Nice stopover in Colorado as I get ready to continue in South America.
Lee’s Cyclery did a good job in servicing my bike. Replaced the chain and cassette. Otherwise made a good overhaul check on all components. I replaced both front and rear tires and also bought two new spares.
Amazon was busy as I bought not only tires, but also more brake pads. One pair of cycling shorts was well worn and replaced as well as my shoes. Bought maps for six countries I plan to travel: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
Made a test ride to Boulder to visit my brother and otherwise make sure all was ok with the bike.
There is a nice path along US 36.
After that local city streets and into middle of Boulder.
In addition to renewing worn items, I also have chance to look through my gear. In hindsight, I carried more cold weather gear than necessary through Central America. However, I’ll expect it to be colder in Peru/Bolivia as that area is 3,000-4000m of elevation. Also didn’t use my stove much in Central America. Otherwise, most items I had with me were useful these past four months.
Also prepared for the next phases of the trip. Roughly speaking way points will include Cartagena, Cali, Quito, Lima, La Paz, Salta, Mendoza and Bariloche before arriving at Puerto Montt, Chile. At Puerto Montt I am signed up for TDA Global Cycling ride along Carterra Austral road to Ushuaia, Argentina. TDA’s South American Epic is actually a ride across all of South America leaving in early July, so I’m starting 2.5 months earlier to join at end of the trip.
Otherwise, mostly ready to fly on to Colombia and start next phase of the journey.
Today was a straightforward ride to town of Tecate and then border crossing into Mexico. It was cool and overcast, but fortunately stayed dry all day long. I decided to get on the road early since I knew I had a lot of climbing to do and it gets dark early (~4:40pm sunset). The first 4km were flat but then climbed ~1200m over the remaining 60km today. I initially followed larger roads through suburban San Diego, most of them with bike lanes and overall not very heavy traffic.
At 13.5km, I came to edge of suburban development and followed Otay Lakes Road. This was flat or very gentle grade as the road came past a sky-dive center and a commercial campground. At 28km, turned right onto CA-94. This road had more traffic and not much of a shoulder. Fortunately, all relatively well behaved. My odometer had a few short sections of ~7% grade but mostly less.
Close to noon and I could see Tecate in the distance. Interestingly, I didn’t see much of town of Tecate, CA but a lot more on the Mexico side.
Border crossing was remarkably easy. Nothing required to check out of USA. It asked customs officials about the FMM form which I knew I would need to travel further into Mexico. I was directed first to immigration to get the form, then to a bank office and finally back to immigration to get the form stamped. Glad I had read this on internet as it would have been surprisingly easy to enter and skip getting this form.
I was now in city of Tecate where photo above was taken as I passed the square. Traffic was remarkably easy and before I knew it I was already following signs to climb the hill to Mexico 3 – the wine route to Ensenada. There seemed to be several hotels, though I had made things a little easier by making a reservation online at place ~10km south of the town.
I can tell I’ll need to get out the dictionary to translate signs I don’t know (I think the one above is for “snow cones”).
The first kilometers south of town still had a nice shoulder, but expect this to go away at some point.
Overall, crossing at Tecate was simple. I’ve already passed the border town, but still need to get a few errands in a city center such as getting a Mexican SIM card.
Back in San Diego area.
Today I dropped off a rental car and had a short (18km) flat and somewhat rainy ride. Weather forecast says today should be worst of it and not much chance of showers from here on. Below is touring bike ready in my motel room.
Last Monday, I picked up a rental car and packed my belongings for a drive first to Colorado for Thanksgiving. Nice to see my parents and brother again and celebrate Thanksgiving. After that on Friday morning back on the road driving to San Diego. Stopped by REI and short errand or two before dropping off the car.
My plan is to cross into Mexico tomorrow at Tecate. I picked Tecate for two reasons:
- The crossing itself should be a bit quieter. According to the web, this crossing sees ~1.5 million cars per year and ~0.5 million pedestrians crossing. Compare that to the main crossing at San Ysidro which sees ~14.5 million cars per year and ~7 million pedestrians
- Reports are that Tijuana is a big and hectic city with some challenging cycling to get through. In contrast, expect Mexico Route 3 to Ensenada to be a bit quieter.
The downside to Tecate is it is a bit further away and I’ll end up with over 1000m of climbing tomorrow most of it on the small winding roads to climb back up to Tecate. Looking forward to the adventure.
Just got back from a trial ride out to Bastrop State Park. Also a chance to see the ‘Supermoon’a little further from city lights.
On Friday, I got my bike back from the shop. I had them do a thorough servicing, tried to address things I learned from the first two phases and also got some extra spare parts. In more detail:
- What failed in the first two phases was a derailleur as well as my hub (twice). In Portland, I picked up a new wheel that uses a different hub mechanism (DT Swiss). I hope this one does better. As a backup, I also had the bike shop fully service the old wheel so I can store it here as a spare. Some bikes attach the derailleur directly to the frame. My mountain bike uses a derailleur hanger, with idea that the hanger goes before the frame. I have a spare hanger as well.
- What wore out in the first two phases included my tires and brake pads. I also used several tubes. I’ve got spares of all of these. I also picked up a spare disc rotor. As I understand things, in Latin America, a 26″ wheel is more common than a 700c. My mountain bike also uses 26″, though the tubes are “presta” and not the more common “shraeder” so have few extra tubes.I also got an extra seat post collar.
One can’t prepare for everything and I was encouraged in reading others journals that they periodically found and stopped in at bike shops if they had issues. Read a number of those journals, which gave me a better feel for how their trips went.
Another change I made was to add a front rack and be able to take a smaller set of panniers up front. This gives me better ability to carry some extra water as well as keep my rear panniers from being too overloaded. I’ve gone through some of my other gear and will likely get rid of a few things and also take a multi-fuel stove rather than the iso-butane canisters I’ve been using.
Overall, been a nice change of pace to be in one spot for a bit. This also gave me ability to get these mechanical changes made, stop through the travel clinic, read others journals, study some Spanish (more needed though) and otherwise prepare for trip. Plan is to go up to Colorado for Thanksgiving and then go from there to San Diego to cross the border.
Reached San Diego and completed Phase 2. By the numbers:
- 5,153 miles (8,293 kilometers) cycled
- 204,290 vertical feet or 38.7 miles (62,268 meters) climbed
- 124 days on the road
Looking backwards seems like I’ve come a ways. However, looking forward I’m only getting started with approximately 11,000 miles (17,700 km) to go with the additional challenge of cycling through Latin America. I’ve also got ~426 days until the December 2017 Solstice. So far, this is my fifth longest bicycle trip, surpassed by (a) Across Canada in 1997 (#4), Across Africa in 2013 (#3), Across Eurasia in 2007 (#2) and Around Australia in 2001 (#1).
My plan is to take an intermission until Thanksgiving to take a rest and finalize my equipment based on what I’ve learned so far. After that, the next three phases are:
- Phase 3, Baja California to La Paz (1510km)
- Phase 4, Rest of Mexico to Belize (3135km)
- Phase 5, Belize to Panama City (2400km)
Depending on how those go, I’ll then adjust the final and longest phases across South America. Still thinking of either riding self-supported or as a backup plan with TDA South America 2017. Also, still open for others to join me on some or all this riding.
It was a little over three miles cycling to a hotel in downtown San Diego. After that got a chance to walk some through the city. There was a street fair going on including these pumpkins.
San Diego has a bike share program.
The afternoon was a little warmer, but these fountains let some cool off.
Amtrak train I’ll take on Monday morning early. I bought a duffel bag to condense my belongings into fewer separate bags. I also asked and Amtrak will let me take apart the bike on Sunday and leave it and other luggage in the luggage room.
Part of the reason for waiting to Monday to depart is trains aren’t running this weekend between LA and San Diego.
My first destination will be Portland, Oregon. I’m headed to Sugar Wheel Works to pick up a new back wheel built around a different (DT Swiss) hub. Hopefully this hub will be easier to maintain on the road. Will see if this addresses the hub problems I had twice since Prudhoe Bay.
After Portland, back on the train to Austin. Plan to bring the bike in for a good servicing and otherwise prepare for next part of the trip as well as try a few shorter test rides on the new wheel.
“Where are you headed?”, “San Diego”. It is a conversation I have a few times a day. However, folks aren’t looking as strangely as before. I am now four or five miles from downtown San Diego and will go there this weekend to make an official finish before taking the train to Portland on Monday.
Today had a surprising high range of temperatures. My cycle computer told me 5C (41F) starting from Pine Valley. Middle of the afternoon it peaked a little over 37C (99F) so a range of 50+ degrees Fahrenheit or 30+ degrees Celsius. I had ridden most of the route on Christmas rides though the Adventure Cycling route also was slightly different through Lakeside.
I climbed up the first hill from Pine Valley and in a very short time, the temperature jumped more than 10F (6C). No longer in the cold valley bottom. From here it was mostly downhill.
At eight miles there was a 3.5 mile ride on I-8 again. After this it was frontage roads through Alpine. By now it was over 20C. My rear tire felt funny and then noticed it was slowly going flat. Stopped to patch and noticed I had two patch kits where the glue had dried out including one where I had never even opened the glue. Fortunately, had a spare tube and swapped it in.
San Diego was visible in the distance (this photo was actually from the interstate).
Through Lakeside it started getting hot.
Leaving Lakeside was a few miles of Father Junipera Serra trail. After this I came to larger roads (Mission Gorge, Friar) and past shopping centers before finding my way in hotel on outskirts of San Diego.
Now looking forward to a weekend in San Diego. Also time to finish out phase 2 and start planning forward. I’ve come a long way (5000+ miles, 8000+ kilometers, 4 months) but there is still a lot more both from standpoint of challenge (Latin America vs US/Canada) and also distance (10,000+ miles to go).
Is it better to know about the road ahead or to remain blissfully unaware? Today was a good example of the tradeoff. I’m normally in the camp that likes to know what is ahead so I can learn from others experiences and do some planning of my trip.
So yesterday I made a reservation at Jacumba Hot Springs so I could watch the debate. After that I read what others had to say about the route. I was surprised. I already knew there would be a solid climb from below sea level to over 3200ft. However, other reports seemed to include four additional challenges that had made their trips fun: (a) the 20 miles from Seeley to Ocotillo supposedly had an extremely rough road, some commented as the “worst on the entire southern tier” and others did inventive things like sneak on the interstate, etc (b) the climb on I-8 had two bridges with minimal shoulder (c) some complained of heat over 100F and even hotter (d) winds could be fierce.
After reading those accounts, I thought “wow! is this going to be a really rough day?” Fortunately, it turned not to be as bad as anticipated.
I got on the road twenty minutes before sunrise – to give myself some cool morning cycling and stay ahead of wind if it picked up.
The first seven miles cycling to Seeley the road was fine, only getting a bit rough once I came into Seeley. I stopped at convenience store and clerk told me the road was OK until the stop sign. There was a lot of traffic on the road, but turns out it all turned off in direction of the prison. After the stop sign it was much quieter riding.
At 17 miles was Plaster City. This was mostly a large plasterboard factory and nothing else.
The road was rough both before and after Plaster City. However, my expectations had been set for something a lot lot worse. On my trip so far, at least half of the gravel roads have been rougher. I also thought, “this would pass for smooth road in Ukraine”. So while it wasn’t smooth pavement, it also certainly was better than I expected.
I met a cyclist here who was on an around the world trip on combination of motorcycle and bicycle. He was from the UK and had started with ~30,000km across Russia, Mongolia, Japan and other places before switching to a bicycle where he had ridden another 6,500km so far. His goal was to ride across USA to Florida and then circle back to the UK.
I cycled the remaining distance to Ocotillo. The bad road was done, and shortly the climbing and interstate riding would start.
There were signs suggesting motorists turn off the air conditioning for next 10 miles of climbing to keep engines from overheating.
The temperature was just over 30C (86F) and no air conditioning for me.
The next 10 miles contained 19 of these radiator stops where one could get water. I stopped at almost all of them. While I couldn’t drink the water, I could pour it over my neck and shirt and use it to stay cool. It was also a nice excuse for short break from climbing. I had gotten this idea from reports I read the previous evening.
I passed the 1000ft level.
This was the second of two bridges. The shoulder was ~30cm wide (one foot) so it was narrow. On the first bridge the traffic all moved over on the second it passed a bit closer but nothing too scary.
I passed the 2000ft level.
Here was a tree with three teddy bears suspended.
San Diego country, hooray!
I passed the 3000ft level and shortly thereafter, left the interstate behind. Overall, these 10 miles had a substantial climb, but stopping and soaking with water helped. Despite being later in the day, it was cooler at the top than the bottom.
From here I followed “old 80” the last six miles to Jacumba Hot Springs. There was still 200ft of climbing and after that mostly descent. I also got quite close to the US/Mexico border. I saw many border patrol vehicles and believe this tent was also likely associated.
There were warnings about smuggling.
While not quite to Mexico, you can see it from here. The big line in the middle is a border fence and Jacumba Hot Springs is off just slightly to the right. I got there around 2pm, which was earlier than I had anticipated.
So is it better to know the road ahead? Today the advance reading set my expectations for a potentially much tougher day. The weather cooperated by not going much over 30C and not having to fight tough headwinds. The road was rough but not as bad as described. The climb was long but soaking with water multiple times kept cool. So I think still slightly better to know, but also need to be careful to not get too concerned on some of what I’ve read.