36.5 mi / 11.4 mph / 1548 ft. climbing
Home: Mama Espinoza’s Hotel
Our garden hotel was so fancy that they had coffee in the office in the morning, a first in Mexico. However, the restaurant was not open for breakfast, and since it was far (by bicycle) from town, we made do with some vending-machine snacks to get us going (and it seemed the vending machine stock had a particular breakfast-focus perhaps for that exact reason).
So after our unusual “snack, then breakfast down the road” of yesterday, we would suddenly be repeating that pattern today. First we had to backtrack north up the gravel road and then the mile back east to Highway 1, but the hotel stay was totally worth the backtracking. Then we had an easy, wind-blown 10 miles, much of it through the lands of Pinos Agricola, who apparently grow mostly tomatoes under their miles of white fabric greenhouses.
Breakfast was at Parcela 12, yet another unique Mexican experience that makes us so happy we decided to ride Baja. The “restaurant” is essentially a family kitchen, with a few tables sitting indoors on gravel in front of the kitchen counter. There is no menu, only the 8-10 pots of food that are currently simmering on the stove. The proprietor lifted the lids, gave some descriptions (with a few words in English to help us gringos), and piled our selections onto plates (I mostly went with the chef’s choice/recommendation). We sit down, coffees come out, along with cheese, tortillas, and some unusual not-hot peppers. In the US, this would be a “hot new dining concept”, and there would be a line out the door at all hours filled with people who need to Instagram the experience, but here, while it certainly has a lot of (raving) Google reviews, it just feels so much less self-conscious. We successfully got our main fuel for the day, both in calories and in enjoyment of Mexican life.
To the rest of the ride, then! Today’s drivers were the absolute opposite of yesterday. I don’t mean that they were impatient and trying to kill us, I mean there were simply none of them! By last night we had reached the end of a long string of towns, and with the towns ending, the traffic ends too. So, while we still had a narrow two-lane road without shoulders, there were times where it felt like it was our very own bike path! Several times I could just stop in the middle of the road to take a photo.
Yes, there were a still a few cars and trucks, but it was generally very easy for them to pass us again, now that oncoming traffic was so light. That made it easy to also enjoy our surroundings, which included a lot of interesting cacti, and the blue ocean, which paralleled the road a mile to our west for much of the route.
Near the end of the distance, we had to turn inland, leaving the blue water behind for many days as we head up into the real desert. We had a big 800-foot hill to climb, through which the highway was graded with a lot more variability than the steady 5% slopes of our previous big climbs. A push from the continuing tailwind helped make it easier, and then after passing through a military checkpoint at the top (again, they only care about northbounders), we bombed all the way back down the hill (initially at a really steep, wind-blown -11% grade) into El Rosario.
We checked into Mama Espinoza’s Motel for $32, reverting to the motel standards we’d been used to previously: this one has a (tiny) TV, semi-working WiFi, and towels, but no climate control, an ashtray glued to the bedside table, and a single wall outlet that barely holds a plug. But the grounds are cute, and there is an attached Baja 1000-themed restaurant where we got Mexican dinner. Then we walked over to the grocery store for some (Valle de Guadalupe) wine and dessert, and came back to the room to watch an episode of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”.
We spent a second night in El Rosario, in order to prepare for our trek up and into the truly remote desert. After breakfast at Mama Espinoza’s, we walked up and down a good portion of the town to scout things out. Didn’t see anything too exciting, but made a note to hit the Oxxo on the way out of town in the morning. We stopped at the Pemex to get our camp stove fuel bottle filled, which the attendant (gas stations in Mexico have attendants) did with minimal confusion. Then a somewhat strategic trip to the supermercado for calorie-dense food. We don’t know how much we’ll need to feed ourselves, and it’s a challenge to find a balance between “better safe than sorry” and “we’ll never make it up the hill with that much food and water”. I did a bunch of research on the route ahead, and then we went for dinner at….Mama Espinoza’s. Rett went with a burger and fries to de-Mexicanize things a bit, and I had some sort of nopales, beef, and chili sauce dish that was really good.