Thanks to our Tour Dad and most valuable member of the True Wheel Society now we have our package with my shoes and some more stuff we needed and we can get back on the road.
About a month ago, for some unknown reason my feet started to hurt way too much, so after riding over 5 thousand miles on my Sidi’s, I realized I needed new cycling shoes. Luckily we got a sponsorship deal with Keen Footwear, so I ordered the Commuter sandals. Matt took care of the shipping and after paying the stupid import duties (I call it theft) and a very long delay in Tijuana, finally the shoes arrived yesterday.
We love it here in Ensenada, we really do. Delia makes us feel at home in La Casa del Ciclista. But we need to keep going: in almost 3 weeks, we’ve watched over 26 movies (Julio from the DVD shop is our best friend now), we’ve eaten all the donas, fish tacos, adobada and asada tacos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales, ice cream and birrias; we’ve been to La Bufadora (a very nice ride to a rather disappointing tourist trap: a tidewater blowhole in a rock); we’ve read all our books and done a lot of drawing; and we’ve seen the big grey whales.
We’ve had a lot of time to think and reconsider what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This is it. This is our lives now. This is what we do for a living: we ride our bicycles, we keep going. Because we do.
Now the Santa Ana wind has calmed down and my feet are very happy.
Joaquin and I have been pleasantly holed up in Ensenada for a number of days while waiting for some new Keen Commuter sandals for Joaquin to make their way south of the border. As we spend our days reading, writing, relaxing, and prepairing for our eventual departure we take pleasure in listnening to the sounds of the outside world drifting in through the metal grates of the Casa del Ciclista. So many sounds. Music from cars and neighbors. Children playing. Dogs. So many dogs. Chihuahua squeals that sound like screeching brakes. (There´s a wide variety of dog breeds here, but they’re all half chihuahua.) The most interesting sounds, to me, are the sounds of commerce:
The water delivery truck at 7:30 in the morning. Blows its air horn as it turns down every street announcing its presence. It’s blasting horn approaching closer and closer like a train fronted by a Mexican trumpet player.
The cucumber sales truck announcing its goods with a used car salesman’s zeal. Lots of exclamation points, sentences rising in volume towards the end, fast rhythms, and a lot of hyperbole.
Avocado truck utilizes the cucumber method. (Avocados are the only thing we´ve purchased from the vendors. Perhaps their pitch was the best. Perhaps we really like avocados.)
The bread salesman with his looping tape of droll sales pitch delivery. Prerecorded as well. Blaring out of similar PA speakers attached to a truck. However, the bread delivery pitch is delivered in a flat monotonous drone, as if to stand out against the other hyperactive pitchmen with their music blazing and carnival squawker announcements. No exclamation points. “Senoritas, we have the most amazing bread for only 20 pesos. Si, Senoritas, only 20 pesos will buy you this fantastic bread.”
The doughnut delivery guy has the most exciting product, in my opinion, but the saddest delivery. He carries around a plastic tub of donuts and wails like a drunk man crying the name of the love he has wronged “Dohnaaaas!” Dohnaaaas!” He knows she’s gone.
Then there’s the ice cream delivery guy. My favorite. He rides a tricycle around with a huge penguiin on the front of it. No internal combustion. No blaring muisc. Just a bike, bell, a sweet custom track-suit uniform, and a giant penguin. No beating the customers into submission with an audio assault. No pity sales for sad sellers. I’m sold.
It was Sunday, our new friends David and Maria gave us a lift in their van up the sandy hill out of the campsite in the beautiful Saldamando beach. When we arrived to the toll on the highway a guy wearing an orange vest waved to us and told us to get off the road. As we were walking our bikes on the sidewalk a policeman approached us. I told him we were really sorry and we didn’t know we could’t ride our bikes on the Autopista de Cobro, and luckily we got away with it.
It was lunch time when we rode into Ensenada, but we couldn’t really afford any of the tempting offers to stop at the numerous restaurants along the boulevard Lazaro Cardenas, so we continued the beautiful ride along the beach until we got to the traffic mess of La Reforma Ave. After asking for directions a few more times, we finally found Calle Paseo Pacifico and stopped at Mini Mercado Javi’s where the owner let us use his phone. La Señora Delia greeted us and showed us to La Casa del Ciclista. A few minutes after I had unpacked it felt like home.
We found out about this place on Warmshowers.com, like coachsurfing but for touring cyclists. Gerardo, a Doctor who now lives in Riverside CA. is an avid cyclist and loves to share his house in Ensenada with cycling nomads like us. There’s no way to express in words how thankful we are to Gerardo and specially to Delia.
Jose, Delia & Canica
La Señora Delia is a wonderful woman. Originally from Veracruz, she started working when she was 15, and became manager in a “curiosity store” where she got to meet Marilyn Monroe. She lives next door and looks after Gerardo’s house and the guests. Everytime we pass by to say Hola she offers us food. Last night we had Papas con Chorizo while Jose, her husband, listened to the Dodgers being beaten by the Phillies on his very loud radio, and Canica, the chihuaua dog, watched us eating away the cookies for desert.
A few days ago, we shared the house with Emi and Nicholas (http://grab-a-wheel.org). They’re riding from Vancouver all the way to Tierra del Fuego on their bikes loaded with home made panniers, plants, and plastic lunch boxes for handlebar bags. I cooked a spanish omelette (my Mum’s recipe) at Delia’s and had a very nice evening enjoying their company and stories from Japan. We hope we’ll catch up with them somewhere again along the road down south.
But in the meantime, we’re still here. Life goes slowly by in Ensenada while we wait for my new cycling shoes to arrive. We make the most of our off the bike time by using the slow internet cafe around the corner, reading our South America and Adventure Cycle-Touring books, cleaning and adjusting our bikes, eating fish tacos at Taco Bob’s (as in Sponge Bob Square Pants), becoming masters of the home made Burrito, daydreaming, siestas, and enjoying the lovely weather and the hospitality of La Señora Delia and his wonderful family.
After almost two weeks of WeKeepHangingOutInLA.com we’re finally on the move again.
The Los Angeles stay was extended in length while we waited for some final items to be shipped to us at the Aglago house. It’s been mentioned before, but we really couldn’t have done this trip without the support, and tolerance, of the wonderful residents of this fantastic community. Once we had everything in our possession, we decided to depart early Monday morning with a ride along the ocean and then over to Long Beach. We left at 2:30 in the afternoon. I knew I had to repack all my panniers and edit some of my contents that I had brought down from San Francisco before we left, but I had no idea it would take me almost five hours. Once I had everything packed it was launch time. We rolled off the Aglago grounds stopping for photos, tire pumpings, and equipment adjustments. By the time we crossed the driveway to the street, people were yelling at us from the Aglago windows to “get the fuck out of here already!” We made it about 15 feet before somebody across the street stopped us to ask us where we were coming from and going. Shouts continued from the house. “Keep going already! Go!”
This was our first fully loaded ride. Giggles and snickers and holy shits escaped our lips as we reacted to the shear weight of our loaded rigs. It didn’t take long to get used to the feel though. This speaks mostly to the rigid build and geometry of the Soma Saga frames. By the time we got to venice beach the bikes felt like normal extensions. Jo required a bit more time to get used to the “fat suit effect”, as Allison calls it, of riding with panniers. Side swiping me and then clipping a red vintage Ford mustang with his bags (the second incident causing a fall) probably will help him remember his new girth.
The ride to Long Beach went without hitches, besides the second half being in the dark due to our late departure (my fault.) Scenic along the coast, just enough up and down hills, our first loaded ride was deemed “epic” by Joaquin. Our total mileage for the day was around 50 miles. Only when we arrived in Long Beach did Crystal and Allison mention the more direct 25 mile river route from LA, but I don’t think we would have passed up riding along the coast anyhow.
We stayed with fellow 42rider, Allison, in Long Beach. She provided us with supremely comfortable arrangements, a delicious dinner, great conversation, and shocking news of a possible move to Arkansas. Apparently the Southern Route of the 42ride was shown a sufficiently good time in Arkansas. I believe she’s visiting there now. Hope everything’s going well. It is a beautiful state.
Allison escorted us out of Long Beach on bike (we probably would have gotten rather lost otherwise) and it was good to be on a little group ride again. We went our separate ways after an hour or so an Joaquin and I continued south towards San Clemente State beach where we would camp for the night. The ride along the PCH was spotted with beautiful coastal views, well-to-do little towns, a bit of road construction, and bike lanes every once in a while. Altogether, a great sixty mile ride. In San Clemente we were fortunate enough for a local cyclist, and experienced tandem tourer, Susan, to happen upon us and sherpa us through the winding bike route through town to the State Beach. Thanks Susan! Good luck on your upcoming tour and future cross country ride (West to East to avoid headwinds).
Our first night camping was great. We arrived at about 5pm and had about an hour and a half of daylight to set up tents and cook a pasta dinner using the stove that Mikey Wally provided us. Delicious. Still had some of the Food Not Bombs leftover stew from Aglago that we mixed in the sauce. Ashira from Aglago was coming to join us for an evening of camping by the beach, and she and her friend Theresa arrived about 10pm or so, beer in tow. The evening turned awesome after their arrival. We enjoyed the nearly full moon on the beach, walking through some bizarre land formations to get there. Our beach time was split between watching the stars and watching the trains go by (or overhead from under a tunnel).
We woke up late the next morning, packed, said our goodbyes, and headed off for San Diego. This was a good ride. The towns were laid back and the coast was fantastic. Before San Diego, outside of La Joya, a cyclist asked us where we were going. “Just one more hill!” he exclaimed. Being told of an upcoming hill by a fellow cyclist is both a welcome bit of information, and an instant way to dread the remaining miles until said hill. Even the smallest of hills are made mountainous by carrying pounds and pounds of baggage. This was no small hill. We made it up, took a break, and looking around, I had the feeling that we might be close to the Salk Institute. Quick check on the phone confirmed this and a few minutes later we were walking around the Louis Kahn temple of science and research overlooking the ocean. Something I’d always wanted to see since my brother, John, told me about it.
Rolling into San Diego was a breeze. Good bike lanes and roads. Another mountain of a hill in Sand Diego, that we probably could have avoided, but was good training nonetheless. We stayed with a Couch Surfer named Katie in San Diego. She and her roommate were amazingly welcoming, helpful, and hospitable. They were both involved in some pretty awe inspiring work in Africa that really kind of blew me away. Katie also had the unfortunate experience of having been down Baja before. Unfortunate in that Jo and I then peppered her with an endless stream of questions. Thank you so, so much Katie and Noelle!
San Diego was the end of the American road for us. We had the jitters. So excited to really start our international trip, kind of nervous not knowing what we could and couldn’t get in Mexico if we needed anything. Eventually we couldn’t think of anything else keeping us in the states, so we took off. Rode the San Diego tram/trolley all the way to the border. Crossing wasn’t too difficult. We had to get a tourist card and visa. $20 US gave us 90 days ride through the country. It was suggested by someone to take a cheap bus through Tijuana down to Rosarito, and while we don’t really want to not ride our bikes and want even less to spend money, we were glad we followed this advice once we were riding out of town. Huge hills, lots of traffic, and the fact that you’re not even supposed to be riding your bike on the toll road would have all made for a not so great ride.
We got off the bus in Playa de Rosarito and rode along the coast to a campground called Saldamando about 20 miles out of Ensenada. The camping fee was a bit much, but it was right on the beach and had showers (cold but wet). Crossing the border from US to Mexico was the most drastic border change I’ve ever made. It’s crazy to think that in such little distance you can have such drastic change. Never thought much about politics and culture affecting landscapes so drastically before.
So far Baja has been a string of older little resorts that don’t look too crowded and huge half-built newer resorts that aren’t occupied and the construction on which appears to have stopped. It´s this damned economy. The coast is beautiful though and the ocean is neverending. Life is good.
When Bryan and me decided to keep going, unsupported, riding our bicycles around the world, I had to get a proper touring bike. I know it sounds a bit crazy but I didn´t think twice (well, actually, I did think about it a few times) when I was able to swap my Colnago for a Surly Long Haul Trucker at the end of our trip in Los Angeles (thanks Callie!).
And then we found out Soma Fabrications were interested in sponsoring us. It was just perfect timing. At the time we wrote to Soma they had just come out with a brand new touring frame: The Saga. They wanted us to field test them on our trip so they gave us 2 frames (and forks, along with headsets, tires, tubes and a super sweet deal on everything else we needed). So I built my Saga with most of the parts I had and some I got from Soma (thanks Thayne!).
Riding the Saga in hilly San Francisco was fun. It felt very comfortable, nice to ride and easy to handle, but I was looking forward to riding it fully loaded, that´s what the bike has been designed for.
I remeber I could hardly even lift the bike over a step at Asira´s house when we were leaving L.A. It was so heavy, even pushing the bike along was hard. We had way too much stuff. I was worried.
But then I got on my bike and rode away. And that was it: instant love.
I got rid of some of my stuff, and now, with my 2 panniers and duffel bag at the front, and 2 rear panniers and messenger bag on my rack, the bike feels even more comfortable.
It feels solid, but it doesn´t ride like a tank. Handling is easy enough to cut tight corners, and there´s no toe overlap with the front wheel. Climbing , even off the saddle, is not much different than on a road bike. And going fast downhill is always predictable. The low bottom bracket and long wheel base makes it very stable. It´s everything you´d want from a touring bike.
The Soma Saga is made with super solid Tange Prestige tubing. The head tube came off a downhill bike and the top tube from a freeride bike: very strong tubes. Made to last and carry pretty much anything you´d take on a longhaul tour.
It has a semicompact geometry with a slooping top tube. Mine is a size 58 with a 56cm seat tube (CTT). My bars are just above my saddle height with an uncut steerer tube. I´m 5´11″ and it fits me perfectly, giving me a very upright position.
The saga is a very versatile bicycle too: pump peg, eyelets for fenders and racks (eyelets on the fork for a lowrider rack), bolts for 3 bottle cages, spokes holder on the left chainstay, and even a platform behind the bottom bracket for a (very useful when you´re fully loaded) kickstand! It takes 26″ wheels up to size 54 and 700 from the 56. With fenders on, you can fit tires up to 35c. And one of the best thing about it is the price: at $500 for a quality steel frame and fork, it is a very affordable touring bicycle.
We left Los Angeles on monday and stayed with our friend Allison in Long Beach. On tuesday we camped in San Clemente with Ashira and Therese. And we made it to San Diego on wednesday. We’re staying with our new couchsurfing friend Katie until tomorrow when we cross the border into Mexico.
We’ve done 167 miles in three days, at an average speed of 11 miles per hour.
We’re taking it easy, getting used to our fully loaded bikes. We’re enjoying the ride and our Soma Saga’s.
4 Ortlieb Roller panniers, 1 saddle bag and one handlebar bag.
1 coffee travel mug and 2 water bottles (plus 6 more, one in each pannier and 2 in my Pac Ultimate messenger bag, which goes on my rear rack)
Reload hip pouch
Lots of socks
3 pairs of underwear
Adidas Samba shoes
2 Dickies shorts
Pearl Izumi (water resistant) shorts
2 padded cycling shorts
Rapha arm warmers
Endura (winter) tights
Sealskinz gloves and socks
A few cycling caps (House Of Pistard, LCEF, Campy, DeOro, …)
Rapha stowaway jacket
Gore Tech waterproof jacket
3 cycling jerseys (Tserv, Freewheel, Trackstar)
Swobo long sleeve wool jersey
Half of my broken heart
Howies base layer
Devold base layer long sleeve wool jersey (thanks Grant!)
7 tubes, 1 spare tire
Pedal Revolution hoodie
Rin Project wool jersey
Canon G7 camera
Vango Cooking pots kit
Military cutlery/knife/corkscrew kit
MSR whisperlite internatinale multifuel stove
REI sleeping pad
Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag
Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 person tent
1 (big) map of the world
Lots of dreams
Brake/shifter cable/housing set
One bag with lots of bolts and nuts
Another bag with zip ties
Extra SPD cleats for my Sidi’s
Water filter/purifier pump
Some tools: Topeak Alien multitool, Parks spoke tool, Parks chainbreaker, chain whip, Pedros cone wrench, Swiss Army knife, puncture repair kits, tire repair kit, pliers/cutter, adjustable wrench, electrical tape, shoe goo, …
Boneshaker (a bicycle almannac BA 42-300)
Adventure Cycling Handbook
Polar Bear pipe
Food (beans, rice, pasta, nutella, …)
External hard disk
Things I forget
Mini U-lock and Kryptonite cable
There’s a house in LA, full of people and cats. Full of life. It is a house where people live. The house is a community.
Bikes, games, Jimmy, skateboarding, big dummy, Smalls, Reed, guitars, spanish omelette, Patricia, welcome to Silverlake, Japanther, Andrew, ants, tents, Kyla, budzilla, Food not Bombs, BRC’s, Peter, Ros, heat, coffee, warmth, friends, we keep going, we keep staying, palm trees, The Sofa, The Porche, an old piano, Tim, welcome, camp shower, cleaning party, killing nazies, Boots, Leo, bicycle film festival, a rat, comfy mattress, The Swede, Joel and Brigitte, sunset junction, Monty, bicycles, patches, Red Riding Hood, weed butter, Obama, Erin, Josh, pasta, the new one, graffiti, cockroaches, helicopters, people’s rides, stars, Ira and Ashira: thank you.