We were entertained throughout the night not by the group downstairs, but by numerous anxious fits of barking by nearby dogs. One agitated outburst of shouting woke me up at another hour. But mostly, I slept peacefully with my earplugs firmly in place.
The ride started at 10AM, but Phil was up by 6. He’d had to check on a similar-sounding car alarm at night, and he’s an early riser anyway. I slowly rolled out of bed by about 6:45 and puledl on my bike clothes. We enjoyed bowls of cereal and more fruit, and made Gatorade for the ride.
The short bike ride down to the finish area went well. We were hanging out into the boulevard in several places, but the early morning traffic wasn’t too bad. Passing an extended van pulling a trailer of bicycles, we knew we were in the right place to link up with the shuttle. The first one we saw was probably an independent shuttle, so we headed further up the street. Another even smaller van was loading up with riders and bikes, so we started asking the riders where the “official” shuttle was boarding.
From a rider named Stuart, we learn that the first van we passed is the official one – wow – seemed small for such a big ride. We decided that this independent driver was as good as any, and so we paid him $20 each for the trip. While waiting about 30 minutes for another group of riders to join us, we chatted with Stuart about riding, travel in general, and past R-E rides.
We learned that this is the last R-E ride due to decline in ridership. Undoubtedly it is an expensive endeavor. We all decided there is a good chance that the ride will start back up out in the future, but when and by whom.
Nice ride up to Rosarito, and we were comforted that we could glance out the back window to see our bicycles riding safely behind us. We unload on a side street, and Phil produced three huge bags of candy he’d brought to toss to the children along the route. I can only carry most of one bag by stuffing the candy into my jersey pockets, so Phil rigs up a plastic grocery bag across his handlebars to carry the rest.
We headed over to the start area, already packed with riders. We checked out the same-day registration area, then made our way over the starting zone to wait. It was only about 9:10am so we were waiting for quite a while. We started off by looking at girls, but since there are not really very many female riders, we finally started looking for our favorite bicycle jerseys. I liked a Pink Floyd one, while Phil found a tee-shirt that suggested, “Be A Dick.” Hunh?
A small group of boys snaked through the riders looking for early candy handouts, and Phil offered them a few pieces. When they saw the bag tethered to his handlebars, they dug their hands into it uninvited and each pulled out a fistful.
There was surprisingly little fanfare at the start, just a guy shouting into the microphone of an inadequate PA system. The start proceeded at a snail’s pace for a minute, but eventually we clicked in and started rolling. There was an “elite” section in front full of lightweight racer-types, but mostly the crowd was casual riders, probably about half on mountain-style bikes. From the rider numbers, it appeared there were maybe 5,000 and 7,000 total.
It’s amazing how dense the bike traffic was in the first few miles. Now that I’m riding with a bicycle club, I am much more aware of rider steadiness and experience, and this crowd was really one to be careful around. Close passes, quick direction changes, wobbly balance, and no verbal warnings seem to be the MO, so Phil and I were extra watchful.
As we passed the many families lining the streets, we tossed out handfuls of candy to the little ones. They were often chanting, “Candy…candy…”
The early route runs practically right along the Pacific Ocean. This morning there was lots of ocean fog and the temperatures were cool. The fog muddied our view of the ocean, but we caught beautiful glimpses of it here and there.
With all the bike traffic Phil and I easily got separated. The first official rest stop was around 16 miles, and I stopped to grab a Powerade and link back up with Phil. I was a little surprised at the slim offerings at the rest stop, Powerade and orange slices, maybe bananas, that’s about it.
The route heads inland, crossing under the toll road Mexico 1D, climbs a little, then we were flying nicely downhill through a small town called La Mision. Phil and I separated again due to all the bike traffic. We finally reached the base of El Tigre, the largest feature of the ride. It is a 2-1/2 mile climb, about 7% average grade or so.
I do love the climb, and I got up out of the saddle for much of it. I was soon passing mountain bikes by the hundreds, most of which almost immediately switched into their granniest gears. Riding both seated and standing, I only got off my middle chainring nearing the very top. At least a third of the riders were walking at this point. At the top, there was an unofficial rest stop so I continued past it and finally arrived at the real one, sweating but feeling great.
Phil was only a few minutes behind, so I positioned myself on the opposite side of the road with camera in hand and waited. The few minutes turned into 5, then 10 minutes, then 20 minutes. Something wasn’t right. Several ambulances drove past the stop, and I can’t help but worry that Phil is in one. Thirty minutes go by. I’ve been carefully watching every rider up the hill so I’m sure I haven’t missed him.
After thirty-five minutes I spied Phil riding up in the group. I am happy to see him, and on his bike too! Sure enough – he’s had a flat. He quickly repaired it with a spare tube, but unfortunately missed the underlying cause, an embedded piece of asphalt in the tire, and in turn succumbed to another flat right away. Using his second spare tube, he eventually got up rolling again, probably underinflated, and made his way up the hill.
We rested a minute or two at the stop. Phil found a volunteer handing out cold Sol beers, and we each took a minute to down onee. Both of us have had plenty of rest already, and we got underway soon. My legs went back to sleep – they thought I was done for the day – so I had to wake them up. There is a nice series of rolling hills after the big climb, including a few smaller climbs, which served that purpose well.
As we reached the initial stages of the primary descent off the hill, I pulled over in a gravelly area to link up with Phil again. Once again, I knew he was only a minute or two back, and it would be nice to roll into Ensenada with him. The “minute or two” turns into 5 minutes, 10 minutes, then 20 minutes. I am canvassing every rider for signs of him. After 30 minutes, I decide that, by far, the most likely event is another flat, in which case the sag support will either fix him up or take him to the finish. OR, gulp, he is in one of these ambulances that I keep seeing. OR, I just missed seeing him, and he is already at the finish line. I am really missing a functioning cell phone.
I reluctantly stepped back into the pedals and enjoyed the huge sweeping downhills through orchards and meadows and back towards the ocean. Lots of the mountain bikes actually beat me downhill – it’s that “ballistic coefficient” thing I think – and they seem to enjoy whizzing past a road bike.
A brief 8-mile flat section along the coast was assisted by a sweet tailwind off the water, and we were cruising quickly around the small points north of Ensenada. When the big Mexican flag came into view I knew we’d finally made it to the finish.
I cruised into the fiesta area, but turned around quickly to join the throngs of spectators at the finish, scanning the riders for signs of Phil. The ocean fog was starting to burn off, and after about 15 minutes the sunburn started in. After another 10 minutes, I finally decided that Phil might even be in the fiesta already, sucking down a beer, or, he might even be back at the motel waiting for me (since I have the room key). My stomach was turning inside out with hunger anyway. So I headed in, fought through the crowds with my bicycle in tow, bought a cold can of Tecate, kept scanning the crowds, and then fought back to the finish line again. By the time I got back, my beer was gone, and I vainly scanned the riders for a few more minutes.
Wanting another beer, I decided that trying to maneuver in the fiesta zone with my bike was too difficult. I checked my bike in to a storage area for $3, and it was $3 well spent for the freedom it gave. I grabbed another beer, then decided I’d pick up my pre-paid event tee shirt while scanning the scene for Phil. I finally found a long line waiting for shirts, and the line barely moved in 5 minutes. While I’m standing there, I spot Phil!
I’m so glad to see him (with his bike and not banged up or anything) that I jump out of line, run across the fiesta zone, and grab him around the shoulders. We parked his bike at the storage area, grabbed about 3 Tecates each, and sat down to enjoy the band. Phil told me all about getting yet another series of flats, trying to patch them without success, being out of tubes, and then waiting a long time for the apparently non-existent sag support. He finally started walking his bike along the route. A hippy rider eventually asked if he could help, and then offered him some dope and a spare tube, in that order, saving the day (with the tube, not the dope, but either might have worked).
We sat for a wonderful hour sucking on Tecates, talking and people-watching. The band was so-so but the atmosphere was great, and we found a spot directly underneath the huge Mexican flag. For mysterious reasons, just east of us there were 3 or 4 women mannequins set up on a collection of wheelchairs, adorned in Mardi-Gras clothing. Riders frequently came to pose for pictures with them. What the…
We finally got up to head back, but I decided to make a final attempt at tee shirt pickup and joined that line again. As we waited, we smelled a food stall and realized we hadn’t eaten a thing. Phil held the place in line and I grabbed us 2 shrimp tacos at one stall. They weree just about the best food either of us has ever eaten, at least it seemed that way. Just then, an announcement was made that they’d run out of tee shirts, and they will be mailed later if you send in a request form.
We grabbed our bikes out of storage and rolled back to the motel. Phil saw that the left rear tire on the Suburban was dangerously low – I guess it is his day for flats. We showered up and then hit the streets by foot, heading first back down to the fiesta area, and then further to check out the restaurants and clubs on Avenida Miramar.
Our first stop was at Anthony’s, and the bar was dimly light but accentuated with black lights. Our waiter served Phil a beer and me a margarita, but he also brought us each a large complementary shot of tequila on the side. Que bueno. The place was not very full, and we noticed that most of the patrons were male. There were two booths each with a single woman in them, attractively dressed in black, and we quickly surmised they were pros.
One of the women jumped into the booth next to us and flashed her eyes, but when we fail to respond she moved off. My margarita was very sour, just not what I had in mind after my ride, and so I asked our waiter if he has some sugar. He brings it and I mix two packets into the drink while the bartender across the room sort of scowls at me. Wow – lots better, though.
Our waiter then pointed to another one of the “girls” and asked if we want some. We decline and thank him for the offer. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this kind of bar. Phil is cracking up the whole time.
Exiting, we headed east and found Avenida Adolpho Lopez Mateos, a nicely landscaped walkway full of shops, restaurants, and pedestrians. We’re starving, and I’m already weaving from the booze on my empty stomach. I told Phil he’d better choose a restaurant soon because I’m having too much fun just strolling along and checking them out.
A woman approached us and asked if we’d like dates. We civally decline, and so she then asks us if we’d like a blowjob, sort of matter-of-factly. I find this direct approach pretty hysterical – I guess I am just not street-wise. Phil says no, but we are looking for a good restaurant. She directs us to a seafood place down a block or two, telling us they are the best on the street.
Eventually, we found a good Mexican place and both ordered the beef tongue. It comes with a delicious sauce that goes great with the tortillas, rice, and beans. Man, was that good!
Made our way back to the motel, and Phil crashed the second his head hits the pillow.