(October 7 – written by Dave)
First a comment about dirt road shoulders and dust. Well, not just dust but burning trash, rotisseries BBQing chickens and truck fumes – and did I bring up the cars? Not just cars but the smoking, what oil leak, who needs a gasket anyway, yes my plates are expired, cars. This was our morning – two lanes both directions, dirt shoulder, heaps of traffic and did I mention the poor air quality? This was the first 10 miles as we tried to escape the vortex of South Ensenada. It was one of those 10 mile sections of highway where you start to question the sanity of doing the ride in the first place.
It really would have been full-on white knuckle if not for the Alto (Stop) signs every 50 meters. We kind of just roll the stop signs, if there is no cross traffic – which lets us sort of stay in the same position in the moving chaos of a “quiet” Saturday morning on Highway 1, Baja. There were big trucks around, but they had to stop more completely, making them ideal blockers behind us. At least they forced most of the traffic over into the second lane.
If all this sounds fun, it would be worth noting that the state of the pavement was very poor in the slow lane, and just generally crappy in the fast lane. This slowed us and the traffic, but did make us worry (as if we needed more to worry over) about something bouncing off the bikes. Finally, just about at the turn off to the famous Ensenada blow-hole, the two lanes became one lane – meaning it was no longer officially legal to drive outside the lane and we got our shoulder back. I say “officially drive” because slow trucks still drive in the shoulder but they give it up for us. Anyway, we survived and 10-12 miles into the ride, we broke the city limits and we were back out in the country and the highway was much quieter. The only minor issue being the pesky tailwind that blew all that dirty city air right along with us – never thought I would complain about a tailwind.
Sorry – no photos of the smog road – it was too white-knuckle to stop.
We had a quick chat and send-off from Tomas this morning. His wife is not back from her trip until next week but he snuck out with Yety (the dog) for a run on the beach this morning. It was really nice spending a few days in their backyard bungalow. Yety was our best mate while we were at Tomas’s place – hanging in our bungalow doorway whenever we were there. He seemed sad to see us leave today.
Knowing that it would be a long time before we see another Starbucks, we headed there for brekkie this morning. We had a short day planned so we lingered over coffees and people watched. I’m now keen to look at cars and their license plates – checking for expired plates as a point of interest to me. This morning’s winners was a woman with no clear handicap, who pulled into the handicap spot, dug out a handicap card for her rear-view mirror and walked into Starbucks. What really made her standout however, was the 2011 expired North Dakota front licence plate and no back plate whatsoever. Her car was so far out of being legal it was a joke. Hopefully she maintained the car better than she did the car’s legal status to be on the road. And she was pretty clearly an American, as she said good morning to us while walking by.
Today’s road signs…
We expected to find more city fringe and places for a cold drink but only found one and we were nearly to Santo Tomas at this point. We still stopped for a cold drink as all that dust really had us parched. We pulled up a small restaurant/shop/gas station for drinks and were greeted by Alail – a very polite 9 year old who spoke no English but that was more than happy to hang with us and teach us some Spanish.
The shop was plastered with motorcycle and off-road racing stickers. This turned out to be the case when we later reached Santo Tomas as well. It turns out that the Baja 250, 500 and 1000 are really big deals here. And so is off-road racing in general. The folks doing these races seem to like to carry and deposit heaps of stickers on any window. I’m not sure it’s a good look but the owners either can’t be bothered removing then or they simply stopped as more stickers just come back.
The Baja 250/500/1000 races are coming up starting on November 8th. This is the 50th anniversary year so everyone is hoping for lots of tourists. I’m sure that they will be bringing their stickers.
It was just after noon when we pulled into Santo Tomas – well, we pulled into their roadhouse – I’m not sure that there is much of a town. There were a couple touring bikes and two cyclists. Meet Nina and Martin – a young couple from Austria. They started in Vancouver in June and are headed south like us. They were only having lunch but we decided to stay here for the night. We were planning on camping but the campground was fairly derelict, have no water and no hosts to be found. So, we’ve sprung for a hotel room. You can see from the photos below that it’s not much of a room but its home for the night.
The TV in our room is cute – sort of 1970s throw back. But this matches the restaurant where we had lunch. They claim to have been in business since 1955 and I pretty sure that they have not updated anything in the restaurant since the 70s. This includes the endless loop mix tape of 1970s hits that entertained us throughout our lunchtime. The owners are super nice however, so it is nice to stay and try helping their business out. I’m only sad that we don’t have any stickers to add to their collection – not that it matters, there are no open glass spaces for us to put stickers anyway.
Tomorrow we have a little longer day, targeting Punta Colonet. We’ll get an early start and hope traffic stays quiet. Tomas told us that we only have to cover 200ish kms before getting away from the traffic of Ensenada so we’ll use tomorrow, Sunday, to try making some progress towards breaking free.