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paradise

You may be familiar with the Kenny Chesney song about the American businessman who, in conversation with a Mexican fisherman, comes to realize that the life he truly desires is one of simplicity instead of wealth accumulation, specifically of fishing during the day and spending time with his family and friends at night. While I don’t think it’s actually the case, I kind of imagine that the fishing village Mr. Chesney was visualizing for that song is the one where we ended up at last night, San Evaristo, BCS.

Photo taken as we departed Ciudad Constitución.

We arrived at exactly noon, no pics taken between the one above and this one.

Mision San Luis Gonzaga.

The missions were seemingly always built where there was water!

It’s 8:05 AM as I’m writing this, and I’m sitting on a lawn chair not 20′ from the water, the cooling shade of a palapa sheltering me from the sun’s already-too-hot rays. While we enjoyed our morning coffee a bit earlier, we watched several pangas loaded with fishermen leave for the day to ply their trade. Unlike them, Rebecca and I have decided to make today a rest day, to stay here in this idyllic little bay rather than ride on. After all, it’s visiting places like this that is the primary purpose of our trip.

Hiding from the sun.

Another afternoon monsoon is brewing.

A small church with storm clouds as a backdrop.

Storm in the distance. We remained dry.

One of the challenges that I have in writing this blog is to balance the good with the bad, to be inspiring and present all the pleasant things that are waiting to be discovered without telling a tale that is all rainbows and sunsets, lying by omission. The fact is it’s not all great. I struggled with that when writing about our sailing escapades, and now do the same with the cycling. With that on the table, as much as I tried to think of something positive about our ride out of Ciudad Constitución, I really couldn’t do it, other than to say that we made pretty good time.

Preparing dinner as the sun sets.

Another productive travel day ends.

The desert sunsets are different from those by the water, but no less dramatic. 

The beginning of our “up – down” day.

We started riding at first light and traveled out of the city on pavement as many people were just heading off to work. Unfortunately, the route from the city then traversed the town dump, a necessity we were told if we were to avoid the highway. There’s pretty much nothing good that can be said about that. From that point forward, with few exceptions, the road to our first stop, Mision Luis Gonzaga, was badly washboarded. Not the worst we have bounced over but still less than enjoyable to ride, and unfortunately, the scenery was uninspiring. It did little to take our minds off the pain in our butts, and I was not even remotely tempted to take my camera out of its carry case.

Rebecca got her hands on the camera.

A bit of down soon to be followed by more up.

A bit of flat ground between an up and a down.

Religious shrines can be found everywhere. This one was especially pretty.

Fortunately, most everything else about our last few days’ journey has been great, albeit sometimes challenging. We arrived at the mision at exactly 12:00 PM after covering 50 km, a huge morning for us. We had been lead to believe that there was a small store in the town and thoughts of purchasing some cold drinks drove us forward. Alas, that was not to be. The only family that we could see in the village told us that the store was closed that day, but in consolation, they did offer us some cold water to refill our bottles.

A “pretend” mission?

I see a big uphill in our future.

And still more up. We are no longer in the 600-700′ range.

A lone horse greets us at Las Animas.

Our plan, whenever possible, is to find shade between noon and 3:30 (or later) and simply hide from the sun, and we took advantage of the walls of the building adjacent to the mision to do exactly that. As we sat enjoying our lunch, a lone gringo drove up in a pickup and began taking pics. We struck up a conversation with him and learned that David was not only a life-long fan of Baja California, but that he had written and published a book on the old missions of the region. And unlike us, he was actually working that day, researching material for his upcoming book, a new travel guide for Baja. After sharing contact details, we said farewell, and he continued on his way while we resumed hiding from the sun.

Our afternoon hiding spot, complete with office chair.

Rebecca’s galley.

The church at Las Animas.

An excellent source of water.

Not long after that, Luis, the young son of the family we had initially spoken to, invited us to come and join them at their home instead of sitting in the small sliver of shade that we had adopted as our siesta spot. Even without perfect Spanish, we enjoyed a couple of hours of conversation with this friendly family, and guests that stopped by during our time with them. Several times over they refilled our bottles with cold water, and later, even presented us with freshly grilled chicken, rice and tortillas!

At the top of the day’s climb.

We’ll soon be descending on that road.

But first, a bike pic!

Another monsoon storm is brewing. This time it’s even closer to us.

Like many of the people we have come across, these folks were familiar with the basics of the Baja Divide route, having already met numerous cyclists who traveled past their home earlier in the year. The father specifically made mention of Lael, one of the founders of the route, remembering her from when she did here FKT (fastest known time) run in March. According to him, she made it from Tecate to their home in only 10 days. Not bad. It’s taken us over 2 months!

Colorful rocks distract us from our weary legs.

La Soledad never was found by us.

But we did hit a home run with this place to camp.

Mangoes, mangoes, everywhere!

When the sun’s intensity had begun to decrease a bit, we bid our new friends farewell and set off on the trail again, beginning the climb that we knew was inevitable. We skirted the edge of another strong monsoon storm with dark clouds, thunder and lightning. Fortunately, this time around, we remained dry, save for the sweat that continually pours (no pun intended) from our bodies. It was another 25 km before we decided to stop, settling in for the night after finding a nice, flat spot off the side of a quiet, less-traveled road, surrounded by cacti.

Another beautiful source of water. In the desert!

Good night, Sunshine.

Rebecca making use of her Mantus headlamp as she prepares dinner.

Taken in the morning as we left our hosts.

The next day, with an eye on our diminishing water supplies, we set off again at first light, once again, trying to get a jump on the sun. We knew that this day we’d be climbing in earnest, eventually ascending to over 1700 feet before we’d see any significant descent. What we didn’t realize was that we’d have to climb the same 100 feet over and over! For 3 hours, Rebecca and I pedaled our way up and down hills with our elevation ranging between 600 and 700 feet. Fortunately, the scenery was beautiful so instead of finding the situation frustrating, we actually laughed about our predicament.

I prefer not to have the sun in my eyes as I’m riding.

The sun has still to light up the entire green valley.

Maybe these vultures know something that we don’t know.

Love finding these colorful flowers.

At one point, after Rebecca had stopped and I rode ahead so that I could video tape her riding towards me, our new acquaintance from the day before, David, drove up in his pickup truck. Given the remoteness of where we were riding, it’s quite the coincidence that we would cross paths again. This time, that coincidence rewarded us with a couple of cold bottles of water from his cooler!

The top of this day’s climb, just about to begin our descent.

It’s funny to find trash cans in places like this. I find it hard to imagine people emptying them. 

The Sea of Cortez looks like glass.

My shirt is translucent from sweat after only a few miles of travel!

Our goal for the morning was to make it to Las Animas, the first village where we had read that there might be a small store (with limited hours). Once again, it was thoughts of a cold drink that was driving us forward. As with Luis Gonzaga though, when we arrived there, no store was to be found. Also as before though, a kind family responded to our request and topped up all of our water containers, a necessity were we to continue onward. In addition to that, when I told them we were then going to look for a shady spot to rest, they set us up in a little palapa on their property, a perfect hiding spot for the hottest part of the day.

A very rough downhill.

The colorful rocks were distracting.

What? More climbing?

Nature presserve.

While I’m sure that our hosts would have been fine with us spending the night there, we once again pushed on in the late afternoon. We continued to climb, ultimately making it to over 1200 feet. Our goal had been to find another mystery store in La Soledad, but even the town eluded us. The signs indicated that it was located off route and by the time we arrived at the junction, we were not too interested in exploring. No, by that time we had given up any hope of cold drinks and instead were simply looking for a flat spot to camp. As we have found in the past though, when climbing in the steeper sections of the mountains, flat spots are few and far between.

The road to San Evaristo. You’ve got to be kidding me?

A postcard prefect image.

Cold Beer!!! Could it be true?

It wasn’t a mirage!

When we came across a teen boy on the side of the road, after exchanging pleasantries, I asked him in my best Spanish if he knew of a place nearby where we could camp for the night. He did not. Not discouraged, I tried the request again on two gentlemen that we met whose truck was stopped on the road. This time we scored. Although comprehension is always a challenge for us, we got the idea that they were inviting us back to their property where we could camp. The part we didn’t quite get was where the property was located, Fortunately, they set off a few moments later and we followed their truck down a steep, rough road into a valley, across a stream and then back up the other side. Yes, it’s a good thing we were following them because we would never have found the spot on our own! José, one of the two gentlemen, led us to their neighbors’ house which was, at the time, locked up with no one home. As we did earlier in the day, we were able to set ourselves up under a palapa. This time, however, we were just feet away from a mango tree bursting with perfectly ripe fruit, and even better, a fresh-water stream that was perfect for bathing. What more could we ask for?

One of the highlights to our trip.

Our camping spot right in front of the restaurant. 

My “office,” sans internet. 

While I was writing, Rebecca found this great place for an aeroSling workout. 

The following day, even though we knew that we still had some climbing ahead of us, we were lulled into a false sense of confidence by the short distance we had to travel. We had nine or so miles to cover before reaching San Evaristo, a resupply point that was reportedly somewhat more reliable than the previous ones we had been disappointed by. We expected this distance to go relatively quickly and that would prove to be an error. Just as with the nine miles before Rancho El Coyote, earlier on in our Divide trip, this short distance kicked our asses.

San Evaristo is visited by many sailors during “the season.”

Quite a number of Baja Divide riders made their way to San Evaristo too. 

It’s “tradition” to find a shell and paint it.

Rebecca showing off her art talents!

To begin, we were heading east, so the rising sun was right in our faces the entire time. We also repeated the up, down, up, down, arriba, abajo, cycle (is that where the name cycling comes from?) that we did the morning prior. When we ultimately did reach the top of the pass, the 2000′ descent that we were promised was anything but enjoyable. It was so steep and rocky that we were forced to ride out of the saddle for most of the distance, taxing our already weary legs, and our disc brakes screamed from overuse. To add insult to injury, when we reached the final unmarked turn off to San Evaristo, we were faced with another, too-steep-to-ride hill. Believe me, we checked our paper maps to be sure that we were at the right place before undertaking that climb!

As often happens, big rewards follow big challenges, and this was no exception. When we reached the top of that climb, we were presented with a view of a postcard-perfect bay. Even better, at the bottom of the hill, just before the village, we found a sign pointing us towards a restaurant, one specifically serving Cold Beer! Paradise? Quite possibly.

A view of the bay during the golden hour.

Fishermen heading out in a panga.

Lupe Sierra, Maggi Mae, Fernando, and Barbara. Even the kids help out at the restaurant!

The restaurant the sign promised was, unlike all of the other places we had been disappointed by earlier on this leg, open. We were greeted by Lupe Sierra and Maggi Mae, the establishment’s owners, and they too were familiar with the route we were riding, asking us “Baja Divide?” after we had made our introductions. Within moments of our arrival, we had cold beer and limonada (made with freshly-squeezed limes) on the table in front of us, and shortly thereafter, some tasty food. When our meal was finished, we were invited to camp under the palapa on the beach in front of their restaurant, and even though we set up our tent, we spent the night sleeping under the stars, something that has become increasingly commonplace for us. What do you think, Kenny? Is this the place you were referring to in your song?

Trip Stats:

  • Ciudad Constitución to Wild Camping: 69.5 km, 11:34 hours
  • Wild Camping to La Purificacion: 58.7 km, 12:18 hours
  • La Purificacion to San Evaristo: 17.6 km, 3:26 hours

8 Comments

  1. Incredible adventure 1000 miles of Baja beaches, mountains, fish tacos, beer and countless starry nights what else you can ask for? A night in the Trump hotel? I don’t think so

  2. ” The Life” I think that song glosses over the differences in culture, and maybe personality, but it’s a good song anyway. I sort of doubt that a type A personality can just leave the business world and become a happy fisherman as Chesny writes. I guess you would know better than I would. Anyway I googled San Everisto and you two are pretty close to Cabo already, probably there already. Wow! Taken as a whole your pictures and prose really take me there, without the pain and sweat. I find your impressions of the Mexican people squares pretty much with what most motorcycle blogs say; welcoming and helpful people. How many New Yorkers would help a traveling bicyclist find a place to stay? I think you are even more accessible, intimate, vulnerable… (what is the word?)…friendlier! Yes, friendlier than motorcycles, certainly friendlier than car drivers…. on bicycles. Also, I wonder how this trip changes your perspective on your sailboat and I wonder if you are continuing to Patagonia. I guess I will find out. This doesn’t seem like the kind of trip you can stop and restart but then again, you would know and I can only guess. I can only say you are a more prolific writer on the trail.

    • More prolific than when on the water? 🙂

      As for being close to Cabo, if we had a car, yes. On a bike, we are still some distance away, especially following the circuitous route that we are.

      When traveling by bike it is far easier to strike up a conversation than it is when traveling at speed in a car or a motorcycle. Perhaps that’s the difference.

  3. I’ve never seen the bay without boat anchored in it, summer in the sea. Hopefully you had time to hike to to top of the hills – great views of the sea the bay.

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