27 Nov Cycling San Felipe to Chapala
Leaving San Felipe and Making it to the Cow Patty, 57 miles
The wind has picked up significantly over the last few hours. According to the weather report it is supposed to calm down again in another day or two.
So, we decide to spend a well deserved down day about 5 miles north of San Felipe.
The hotel is conveniently located right next to a small restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner with delicious meals for very reasonable prices.
The waitress is very sweet and combines serving meals with giving us Spanish lessons.
The little break also gives us time to hike out to the water and to work on another video, before heading back out on the road.
Although the receptionist at the hotel ensures me it’s only a short distance to the beach, we end up walking a couple miles. The road is hot and sandy. But the hike was well worth it. The beach is beautiful, the blue water and coastline of the Sea of Cortez looks amazing. It is quiet and relaxing. Also, as far as we can see there are only a handful of people within a mile radius.
We heat up quickly in the sun, so we start hiking back to our room. On the way we stop by a small store to resupply with water and electrolytes — we want to make sure we’ll be well rehydrated before hitting the road again in the morning.
Refreshed and rested we head back out on the road in the morning. Unfortunately, the weather man had it wrong again and we are greeted with strong winds. Fortunately, the wind is to our back most of the time. Except for when we twist and turn our way over a few rolling hills.
We stop shortly in San Felipe to hit up a bank, restock on water and to check out the Malacon.
The plan is to make it to Puertecitos, almost 60 miles from where we started this morning. Overall the ride is uneventful, some rolling hills and one or two gradual climbs up to 380 ft—nothing major. We cycle by a sign announcing “ The Valley of Giants “ eluding to the enormous cacti we see out in the distance.
We stop and try to follow the sandy dirt road, just to give up after about 75 ft as we get stuck in the sand with our fully loaded bicycles. A little disappointed, we push our bikes back up on the street and continue on. Luckily, we spot a few of the giant cacti near the road anyway.
Since the wind is pushing us most of the time, we make good time to what we thought was the small village of Puertecitos. As we reach a small snack bar, that offers Hot Dogs and drinks we stop to take break. “The Cowpatty”, as it is called, is richly decorated with fun and random things. Whole pickup truck tailgates hang on one wall, while another area is plastered full of license plates from all over the US and other parts of the world. There are huge fish skeletons, a wale skull, pictures and an assortment of all kinds of random things.
There is no real door. Inside is a small bar, a few tables and chairs. We are greeted by an American woman who wants to know all about our bikes and travels. She also tells us that Mimo, the bartender is also a bicycle tourer and has a weakness for other cyclists. There are a few other Americans in the bar. Others come and go. Apparently, the area is full of American and Canadian expats, spending their winters or even longer in the area.
We order a few hotdogs and cokes and start chatting with Mimo. He tells us about his cycle touring adventures around the Baja and his tour to Panama. He is a wealth of information and before we know it, he offers us to stay the night at the bar. Of course we take him up on the offer. Since he is about to close shortly after nightfall, we order a couple beers and continue on with our conversations. Once the last patron leaves, we move a few tables and chairs to lay out our mats and sleeping bag and get ready for the night.
To our dismay we don’t get much sleep though. The wind picks up and is howling through the small shack. The front door is absent and only has a wooden sign on a rope which keeps swaying and clanking in the wind. The back door keeps swinging open as soon as the wind pushes on it. Many of the fun decorations squeak and creek as they move around and something in the locked kitchen or bar area keeps making noises as well to the rhythm of the wind. Like that is not enough to disturb the sleep, my stomach is not agreeing with something I ate and I find myself half marching half sleep walking to the outside toilet a dozen times during the night.
At least the moon is shining bright and it is easy to find my way around the place in the dark.
Windy day of cycling from Puertecitos to San Lois Gonzaga, 47 miles
We are both awake before sunrise. Drained and tired we roll up our mats, return the tables and chairs to their previous positions and find our way back out to the street. Mimo made it clear last night, that he did not want to be woken up to say goodbye. He already knows that we highly appreciate his hospitality.
A couple miles down the road we turn into the actual village Puertecitos, in hopes to find coffee and breakfast. The only place, that advertises breakfast is still closed, although the sign outside the window states breakfast should be served for the last 20 minutes already. According to our map there is a supermarket further up the street. The pavement turns into a dirt road next to the ocean and before we know it we crawl up a steep incline over rocks and dirt to the supermarket, which is also conveniently located right next to the main road, the Mexican Highway 5…so much for shortcuts.
The selection is sparse, we grab some yogurt, pound cake and an electrolyte drink and sit out front to enjoy the ocean view from this little hilltop. Then we are off again.
Cycling is a little bit of a task today. Not only are we beat from a sleepless night, but the wind is still blowing strong as well. Except this time we have more of a side wind and a lot of gentle climbs, some short, some longer. Occasionally, the wind blows us sideways and we feel like we ride leaning over to our side at times, which can be a little bit discomforting when traffic is passing by.
We stop frequently to take short breaks, either to check out the various types of cacti or simply just to rest and hydrate. The air seems especially dry and hot today.
As we stop at a rest area by the ocean, a woman walks over and warns us in perfect English. According to her, there is a huge sandstorm just south of Chapala. Luckily we will not reach the area for another two days.
The route keeps snaking it’s way away from the coast and after another long climb we finally coast downhill for a little bit. As we descent back down to the coast line, we spot a rest area and stop to make coffee, tea and eat the rest of the pound cake, in hopes to gain a little bit more energy.
As we sit and enjoy the view, we watch a truck creeping up the hillside. It is going very slowly and appears to be really struggling up the hill. It’s actually going so slow, that we feel, we could easily pass him up on our bicycles, which actually made us feel better.
A little more energized, we pack up and continue on towards San Lois Gonzaga, where we plan on camping for the night. There really is not much in Gonzaga. For the most part it consists of a gas station, a supermarket, with a restaurant, and bathrooms attached, a handful of houses and a campground on the beach.
To get any accommodation, camping or a room we have to go to the back of the supermarket. Since the wind is still blowing strong, we thought about getting a trailer or room for the night. However, the immensely inflated price made us change our mind and we opt to camp under a palapa on the beach instead.
As we set up our tent, our camp neighbor, Jessi, and his family invite us over for a Thanksgiving beer. We totally forgot about the holiday, so this is a very nice surprise and we accept happily.
We spend a short time hanging out and chatting with Jessi and his family before cooking our own dinner inside the palapa. Cooking on a sandy beach in high winds though is a lot trickier than anticipated. We try to keep the stove out of the wind as much as possible. Between chopping up veggies and cooking pasta, we have to frequently wipe sand out of our bowls and utensils and cover everything up. Although, we take as many precautions as possible we still end up with a few crunchy sandy bites during our pasta dinner.
The fine sand finds it’s way into anything and everything. Before we know it our tent is covered in sand and even our our sleeping bag, which is inclosed in our tent is not spared from having sand in it as well.
Sleep comes easy in our beach camp as the wind calms down a little bit and we can listen to the waves hitting the beach.
From the Beach to Chapala, Camping Behind the Family Restaurant, 34 miles of mostly climbing
Shortly, after waking up and brewing a cup of Joe, we attempt to shake out our sleeping bag, mats and tent, which are all more or less covered in sand. We managed to get most of the sand out of the tent, however, we gave up cleaning the outside of the tent as more sand keeps clinging onto while we try wiping it off. So we just roll it up anyway and pack up.
The wind has already picked up again as we are making our way back up to the road. We pedal hard along the dirt road to barely break 6 miles per hour.
Fortunately, once we are on the main road, we make our turn and have the wind to our back, which made the gradual climb to Chapala much more enjoyable.
Overall, we feel much more energized compared to yesterday and for the most part the ride was uneventful. Traffic is light and the few car and truck drivers give us plenty of room as they pass. Most of them give us a friendly honk and wave as well, which instantly puts a smile on our face.
We stop occasionally to check out all the different types of cacti, some small, some are as big as trees and look like they jumped right out of a Dr Seuss book.
Eventually, we reach The Mexican Highway 1, where we turn to stop at a small family restaurant in Chapala. The restaurant is very quaint with rustic wooden furniture and wall panels made of wood and dried cactus. Dinner is delicious as well. After we are done filling our bellies, we don’t really feel like cycling anymore, besides the next small town is still quite far away, so we ask if it is possible to camp by the restaurant.
The owner tells us we can pretty much set up wherever we want. Since there really is nowhere to hide our tent next to the building, we head toward the back, in hopes to be more out of view from the street. As we sit and contemplate if it is safe to camp here, since there is no fence around the property.
The owners come outside again and show us all around the property. Nobody seems to think that there would be any safety issues. The only thing everyone seems very concerned about is the wind blowing too much and it being too cold for us. So we end up setting our tent up in the back and next to the owners home. We didn’t really pay attention to the trailer with a big water barrel on it, that is right next to our tent and which our bikes are locked up to.
Shortly after nightfall we are snuggled up in our sleeping bags and read. Just as we are ready to call it a night, we hear footsteps. A couple of people are out carrying buckets with squeaky handles. Apparently it is time to feed the various animals and it is also time to give them all water as well. Everybody seems to know the layout of the land by heart as they find their way around in the dark. Before we could give a warning, we hear the foot steps come toward our tent to get to the water barrel. The tent shakes briefly as someone stumbles over one of our guy lines, we hear a quick “I sorry” as the footsteps fade away again. Feeding time must be over.
Sleep comes and goes tonight as the quiet occasionally gets disturbed by trucks rumbling down the Highway or a few dogs barking on and off.
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