52.0 mi / 10.9 mph / 1144 ft. climbing
Home: The Wave AirBNB
We try to avoid calling this thing we’re doing a “bike tour”, since we spend so much less time actually riding our bikes than that term implies. But even for us, sixteen days between significant rides is a rarity only exceeded by our time off in Redlands, CA while Rett’s back was healing. Luckily much of the “time off” this time still involved keeping our bodies familiar with the idea of actively moving for several hours a day (and maybe even strengthening unused core/upper-body muscles that could benefit us on the bikes?), and hopefully that would help us make the leap to Todos Santos.
And a “leap” is precisely what we were looking at, from one “safe zone” to another. As April begins closing in on May at this latitude further south than any point in the continental United States, the temperatures have not been getting any cooler. There is relief, mildly from the wind off the Sea of Cortez near La Paz, and, more strongly, from the Pacific Ocean near Todos Santos. But between the two, the interior land rises and brings the temperature up with it.
Luckily, we’re now at the narrowest point of this improbably-narrow peninsula, so we’re able to cross from the east to west side in a single day’s bike ride (in fact, we could get to the Pacific in less than 35 miles if we could fly like crows). So the goal was to get riding as early as possible, get over the hill and to the downslope toward the Great Ocean before the heat reached its maximum for the day.
The first 10 miles weren’t encouraging. The road out of town was extremely rough in places, and ever-changing, with disappearing lanes, random shoulders, traffic lights, including some controlled by whistle-blowing police in the rush-hour traffic, and of course, that rush-hour traffic. Add in a mild headwind, a shallow but steady uphill, and the urban limits of La Paz apparently continuing without end, and it made for a terrible “welcome back” from our beloved Baja Highway 1.
When we passed through an unmanned agricultural inspection station, that appeared to mark the end of the chaos, and we were back to a normal highway with a consistent, wide, good-quality shoulder. So that reduced the forces pushing against us to mainly just the uphill.
Several miles later, we actually exited Federal Highway 1 (at an interchange!) to switch to Federal Highway 19. In all our riding in Baja, we have probably done less then 10 miles of riding on roads that are not Highway 1 (it’s literally the only road paved in most areas!) so this was very strange. Not only did another paved road exist, it was every bit the equal of Highway 1 in this section, meaning, divided, with two travel lanes and a shoulder in each direction. More proof that this southern tip of Baja is something quite different from the empty middle section that comprises 80% of the length of the peninsula.
We had a packed lunch in the shade of a closed food stall at a crossroads where we could buy some cold drinks. After we started riding again, the thermometer on my bike computer hit a new nomadcy-record of 117 deg F. This is with the sun beating down on it, so the air was actually nowhere close to that temperature, but even on other sun-beating-down days I’d only seen 116F, so my concerns about it getting hotter weren’t overblown. In terms of riding, our strategy to beat the heat seemed to be working, because it never got especially unbearable.
And then, once we hit the final crest and began the downhill towards the Pacific Ocean, the cool breezes we could feel on our skin were also reflected in the data, with my thermometer dropping 10 degrees over the next several miles. We had successfully made the hop to the next “safe zone”, and could now spend as long as we wanted in Mexico (within reason!) without fear of melting, since we would never again need to leave the protective cooling of the coast.
Just as we got into the outskirts of Todos Santos, Rett’s tire went wonky and she pulled over as quickly as she could. A flat? Yes, and our first flat in all of Mexico, after nearly 1000 miles of riding! Always annoying, but two miles from our destination felt particularly annoying, since it was so close, but far enough that we did have to go through the effort of fixing it in the shadeless shoulder. At least I still remembered how to change a tube.
That done, we clipped the northwest corner of downtown Todos Santos (much more (vintage) brick construction than we’re used to seeing!) but then quickly dove down and across the palm-filled San Ignacio-like river valley and then back up to the residential “suburbs” stretching northwest of town. Just before tracking down our AirBNB location, I gave Rett one last indignity by accidentally kicking her hard across the knee as I hopped on her bike to taxi it to the gate.
“The Wave” is an amazing AirBNB, the best we’ve stayed in in Mexico. It’s a small casita that’s part of Elfi’s larger desert-oasis compound, beautifully kept and cleaned, with outdoor sitting areas and, also outside, Rett’s dream, a bathtub in Baja!
Elfi pointed out to us an extra bonus: a young Great Horned Owl, living in the palm tree directly outside our window!
For dinner we got Elfi’s recommendation for a takeout sushi place. It was the most-unlikely location for a sushi restaurant: we’re already across the valley from the tourist/retail side of town, and we walk further up the road until it turns to dirt, past a line of crumbling, abandoned properties, until we reach a tiny abarrotes-stand that almost looks like the end of the road. A winding dirt side-track turns left and uphill, more like a driveway to a few houses, surely not the right way, and Google Maps must be totally wrong (which wouldn’t be at all unusual in Baja) But then, one of those houses improbably has the Sushi sign we were looking for! This place is definitely getting zero drive-by business! But the sushi was great, and we ordered so much that we got two days of food out of it. We finished the night with Rett luxuriating in her soak, and me computering in the cool ocean evening.