Surviving the Desert

3,000 miles to date!!!!

3,000 Miles!!!!!!
3,000 Miles!!!!!!
Oh yea!
Oh yea! Time to celebrate. Maybe we should get out of the desert first….

On Friday September 26, 2014 Felix and I began the most perilous portion of our journey South: A 400km stretch of empty desert. We carried food enough for nearly a week and four days of water. On Tuesday September 30, 2014 we arrived in the town of Guerrero Negro, safe but worse for wear. My front hub is failing. My right knee hurts. And Felix became ill on day one. His symptoms: diarrhea and nausea. The desert is no place to be sick…

The heat hit us immediately as did the mountains. The climbs were not difficult; only a few hundred feet and gradual. But when it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, everything is difficult. “You did not tell me you are half Mexican!” Felix shouted. “And half mountain goat!” I replied. Felix struggled in the high temperatures. I am more used to the heat as I worked outside cutting trees in it. Being a climber was great preparation. We rode a few kilometers outside of Rosaria and set up camp in the desert.

Felix points at sky

Under a speckled mosaic of starlight, we lay in the cool night air unable to look away. The Milky way wandered and weaved its way between stars that fell so often we thought they would all disappear. On the northern horizon, light flashed repeatedly; explosions we guessed. Either fireworks or bombs from a military base. I stayed up late, very late, savoring this moment that I anticipated for so long. Had I only known how difficult the next few days would be.

“I really hope the pills help,” Felix moaned. He has diarrhea and has just taken immodium. I first suspected a problem this morning. I woke at first light, like usual, and began making my coffee. I was extra noisy attempting to wake him. He did not budge. Normally, even my quiet stirrings arouse him from sleep. Not today. I let him sleep as long as I could, but we are in the desert. We must ride as early as we can. After 11am, it will be too hot for anything except sleeping in shade. Felix woke and we pressed on.

The severity of his illness quickly became apparent. We discussed our situation, “We have two options: pedal or hitch a ride. Can you continue?” He decides to suffer on. I decide to carry all of our water and most of our food. I strap his water bladder to the back of my bike and fill my panniers to capacity. Over 50 extra pounds; my bike has NEVER been so heavy – even when my brother was on the back and he’s no light-weight.

We siesta at a small roadside “restaurant.” Felix falls asleep on the table. “Mi amigo es enfermo.” The woman kindly directs him to her couch. While he sleeps, I spend my time studying with her eight-year-old son, Adrien. He was fascinated with my Spanish-to-English dictionary and my Spanish textbook. I taught him English. He taught me Spanish. I spent hours interacting with el nino. Felix spent hours sleeping. His nap appeared to help, along with the medicine. We rode on and camped once more under the starlit sky.

Adrien is fascinated with my Spanish to English dictionary. He learns new words and writes them on a piece of paper. This kid really wants to learn english!
Adrien is fascinated with my Spanish to English dictionary. He learns new words and writes them on a piece of paper. This kid really wants to learn english!
Adriens younger brother, Brandon.
Adriens younger brother, Brandon, helps me make coffee and tortures el gato.

The day was difficult, to say the least, but we persevered. Felix greatly impressed me. It is unfortunate, but good to know what your traveling companion is capable of which only the hardest of times reveal. Felix revealed a capability to handle any situation we could come across. He has my trust and respect. Nicely done amigo.

For my part, carrying so much weight up and down the mountain passes caused my right knee a great deal of pain. Constant stretching helped but the issue would not resolve itself until I lightened my load. The extra weight helped with this and I ate Felix’s portions as well as my own. He was unable to eat for nearly three days! I don’t know how he did it.

Then, on Sunday under the shade of small shrub, Felix farted. “My jet engine is working again,” he said with relief. He is once again eating his own portions of food. Our water is nearly depleted. In a day-and-a-half we will arrive in a hotel room in Guerrero Negro for a much needed and well deserved break. My front hub is loose, and getting worse by the day, but should see me through to La Paz.

We were never truly in danger. Had something gone horribly wrong in this deadly place, someone would have stopped and helped us. The people of this part of the country are SO very kind. People like Katie and James ( who donated 5L of water to our cause along with some extra food. Still, I proudly state, “We have survived the desert of Baja California.”

Military Checkpoint

Military checkpoints were everywhere and men in trucks drove around with machine guns. Entire convoy of the military would pass. Some wave, most simply ignore us.

Reading and riding

For 30 miles, the road is empty and flat and nearly straight. So, I read my book for all 30 miles one morning. And then…


We narrowly avoid a catastrophic collision. Felix stopped in front of me and I never saw him, even as my pannier caught his ripping it off… Luckily, the only harm that befell us was a damaged fender.


Felix is feeling pretty awful at this point. It is too painful riding his slow pace so I wait atop the climbs.

Last town before the desert...
Last town before the desert…
We stock up on water.
We stock up on water.
And drink as much as we can.
And drink as much as we can.
Ducky has been with me since the beginning. I recued him from the side of the road.
Ducky has been with me since the beginning. I recued him from the side of the road.
Two amigos
Mexico is weird...
Mexico is weird…
Buenos Dias!
Buenos Dias!
Always carry safety pins...
Always carry safety pins…
Spectacular sunsets give way to the best starry nights.
Preparing for bed.
Preparing for bed.

6 thoughts on “Surviving the Desert

  1. Glad you made it ok! Try listening to books on tape for the boredom – they help a lot without making you stare down for too long. We cross into Mexico tomorrow in Tecate, so we’ll be following your progress as we follow your tiretreads!

    • I usually listen to podcasts. Lately, I’ve been too hot or too tired or too busy swatting flies to bother! Can you recommend a good audio book?

    • Most days at least! Some can be pretty terrible, awful really… lol. I am loving every moment of it! Thanks.

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