The winds calmed to a pleasant breeze, a welcome reprieve from the constant northern gale. A sliver of a moon hung above our camp. It was as if the man on the moon lounged on the crescent and smiled down our spot in the cactus jungle. Cinnamon stick tea simmered over the small fire while on the side a bunch of mesquite burned to make coals. Corn tortillas were still warm in the package from hours earlier when purchased in Los Barrilles. A freeze-dried packet of rice pilaf cooked in it’s pouch to fill the tortillas crisp from the hot coals. A perfect ending to a perfect day in La Baja
Our longest day yet took us only 33 miles. Some dirt, some pavement, many hills and a relentless and cruel headwind failed to break our spirits. No matter how slow we crept northward, it was an absolute joy to spend much of the day in the saddle. Especially with clean clothes after a night of luxury at La Trinidad RV Park in La Ribera.
For two dollars we did a load with our filthy gear piled in the machine. Three days of dirt road riding, sweat and sunscreen certainly warranted a washing. Or two. Hot showers felt otherworldly and a twenty dollar dinner (more than the fee to camp out) was nothing short of sublime. Could it only be day three of the tour? Yes, it was. And it felt like we’d been on the roads for weeks.
A crew from Los Freilles made the trip by truck for the all-you-can-eat seafood feast. We joined them and enjoyed the stories shared of over 30 years of winter stays in La Baja. We cringed at the pronunciation of Los Freilles (las Fray-leees) and wondered how could you winter three decades in Mexico and gringa-size the name of the place you return to each and every year? But that didn’t really matter because they were so much fun.
They all thought we were nuts for riding our bikes down there. We thought they were insane for driving trucks lugging massive rigs on the Route 1. At least we could pull off the road when we wanted. Not so easy in a motor vehicle let alone one hauling a home away from home.
Yes, they all think we are crazy and we reciprocate the feelings. Seeing couples in convertible dune buggies, ATV’s, motor homes, fancy rental cars, SUV’s, motorcycles, motocross bikes…we didn’t envy a single one of them. In fact, we felt sorry for them. Just like they felt for us.
To be on our bikes staying warm from exertion in what was considered a cold winter by Baja standards in the relentless wind felt good. Eating a big meal because there was not a calorie left to burn and drinking cinnamon tea by the fire felt even better.
Yes, all the little things you do while on a bike tour made traveling in that manner as special as it always is. We stopped for orange juice in Los Barrilles only because the proprietor hailed us over while we rode by. If we were in a car we would not have noticed. Taking the time to stop and chat made my day. We’d only ridden an hour and a half but after minimal breakfast, we both felt a hunger knock coming on. Our systems were not used to hours of pedaling. Not even accustomed to one hour on the bike.
So we stopped and made a new friend. Guillermo’s big toothy grin invited us into his juice stand. A little shack clean and simple. Buckets of fresh squeezed orange juice for pocket change. He was not a hustler he was a gentleman. A sort of ‘come into my kitchen, you look thirsty’ kind of invitation that roped us in.
We sipped our half gallon of fresh squeezed nectar right beside a mountain of oranges and a manual press. While we drank, Guillermo talked. He traveled all around Mexico and lives La Baja. Especially the South. “The people here are so friendly…even the tourists are different here…’ He said it’s peaceful in the south while the rest of Mexico, especially the mainland, is ‘muy peligroso’ or ‘very dangerous’. His wife and children were up in Tijuana. He sends money up each month and hopes to get well enough established so they can come and live with him in the south.
Guillermo’s energy was contagious. His clean, crisp shirt, slicked back hair and clear eyes had us standing at his juice stand long after our juice was gone. He pulled out a cigar box – his cash register – and after we paid, left us there with it on the counter while going out to sell fresh shrimp and fish from the coolers in his truck.
Guillermo loves La Baja and La Baja loves Guillermo right back.
After a long lunch after the long juice break, we figured it was time to finally roll out of town if we wanted to make any kind of distance that day. The winds raged harder and it was easy to get side-tracked again after only a few miles. Kites fluttered high in the ski like a flock of birds on crack cocaine. The colorful wings ripped across the ski in a pattern of controlled chaos. We had to go check out the scene at the beach.
Mexican families watched gringos from around the world ripping around the Sea of Cortex on their kiteboard machines. A slew of windsurfers rode waves to the south. The Sea was alive with tourists and athletes alike. We discovered it was a world-class kiteboard competition. Gale force winds meant kiting heaven. The competitors looked stoked and engaged, ready to catch a monumental wave and then hook onto another for the ride back to shore. Over and over again, back and forth, these guys and girls were impressive. Made me glad I was on my bike.
Finally we hit the road out of town. The road out of Los Barrilles stuck out like a ribbon of black licorice in the desert landscape. Yes, we were to ride on pavement for much of the rest of the day! What a treat, even with the headwind and climb(s) ahead.Our first day of extensive ascending went on and on. The pavement because wind drifted sand and sections of rockslide but always returned to relatively smooth asphalt to our great relief.
The last chance for water came in the small town of El Cardonal. Real estate signs in english juxtaposed with a herd of goats on the main drag while we sat outside the only store open for business. A spectacular rooster strutted his stuff along the sidewalk meters away. Young teenagers manned the store on the Sunday we arrived, selling cold beer to the constant flow of men who came in to quench their post-work thirst. Unfortunately while driving.
For eighteen pesos or a dollar and a half we bought five gallons of purified water. Two cold cans of Pacifico Clara quenched our thirst right out front of the store. Along with salted peanuts and cookies we were quit the sight to local eyes. I don’t think they ever saw a big red-headed ginga in front of the town store chugging cold beer before. We’d ridden over four hours and I didn’t care.
We still had to find a camp but were not worried. Private property sings dissipated fast each and every time we left a town. Beautiful stretches of coast and desert were there to choose a secluded spot from.
And so we found ourselves in that magical desert camp. Inside the jungle of cactus all twisted and gnarled. Hidden away in the thorns and sand, happy as could be. We decided again to stick to the idea of no plans, no destination, no itinerary to guide us. What looked good would guide the way. We were free to travel at speeds we could manage and enjoy the experience without the stress of having to be somewhere. Wherever that may be.
The best way to travel La Baja and the best way to try to live after the trip. At least from time to time.