Update and Baja Divide Photos

Hello!

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.

Take care!

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.

 

BajaDivideHouse

BeachFireCircle

SaltFlatRed

MilkyWayCampVert

HyerLiteMilkyWay

BikeAndMoto

DeadDolfin

DesertCamp

SelfWithHippies 9.24.17 AM

 

SelfPortraitBeach

SunsetSillhouetteBG 10.49.45 PM

AllySunsetBeachWalk

 

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Emotions are complicated

Life on the road has a habit of changing moods in an instant. Goods moods go bad and bad moods go good. The last week has really exposed the fickle nature of human moods and how quickly they can change. A simple sign over the road gives hope to my ride. I feel elated. The answer to a question long delayed breaks my heart. I feel agony.

Copper Canyon had a profound effect on my psyche. It is only now I am understanding its aftermath. Riding through the Canyon was impossibly difficult. It was a challenge that destroyed former limits forcing confidence to new levels. It made me feel alive. Then, when my tires found pavement and lung-bursting climbs turned gradual, I experienced a feeling of loss. Almost like PTSD. Suddenly my mind was no longer engaged in the task at hand. It wondered away questioning my motivations and it formed new plans. I also realized how close to the border I was. Maybe I should turn north and ride home. I can always resume the ride at some future date. But it’s winter. I can ride till it gets too cold then hitch-hike the rest of the way. I can take a bus. Suddenly, my challenge was no longer physical but a mental struggle to maintain focus. Continue reading

Long Awaited Update

It has been quite some time since my last update. The last two weeks of my life have been spent in the Sierra Tarahumara mountains and the Barrancas Del Cobre. The region is remote and rugged. Modern amenities are few and far between; internet access, yea right.

The dirt track I followed out of Alamos is only accessible via four-wheel drive or via bicycle powered by a determined masochistic touring cyclist. The route to Alamos from Mazatlan is a toll road sporting a blissfully wide shoulder. The miles of tarmac passed quickly as I rushed to find the route less travelled.

I am currently in Creel and very short on time. I’ve been out of civilization for quite a while. As a result, my time here has consisted of chores long neglected and recuperating in the comfort of a dormitory complete with hot showers.

This post will provide a tiny glimpse into the blissful chaos of the last three or so weeks of this epic adventure. I am still trying to absorb all that has happened. The mountains here, and more so the people, have made this portion of my journey one I doubt will be topped. In the coming weeks, I hope to tell the individual stories in more detail. But, for now, this snapshot must suffice. Continue reading

A Week Off Work – Mazatlan

Felix jumps into our pool.
Felix jumps into our pool.

My adventure turned vacation. My Mom booked us a resort in Mazatlan and here we stay. For a week. The longest I’ve been in one place since leaving home on the 8th of July. With a refrigerator and a stove; a toilette and a shower. And beds. Glorious soft beds of a material I don’t stick to. We even have a pool that ends in the Sea of Cortez. Life is good; though, it’s not without problems.

The resort gave our room away so we had to wait an hour for them to sort out the problem. No big deal. As Aldous Huxley wrote,

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.

Even the flood wasn’t a big deal. I woke in the morning to find water covering nearly half the room and more pouring from the ceiling. The AC froze up. We went days without. However, I draw the line at “the noise from hell.” Like nails on a chalk board, opening the refrigerator door made us cringe. It is terrible. Really. It was so damn loud it served as our alarm clock in the morning. One of us waking the other opening that awful door. It is torture. If I ever need information from someone, I’ll make them listen to that sound. In minutes, they’ll be squealing like a pig.

"Fixing" our leaky ceiling.
“Fixing” our leaky ceiling.

All complaints aside, this week has been wonderful. I explored the city and made new friends. I had the bearings changed in my front hub for 20 pesos (that’s $1.50). I swam in our pool and watched the sun set into the sea. I rode my bike unloaded, racing and passing cars at 30mph. And best of all, I did absolutely nothing. For days, I lounged in the comfortable cushions of our couch. Thank you SO much for this wonderful week off  “work.” It’s exactly what I needed for the apex of my expedition.

Tomorrow morning, Felix and I leave the resort and go our separate ways. I’ve decided to turn north and ride into Barranca Del Cobre (Copper Canyon in English). Felix continues on to Mexico City. We’ve been together, almost inseperably, for five weeks. It will be strange riding off without him. I consider him a close friend and cannot wait to visit him in Germany. Maybe we’ll even bump into each other again on this trip. Adios amigo. It’s been unreal.

I have decided I cannot miss the Grand Canyon of Mexico. Six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental form the Barranca Del Cobre. It is the largest and deepest canyon in the world. It also has hot springs; though, soaking in one for the first time will not come without cost. For those of you who have seen the Grand Canyon in the US, I am literally riding into it. I’ve never seen it so I ride blissfully unaware into hell. I face climbs up to 2,500 meters (8,200 feet); descents to 400 meters (1,200 feet); on rocky and rutted dirt “roads.” This will be the most challenging ride (and push and maybe even carry) of my life. It will also be the most beautiful. Wish me luck!

MazatlanDinner

We took advantage of the stove and fridge from hell cooking everyday. We also ate a lifetimes worth of guacamole and egg salad.

MazatlanBeardCheck

I trimmed my beard. What do you think?

MazatlanBearings

While exploring the city, we passed this small bike shop. In ten minutes, and for twenty pesos, he replaced the bearings of my front hub. It rides like new again.

MazatlanCleanBike

We also washed our bikes. They were in dire need from the swamp and from the dust of the desert.

MazatlanRyanAndHansel

Hansel works the night shift at the front desk of the “resort.” He took me on a tour of the city and to the top of this lighthouse.

MazatlanRyan

It wasn’t easy carrying our bikes to the top, but we managed. And the view was worth the effort.

MazatlanMazatlanWaterFront

Mazatlan is a beautiful city. It’s also very touristy. It was a nice change from the desolation of the Baja desert; however, I’m excited to leave the beaten path; the lights and noise of civilization. Copper Canyon, here here I come.

MazatlanFirstView

Hansel, my tour guide for the day, informed me of an old railroad that runs to the top of this hill. It’s purpose? To deliver ice shipped from the US to the rich people who lived up their.

MazatlanDSCF6711

Felix jumps into our pool.

MazatlanDSCF6719

Josh, who we met in the hostel in La Paz, came over for a visit. They want to know whose muscles are bigger.

What a week…

La Paz at Last

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Down days pass so fast…

LaPazRoad

Reaching La Paz was an emotional experience. It marks the end of the road. Three long months and some 3,500 miles, I’ve only been on one damn road: Highway 1. I’ve ridden it’s entire length from Canada to the bottom of Baja California. And now it’s over. No more 1! I’ll have routes to plan and directions to follow. The trip gets interesting. I can’t wait!

La Paz is also the most significant milestone yet. The psychological halfway point and the end of the familiar. Baja is technically Mexico, but not really. It’s more of a lesson in survival along with an American playground. From off road adventures to fancy resorts, the American influence on Baja is unmistakable. Then again, what do I know. This is the furthest from the States that I’ve ever been. Continue reading

Died and Gone to Heaven

On our stomachs we lie in the 88 degree water of the Sea of Cortez. “Felix,” I say sitting up. “I think we died in that storm.” I hear a pop and watch Felix pour the amber liquid into a frosted mug. “Salud,” he toasts in Spanish. Our glasses clink together, “We’ve earned it, amigo.” We slowly sip, attempting to savor, but it’s of no use. The beer is too refreshing. The last week too hot. Our mugs are soon empty.

I stand and walk through the powdery white sand and into the restaurant. A gentle breeze passes through the open windows cooling my wet skin. A television covered in stickers, like the rest of the bar, broadcasts Two and a Half Men. “Dos mas cervesas, por favor.” A green parrot on the man’s shoulder whistles in reply. He hands me two more bottles of Dos Equis and new frosted mugs. I reenter the bathwater, as my dad called it, and watch the blue sky transition to orange, red, and violet. Continue reading