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Posts tagged ‘baja california’

Highway One Diaries: Peace by the Sea

All_good_things_must come to an end, or so the saying goes.  Highway One and its stories ended for us in La Paz near the southern tip of Baja California.  Riding south along the Sea of Cortés and weaving back once more through the harsh deserts near Constitución made us anxious for the end of a long road stretching back to northern California.  Our time on Highway One ran out and so this marks the last Highway One Diary for Bound South.

Mountains abound in the Baja.

La Paz, “The Peace” by the sea, appeared on the horizon with no time to spare.  The desert was wearing on us.  Our last night before reaching the city we found ourselves on a desolate stretch of Highway One with little water, little food, no supplies within 40 kilometers, and worse yet, solid barbed wire fencing along each side of the highway.  Any good bicycle expedition depends on fortuitous gaps in the cattleman’s or farmer’s fence.  Through those gaps and into the wilderness we camp out of sight and leave in the morning, leaving nothing but tire tracks.  When no gaps exist, we are forced to get creative; which in this case meant sleeping under a bridge that hummed and grumbled over us with every passing vehicle.  Lest you get any romantic ideas about our brave campsite, it smelled like poop.

Looking over the city from the southern outskirts.

But then again, we probably did too.  Lots of time and sweat and effort finally got us to La Paz, where the generosity of a Canadian family and a local church community connected us with unparalleled goodness.  We stayed in tremendous luxury atop a hill overlooking the marina and its waterfront illuminated by city lights at night.  David ran through a hellish college application gauntlet.  Nathan ate absurd amounts of fresh fish tacos.  I got to see my girlfriend.  We spent some time by the ocean and the sights and sounds and smells of an authentic, working Mexican city.  We went to church.  We kayaked through a pack of jumping dolphins.  We volunteered to help serve breakfast to numerous children in one of the poorer colonias on the outskirts of La Paz.  One night, we ended up in a very questionable Mexican bar.

Children learned my favorite game from Dartmouth's DOC Trips.

The magic passes by quickly, but the memories stay and sustain us as we ride further.  La Paz was monumental for us; it was a kind of natural checkpoint, Nature’s confirmation that we’d done a pretty fine job of bicycle riding, and that it was time to ride a ferry across the sea.  It felt like luxury, but perhaps the goodness and wonders of strangers and new lands is instead a necessity we all go without too often.  Having repaired our bicycles, said our good-byes, and relished our last days of rest, we rode our bicycles over mountainous roads to Pichilingue where a Transportacion Maritima de California cargo ferry took us overnight to Mazatlán and the mainland of Mexico.  This good thing, Highway One, has come to an end; yet the road and its people and its landscapes wait for us should we ever have the privilege to return to it once again.

Portions of Highway One along the Sea of Cortés make California jealous.

Our cargo ferry across the sea to Mazatlan. We slept on the deck in our tent.

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La Roca

We_met_Daniel in Las Palomes, a desert oasis in the Baja.  While chowing down on our peanut butter and jelly tortillas, he walked up to us, bags of crab in hand, hoping to make a sale.  We declined his product, but he persisted.  He spoke some English, so it was a good opportunity for both parties to practice each other’s language.  After explaining our background, cause, and plans for the Baja, he became ecstatic.  We had been planning to rest in Santa Rosalia, and he had just the right place for us to stay: La Roca, or The Rock in English.

Volcano in the distance

Two days later, after climbing between massive volcanoes, we descended into Santa Rosalia, a vibrant city nestled alongside the Sea of Cortez.  We knew that La Roca existed and that it was a Christian center, which proved to be enough.  Directions to La Roca led us to the outskirts of town, where we found solitude in the desert, fellowship among brothers, and a rock to rest upon.

The descent from volcano to sea

La Roca is a Christian Rehabilitation Center.  It is where men of all ages seek a second chance, new direction, and a place to call home.  Admitted men spend three months at the center performing manual labor and reflections, while also reading the Bible and relevant guidebooks.  They attend church twice a week, once at the center and again in the city.  We arrived just before the church service in the city.

This metal church in Santa Rosalia was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower's architect

Before long, we were crowded into a minivan headed for the city with three twenty-something’s.  Sitting three across on both front and rear bench seats, we made introductions.  They struck us as an edgy, fun and purposeful group of guys.  Though they spoke little English, we immediately found camaraderie with them.  Language barriers ceased to exist.  It was refreshing.

Soccer match in session in Santa Rosalia

The service was unusual for us (or maybe bizarre by our Lutheran standards). Hours of contemporary Spanish songs and booming sermons filled our ears.  Plus, a majority of the service was spent standing. Add a long day of riding (and our early bedtime) and you have three exhausted gringos.  We survived, and soon returned to La Roca, where we were introduced to our sleeping quarters.

These two boys walked cheerfully up and down this hill endlessly.

Like so many summers at Park River Bible Camp, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the bottom bunk.  As latecomers we had the privilege to sleep in a three creaky top bunks in the bunkhouse with the men from the camp.  Snores abound with ten men in tight quarters, but that was no matter for a few weary cyclists.  We were sound asleep in no time.

Schoolchildren collected Red Cross donations at this busy intersection all day.

The next day brought forth a delicious group breakfast, chores around the center, and a trip to Santa Rosalia, where we walked the town and found a restaurant with Wi-Fi.  I discovered an ardor for street photography and spent a large part of the day talking with locals and capturing life in the city (I chanced upon Daniel again, too!). That night we had one more meal with La Roca.  Crowded around two gigantic rectangular pizzas and a tub of warm milk tea, we enjoyed laughter and conversation.  Desert serenity and strong fellowship permeated the air.  Moments like this filled our time at La Roca.

Late-night pizza at La Roca

As we prepared to leave, the pastor told us we would always be welcome.  I often reflect on experiences like this and find excitement in the thought of return.  Like so many other experiences on this adventure, we found a place like home in a strange land, and for that I am thankful.

Mailbag Monday #5

Today_we_continue our Mailbag Monday series…

Dear David,

How are you doing?  Do you like riding so far?  my name is Gavin.  I like to drive 4 wheeler.  It’s awesome!  I like to drive fast on the 4 wheeler.  Where do you live?

Sincerely,

Gavin

Pasture fences forced us to camp under this highway bridge near El Cien north of La Paz.

Dear Gavin,

I am doing very well.  After a 14 hour ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez, we are on mainland Mexico in the city of Mazatlan.  We left La Paz on a massive cargo ship.  Hundreds of people, along with their vehicles (a majority of which were loaded semi trucks) rode with us.  Accommodations were limited, so many people slept on the open deck.  Aside from the fact that we pitched our tent near the railing on the port side of the ship, it was an ordinary night for us (except when the wind and waves would rock the boat!).  Many were envious of our accommodations, which rarely happens!

I like to drive 4 wheeler, too!  Sometimes I wish my bike had a motor and throttle.  Descending hills and catching a tail wind are exhilarating.  They often fulfill my need for speed, too!  Before leaving on this trip, I lived at home where I grew up outside of Starkweather, ND.  Now, I live as a nomad on the road.  Most nights are spent in our tent off the road in pastureland or local’s yards, and some are spent in homes when we are invited.  After countless nights in a tent on a small air mattress, I will always be thankful for the comforts of a bed in the shelter of a home. Thank you for your letter, Gavin and have a wonderful Christmas!

Sincerely,

David Berg

Highway One Diaries: Risk Beyond Borders

Bound_South is about the Americas in their purest form.  We proudly call America, the United States, our home; yet this journey forces us to see the long American road between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego without the tinge of nationalism.  This is especially true as we move to foreign soil and experience new cultures and communities.  There are technicalities such as border crossings and language barriers and entry visas; yet in my mind’s eye I see the Americas and all of its roads and mountains and oceans and people, stripped of political complications.  Give me a long road with empty spaces to fill our vision and kind people to fill our hearts.  That’s it.

Our last glimpse at the US-Mexico Border

These invisible borders have consequences that cannot be ignored.  The American media profiles the drug wars that rage across the US-Mexico borderlands.  We’ve lately received quite a bit of media attention ourselves, culminating in a Los Angeles interview with the Agence France Presse, one of the world’s biggest news wire services along with Reuters and the Associated Press.  Our story was picked up everywhere from Canada and the States to Brazil and Indonesia.

A great deal of the interview was concerned with Latin America and the perceived and real dangers that would greet us there.  This mirrored the questions of countless people we had met since leaving Alaska.  Our willingness to bicycle through Mexico, Central America, and the western countries of South America earns us a reputation for craziness; though riding a bicycle as far as we have is probably enough to earn the badge as well.

Riding through Camp Pendleton in southern California, we came upon a roadside memorial to a cyclist who had been struck and killed.  A jersey, dozens of water bottles, and various cycling objects were affixed to a chain link fence in memory of the tragedy.  I shudder when I think about the thousands of vehicles that have passed by us since we left Alaska.  Any one of them could end our lives with a mistake.  All cyclists are aware of this; you control the risks when you can, but ultimately it is but for the grace of God that we do not go where too many do.  David and I will never forget the most hair-raising part of our riding on this trip; it was on the Alaska Highway in the middle of the Yukon.  An RV rolled by us at 70mph while we hugged the right shoulder.  What terrified us was that the owner had forgotten to retract his step ladder that hung out the right side of his motor home like a crude scythe.

Never before have we seen so many waves, peace signs, and cheers from truck drivers.

Memories like that attune you to the constant risks that face us on the road.  We are not necessarily more endangered in Mexico or safer on a rural Oregon highway.  We don’t leave our brains behind at border crossings.  And we recognize in the pure image of the Americas without borders, there will be danger and beauty and goodness wherever we go.  Riding out of San Diego and into Tijuana, we were on edge because of all we had heard since leaving Alaska.  Yet we found that truckers were more friendly than any we had seen on the trip thus far.  Strangers cheered us from the side of the road.  Roadside litter and a more “interpretive” approach to traffic laws marked a clear departure from the rest of North America; not worse, simply different.  We have begun a long road, bound south through this splendidly different Latin America.

Mailbag Monday #4

Today_we_continue our Mailbag Monday series…

Dear Isaiah,

Are you having a good time?  Do you like the food there?  I like the food here.  It’s about to be Halloween.  I’m going to be a Metel scull rider.  It’s realy cool.  I live on a ranch.  Where do you live.  I have 26 horses, 1500 cows, 5 dogs, 30 cats!  It’s realy fun to live in North Dakota.

Sincerely,
Daxon

Perfect lunch stop outside of Guerrero Negro

Dear Daxon,

I am sitting here resting in the city of La Paz, on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico’s Baja California Sur.  There is no question: I’m having a really, really good time.  The food in Mexico is spectacular.  I am a North Dakota farmkid who had his own beef cattle growing up as well.  I will never tire of Mexico’s delicious burritos and tacos with beef and beans and rice and more.  What’s more, the seafood in the Baja is spectacular!  North Dakotans sadly miss out on great seafood.  If you ever get the chance, make sure you eat some fresh fish tacos (pescado means fish in Spanish) by the beach because they will change your life.

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween and that you got a ton of candy (and no cavities in your teeth!).  We got our fill of candy from Halloween, that is for sure.  I live on a farm/ranch with my family near Devils Lake.  I have to say, we don’t have close to as many cows as you, but we have a large herd of cats that might give you a run for your money.  Living in North Dakota is a blessing; don’t take it for granted, or else you will only realize how special it is once you’re away.

Sincerely,

Isaiah

Mailbag Monday #2

TodayOweOcontinue our Mailbag Monday series…

 

Dear David,

I hope you are having fun.  Do your legs ever hurt?  Oh and by the way my name is Taiya and my dad is a farmer and we live on a farm and I have a brother and mom.  Oh and I’m a cow girl to! We have four hourses.  Rosebud.  She is 31 years old me her want to do bearlle racing I hope to become a famous bearlle racer and a country singer.  Oh and I love pets.  Ok that’s some things about me for you to know.  Now lets talk about you.  So do you like pets.  Do you restle with your brothers?  Oh and last but not least are you having fun?  And thats it.

Sincerely,

Taiya

Dear Taiya,

I’m having a blast! My legs hurt sometimes, but they feel very strong right now. A day or rest is the best medicine for tired legs. My dad is a farmer, too! Now, I don’t really consider myself a cowgirl… Rather, I like to think of myself as a cowboy, or even a bicycle cowboy! We have two horses on our farm. That’s wonderful! Keep working hard, and I’m sure great things will come. I love pets, too! We don’t have any with us, but I’m sure Isaiah or Nathan would go for a couple puppy dogs if they had handlebar baskets! Wrestling only occurs if one’s personal space is invaded, which happens from time to time. I’m having a lot of fun! Thanks for your letter, Taiya!

Sincerely,

David

Mailbag Monday #1

For the past few weeks we have been enjoying a number of letters from some very special students.  We were notified that an elementary school in North Dakota was enraptured by our journey from Alaska and was eagerly following our every posting about Canadian mudslides and bike rides and more.  At our last mail drop, we got their letters; countless handwritten missives by third-graders who were quite enthusiastic to share our North Dakotan commonalities and investigate the strange wonders of our bicycle expedition.  Monday will now become Mailbag Monday at Bound South, where we will share these letters and our responses.

 

 

 

Dear Isaiah,

My name is Michaela.  I am 9.  I do not like to ride bike up hills but I love going down them.  Do you like riding bike?  How long do you ride a day.  Do you ever get tired?  Is there anything you are really looking forward to?  I drove to Vermont with my moms friend Gary, my grandpa, my mom, and my brother.  I live in ND.  What are all of the states you are going to see?  And how on earth did you make your own bike?  My class is third grade.  How old are you?  when is your birthday?  What is your favorite color?  My birthday is July 2, 2002.  My favorit color is black.  Do you ever eat at a restraunt?  Do you get to go to bed or do you drive that whole time?  Why did you choose to ride bycycle?  I would drive atleast a motorcycl.  I hope you don’t fall off your bike with all that stuff on it.  I have three siblings Austin, Carter, and Jason.  They are all boys!  I think yours are David and Nathan, hey, they are all boys too but I am a girl and you are obviously a boy.

Sincerely, 

Michaela

Dear Michaela,

I have always liked to think that I love riding bike uphill and downhill.  I just love riding uphill a lot less!  Riding bike for me is about freedom; it’s a form of incredible transportation that can take you almost anywhere under your own power.  It’s the mechanical fulfillment of the human engine.  It is beautiful to me, even when I am totally exhausted from it.  Yes, even us three Pan-American bicycle adventurers get tired from riding!  We like to ride about sixty or seventy miles in a day.

I think that I am looking forward to the vast regions below the US-Mexico border more than anything.  The Andes and Tierra del Fuego are always on my mind, but they do not distract me from the beauty I get to see every day.  The US states of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California have been spectacular in their own way and I hope that we capture that on our website.

I’m 22 years old, I was born on June 15th, and my favorite color is blue.  I most definitely sleep at night, and sometimes even during the day when I get the chance.  If I ever get the crazy idea to do this trip again one day, I bet I’ll be riding a motorcycle and eating at more restaurants.  I hope I don’t fall off my bike either!  If there was ever any doubt about whether we were boys, this trip has cleared it up.

Sincerely,

Isaiah