Leaving La Paz was rough. Lots of stores were closed because of the holiday and finding food in the morning was challenging. Also, we ended up biking about 9 miles in a completely wrong direction, and so we started the day with 20 M’s before we went anywhere.
We also decided to not take Highway 1 out of La Paz. We thought a side road would have less traffic (which it did) and take us closer to the beach (which it did). What followed was possibly the 2 hardest days of biking I have ever done in my life.
Taking the 286 out of La Paz starts with a 15 mile up-hill (maybe 20?). Due to our misstep in the morning we did that in the hottest part of the day.
The giant uphill was followed by a downhill of about the same distance, most of which was on a single straight-away. It was wild to be coasting in the same direction at over 30 mph for half an hour. It was glorious.
Our route abandoned the paved road (which ends) and crossed some mountains on a dirt road. We did this in the late evening. It was rugged. By the time we were camping I remember any sort of movement was a serious challenge.
A chilly morning led to a hot day. The wind was either a head-wind or a cross-wind, as the road going due east. We biked 30 miles to San Ignacio and stopped for lunch at a tiny place with a lovely covered porch owned by a lady with a fondness for frogs.
James was having some knee issues and this was the second day of me riding on a rim that I felt was going to collapse. It was hot and everyone was feeling a bit worn out. We decided to take a bus to the coast town of Santa Rosalia, about 40 miles down the road.
An extremely disinterested younger bus station worker cast doubt as to whether our bikes would be a problem or not. As we were outside waiting a postal employee who spoke decent English sparked a conversation with us and offered to shove our bikes into the back of his postal truck and take us there.
The cab of the truck held 3 people and I offered to ride in the back with the bikes. There was a sliding door that stayed open and I spent an hour taking pictures, listening to music, and watching the desert drift by, happy to be done for the day.
At Santa Rosalia he dropped us off at the bike shop, which incidentally overlooked the ocean. Jeff and James scouted the local deets while I waited for the store to reopen. Eventually the helpful owner of the modest store found me a replacement wheel from a mountain bike in the back, trued the wheel, and changed the cassette, tube, and the tire. For all of that for I was charged 300 pesos, about 25 dollars.
He cautioned that the wheel shouldn’t be trusted, and I should get another ASAP. I ended up riding on it for the rest of the trip.
In Guerrero Negro running errands (ATM, a mercado stop, internet, and breakfast) got us off to a relatively late start. A little ways down the road Jeff noticed that my rim had a crack in it. Not good. A spandex-clad local mountain biker said that the next place to get it fixed would likely be Loreto, about 180 miles down the road.
That was not happy information for me. I figured I would just ride on it until that wasn’t possible anymore. It wasn’t very comforting thinking your rear wheel could have a catastrophic failure at any moment.
When it was clear would would be camping that night, and evening stop for groceries and beer resulted in me leaving a my warm orange Patagonia jacket outside the market. My biggest tour mishap ever.
The previous night the couple renting us the hotel room mentioned a possibility of 60mph winds the next day. We didn’t think much of it at the time.
In the morning we had birria and set down the road in what was already a windy day. About 10 miles later the road came up over a large hill and into a tremendous headwind that required serious pedaling to go anywhere. The road changed direction, entered a valley, and the headwind turned into the most intense crosswind I have ever experienced in my life.
Biking in a straight line required seriously leaning into the wind. The gusts at this point we thought were around 60 or 70 mph. You would be doing your best to bike in a straightish fashion and a gust would come along and the feeling was as if someone was giving you a hard push off the road. The road was elevated with no shoulder and the consequences of failing to stay on pavement would not have been pleasant. When the gust stopped you would inevitably over-correct and go back to the left, which was occasionally in the direction of an oncoming 18-wheeler.
It was scary.
We stopped at a pullout and just standing upright required focus. Everyone agreed biking in winds comparable to a tropical storm was not safe. We found a spot that was sheltered from the wind and layed down in the dirt and thought about what we should do. I distinctly remember thinking what was wrong with me that this was how I decided to spend my Christmas. After about an hour and a half of feeling more trapped by the weather than I ever had in my life, we decided to try to get a ride.
Leaving our sheltered spot and approaching the road, it was evident that the wind had died down considerably. I suggested we try biking in it and, if we felt it was unsafe, get a ride.
Biking in a 30mph wind turned out to be reasonable.
As an early Christmas present, for the last hour and a half of daylight, the wind was directly at our backs. We biked 25 miles in a little over an hour as the sun dipped below the mountains. After the events of earlier, biking at 30mph in relative peace (since you were matching the direction and speed of the wind) was amazing.
We spent Christmas Eve camping near several large cacti on the outskirts of the small town of P.P. Prieta. The evening was calm and we were able to have our first campfire of the trip.
Having never done a bike tour in the winter, we discovered that 4 hours less daylight makes a big difference in terms of how far you can go in a day. Getting up early seemed to be the best plan.
For breakfast we discovered birria, a popular dense soup with shredded beef, onions, and cilantro served with tortillas.
Closer to San Quintin the terrain flattened out and traffic picked up due to the presence of several huge commercial farms. A few key shoulders kept us out of the way on the larger uphills.