Ensenada. Now only 60 miles and a world away from the U.S. border. It´s saturday and me and my riding partners Jason and Jessi are just laying low and taking care of some last minute things before heading farther south.
Left leucadia on wednesday morning and rode to san diego to meet up with Jason and Jessi. Spent the night in San Diego just hanging out and helping to get things organized. We had planned on shooting for Rosarito (or there abouts) on wednesday, but despite our early start, took a long while getting to the border. Jason is using and extracycle (kind of an extension off the back of the bike that permits carrying large amounts of cargo). Unfortunately jason was having major issues with the thing. His cargo kept pushing against the rotor for his disk brake (rule no.1, don´t tour with disk brakes). The immediate solution, remove the brake all together. Reached the border a little later than we would have liked and decided to play it safe, stay in San Ysidro (right by the border) then ride through tijuana in the morning.
Contrary to our presumptions, there was absolutely no wait or hassle at the border. The bike lane was closed so we actually had to get on I-5 and ride across the border with all the other vehicle traffic. Riding in tijuana is like nothing I´ve experienced. Huge potholes, traffic everywere, exhaust and dust burning your eyes and lungs. You can´t take a bike on the toll roads, so we had to climb out of t.j. along the rutted and broken asphalt of Mexico 1 libre. Approaching the ridgeline, before the decent into Rosarito, I heard and odd sound coming from my back wheel. Maybe it was the roads, maybe it was riding 1700 miles fully loaded on a used wheelset, maybe just bad luck, but one of my spokes had actually torn through the rim of my rear wheel, leaving the spoke and nipple hanging and a half inch wide tear in the rim. Fuck. Not ten miles into mexico and the rear wheel´s dead. Decided to pull the spoke out of the way and keep riding, keeping my fingers crossed that I´d make ennsenada (and be able to find a replacement wheel there).
Continuing on the long decent into rosarito, tearing downhill, pushed by a tailwind, I turned to check on my riding partners only to see Jason carreening towards me, dragging the heel of his shoe on the ground. He flew past me just narrowly averting running headlong into a ditch on the shoulder of the road. His front and (remember) only brake had failed somehow. Forcing him to bomb brakeless to the bottom of the hill...me folowing and hoping that he wouldn´t go flying off the road (luckily the road only had large, gradual curves). Jason managed to make the long run out at the hills base and finally came to a stop. Panting and wild-eyed, heart undoubtably racing.
Safe at last in the flats, a pickup truck pulled over to us, the driver leaning out the window.
"your friend" he said "she fell. Shes o.k but her wheel´s like this." making a wavy motion with his hand.
I left jason at the bottom of the hill and rode BACK up to find Jessi no chalantly changing a flat on the side of the road. She had run over something big and blown out her rear tire, losing control and falling to the side of the road. Her wheel was bent, but not to bad. After the flat was fixed, the brake re adjusted and Jason joined us back at the top of the hill, I brought up what no one else wanted to say.
"we´re ten miles into mexico, we´ve got four good wheels and four brakes between us (do the math). Hate to say it, but maybe we should head back, take care of this stuff and try again tomorrow." Luckily both Jason and Jessi said what I wanted to hear.
"No. No turning back. We´ll figure it out."
And here we are. Ensenada. Tecate and fish tacos (I know, it´s typical and kind of cheesy, but what the hell.) Jessi´s wheel is fixed. I found a new rim and am rebuilding my wheel this afternoon. Jason jury rigged his extra cycle and has two brakes. We figured it out, as I figure we´ll have to over and over and over.
Despite everything, even just two days into all this, it´s been amazing. Beautiful, long rides. Epic landscapes, super friendly people, always lending a hand, curious about the trip, drivers offering a large breadth when passing on the highway (except the trucks, sometimes). Just touring in a new country is great. so different that Washington, oregon, california. Sixty miles down, 3000 to go.