Baja day 2 was the San Diego exodus. I did it twice. The first time was the formal baja divide route finishing in Tecate that night riding with Olivia, the strongest woman ever, slight in build and heavy on power, who’d I met the day prior riding an Esker in San Diego proper. This sector was 57 miles, 4k+ climbing.
The second effort I was solo and chose to stay on the road hoping for a better gradient since having done the 3000′ Otay Truck Trail ascent with Olivia those 9 months prior. The choice to ride the road on the second go was a foul and harrowing experience of traffic and crevasses along a narrow and shoulderless road. At points along it, I would simply stop pedaling, remain saddled, lean into the rock wall of a curve, and let the semi’s and work trucks pass. How I lived through this unscathed I don’t know.
I complained once that the Baja divide route could have been better in this section, with its route climbing Otay mountain, but fact is it can’t. The topography here is wickedly rugged. Although there are roads squeezed south of Otay mountain between it and the border wall, there is nothing so efficient and safe as the 3000 foot Otay climb to make Tecate in a day. Even with it, one must still ride hwy 94 for the final segment into Tecate. This makes day 2 a hard day, and a good indication of the days ahead.
On my second venture and in choosing the highway, I ended up camping on the US side of the border for a night in a strange grassy area near Dulzura a small agg village. Scrambling off the road I climbed low and broken ranch wire fences to get to an obscured flat grassy knoll with nothing but mountainous borderlands to its south. That night was heavy with fog, and I heard the buzz of drones throughout the night; or at least that’s what I imagined in between bouts of sleep. Something was buzzing, and being so close to the border and San Diego and TJ, I assumed I was being surveilled.
The climbs out of San Diego would end up being some of the most significant climbs of the entire route. Otay is a harsh break-in that I tried to avoid the second time which was literally a fool’s errand. The fact remains – the entire route has significant climbing (90k+).
When I arrived in Tecate I stayed the night both times at Hotel El Dorado, and walked the streets, ate tacos and drank Tecate. Arriving here was the true beginning of the ride. I was in Mexico, and immediately I was in uncharted, somewhat unfamiliar territory as a vulnerable cyclists – perhaps the most vulnerable way of all travel.by