I am delaying my posts now due to an incident; a man I didn’t know used my blog to locate me. At the ripe age of 50 I didn’t think that this would be an issue, but oddly it is. For that reason, I’ve delayed my posts by a month for safety reasons. The encounter was benign but unsettling.
With temperatures reaching low 100’s in October, when I took this photo, I needed to be creative. In Calexico, I bought an umbrella and jerry-rigged it with some duct tape. To protect the girls from the heat I started getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the day’s destination before the heat of the day reached its zenith. The temperatures have been unseasonably high, by as much as 20 degrees.
Janet and I met up and after I had crossed into Arizona, we dismantled the trailer and gear and piled it up into her snazzy RoadTrek to get to the hotel. I also had several adjustments and repairs that needed to be done. It took some driving around and visiting different bikes shops before I found the right parts and mechanic. Janet is not only kind, but patient.
I knew California was a big state but didn’t really get just HOW big until I cycled across it. It felt like that Monty Python in Search of the Holy Grail scene when the knight is storming the castle but never gets any closer. I was downright giddy when I crossed into Arizona. My first 50-mile day.
A regional delicacy?
I passed a few canals along this section, I was surprised how just the sight of water elevated my spirit.
Cycling in the Sonoran Desert was magical. The mountains on the horizon and the variety of cacti was a feast for the eyes.
It was unbelievably hot cycling on I-10 through the sand dunes. No shade to be found, I envied Bodhi and Dory’s umbrella. Some of the sand dunes were tall enough that I could feel the heat waves radiating off of them.
Bodhi loves exploring and nesting in little nooks and crannies. She found herself a cozy nook in Janet’s RoadTrek.
I pity the cow that has to graze in this country. Slim pickings.
A surprisingly successful combination, there was a sign on the window saying they’d moved to a bigger location.
A gas station had this facility for pets, it had cooling mist that I envied. Great service to prevent pets dying in cars.
My inner child was giddy with the motel’s space theme.
Janet dropped me off at the motel, I was sad to part company but no doubt our gypsy paths will cross again. Dory was crushed, she was quite smitten with Janet and her luxurious Mercedes RoadTrek.
My favorite campaign sign, a giant mustache!
More highlights pedaling through the Sonoran Desert:
First sign of saguaro cactus.
It’s hard to imagine it raining here. If I hadn’t worked in the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest for a season I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
Gloriously flat smooth paved roads.
I refilled the water bottles at a remote school that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Felt absolutely decadent staying at a hotel casino. Gambling baffles me so I stayed clear, but I did appreciate the beautiful room and pool for less than I’ve paid to stay in a Motel 6.
This was a tough day. Even though I got out early the heat was draining and there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on. Met with the most aggressive and vocal drivers on the route to date. Fortunately encountering hostile drivers has been rare, there were more today then the entire trip combined.
A memorial for Sally, who made the olympic team, but didn’t have the opportunity to realize her dream. While out training on her bicycle she was struck and killed by a motorist. Poignant and sobering.
Bodhi being creative in her quest for shade. Lucky gal.
Being so close to the border, again, was too tempting an opportunity to pass up for the second time. I met a local journalist in a Starbucks in Calexico, and he offered to connect me with a member of the Mexicali cycling club MXLI Bici. How could I resist?
I quickly researched and found a hotel that allowed dogs, checked that I had the dogs’ rabies certificates in order, and off we went. Crossing into Mexico was a breeze. The border agent asked a few questions about what was in my panniers and inspected the dogs’ rabies certificates.
It felt electric to be back in Mexico, with the buzz of the streets, the smells, and colorful signs and storefronts. I asked two policemen for directions to the hotel and gratefully my Spanish was solid enough that we understood each other. Later on, that evening however, the waitress didn’t understand me when I tried to order sparkling water. My Spanish is hit or miss; I never know when my wonky brain is going to cooperate.
The hotel was comfortable; it was heavenly to shower after several hot days in the desert. I fed and walked the dogs and tucked them in for the evening.
I met up with Danahi Valdez, the MXLI Bici contact, a mover and shaker in the cycling movement in Mexicali. Denahi is trying to popularize cycling within Mexicali as well as making it safer.
I learned a lot from cycling with her; she is cat-like on her track bike; it doesn’t have brakes or gears. Denahi made eye contact with drivers at stop signs and corners, used gestures, whistles, and a lot of common sense. It was a good reminder that it doesn’t matter if you have the right of way if someone doesn’t see you or will not yield.
We went on a condensed tour of the center of the city and had dinner at Jalisco, a traditional Mexican restaurant. In retrospect I feel a bit silly; when asked what kind of food I’d like to eat, I said Mexican. That’s as vague as a guest in the USA saying they want American food. She had to call a friend to get a recommendation; she explained that “Normally I like Sushi, Chinese or…”
It was exhilarating riding around in the warm air, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico. Delicious smells wafted out from the taco stands, music from homes, cafes and bars, and the vibrant colors of the buildings, signs and murals. Magical.
I ran out of steam and had to call it a night, missing out on going to the local craft beer tasting. I was disappointed, but it’s essential I pace myself, Houston (my brain’s nickname) can be unforgiving if his limitations aren’t respected.
Denahi suggested I consider staying another night and join the MXLI Bici “Paseo de disfraces,” a Halloween costume ride, with refreshments and a costume contest they were sponsoring.
I couldn’t pass up that opportunity and decided to stay. The next day I explored the city by bike, took the dogs for several walks, and hung out at Starbucks enjoying their a/c and wifi once the temperature started soaring. After cooling off, I went shopping for Halloween decorations for the bike and caboose.
I was a tad nervous riding through the city that night on my own to get to the starting point and got lost despite Google’s map and audio cues. Houston was not cooperating. I stopped and asked a man on a bike heading home from work for directions. He realized the instructions were too complicated and happily took off calling over his shoulder “sigueme!”, “follow me.”
We wound through the city for at least 20 minutes. Occasionally he would turn to check I was still following, and flash me a big smile. I was relieved to see helping me wasn’t a burden, and he was getting a kick out of it. When we arrived at the University Plaza, where the cyclists were staging for the ride, we parted company with a formal handshake and thank you’s.
The crowd was diverse, all walks of life, ages, bicycle types, it was fantastic. It started after dark and was lead by two motorcycle police, and a police car at the back of the pack, lights, and sirens. More magic.
It was a beautiful but starless night. Street lighting was scarce, as we cycled people would call out “hoyo!” as they came upon potholes or obstacles to alert cyclists. We moved in a tight formation; it was like cycling in a school of fish through the city. I wasn’t able to get an accurate count, but I estimate there were over 50 cyclists. An impressive showing considering they were competing with a salsa dance and a protest march.
The people I rode with were warm and friendly; there was an instant kinship. There was even a couple traveling with their dog in a trailer. The experience was so positive it has me itching to tour Mexico.
I’m glad I crossed into Mexico and didn’t get caught up on the less than glowing portrayals of border towns in the USA media.
It was hard to leave the next morning, I felt a strong pull to stay in Mexico, and bounced around scenarios of touring further south towards the coast. I reigned myself in and bookmarked the idea for another trip when I could properly plan.
At my pre-morning border crossing coffee at Starbucks, I met Daniel, another customer waiting for the cafe to open. We had a great chat about the gray ribbon that I wear (gray ribbons are for brain tumor awareness) and the bike tour. Daniel, it turned out, had someone in his family who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I hope he found our conversation helpful.
I was deeply moved by how warmly welcomed and encouraged I was by Daniel and the other the Mexicans I met. They were kind, enthusiastic, and supportive. Since my visit, the stats on my Facebook page “Silver Hooligan” show that the majority of people who have liked and are following the page are from Mexicali. I’m glad the connection was mutual.
After a good-bye selfie request by Daniel, I headed for the border crossing. I was stunned by how long the lines were to cross over; it wasn’t even 8 a.m. when I arrived. I was grateful to be on a bicycle, which allowed me to ride carefully between the rows of idling cars until I was waved into the empty “medical lane.”
An incredulous Border Patrol agent questioned me for several minutes; she was more concerned about my temporary passport that was issued at the American Embassy in Uruguay, than about the dogs. When an agent came by with his working dog, sniffing cars, I was relieved that Bodhi and Dory sat calmly and just watched him with curiosity rather than greeting him with excited barking.
It was a pleasant surprise how easy it was to cross over on a bicycle with dogs. Mexico has been one of the highlights of the trip so far, and it’s planted the seed to come back and do a proper tour.