I ride the remaining miles into Vizcaino in the early morning hours and make it to town before 5AM. I find the only 24 hour convenience store to resupply. I buy more food than I can pack, eat a cup of noodles, drink some yogurt and hit the pavement. I am so grateful for the paved miles out of town. For the first time in days, I’m back in cell phone service. I call Nick from the saddle. He’s in San Ignacio waiting for me with Lavanya and Al and Derryn and Agustin. Out of 200 applicants, Lavanya Pant won the Baja Divide Women’s Scholarship. She began riding the route on February 14. Nick caught up with her & Co. in Vizcaino. They all rode the route to San Ignacio and took a day off to wait for me to come through. I’m so excited to get there!
It’s amazing how much conditions can change on the Baja Divide depending on weather. After inches of rain in January, the stretch between Vizcaino and San Ignacio was firm and easy. Two months later, the route is bone dry and the sand is super soft. I let out most of my tire pressure and struggle to stay upright. It is just so hard and it’s so hot and I haven’t showered in six days and my skin is starting to crawl– a mix of sweat and sunscreen and blood and grime. After hours of struggling through the rocks and the sand, I make it to the oasis outside of San Ignacio, complete with pools of fresh water and date palms. I limp down the rocky slope to the water, submerge my whole body and scrub my skin. I hustle back on my bike and rock crawl the rest of the distance to San Ignacio.
Just out of town, among the palms, I see a figure walking towards me. It’s Nick! I hoarsely call out to him and he comes running towards me and we hug and I start crying. But I can’t stop, so I get back on my bike and he runs behind me. And I say, I wish I could walk and you could ride this bike and he says it doesn’t work like that. I mile down the way, Lavanya starts running towards me and I stop and we both start laughing and then we both start crying and then we hug and then we both start laughing again. The whole thing is so surreal. How did we get here? Where are we? It doesn’t even matter because we’re here together. But there’s no time to delay. I’m stiff as a board, but I pedal the final mile to San Ignacio, breeze through town and stop at the last supermarket.
My brain is fried. They all wait for me to resupply. I buy too much stuff and try to consume a lot of it on the spot and buy a massive bottle of sunscreen. I tell them about the trash bag and the bleeding and my aching knees and it’s so great to have friends. It all feels like a funny story that isn’t really my real life. Nick heads back to town because he has to catch a bus to San Jose so that he can catch a flight to Salt Lake City for NAHBS, but the best news is that he’s coming back to San Jose to meet me at the finish. I can’t wait!
I roll out towards Laguna San Ignacio with Lavanya, Al and Derryn. The 35 mile paved stretch feels like a blessing. We ride into a headwind, but I don’t care because I’m side by side with Lavanya and she’s telling me stories about Japan and India and Australia and her female riding group The Winona Riders. She’s full of stories and kindness and we’re already old friends. My voice starts to soften and return. The time flies and the sun starts to set in reds and purples over the laguna. This place is magical.
Lavanya, Al and Derryn stop to camp for the night, we say goodbye and I keep on. I reach the Laguna and stop at a small store at dark for water and a couple fried sweet bean empanadas. I continue past hand painted signs to whale watching excursions, through Ejido Luis Echeverria. It reminds me of the villages in Alaska– trailer parks in an isolated grid. There is no water source, but this place is supported by a solar panel network.
I continue pedaling on the dry, barren lake bed. My goal is to make it to some vegetation and ten miles later, I find it. I pull behind scrub brush, lay on my back in the sand to take five deep breaths and wind my way down. This moment of submission is the best part of my day. My pain and my work go back into the earth and I commit to limited rest and tomorrow. I pull out my bivvy, trash bag and sweat pants and it’s not too cold.