PCH Tour: Hitchhiking Waves in Ensenada

Humbug Mountain Beach Rock

Day 63 – We all slept in a bit, taking our time to get up and get ready. There was a hostel breakfast of toast, muffins and coffee. We met a group of young college guys and girls that drove down from LA for a day. They said they were going to go explore the beach before heading back north. I had a little food and then relaxed on the couch in the common room. The guy running the hostel suggested that we take the bus to San Miguel to rent some surf boards and try out the waves. We looked up the wave forecast and it looked like they’d be about 5 ft waves, which seemed perfect for us newbies.

Michael decided to go for a long bike ride around town. Tim, Liam and I made our way to the local McDonalds to wait for the bus. We were all pretty hungry at that point, so we decided to try some Mexican McDs and Coke. I ordered the AngusDeluxe. It was a double cheeseburger smothered in mayo. I won’t lie. It tasted pretty great for something so bad for me. The Mexican Coke wasn’t as sweet as American Coke. They used cane sugar instead of corn syrup. The bathrooms were free to customers, but there was no soap. I hoped that the employees had some soap of their own. We finished our food and went out to the curb.

We waved down bus after bus and as they open the door we would ask, “San Miguel?” Each bus said, “No.” Then they would point behind them. “Venti Minutos.” “Cinco Minutos.” “Uno Momento.” We must have asked 10 bus drivers if they went to San Miguel. Finally, a bus with a sign for San Miguel showed up. They waived us in and we took a nice ride several miles north. It appeared that there were no official bus stops. You just stood somewhere in the buses route and waived your hands when they got close. Then they would swerve off the road and pick you up.

We got to the edge of San Miguel and they dropped us off. It didn’t look like anything was going on. We couldn’t find any surfers and the waves were barely visible. It was all residential, no surf shops in sight. We found an American couple sitting on their back porch and we asked them if they had any suggestions. They told us that San Miguel was not safe for beginners. They said we should go a couple of miles down the road and ask the surf shop there. We thanked them and made our way back up the road.

Liam suggested we hitchhike back. He held his thumb out to the first truck that came our way. It was a rickety old blue pickup. It pulled over and the man stuck his head out the window. Liam asked for Ensenada. The man shook his head. Then he asked for 2 miles down the road. The guy waived us in. We all piled into the back of the tiny pickup and next thing we knew we were cruising down the road at 50 miles per hour. We got to our destination and the man pulled over. We said, “gracias.” The guy waived and rode away. It was as simple as that. It seemed like hitchhiking was much more a part of the culture in Mexico.

We found a surf shop and went inside asking for board rentals. The kid working there said that they only sold boards. He suggested that we go to the municipal beach back in Ensenada, only a mile from where we started. We thanked him and made our way out to the road. The first bus we saw took us back to the center of downtown Ensenada. We strolled around town and checked out a little Sunday market. It was more like a flea market. There was nothing worth buying. We saw some taxi drivers and they agreed to take us to the beach for 60 pesos.

It was a quick ride over. The driver dropped us off and we finally got to walk out onto the sand. The beach was pretty packed. We found a nice spot to lay out and then we all took turns swimming in the water. The waves were strong, and the ocean had a bit of a funny smell. But the water was the perfect temperature and quite refreshing. After our swim we all laid out on the sand, allowing the sun and wind to dry us off.

The air started to get cold, so we packed up and got ready to leave. Just then, Michael rolled up on his bicycle. We watched his bike while he took a swim and then we took a bunch of photos in the setting sun. We all agreed to meet for dinner later and waived Michael off as he went for a ride down the beach. We grabbed snacks at the Oxxo and then made the mile hike back to the hostel. There we just relaxed on the beds and took naps.

Michael showed up just as we were getting hungry. We all loved the restaurant from the night before so much that we decided to go back. This time I ordered a big combo plate that included an enchilada, a taco, soap, and flauta. I was stuffed when I finished. We went to bed early. I knew I would have to get going early in the morning to catch my noon train in San Diego. Tomorrow would be the long journey home. Gracias Mexico.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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PCH Tour: The Finishline in MEXICO!

San Simeon Beach

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)


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PCH Tour: A Day of Recovery Before the Mexico Push

Leo Carillo Beach Sunset

Day 61 – I was groggy when I woke up. It was around 8am. Late for me on this trip. I drank a little more than I should have the night before. I shook it off and got some breakfast in the dining area. I was feeling a bit better so I got some typing done. I took some breaths and went for a walk around town.

I bought a new tube for my bike, so I’d have a spare in Mexico. I wandered around a bit more, and decided I was still hungry. I found a great cafe and a seat outside. I ordered a chicken sandwich that turned out to be amazing. I devoured it and drank a load of water. The late night was starting to catch up with me. I made my way back to the hostel and crashed on my bed. I dozed off and on for the next 2 hours. The sun and wind came through the open window and brushed over my body. It was completely relaxing.

After, passing out I woke up feeling nauseous. Without getting too graphic, let’s say I had to sit in the bathroom for a while. I started to feel better, so I went back outside and grabbed a giant Gatorade from CVS. I chugged it down and came back to life. The weather was perfect so I walked over to the harbor and found a nice grassy knoll in the shade. I sat down and took in the ocean breeze. I gave my friend Dustin a call and chatted for a while about what was going on back in Ohio.

Later that night I met Liam and Michael up for some Mexican food. We decided to try some in San Diego, before heading down to Mexico. That way we could get a good comparison. I had some amazing tacos and a glass of XX Lager. We found out that there would be a big bike run from Rosarito to Ensenada the same day we were riding down. It was pure luck. 50 miles of our ride would be closed off to motor traffic. All signs gave us a go for Mexico. We turned in early and prepared for a long 85 mile day of riding. The final ride of all of our tours.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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PCH Tour: Drinks on 5th & Planning for Mexico

Midway Museum
Day 60 – I woke up in the hostel. It felt good to be on a bed, even if it was a bit small. I cleaned up and went to the dining area for some breakfast. It was a delicious meal of bread, cereal, and cold oatmeal. With enough sugar, the coffee was pretty good too.

I grabbed my laptop and made my way down Market Street to the Lion Cafe. I figured it would be nice to sit somewhere and catch up on all of my posts. I ordered a coffee and cheese danish, then got to work. I spent a good hour or two typing. I even ordered a peanut butter acai bowl. It was an awesome combination of blended frozen acai berries, yogurt, peanut butter, fresh fruit and granola.

After getting caught up, I dropped my computer off at the hostel and grabbed my camera. I slowly made my way to Balboa Park on foot. It was a nice 2 mile walk through the city. Up in the park I walked over to the museum area, where one could go to the Aircraft Museum, the Automobile Museum or the Sports History Museum. I didn’t go to any of them, but I did find a nice bench under a tree where I could lie down and relax. The breeze was cool, but I soon realized that the bench must have been specifically designed to keep people from sleeping on it. The metal grating dug into my back and shoulders. I suffered through it and stayed there a while calling some friends back in Ohio.

Liam, the Brit I met back near San Louis Obispo, had just arrived in town. He called me up and we decided to meet back at my hostel. I called up an Uber and I was back in downtown in no time. Liam and I met up and we decided to walk around town a bit. We ended up back at the harbor, enjoying the sun and breeze and bullshitting about our recent adventures. The sun started to go down, and our stomachs began to get hungry.

We met up with Michael back at the hostel. From there we cruised down 5th Street until we found a Thai place that looked good. We talked about making a run on our bikes to Mexico, while eating some amazing food. Liam wanted to go to Ensenada for a day. Originally, I was thinking of just making a day ride into Tijuana and back. But I still had some extra time before I needed to be home. I did the math and soon realized that I could make Ensenada happen. I felt a lot better about the excursion into Mexico, knowing that Liam and Michael would be going along. I agreed to the plan, but I decided not to tell my family, because I knew their reaction would be negative. They looked at Mexico like it was a murderous free-for-all. I figured I’d tell a few friends about my plans, in the event something did happen, but I wasn’t too worried.

The night was still warm. We decided to go out for a couple of beers. We sat outside so we could watch the bicycle rickshaws cruise the strip with their lights flashing and music bumping. After a couple hefs, we walked with Michael back to the hostel.

Liam and I grabbed some free coffee in the dining area to perk up. Then we decided to head back out and have another beer or two. We found a place called The Tipsy Crow. We drank some Alaskan White Ale and talked about adventure, and what was next. We grabbed some Icelandic beers and then made our way downstairs to a club area. It started to fill up, and we danced around with all of the other clubbers. After two or three more beers, and a lot more dancing, the place was shut down for the night.

We ran into some girls and talked to them on the street for a bit, until their friends came and drug them away. We also got to watch a cabbie try to jam a large bicycle into his small trunk. He got it halfway in and then bungied the trunk lid down. We laughed and then parted ways. Liam had a long walk back to his hostel. Luckily, mine was only a couple of blocks away.

I crawled into bed and tucked myself in. That was the most drinking I had done in months. But it seemed like a good way to celebrate the coming end of a long journey.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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PCH Tour: Hello La Jolla and San Diego

San Diego Skyline

Day 59 – The train was still loud in San Elijo, but I was exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before, so sleep came easy. I woke up feeling rested. The sun was already out. I took my rain fly off and made sure it dried before packing it. I knew I wouldn’t be using it for a while, and I didn’t want any mold growing in there.

Michael and I took our time getting ready. It was only a 26 miles to San Diego. There was no rush. We stopped at a store in the camp and grabbed some coffee and cookies. They had a nice little patio area that was shaded and overlooked the ocean. It was the perfect spot to start the day. We took an hour to drink our java and watch the early morning surfers hit the waves.

Off we went toward La Jolla. There were a ton of cyclists on the road that morning. We came to the base of our last big climb of the trip. A nice 500 footer. We shifted into low gear and began our ascent. About a quarter of the way into the climb, a group of cyclists started passing us. One of them came up next to me and asked where we were coming from and going too. He said he made the same trip some years ago. He kept talking and asking questions, and I wondered if he noticed that I was carrying a hundred pounds of weight up a mountain.

Instead of telling him that I’d like to make the climb in peace, I took it as a challenge to hold a conversation while lugging my bike uphill. It actually made the time pass more quickly, and I was surprised with how well I did. At the beginning of this trip, I would have been out of breath and on the roadside chugging water. I’d come a long way.

We made it to the top and the guy took off with his group. We found a nice beach in La Jolla, where Michael and I took turns swimming in the ocean. We dried off in the sun, then made a little climb back up to the town center. It was a nice touristy area, full of shops and restaurants. Michael stopped into a visitors center to look for a map of things to do in San Diego. The woman at the counter talked to us and gave us some tips. She even asked us if we wanted to go to the last Padres game of the season. She had some free tickets that she needed to get rid of. Michael had never been to a baseball game, so I told him we should go so he could get the full American experience. We took the tickets and made our way out of town.

There were beautiful mansions on the cliff side as we weaved through southern La Jolla. I passed a guy on a bike and he yelled something out at me. At first it didn’t register. Then I realized he asked for a pump. I turned around and we found out that he had a flat and that his air pump broke. We let him borrow our pump and he was back in business. He thanked us and we pedaled on.

When we came down out of the hills we hit Mission Beach. There was a nice bike path on the beach that took us past all kinds of restaurants. We stopped at one and grabbed some grilled Mahi-mahi sandwiches and fries. We also ordered some Pacifico beer. The meal was good and not too expensive. But when we got the bill, we found out that our beers were $8.50 for a pint glass. I think you can buy a six pack of Pacifico for that. Oh well, I guess we were paying for the amazing location.

It was a nice ride into downtown. We passed the harbor and the Midway Museum, a docked aircraft carrier loaded with war planes. It was impressive to see. We got to the hostel and checked everything it. I managed to squeeze all of my gear into my lockers.

We cleaned up a bit and then walked a few blocks down to the Padres game. The stadium was all lit up and the crowd was pouring in. We found our seats not too far up from left field. It was exciting at first. I tried to explain baseball to Michael, but quickly realized that it was hard to follow from the stands and a bit complicated for a first timer. It’s not like soccer, where you can say, “one side is trying to get the ball in the goal on the other side.” It got exciting for a minute when the Padres hit a home run and fireworks and flames exploded around the field. Then it became quite boring again. We lasted a good half hour before we decided to walk around town and look for a place to grab some food and a drink.

We found a sports bar with a good vibe, and sat outside in the warm air. We both ordered fish and chips and split a pitcher of Octoberfest beer. It hit the spot. That night I chilled in the hostel. I did some typing and backed up all of my photos. I even caught up on some Facebooking and web surfing. It was nice to have light and power long into the night. I hit the bed after 1am. My plans for the next day were to type a bit, and do a whole lot of nothing.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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