Saturday, April 4, 2009

Kilometer 56

Lets start here...

Mazatlan 56 (a sign along the road indicating that I'm damn close to achieving a huge milestone in this entire adventure)

I cant hold it back anymore! I'm in the middle of nowhere. By myself. Exhausted. Riding my bike, pushing through the wild wind, I'm at 110 kilometers or so today already....I start crying...

This is huge. I'm under the 100 kilometer mark to Mazatlan. Lonely Planet says that from Tapachula at the Guatemala/Mexico border its 2,200 kilometers to Mazatlan. After briefly looking over my own numbers I'm sure it has been longer that that. I crossed Guatemala and entered Mexico at Tapachula around March 5th. I got into Mazatlan in about 3 weeks. Its been a long haul. I have accomplished a HUGE milestone. My body is near break down, but my spirits are so high...its hard to even explain.

I'm overwhelmed. I'm exhausted. I'm listening to U2 but that's not why I'm crying. Seeing MAZATLAN 56 on the green and white sign on the autopista brought so many feelings rushing through my body. Just before the sign I was kinda doing a recap of the trip. I thought about Mike and our first day on the ride back in Panama. It was a grueling 35 kilometers. hahahah! I thought a lot about the mountain pass at San Ramon, Costa Rica where I climbed for 4 hours. I remembered Mike's email the next day. He said that Costco was recalling all the Cliff Bars with peanut butter. Well that would have been nice to know BEFORE the ride through the mountains because I had like 20 bars with me. I thought about the long and bumpy road to the small communities in Nicaragua and remembered how Horacio, the Plan director, was telling me he had to have back surgery because of all the rugged roads that he has visited over the years. That got me to think because the people in those villages had to travel that road EVERYDAY. I thought about El Salvador and all the farmers with their giant machetes slung over their shoulders. I thought of my little buddy Medardo in Guatemala. I hope he was getting some use out of the soccer ball I gave him. I thought about the flyer that was created for the party in San Francisco that were throwing when I get back. The flyer says, "A Man's Inspiring Journey from Panama to San Francisco." That was amazing when I saw that. It was one hard example of how change and how Ive changed over this past year.

Almost a year and a half ago I was riding high. I had the German car, the nice one bedroom apartment in San Francisco with the million dollar view, the real estate job with the nice title, I "had it". Then I realized I wanted something different. I realized that those material things were only holding me back. I realized that there had to be more to life. I wanted to learn, to grow and to see the world. I wasn't necessarily "trying to find myself," as the cliche goes. But I had no idea what was in store. That flyer for me is evidence and proof of that change. Seeing that green and white MAZATLAN 56 sign brought it all home. Here I am pedaling along Mexico's highway 15 with 56 kilometers to go to Mazatlan and to hit a hug Milestone. 

I'm in the moment here along highway 15 but I cant help to think of my friends and family back home. I'm truly overwhelmed with this ride. I cant hold back the tears. 

Around the same time the next day from when I saw the Mazatlan 56 sign I find myself curled up into a ball on top of my bed in my hotel in Mazatlan. I'm in the fetal position with my back facing the ceiling, clinching my fists. "Oh my god...I think I need to go to the hospital", I mumbled to myself. Its around 10 am and I've been throwing up and have a serious case of diarrhea. There's a sharp shouting pain driving through my lower stomach going from the left to the right. I got a bad case of food poisoning...AGAIN! Luckily, around 1 or so theres a knock at the door. The maid is surprised to find me in the room. My eyes are blood shot red. I'm sweating, sitting on the corner of the bed with my ripped up BERKELEY shirt on. "hay problema senora. yo soy enfermo."Somehow my Spanish is working. I tell her that I'm seriously sick, need some help, and am alone. Luckily the hotel staff is extremely nice and caring. They even go so far as to go to the store to get me some water, Gatorade and medicine. 

The plan was to get on the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz, Baja California at 3pm that day. I was supposed to arrive into La Paz the next morning at 9 am. I wanted to get off the ferry and start riding. I was even hoping to get something like 100 kilometers in that same day. Instead, my food poisoning is going to set me back a bit.

The hotel room is dark and musty. This place was cool back in the day when John Wayne was a regular. Today their willing to chop the advertised price in half to get the business. Even though its a bit run down and old it still has its charm and the staff was great because every few hours they would check on me...making sure I was still live! hahaah! I was trying to hold out on changing the ferry ticket. Maybe the sickness would go away and I could catch the ferry? Eventually the pain got worse but the staff at the hotel even went so far as to go to the ferry to exchange my ticket for me.  Even thought the staff was super nice it was probably the loneliest place to spend 20 hours. I was curled up into a ball under a nasty old and stained sheet trying to pass the sickness.

The next morning I had to pull it all together. I had to get out of Mazatlan that morning. I couldn't waste anymore time. I was still a bit sick but I had to push through. No Tengo Tiempo!

The day before when I got to the ferry office the lady told me that the next ferry to La Paz was April 20th. Aaaahhhhh??????!!!! Shocked and a bit worried I asked her if there were any other companies that operated ferries to La Paz. She pointed to the building next door. The other office wasn't nearly as nice as the first plus the lady behind the counter didn't speak any English. That's because the only ferry to La Paz wasn't really for passengers, instead it was primarily for truckers and buses.

So I am on the truckers boat to La Paz. No nice lounges on this thing, nothing fancy at all but least I got a ride. The boat was basic as they come. I had to tear off the seat cushions of three seats to make myself a bed on the floor. I was only able to get a few hours of sleep. My new friend, this guy named Jesus, sitting a few seats away shared the 5th seat cushion for our feet. classic scene really. Jesus and I sleeping on the floor sharing a cushion for our feet. The worst part about this trip was that my head was a few feet from bathroom door. The bathroom, for whatever reason was really hot and steamy inside. It also had a serious sewage problem. So ever few minutes I would get these hot and smelly breeze coming from the bathroom. It also kept reminding me how brutally sick I was only 24 hours ago.

I woke up with new life. The roller coaster of the past few days wasn't going to affect me. I even had a hilarious biker short moment. I changed into my riding outfit on the boat and then went to grab some breakfast. The look on all the hard core looking Mexican truckers faces was hilarious when I walked into the kitchen. A few of them even busted up laughing because I'm sure they thought I looked so ridiculous. Well that put me into a better mood. But, after breakfast, when I went down to put the rest of my stuff away I noticed that my camera was gone.

Some slimy, wormy, maggot stole my freakin camera. All the pictures from Guatemala, from the village near Jalapa and my travels through Mexico...gone!

So...the emotional roller coaster cranks on....

Ive been travelling for over a year. Ive travelled to 5 continents and Ive been to over 40 countries and it takes the ferry from Mazatlan to la Paz to get jacked. Damn! I didn't make a fuss, I didn't tell the crew or captain. All that would do is piss some people off. Probably some truckers who are going to pass me along the road somewhere outside of La Paz. Luckily most of my pictures are backed up. So...I let it go...but damn it does suck!

We finally get to La Paz. The water is a beautiful blue and green. My friend, Jesus, tells me to take a picture. I laugh and ignore him. I didn't even want to think about that. I finally get through security and hit the road around 10am. I wanted to get some kilometers under my belt. After about 5 kilometers or so I notice a beautiful white headed Eagle perched atop a cactus on a plateau above the blue and green water. I can tell the Eagle is watching me as I cruise by on my bike. I tell myself that that must be an looked amazing! I tried to make it a point to bring myself out of a funk that Ive been in for the past 2 days.

I can tell right off the bat that Baja is a whole new ballgame. The mountains surrounding La Paz and Pichilingue (where the ferry port is) are dry, with colors of grey, orange and red. There are cacti everywhere and nothing else. I thought main land Mexico was dry but this...this is Baja...and this is the desert.

So I'm cycling along. I'm about 10 kilometers outside of La Paz and see another sign. 1,462 kilometers to Tijuana. All of a sudden nothing it is...the last stretch before getting back to the US. In just a few days Ill be back home. I don't care about the camera, my pain in my stomach is non existent and again I feel invincible. The adrenaline is pumping. I get an immediate high. Another challenge...another huge challenge. Lets do it!

Mexico is a funny place.

10 kilometers later I realize that I'm in the desert and nothing is around me. The adrenaline instantly wears off. there is a BLASTING head wind hitting my face so hard my eyes tear up. Its so hard that I feel like if I stop pedaling I would be going backwards. Has anyone attempted biking Baja from South to North, I thought?

The desert is a funny place. The desert can make or break a person. The 1,462 kilometers instantly seemed a long way away.

I pushed through 30 kilometers of torturous wind. It took me forever to do those 30 kilometers. I finally got to the top of this hill where a dusty restaurant stood. Next to the restaurant was some type of shop. The walls at the shop were taped together and the walls were made of garbage bags. I rolled over to the shop. An older Mexican dude with 2 dreads in his hair and a limp when he walked, told me that there wasn't a hotel or even a small town in the next 150 kilometers. The kid at the restaurant confirmed that story 10 minutes earlier. Oh crap....what now???

This was getting scary. I'm not prepared for this. I'll be camping in the desert, alone, for sure. My mind was working on overtime for options. One, go back to La Paz about 40 kilometers. Two, ask the creepy dude with the dreads whose selling pirated DVD's under this tarp If I can camp here. Three, push forward and see what happens. Four, hitchhike to Santa Rita which is about 100 kilometers away. It was already getting late in the afternoon. So...these three dudes in light grey uniforms hear the anxiety in my voice when I told the crazy Mexican shop keeper that "I had a problem". I slowly drifted back to the bike and pulled my map out. these guys told me that there was a restaurant 45 kilometers up. By this time it was 2:30pm. I thought to myself that if the wind doesn't get too crazy then maybe I can make it the restaurant.

As I'm talking to these guys in their uniform I notice that they are coca-cola delivery guys. There truck was tucked behind a few cacti next to the restaurant.

So here's the plan...push forward to the restaurant at kilometer 77...and see what happens.

These past few days have been too much!

About 3 kilometers up the road I see the coca-cola guys unloading the truck at a small shop. One of the guys gives me a classic Mexican whistle and yells..."Vamos Amigo...Vamos!" Clueless to what he was talking about I wandered up to the truck. The next thing I knew Ceasar is getting hauled up into the back of the truck and I'm sitting shotgun with my new three amigos. They tell me that they'll give me a lift to kilometer 77 after they tell me that I'm freaking crazy for cycling through Baja. I introduce myself as were whizzing along routa 1 in Baja California Sur. they introduce themselves...I can tell they're pretty excited to get a bit of company from a wild looking stranger. "Hola, me llamo es Jesus" the guy next to me says. I reply, "Hola, Jesus. Mucho Gusto." The next guy, a short man with a sharpened mustach with a round face introduced himself, "hola me llamo Nacho." I couldn't help it, "Nacho...tu llamo es Nacho?" He replied again..."si, Nacho." I repeated it again but slowly...."Naaaccchhhoooo?" He had a big grin on his face. I smiled equally as big. The other guys expression didn't change at all. "Mucho Gusto Nacho!" The third guy, who was kinda the leader of the group because he was the driver but more importantly because he knew how to count to 10 in English, said "Me llamo es Julio." I looked over at my three new amigos as we were flying down routa 1 in Baja California and said "Mucho Gusto Amigos"!

So here I am with Jesus, Nacho and Julio cruising along from kilometer 35 to 77 to find some restaurant that is supposed to help me out. As I glanced out the window I caught myself in the reflection. I looked at the guy in the mirror and said I hope you have a plan to get out of this pickle that were in. I noticed my hair blowing in the wind, my beard was in FULL effect and my Camino de Santiago scarf was wrapped around my head all I could think about was..."Is this this what my life has come to?" 

I think I'm going to love Baja...

Peace, Power and Pedal


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