40.0 mi / 11.3 mph / 724 ft. climbing
Home: Jardines Baja Hotel
For our second night at Hotel Pedro San Martir, there was no music at all (nor even any during the day), so sleep came easier. On the other hand, with the cloudier and windy day, we could only get the temperature in the room up to 68 deg. F in the afternoon, so that meant it was down to 48 deg. F by the time we woke up in the morning. So, out of snuggle-position and immediately into our down jackets; it’s sort of like staying in a yurt, but with a nice bathroom, hot water, and a lot less money!
Our edge-of-town location, combined with the fact that the town was barely a town anyway, meant that we did a rare move getting on the bikes prior to any coffee, and with only an energy bar (thanks, Sandy!) in our stomachs. It took a little time to get the manager rousted to get our deposit back (150 pesos, a new thing for us), but then we were back onto Highway 1 once we walked back out through the still-puddle-filled and now-muddy dirt roads.
Twelve miles later we made it to Camalú, and Hamburguesas Mi Casita for a late-ish breakfast. Two orders of chilaquiles, plated with beans, french fries, and a bare hot dog. We don’t know whether the latter two items are “normal” chilaquiles sides around here, or if they were included because we were getting breakfast in a burger joint, but it was all good! And $7 USD, including coffee. And the place was really cute too, painted with detailed murals of outdoor scenes featuring little smiling hamburgers fishing, walking their (hot?) dog, or just relaxing. Unfortunately the “burger joint” theme meant that they were playing 1960s English Oldies on the radio, which jolted up Rett’s memories of her mom, seizing her like the unexpected shock and pain of an evil gremlin running up from behind and hammering your funny-bone when you least expect it.
Resuming forward momentum is the usual analgesic for such situations, but the riding today came with its own stresses. The route today, while straight and relatively flat, went through a string of populated towns, with a higher density than anything since Ensenada. Towns mean traffic, and except for a couple miles of 2-foot shoulder, and a couple sections where the towns were big enough for the road to expand to multiple lanes, the vast majority of the riding was on two-lane, shoulderless roads, with a nearly constant stream of traffic behind and ahead.
We’d read previous cyclists reporting that they had pulled off the road and dropped down the treacherous cliff to the dirt dozens of times in this section to let vehicles pass. That’s a dangerous thing for any cyclist to do, but especially risky for Rett and her total lack of BMX experience, so we were extra-nervous about the risks from vehicles and road edges.
It turns out that the Mexican drivers were, once again, unbelievably accommodating. While Rett, as usual, was more stressed than me, there was never a moment in the 40 miles where I felt even the slightest need to pull off the road. This, despite there being times when a vehicle would need to sit behind us for several minutes before oncoming traffic cleared enough (or visibility became good enough) to allow a pass. But unlike drivers in the U.S., who seem to heat themselves into a boiling rage if forced to wait more than 5 seconds, the drivers here seem to have a nearly-unlimited amount of patience. I spent even more time watching my rear-view mirror than the most-of-the-time that I usually do, calling out nearly every overtaking vehicle to Rett (while she called out all the holes in the road ahead) and I could simply see the cars, panel vans, and semi-trucks settle back and wait. Not inching up on my rear wheel, not feinting to the left trying to make an opening for themselves out of nothing. And not a single horn honk. Just hanging back and giving us space. And respect. And I tried to give as many thumbs-ups and peace-signs as I could, to let them know the respect is mutual.
Some of their respect must come from driver-education, some from the experience of driving through environments less-focused than the U.S. is on maximizing the throughput of motor vehicles. But the relaxed behavior is so widespread, there must be a deeper cultural factor at play as well. I wish I knew what it was! It’s just hard to overstate how differently the drivers behave here than in the U.S., and I feel like the pull-off-the-road cyclists we read about simply (and understandably) could not believe that the difference is as stark as it is, and assumed that rage must be simmering in the drivers lined up behind them. It’s also possible that we just got lucky today, but I feel like I’ve now experienced enough Mexican drivers to know that this is “normal”.
For the third time in a row, we rode past our motel-turn off, but this time was because I had bad directions. The motel was (unusually) a mile off the highway, and we passed a surprisingly-paved cross-road, only to find that my mapped cross-road was bad dirt. So we backtracked up the rough dirt “frontage” road below the highway a quarter mile (with Rett riding the whole way!) and then west to our middle-of-nowhere motel.
The Hotel Jardines Baja came recommended from previous cyclists (and also from Edgar, who we chatted with outside the Calimax in Vicente Guerrero), and it makes absolutely no sense. It is a large green oasis growing in the middle of nothing. The grounds are a literal botanic garden, with a large variety of flowers, fruit trees, cacti, and shaded green lawns surrounding a motel and restaurant. It cost three times the price of our last hotel, but is still only $60USD, and it’s the most gringo-focused establishment we’ve stayed at: both the hotel clerk and our waiter spoke fluent English, and we had a nice sunset chat with Robert and Diane, a soon-to-be-married couple venturing down from San Diego and Rosarito. Dinner was excellent, the room is nicer than nearly any hotel we’ve been in the U.S., so altogether it’s just as much a figurative oasis for us as a literal one.