23.9 mi / 10.1 mph / 1619 ft. climbing
Home: Mini Hotel Valentina
Thanks to the journals of Baja touring cyclists who have preceded us over the years, we have been able to settle into an easy rhythm of ~25 mile days, with known stops available at those intervals. I still don’t know when “high season” in Baja might be, but the empty motels and restaurants tell us this surely isn’t it (which is weird, since everything is green now and temperatures are perfect), so we haven’t felt concerned about places being fully-booked before our arrival. So all that means we can roll out of our motel in late morning (we haven’t learned anything about check-out/check-in times at motels yet), ride for a few hours, and settle into a new place.
Today, after a rare motel breakfast (back again in front of the wood-burning oven), we exited the small town of Santo Tomas, and then spent the next 25 miles on rural Highway 1 until we arrived at the next small (but slightly-larger) town of San Vicente. In between was nothing but grand mountain images, flipping to a new version with every curve in the road. We kept our wide, smooth shoulder for all but a couple miles in the middle (and even there, with no towns, traffic was light), so the whole thing was basically a world-class stretch of bike touring. We had a 1000-foot hill to climb at the beginning of the day, but the grade was steady and manageable (around 5%) on the well-designed highway, and it is a little tough to get constantly-changing mountain views without actually climbing some of them, so that was fair.
Maybe the toughest part of the ride was the very end, when we needed to pull off to our motel in San Vicente. In town, our nice shoulder disappeared, or, maybe to some perspective, expanded. Broad dirt tracks line each side of the narrow two lanes of asphalt, functioning as a combination frontage road/driveway/parking-area for the multitude of small businesses. But the dirt is below the level of the highway, and far from perfectly-smooth, so switching from asphalt to dirt is not a simple task on a loaded bicycle, especially when a big truck is looming behind you. So we were forced to ride on past our hotel, but luckily in this case we didn’t have to keep rolling too far until space opened behind us that gave us time to stop and get off the asphalt.
At Restaurant/Mini Hotel Valentina we immediately saw the proprietor out front. Again, though our communication abilities were limited, we got into a room in short order. This guy was perceptive enough to realize that we were worthless with Spanish, so limited himself to speaking a few simple words, and with that, we basically had not even a moment of confusion. An even cheaper room than last night (~$32 USD), and better. A TV, nicer bathroom, and cleaner. No heat though, so on the abnormally cool day we needed to make sure to optimize window usage.
We walked back up that dirt frontage road for some restaurant dinner, picked up some snacks/desserts at an abarrotes where the clerk surprisingly spoke English, and called it a good night.