We are living our dream. Doing what we love. Never sure what the day will bring, certain only that each will contain elements unexpected, unfamiliar and exciting. From following bear tracks along BC’s glacial streams to having morning coffee with Mexican coyotes among cacti, it has been an adventure from the moment our tires hit pavement outside the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage.
But it’s not always easy.
I stand leaning against our loaded bikes in front of the super mercado, waiting for Lucie to come out with our groceries. It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon. My vision is blurred from the heat. The inescapable Mexican sun burns white and makes my head pound.
The kid walks past me stiffly, slowly, eyes wide and unblinking, mouth open, on his way to the outside restroom. I’m not the first white guy he’s ever seen. I’m just the dirtiest, most exhausted white guy he’s ever seen. The 8 year-old weekend bag boy stares at me as though I’m eating a live kitten. Horror and morbid curiosity play across his face. On his way back to the store’s entrance he manages, in a squeaking voice, to ask me where I’m from, as though there is some awful place he hasn’t heard of where dirty, bearded white people feast on live kittens. “Canada,” I reply. “And you?” “Here. I’m from here,” he answers, perhaps hoping the words will dispel the evil Lucie and I and our burly war ponies have brought upon the clean place that is Vizcaino, Baja California Sur.
This look, this brief exchange, confirms something for me. It’s time for a Shower. It’s time to Shave. Time to don a human face. No mas. The sun has baked my brain, and the acrid smell of my salty cycling jersey is making my eyes water.
The original plan was to ride through town, get what supplies we need and move on to our next wild “campsite”. It’s been 8 days now against the desert heat, finding water and shade where we can, hoping to chance upon a settlement or rancho before running out of food and agua. I’ve never gone so long without access to water. In the wild North, drawing our water from creeks and streams seemed like a big adventure. For days now, it’s been impossible to splash water on our faces, wash our hands or brush our teeth without cutting into our precious drinking and cooking supply. It’s not just that drinkable water costs money. It’s that, without proper rationing, we can easily run out long before having the honour of paying for drinkable water. The highway runs mostly inland through the high desert; we’re denied even the sight of water, despite being within scant miles of both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.
Lucie finally emerges with a full load of yogurt, cheese, tortillas, onions, beans and rice. She doesn’t need much convincing to circle back to the 100 peso (about 8$) campground/hotel spotted earlier. We set up our tent in the shadiest spot of the establishment’s citrus grove, right next to the shower shack. I let Lucie go ahead. It’s been over a week; I can wait another 20 minutes. I don’t want anyone beating on the door once I’m in there. I make a really mean little espresso with condensed milk and cocoa in preparation for the ecstasy of a hot shower and a shave.
I emerge smooth-skinned, smiling, civilized. A friend to children and kittens. Loved and accepted. The next morning, after gorging ourselves on mandarin oranges, we point our beasts southward once again on MEX 1, the narrow carretera transpeninsular. We merge into its bustling roadside markets, graze its busy taco stands, wave back to friendly honking truck drivers, a part of it all once again. Que le vaya bien. Indeed.
Note: This post relays an experience from a few days back just south of Guerrero Negro.