My short visit to the US is drawing to a close and tomorrow the plan is to fly back to Mendoza and continue my ride.
It was a short visit but I got the major items accomplished. I had ordered bike tires, brake pads and a new rotor via Amazon so will return with spare parts I need. At the same time, decided to replace a few worn items. After 14 months my bike gloves were developing holes and my Camelbak had ripped and been very worn so both were replaced.
I also got a few things in anticipation of the TDA ride. In particular rather than having four separate panniers, a tent, a sleeping bag all as separate items, TDA requests participants to use two 90L duffel bags, so I got those but now will need to carry them with me. I also expect somewhat wetter and colder weather so I left behind a pair of shorts instead have two pairs of long cycling tights.
I hadn’t been using my stove much, so I brought it back as well as my extra sleeping bag. Overall a productive exercise to get everything renewed and updated in anticipation of cycling the last 1/3 of South America.
Meanwhile, it was also a good opportunity to catch up with a few people as well as on my duplex in Fort Collins. Also a nice to visit with my parents and brother.
Bears! (Oh my).
We visited the Wild Animal Sanctuary in nearby Keensburg, Colorado. This is a somewhat unique type of rescue that gets large animals that are often in some horrific conditions and might otherwise be destroyed. What is unique is most of these animals have never been truly “wild” and hence could not just be re-released.
As a good example, the Bolivian government passed a law banning the use of lions by circuses. The rescue group ADI stepped in to save 25 animals that would otherwise have been killed. These animals were flown to Denver and ended up at a specially built lion enclosure at the sanctuary.
Some of the rescue animals haven’t seen environments other than small enclosures and haven’t been well socialized. The Wildlife Sanctuary works to gradually introduce them to successively larger enclosures along with other animals of the same species.
There is an elevated walkway that goes for a mile and a half where one can observe and spot some of the animals. Apparently these animals are much less stressed by something in the sky than lots of people peering in at ground level. I captured photos above. In some enclosures, we didn’t see anything if the animals were in underground dens or away from view. Overall an interesting place to visit. By the way, the Wildlife Sanctuary doesn’t have any outside funding and thus works entirely from private donations.
Otherwise nice to take a break in Colorado and get ready to return to Argentina.
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.
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.
Made it to Austin and plan to be here a total of three weeks.
I had two more days to walk around Portland. The Bundy Trial was going on and above I caught one of the protestors. Not sure if he was doing a google of Jury Nullification on his phone or not. Coincidentally, later that day the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on almost all the counts and deadlocked on the remaining. That was bit of a surprise.
St Stephen’s Episcopal church in Portland has a “bicycle shrine”. Above is the explanation.
Here is what it looks like overall.
I believe the shrine was initially a ghost bike for Tracey Lorraine Sparling. She was killed by a right turning truck in Portland. This happened two years before I moved there and less than half a mile from where I used to own a condo. As a cyclist, it definitely gives pause and has one think about being careful. It also let to some of the “green zones” in Portland where cyclists can move up in front to be visible by trucks.
After that, I found my way to the Portland Amtrak station for an almost 72 hour train journey.
First impression on being back in Austin was, “wow, it is still hot and somewhat humid here in November. The general maxim that high temperatures in Portland are often the low temperatures in Austin seemed to hold.
I walked my bike and luggage to Mello Johnny’s bike shop. I requested a full service on parts that wear as well as getting a few extra bits like brake pads and derailleur hanger. After that I took the bus to Southwest Austin.
Here I picked up my backup mountain bike from storage. I’ll use it or my other mountain bike around town. I have already voted. I’ve got an appointment for the travel clinic. Otherwise, a few weeks to finalized my Baja equipment list and take a short break from travels before celebrating Thanksgiving and then crossing the Mexico border.
34 hours of train travel brought me to Portland. It was a nice relaxing trip with chance to sit back, read the kindle and watch the scenery go by. Sleeping in the seats is always a bit awkward, but fortunately only one night this time. Once there I assembled the bike and took the light rail to my motel.
Wednesday morning I found my way to Sugar Wheel Works where I had ordered a new back wheel to be built. This wheel uses a DT Swiss 540 hub, which uses a ratchet mechanism instead of pawls that flip out. What I also like about the hub is that it can be maintained without special tools. I got an extra ratchet and extra springs as well as extra spokes. Hope this wheel does better than the Phil Woods version that failed twice in my first 5000 miles. However, just in case I have the old wheel mailed off to Austin as a backup.
Once the bike was dropped off, I could wander through familiar haunts from living in Portland from 2009 to 2012. Powell’s is an obvious stop where I found a set of maps for the next three phases.
The umbrella man is classic statue in Pioneer Square.
Also here was a place to drop off your (mail-in) ballot.
I noticed that the car-to-go here have bike racks on them. Hadn’t seen that in Austin.
I also stopped past the place AMD used to have an office. We rented space on the mezzanine level at top of the arches. That was all closed when AMD shut the office at end of 2012.
One last photo of the wheel once I picked up the bike after my travels through the city.
I’ve got a few more days in Portland before taking Amtrak down to Austin departing on Saturday.
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).
Back to familiar areas. I’ve been in Pine Valley five times before: 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2015 and always on December 26th. That is the first day of the San Diego Christmas Ride and Pine Valley is the first overnight stop. Always a fun ride and nice to get back in the area. Today is quite a bit warmer than those December days.
Jacumba Hot Springs was quiet little town and the lodge was nice. Today had a surprising amount of climbing though nothing too severe. It was also a warm day with NE winds coming off the Imperial Valley and desert.
Leaving Jacumba Hot Springs I came close past the border fence again.
There were also quite a few border patrol vehicles.
I climbed up and over the first hill and passed through Boulevard. Another hill here going via Live Oak Springs.
The first top was slightly less than 4000ft and the second top was slightly more. Several tribal reservations and at least one casino. Pretty much all day I cycled on old US 80 and it had very little traffic.
Middle of the day and it was warm. Glad I climbed the big hill yesterday as today would likely have been considerably warmer.
I reached the turnoff for Mount Laguna and now the last bit was riding in familiar territory down to Pine Valley.
Tomorrow plan is to follow the Adventure Cycling route into San Diego. It looks like it roughly reverses the Christmas Ride route except this time I’ve got a lot more descent than ascent. San Diego will also be finish of the second phase of this ride and plan to take an intermission until after Thanksgiving. Good chance to sort out what worked and what didn’t before crossing the border into Baja Mexico and riding phases #3 (Baja), #4 (rest of Mexico) and #5 (Central America).