23.6 mi / 10.6 mph / 1073 ft. climbing
Home: Hotel Cactus
When we restarted after six weeks off in Redlands, we wanted to try to keep our mileage at 25 miles a day while Rett’s back continued to recover and strengthen. Over the last week, that had swelled to more like 35 miles per day, plus challenging hills and winds. The great news is that Rett’s strength and comfort seem to be improving, or at least not worsening under the extra strain. Anyway, today we finally were looking at a short-mileage day again, but it would still not be easy due to heavy right-side pressure from a straight westerly wind as we pedaled south.
But it’s amazing to see how much Rett has learned over the last few weeks from repeated instruction by her stern teacher, Mother Nature. Today’s crosswinds were probably twice as strong as those that buffeted us when riding out of Ensenada, but unlike then, when she had difficulty even starting the bike, and struggled mightily to maintain a straight line, today she could smoothly trace the edge of the narrow road, scratch her nose while riding, and climb steep twisting hills as if there was no wind at all.
In addition to the wind, we even had some rain! About ten whole drops of it, but that’s more than we’d seen in weeks. It came from one of the thick puffy clouds spotting the sky, which also laid a pattern of dappled sunlight across the desert landscape, a type of cinematography we have not seen the like of much out here.
That steep twisting hill was a strange one, much steeper (mostly 7%, a little 8%) than the elevation profile suggested, which is an unusual error. Luckily we had read Tony’s (a previous rider) journal describing it so were somewhat prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for, since it was still only about 500 feet high, was the incredible 360-degree view at the top, with mountains in every direction, in all different shapes. Some soft and rounded, some sharp pyramids, and then some layers of flat-topped buttes extending as deep as our eyes could see.
Now that we are south of the junction where Highway 5 funnels its traffic into Highway 1, it does seem like there are more vehicles on the road. Still open enough to be able to stop in the middle of the road for pictures, but I had to be more careful about looking behind before stopping, and couldn’t dally as long.
And today, about 80 percent of it had American license plates. One car pulled alongside, slowing to our riding speed, and asked if we needed anything. “No, thank you, unless you can stop this wind for us!” As it went by we saw it had a Washington plate. Too bad we couldn’t have talked more and told them that’s where we were from! We’d had a similar experience yesterday, but I had been able to talk longer with the American woman (who had done some bike touring on the east coast) as she drove next to me in the empty oncoming traffic lane.
We curved around those buttes we had seen from the top of the hill, and as we got closer our destination, were amazed at how green everything had become. It was still largely desert cactus-land, but the density, or maybe the freshness of them, made the landscape more alive and verdant than anything we had seen since we left the coast. I guess it was the land’s way of telling us that we were approaching that ocean once again.
When we got to the barely-a-town of El Rosarito, once again the only bit of civilization since our morning departure from Punta Prieta, it wasn’t clear that our destination motel was open. It didn’t exist on Google Maps, and while Google Streetview had shown “Hotel Cactus” painted on the white cinder-block wall surrounding it, in real-life, that had been painted over. Hm. That’s not good. We asked at the restaurant next door, and one of the workers there was nice enough to walk back over there with us and find a girl who appeared from I’m-not-sure-where to give us a key in exchange for 500 pesos ($25 USD). The TV was a CRT (but hey, there was a TV!), there was no climate-control, the beds were firm to the point of hardness, and most-primitively, there was no hot water. Which would have been better during yesterday’s hotter temperatures, but we both still felt crusty enough to endure a cold shower. And on the plus side, like every single hotel we’ve been in in Mexico, the room was huge, and we had no problem fitting both of our bikes inside. We went back to Mauricio’s Restaurante next door for early-dinner, and once the booming rumble of the idling big rigs sitting outside stopped, fell asleep for an early night.