Thanks everyone for all your well wishes for Sam. We are safely back in Melbourne now and he is doing much better already!
We still don't know what it was, waiting to get some tests done next week.
We are currently staying with Sam's parents and had a wonderful reunion with Boston - he barked his head off at us and wasn't too impressed to see us. But after taking him for a few runs and throwing the ball for him he loves us again. I don't think he remembered us at first, but after a few days I am pretty sure he does now.
I am returning to work in a week and a half - earlier than planned, but since we are home and looking for somewhere to live it seemed to make sense. I will be working with my friend in our Kew office for a couple of months before going back to my normal job.
I am meant to be looking at rental homes today, but it is pouring rain and I would need to ride my bike for about 45 mins to get to the area we're looking at... and I'm feeling soft now.
So we are slowly settling back into Australian life and the exorbitant price of everything from drinks to houses, fruit to cars, and clothes to electronics.
So this entry is out of order… sorry. We will go back and fill in the gaps, but this one couldn’t wait for us to get our act together and catch up.
Sorry if it makes no sense, and is rambling… My brain is in slow motion. However I promised everyone an explanation today, so here it is- the abridged version of the past ten days.
On the day we’re up to in our narrative, Sam started to feel sick again… At first it was tired muscles, that we could attribute to not enough sleep. But halfway through the day we couldn’t ignore it – he has always been able to ride through it, but not this time. He just sat there, deflated. But I’m putting in too much detail – all of this will be explained in the complete account.
After pushing our bikes through muddy sand dunes we ended up in a place called Santa Marie. Not the thriving beach town we’d been anticipating, but rather a resort in the middle of nowhere.
Overnight the illness grew worse, and Sam hardly slept. The next day involved an ill-fated move to the small, run-down hotel down the beach (think Mexican fiesta starting at 9pm). Sam had been shivering for hours, his fever was burning and he was slightly delirious. It was worse than China, and I was anxious.
Back at the resort we stayed put out of necessity. Sam was too weak to travel even a short distance and we were far away from any civilized towns.
He has been through so much already on this trip!
So we decided first of all that we had to get back to the USA rather than delving deeper into Mexico and, secondly, to return home where Sam could get the treatment he needs to actually recover from this!
Which brings us to the climax of this abbreviated tale…
Although, come to think of it, I really am too tired and my brain can’t cope with any more thoughts today.
Into the desert
We left Ensenada just before midday. We didn't know where we would finish the day or how far we'd go... we just planned to ride.
It soon became apparent that more planning would need to be undertaken in this part of Mexico.
Towns were small, and far between. Many had shops, but they were shut. We had entered 'real' Mexico - the desert!
The wind was strong and dust was blowing all around us. It was worse when the huge trucks sped past us, blowing dirt into our mouths and eyes.
There is really only one road down Baja, and it only has one lane. And no shoulder.
About 35km outside of town the road was ripped up. Rattling over the rocks we hoped it wouldn't last long - our bikes and our butts were taking a beating!
Almost 10km later the pavement returned. At first we were glad - smooth sailing again! But at least over the rocky section the cars and trucks had slowed, and we'd had plenty of room to ride safely. Now we were back in the fast lane, with trucks barely missing us as they overtook on narrow bends.
We were climbing up through a series of mountains. And no one wanted to be delayed by even a few seconds for a couple of cyclists. With the grit of dust grinding in our dry mouths we moved up the mountains as fast as we could. It was only 490m high, but we were drained at the top from concentrating so hard on staying on the tip of the road.
We managed to average 40km/h going down the hill - even with a strong crosswind. It felt good to be going fast!
The town of San Vincent was further away than we thought - and the first town we'd seen for hours. We arrived as it was getting dark.
We hadn't eaten much since breakfast so we quickly checked into a dodgey hotel that cost far more than it was worth, $22, and headed back onto the street to find some food.
We found some great deals - tacos for about 80c each, two scoops of icecream for $1.50, and treats at the bakery for 70c.
Throughout the night we were woken every time someone arrived at the hotel and yelled 'Hola!' down the concrete corridor, since there was no reception and no other way to find the owner.
It was meant to be an easy ride to Ensenada. 85km along the coast. But we both unexpectedly experienced sore muscles. We stopped to stretch on more than one occasion.
As we left Rosarita we came to our first military road block, where they were checking cars and trucks. But no one paid any attention to us so we just rode on through.
Approaching a toll booth a man with a gun, a big gun, sprinted towards us. He motioned for us to move to the side, onto the path running around the outside of the toll booths - he even put down the gun to help me lift my bike up, and then smiled and motioned for us to continue.
We rode through two other military checkpoints and one more toll booth and these experiences were repeated. No one seemed to bother about a couple of cyclists.
We stopped on the outskirts of Ensenada, where we found a decent hotel for $25 with ocean views and internet.
Since we were still 8km outside of town, our eating options were limited, but there was a pizza place across the road. And every day they had two for the price of one.
We were skeptical about the quality of pizza in mexico, and we had good reason to be. When we opened the box we found that the crust was sprinkled with sesame seeds... and the hawaiian pizza came adorned with glazed cherries.
Crossing the Border
For a few weeks Mexico had been on my mind. Most Americans we told we were headed to Mexico warned us against it - one lady made us (forced, no really!) read a newspaper article about the drug gangs and all the killing and murder in Mexico.
But from most of what we read, including official warnings, the violence is limited to small sections of Mexico, not where we planned to travel. And most (some of them said it was too dangerous now...) of those Americans who actually travel to Mexico said we'd be fine - but that the traffic would be our biggest enemy.
Still, many of the cyclists we'd met had decided against Mexico and others were still turning the idea over in their minds - like us.
After a lot of research and reading the blogs of others who recently crossed the border we decided to go for it.
At first we simply walked through the border, no-one checked our bags, asked for any money, or even gave us a second look, but then we remembered that it was a good idea to pay for an official visa so we tried to find where we had to do this.
We were pretty surprised to see six other cyclists applying for their tourist card at the border at the same time as us. And boy was the border busy! We could just imagine how busy it must have been before people worried about travel to Mexico.
It took us about an hour to fill out the forms (with the help of a Spanish couple), pay the entry fee and get our passports stamped.
The Spanish couple and a Canadian couple had decided to catch a bus to Ensenada, about 95miles so that they could avoid having to cycle across the section they perceived as 'dangerous and hilly.' But we decided to ride to Rosarita with an American couple. An American man who works in Tijuana was to guide us through the first part of the city on his way to work.
Finding the road signed for Rosarita and Ensenada was fairly easy, and despite one steep hill it was an interesting ride - right along the border fence. The warnings about traffic were mostly correct, but once we were out of Tijuana and on the toll road it was a lot better. And the traffic was never as bad as Indonesia (which we'd been led to believe).
So now we're in Mexico. And food is cheap again! For US $8 we got a massive feast of chicken, tortillas, salsa, beans, salad and drinks. We could barely eat half of it!
I think we're going to like Mexico.
Closing the gap
We left Jamie and Adrian's in the early afternoon and after a few stops to try and find a Spanish phrasebook (unsuccessful) we stopped about 10km from the border.
The ride south from San Diego took us through some interesting suburbs - each one becoming more and more Mexican.
We planned to cross into Mexico the next day.
Another day, another 9km, and we stopped at the outlets on the border, intending to replace some well worn clothes at the Nike store.
While Sam was inside a man came up to chat to me (which Sam tells me is not unusual). He was large, tattooed with a big gold chain around his neck... his appearance was Mexican but his accent American.
The conversation was about our trip, where we'd been, where we were from... Standard questions we always get asked.
He said he lived in Perth for a while and spent time in Brisbane. Mentioned we must have some great photos from our trip... Where were we going in Baja? Where were we planning to stay tonight?
I was my usual friendly, chatty self throughout.
When Sam came back the guy left pretty quickly. When I recounted it all, I was sternly reminded that I shouldn't be so free with our details to strangers on the border with Mexico. For months we'd been warned by almost everyone we spoke to about the problems in Mexico (drugs, theft, gangs, kidnapping, murder) - particularly in the border areas.
I went over all the tips I'd read on how to avoid being a target - and realised I'd done all the wrong things.
We decided to cross tomorrow.
San Diego luxury
Thanks to Jamie and Adrian (and Mari and Jenny again for hooking us up) we had a place to stay while we were in San Diego.
But it wasn't just any place to stay, it was almost a luxury retreat. Jamie and Adrian's apartment was part of a complex that included a pool, spa (hot tub), gym, sauna, tennis court, volleyball court and laundry.
We had a great time staying with you guys, thanks again.
Running around San Diego Shanny took some photos. Then, courtesy of Adrian we took a free cruise around the bay and took a few more photos.
Hope you like them.
Train to San Diego
Catching the train from Santa Barbara to San Diego was pretty easy.
We booked tickets on the Pacific Surfliner train online, and the next morning turned up at the station where our tickets were printed.
We were told that the train had racks for bikes, but if they were all full we'd be turned away and have to wait for the next train.
We spent the next 40 minutes wondering if we'd get on the train, but when it pulled up there were no problems. The conductor pointed us to the correct end of the carriage and showed us how to hang the bikes.
Sam took care of that while I carried the bags upstairs and put them in the special luggage rack.
We spent the next six hours reading and watching the ocean go past. It was another beautiful train journey - they sure know the best place to put a train route in the US!
We arrived in Down Town San Diego and rode up the Pacific Highway to Old Town, where we filled in some time before heading to the home of our hosts, Jamie and Adrian (more friends of Jenny and Mari).
Memorable city experiences
Often cycle tourists avoid the cities.
Try to imagine navigating your way into a sprawling city, searching for a route that doesn't involve a freeway, preferably with a wide road shoulder and not too much speeding traffic.
And you're trying to find you way through this city on a bike that weighs up to 40kg with all the gear.
Then the task of finding somewhere to stay where your bike and gear are kept safe. Carrying the bike up flights of stairs, suggestions you should just leave it chained on the street...
Cities were not made for cycle tourists!
But some of our most incredible and memorable experiences have been cycling the world's great cities- where bikes are gaining popularity and they're trying to build bike lane networks to keep up with demand.
Paris is one of those cities. In just a couple of days we were able to explore not only the major tourist sites, but also the side streets and outer suburbs, with the city's free bike hire scheme.
We kept our bikes safely locked away and used the public bikes to experience Parisian life.
It's pretty easy to find bikes for hire in any major city, or take part in an organised bike tour if you're less confident. Plus, when you're cycling all day, it's easy to justify an extra visit to the patisserie!
Give it a try! Because some cities really are made for cycle tourists!
Exploring Paris by bike
This journal entry about cycling around the incredible city of Paris has been featured as part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival.
Every couple of weeks, one of Lonely Planet's favourite bloggers hosts a series of posts centred on the same theme.
From 8 November 2010 the theme is 'Magical, memorable cities' and is hosted by Travel with Den Den. Visit the site for more magical tales from the city!
The theme got us thinking about some of our other memorable experiences in cities...
Such as camping in a demolition zone in Istanbul; camping inside a bridge in the middle of Potenza, Italy; the Hub on Wheels bike ride in Boston; New York, the most amazing city we've visited; the Mafia in Palermo, Italy; the Edinburgh Festival; having money stolen in Dubrovnik, Croatia; and being stuck in Pireus, Greece while Sam had the measles...
A quick internet search has revealed that on the Californian central coast someone was killed by a coyote pack, and another by a cougar...
Luckily Sam did the search after we camped...
During the night I also recalled a story I'd seen on TV in the lead up to Halloween, about a group of three friends driving late at night who stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. The guy got in and didn't say anything. As they pulled away the driver started chatting... he looked in the rearview mirror - but the guy had disappeared...
This hitchhiker ghost has apparently appeared on that highway many times. Somehow in the night I convinced myself we were on that highway, and if I opened my eyes to look outside the tent, he would be floating there...
Despite the howling coyotes and fears of ghostly visitations we managed eight hours sleep.
And despite four very tired legs, we set off in high spirits for what was to be our last day of riding before a well earned rest.
The air was warm and I was enjoying the sunshine. The road was fairly flat and we moved quickly, despite some occasionally blustery cross winds.
With about 20 miles to go we started riding uphill on highway 154. We were going past the beautiful Lake Cachuma, and now the sun was beating down.
The road kept on going up... we have no map so didn't know how far it would keep going. The road was fairly narrow, but there was a shoulder for most of the way so there was no pressure from cars.
It kept going for a long time, and topped at 680 metres, setting us up for the exhilarating ride down to beautiful, coastal Santa Barbara.
Some interesting info on the San Marcos Pass from the source of all knowledge, wikipedia:
A military expedition crossed the pass in a rainstorm on the night of December 24, 1846... 300 men sent to capture Santa Barbara, California, during the Mexican-American War.
In spite of losing 150 horses and mules, as well as cannon, which slid down the muddy slopes of the rough path, the men regrouped and captured the town without bloodshed, thereby securing the territory for the United States.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia