Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Days 3, 4 & 5: Tijuana, BCN to Mexicali, BCN (via California)

 Day 3:  Friday, October 7th     Tijuana, BCN to Campo, CA     Miles: 38     Flats: 0;1 (trip, total)

First lesson learned:  In Mexico, take the toll road.  Because it might be prohibited, but they will still probably let you on, and it is much wider and there are waaaaay fewer cars. (No scary busses! yay!)

We planned to only bike 20ish miles and stay in Tecate, but we couldn't find a cheap place to stay so we just grabbed some lunch, crossed the border and pushed on to Campo where we had a potential contact. The ride was really hilly, but extremely beautiful.  I saw some of the prettiest vistas of my life on this ride, and it helped that I was proud to have just pushed myself up to that high point without the use of any fossil fuels!

We had the name of the priest in Campo, but he wasn´t at the church when we finally arrived, so we decided to camp on the church grounds and hope that if anyone came by we could just throw his name around like he was an old friend.  However, luck was on our side.  As we stood in the parking lot, eyeing the best place for our tent, a truck pulled in.  Instead of kicking us out, this wonderful woman named Jema gave us permission to stay and she opened the bathroom in back for us!  The bathroom was big enough and it was pretty chilly outside, so (following Jema´s suggestion) we just rolled our sleeping pads out on the floor and slept there. 

Home, sweet, baño!

The view from our bathroom suite.

Day 4: Saturday, October 8     Campo, CA- Ocotillo, CA        Miles: 46       Flats: 0;1 

We got up early, stashed our gear in the church´s shed and biked back south a few miles on a tip from Jill Holslin in Tijuana. We headed toward the border wall and there we found a dinky, barbed wire fence presumabley put up by minutemen (riding into Campo, we saw lots of American Flags and paraphenalia on houses and wondered if they were minutemen).  So this fence is about 50 feet from the governmental fence (again the old army salvage construction), is barbed wire, and on the posts there were some thoughtfully inscribed metal tags.

(Let me know if you can´t read them.)

There must have been about 30 of them.  And I admit, Eric and I just found them funny and rushed to each one, competing to read them, eager to see what each said, like opening Christmas presents.  But, really, what a representation of hate! Well, some are more cruel than others, but in total, it was quite a display.  And really fruitless too.  I wonder how much money each person contributed, to have this small tag hung on this 5 foot tall fence that has large openings to allow Border Patrol vehicles to pass through.  And they are in English, on the north side of the fence.  We walked right by the first few, and we were looking for them!  I doubt many migrants ever stop and read this (un)welcome.

After that excursion (thanks Jill!), we cleaned the sand from our chains and hit the road again.  We were not pleased to be riding into a strong headwind and of course, more hills. Eric came up with a new dicho: what goes down, must come up. The first 12 miles took us 2 hours.  I admit that I have been feeling like a bit of a wuss about the amount of cycling we have been doing (40-50 miles per day) and how exhausted we are (¨real¨ touring cyclists do like 80-100 miles per day), but I didn´t realize until this day of riding just how much we had been climbing. We started our riding at the ocean and this, our 4th day, we were up over 3,500 feet!  I didn´t realize this until we looked at our map and saw that we were going to have to get on the freeway and the road was going to go down, down, down.  Cyclists are only permitted on a few sections of freeway in California when there is no other option, and when we rode up the entrance ramp, we passed a sign that said we were at 3000 feet elevation.  And down we flew.  We went 10 miles in less than 25 minutes and when we stopped, we had landed in the desert and we were at less than 500 feet elevation.  It was SO FUN.  It almost made climbing up all those hills worth it...

Getting on the freeway!

excited for that 6% grade and that view!

I am serious when I say that we landed in the desert.  It was dry and hot and we were windburned and dehydrated.  And Ocotillo didn´t seem to have too much to offer us.  We settled into camp at an RV/trailer park and since we had paid for lodging and we couldn´t find anything at the one gas station to prepare for dinner, we resigned to just eat all our snack food over a beer.  That is when we were invited to the adjacent trailer by Martha and Juan.  They were an older couple who was celebrating the visit of their daughter and son-in-law by barbequing lamb, steak and chicken.  They were eager to fill our plates and hear of our adventures, as both Juan and his son-in-law had seen us on the road during the day and had wondered aloud to their spouses about our destination.  And here we pulled right in next to them!  In Ocotillo, population 170!  They were really sweet and filled us with meat, rice and beans, cake, flan and beer, and told us over and over again how we had to visit them in Michoacan in a couple of years when they retire there.  What luck we had to meet them!  We went to bed early, muy contentos, and a little tipsy.

Sunday, October 9     Ocotillo, CA to Mexicali, BCN      Miles: 33      Flats:  0,1

We woke up dehydrated, and somehow even after the previous night´s feast, hungry.  Luckily, we got invited over again for eggs with ham, beans, tortillas and pancakes! So amazing!  We packed up and took some photos with Martha and Juan and Martha gave us a colorful rosary to protect our journey.

Sweet Martha and Juan!

Unfortunately, by the first turn, I was feeling nauseous (It wasn´t from the beer, mom, I only had 2!).  I knew I was dehydrated, but with every sip of water I took, my stomach did somersaults.  We only had a short ride, and it was our first FLAT ride, but I my muscles ached and I was kinda miserable.  Also, as I said, it was desert, and in the first 20 miles, there was NO shade to rest in. We sludged ahead and finally we made  it to Calexico, the next town after Ocotillo, and by that time Eric was feeling a bit off too.  We laid on the cold concrete outside a gas station for over an hour, sipping gatorade, before we hopped back on our bikes to head over the border to Mexicali.  Luckily, we had been invited to stay at the Hotel Migrante, and it was there that we crashed for the rest of the day, waking up feeling much better.


  1. I am so happy that people are welcoming you guys into their lives along this journey. The kindness of the strangers you've met stands in contrast to the messages on that fence.

    I bet, however, that some of the people who contributed to that fence would harbor travelers in need, if they met them the way people are meeting you guys. I know that you guys are fundamentally different from the other travelers in the area, and people can see that by looking at you, but reading about your experiences is making me believe that there is a lot of kindness and warmth in human hearts.

    I hope all of our traveling brothers and sisters find safe harbor.

  2. did you take the tags off the fence? i would have taken them all.

  3. Wow, those tags are pretty amazing. I can just imagine running from one to the next, eager to see what bizarreness was on them, but also feeling a little heart broken.

    Keep up the awesomeness!

  4. Vida - we did not take the tags off the fence, so you better get down there and get them quick! I really doubt any migrant will ever read them. I will tell you that Eric may have urinated on the fence...He had to go!