22 Nov Cycling Across the Mountain . Ensenada to San Felipe
Finally leaving Ensenada, Ensenada to Ojos Negros, 27 miles
The morning, that we get to leave Ensenada has finally arrived. Since we already packed most of our things last night, we just slip on our clothes and head down to the OXXO for coffee. Afterward, we sit out back for a quick breakfast snack. Then it is time to finally pull our bikes out of the room and to secure all of our belongings onto our trusty, steely steeds.
Over the next three days we will climb up and over a mountain range to the other side of the Baja peninsula to San Felipe. From what we can see on our routing app, we have a full day of climbing ahead of us…and I am not really looking forward to it. Especially after not being on a bike for the last 2 weeks.
It’s only 27 miles from our motel to Ojos Negros, where we plan on spending the night. The traffic out of town is somewhat busy. Once we make it on the Mexican Highway 3 there is no more shoulder. The drivers however are very courteous. Except for one grumpy lady that mashes on her horn long after we have already crossed the road, most people give us plenty of room. Some drivers even give us thumbs up and friendly waves. As soon as we hit the outskirts of town we begin climbing.
It doesn’t take long for me to start breathing heavy and for my quads to start burning. The air is super dry and my tongue feels like sand paper. For some reason I am too stupid to drink while I climb uphill and usually feel like I am about to drown when I attempt to drink while I am gasping for air. So to Ron’s dismay, I have to stop several times to sip my water.
Ron on the other hand steadily pedals uphill. The time off the bike apparently had no affect on him…at least not that I could tell.
There are a few trucks passing us along the way. For the most part they are super nice to us. They either try to give us plenty of space or they slow down and wait until there is no oncoming traffic to pass. However, one truck was slowing down and once he started speeding up again to pass us, another car came speeding around a curve. Since the truck was already committed at that point, he came a little too close for comfort to Ron. But he made it….and so did Ron.
The climb up the mountain to Ojos Negros is a definite struggle for me. I can’t get any speed and I am more than happy to stop for short breaks to either sip water, eat a snack or to check out the mountain views.
As we reach the last 8 miles to our destination, I start having spasms in my quads. When I try and stop to stretch the quads my hamstrings seize up. Unable to get going on the bike because of the ongoing muscle spasms I try and push my bike up the mountain. It works for a few feet before another spasm stops me from walking. I have to stop to rub and prod my legs again before I can continue hobbling up the mountain. Ron is way ahead of me, but I can see him wait patiently on top of the mountain. Several cars pass me by, including a few military vehicles. Everybody is super nice waves at me or cheers me on. Yet, nobody actually seems concerned or stops to see if I was actually OK as I half hobble half stumble up the mountain with my fully loaded bike.
Eventually I reach Ron. We take a break to drink lots of water and eat something real. Since all of my intake today consisted mostly of cookies and other sugary stuff, which probably didn’t help with the muscle spasms. It’s time to have a banana-peanut-butter-burrito, one of our favorite quick cycling foods on the road.
Afterwards, it is time to get going to Ojos Negros. Although it’s only been a 27 mile bike ride today, we arrive tired and hungry at the small hotel. I was definitely beat.
The Hotel sign said it is open and has vacancies, but the door is locked. A neighbor sends us to the convenience store across the street, supposedly we can get the key there. The lady behind the counter though assures me we just have to keep knocking at the hotel door for somebody to help us. So we return and keep knocking at the door. Several minutes later a lady opens the door. She is the sister of the owner. Fortunately, she is able to get us set up in a room and lets us know where to grab dinner in the small town. After a quick shower, a very satisfying dinner and buying a beer it is finally time for us to sit out back and relax. Tomorrow we’ll have more climbing to do…hopefully it will go better than today.
Cycling Over the Mountain to Lázaro Cárdenas, 52 miles
We wake up early and head back to the little restaurant to have a proper breakfast before starting our 52 mile track today.
Supposedly the restaurant opens at 6:30, apparently we arrive too soon. However, the lights are already on and we can see a few people working inside. At first we thought the owners take cleaning the floors very seriously. We watch a lady throw the doormat and another small rug out of the front door, followed by splashes and more splashes of water. In fact the water just keeps coming as 2 or 3 other guys sweep more water out of the restaurant. Maybe there is less of a cleaning frenzy but mor of a water problem going here. A police man comes by and gets coffee inside. We pretty much figured with everybody being preoccupied, there will not be any breakfast served at this time. But just as we are going to ask for just a cup of coffee to-go, one of the gentlemen inside ensures us that the restaurant is open. Careful, not to slip on the super wet floor, we find a table in the back and have a delicious breakfast.
Before heading out of town, we make sure to buy more Gatorade and snacks. After all, we have lots more climbing to do today and I am determined not to have a repeat of yesterday’s miserable ride.
As soon as we return onto the Mexican Highway 3, we continue climbing for another 13 miles. At least it is not as steep as it was yesterday . Also a good night rest and refueling helped us feel much better and the climbing was over before we knew it. The rest of the ride is pretty uneventful. The road is fairly narrow, but traffic is light and the drivers appear very supportive of us.
There are more stretches of gradual climbing until we hit the peak. We pull over and have a small bite to eat before coasting down a short downhill followed by more gradual climbing. Finally, we reach the long awaited downhill into Lázaro Cárdenas, which is still located about 1800ft above sea level.
We turn and stop at a small hotel. Again, nobody is present at the office and nobody answers when we ring the bell. After finally figuring out Mexico’s country code we try to call the number posted in the window. With our very best Kindergarten Spanish, we get the point across that we are standing in front of the hotel and looking for a room. Five minutes later a young lady pulls up in her car and we get to settle down in the very cute and relaxing Hotel Cielito Lindo.
Unfortunately, the accompanying restaurant is closed today. After a short walk down the road though we find a small taco shop. It has the youngest and most adorable waitress. It also has the best meat and cheese tacos we’ve had so far in Mexico.
The Long Day to San Felipe, 73 miles
Although, we have a long seventy some mile day ahead of us, we still sleep in, since the family restaurant of the hotel does not serve breakfast until 8:00 am. However, as soon as the doors are open we are ready for coffee and food. The owner is excited to let us know that they have a special today. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. The selection is great, anything from breakfast burritos, eggs and sausage, to fruit and cake is up for grabs. Everything is delicious and we have no problem eating every bit of our fully loaded plates.
The owners are super nice and chat with us for a moment. The woman speaks very good English, which makes for a good conversation, since our Spanish is still in its infancy stage. We find out that her husband likes to cycle, as well. Unfortunately, he had a recent mountain bike accident, which resulted in two broken fingers and spending some time off his bike.
Before we leave from our breakfast table the owners say, “We want to take a picture of you. You’re going to be famous “.
So as we push our fully loaded bikes out of our room and by the restaurant we stop for pictures…fun times!
And off we go.
Initially we thought we would have an amazing tail wind and lots of downhill riding. Unfortunately, we quickly realize that there is a good mix of up and downhill cycling. To top it off, the wind turned on us. This means for the next 50 miles we grind against a nasty headwind.
Luckily, we eventually descent back down close to sea level, where we pass through another military checkpoint and turn onto the Mexican Highway 5. It is already getting late, but we finally reach level ground and have the wind to our back. We almost fly for the next 26 miles until we find a spot for the night, just outside of San Felipe, where we spend a well deserved down day.
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