Monthly Archives: July 2010
My border crossing of choice was Tecate, 3000 feet high, east of Tijuana. I opted for Tecate mainly to avoid the biggest border crossing in the world and the horror stories that come with Tijuana. The route sounded good as well, through Chula Vista and Otay lakes and then up, up and away to Mexico. In Chula Vista i stopped to get a strawberry cheesecake sandwich from the ice cream van, the first one i saw in the US. It was so hot, i had to question myself when i heard the magical music, was my mind deceiving me, or is that really the ice cream tune? It sure was, after a mini choice dilemma and some chit chat, the Mexican ice cream man told me i was loco, ‘ good luck man, it’s too hot, you gona need a 100 sandwiches!’, flipped on his music and sped off. The riding was pretty good and I made good time from the coast up to Otay lakes. The area was full with border patrol, jeeps would whizz past to and from and at night helicopters would patrol the skies spotlight beaming down onto the mountainside. Needless to say the area was all fenced off and wild camping didnt seem like a good option. I forked out for a campsite and the following morning the Mexican family next to me gave me this huge plate of eggs and chorizo, with some fresh tortilla’s, enough to last me all day, perfect.
Only 15 miles from the border, the temperature soared at 110 df. Even when i stopped to fix a puncture,sweat was dripping off me. The area was beautiful but the road was in bad shape, the shoulder was like a scrapyard. After patching the puncture i stopped in the shade to chat with 2 Mexican dudes. One who was drinking chili sauce straight, in 110 heat! Half a burrito and 2 silver bullets later, they advised me to hit the border in the morning and get it over with in a day, they said i didn’t want to stay the night in Tecate, apparently the cops would do me over. At this stage it was the hottest part of the day so the manana sounded like the easy option. ‘when you get where you’re going, marry a ugly woman’ he says adamantly, ‘no one will mess with her’. But more seriously ‘a women with a big heart’. He goes on to say ‘whatever you want you will get, you lookin for gold man, you got it’. After talks of princess Diana and other world problems he concluded ‘we know whats going on in the world man, we know’, He then slapped me on the back and said ‘Jesus’, apparently Jason translated into Jesus, ‘Jesus you’d got big balls man’ slammed 5$ on the table and left. I decided to sleep right there by the road and hit the border in the morning, It was 1 ish, and that meant only 1 thing siesta time…
A couple hours later, still baking in the sun,head in a Spanish grammar textbook a big black guy pulled up. Dressed in a green jump suit and cowboy hat he declared ‘I’m captain R A Crawford’. ‘ I’m ex navy seal, been all over the world and man, what you’re doing is hardcore’. A few minutes later i had the nickname ‘kilo’, because i rode so many kilometers. Captain Crawford aka ‘priest’ had a lovely ranch up the road, where i stayed for a few days. His ‘sanctuary’ as he called it was nestled in the mountains 9 miles from the border.A beautiful piece of land with, fruit orchards, vineyard, basketball court, goats, a peacock, and a pool. Whilst driving to his ranch he told me ‘ I stopped saying lord help me now, he’s been helpin me everyday! I had to get a new phrase’. Published author of children s books priest had many a story to tell, usually over dominoes ‘bones’ and a cold beer. ‘ I once bit a guys dick off in a Mexican jail, scaled the wall and went to the border, gave them my details and went home’. Trained to kill as a navy seal and with a titanium plate in his skull he was truly a bad ass ‘we got a situation here…3 seconds later… clear’. After once carrying his burnt up friend for 7 miles in Vietnam, priest swears never to wear a seat belt ‘ I’d rather go through the windscreen than be trapped and burnt alive’. The nights were spent watching the skies and identifying the milky-way, orions belt and other unknowns whilst drinking the excellent still unlabeled red wine from the vineyard across the way.
With a self proclaimed PHD in shit talking 1 on 1, priest was no stranger to welcoming strays like me into his family. In his time he has adopted 20 kids and helped them secure a better future. He told me one of the kids stories ‘ I noticed he was always getting bruises which he claimed were from football, 1 day i followed him home to see his muscle bound dad beating on him. So i broke down the door, threw him around a bit, and threatened him, i spent 3 days in jail and i took his kid until he was 18. I think it was a fair trade’.
With a bag full of fresh laundry, belly full of good BBQ and spirits high i set off for the 9 mile climb to the border. Priest very kindly gave me his military edition camel-back which is absolutely amazing for tough climbs. Signed with his favorite saying ‘bring it’, I practically flew up that hill. At the top preist was waiting for me surprised at my quick riding, drenched in sweat, i admitted that i needed to use the bano so i had some extra encouragement to ride fast. Gifted with more delights, i added some beef jerky and corn nuts to my trail mix, promised to come back one day, and literally coasted in to Mexico.
Total miles in the states 1100
Captain Crawford for all your gifts and amazing hospitality
chris for the contact in Loreto
Juan and ? for the beer and burrito
In an effort to skip LA, i decided to head inland and skirt la, pass through Joshua tree national park and down to Mexico. It looked good on paper, mainly because on paper it was flat, in reality, the road was either a multitude of small mountain passes or big ones, i didn’t fancy either. As is often the case for me, i learned this the hard way. full on Denny’s all you can at pancakes ,from Santa Clarita, me and my partner in crime ‘kyle’ (touring on a fixie) headed east. The area was covered with farms, corn, oranges, lemons, avocados were the usual suspects. Then we got into tree territory, it was kind of wierd to see tree nursery’s, huge plantations of palm trees growing in small pots, all up for grabs. Then the road got tough, hilly and hot was the theme and the going was slow. when we finally made it the next town the post office was the first stop, i needed to lose some more weight. There we met a wonderful woman by the name of Mary, she happily told us ‘the road ahead is much worse! those are big mountains and there’s nothing out there, its a 100 here, its way hotter down the road’. Mary softened the blow by going to get us a proper map and some Gatorade. with promises to send her a postcard from Argentina, we left in search of the almighty Google to make plans. A 3$ muffin later, Google earth told me to abort ‘mission Joshua’ and back track to the coast. the elevation change was crazy, It was do able but not in the 10 days i had left on my visa. A quick stop at the ‘serious cycling’ bike store to get kyle fitted with a rear rack, the owner announced ‘man, you guys are animals’, it’s strange how even ‘bikers’ think we’re crazy.
A smooth long decent landed us in the outskirts of LA, where the ‘roads’ called for a full suspension bike and instead of dodging road kill, we now dodged broken cell phones, and an array of other crap. The roads were horrendous and the drivers were bad but not awfully so, nevertheless the newly acquired blow horn got much use, twas fun.
All along the coast people are serious about keeping fit, but in la it’s to the extreme, people start jogging at like 5am and then there’s a constant stream all the way to around 10pm, it’s insane. jogging with dogs, with prams, with double prams, prams and a dog, the possibilities are endless. And then there’s the beach volleyball, which is taken very seriously, and then the surfing, and the rollerblading, you name it. It’s good to see so many people actively enjoying life. With this being said though it’s funny how people didn’t know the concept of a bike tourer. Many people thought i were homeless, with all my stuff loaded up on the bike, one woman even tried to give me a $ to ‘buy yourself a cold drink’ which was weird because i had my water bottles in my hand at the time and was swiftly walking in to a store to fill up. In fact, the only encouragement i got was from the homeless people, my fellow roadies, who evidently recognize the strange being who chooses to travel by bike ‘right on bro’ ‘good luck’ ‘keep on pushin’.
We ended up wild camping for 2 nights just outside of Malibu, and spent the days in beautiful Santa Monica. Where i bought a map for Mexico and kyle got an edible foods book ,we were ready to part ways. The great route 66 started right at the beach and kyle was going to ride it all the way home to Indiana, around 4000 miles, a great adventure I’m sure of it. Always remember to draw first blood dude..
From here i took the amazing bike path that runs right on the pristine beaches of LA for a fair few miles, occasionally going inland for some hard, aggressive, bumpy but fun riding.
Climbing a steep hill out of a place i cant remember some speed racers rode past and the leader remarked ‘wow, that’s a lot of stuff your carrying, all i carry is a Visa card’ to which the others smugly laughed. Hey, you already look like a jackass with all that Lycra on, why not act like one as well. A few minutes later a father and son combo pass me near the top ‘looking good’ ‘good job!’..aah, balance in the universe is restored. On one stretch of the road, again i forget where, but the only road going south is the interstate 5, which is worse than the freeway, ‘no bikes allowed’, and a bike path that conveniently runs through an active marine corps base. So i go up there and the dude who is checking id’s throws a cheap shot at me ‘ you Brits, i just don’t see the appeal of doing something like that’ he said sternly. Of course you don’t dummy, you’d rather check people’s id’s all day, on your ‘base’ which is just a whole bunch of dirt, concrete and nothingness after you strip the land of all natural growth. Of course i didn’t say this, i mean i wanted to go through so i laughed and said something stupid like ‘it’s fun’. After telling me i must wear my helmet, which i promptly did, ‘sir, yes sir’ and some other trivial time wasting, they refused me because i were wearing flip flops. ‘you don’t have sneakers, or boots?’, ‘how do you survive?’, ‘i don’t know what I’d do if my boots and helmet weren’t tied so tight that it cuts the blood flow to my brain, thus rendering me a slave to servitude’, ‘you aint a real man til you got some shiny boots now get outta here hippy, go get killed on the illegal-to-bike-on interstate’. Apparently the marines don’t associate with the kind of crazy hippies who wear flips. It was only like 15 miles, funny enough, i caught occasional glimpses of the serene bike path through the 100 mph traffic. It was fun checking out people’s expressions at the rest stop ‘what the hell, that guys on a bike, but how did he get here?’. It’s actually not that bad, i just pump up the volume and crank it out, I’ve ridden and got kicked off the freeway many times.
Overall, LA was much nicer than i thought it would be, same goes for San Diego, very easy on the eyes. Long beach, laguna, all gorgeous places, i breezed through in a day..Mexico beckons…
Mary Jo for the Gatorade and nutri grains, the map and the advice.
David for the good chit chat, maps which were very useful, and kind offers.
‘Make a left on Glen Canyon road and we’re about 11 miles from there’. 80 miles later i see the sign for glen canyon road, made the left and hurried on as night was falling. The road was beautiful with giant young and old redwoods, I felt like an ant crawling through tall grass. small humble homes were scattered along the road, many made from the fallen giants. The canyon remained in its almost natural state, so the houses were built very creatively on steep terrain and many were artsy. Then the road turned into a straight up 3000ft steep, unpaved climb. It wasn’t until my knees started to feel like they were in a blender, that i remembered the days old conversation with the owner of the farm ‘ we’ve got a nice sea view up here in these mountains’. Busy with the glorious ride down the coast, I must have forgotten this small detail. Wasted after cycling 80 miles I didn’t have much choice but to continue, not knowing at the time that the road actually got much worse, I planned to see how much distance i could cover and then just pitch up by the road. Then something that has now become a common thing for me happened, a miracle appeared by the name of Theresa. We got to talking ‘there’s no way you would make it up there in the day never mind at night, trust me my husband Norman maintains these roads, and you don’t really want to be camping out here with the mountain lions, you wanna stay a….I WOULD LOVE TO! After some good chit chat, enchiladas and a hot shower, I passed out in the garden, under the stars, to the sound of a night owl.
The following morning Norman showed me around, he had a really cool setup, he built his own house and lives with the motto ‘if it can be done, i can figure out how to do it, and do it well’. He has had solar power for over 20 years, and gets his water from a fresh ‘sweetwater’ well that runs down the mountain. Above the toilet lies 30 years worth of national geographic, and in the main room lies a piano and a huge bass, they were in a band. After a tour of the veggies in the garden norm took me to his garage, inside he had a plane, that he bought, fixed up and then hired an instructor and learned how to fly. It was much cheaper if you had your own wings. He also had an array of vintage cars and a boat. Norm definitely enjoys the variety life has to offer
Norm kindly gave me a ride up a horrendously steep part of the road, unlocked the gate for me and bid me farewell, with a promise to go back down for dinner sometime, i went on my way. Due to a late rain there were still millions of these blood sucking flies, who gladly took advantage of my inability to take my hands of the bars whilst climbing. Fast forward 6 or so hours of riding and slapping my self silly, a glimmer of hope came my way, small brown balls dotted on the road, goat droppings. I must be close now, I thought, and then it hit me like a fresh sea breeze, i never thought I would be so happy to smell shit,goat shit in fact, the smell of success…I made it.
Sweetwater charlie was the name of the farm, and charlie was the owner, a professional chef with published cookbooks, he worked at the Esalen institute. He had 3 big milking goats as well as 2 young goats, who were practically spoilt brats in goat form. The mother Lucia was holding rank, so the other two would get into hilarious head butting battles to establish dominance. the goats were fed really well on alfalfa. Milking the goats was harder than i thought, under the guidance of resident and professional milker Rachel, i started to get the hang of it, my technique was getting better, but damn, it were hard on the arms, and back. I didn’t do much in the week I spent at the farm, the air was thin, my knees were shot, and still would be for a further 3 weeks, and my energy levels were low, so i mooched around.
Charlie had a pretty good setup, a main house, yurts dotted all over the place, composting toilet, chicken coop, multiple bee hives, a good size garden, solar power, fresh water from the mountain ‘best in California’ and a good setup for making cheese. That night charlie, who once lived in a tree for a year, explained how ‘ the nature is very powerful here, its raw, we have mountain lions, its where they live, some people cant handle it, this is the wilderness, the nature here is strong and beautiful’.
Indeed it was.
It was amazing to see such creative wonderful people living in an almost completely self sufficient way. In theory, it has always sounded good to have that freedom from the ‘real world’, and to be able to create a world that works best for you. In reality it’s a lot of hard work and planning, but the pay off seems to be worth it.
Norm and Theresa for the rescue and wonderful hospitality.
Rachel for showing me how to do a bunch of things and generally being awesome.
Beth and micheal for the birthday cake and great dinners.
We just started a fire at 2000 feet in the Los Padres wilderness. After a long days riding the climb up to the mountains was ‘challenging’, as two locals put it. It was indeed challenging, but we were certain that at the top, a feast fit for a king was waiting for us, so we pushed on arriving just before dark. Loaded with 5kg of potatoes, tuna, pineapple and coconut milk , all bought from the 99 cent store, curry and jacket spuds was most definitely on the menu.
Back to the fire. we hear a dog barking like crazy not too far from our secret oasis, followed by the sound of steps crushing dry leaves, steadily get louder and louder. Then a voice ordering the dog to cool it, a shadow appears from the darkness and through the flickering light a man appears, with what seems to be a 12 foot stick. He then proceeded to bore and scare the hell out of us, until we are in a medieval, nightmarish, semi -comatose, sleepy, hungry state.
‘ The brush around here is 12 foot high, we get 60 MPH winds through here, just one spark, o boy, the fire sounds like a freight train coming through. This whole area burnt to a crisp in 2004, be careful with that fire!’. At this stage I’m an expert with campfires, we even have an axe for foraging wood, forest fire, not on my watch.
‘Back in 1962, you could get 6 cheeseburgers for a dollar’.
‘You guys got bitten yet? There’s ants here 2 inches long and when they bite, it’s like a wasp sting, they’re all over here, be careful!’. Great, I’m in sandals, help your self giant ants. Might have to tent it tonight.
‘I use this here stick for the rattlesnakes, hit one the other day but didn’t kill it, maybe next time’. OK, definitely putting the tent up tonight.
‘There was a whole pack of wolfs around here not so long ago, I’d hear em howling all night, haven’t heard them in a while now, think they took off.’ OK, i guess were in the wilderness here, makes sense to have wolves, I couldn’t help my self ‘what about mountain lions?’ I asked.
‘There a few of them up here, there was one following me last week, I could hear it, and it was fast, probably about 250 pounds. They wont hurt you though, they’re just curious, unless they are hybrid cats, then your done for.’ I think this is the point when my little camp fire oasis started to crumble.
‘ There’s a bear up here as well, but she wont pay you no mind, she’s old. I saw her once, she’s huge, but very old.’ All the while, our surroundings started to wake up, and unfamiliar noises echoed off the trees. Potatoes now cooked, our oasis extinguished with the fire.
‘Maybe we should leave the curry for tomorrow then’……
‘If we make it’..
the keys are hidden,
i can’t find them all, he said.
lets skipping, she said
blessings/good lucks on the road – 36
condors seen – 3
bananas grabbed from back of partners bike whilst cycling – 1
fruit eaten from trees – avocados, figs, grapefruit, apricots, oranges, lemons
most calories consumed for breakfast – 1300, 4.30 am stealth camp with 1 liter of Yerba mate to wash it down
questions asked by a bamboozled, curious Chinese guy – 17
number of deliciously calorific pop tarts eaten – 36, 200kcals a pop!
times I heard ‘holy shit, check that guy out!’ – 6
types of tree used for camp fire – eucalyptus, pine, palm
number of flat tires – 0
weight off stuff sent home – 8kgs
top speed 39.2 MPH
books given away – 5
longest day – 82 miles
number of kites broken – 1
number of times offered and declined money – 1
most useful/used/loved gear – stove, headlamp, tent, 850 smelly down sleeping bag
number of times offered and accepted lunch – 2
epic battles watched between elephant sea lions – 3
nights out dumpster diving – 3
best breakfast eaten in 3 months – 8 egg omelet with spinach and peppers, with English muffins, from the previous nights dumpster!
beer found – 1 whole case and 1 can of bud
times wasp flew into my shorts and repetitively stung me whilst cycling – 1
flies caught in mouth – 2
flies caught in nose – 1
flies caught in eye – 2
invites into people’s home – 2
best roadside harvest – fennel and rosemary
current ‘roadmade’ trail mix – dried tropical fruit, bbq soybeans, peanuts, pretzels, lime corn nuts, cinnamon almonds, sunflower seeds, cheerios, [all in handlebar bag for convenient grazing]
best flowers eaten on the road – nasturtium
times pulled over by cops for riding on ‘free’ -way – 3
times the word ‘wilderness’ is used in a campfire conversation – 20+
nicest meal cooked over a wood foraged fire – fennel infused peanut rice with paprika seasoned salmon, nutritious and delicious!
most water consumed in a day – 5 liters + the nightly campfire tea ceremonies
longest wrong turn – 8 miles
total miles to date – 605