, hence less hustlers around than in big Tijuana city. As there is great music on the square and already afternoon we opt for staying at a low-budget motel, looks good from far, but you should not look too close where you will be sleeping. But we want to keep our budget at a better level than what we did in the USA & Canada, so there we are.
We have our first real Mexican taco dinner and love the food!
Feeling stronger the next day we head off on the MEX 3 (Mexican Highway #3). We plan to do parts of the Baja Divide (check it out at Bikepacking.com) and could have chosen to go straight off-road but as we have not biked for 1 ½ month and I don’t want to do wild camping straight away, we try the highway and what a jewel! Perfect top, wide shoulders, no bumps or cracks. What a joy, also when we meet G&K again and race down the mountain together without any fear!
We are really lucky as it looks like this road has only recently been reconstructed, adding a great shoulder in the process! This road is the gateway to the wine district (Ruta del vino). In Baja California, the Mexican Peninsula which we will be riding down before crossing to the mainland, 90% of all Mexican wine is made and exported to 30 countries.
We decide to sleep between the vineyards at an indigenous ecological campsite, nobody around, only a local dog we name Stinky for obvious reasons, to keep us company during the evening and at breakfast. As this is the wine route of Mexico you can choose between different lodging possibilities, look at the photo above where I am biking, do you see the small “houses” at the top of the hill? A beautiful design hotel, but it would set you back $320 per night! We are very happy to sleep between very old trees together with Stinky for free!
A visit at the wine museum gives an even better insight in the history of winemaking in Mexico. As anywhere else also here wine was only accessible to the cleric in the 18th century, followed by nobility. Seems this is still the case if you look at the price charged for one bottle of wine. We still need to find the right place to find real local wine at a local price.
After arriving in Ensenada we meet Victor who convinces us to stay in the city and absorb the local vibe. It will be the last real big city for more than 1000 km to come. Great food but a different vibe, not as local, more touristic and this is confirmed when we see a big cruise ship anchored in the harbour. Ensenada is also the place for Americans to come and spend a cheap weekend.
Souvenir shop after souvenir shop, looks like made in China and not high quality Mexican stuff.
Happy to leave the next day and looking for some remote roads, still we need to follow Highway 1 till Santo Tomas before we really can go off-road.
Before arriving to Santo Tomas we do a detour to the Hot Springs, local get together where they do the laundry, believing that the water has healing powers. Pity the swimming pool was not yet ready, only possibility was to bathe in a very small bathhouse.
We meet G&K again at the motel together with Natalia & Gustave (also heading South) creating a great opportunity to share stories, listen to the why and how of biking and seeing how they make their journey special.
Impressed by the project of Natalia, who has the objective of taking pictures of one person per country nude in their bathroom. I first thought: only one per country? But when you check out her website you will see how close she is getting to her subject. She can reach this kind of relationship by first conducting at least a few weeks of volunteer work at a local, small society. She does not want to go for the easy approach of finding subjects in the big city. Check out her website! The project with Gustave will be a combination of photos of Natalia and Soundtrack of Gustave. Check-out some beautiful images from previous trips at fulldisclothesureproject
Already looking forward to see who they will meet in Mexico!
We Need More Heroes.
George and Kubi also have a very special project of interviewing and posting Podcasts of people they meet on their way, who don’t want to settle for the ordinary life . You can check out at weneedmoreheroes
Fun to see these young people, who could have been our kids, with their full life ahead of them and taking on special missions. Inspiring to have met them.
After quite some beers but also a good rest we head off following the Baja Divide for the first time. We start straight away with a 15% incline on a gravel road. Happy we first covered 200 km on asphalt before starting this!
What a beautiful, remote, technical, tough ride. So rough we camp just before Ejido Erendira after “only” 45 km. G&K arrive a bit later and also decide to stay here and not push any further.
Morning shows why agriculture is possible in this hot, dry climate. The closeness of the sea provides so much humidity that it takes more than an hour before the tent is dry enough to be packed-up.
In Erendira we stop at the first sign of a grocery store: yesterday all the food was stolen out of our tent by local dogs ☹. Only this grocery store was now in use as a carpenter workshop. Juan has been a carpenter as off the age of 15, now he is teaching his son and two local boys how to make beautiful kitchen doors, stools and big doors.
He lives in Tijuana but decided to accept work in this old holiday village and enjoys the solitude and working at some nice remodelling and construction projects. Also creating two jobs and teaching is very satisfactory. At the age of 50 he is the proud grandfather of 17 grandchilderen! It was amazing to listen to his drive and positive view of life!
We think we have a relaxing day to Colonet and take it easy, stopping at each nice turn of the road by the sea but when our road is blocked by a hugh fence we loose more than 45 min to find the new way to continue. A tough, very technical afternoon follows, where Frank falls and is bitten in his bum by a rock ☹
We meet again G&K and are taken over by a big group of off road motorcyclists and then finally arrive in Colonet.
The local wild camp spot does not appeal to G&K nor us and as there is no motel/hotel in the small city we are forced to bike further during twilight and dark, to finally reach a hotel.
As we will not bike the mountain bike route but the Highway 1 and as there is no shoulder we decide to bike on the dirt road next to the road. G&K catch up with us and speed-off on the tarmac. We struggle through dust, which turns into mud as it started to rain. The mud is so sticky it blocks the wheels completely and Frank needs to carve out the mud between the mud guard and the wheel with a knife to get us going again.
You can imagine we choose to bike on the highway as of that moment, even if we do not like it very much. After a long day with watching for trucks, a local man stopping to offer us shelter (which we kindly declined), discovering new food as you don’t know what you’re ordering, passing through a landscape of massive fields of strawberries and tomatoes, seeing many USA shool buses we discover are used to transport field workers, covering 80+ km, we finally arrive in Santa Maria.
Tomorrow a day of rest to blog & prepare for the more secluded and tougher part of Baja California.
PS. Check out tab Map to see the route of week 32.