On Butt Sores and Vulnerability

Not long ago I asked for writing suggestions and received this, “from the outside, you’re so fearless…what makes a person like you vulnerable?” This is a heavy question, but it’s a topic I’ve been wanting to address. My entire life I’ve been afraid. In every notebook I’ve ever owned I ask myself “what are you so afraid of?” I’ve always feared that I’ll never hold the same worth as a white person, that I somehow will always be less than. This I know is completely false and It’s been a struggle to detach myself from this very irrational fear. My internalized oppression has led me into dark rabbit holes of self destruction, has had me silence myself, shut myself off and regard my self as unimportant. I’m tired of it, and honestly hearing from someone that I appear fearless is actually a lovely compliment because that's the ultimate goal, to live without fear or a healthy dose of it at least.  

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In my late teens in order to  distract myself from my fears I began traveling extensively; road trips, planes, ferries, solo hitchhiking, caravans, buses, trains...moving, moving, moving. I despised going to school, mostly because I always felt different, the white kids in my class always appeared smarter, I was too shy to speak up. There were definitely brown and black kids around me that were absolutely brilliant and I’m positive they are out there doing amazing things and changing the world for the better, but I was also not one of those kids, Im not academically gifted or fantastically articulate. I’m in love with travel, dusty roads, and other people’s stories. After eight years of continuous magic-filled travel I’ve finally begun to slow down, like a coin that's been spun making its final revolutions before being picked up and spun again. 
In 2017 I was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression. The reasons behind these labels are not important, what's important is that these past two years I’ve been facing it all, attempting to heal, and cocooning in order to molt into my next self. Before going on the Baja Divide trip I left three wonderful jobs, sold my camper and left behind a secure and comfortable future and it was all 100% worth it. I could write a post about the amazing people, places, and food of Baja California because there was all of that, but I also want to be real and acknowledge the romance in the melancholy.

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The mix of my poor mental health with long stints of reflection time on the bike led to continuously questioning my self worth, my path, and my romantic relationship, which made an already physically challenging thing all the more stifling. This is not a complaint but a reflection because riding my bike through Baja California was not just the emotional and physical struggle, it was one of the most romantic experiences of my life.Riding through the desert with my lil bitty family was indeed euphoric. Together we slept under the stars, felt thirst and hunger, admired wildlife and landscapes, and read to one another every night we weren't too exhausted to speak. The dust, our crooked pack of cigarettes, laughter, arguments, and the moments we found the humor in our anger and frustration, all gifts. Two dirty brown kids taking care of one another as best we could. Kevin bravely popped my butt sores and held me up every time I crumbled from the inside out.

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As we pedaled through small towns and ranches, I witnessed and spoke to brown women and girls that are powerful beyond words. Women and girls holding up their families, women and girls with hands calloused by hard labor and smiles on their beautiful brown faces, magic glowing out of every pore of their strong brown bodies, when they speak wisdom flows out their mouths like that first heavy rain after a drought, bringing life where soil was barren. Women breast feeding babes one minute and heavy lifting water barrels, cooking eggs and beans for strangers, and heating up the bath water the next. This is when I slap myself for ever thinking for one second that I am any less, these women look just like me, they are my family, my ancestors; me. Why am I so afraid of my greatness? The journey to answer this question, that's what makes me vulnerable, and I’m afraid but that's ok.  

Impressions of Life on a Bike




Over the past three and a half months traveling through BajaCalifornia, we have met a ton of other travelers. We've met folks on bikes, in cars, trucks, and on foot. We have met many other bikepackers also riding the Baja Divide route. Some of these bikepackers are singularly focused on riding the distance that they hardly stop to say hello. I understand that many of these travelers only have a few months to ride and then have to get back to their work. They must ride everyday from dusk till dawn hardly stopping it seems. This is not us, we are SLOW and take our time durring meals and shade breaks. Drawing, painting and reading breaks are key. Carrying a little paint goes a long way for entertainment. 

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People ask us how far we ride in a day and it is hard to give an accurate answer because it varries so much. We've ridden as much as 120km(dirt) in a day and as little as 0km. REST DAYS!  We love our rest days and take one or two or three as we see fit. All this is to say, we have not spent every waking moment of this trip riding our bikes, and yet it still feels as though we do nothing other than ride, or push surly beasts. To be honest bikepacking, to me, feels 'all consuming'.  There is plenty of free time to engage in other activities, but more often than not we are spent and don't have the energy to do them. Mostly, our days are as follows : RIDE, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT.
It sounds corny, but if you've ever traveled by bike you'll know its the honest to God truth.
Durring the first part of our trip I was fully enjoying spending hours inside these notebooks drawing, and writing. 

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We were reading a fair bit aswell till we broke both of the kindles. :(
For the past few months I've felt a real challenge to get anything on paper. Here are a few of the drawings from December and early January.

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This last drawing was a colaboration between Paloma and I. I love how it came out.

 


Bikepacking can be monotonous but worth it. We have had the opportunity to camp and explore some truly remarkable areas, but this also comes at the price of spending a large amount of time away from our true passions. For Paloma and myself, this time of no rockclimbing, or dirtjumping or digging has been tough. Again difficult, but worth it, for it has given us even more desire to continue to persue our dreams. We are ready and excited to devote the time necessary to our respective sports.

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Three and a half months of bikepacking down here in Baja California. We have ridden most of the Baja Divide, although we have also skipped and replaced certain sections with other roads
pavement and dirt alike. The divide route itself is extrememley challenging. I believe I underestimated how hard it would be when I suggested we undertake the challange.
Remember, this is Paloma's very first trip on a bike! To all those that rode the Baja Divide this winter, congratulations. To all that are planning to ride the divide, previous expierience is highly recommended (Not a beginner route).  For now we are planning our next step and devoting some time off the bikes to our passions. Traveling and meeting locals is amazing and I am sure we will continue to travel, but for now time spent in other ways is necessary.  We are grateful for all the time we spent in Baja California with great people, rugged
wilderness and backcountry. We are excited for the next chapter.
 

 

I should also mention, that in the past few weeks, I have found a little more energy to continue to draw, paint and sketch. Here's a recent piece. 

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90 DAYZ

March 2

Today marks three months since leaving home. 90 days! Many miles, LOTS OF FOOD, and time meeting and speaking to the locals. Paloma and I can’t seem to go through a single village without speaking to at least a handful of people. Sometimes the conversations are simple and quick while others become meaningful and drawn out. We love this; it gives us a better sense of the area we are traveling through.

Three months and still on the same peninsula may seem like a long time but has allowed us the opportunity to get to know the Baja.  One could spend years getting to know this part of the world. There are folks riding the Baja Divide and trying to complete it as fast as they possibly can. We just may be the slowest, but our adventure feels full of experience.

A few weeks ago we spent a few days in the small fishing village of El Datil, B.C.S. We arrived around mid-day and immediately started meeting friendly people. We bought snacks and ordered some lunch from Juanita and Margarito, who also run the abarrote ( small store).

That evening we ended up camping just outside of the town in an old Palapa. I walked to the abarrote to buy some groceries to cook for dinner. There I met two fisherman, Chorombo y Lolo. We talked and joked and before long I had gotten an invite to help them check their octopus traps the following day. Finding a crew to take me out to catch octopus has been on my mind for a few hundred miles.

The next morning I am up before the sun. I am ready. I find the men; they give me a pair of boots and fishing overalls and the day begins. A chilly morning, wind and light rain.

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Crew members:  Chorrombo – Captain

                              LoLo – First Mate

                             Eujenio – Second mate

                             Compa Kevin – new and untested recruit.

We headed out towards “ LA BOCA”, where the estuary meets the ocean, and there is life everywhere. Whales and dolphins swimming along with us! Hard to put this impressive beauty into words, but we saw more than two dozen dolphins and a dozen or so gray whales.

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We arrive at the traps. They had left about 90 octopus traps and 40 lobster traps. We begin hauling. The first trap that has a pulpo in it, Lolo opens it up and has me grab it.

The moment I have waited for! Time to fight an octopus!

I grab the octopus and it latches on tight to the trap sticking its tentacles through the holes of the trap. This being my first time, I wasn’t gonna let this bastard win, I pull hard and rip him from the trap. It latches on to my arm, I tear it off and throw it into the bucket. Being my first time getting an octopus out of a trap I just sorta man handled him out, and ended up tearing off one of his tentacles. The men found this quite entertaining. I learned that you can get the pulpo to move around in the cage and then you grab him out.

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We continued checking, harvesting, and baiting, traps. Those that know me understand that I am no stranger to hard work, and there was plenty of it. By 2 PM we returned with 30 kilos of octopus. They told me the catch was slim because we are in the very end of the season, but to me 30 kilos is a lot of octopus.

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Next up, LUNCH

My beautiful Paloma had an amazing lunch ready. After good food a rest was in order, we rested and discussed our plans. We decided to stick around for another day and I would go fight more pulpo.

That evening Paloma and I were walking through the village when we ran into several kids riding their BMX bikes. They were riding wheelies and launching off the speed bump. I borrowed one of the bikes and we had an awesome sunset session. I taught them about manuals and foot jam whips. What a great time, just a bunch of kids riding bikes together.

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The next morning we set off for another day of fishing. Much the same as the day before but Compa Kevin had a little more experience. We had another funny and exciting day on the water. We joked and worked, and had even more diversity in the traps.

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We found: Octopus, sea snake (which can kill you if it bites) Eel, Lobster, a big puffy fish that can also do loads of damage if it pokes you.

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The catch was similar to the first day, 30 kilos of pulpo. We also checked lobster traps and found four lobsters. We kept the lobster traps on board to bring back on land and store them from the next season.     

An experience of a lifetime, thank God for the time, health and opportunity. The Second evening I didn’t have enough energy to ride bikes with the boys. Sorry boys.

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The lobsters we did catch they gifted to Paloma and I. Four lobsters and three pulpos! It turns out that four other lobsters were given to Paloma while I was out on the water. She cooked them up into a delicious seafood salad. I swear that good seafood comes straight from the heavens. That night we stayed up far past our bedtime of 9 PM exchanging stories with Margarito and Juanita (for two nights we stayed under the palapa connected to their house).

The next morning we cooked the remaining lobster and octopus and packed up. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and left El Datil with our bellies full, bags full of food, and hearts full of happiness.

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The Bikes We Ride

The second half of 2017 was full of preparation. We made up our minds that the time for adventure was near. We decided that we would depart New Mexico in December, leaving us with approximately seven months of planning and prep.

First we had to decide our mode of travel; bikes, mountain bikes. Both of us are keen on being far away in the backcountry, so the decision to land on bikepacking as our mode of travel was a simple one. Paloma, confident in her backpacking and backcountry experience, agreed even though she’s never ridden mountain bikes.

Next up, where are we going? That one was the easiest, south! Paloma being Mexican-American and myself Colombian-American, heading to Central and South America made sense. Also, both of us have been speaking Spanish since we were babies, so that helps.

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Next up, bikes!

In a time when several brands are producing high quality bikepacking bikes and gear, decisions can be hard to make. For us however, Surly was the brand for us from the beginning. For the past two years I have been lucky enough to be part of the team over at The Broken Spoke bike shop in Santa Fe, NM. Among many reputable MTB brands, the shop also represents Surly Bikes. The whole crew at the Broken Spoke rides Surly and we love them.

Mike- Karate Monkey

Dylan- ICT

Owen- Troll, Instigator

Jet- Krampus

Paul- Long Haul Trucker

Sarah- Cross Check

Paulie-….. Soma Wolverine…..*cough, cough*

Nathan- Krampus

Kevin- Troll

Ask any of us, or anyone who owns a surly for that matter, and we’ll tell you the truth. Surly makes great bikes and gear. Working among these characters, full of knowledge and experience, I was able to learn a great deal of life lessons on and off the bike. I could go on for pages about the crew at the shop but for now we’ll leave it with a massive thank you!                     

Weapon of choice:

                                           SURLY TROLL 26+

                                               26 AINT DEAD

                                                RIDE OR DIE

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I will go further into the bags and accessories in later posts, for now here is a parts run down:

KEVIN’S TROLL

Large Surly Troll Frame: Maroon

D.T: 2x10

Crankset: Surly OD 175MM

Chainrings: 22t-36t

Cassette: Sram 11-42

F. Der. Deore

R. Der. Deore

Front Hub: Busch and Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo Hub

Rear hub: Shimano XT

Rims: WTB ASYM I35

Tires: WTB Ranger 3.0” Tough Rolling

Rear Rack: Surly Rack

Front Rack: Sunlite Goldtech

Headset: Cane Creek 10

Bottom Bracket:  Surly BB

Stem: Salsa Guide 60MM

Bars: Jones Bars 710mm

Grips: Ergon GC1

Brakes: BB7 MTN

Rotors: F. 180 Sram centerline R. 160mm Certerline

Pedals: Deity TMAC

Saddle: WTB Pure

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PALOMA’S TROll

Small Surly Troll Frame: Black

D.T: 2x10

Crankset: Surly OD 170MM

Chainrings: 22t-36t

Cassette: Sram 11-42

F. Der. XT

R. Der. XT

Front Hub: Busch and Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo Hub

Rear Hub: Shimano XT

Rims: WTB ASYM I35

Tires: WTB Ranger 3.0” Tough Rolling

Rear Rack: Surly Rack

Front Rack: Sunlite Goldtech

Headset: Cane Creek 40

Bottom Bracket:  Surly BB

Stem: Raceface 60MM

Bars: Soma Osprey / Rusty Bars

Grips: Ergon GP1

Brakes: BB7 MTN

Rotors: F. 180 Sram centerline R. 160mm Certerline

Pedals: Kore

Saddle: WTB Deva

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Aside from a few subtle differences we are both running almost the same parts. Working at the shop with the inspiration of many friends and colleagues we built up two awesome beasts. The bikes are performing to their best and pushing our limits. They are certainly the tool for the job; the job however is very challenging. Bikepacking is hard and The Baja Divide route is a huge challenge. With our combined experience and persistence, we are making it happen.

For the crew, and our group of friends reading this: Thank you guys. Thank you for the time we’ve spent together, you guys rock!

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And We're Off!

WAYPOINTS

TECATE

SAN FRANCISCO                                                                                        

CAÑON MANTECA

EJIDO SIERRA JUAREZ                                                                                  

OJOS NEGROS

77.1 MI, 124.1KM

On Saturday December second, we finished cleaning up our room and packed our friend Sally’s truck with our remaining belongings. Sally, Kevin, Reel and I hopped in the truck and started our trek towards Tecate, Mexico.

Our first stop was Lotaburger for Kevin and I’s last green chile hamburger, at least for a very long while. Second stop was Flagstaff, AZ to visit our friend Jake who lives out of his camper in the woods. Here we organized our belongings and decided to leave extra stuff behind (theme #1).

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After a comfortable fire and a good night’s sleep in the cold, we had a light breakfast, Jake sharpened our knives, and off we went. After a long drive with good music and delicious picnic food, Sally dropped us off on a hill overlooking Tecate. Here we camped under the super-moon.

The next morning we rode downhill towards the border. We crossed with no problem, ate some tacos with coca cola (theme #2), purchased some cycling gloves and continued on toward San Francisco. On the outskirts of Tecate the night overtook us as well as the wind. We ended up camping beside hills of large boulders below sparkling Colonia Mirador. The next morning the fierce wind continued. As we began to fully wake a couple came to visit, Narcio and Maria. They invited us into their home for coffee, which lead to delicious pan dulce, then to a couple of bowls of warm posole. We conversed about God, Love, and extraterrestrial life (Narcio saw a space ship in the deserts of Arizona). Narcio told stories about his own travels, meeting Maria, building the house and the love they have for their plants. They have fruit trees, grow chile, and raise doves for their caldos. We left happily with our bellies full.

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Getting out of Tecate was a relief; we were now away from the city and continued into the quiet desert. We camped in the Cañon Manteca area and had soup for dinner with goat cheese tacos. The surrounding hills and boulder fields are endless and feel like New Mexico with a hint of ocean air. The wind continued and was rough day in and day out. There were moments we would be pushing our bikes up large hills with dust devils and gusts of wind threatening to topple us over, bikes and all. We’re glad the wind didn’t take Reel away, as she was also struggling up the hills beside us with her ears pinned back by the continuous gusts.

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We miss calculated the amount of food and water we needed for the three nights we took to arrive at Ojos Negros. We had miss read our route guide, there was no re-supply in Ejido Sierra Juarez, but a kind rancher allowed us to re-fill our water bottles. The night before arriving at Ojos Negros the wind storm increased and caught us in a very sandy section of trail. Setting up the tent was hell. COLD.

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We were hungry, cold and afraid the wind would take away the fly and or break the tent poles. The next morning we awoke caked in dirt, packed up in the wind and off we went for the last stretch. On the decent to Ojos Negros I had my fist wipeout and later met two German bike packers who looked comparably much cleaner that the three of us.

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The first thing we did at Ojos Negros was eat at La Rosita:

Paloma – Three burritos de Asada and half a donut

Kevin – Torta de carne Asada, quesadilla, and the other donut half

At the restaurant we met Norberto and his sisters whom we ended up visiting and eating with at their family reunion the day we took off toward Uruapan. We stayed two nights in Ojos Negros to recover from the hunger and dehydration. This route is difficult yet beautiful and rewarding. Several lessons were learned during the first section of the Baja Divide:

1.      Pack more food than you think you’ll need

2.      Send back/ditch extra clothes/misc. items

3.      When it gets tough, acknowledge the negative thoughts but recognize the reality of the adventure

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Ya Casi

Aquí estamos en casa acurrucados en las bolsas de dormir que Kevin hico con sus propias manos. 

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