44.7 mi / 12.9 mph / 150 ft. climbing
Home: Hotel Conchita
Sometime in the middle of the night I partially awoke in our tent in the desert and imagined that the outside of our sleeping bag was soaking wet. Sometime later I woke again, and it was dry, so I said “ah, good, that was just a weird dream before.” But when our alarm went off at 5:45am and I woke for real, the sleeping bag was definitely wet! So it was the second feeling that had been the dream, while the reality was, if not fully a nightmare, at least an uncomfortable annoying mystery.
Everything exposed to the air was wet: the tent, dripping water on to the sleeping bag, our clothes hanging from our bikes to dry out overnight, our chairs that we hadn’t packed up because WHY WOULD WE, WE LEFT OVERNIGHT CONDENSATION BEHIND IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND THIS IS THE DESERT!!! Our feelings about our decision to wild camp, which had been improving last night, were suddenly back in the toilet. The worst thing was, while it was wet enough to dampen all of our gear, it still wasn’t wet enough to completely tamp down the dust!
Even though I was pretty sure that it was condensation, and not just those cops who came back in the middle of the night to spray water all over us as a practical joke, it was still a shock to see it confirmed by a thick white cloud below eye level just on the other side of the low ridge.
We made our best effort to get packed up without attempting to dry anything out, because the whole point of doing the extra miles yesterday was to push as many miles west as we could before the west wind picked up in our faces.
Our climb yesterday had brought us once again over the spine of Baja, and this morning we would be reaping our rewards by heading down a gradual 20-mile downhill to the western plains. While the highway was clear when we started, it wasn’t long before we hit a wall of fog at surface-level. Cruising at 17mph, it was difficult to find a spot to pull off the road, but finally we were able to stop, put on our rain jackets (mostly for visibility, but it was definitely cool enough too), and for me to put on both of my bright yellow rain covers in the rear and turn on my generator taillight in addition to my battery-powered blinker. Luckily it seemed like drivers were taking it slow, and had their lights on, so I never saw a vehicle come up from behind that was surprised to see us.
It at least makes some more sense now how the desert plants can stay as green as they do. Even with no actual rain, I bet they’ve figured out how to drink up these soaking fogs. Eventually the fog lifted somewhat (or we descended below it), but a solid layer of clouds remained for another couple of hours. It kept the morning blessedly cool, and with the downhill, and the early start that kept our headwinds mild, our first 28 miles were done in a hurry. At the crossroads of Ciudad Insurgentes, we would make a 90-degree left turn, directing us southeast rather than southwest, and turning the ever-strengthening west wind from a headwind to a slight tailwind. At this point we finally both agreed that yesterday’s extra push had been the right call, and now that we had made it to the turn, could hopefully relax the rest of the way.
With the sun now out, we stopped at the first Six we saw (a chain of tiny stores that sell cold drinks and little else) for beverages to go with our peanut butter sandwiches. Right next to it was a small closed-up taqueria booth with a canopy behind it, so we set up our chairs there in the shade. Behind that was a vacant lot with a concrete pad, so I set up the tent and put the sleeping bag inside, with the now-properly-operating desert air and sun drying them out in about ten minutes. And next to that was a fenced-off abandoned property that Rett was able to sneak onto to answer nature’s call. So while it was far from pretty, our stop at the crossroads in the center of Insurgentes was incredibly efficient and productive!
Starting again, we not only had that slight tailwind, we also had a highway with two lanes in each direction, which effectively means that we get the right lane while the faster vehicles can now pass us without needing to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. What we didn’t have was scenery. The road was now dead-flat, arrow-straight, and surrounded by a surprising amount of agriculture. The first farm we’d passed, before Insurgentes, felt incomprehensibly like a Midwest dairy farm, with a couple of palm trees in the distance being the only glitch I could detect in the Holodeck simulation. But now along the road to Ciudad Constitucion, the agricultural operations felt bigger and less-personal and more like what we’d become used to in California or northern Baja. And often the opposite side of the road would still be filled with cactuses.
When we rolled up to the hotel I had semi-randomly picked out in Ciudad Constitucion, I was a bit surprised to find that it was a multi-story affair. I wasn’t expecting this city in a flat agricultural area to be built up with such density! But it still wasn’t so fancy as to have an elevator, so we briefly considered looking elsewhere to make our lives easier with the bikes, but knew that the searching/finding/deciding process would be a lot more effort than just lugging our bikes up a flight of stairs. And at MX$410 (~US$21) the price wasn’t an objection.
We went out for dinner to a Thai/sushi restaurant, which was really good and more evidence of the surprising cosmopolitan nature of this city (though that doesn’t mean it was actually run by Asian people; racial diversity here is still pretty limited). On top of the international cuisine, our waitress spoke English, as did the clerk at our hotel, and the clerk at the Coppel department store. It’s by far the most unexpected-English-speaking we’ve encountered, in roles (and a city) that are not particularly tourist-facing; it makes me wonder if it has something to do with the local education system?
We had the alarm set for 5:45am again, so we could get as early of a start as possible for our 60 mile day, with a plan to hit a coffee shop for a quick breakfast on the way out of town. But when the alarm went off, Rett’s body said “no”. 60 miles (which would again be the longest ride we’ve done in nearly seven months) just felt like too much after 90+ miles over the previous two days. Ok, no problem, our hotel room isn’t the greatest, but it’s far from the worst, and at US$21, it’s a pretty economical way to rest up for our second big push to La Paz.
So instead of quick-breakfast, we got a big fancy breakfast at CoffeeStar, where the waitress actually apologized for her “poor” English! C’mon, no, it’s way better than our Spanish, and it’s again really surprising that you know any English at all!
I took a walk to pick up groceries for a hotel-room lunch, and had a chance to try out a “trick” we’d learned from someone on the beaches (I think Graham) when encountering an aggressive dog: a beefy pit-bull-type was getting a little too much up on my backside as I walked, so I reached down, pretended to pick up a rock, and raised back up in a throwing motion. And yes, it totally worked, better than anything else has; the dog flinched, paused, and then gave up the chase. Having an actual rock to pick up would provide even more insurance, but Mexican street dogs are essentially “trained” by rock-throwing (I’ve seen a kid doing it essentially as one of his chores, to keep a neighbor’s puppy off of his property), so even the threat can be enough for a Pavlovian response.
We got takeout tortas (Mexican sandwiches/hamburgers) at a nearly-street-food-stall to bring back our hotel for dinner, and then I set up our camp stove outside our hotel door to boil some eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast. We’ve done a decent amount of cooking-in-front-of-our-rooms in Baja, but never in such a city-hotel that would normally make me a bit more apprehensive. But the huge unfinished-concrete-and-rebar area outside our room, along with someone’s clothes hanging from an electrical line, erased any concern that we’d be scolded by a hotel employee here. And then a worker did actually come by on a bit of a security sweep, and just smiled, mostly impressed by our little camp stove!