After the good people of Casa Ciclista thwarted our first attempt to leave Guadalajara, we made a successful second attempt…a mere nine days after we arrived. However, it was a bumpy departure. Our last night in Guadalajara had been spent out until four in the morning, dancing our hearts out to 80s music at a local house party. You can probably imagine how great Alex and I looked and felt the next morning, after just five hours of sleep. But we were ready to hit the road. Luckily, it was Sunday, which meant that getting out of the city was made somewhat easier by the Via Recreativa. We can say for certain that we had the most cumbersome bikes of anyone riding the Via, so we got plenty of stares (and the occasional thumbs up).
Our last morning in Tepic was something of a hassle. Instead of being fully prepared and ready go as we normally are, we still had a couple of things to take care of. Getting our roof laundry, returning the wrong medicine to the pharmacy, and simply packing our panniers. As a result we got on the road much later than anticipated. Good thing that the ride out of Tepic was beautiful and mostly fun. We had a nice breeze going while climbing up to almost 5000 feet of lush green mountains, and were pleasantly rewarded with 10 kilometers of downhill cruising at the end of the day before we got into the town of Jala.
True to form, our long stint in La Paz didn’t end quite as we expected. We had set up our lease at Casa Republica such that it would end exactly the day the ferry to mainland Mexico would leave. But when we went into the Baja Ferries office we found out that our intended ferry was already sold out, meaning we had to wait another three days before boarding the next available boat. That meant three additional nights in La Paz, but luckily we knew just where to go. We decided to end our stay in La Paz as we started it: at good ol’ Pension California.
Our last day in La Paz was somewhat reminiscent of our initial departure from Seattle. We hadn’t been on the bikes for a long time, our legs were getting squishy, and all of those panniers were looking bigger and heavier than we remembered. With butterflies in our stomachs, we checked out of Pension California and slowly made our way to the ferry terminal in Pichilingue. Given that this was the first time we had been back on the bikes for over a month, it wasn’t so bad. Then again, it was only 10 miles, so you can take that for what it’s worth.
As some of you may remember, a couple of weeks ago there was the so-called World Cup, a little tournament in an obscure niche sport known as soccer that came and went without many people taking notice. But not in Mexico, oh no. Lucky for us, we had the chance to watch game after game at our favorite local bar, the Fritz. Alex became an avid Mexico supporter after their matchup with Brazil, and then an equally avid Netherlands hater after Robben’s shameful antics that bumped Mexico from the tournament. Tom was a Germany fan all the way, and that worked out pretty well for him.
To get our readers in the mood, here’s the Mexican national soccer anthem (as we know it). This nifty bit of Corona advertising played during every single commercial break, sometimes twice in a row. Soon enough, we were wholeheartedly singing along. We hope that you will be too.
Food, Food, and More Food
Anyone who knows us can attest to our love for food. And after more than two months of living on bikes, our clothes were getting more than a little baggy. La Paz is a great place for traditional Mexican fare, something that the two of us gladly took advantage of. While I am satisfied as long as there are huge quantities on my plate (a bad habit from my time as a rower), Alex is a little more refined in her tastes. But before long, it was time for a major event in her culinary evolution.
We know, it’s been quite some time since the last update. We’ve just been way, WAY too busy sitting out the heat of the day for a whole month. Believe me, nothing is more exhausting than waiting for the temperature to cool down. Nonetheless, here is a little photo summary of our past month off the bikes in beautiful La Paz, BCS.
Instead of spending all our hard-earned pesos on a hotel for a month, we decided to rent an apartment. Casa Republica was nestled into a snug little complex in a residential neighborhood. It had everything we could ask for: laundry, showers, air conditioning, and close proximity to the beach. It also came with a few unexpected “perks,” including warring dogs on either side of us that barked all through the night and day, late night cockroach hunts, and the many chirping lizards that lived in our heat pumps. But all in all, it was a great place to relax and recharge from several months on the road.
Note from Alex: We've been navigating the Baja Peninsula with the help of a camping guidebook lent to us by Jennifer and Kurt (thanks you guys!). The “Tips” section that accompanies each campground description often gives climate-related advice, and without fail, every listing in Baja Sur contains the following little phrase: Winter is the time to visit, as summers can be very hot. Although the book is more than a decade old and some things have changed, this particular advice holds true. If while reading this post you notice our newfound obsession with pools and air conditioning, it's because we are, in fact, very very hot.
Santa Rosalía, the first town we encountered at the Sea of Cortez, turned out to be a lovely place indeed – and quite a different from what we had encountered elsewhere in Baja. Instead of a dusty main road through town and blocky concrete houses, we were surprised to encounter an actual city with different neighborhoods and wooden buildings constructed in a rustic, French colonial style. What a great change of pace. Lucky for us, we had arrived just in time to watch the Mexico-Brazil game. The locals directed us to a nearby restaurant, which mercifully offered beers and shade – all we needed to celebrate the amazing tie! Although the heat forced us to spend most of the rest of the day in the shade of the city park right beside the Mahatma Gandhi Library (which, oddly enough, didn't have many books to speak of), we still had a great time taking in the surroundings and people of Santa Rosalía. Ice cream helped, too.Continue reading
Our little vacation at Don Eddie's ended with the sad realization that we had to get back on the road, specifically the dirt road of our nightmares. Luckily, this time we knew what was coming, the general level of frustration was kept to a minimum. We were thrilled to rejoin with the highway (asphalt!) and soon realized that we were most definitely headed away from the Pacific and into the desert. It being Monday, there were hardly any cars on the road. For long minutes on end we rode along with barely a sound, just our legs pedaling and our chains squeaking. Barren landscapes all around, mountains to the left, brown dust to the right, all in all a very different world from what we were used to.
So here's a little summary of how we made it into Mexico. Alex and I flew back from Germany on the morning of June 1, over London and into Los Angeles. So far, so good. What was not so easy was the fact that I am officially without a visa, which can make it pretty tricky to get back into the country. Now we've heard horror stories (read: the internet) that people in my situation have been sent back home after being suspected of trying to sneak into the US. “Oh, you're traveling with your girlfriend, are you trying to marry into the US? Forget it, buddy, back to old Deutschland with you. I see you used to work here, are you trying to snatch a job away from a hardworking American? No chance, fancy pants!” That's why we decided that I would continue on to Tijuana by plane, and thereby prove that I am indeed not trying to sneak back into the US.
Fresh off the train from Santa Barbara, we arrived in Los Angeles and were picked up by our friend Katie. That is, Alex was picked up, I navigated both of our bikes through two miles of dense urban landscape to the nearest bike shop. In the meantime, Alex and Katie shoved all eleven of our bike bags into Katie’s car, and accomplished some sneaky maneuvering out back of the Amtrak station to acquire two cheap bike boxes. We rendezvoused at a bike shop downtown, dropped the bikes off for a tune-up and box-up for our impending trip, and crossed our fingers that nothing would go wrong. What trip, you ask? Well, sit tight and I might just tell you later on.
Bikeless (and seemingly weightless), we then arrived at Katie’s apartment, freshened up, and pretty much immediately started feasting and drinking. Hooray for good friends and alcohol! But seriously, a huge thank you to Katie for being a great hostess, able-bodied chauffeur, much needed wine provisioner, and in general helping us tie up a lot of loose ends.