In the evening before the final short stretch to San Juanico we saw what we thought were the lights for a single ranchhouse. As we rounded the hill we came across a beautiful graveyard with four bright blue mausoleums and graves decorated with enough plastic flowers to outlast the entombed bodies. Quite extravagance for a single family I thought. It turns out that the lights we had spotted were actually streetlights for a one-road town farming and ranching at the edge of a small river. Palms and gorgeous bushes punctuated the homes and school. I paused to take some pictures near some folks and of course they stopped their conversation to ask us where we were from. They were amazed by our feat and offered a room for us to stay but we didn’t need it, but could have used it the night before. That is what is remarkable about this trip: the hospitatity of the Mexican people. Time after time their homes, businesses and cupboards are opened to us.
To leave the town we had to cross the mighty river. As we approached it a truck stopped and offered to give us a lift across. Not out of pride, but out of adventure we gave them a middle finger (i.e. “No gracias, senor. Queiro andar en el rio.”) and fjorded the flood. The water flowed fast and quick, two inches deep. It was treacherous, it was stupid, but we did it anyway. On the other side of the huge river the road brought us up and over a hill to see San Juanico, which was barely visible because of a strong windstorm. Striding our bicycles on the bluff, we fashioned bandanas onto our faces like outlaws preparing for a raid and rode into town. Dogs tried to scare us away with barks but malice and evil met their shouts through the space above our masks and tucked their tails between their legs. Horses turned their backs to us and kept a cautious eye on our actions, ready to retreat. People on the street gave us concerned, worried looks. The street blew around us like a baleful aura of destruction and chaos. We had arrived.
Acey once worked as a first mate on a sailboat and became friends with the cook, whose family all but owns San Juanico. Real estate in the gorgeous surf town is exploding beacuse of the promised riches arriving via a forthcoming highway. Dana, the daughter of the cook, offered us a place to stay. The house, owned by a Portlander who had arrived in San Juanico by bike and fell in love with the surf and sun and bought a place, is used by Dana as a kitchen while she and her Kiwi boyfriend, Alistair are building a home and workshop for themselves in the adjacent lot. The home we stayed in was small and perfect. We stashed our bikes securely beneath the widespread branches of several trees. Inside was a table, kitchen, and a room with bed and cot that we rotated turns on. If the house was perfect then Dana and Alistair’s place was Nirvana. Potted cactuses and bushes lined a pathway that brought us to a garden of green starter bushes and vegetables fed by a passive compost tea system. Branches of guava and papaya trees drooped from the heavy weight of ripe fruit. I snatched one of the yellow guava fruits, bit off a bit of the skin and sucked out the sweet and sour pulp. I smacked my lips as I crunched on the slimy, black seeds. The path went on to an outdoor shower that uses candles for light. The ultimate way to get clean while on a bike tour through the desert of Baja California.
The home itself was a Mexican Colonial painted white and constructed only with wood found in Baja. Outdoor hallways brought you to rooms with gorgeous brown tiled floors and sloped ceilings. The bathroom had an exquisite aquamarine bowl resting on handpainted tiles as a sink. And the kitchen, the kitchen: industrial range, stainless steel refrigerator and flexible hose over a deep tub for rinsing fruit and washing dishes. I know you’re probably wondering why I’m spending so many words to describe a house on a bike touring blog but I failed to take any pictures and I was truly blown away by Alistair’s craftsmanship. He used to build sets and props for movies. He quit while working on Behind Enemy Lines. The movie was shot in Poland and during a scene where Owen Wilson is running through a forest the director wanted the see more sun shining through the trees. He ordered a Polish stagehand to cut some of the branches but the stagehand wouldn’t do it, speaking incomprehensibly in Polish and shaking his head. Time was fading and Alistair grew impatient so he grabbed a chainsaw and a ladder and fulfilled the director’s request. The stagehand began to cry. After the shot the translator arrived to see what was the matter. It turns out the forest was a national landmark in Poland. Alistair decided then and there he did not like the culture and attitude of the Hollywood movie industry and quit right then.
Our time in San Juanico was relaxing. We studied movies to come up with ideas for our film and read books. A good rest after a hard vacation of riding bikes. A weeks worth of scriptwriting, story writing, surfing, property hunting, cooking, drinking lots of coffee and tea consumed our time in San Juanico. During it all I got hit with the first pangs of homesickness. San Juanico was cool, but it didn’t have enough for me to justify staying there for so long, but the gang wanted to stay and I didn’t feel like I could leave them. In the movie, you will find when it is released as a blockbuster smash, that we created my character as restless. This isn’t too far from the truth. When you are on a bike tour you have a lot of time to put yourself and your life under a magnifying glass. I have learned a lot about myself, my flaws, my weaknesses, inclinations, and strengths. Restlessness is absolutely one of them. I had a great life in Portland. Kickass job, good friends and I got to see my family whenever I wanted. Yet I left. And looking back, it’s not so much because I wanted to conquer anything. It’s not because I was bored. I just had itchy pants. And for some wacky reason I chose a very hard way to cure them. Restlessness is both a strength and weakness. I could write a whole essay on the reasons why so I’ll be brief and say it pushes you and removes you. It is a trait I plan to develop my whole life and find a good balance for it but for now I am going to feed off of it. Use it to carry me to the next place. But here is an important question: Should I ignore it and settle down in Guadalajara for a while, or should I continue on with my journey?
I’ll leave you with that so I can do some more blogging because clearly I have some catching up to do.