41.4 mi / 10.6 mph / 2214 ft. climbing
Home: Riu Santa Fe All-Inclusive Resort
One final ride south to bring us to the meeting of the seas, where the rocky spine of Baja finally allows itself to be washed over and submerged.
But ever since we reached La Paz, it feels like we crossed an invisible boundary that effectively makes the entire bulbous tip of Baja an island, rather than the end of a long peninsula that the maps show. I believe that’s because, this far south, the land-bridge that links the tip to the outside world contributes only a small minority of the total flow of people entering or leaving the “island”. That trickle from the north is barely perceptible against the torrent that flows up from Los Cabos International Airport, with additional flows entering the island from La Paz’s airport and ferry connections to mainland Mexico.
Overland travel to La Paz from anywhere outside the peninsula requires a minimum of 20 hours of driving time, so the vast majority of outsiders from the north choose to leapfrog the peninsula and arrive by air. In the opposite direction, one of our hosts at the campground/hostel was about to make her first trip north beyond La Paz (and thus, “off the island”), despite having lived on the island for months. This all paradoxically means that the further away we get from Mexico’s northern border, the more it feels like we’ve reached an island colony of the United States, rather than the Mexico we have come to know.
One of the manifestations of this is seeing signs exclusively in English for several miles as we headed south from El Pescadero. Another is the new arrivals to “the island” coming to Todos Santos and bothering me so much the other day by overriding the Mexican masking culture. And a third is the “license plate trick” no longer works: up north in the middle of the peninsula, we could have made a lot of money betting that every driver who passed us unsafely would have American plates. But here, we can no longer use that to distinguish American drivers from Mexican drivers, because there are almost no American license plates at all this far south. That definitely doesn’t mean there are no Americans, or no assholes, it just means that the asshole Americans are wearing Mexican masks, by driving Mexican-plated cars rented from the Los Cabos airport. Luckily, most of our route continued on divided Highway 19’s two-lanes-plus-shoulder (itself a characteristic that distinguishes this “island” from the rest of Baja), so asshole drivers generally weren’t a concern to us.
And on the plus side, the assumption by everyone else that Cabo is on an island, and the only way to reach it is by air or sea, was a great boon to the majority of our time in Baja. Our discovery of the “secret” land-route to this island made it feel at times like we were the only ones on this path, which doubtless made our first two months far more enjoyable than they would have been if we had been sharing the Highway 1 pipeline with a flood of millions driving their way to Los Cabos.
Once we cleared the outskirts of El Pescadero, some Mexican-ishness did return, and we got a good mix of all of Baja for our final ride. The mountains rise high here even at the end, though we could largely skirt around them while staying within view of the Pacific for much of the route. At a water-and-pee stop, we met some non-asshole Mexican-plated Americans who pulled over partly to talk about the riding here. Gary and Liz were fellow bike tourers from Bellingham, Washington (the city closest to the Canadian border, which, now after making it to the tip of Baja, it feels like we should have headed up to touch before we started south!). It was nice to be able to talk to them and feel like we actually convinced them that riding the highway through Baja is far more enjoyable than it seems from behind the wheel of a car (it feels like half the people we tell that to nod politely and say “yeah, sure…” to themselves)
We got lunch at “the last loncheria”, one final meal of machaca burritos at an open-air roadhouse much like the ones that were critical lifelines for us in the emptiness of the north. Here on “the island”, the Google reviews treated it as almost a novelty or a zoo: an opportunity to experience the regional cuisine and the loncheria vibe without the need to drive more than 30 minutes from your resort. Despite that, the food was excellent and the vibe was legit, and helped us reflect on all the similar home-cooked lunches we’ve had on the way (well, you could flush the toilets here without using a bucket, so not a perfect replica, but, they had horses out back!)
It didn’t take long after that for us to hit the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas. Once into town, I looked over the maps (while Rett was shopping at a department store) and saw that crossing Cabo was going to be a real nightmare, with challenging left turns across multi-lane highways, confusing frontage roads, and disappearing lanes. But as often happens, Rett surprised me with her urban cycling skills asserting themselves, and she ended up taking the “harder” (but faster) choice at every turn, keeping us safe and getting us to the gateway of our resort.
It was just over two years ago that Rett had a girls’ trip to Cabo San Lucas cancelled by COVID. Little did she know then (nor even just three months ago) that she would eventually be cashing in that rain check and making her dream of getting drinks at a swim-up bar still come true. This time by riding her bicycle all the way from Washington to this tip of Baja. So yeah, fuck off COVID, you can’t stop us!!!
While the method of arrival was an empowering bit of pride that she wouldn’t have had if things had originally gone to plan, the downside was that she also wouldn’t have her girlfriends, and instead was stuck with me, the party-pooping-ist most-anti-resort traveling partner this side of Jäger bombs. I already was having trouble stomaching the oblivious gringos in Todos Santos, and those were the “adventurous” 10% of partiers. I was about to be crushed together with the other drunken 90%, who wouldn’t even dream of leaving the hermetic boundaries of the resort, lest they instantly die of Mexico. Ugh!
But, I promised Rett I would do my best to enjoy myself, or, at a minimum, let her enjoy herself in the way she wanted to. For three nights, I could do it! Though navigating through the small-town of our resort, and coming to discover that our building and 3rd-floor room was directly facing out onto the wall-shaking bass of the “RIU Party” pool/foam/alcohol/libido explosion, felt like the universe telling me “ha ha, we’re going to make it as difficult as possible for you to keep that promise!”
But, a porter cheerfully helped lug our bikes up the stairs (another pushing a wheeled luggage cart said “want to trade?”, cleverly recognizing that our bikes make excellent luggage carts). And our mini-fridge had cold beers to drink after our bike ride and stair-climb, and four upside-down liquor bottles arranged on the wall for us to dispense from as-needed, so, maybe it’s not all bad. For cultural purposes we went to check out the RIU Party (no getting into the pool), and it was just as funny and ridiculous as I expected. Drunks being drunk, unaware of their wild sunburns, though maybe soothed by the curtains of foam. Paid and costumed dancers on the platforms churning away to the mostly-oblivious audience below. And the DJ spinning beats for this daytime party to ensure that no one in the surrounding buildings could be participating in anything as lame as a conversation. We are only 100 miles from the isolated beauty of Espiritu Santo Island, but it feels more like 100 light-years from here. However, double-fisting margaritas and my cultural curiosity helped keep the smile on my face (my one limit was that I would not be the drink-fetcher. If these all-inclusive resorts are so great, I want the drinks arriving directly to my hand!)
We explored deeper into the complex, and I was shocked by our first view of the actual end of Baja. The line of sea stacks, lit by the last of the sun, were thinning but defiant as the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez fought over who got to submerge them. And their natural beauty fought against the artificial decadence just as defiantly, cutting through clamor and sunscreen and spilled drinks and saying to us “we are the end, and we are here as you are here, strong and proud and standing tall”.
We went to the Italian buffet for dinner, and gorged on ridiculous variety of surprisingly-good food items, though I was sad that our immobility would prevent us from “winning” the all-you-can-eat economics as easily as it would if we would be doing five hours of bike riding each day.
After dinner I learned that these resorts apparently have “entertainment” each night similar to what I expect would be on a cruise ship (suffering through this resort stay also counts as my Cruise Ship Merit Badge, right?) so first we went to watch “The Divas”, a trio of variously-skilled singers doing popular songs (including some in Spanish!)
But when they wrapped up, a surprisingly-good rock band started up on a small stage on the opposite end. Leading with some Bon Jovi to pull in the maximum number of 40-somethings, I could instantly tell that their drummer was an excellent metal-trained dude, and that’s even before he started running his double-kick pedal in said Bon Jovi songs. Then they slowly let the mask fall away (as resort management went to bed?), working up through Guns’n’Roses to Metallica to finally Alice in Chains?! Rett and I did our part to get the 4-person mosh pit going, and somehow I ended the night with my voice nearly gone. I’m not sure how that happened, since I’m clearly supposed to hate this place?