Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday....

This about says it all...

Tour Log: Baja - Day 9-10

I got up early and took advantage of my 12:00 checkout time to wander the town and give my butt a rest.  I picked up a bottle of mexican wine, found some fine shrimp chiliquiles for breakfast and fish tacos for lunch and took a spin around the town looking for Evan but to no avail.  Then back on the road.  Two days more of desert riding and headwinds to Mexicali, or about the same to Ensenada.  Save it.  I'm kind of over this tour.  I want to paddle my boat and sit in company.  In being tired, I was thinking that if someone offered me a ride I'd take it.  I wasn't going to stick my thumb out just yet though it had crossed my mind.  Two seconds later on a construction detour a white truck pulls up beside me pulling a trailer.  They asked where I was going and then, "Do you want a ride."  I said yes.  I threw my bike in and climbed in the back seat of the cab to meet Alex, Luis, and Alberto.  These guys were part of a race team for the Baja series that was in San Felipe last weekend.  They promptly offered me a beer and I promptly accepted, and all of a sudden I was in good company speaking a mixture of English and Spanish watching the desert go by ten times faster now.  Before I knew it and about 5 beers later we rolled into Mexicali and parked in front of a high open roofed building with a chainlink fence and gate that Alberto was already opening.  Alex waves me inside and says "This is my shop," he's the mechanic.  Inside we found a slew of high performance race machines including a truck all danced up for the desert, a trike for Alex's son, Alberto's freshly raced (and broken) buggy and a handful of other cars and trucks, the usual tools, torches, compressors, welding equipment.  It made my inner teenager drool all over, and shop talk always works out better when you know what you're looking at.  We kept pouring back beers and bullshitting now in some form of spanglish.  We got to talking about kids and families and how during the Baja 1000 this fall Alex will have to fly back to Mexicali for his son's birthday.  He then told me his son's words for his own life, "Papa, No Paso Nada," and how those words were like my life as Alex saw it.  " Tu loco y no paso nada pinche Ricardo, pinche cabron."  No Paso Nada.  All of a sudden my wanderings in the desert had a theme.  Alex bought me a hotdog that I'd put over any in any other city...Chicago, Boise, anywhere, before driving me to the border and turning me loose on my home land.  Our brief encounter ended in a friendship that was much appreciated. 

I was planning on getting a hotel in Calexico since it was getting late and all, but my drunken sense got the better of that idea.  I found a street with three hotels and went to the third and asked the man how much.  He said $40 and my mind still operating in Mexico forgot the debit card option.  I only had $31 american dollars but more than enough in pesos (I remembered that grocery stores in border towns often take pesos--why wouldn't hotels do the same?)  I asked he took pesos to which he replied " I don't even know what pesos are."  Wow, you really should get out more, explore your back yard.  I went across the street and the next man said $40.  I told him I had $31 and some pesos to which he was offended and responded patriotically by threatening me "don't even make an offer like that in this country."  "Gracias Senor" I told him mockingly and walked out.  Who needs a cheap hotel anyway.  Not this cabron.  Ride on.  I found a small highway heading east out of town, how I don't know.  Celestial navigation maybe.  50 miles to Yuma, AZ.  After about 5 miles I spotted a tamarisk tree adjacent to some farmland.  My hotel for the night.  I was quite impressed with the sighting of it actually; Bike and I were very well concealed.

I got up before dawn hung over and still impressed with my sleep spot.  Today will be spent pedaling.  I ate my pan from San Felipe while pedaling and stopped only to change a flat and to necessitate.  My road ran out after 20 miles and put me on Interstate 8...ride on.  An exit to Blythe came 16 miles outside of Yuma and remembering the girls' trip in the fall too them through this town, and having no map, I took it.  Blythe marked about 100 miles of desert riding with fortunately favorable winds all on seven doughnuts, a very small bag of chips, a soda (orange, Sunkist), and a very large milkshake in the town of Palo Verde, CA whose local paper (a single sheet) boasted that "Church for Palo Verde may be a reality."  Whoa.  I stopped for a proper meal in Blythe and managed to hitch hike about 5 miles down Interstate 10 before pedaling off again.  The fire fighter that gave me a ride said there was a power-line road to the south that parallels the highway and would take me all the way to Quartzite, RV central, Arizona. [Two groups of people who I find to be particularly good with directions are firefighters and bicyclists.]  For some stupid reason (remember, I do dumb things) I took it.  The sun was down and it wasn't worth it to change my tires.  The road ended up being a rocky, sandy, steep gas pipeline and I'm riding what I can of it on my hundred pound pony on road shoes in the dark, avoiding border patrol encounters al to make it another 5 miles closer to home so tomorrow I can get up before dawn and do it all over again and be home in two days so I can raft the Salt river on Sunday.  No Paso Nada.  This is how I test my bikes.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 7-8

The grind continues.  I'm reminded on last fall's rides with Wenger and Lynn.  Headwind, washboards, sand, solitude.  Again, victories are small.  Like when the only group crazy enough to be driving this road in a car, a Subaru with 3 sea kayaks bouncing about up top hands you a cerveza out the back window.  They had Nevada plates and were no doubt headed south for spring break, but I didn't stop to talk.  I figured it would be much more classy to open and drink the beer without breaking stride.  Eventually the road mellowed to a rocky hard pack...and then pavement again, much before expected.  Somewhere around this transition someone yelled something out the window of a truck that sounded like there might be another rider behind me.  The truck was northbound so that would make sense, but I couldn't really hear him...wishful thinking maybe?  I made sure to take the rest of the day slowly...I couldn't have done much else, the headwind was brutal and I was getting desperately hungry.  Unexpectedly I came across a southbound pedaler and his partner...Matt and Lyn...and we stopped to talk.  They had been riding/hitching/couch surfing since September and they started in Washington state.  Definitely taking their time.  Matt was very much checking out my bike...and maybe soon they'll encounter Evan.  It was good to see some fellow pedalers.  I made it to Puertecitos in some state of delirium and pick up some food and not wanting to ride another inch was convinced to pay to camp.  250 pesos with a crappy wind break and a descent natural hot spring.  The hot spring is marked private property and is somewhat set off in a gated community of crappy houses and California plates and fat gringos with round but wrinkled skin.  And I'm sitting here at a picnic table barely shading the street lamps that beam down on this "camp" waiting to be locked in at precisely 10:00 while listening to the diesel generator that will surely run all night long.  Feels like fire camp!

Puertecitos to San Felipe - 75K of headwinds and those fat wrinkly Californians buying up the Mexican desert along the Sea of Cortez.  This is truly the armpit of Mexico and at this point I'm over it and so is my body - mostly my butt really, it has saddles sores the size of peaches.  I finally made it to San Felipe expecting to find a spring break party but instead found Panama City for the snowbirds of California.  Fat wrinkled gringos that make no slight attempt at learning spanish and a beachfront strip that caters to them.  I was considering going out that night but by the sight of things it wouldn't have been worth the time anyway and so instead I ended up in my room passed out at 8:00.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 6

Day 6:  Day of Decision.  I woke up to wind before dawn but I waited for the sun to come up.  No great hurry today.  Wind.  Veering off the road.  I made it to Rancho Chapala and had breakfast and looked but no Evan.  Its becoming the where's Richard tour.  I asked about the dirt road to the north and the man said I should have no problems on the bike.  So there it was, my decision, go north.  The south option just got overwhelming....too much to see and do, too many logistics.  Save it for its own proper exploration.  Ride north on dirt.  Test the fork.  Head for home....or back to Ensenada.  All said today was a grind.  Victories were small.  Turning up the dirt I was met with a sustained 20 mph head wind.  20K of this followed by 20K of washboard.  I stopped to change my tires and was reminded of the kindness of people.  A man in a Bummer with his family offered me two beers (which of course I accepted) and looked at my map to figure out where HE was.  Onward.  Grinding away slowly into the peril.  By the end of the day I'd gone 60K on dirt plus the first 20 on pavement.  No sign of Evan.  I made camp on the Sea of Cortez off some maze of dirt roads that found me by the water.  All to myself from sea to shining sea...in two days.  The fork rode marvelously with a load in these conditions...my only worry was the rear rack.  The road however would have its way with my cargo.  At camp I found my spare gallon jug of water was now a murky pool in my water tight pannier.  In the front my cookies had been turned into a pasty dust that stuck to everything else.  I feel like I'm in that old game Oregon Trail...I'm riding along through the unknown, the nothingness, and all of a sudden a message pops onto the screen:  "Grueling pace has wrecked half your food and water supply"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 5

Where's Evan?  (Evan rides Moustache number 5 and he is touring in Baja somewhere also.  All I know is he took a ferry across the Sea of Cortez from the mainland and was intending to head north.  I don't know his plan if he has one, but he left four days before me).  I didn't really expect to see him today but I did envision it...in the perfect world.  We could be on par to meet up or in reality he could be up to 3 days ahead of me heading north to San Felipe.  Either way I have a decision to make tomorrow, and I'm glad.  At least then I will have some direction or destination on this trip, something I could use more of in life.  After 5+ days I will at least have that.  Today was another long day in the saddle.  Dawn to dusk and then a few more K.  160K total today.  Greater than yesterday (only by a few).  That's like back to back centuries.  El Rosario was a good stop before going into the desert.  It is the first stop on the Baja 1000 race and has been every year since it started in 1967.  This desert is the most beautiful I've ever seen.  Cirios shoot up like spears from the rocky landscape as well as plenty of cardon cactus and chollas.  I was blessed with a tail wind most of the way across, but I'm tired and my butt hurts from two long days.  My dinner: Can of beans, can of tuna, cheese, cold corn tortillas.  My lunch:  cookies, peanut butter.  My body:  tired, wants fruit, unreplenished. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 4

A sleepless night by the roar of cars and trucks driving by on the highway.  I was up as soon as I could see sun meet land.  I coasted into San Vicente and got some birria quesadillas and coffee.  Then I pedaled.  In Colon I got some fish tacos.  Not the best, but only $2.  Then I pedaled.  The towns today all looked the same...dirt pull offs to the store fronts meeting the road with no shoulder headed straight south.  I passed the turn off for Cuarto Casas Surf Hostel.  Skip it.  I wanted out of this never ending strip of the same town.

In San Quintin I got shot in the ass with a BB gun by a kid younger than me riding in the bed of a truck.  His friends didn't realize, but when they reached a safe distance beyond a red light he told them and they all laughed all seven of them.  At first I thought it was a rock but it stung for longer than I expected it to.  It was a good shot I must say.  And what could I have done about it even if I wanted to?  Karma's a bitch, kid.  The next same town to the south the string ended and I was 60K from El Rosario, gateway to the Baja Desert.  Bring it.  I've been pedaling since dawn and I could go another 60 so I could start across the desert in the morning.  If I see Evan it'll be in the next day or two.   In the perfect world we'll arrive simultaneously where the dirt road heads north to San Felipe.  Otherwise its <1200 K to LaPaz.  Holy Shit.  I came back in sight of the ocean in the Valle Tranquilo and decided I needed to spend the night on this beach. 

I watched the sun set over the pebble beach with waves crashing and pelicans in flight before moving behind the large dune to take shelter from the wind.  Not a person or even a light in sight and brighter stars than I have ever seen.  Muy Tranquilo indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 3

Sometimes I do dumb things and today was one of those instances.  Day 3.  Ensenada to almost San Vicente.  The road was scary today.  Too narrow with no shoulder.  I made a quick exit from my hotel but running around town to get a tourist visa, sunscreen, and attempts to get a patch kit (or 4) delayed the ride a bit.  Mid afternoon after roasting my skin from not applying the 244 peso sunscreen I just bought I hit a turn onto a lesser road back to the coast and took it.  I was intent on going this way anyway and the sign for Coyote Cal's Hostel International only backed my decision.  The road was great.  It followed a creek, not too much traffic, beautiful countryside, ranch houses with woodsmoke billowing from the chimney on green grassy hillsides and goats perched atop old junk cars.  Very picturesque (Though I have no worthy pictures of this day).  I arrived at the oceanside town sooner than expected and rode into the dirt roads of town a little ways following the coast and backtracking to the north.  When I turned up no hostel I turned around and forded the river over to the south and looked up the most major road.  Dogs barked and chased me as I pedaled, even more so than had on the north side.  Not very welcoming.  I asked a man about the route to the south that followed the coast and he described it as "muy feo."  He did not sound optimistic.  I succumbed to his beliefs and returned across the river deflated.  No hostel, no route to the south.  I was hoping to grab some food before returning to the highway, there were places in town, but I stopped at the first little hut I passed on the way in.  Chips and sodas were all she sold.  Yesterday in my fit of flats all I wanted was a soda, so today I got one.  Followed by a long ride out my beautiful road as the sky turned to dusk.  Now I sit on the side of the highway with the lights of San Vicente in sight in the crappiest side hill campsite I've ever tried to sleep with an MRE and five cold tortillas in my belly covered in Lynn's hot sauce so I don't actually have to taste this mush.  The dumb parts here are that I knew there was food, and that I was hungry, but chose to do nothing about it.  As with the hostel.  One might wonder if this dumbness is more self loathe or masochism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 2

Rosarito to Ensenada.  I first heard of this ride nine years ago in Reno and have always wanted to do it.  I took the two lane road that cuts inland.  Truly beautiful.  So green.  Popotla was fun.  Its a sea shanty town with restaurants stacked on top of one another serving up fresh fish and shrimp oceanside.  I didn't understand the girl serving me, so she would ask the lady at the front how to say something in English and after reciting it about six time would come back and ask me.  I was waiting for the question after hearing her practice and she started and hesitated and I laughed and she laughed.  Alexandra.   

Then came the flats.  The front was first.  I decided to repair all my tubes in anticipation of more.  A few K later the back one.  I changed it out but heard the hiss.  Changed that one out, pumped it up and at 60 PSI the bead popped off and the tube blew.  I went with the 29er tube this time.  Right now its holding and I hope my streak is over.  I need to find some patch kits before I hit the desert. 

Ensenada is awesome.  The cleanest city in Mexico I've been to.  People here are nice and helpful and the fish tacos are amazing.  I would like to come back and sample the wine that's made here.  It doesn't really make it to the states for some reason.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tour Log: Baja - Day 1

Drunken train riding.  Somewhere in the frenzy of last night's departure I concluded once again that whiskey would be a good idea at the end of the night and again I was proven wrong.  Trains, traffic, three flat tires in Tijuana, headache.  I made it to Rosarito.  Its pretty sweet.  The fish is amazing.  TJ was interesting, but I just wanted to get out despite its best efforts to thwart.  San Diego...seems nice for a city.  Cute girls and good sushi. 

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Truss Fork Part @

I finally finished the truss fork today.  It was about the first project I started this winter, but the last one finished because it lacked a clear vision from start to finish.  Here's how it came out:

Its unpainted as of now but the brazes are finally polished.  The rack part was super fun to build, despite slicing my finger to a measurable depth, I'm looking forward to doing some more of them.  Those tires are a 29x2.35 with gobs of clearance.  I bet it would even take a 26x4.0, but I have none of those to test.  Its designed around my Jandd front paniers.  I'm sure if you look close you can figure out where everything goes.  It was real tempting to get super artsy with the rack tubing and the bends, but i thought it was sturdy enough and heavy enough so I'm calling it done.  Next time I'm going to make sure a six pack fits in between the fork stays.  It should hold a bed roll or a camera just fine though.  I took it and rode one of the sweetest, hardest trails in Sedona today but I was so jacked up on the strongest cup of coffee I've ever made that I could barely keep my shit together.  The fork is stiff as all get out.  Should be expected from a four pound skewer I guess (the thick wall steerer is a pound itself though).  Brings the whole beast up to about 30 lbs.  mmmmm.....heavy.  By the way I'm really into carbon bikes...just as long as they're bonded together with a strong medium...like IRON.  I'm going to have an extended testing session on this beast very soon.

That wraps up the winter projects.  The sun is coming out and its been warming up to almost 50 here and I need to get out of the shop and into the world so Moustache March = adventure and not bike building, but I'll be looking forward to the return.  Next on the list is the Heinchez.  He dropped me off a sweet parts kit a couple weeks ago with some Chris King/Sun Equalizer 650B wheels with 2.3" Pacenti NeoMotos.  This boy knows how to outfit a good bike so I'm stoked to build a frame for him.  It'll be interesting since I've never built a 650B and neither of us has ever ridden one.  And fortunately Heinchez is about as close in size and bike fit to myself as one can get.  Suspect the usual details and versatility.  Hasta Luego.  Richard