Day Lots: Lost Count of All the Magic
I won’t be keeping track of the days anymore. I won’t even recall what I did exactly on what day, because there is too much and I am too far behind. There might even be some weird posts thrown in that don’t seem to be on the right chronological track. But that’s okay because…I’m in Mexico!
Before I got here we wandered through San Diego. Cool place. We slept on the bike path like a bunch of hobos and then rolled the streets looking through trash because one of my sandals found a way to bounce off my bike the night before…dumb. I miss those sandals, totally perfect. Then we got to downtown San Diego when Seamus, owner of This Is A Bike Shop rolled up and invited us to stay at his place. Totally cool dude with a sweet bike shop. Lots of old bikes in great condition. Schwinn Paramount, old Italian bikes and an old Stumpjumper, just like I used to have.
Ace and I ran off to go play bike polo. Found the crew but did not like the game. I had to work very hard to motivate 1 more of the 10 people hanging around to get a 3 on 3 game going that involved loose mallets and really shoddy bikes played on a bumpy, BUMPY court without any walls. Then the rain came and it was cancelled. After that bogus run into Long Beach to play, Southern California gets a big upside-down thumb and a stuck-out tongue.
The day we left for Mexico we got off to a late start and a lot of bad communication. We started taking a lot of wrong turns, mix that with some bullheadedness and sheepishness and tensions were high. Then we saw it. Mexico. A huge Mexico flag waved in the middle of Tijuana. Crumbling homes decorated the hillside in pink ad white and blue and yellow. Off to the West we saw Mexico 1D climb a hill. That was the road we wanted. Thousands of people buzzed around the sidewalks and roads speaking Spanish and English. At the gate we turned to our friends (Brian and Andrew. We met them outside San Diego. Andrew is from San Fran and is done with his tour. Brian is from Seattle and heading towards Florida), gave them hugs and entered the crossing. It was no big deal. I got held up while trying to exchange for some pesos so the clerks could all play Burnout 3 on the XBox. It was strange, for a place that houses a lot of money it was run by seemingly high schoolers and was littered with beer cans and chip bags.
After we were set with our pesos and our visas we set out to the road. Everything was calm and we were joking to each other and trembling with excitement. Then we passed underneath an overhang and the highway came into view with a blast of speed and noise. Cars zipped back and forth in front of us and we couldn’t head each others’ shouts. While crossing on an overpass a complete section of the barrier was missing, inviting a 50 ft. drop to squash. I couldn’t do anything but laugh about it. We pulled over to confirm our exit strategy when a car pulled over in front of us and both passengers got out of the car. “Right now?” I thought. “We’re going to get mugged right now, this close to the border?” They were simply changing drivers. Cars continued to come out of nowhere with excessive speed and shrinking passing distance. Every time they did so it was a surprise, not because they were silent but because the highway was so loud they had sonic camouflage.
Finally, we got out of Tijuana and mosied our way to the beach so we could dodge the toll booth. To sneak our way back onto the road we had to climb up a muddy embankment, much to the nearby construction workers’ delight. All of us struggled and slipped backwards a couple times. One guy ran over and gave Julie help with her trailer. We got to Rosarito to stay with Chick, a guy we met on warmshowers.org. Totally rad guy who could talk for hours about American and Mexican politics and knew how to cook one mean curry. Apparently, he used to cook for the Ironhorse Mexican restaurant in SE Portland, which I’m pretty sure is my brother’s girlfriend’s favorite Mexican place.
After Rosarito we headed to Ensenada where a guy had offered us to stay at his apartment while he was away. He does this for lots of bike tourists. He calls the place, La Casa del Ciclistas. It was fun to ride around the city and try to speak Spanish. The neighbor found a SPOT and gave it to me, thinking I would give him a reward. It wasn’t mine, I told him, but he still wanted me to buy diapers for his baby. I bought him a juice instead and am now carting an extra SPOT trying to catch up to the tourists ahead of us.
Once we were done with Ensenada was when the trip got real special. Julie convinced us to take a detour and find some hot springs near Uruapan. We casually passed a gringo in a truck who runs an orphanage. He offered us to stay at his place and we couldn’t refuse. Uruapan is a small town set in a deep valley. Olive farms and vineyards run through the valley alongside a river and the steam of the hot springs. A group of 20-odd folks from Michigan were at the orphanage building a retaining wall and painting one of the houses. About 17 kids live in two of the three houses. When we got there the first thing I noticed was all of the kids’ bikes scattered everywhere. We got to enjoy authentic Mexican food in the town’s community center which used to be Clark Gable’s private hunting cabin. What a view it had. Magnificent!
We did a some painting, some digging and some concreting. But I was able to sneak off and work on the kids’ bikes. Ripped off derailleurs because the chains were too rusty to shift and the cables too fried to stretch. Converted almost every bike to a single speed and revamped some coaster brakes. The coolest bike I built I called El Chopper. It was a 26 inch bike with a bum rear wheel. A different 20 inch bike had a bum front wheel so I picked off the rear wheel of the smaller bike and slapped it on the bigger bike. The brakes were toast without new cables so I just scrapped them altogether. It was nice not to have to worry about the safety features of a bike.
When the kids got home from school and VBS they swarmed me grabbing bikes, shouting “Thanks” in English and Spanish. I can’t write off the top of my head how great it felt to be there right then. Hopefully a video will be up soon so you can all see it on my face. Later, we got invited to a special dinner with the family that the other group wasn’t invited to. We became a part of their family. I truly didn’t want to leave. There was mountain biking nearby. Homemade (albeit not very good) wine in the valley. Supreme beauty everywhere. But the road beckons and we had to move on.
There is more that has happened in Mexico. But I don’t have the brain energy to write it right now. I’ll give you this little teaser though. We unknowingly and very, very fortunately found and have been riding a portion of the Baja 1000 that last couple of days.