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.
(And Yelapa and DFW)
Two Mondays ago, upon arrival at LaGuardia after spending the weekend in Chicago, I checked twitter (and checked in to the airport Five Guys) to discover via @AmericanAir that a “winter storm” headed for Texas would quite possibly be shutting down DFW on Wednesday. Being that I had a connection at DFW that coming Wednesday afternoon on my way to Puerto Vallarta, and being that I’m not one to mess with Texas (though I may be one to speak poorly of it), I finished my arrival hamburger and made my way to the surprisingly empty American Airlines ticketing counter to investigate the possibility of rebooking. Rather than lose a day in Mexico, I decided we would fly out ahead of the storm, which meant I’d be back at LGA to fly down to Texas in exactly twenty four hours- essentially an overnight layover at home and a free bonus day in Mexico.
As I was technically supposed to be at work on Tuesday, I walked across Williamsburg with my luggage at 8:45 AM to open the office until a coworker would be coming in to cover the day at 10:30. After a cab to LGA, a flight to DFW, an extra large frozen yogurt and box of Dayquil with a side of Popeyes fried chicken, a flight to PVR, and a cab downtown, we found ourselves at the front desk of Hotel El Pescador a day early with no reservations. This proved to be a non-issue and shortly after dropping off our belongings we walked down the block to enjoy an eighty peso (roughy US $7.50) dinner of six tacos and two beers.
The majority of the following five days were spent wandering the city sampling delicious street food, consuming irresponsible amounts of mariscos and micheladas, exploring local markets, lounging on many beaches, and becoming regulars at a moderately seedy downtown pool hall.
We kept everything pretty local, despite talk of renting a car and driving to Guadalajara for a night. One day we did actually make it out of the city and took a water taxi to the small, no-roads village of Yelapa, where we hung out with a giant iguana and hiked to a waterfall.
On Sunday we had possibly the best American breakfast ever at Fredy’s Toucan, followed by pasta at Sbarro for lunch at PVR Airport, which was in fact the only subpar decision made the whole week. After a rushed layover at DFW complete with slow agents at customs and full body scans at recheck (no time to opt-out when you risk being stranded overnight in suburban Texas) we were on a packed flight back to New York.
Upon landing in New York, the LGA Five Guys was closed, the guy at T&A Deli sneezed all over the cheese while assembling my sandwich, and the deli across the street refused to take my debit card despite the obvious presence of a card machine and a large Visa/Master/Discover sticker in the window. I had my first full flavored beer in almost a week and went to bed craving tacos.
Downtown at night
I bought a sweet painting from this family
Best tacos in Puerto Vallarta
More good tacos- 5 for 35 pesos
The northern end of the malecón
Canned Spicy Mango Margarita from OXXO
Oceanside patio at Hotel El Pescador
Don’t swim at night!
Classy roof rack
Rebuilding the pier at Playa Los Muertos
Leaving PV for the forty five minute ride to Yelapa
Dropping people off on the far side of Yelapa
Coming into town
Yelapa Beach from the main town stairs
Open invitation to the election and crowning of the Queen of Yelapa at the village casino
The trail to the town waterfall
Approaching Playa Los Muertos
Sunset at 7:00 on the malecón
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.
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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.