Cruising Down to Ensenada

Ready to rock in Rosarito!
  • Ready to rock in Rosarito!

“16 miles! Please tell me you’re kidding?”

It’s 12:30 p.m. and I’m at the first break spot along this 50-mile Rosarito–Ensenada Bike Ride. I’ve been on my $40 Craigslist-bought beach cruiser (the title doesn’t lie) for a few hours now. Moments earlier I arrived thinking that this would be the halfway mark. Then Tracey, my new bumblebee-dressed-rider friend, hits me with that sobering 16-mile news. The powerful understanding of what 50 miles truly means is now settling in. Man, am I going to make the return bus leaving Ensenada at 6:00 p.m.??

The morning had begun with three buses leaving from Balboa Park at 8:00 a.m. sharp. I didn’t want to worry about the logistics of getting my bike into and out of Mexico, so I bought an $89 bus/bike ticket with Outback Adventures.

It was on this 45-minute trip to Rosarito that the 50-mile distance kept creeping into my thoughts… and it seemed longer than before. Noticing that I was the only beach cruiser in sight wasn’t all that settling either.

At 10:00 a.m., people were milling around like it was a party at the starting line. And thankfully, I had completely forgotten about my beach cruiser insecurities. Perhaps the Chicken Man to my left, a flashy Ballerina to the front, and PacMan chasing a cherry for 100 bonus points (two guys on a tandem bike) to my right had something to do with this.

Making new friends on the Rosarito–Ensenada Bike Ride.

Making new friends on the Rosarito–Ensenada Bike Ride.

But back to the Bumblebee. Tracey tells me of “El Tigre” – a three-mile hill coming up after we pass the town of La Misión. What have I gotten myself into? I’ve been known to claim that gears are for the weak…in the past. Not today, not at all. I’m now enviously envisioning some levers on my bike.

So with the 16-mile coastal chill ride behind me, and the Bumblebee's briefings, I forge on. The Tijuana-Ensenada Highway 1 suddenly cuts inland and I get the feeling: Tiger-time is here.

I’m standing up on my pedals, steadily climbing “El Tigre” while reciting to myself, “I’m taking this hill.” This lasts all of some five minutes. I throw in my pride. I will not be “riding” the whole way to Ensenada.

But I am not alone in this walking endeavor by any means.

On the walk, and continuing through the inland countryside full of ranches, the friendliness of the riders abounds. A random rider giving an ailing cyclist some leg cramp ointments isn’t an uncommon sight. A united feel is in this Mexican air.

It’s been a relaxing ride after the hill conquered me. Fairly flat, with some occasional hills. And now I see a delicious downhill approaching. I’m quickly reminded of biking down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” near La Paz, Bolivia.

(Well, except for the lack of lush greenery and heaps of crosses lining the road where cars, buses and trucks had sadly launched themselves thousands of feet below.)

After speeding past as many riders as I could on my highly tuned racing maquína, the highway dumps me out on the coast. It’s creeping up on 5:00 p.m. I know I’m close. But as I keep going, Ensenada is just not showing up. It’s at this point that I start hearing my bike, “Really dude? 50 miles on me?” And I have to agree – this has been one long, unforgettable, enjoyable and...long session. Yes, long.

Workers are picking up the race markers as I finally enter Ensenada. I actually have to wait at a stoplight as cars cross – I’m clearly late to finish. And with this I miss the festivities of the day in Ensenada (normal people finish the race between 2:30-3:30). But the Outback Adventures crew still has a tent stacked full of unlimited Pacifico and Corona beers and some fried fish tacos.

Sitting down with the other riders, listening to their riding stories, and replenishing my body with beer and fish is the clincher. I realize that I’ll be back to ride again in May…with gears.

Some quick info/tips:

  • - Bring candy to hand out to kids on the sidelines.
  • - Make sure the water you drink is your own or at an official break spot.
  • - Don’t believe people telling you, “This is the last hill.” I heard that numerous times and climbed even more hills.
  • - Get ready to make some new friends.
  • - There's a bus called the “sag bus” that picks up riders not able to finish. Its nickname is the “sad bus.”
  • - Tracey and others claimed that “El Tigre” was three miles long.
  • - Internet research states the hill to be two miles long. Either way, it sucks on a beach cruiser.

(Dominic's race footage below.)

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