Day 62 – I woke up early, right at 6am. I jumped up and got ready for the big ride. I sucked down some coffee and ate a couple bagels smothered in peanut butter, hoping that would hold me off for a good while. Michael, Liam and I all met in front of the hostel at 8am. We were all leaving most of our gear in San Diego, just taking the necessities into Mexico. That way we could move a little faster and have a better chance of beating the sunset. We didn’t want to be riding around Mexico in the dark.
It was an easy morning ride to the border. We went past a large naval base near Coronado Island. Even as we got close to Mexico the neighborhoods were relatively nice. We took a bathroom break at a McDonald’s and then pushed through the last 5 miles to the border. As we got close to the crossing we could see the massive wall stretching across the horizon. It looked like an endless prison, or a demilitarization zone from an old Vietnam movie.
We located the path to the pedestrian entrance. There was a ramp that led to a large wall with Mexico engraved in metal and stone above a turnstile. We stopped and took photos in front of the border. It was about to be my first time in Mexico. We had to stand our bikes on their rear wheels and push them through the rotating gate. One, two, three, and we were all inside. After wheeling down a ramp we walked past some Mexican border guards. They looked at us, but no one said a thing. Soon we were down and out the other side, standing in the streets of Tijuana.
No one checked our passports or asked any questions. It was strange to pass into another country with such ease. It took us a while to get our bearings, but with the help of a taxi driver we found our way through the city. It was pretty beat up looking, full of homeless folks. But no one gave us any trouble. We found our way to the main road and got on route 1 heading toward Rosarito.
The city traffic was dense and loud. The biggest change from the States that I noticed was the strong smell of exhaust. There was definitely a difference in emissions standards. We made our way out of town as fast as we could. I pushed myself pretty hard up the slow ascent away from Tijuana. I stopped to let Michael and Liam catch up a bit. I was actually feeling nauseous from breathing in all of the carbon monoxide. I hoped that the coastline wouldn’t be so bad.
It was a good 15 miles before we made it to Rosarito and the coast. We only had one incident where our confusion with what exit to take almost got us run over by a row of angry Mexican drivers. Once in town, we rode right up to the starting line to the 35th Annual Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride. We were excited for the chance to have a motor vehicle free ride the rest of the way to Ensenada. But first we needed to get something to eat. We all were starving. We looked on the beach for a nice place, but it was empty. I’m not sure if it was too early in the day, or if the tourism industry was just doing that bad from all of the negative publicity about cartels and kidnappings.
We ended up finding a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We all got a taco and a burrito. I was the only one to try chicken. It was terrible. There were tons of tiny little bones in my taco. I was starting to wonder if it was even chicken. We realized that we landed ourselves in a place that must feed off of dumb tourists. It was overpriced and low quality. We washed it down with beer, and then made our way south.
The race started 2 hours earlier, so the roads were now open. We stayed on the 1 and rode along the coast. It was a mix of nice homes and resorts next to unfinished cement shells of homes. Trash seemed to be everywhere, but the mountains and coastline were beautiful. It was an interesting contrast of beautiful nature and squalid living conditions.
We eventually all had to pee, so we stopped at a little convenient store to see if they had a baño. They didn’t, but they told us there was one in the building behind them. Sure enough there was a sign that read $5 Baño. I went in and they pointed to the back. I relieved myself and came out. I said, “Gracias,” and the woman held out her hand and said, “Cinco Pesos.” I pulled out the 5 pesos and handed it over. We learned that it was standard procedure to pay for restrooms in Mexico. Especially in public areas. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
As we were leaving we realized that there was an onramp to the 1D. It was a toll road that ran the coast line. We saw some cyclists go by and realized that this was the route for the big bike ride. We jumped on the newly paved road and found ourselves at the very tail end of the pack. A truck rode behind us and let us know we had to get moving because they would be opening the road soon. It was a 4 lane highway. No place to get caught in the middle of traffic.
The road soon turned into an unpaved under construction zone. The dirt was packed solid and we were able to keep a good pace. Another truck rode up next to us and asked if we wanted some gatorade. They had a bunch of extra bottles left over from the last rest stop. I said, “Si,” and ran over and grabbed a bottle for each of us. The cold sugary drink hit the spot. Another truck drove up and warned us that we only had 15 minutes before they would open the road. They even offered to throw our bikes in the pickup and give us a ride. But we were feeling good, so we just started pedaling faster.
It took some effort, but we made it past the freeway exit that was about to open. After that we started coming across a bunch of cyclists at the end of the pack. We started passing people and soon we were 20 or more bikes into the group. We felt a little safer, knowing that the trucks wouldn’t be bothering us to get off the road. We hit a rest stop with fresh bottled water laid out on a table.They filled up our bottles and let us chug down some extra water.
There was an open-top semi truck parked in the road loading tired cyclists into the back. It was a strange site to see. Dozens of cyclists decided to call it quits and take the free ride. Not us. We kept pushing. There were some big climbs, but they weren’t difficult with our light loads. This section of the coast was completely secluded. There were no homes and no trash. It was just mountains and ocean. It reminded me of Big Sur. We stopped for some great photos, then made a huge descent. We lucked out with this bike run. We would not have been allowed on this stretch of road if it weren’t closed specifically for this event.
The first town we came across was San Miguel. We were getting close to Ensenada. Our closed lane continued into the cities along the coast. Trucks full of cyclist and their bikes were heading the other way. They had completed the run and were making their way back to Rosarito. They honked their horns and cheered us on. Soon we worked our way to the edge of Ensenada. The bike lane took the main drag into town and we came upon the finish line in no time. It was an awesome experience. Over 2200 miles of biking through 3 countries, and it all ended with a finish line just for us. We crossed the line and turned into a big lot where a celebration party was going strong.
We all bought shirts from the Ensenada to Rosarito bike run, took some photos, and grabbed some food and beer. We sat and relaxed in the setting sun while live rock music blasted in the background. After some downtime, we made our way to the hostel, about a mile away. We checked in, put our stuff away and took showers. The guys running the hostel were super friendly. They gave us a suggestion for a good Mexican restaurant.
We made our way through the dark streets and found the place. It was packed full of people, a good sign of good food. I ordered enchiladas and a cerveza. It was some really amazing food. It definitely made up for those terrible tacos earlier in the day. We grabbed some cookies and beer on the way back to the hostel. Then we sat up and talked with our new friend Tim, another German that had been city hopping all the way down the coast for the last couple of months.
It was hard to believe that we had come so far. We had one more day in Ensenada, and then we would all be parting ways
(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)