Photo Feature: Baja California Sur
9 pm. Inside the tent. Wild camped out by the side of the road 43 km south of Mulege in a sea of crazy sharp plants next to a mountain. Today’s ride was goddamn HARD, a mean headwind and relentless sun all day. Ric’s still hurting from his pinched nerve so he rides fast and Dyar has been feeling bad too and riding slow. All of us more or less just hanging in there. Last night was the winter equinox and someone told me it was not only the longest night of the year but longer than all the other equinoxs (equini?) in human history – which I don’t think is true. It’ll be nice when the days get long again, we’ve been waking up earlier and earlier and most days we still run out of daylight before we can find a place to camp. Last night we ended up behind a weird Taxi ranch checkpoint thing that Riley and I were convinced is up to no good and slept for about 12 hours, waking up to the hard cold of desert morning. The dark out here is truly dark and the stars as bright and numerous as we’ve seen since Canada. “How can we see the Milky Way if we’re in it?” Dyar asks and none of us knows. Tonight we just sort of sat and stared at the stars after dinner in a dazed and/or comfortable silence for a long time, one by one drifting off to the warmth of the tent.
Christmas is in a few days and we’re riding hard to try to make Loreto, the bigger of the small towns along the Sea of Cortez coast. A doctor that we met in Tijuana rented us a hotel room there for Christmas, probably the nicest thing anybody has ever done for anyone. Dreaming of Egg Nog. Finished Dune yesterday, incredibly apt for the present scenery, and today kept imagining sand worms erupting out of the desert around me. Today I thought a long time about Cesár the dog, about clearing the air with the folks I ought to clear the air with, about reaching out to the folks I ought to reach out to. It feels so strange to be several days to Christmas and not be completely overwhelmed with last minute shopping, suppressing malaise, trying to navigate traffic and shopping malls without totally losing it. Note to self: Consider spending all future holidays in the deserts of foreign countries.
3:34 am. Just dreamt I was on a large Titanic-esque boat trying to flirt with a dark eyed woman in broken Spanish but thinking she might be a robot. The captain announces we’ve collided with another boat and suddenly I’m in 4th period math class but the desks are these big four-poster beds and I’m cuddling with my highschool girlfriend, and she says “sine or cosine?” and I wake up to the dull growl of Ricardo snoring and the early morning cold and the soft hiss of wind on the rainfly. -T
Journal, December 30th, 2014.
Lying in my hammock in a roofless room in the abandoned bombed out roadside building which we will tonight make our home. Dinner was cup o’ noodles that we ate in a highway cafe. They let us boil water in their kitchen even though we hadn’t bought anything which would never fly in the States but people here are nice about that sort of thing. The stars above me are incredible, a pretty sweet ending to another hellish ride. Inhaled a moth today on a downhill and almost choked to death. Two hours of climbing later and halfway down the next downhill a big ol’ grasshopper, or perhaps a locust, kamikaze’d into my open eye. After that I just stopped and sat against a big rock for a while and tried to think objectively about whether or not this shit is worth it. No real conclusion but kept riding. Dyar and Ricardo are hammocked up in the next room and a glowing Riley hovers in the darkness, lit up by Ric’s laptop as he works on a stop motion.
Stopped for water and tacos mid-afternoon and I noticed an old man butchering a sheep hung up by it’s hind legs out back so when Riley showed up we went out and interviewed him. He was so funny and friendly, cutting with deft strokes, occasionally hacking with the biggest butcher knife I’ve ever seen, kidneys and intestines plopping to the ground where a tiny pitbull puppy merrily gnawed on the guts. The meat was for a New Years celebration his family and he would be having the following day.
This last week has been tough, as it seems all our weeks have been of late, and we’re in dire need of a respite after hauling ass through the desert like this. The sky feels bigger out here and the few clouds that appear seem closer somehow, hovering just barely above the landscape (though somehow notably never between us and the sun) big and full though it never rains so what they’re full of I don’t know, maybe rice and beans, or the hopes and dreams of traveling vagabonds or probably just run of the mill ol’ vapor water. Tomorrow is New Years Eve and we’re riding hard to make La Paz in time. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, the last leg into a place somehow always proves the gnarliest, though today would be hard to beat. La Paz or bust. -T
Journal, January 1st, 2015.
Last night we went out and walked around La Paz for New Years Eve and somehow bumped into our favorite Pikey friends that we met a few hundred miles back at Santispak Beach. Ended up at a bar with an original Nintendo and I shot the shit with Simon aka “Feral Pleasures” about everything and nothing while Dyar and Riley went to town on Super Mario Bros 3. Simon has something hilarious to say about everything, from the British festival scene to Earth history, “whot’s a New Year to the Eairth, d’ya know whot I mean?” and told me all about squatting in South Bristol. I promised I’d come stay with them in the caravan park once this is all said and done. With a few minutes to midnight we walked down the bay to watch the fireworks and Riley jumped in the harbor for a swim.
All in all, NYE was actually less lonely than most years, surprising considering we’re more or less cut off from our friends and family. 2014 was a marked improvement from 2013 though, that god-forsaken year long slog through the backwater of corporate America, adrift in a sea of post-grad listlessness (“Gee, how do you really feel, Thom?”). 2014, on the contrary, more or less a year long leap of faith. A rollercoaster undoubtably, but 7 months into the voyage (the Sea of Cortez has apparently inspired a nautical theme) I’m actually out in it, and it’s exactly as challenging and ridiculous and stimulating as I hoped it could be. Thinking about home tonight, sir David Byrne ringing in my ears: “Home… is where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there.” Finally, and more so some days than others, I feel at home out here. Which is ironic because we are so literally home-less. ”If someone asks, this is where I’ll be.”
Journal, January 5th, 2015.
The first five days of the new year brought Baja to an end and I think we’re all pretty ready for the next stretch. On the 1st, Ricardo and I played Bike Polo with a local cycling advocacy group. We were terrible, admittedly, though I scored a few goals and at the very least crashed less than Ricardo. On the 3rd we did a Critical Mass ride through La Paz with some new cycling friends and afterwards they took us to the most incredible locals-only beach south of town where we climbed not one but two mountains and gazed out over the ocean. I spent all day on the 4th doing street photography, and realized it’s the hardest thing in the universe and thus something I should invest more energy into.
January 5th, today, finds us finally aboard a gargantuan ferry, heading at long last towards our goal for the last month, Mainland Mexico. Somewhere far below, huge engines grind and churn the sea. Up here in the lounge, Vh1 classics blast from four flatscreens flanking the bar, my nostalgia glands in critical overload as we’re serenaded by Hanson, Mariah, Diddy, Seal, all the best one-namers of the 90s, three gringos and Ricardo amidst a sea of Mexicans. The men diligently construct pyramids of Tecate cans and eventually fall asleep upright, heads lolled back and mouths agape or alternatively, heads on table atop crossed arms while the women and children sleep on padded benches lining the rooms perimeter. Mainland, allá vamos. -T