The Rosarito-Ensenada Bicycle Ride is the reason that like clockwork I will return annually to Southern California from wherever I may live at the time, to inconvenience my friends in Long Beach and drive into Tijuana with an obnoxious gaggle of bicycles strapped to the trunk of an overpacked car and proceed to stuff my face with mariscos and parade my bike for fifty miles down the coast of Mexico with a few thousand like minded individuals.
Last year, this trip began with a drive to from Chicago to California which not so coincidentally began on my last day as a Chicago resident. After riding the race and abandoning my car in Long Beach for an impulsive last minute flight to South Korea, I found myself almost-living in Miami and then for-real-living in New York- which happened to be the beginning point for this year’s pilgrimage.
This year was actually quite the grown up pilgrimage. I flew non-stop from JFK to LAX, with my entire bicycle disassembled and crammed into a cardboard box designed to hold two wheels without the rest of a bicycle (this is the least grown up detail of this story), in order to circumvent American Airlines’ outrageous $150 per leg bicycle fee. After a few typical days (friends, beers, tacos, beach, hamburgers, bars) in Long Beach, we rented a rather ill-fated Nissan Versa from Hertz at Long Beach Airport, piled it with bikes, and drove it clean across the busiest (and most scandalous) international border crossing in the world to the Hotel San Nicolas Casino in Ensenada.
The ride was outstanding as usual. The morning was cool and hazy, with the sun coming out and the air warming just as the route cut inland to head up the big hill- the top of which being the location where the day took a brief turn for the worst. I’d been shooting photos of the ride on somewhat* of an assignment for certain publications, and I’d made sure to have my camera out while riding to shoot from the first person when conditions would permit. Unfortunately conditions ceased to permit at the top of the hill as a rogue gust of wind sent me grabbing for my handlebars and my Leica (RIP) to the pavement of Baja Highway 1 and under a stampede of cyclists. Needless to say there is a noticeable gap in my coverage of the ride.
We finished in about 4.5 hours, which is not fast, but definitely not slow considering the break at the halfway house to eat three tacos and numerous stops for photos and one for SD Card recovery, not to mention the fact that on track bikes we can’t coast down the seven mile downhill as all the freewheel-having cyclists can. Tecates and tacos at the end were rewarding as usual, though the highlight of this year’s arrangements was definitely not having to ride a shuttle back to Rosarito after the ride. Staying in Ensenada and shuttling to the ride in the morning is absolutely the way to go.
Less than ten hours after eating the traditional celebratory hamburger(s) at In-N-Out in National City, I was on a Chicago bound flight from LAX, where my dad would be waiting to pick me up to drive to Champaign-Urbana for my brother’s graduation from college. Quite sleepy from a bike ride across Mexico followed up with a drive to Long Beach for old fashioneds at the bar on the Queen Mary and a brief nap in the back of a cab to LAX, it was quite the pleasure to sleep through the flight entirely uninterrupted. Upon my May 15th arrival in Chicago it was 39 degrees and raining ice. I stuffed my face with Portillo’s, went to sleep in my dad’s passenger seat, checked into the Holiday Inn, and proceeded to get my Illinois on for a pleasant few days before flying back to New York.
The top of this hill is where my Leica died.
(The Slightly Derelict Fremont Street Experience by iPhone Camera)
After a forty five minute flight from JFK to Boston, six hour layover at Logan Airport, six hour flight to Long Beach, night and day on the beach, and four hours in the backseat of a Jeep Wrangler, I found myself in a twenty two dollar per night hotel room on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas with fifteen or so of my favorite people. I’m proud to have not set foot on the strip the entire weekend, though at one point while looking for trouble on the east side of downtown we considered walking to the Stratosphere.
Nice things have no place around deep fried oreos, crackheads, or ten dollar AYCD brunch buffets, so I decided to keep my Leica locked in the room and shoot with my iPhone all weekend.
Movie set alley
The Golden Nugget pool has sharks!
Deep fried oreo coma
Miles away from the strip
Blunts and burner phones
Ironic Brunch #1
Chicago Thursday. Mexico the following Wednesday. More soon.
I finally got around to some of these photos from the past year while hanging out in Logan Airport for five hours on my way from New York to Long Beach yesterday. Most were shot with my Leica, though some are iPhone photos and some are from my 35mm toy camera.
Interstate 70 Between Green River and Salina, Utah
On the road from Liberia to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Lunch at a roadside soda in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Small Town Costa Rica north of San Jose
Central Mexico City
Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
Pilsen from Bridgelife
Riis Park, Queens
Memorial Day BBQ in Brooklyn
Maujer Roof, Brooklyn
Coney Island, Brooklyn
Montreal from Mount Royal
Portuguese Lunch in the Plateau, Montreal
Pollo Tropical Cat, Miami
Kogi BBQ Truck, LA
Parking Garage in Chicago that thinks it’s the 2 Train
After the Christmas Blizzard, Brooklyn.
Chinatown Fair Arcade, New York
East from the Empire State Building
I left for California yesterday with my car looking like this.
This sums up the past few months pretty well.
Chicago, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Ensenada, Tokyo, Seoul, LA, Miami.
Karaoke in Hongdae
Fried Chicken Delivery in Seoul
Compton Station on the LA Metro
Rooflife in Playas de Rosarito, Mexico
Fail Mirror in Colorado
This TV Dinner was good
But the actual restaurant was way better
TV Dinner Restaurant
Strange Fruit is my favorite
Cosmos is pretty sweet too
How to spend $20 on a photobooth in Long Beach
Two trackbike boutiques in two blocks in Hongdae
Taco truck in Seoul
Moroccan sandwiches after a party in Seoul, shortly before a 5:00 am cab ride to Incheon Airport.
Five bikes on a rack for three on the way to Mexico
Look at all these Lenos. Burbank, CA.
Jerome getting political
Cause he’s got the money to be political
Long Beach airport is my favorite
How to drive from Chicago to Miami in under 20 hours
Juan’s fridge in Miami
Yesterday I bought the hipstamatic app for my phone, which is pretty amusing. These next few are from that.
Sir Juan’s Villa
Driving back into Miami from the beach
I’ll be in Miami until Friday, then headed to New York for a while. More soon.
View April2010 in a larger map
I drove to California again last week. Unlike most of the other times I’ve driven across the country, I won’t be driving back. Instead, tomorrow morning I’m catching a flight from LAX to Tokyo and finally Seoul. Not sure what the plan is after that, but I have a flight back to LA from Tokyo sometime in early May. I’ll be trusting Aidan and Wurl to return themselves as well as my car to Chicago.
Twitter tells me that we left Chicago (the corner of Washington and Damen, to be specific) at 5:57 PM on the evening of Monday April 12th (just moments after moving out of the apartment I’d been living in for the past six months). Despite the brief roadside fiasco that took place after a dead deer found its way underneath the car in rural Iowa, we made it to Denver in time for a proper breakfast at the Denver Diner, though not before Wurl offended the entire city by ordering a Boulder Omelette.
A single phone call from the breakfast table in Denver reserved us a room at the Tropicana in Las Vegas for that same evening. The reservationist found it to be quite amusing that we would be driving from Denver that day. Out of fear of overstimulating her, I omitted the fact that we’d already been on the road for fifteen hours.
I was able to finish some design work in the time that I spent in the passenger seat, so a few stops were made along the way to send off work at wifi hotspots throughout western Colorado. The snow in Summit County slowed us down a bit, but we still made it to St. George, Utah in time to enjoy a sundown In-N-Out stop before the final stretch into Vegas. Vegas was Vegas, as it always has been and always will be. We stayed up late, woke up early, and drove to Long Beach.
Not five minutes after arriving in Long Beach, Marky S called from the runway of Long Beach Airport, as his flight had just arrived from JFK. Despite numerous objections, Brendan picked him up. Wednesday and Thursday were pretty typical derelict Long Beach days. Friday morning we woke up and drove to Mexico.
A few weeks earlier I’d finagled a pretty awesome rate on a two bedroom suite at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, which is where we based our operations for the weekend. As it’d been a few years since I’d set foot in Baja, it was pretty shocking to witness the effects of the border crime and the resulting US Travel Warning on the area. The whole south end of Rosarito is a ghost town after dark- the Coney Island of Baja California. Nonetheless, we had access to two hot tubs, three pools, and ocean, and complementary dinner buffet both nights. In addition to this we had signed up to ride our bikes fifty miles down the coast to Ensenada on Saturday, which we all did quite impressively on track bikes.
Shortly after purchasing a box of churros and refusing to purchase a small dog, both while waiting in the always ridiculous line to enter the United States at San Ysidro, we were enjoying ourselves at the In-N-Out/Denny’s in National City. Later that evening our group spent upwards of thirty dollars on the photo booth in Alex’s Bar, resulting in perhaps the greatest sequence of photo strips in history. We can only hope that one day someone will actually scan them. Two more days of typical Long Beach/LA derelicism bring me to the humid living room from which I’m currently blogging.
Packed and ready to leave Chicago.
Working from the Safeway parking lot.
Island Tower at the Tropicana.
Five bikes on the trunk and headed to Mexico.
Stop at Target in San Diego.
Getting into Mexico is easy.
The Rosarito Pier just outside our room.
The lesser of the two pools.
Starting area for the ride.
The Halfway House- the first check point.
Half way between Tijuana and Ensenada.
Where the free road meets the toll road, just north of Ensenada.
Going to eat sushi, do laundry, go to the bar, and go to Asia. More coming soon.
In the never ending battle of days and omelettes, breakfast is winning 3 to 2. I’m in long beach today, baja tomorrow.
(posted from my iphone as a test)
–The following was written mostly Friday evening but finished tonight (Sunday)
At 6:00 this morning, after driving more or less nonstop from western Utah (C, on the map below) without sleeping, I was welcomed back to Chicago by the endless precession of bluetooth-chattering, egg and sausage mc muffin-smacking residents of western Illinois, who, instead of taking the train, choose to endure 2+ hour traffic jams at such early hours of the morning that only farmers and Williamsburg cocaine enthusiasts should be awake.
Nonetheless, I was back in the city and snuggled up in bed in my frosty apartment by 8:30 this morning. That is of course, until around 3:00 this afternoon, when I was rudely awaken by Brendan (whose Long Beach apartment had been my home for the past two weeks), who was calling to inform me that he was feeding himself grapes while sitting in a hot tube on a San Diego rooftop outside of ASR. Instead of throwing my phone, I simply ordered myself pad khee mao and a cucumber salad from my favorite local Thai establishment and perused expedia until its arrival, at which time the delivery man called me out on my two week hiatus. I suppose I’ll have to call the tamale man tonight, as I’m sure he’s been wondering as well.
After a departure lunch with the homies at TK Burger on the dark side of the Orange Curtain, we were on our way back to Chicago around 2:00 Wednesday afternoon. As usual, the drive back from LA was one customs. I personally cannot fathom driving through Las Vegas and not stopping, at least for a few minutes to take in the absurdity of the place, and will immediately write off as soulless anyone who can simply “pass through” such a place on the way to another destination. This of course, is why I have never not exited Interstate 15 at Tropicana Avenue and proceeded to make a left turn onto the strip. Be it a dip in the pool at the MGM, a beer on the Brooklyn Bridge at the NYNY, a three foot margarita at the Westward Ho, or a spin of the roulette wheel at the Belagio and a buffet at the Flamingo, you don’t just pass through Las Vegas.
In this case, it was a three dollar beer and hot dog at some no-name dive casino next to the Flamingo. The hot dog was surprisingly above average, and I drank half of the beer before passing it off to Dan, because I, above all things, had to be in proper shape to drive us to Chicago.
On the way back to the car, which we had parked for free on the third floor of the garage at the Flamingo, I discovered the coveted roulette machine which had ruined an otherwise wonderful day at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe one evening in the Summer of 2007. This day, however, the gods were on my side, as I struggled, pineapple-mango smoothie in hand, through the ups and downs of the wheel to come out four dollars ahead. Free parking, three dollar hot dog and beer, and a smoothie purchased on a gift card, combined with four dollars winning at the Flamingo means we were headed north on Interstate 15 towards Utah one dollar ahead.
Another tradition that used to take place specifically in Vegas, now takes place in St. George, Utah. This is of course, a final hamburger and strawberry shake at the last In-N-Out Burger as one heads eastwards towards the vast expanse of flavorlessness known as the great plains. Now that In-N-Out has expanded to the great state of Utah, one is left with more stomach space for hot dogs and buffet food in Nevada.
The climb up into the highlands of central Utah brought with it increasing amounts of snow, as well as uncertainty as to the logistics of the rest of our journey. As we left Vegas around 8:00 PM, and had already finished our meal in St. George by 11:00 (hello mountain time), we were on pace to be in Denver way too early for our scheduled intermission of bike riding and burrito eating at Illegal Pete’s. It was decided that although we were not exceptionally tired, a nap was in order, as to align our schedule with that of the sun.
We found our sleeping quarters, a view area on the side of Interstate 70 just east of Salina, Utah, in the middle of a stretch of 110 miles of zero civilization. I felt at ease with the situation, because, as a man of tradition, I had slept at the very same rest area almost exactly a year prior. In fact, it was upon waking there last year that I took the following photo.
Before sleeping in the car, I experimented with some long exposures with the Leica, as it was surprisingly not too cold outside. I lacked a tripod, but did have a one dollar chip that I kept from the Flamingo, which I used to prop up the lens and attempt to frame up these shots in the dark.
We slept through the alarm on my phone, finally awakening around 8:30 once the greenhouse effect took hold and made it unbearably hot in the car. 70 miles east we found ourselves in Green River, where tooth brushing and contact lens cleaning takes place in these parts.
10:35 AM found us in Grand Junction, Colorado, the first real civilization since St. George. As most late-morning breakfast aficionados are well aware, 10:30 is the time at which most fast food establishments feel it is appropriate to replace hashbrowns and cinnamon rolls with ground beef and onion rings. Grand Junction makes no exception, so we found ourselves working with a chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, and Dr. Pepper at 10:35 on a Thursday morning after a long night of gambling and sleeping in parking lots.
A stop for gas and water in Glenwood Springs had us ready for the climb through the two snowy 11,000 foot mountain passes between Vail and Denver. The mild altitude sickness induced headache that I acquired while passing through the Eisenhower Tunnel quickly passed as we unstrapped the bikes from the back of the car at a park just outside of downtown Denver. A cruise around downtown on the bikes during at the peak of a warm and sunny Denver afternoon was followed up by an early dinner at Illegal Pete’s on 16th Street. A wise man once said, “when in Queens, you eat at the Sizzler.” The same can be said regarding Denver and Illegal Pete’s. A re-up on Burritos, bike ride back to the car, and quick jaunt down East Colfax and back up Colorado Blvd found us on eastbound Interstate 76, barreling towards Nebraska at 90 mph.
Just outside of Fort Morgan, Colorado, we encountered the first of two run-ins with the enforcement wing. Moments after I cautiously and courteously passed a state trooper, I noticed he was pulling me over. After a private questioning of both Dan and I, he failed to catch us up in some sort of scheme, which apparently involved the bicycles on the back of my car, as the fact that one of them lacked wheels really seemed to rack his brain. We left the scene with a “good day” and the first of two written warnings. Dan snapped this photo in the mirror while I was out of the car being questioned.
Shortly after a quick stop for gas and drinks in Fort Morgan (which is quite possibly the most foul smelling town east of the Rockies), we found ourselves passed by a small caravan of three vehicles with zero regard for the law. For some this could be an unnerving experience, but for those in a hurry it is a blessing. We quickly caught up with the pack of renegades, which consisted of an Audi wagon with Colorado plates, a Ford Pickup with Iowa plates, and a red VW sedan with plates that remain a mystery. By assimilating oneself into a such a caravan, the chances of being picked out by the police in the event of a speed trap is reduced dramatically. A sustained three hours of speeds between 100 and 110 miles per hour landed landed us in central Nebraska before the entourage split up for gas stops.
Just west of Lincoln, not long after returning to the road, we were pulled over yet again, this time the result of an elaborate speed trap featuring three of Nebraska’s finest. As I saw the lights from miles back, I was actually following the speed limit, if not going a mile or two below. Still it was claimed that I was going “well over eighty.” Either my boyish charm prevailed or the officer knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on, but we were let off with our second written warning of the evening. This is not to say that the spirit of our 100+ mile per hour rampage through the Great Plains was not damaged, as from this point on cruise control was set at a few miles per hour over the limit.
After what seemed like hours, we finally crossed through Omaha and over the river into Iowa. With 1 AM swiftly approaching, the prospects of finding an exit with both an open Wendy’s as well as a gas station seemed grim. We settled for gas and a snack, and embarked on a 280 mile stretch to the town of Wolcott and the highly regarded Iowa 80 truckstop, which claims to be the world’s largest. Regardless of their claims, Iowa 80 is the world’s premiere dealer of fine wolf shirts, Christian bumper stickers, and cutlery, as well as the location of an infuriatingly understaffed 24 hour Wendy’s.
With all of our humanly needs fulfilled at one truckstop, we were on the last leg of our journey back to Chicago. Less than 30 miles east on Interstate 80, we crossed the Mississippi River, signaling our triumphant return to the kingdom of Blagojevich. Shortly after, we merged onto Interstate 88, which could only in a state with the political tradition of ours, be named after the disaster that was Ronald Reagan.
At this point, it’s about 4:00 AM central time on Friday. It’s 2:00 AM Friday in LA. Exactly 36 hours earlier I was sitting outside in the sun, eating a hamburger in Costa Mesa. Trying to pinpoint the moment at which time jumped the shark, I find myself reflecting upon the roulette wheel at the Flamingo, the deserted rest stop in Utah, 16th street mall in Denver, 350 miles of Nebraska while listening to late 80’s shoegaze, and then what?
Only a day prior I took this photo of the sun setting in the California desert as we drove towards Las Vegas.
I’d been driving without sleep since Salina, Utah. Now I’m sitting in Friday morning rush hour traffic fifty miles west of Chicago on a tollway named after an asshole. I’m tired and delusional and there’s a shit ton of snow on the ground and the sun is just starting to rise. We could stop for lattes, but as a brilliant man would say, “there’s no time for handjobs.” We merge onto 290, bumper to bumper through Maywood and Oak Park. Finally after Harlem it opens up, we switch from Belle and Sebastian on the now defunct iPod to Bone Thugs N Harmony on the CD Player, exit at Damen, and drive the final two and a half miles north to Wicker Park, arriving just before 8:00 AM.
We quickly unload the car in the alley before I circle the neighborhood looking for parking. Of course Wicker Park being in it’s own timezone, no one is actually awake at 8:00 on a Friday morning, so parking is actually more difficult than it would be at noon when everyone heads to brunch. After locating an unplowed and icy spot two blocks from my apartment, I lodge my car into a mess that I assume I’ll have to dig myself out of next time I leave, that is if my car even starts after the zero degree cold spell that is predicted for the following days.
I’m in Chicago, trick.
I’m still in Long Beach. It’s very lazy here. We’ve been going out every night, but pretty much just eating and getting nothing done during the day. The overall amount of flannel here is slightly appalling. It’s been 80 and sunny everyday, so I’m not complaining.
We’re about to head to the proper eastside for some King Taco and a visit to VIP Records, where Snoop Dogg shot his first video.
I was browsing Expedia this morning, waiting for people to wake up, and stumbled upon something I wish I hadn’t seen. New York-Rio de Janeiro on February 4th and Buenos Aires-New York on April 8th for a total of $670. Extremely tempting to click a few mouse buttons and be locked into a non-refundable two months of whatever in the southern hemisphere.
I’ll be back in Chicago on Friday. I think we’re leaving Long Beach the day after tomorrow. If the weather in the Rockies is clear, we’ll be driving through Vegas and Denver instead of following Old Route 66 through the Southwest. In the somewhat foreseeable event that I have a few drinks tonight and end up with a fancy new plane ticket, I’ll have to spend next week securing a visa at the Brazilian embassy in Chicago, getting a yellow fever vaccination, attempting to sublet my bedroom, renewing my international drivers license, and converting my stash of Euros to Brazilian Reals and Argentine Pesos.
Time for tacos.
Last Thursday was perhaps the first time in my life that I’ve started a driving trip on time, let alone early. Nonetheless, the car was packed, bikes strapped on the hatch, and we were on our way to Grayslake to acquire our third party by 10:30 in the morning. Shortly after noon, we were on our way to Lawrence, Kansas, almost an hour before our estimated time of departure of 1:00.
Our leisurely pace put us in Lawrence around 10:00 pm, where we were put up by our friends Amanda and Rustin, who we’d just seen in Chicago the week before. A night of cheap drinks, not-so-good live music, and delicious pizza was followed by breakfast at Milton’s (the second best breakfast spot in the United States) and some record shopping on Mass Ave. The sunny 65 degree weather was a nice change from the 20’s and snow that we had left in Chicago the day before. Our last stop in Lawrence was a visit to Luke Bender’s liquor store, as well as the dotdotdot art collective that shares the space next to the liquor store. The portrait show at the gallery is quite impressive.
Upon departure of Lawrence, we decided that the best way to remain on schedule would be to make dinner reservations somewhere along our route. That being said, at 3:30 in Lawrence, Kansas, we made 8:30 dinner reservations at the Outback Steakhouse (for some reason I had gift cards) in Oklahoma City. With steaks and lobsters on the horizon, we kept up the early streak, and checked in for our reservations at 8:15. In hindsight, it was probably a bad call to order crab-stuffed-shrimp in a farm town 1500 miles from the nearest saltwater, but we were on a roll. We also managed to acquire groupies in the waitstaff.
At our dinner, we decided it was imperative to make it to Long Beach for a house party on Saturday night. We figured that by driving straight through, our eta would be 4-6 pm Saturday evening. I kept up driving until Tucumcari, New Mexico, at which point Brendan took over. Until this stop, I had driven the entire trip. I fell asleep immediately after retiring my post, but woke up soon to see Brendan, white-knuckled, fishtailing at 90 mph along 3 inches of snowpack on Interstate 40. After not crashing, we traveled the remaining 60 miles to Albuquerque at speeds between 20 and 50 mph, depending on snow conditions.
Somewhere between almost dying and arriving in the southwest’s most unpleasant city, I realized that I had fallen violently ill. The bathroom floor at the Albuquerque Flying J Truckstop was left with a puddle of bloody steak vomit. The rest of the drive was interrupted by frequent emergency pullovers for roadside vomiting from the backseat. We arrived in Long Beach at 5:15 PM, on time. Dan and Brendan went to the party. I slept for 18 hours.