This message comes to you from Pittsburgh, Pa after nearly three months on the road. On December 30th, 2016, I boarded an Amtrak train with my fat-tired bicycle, a Surly ECR. On January 2nd, 2017, I arrived in San Diego, assembled my bike, and rode to a place called Barrett Junction where a hundred riders assembled for a group camp (I missed the San Diego group start arriving a few hours too late). On January 3rd, we cycled to the border and crossed into Mexico entering a town called Tecate. We stocked up on a few days of food and rode out of town to another group camp.
For the next two months, I cycled with various riders to La Paz where my time on the Baja Divide came to an end. We tackled endless climbs and bombed gnarly descents. We cycled beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez. We ate more tacos than you would believe. And we slept beneath endless canopies of stars. Life in Baja is good.
On March 5th, I mentioned an intention to hitchhike home or at least to San Diego where I could take another train. A train would negate the need to disassemble my bike. I also prefer the slow and steady approach. It allows time to decompress and ready oneself for a new reality in a place where people typically shower daily and don’t consider as work stuffing another taco into an already full stomach. Well, another travel overheard and offered me a ride. I couldn’t say no.
I spent the next ten days road-tripping in a van with a Finnish man who was kayak touring the Baja Peninsula. We explored the backroads driving by day and camping by night. We went to Vegas then to Death Valley where everything went horribly wrong. Driving a backcountry road, he struck a rock putting a fist-sized hole in the oil pan directly beneath the oil pump. “What does this light mean?” It read “check gages” and meant we were screwed.
We were eventually towed to a service station in Death Valley by someone in a real off-road vehicle. The mechanic took days to look at the vehicle. “It’s dead. You can either have it towed somewhere or sign the title over to us and we’ll scrap it for you.” He signed the papers and they drove him to Vegas where he caught a bus to San Fransisco to catch a waiting flight home to Finland.
I began riding but did not make it far. Because of a drivetrain that was completely worn out, the derailluer refused to shift onto the bigger rings. I kept riding anyway. Until the derailleur was sucked into the wheel. I set the bike up single speed and rode back to John and his Jeep. I camped with him. In the morning he drove me to town.
I attempted to hitchhike but it was nearly impossible in this town. I decided to ride, but my drivetrain continued to deteriorate forcing me onto the highway where I used a call-box to phone for help. A California Highway Patrol officer picked me up and drove me to a town with an Amtrak station where the saga finally came to an end on the 20th of March.
I’m currently sorting through photos and working to improve the website I built in the month between completing the Appalachian Trail and beginning the Baja Divide. Expect in-depth stories and tons more photos in the coming weeks.
Ryan “Kodak” Brown
Here are some of my favorite shots from the last few months. Those that follow me on Instagram have seen many of these already. I’ll be posting more shortly.