Reflection on the Baja: Lessons from the Road

The black ribbon of HWY 1 stitching together the pennisula, weaving back and forth from the brilliant blue Pacific to the sapphire jewel Sea of Cortez, has taught me three things:

1) First, the most fun is often found on a path that is not necessarily straight but rather zigzags back and forth. Life is in the journey and we do not listen to a magnificent orchestral symphony for the last note but rather for the music of getting there. The roads of travel are rarely straight but curves in fantastical and unpredictable ways. This is where the adventure lies; in the random opportunities and challenges of life which becomes more vividly clear and concentrated when we’re out of our comfort zone in travel. Going off the main road to random side dirt paths, an interesting adventure as sand loved to slip under my tires carrying a fully loaded touring bike, found us the most stunning and isolated desert camps where we were surrounded by cactuses and millions of stars in the clear desert nights.

2) Secondly, the Baja roads have retaught me to have some element of trust in the world. The roads are narrow and a large semitruck often touched both the yellow middle line and the white outer line as they drove. Watching two semitrucks pass each other is a breathtaking display of skill and guts. Being involved in the dance as a cyclist on the side of the shoulderless road with a vehicle behind you and another one approching in the oncoming lane is a practice of skill…and faith for the cyclist. While ready and alert if the vehicle doesn’t give room, on some level, you have to trust that the car behind you sees you and will give you room.  Sounds incredible but except for one bad experience when a vehicle merged into me and I basically dove off the road to avoid being hit, the drivers were amazingly nice and courteous. This was especially true for the big semi-truck drivers who would often go fully into the opposite lane or slow right down to chug up the hill behind you until it had a safe opportunity to pass. Also, there is an element of trust in the roads to get you there in one of the best ways possible. Though winding, I found that Baja roads were wonderfully graded with very manageable slopes and tried to find canyon passes to follow as much as possible.

3) The last but not least lesson Baja roads taught me is connection. Baja California, while inhabited by people for millenas revealed by rock art and historic old missions, the pennisula is largely remote desert. There are incredible distances between towns with services, that is a town that is more than just a name on a map, and the landscape seems largely populated by the silent sentials of cactuses standing in the baking sun. Whereas in the USA, it seemed like a town was defined by having a post office, also another embodiement of connection and nation building, the towns in Baja California seemed to be defined by having a Pemex gas station. Hwy 1 is the lifeblood of the pennisula, connecting various communities in Baja California. The one main artery of transport also served to connect cyclists as well by funneling our routes together. Organic groups of seperate touring cyclists joined together without commitment, seperating and moving on when plans differed and rejoining when fate crossed our paths again. We had a group of up to 15 people and a core group of 9 cyclists. It was great to share stories and jokes with others that understood what you were going through and sometimes even expertise in bike repair and maintenance with each other.

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