We were running low on food, and had little money so we had to say goodbye to our killer campsite and green and yellow wonderland. We had a decision to make as to which way to go. Our friends in San Juanico had told us that Comondú is a beautiful ancient town with cobblestone streets and a Mission rumored to have silver treasure stored beneath its foundation. But from our conversations with people in La Purisima the road was an unrideable pile of rocks. We all wanted to see the town, but the prospect of getting stuck in the desert with little food was appealing to no one except Davin whose bicycle mimics him – they are badass. On the other hand, we did not want to backtrack through La Purisima and up that huge hill we flushed down. We pondered our fates while we packed and I discovered that I had left a pair of spandex, my favorite pair, hanging on a palm tree back at our campsite in La Purisima. That pretty much sealed it. We were to backtrack. We collected groceries, I ran ahead and found my spandex exactly where I’d left them. I had just put them on by the time the crew caught up to me. The police trucks in La Purisima say Policia Comondú, so Davin asked them if the road was rideable since the police must come from there. They told him it was rough but definitely rideable. The vote came up, Comondú or backtrack. Everyone except Acey said Comondú. It seems that when these situations arise, when one person isn’t in favor, the minority has a premonition.
It was a hot day and so I thought about riding without my shirt but thought it would be better to wait until we were out of town. Davin suggested it shouldn’t be a problem so I got sexy and jumped on my bike shirtless. Once we were out of town I said to Davin, “Wouldn’t it be sweet if the cops decided to give us a ride to Comondú because they felt sorry for us?” Just then a cop truck pulled up from behind us and aggressively led us off the road. “Sweet,” I thought. “It’s going to happen!” They talked to Davin for a bit, but didn’t seem jovial or like they were offering us a ride. “They say that it’s illegal for you to ride with your shirt off and you need to pay a fine,” Davin said. What? “Let’s go to the station,” I said, remembering Chick’s advice from back in Ensenada. In an effort to avoid being extorted he told us to always agree to go to the station to allow the judge to make a decision. I put my shirt on and we turned around to the police station. I apologized to everybody for delaying us and asked Davin if I could please hire him for free as my translator. “Don’t let on that you can speak any Spanish,” he said. No problem.
Two cops greeted us with smiles when we showed up, and asked us where we were from and if we were crazy or not. I just smiled and nodded at them, busting out my acting skills. Davin and I entered an unlit office with only a desk and a tv. A soap opera was playing while a young cop asked us where we were going. He explained that a woman had phoned a complaint that I was being obscene riding with my shirt off. He had seen us pass and didn’t want to do anything, but since she called (within a minute of us passing the station it must have been) he had to do something and so we would have to pay a fine. Davin leaned against the wall with his arms folded in front of his chest and said, “Okay, how much is the fine then?” I had on my most worried face and thought, Whoa Davin, man, be cool. The officer thought about it for a bit. $1,000 pesos. “No, it’s not,” replied Davin. What? Just then another unseen officer emerged from the room beside us. He came in and asked for our names, smiling and preparing for the good cop role. Quickly he turned it around on us. “Look, this is not Cabo. This is not America. You can’t just do what you want. We have different rules here. What you did is immoral and we are good Christian people here.” Tears flowed down a woman’s face and a man looked sternly at her on the television. The younger officer heard the dramatic music and turned his attention to the television briefly. I kept my worried face on while I amused internally what a bizarre situation we were in. I learned at that moment what acting was. The officer told us that we would have to pay the fine or I would have to spend 36 hours in jail, which with the limited food we had, didn’t sound too bad. Davin explained that we had no money between us. The officer shook his head and glared at Davin and reiterated that I would have to spend time in jail. Davin again asked how much the fine was. “We were cutting you a break before, trying to be nice,” the officer spat at us. “But since you aren’t cooperating the real fine is $3,000 pesos.” The woman beat at the chest of the man on the television. “We don’t have any money,” Davin explained. “If you want to give us a ride to the ATM in Constitucion we can pay you, but we do not have any money.” The officer pounded the table. “You don’t have any money?! What are you doing traveling without any money?!” Throughout this whole process I was never afraid that I would actually go to jail or have to pay a fine, but my back was starting to ache from standing to long and I was worried we would lose daylight. While Davin and the officer argued the friendly officer from outside came in and asked what was going on. The tough cop told him we didn’t have any money so the friendly one shrugged. They let us go. Finally, over. As we got ready to leave the friendly officer explained to me, “Look, just don’t ride through a town with your shirt off. The highway is fine, but put your shirt on before you enter a town and you’ll be fine.” Thanks for the tip, dude. Doing that from now on.
I knew the road to Comondú was going to be tough when I had to push my bike up the first hill. That might have been the first push, besides through sand, of the whole trip. I don’t believe in pushing my bike. Struggling will only make you stronger and the next hill easier, but the large rocks and steep grade were impossible for me to handle. We passed a few ranches but they quickly disappeared and were replaced by larger rocks and cactus. About five years ago a hurricane passed through the area and chopped up the road making it impassable without some kind of four-legged creature, which was the only traffic we saw on the road. Somewhere along the road I stopped pedaling and walked my bike. It was too hard to get on, fall off, try to get back on. It became a mental thing. Stay consistent, stay cheery. But with the heat and the terrain it was very difficult to do so. At one point Davin tried to see if a cactus fruit was edible and came out with a fistful of needles. Back in San Ignacio, Jerry had given me some tips at how to eat the fruit without getting pricked. So, later on, while I waited for Julie to catch up I decided to give it a shot and one-up the badass, Davin. Goddamn, pride is a stupid thing. I cut off a fruit and rubbed it in the sand with my foot, getting all of the needles off. I felt pretty smart and important seeing it was safe to handle with my hands and so cut the fruit open. Inside was a slimy green flesh with lots of large black seeds covered by a green film. It had a sweet smell to it so I figured it was edible. I stuck my tongue in to test the flavor, which was a sort of kiwi-strawberry mixture. I was very pleased with myself thinking I had discovered a secret food out on this miserable road. Well, it turns out that the inside of the fruit was filled with tiny, invisible needles. My tongue had become a soft, tactile cactus. My lips stung with needles. I squirted water in my mouth to rinse them out but it only spread them into more crevices of my mouth. I scraped my tongue against my teeth to no avail. I pulled out my knife and began scraping my tongue gently with it. Three caballeros on mules plodded up to witness me standing stupid, thick spit sliding out of my mouth as I whined and scraped my tongue with my knife. “Permitho,” I said to them. “Ah, yo het-tho un error. ¿No es comida, sí?” I asked holding up the split fruit. “No, no…” they said and said much more that I could not understand. I wanted to ask them for advice on how to get the needles out but I didn’t know how. Boy did I feel like a moron. The needles would stay for over a week.
A large craggly mountain with as many points as a mean turtle’s shell stood translucent before the sunrise. There was no mist, just the magic of a new day. The road was only 18 km. but it would take us two days to walk through it pushing our bikes. On that first morning, pink clouds circled the base of the mountain like flowers for a bride’s vail. There were no bells just the tiny heralds of waking life. Julie had mentioned that the road was awful, but she was glad to be there. We must have been the first people mad enough to ride our bikes on that road – or rather walk our bikes through there. Early morning fireworks, coffee with bits of the previous night’s rice boiled in it and the calm of a world that can’t afford the energy to grow excited. For all of it’s difficulties it was a special place. As the morning minutes added up to an hour details began to develop on the sunless faces of the mesas. Not even a coyote called in that barren stillness.
It would be easy to say that it was a place of night, where creatures emerged at the cool song of the moon to torment souls and plunder dreams, but it isn’t true. As the wind rushed through our camp on our last night in the road there was only one disturbance. A lone man traveling up the road atop his mule and leading his dog with a dim lantern. I woke up startled at the sound of the hooves and frightened the mule to run crashing downhill dangerously.
After a short walk over more unrideable rocks we came to the top of a hill. Below us a road twisted down to large swaths of green hugging a river. Comondú. We had finally made it. We were so relieved. Unfortunately, we had no money, and little food so we knew that it was going to be a short visit despite all of that hard work. It was still a full day’s ride to Ciudad Constitucion and money and food from Comondú.