EL TOUR DE BAJA - OTB 450
Guest contribution by Andres Roldan email@example.com
A bicycle tour around northern Baja California
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|Intro||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6|
JUEVES 11/15/07, T minus 8 hours. The ride is about to start…
Rewind to the fall of 2004 when the OTB 500 from San Francisco to LA took place. This was a ride that many of us had always wanted to do, as luck would have it; we were able to coordinate our legs and schedules to do this epic run. Shawn, Otto, Hans, and I, rode for 5 days carrying our own supplies and a container full of hummus. We had a wonderful weather window at a time where major storms were all around us, the ride was an amazing 5 days and 500 miles of camaraderie, good food (we actually gained weight !) and scenery.
The San Francisco to LA trip was the predecessor to road trips in Cuba (565 miles) in the fall of 2005, Tour of California in 2006, Tour of 3 National Parks in the fall of 2006, and Tour of California in 2007.
We are about to start our road adventure in a few hours, we arrived at our camp at around 8 pm, we are about two miles away from the Tecate border, being so close to the border brings good memories to the Latinos on this trip.
Tonight, the main topic after Hans’ pre-ride speech was that Julio broke the mold when it comes to packing. He brought a queen size inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag, a Mexican blanket, and all sorts of stuff that we haven’t seen yet. Remember, Hans said, “pack light”.
There is something special about these long road rides, something that you’ll have to come and discover on your own. Now, the story continues, one thing is for sure, we’ll be really tired by Thanksgiving.
Camp roll call:
- Natasha – Support van driver
- Claire - Support van driver
VIERNES, day 1, Tecate to Ensenada
Start time: 9:23 am
Distance: 75 miles
Average Speed: 15.9 mph
Ride Time: 4 hours 42 min
Total Ascent: 3920 feet
Average Temperature: 76 F
Spanish Words of the day:
Propano = Propane
Estuche = Case
Today will be the last time that Andres makes fun of Julio for bringing a Mexican blanket. While he was nice and toasty in his tent, Andres spent a cold night with his sleeping bag; he missed his down bag back at home. Cereal for breakfast set the stage for a beautiful morning ahead. We said our good bye to the camp dogs and departed towards the border. We had a late start while looking for parking to leave the two extra cars that we had. We started riding in Tecate and easily navigated our way out to Ensenada. A warm day welcomed us into Mejico, the road conditions were fairly good. All of the cars and trucks gave us plenty of space to ride in the narrow two way highway, only two truckers made a pass that was too close for comfort. We had never been so close to a truck with nowhere to go. We made our way through the Baja Wine Country and hit some nice yankee doodle (up and down) climbs with spectacular desert landscapes just like Simi Valley, Otto would be home. We made one water stop at a local tienda and another stop to watch Julio fix his first international flat, it was a success, for the first time Shawn was not assisting Julio during a flat repair. No tears were shed. Our Ensenada arrival was a little more eventful than what we thought, it took a while for us to find our campground, after some off road adventures and hiking through dry creeks we started riding on the Federal Highway to find our camp. Finally, after 75 miles we arrived at the ocean front campground that Natasha and Claire had found for us. They had beer, our tents ready, and the location of hot showers scoped out for us by the time we arrived. It was perfect. Burgers and veggie burgers were served for dinner; we had grilled onions, salad, chips, salsa, and cookies for dessert. Our trip into town got sidelined by true stories by the campfire, we all need the rest, and we have a long road ahead. Tomorrow we have 100 miles to go. We don't know the terrain or what to expect, it should be "epick" (Otto’s spelling of the word) once again.
SABADO, day 2, Ensenada to San Matias
Start time: 8:35 am
Distance: 103 miles
Average Speed: 15.5 mph
Ride Time: 6 hours 38 min
Total Ascent: 6360 feet
Average Temperature: 75 F
Spanish words of the day:
No frenar con el motor = No jake braking
Almohada = Pillow
¿Julito quieres pancakes? = Julio do you want some pancakes? (Julio goes back to his mom’s kitchen to remember the word “pancakes” in Spanish - no luck on this one)
We slept next to the ocean with the waves crashing by and some truck traffic jake braking by our campsite. Not as cold as last night, but a good night overall. We had a strange Elvis sighting by our campsite; he was sleeping next to our camp with his trusted Mexican hound dog (he barked in Spanish). Breakfast was served with Andres' Pato eggs, pancakes, coffee and juice. We need all the energy that we can get, today will be our longest day in the saddle. Departing Ensenada was a smooth ride all the way into town, finding our road to leave Ensenada was another story, after a couple of wrong turns we were pointed in the right direction by the locals. A long climb started towards our destination, a two way road with no shoulder and enough truck traffic to keep our concentration at a maximum. Today's diet of choice was climbing; we basically climbed all day to get to our destination. Our camp location will have to be scouted by our support team. Most of the ride was in deserted roads with no stores to get supplies; we ran out of water but were lucky enough to find a small town store by Heroes de la Independencia. Water, gatorade, Pedialite, and junk food feel really good at this point. Somehow, today's distance is always 90 miles to go. We keep going and going but our destination does not appear to come soon enough. Sunset came and went during a flat repair for Roobik; after the repair, we started using our rear “blinkies” since night time was quickly approaching. As we got close to our calculated distance and meeting point, we made radio contact with our trusted support team who had started search and rescue operations right at sunset. Natasha and Claire did not find a suitable campground but managed to arrange accommodations outside a restaurant in San Matias. At Abigail’s, our host Ruben, prepared quesadillas, burritos, and cooked the fish from our food supplies. Ruben gave us buckets of hot water to take a bath and made sure that all of our needs were taken care of. It was another great spot to spend the night in Mejico.
Before going to bed Hans gave Roobik a “tent to tent” talk on techniques and tips about riding in the paceline. It was a well intentioned workshop but a chalkboard might work a lot better for future trips.
DOMINGO, day 3, San Matias to San Felipe
Start time: 8:21 am
Distance: 67 miles
Average Speed: 19.8 mph
Ride Time: 3 hours 22 min
Total Ascent: 540 feet
Average Temperature: 82 F
Technical term of the day:
Goathead = Something that bikers in Prescott AZ hate, it could kill a small baby.
Question of the day by Prescott’s favorite son, Jesse: What’s a Yankee Doodle?
We had another great night in the desert for those of us who brought earplugs. We heard complaints of trucks jake braking and a local band practicing their drum sessions at late hours of the night. Elvis might be in town after all.
Ruben prepared a nice breakfast for us: eggs and ham, grilled potatoes, beans (not for Julio), homemade tortillas, and freshly ground coffee. This great meal and knowing that we have a flat day ahead is great for the group’s morale.
The ride out of San Matias was as expected, flat. Great downhills and desert vistas were welcomed by our legs. After an easy 32 miles we reached El Chinero and the highway that would take us 35 miles south to San Felipe, our final destination today. At El Chinero, we ate our peanut butter sandwiches, drank sodas, and chit chatted before hitting the road again. The ride to San Felipe was very uneventful except for a little heart pain that Shawn was experiencing just before San Felipe. The team medic, Jesse, and his sexy assistants helped Shawn get back into form. After some rest and recovery at the local pharmacy/ market, Shawn was ready to ride his heart out into San Felipe.
Natasha and Claire must want the MVP for this trip; they got us a beachside campground with an adjacent Hotel for those of us who don’t like sand in their underwear while sleeping. It was a match made in Baja heaven. Julio, Shawn, Andres, and Jesse took a room accommodation while Roobik, Natasha, Claire, and Hans pitched their tents in the sand. Julio gave us a nice house warming present with a bucket of Dos Equis beer, a nice touch anywhere.
While we planned the day’s activities, El Presidente suggested a historic OTB swim in the Sea of Cortez, what we didn’t know was that the low tide had left a lot of small Stingrays buried in the sand. Jesse and Julio quickly found that out, the sting sent them to a historic OTB visit to the Red Cross. An off duty “lifeguard” upon seeing the bite on Julio’s foot predicted that he had ten minutes to live, but when he discovered that Julio spoke Spanish, he told him not to worry. I guess speaking Spanish saved his life. We were relieved that it was minor, by watching Julio’s jumps in the water we thought that a shark had gotten into the low tide.
Now that history was made we were ready to hit the town. We made our way into a bad spot for fish and shrimp tacos but our hunger does not discriminate at this point of the ride, we enjoyed it, we took it all in. The team had a chance to play a tournament of ping-pong where “Prescott’s favorite son” Jesse, upset Armenia’s hope Roobik. The Armenian delegation was accused of EPO use by the Colombians (?) and an “Electric Current Resistance Test” (ECRT) was arranged on the spot. The results were overwhelming; due to the high EPO content in his body; Hans was able to take as much electricity as a horse in heat. Andres took only enough electricity to power a small radio. Once the tournament was over we were hungry enough to hit another place for tacos, this time, we found a great spot. We decided to start a Taco Eating Championship while we watched “Dancing with the Stars” (Mexican version) on TV. Our championship got sidelined by Latin Lovers’ moves on the small screen, even our waitress forgot about our order; Latin Lover was that good! The group split while we took a walk of the town’s historic monuments but our beds started calling and our legs were begging us to go to bed at around 11 pm, we still have a long road ahead and we are getting old, no doubt.
LUNES, day 4, San Felipe to Campo Mayor
Start time: 7:57 am
Distance: 85 miles
Average speed: 18.6 mph
Ride Time: 4 hours 40 min
Total Ascent: 880 feet
Average temperature: 82 F
Spanish word of the day:
Ballena = Whale (term used by Pacifico beer for a 40 ouncer)
After a nice night in our $60 a night room we started breakfast and pack up operations. Breakfast was pancakes and bacon with apple juice. Jesse took care of the peanut butter sandwich assembly line for the road ahead. Most of our ride should be a flat journey to a campground outside Mexicali which we don't know where it would be, we only know that it is 70 to 80 miles away. Our legs are really tired now; today's ride is just what we need to recover. The peloton is riding pretty good together by now. We are riding north towards Mexicali and the desert landscapes provide a beautiful backdrop for our paceline. Temperatures are perfect and the wind is just enough to justify drafting each other. We are quickly leaving the Sea of Cortez, dry lakes on both sides and no places to stop are a good sign that we are deep in the desert of Baja California. By the time we rode 80 miles our trusted team was nowhere to be seen, we knew that they wouldn’t leave us behind, we kept on riding. By mile 85 a true oasis was ahead; Natasha and Claire were waiting with a pool table, a good restaurant, ballenas, and a small lake. We had arrived at Campo Mayor. Campo Mayor had good cold showers and BBQ pits. Dinner was prepared by Julio, Roobik and Hans; the menu included rice, grilled chicken, salad, and cookies for dessert. After dinner activities included discussions on the best movies ever made and a dice game in which Roobik cleaned the house twice. EPO test kits were not available.
MARTES, day 5, Campo Mayor to La Rumorosa
Start time: 8 am
Distance: 80 miles
Average speed: 16 mph
Ride time: 5 hours 2 minutes
Total ascent: 4420 feet
Average temperature: 74 F
Spanish word of the day
Abarrotes = Supplies
We had a nice sleepy time at the "Campo Mayor", they said that Andres snored, but no evidence could be found. Some truck noise as the previous nights was heard but not as bad as the karaoke and fisherman fest in San Felipe. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon and apple juice. After breaking camp we left at 8:00 am. Today's plan is to ride between 70 or 80 miles to La Rumorosa and set up camp outside of the city. We don't know what to expect in terms of terrain, roads, or elevation gain, we just know that we will find some climbing along the way since La Rumorosa is above 4500 feet and we are departing at sea level. The ride to Mexicali was very flat with some headwind, but the group is working like a well oiled machine after five days of riding together, everybody is pulling their own weight at the front of the peloton. Once we arrived in Mexicali the roads took a turn for the worst, pot holes, alligator cracking, truck traffic, glass, “micro rocks”, and all types of hazards. All of the riders were on their toes to prevent any mishaps. Most of our flats occurred in this area with two for Jesse and one for Shawn.
Once we left Mexicali we started making our way towards La Rumorosa, which we knew climbing was a sure thing, after a military checkpoint we saw the big climb ahead, we needed to gain more than 4000 feet of elevation. The truckers let us know that the climb was twelve grueling miles. The nice thing was that there were two lanes going up and a nice shoulder to climb on. This was the nicest road that we have seen during our trip. The battle of La Rumorosa started at the bottom of the hill with Andres, Jesse, and Julio fighting for the KOM. This climb was a nice change of pace after two days of flats. Once we got to the top at the toll booth we were just 1.2 miles away from town. We got sodas and water at a local restaurant and started our search for our faithful support team. Natasha and Claire had found a beautiful campsite a few miles outside of town, and as always, a perfect location.
This camp had the coldest shower to date (read shrinkage); the cold shower was a nice treat after a long day in the saddle. Dinner was pasta with meat and sauce. Cookies for dessert and tea next to the campfire marked the end for another perfect day. Campfire entertainment was provided by Shawn with the question: Which historical event would you have liked to witness? Answers ranged from the Big Bang to Oprah’s liposuction but one thing is for sure, Jesus’ birthplace would have been crowded with OTB members and Shawn wanting answers from little baby Jesus. We also learned that Julio did not remember too much about his wedding day or it was a lot of fun, since he wants to go back and experience it again. Jesse might be a suspect of the JFK assassination; he was at the picket fence.
MIERCOLES, day 6, La Rumorosa to Tecate
Start time: 8:34 am
Distance: 43.1 miles
Average speed: 19.8 mph
Ride time: 2:10:09
Total ascent: 1560 feet
Average temperature: 62 F
Today it is a very nice morning since it is our last day in the saddle and we have a “short” 40 mile day ahead. Oatmeal and juice for breakfast prepared by chef Hans was our last meal in Mejico. Getting back to the road from the campsite was an interesting trip since were carrying all of the six bikes outside the car and the car had only a rack for four bikes and room for one rider inside, you do the math.
We started our ride on the Federal Highway and it proved to be a Yankee Doodle day all the way. The paceline was moving fast, it was a very interesting day; Elvis rode with us all the way to Tecate. Our only detour was at a toll booth in which we were forced into the old and dangerous Rumorosa road. After a few rattling miles on it we snuck back into the Federal Highway and made our final descent into Tecate.
After crossing the border without incident we said good bye to Elvis, the chasing dogs, goatheads, Stingrays, Latin Lover and all of those wonderful things that made this trip special. Just like that, no hugs or tears, no crying babies, we finished our ride and went into a grub fest at the local sandwich shop back in the States.
Total mileage: 453 miles of fun
This is not a true account of this ride; it is a testament of the spirit that rode free for six glorious days through potholes, sand, and debris. A spirit that drank beer, ate tacos, got chased by dogs and sang at the wind while the trucks rubbed our sides. One day, this spirit might need to remember what a perfect day feels like, and I’m sure it will smile, just like it did on days like these.
Long live epic rides!