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.
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).
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.
Today was a confusing day. Because the highway turned into a freeway at San Luis Obispo we had to take a different route that involved several changing roads and turn-offs.
After scribbling my own little makeshift map for the day on a scrap piece of receipt paper we set off. Little did we know that the most important section, the re-emergence of Highway 1 would be blocked off. When we got there we saw the big blockades and signs, but realising that we had no other map to go off, and that it would be unlikely any work was happening on a Sunday, we rode around the barriers and set off.
Initially the riding was great. For the first time since we entered America we had the road all to ourselves. Then it started heading up hill. After riding up, and then down, we cycled up and around a steep bend in a hill to find two huge machines completely blocking the road. Wondering what to do, we decided that as there didn't appear to be any work or danger, and as we'd just ridden up a big hill anyway, to carry the bikes over the machines.
Once we were past that obstacle, suddenly and bizarrely, the road seemed perfect and we were able to continue down highway 1 without any more problems. Actually, neither of us was able to figure out why the road was blocked in the first place...
Twenty kilometers later and we cycled into a town that looked like what I imagined a small Mexican town to be like. No-one seemed to speak any English, and the grocery store had lots of interesting things in it. Ironically we ended up eating a delicious hamburger and some Chinese, served by Mexicans of course.
Back on the road and the wind changes from a blustering crosswind to a tail wind and suddenly, we're flying. It's amazing how fast you can go with the wind in your back!
That night we pushed our bikes under a barbed fence and decided to camp in what looked like a National forest. We watched a beautiful sunset while cooking our carton of eggs. Then we fell asleep whilst looking up at millions of stars shining brightly out of the blackness.
We were woken intermittently by squirrels and raccoons scratching around the tent- when I'd shine my headlight on them they'd disappear, momentarily. But around midnight Coyotes began howling.
When I awoke Shanna was laying there silently, scared that the howls were coming closer...
San Luis Obispo
By the time we left San Simeon at noon the wind had picked up again. But the beauty of the coast helped us to forget our aching legs and before we knew it we were in San Luis Obispo, but not before an Asian motorist tried to run us off the road, twice.
After I paid for my burrito I waited for twenty minutes before asking if my burrito was still coming.
'We already gave it to you!'
'No you didn't, that's why I'm still waiting.'
'Yes we did, we already make it. We gave it to you!
Shanny demanded my burrito. 'You never gave him the damn burrito' she said, and they hurriedly made me one.
What would I do without you Shanny?
I don't know how people do this cycle touring thing alone, they sure are tough!
Big Sur to San Simeon (new town not old).
Beautiful scenery, hilly, very tired, can't keep my eyes open...
Going to sleep. Hope you like the photos.
I wonder if the English couple made it...
Today we had a tough morning.
Everything started well, we left Monterey and managed to find our way back onto the One, the coast highway that has been a freeway for the last 100kms (making it a bit of an extra challenge to find the right roads and make the right turns).
Despite this challenge, thanks to some great navigating from Shanna we had found our way back onto the highway when it had turned back into the cycle route, somewhere in-between Monterey and Carmel. Patting ourselves on the back we rode into Carmel to look for a gas canister for our stove.
After riding around the entire town, checking seven different shops and having no luck, and in the process being told to f-off by a few tough guys driving massive 'cool' trucks we decided to cut our losses and get back on the road to Big Sur. After buying some supplies (apparently there isn't another super-market for 100 miles), we got back onto Highway One.
And then bang. The wind hit us like a sledge hammer. It became so strong that at times it was a struggle to stay on the road, which was I found pretty scary when there was a sheer cliff down to the ocean and no barrier to stop you from falling down there. Luckily though the sun was still out, so at least we weren't being rained on at the same time.
A couple of minutes of forcing our way through the wind and Shanna got another flat tire. By now we were wondering if we'd walked under a ladder or something.
Over the next four hours we pushed at the pedals as hard as we could and managed to cover another 40km. It was tough going, but whilst we were going slow we somehow managed to pass a few other friendly cycle tourists who seemed to be having as much trouble in the wind as us.
When we arrived at Big Sur we bought delicious (but expensive) burritos and sat by the river and ate them. An hour later, after meeting a massive team of road cyclists riding from San Fran to LA, and some other friendly people we rode off into the Big Sur woods where we found a fantastic camp site right by a river.
After a tough day, in more ways than one, we took off our shoes and crossed the river (I managed to drop/throw one of mine in). We laid awake in our tent that we'd set up right next to two huge Red-wood trees, listening to the soothing sounds of water rushing over rock.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia