The Baja Divide is challenging us on a daily basis, stretching our abilities, and testing our endurance. Heat, wind, sand, and rough tracks make progress uncertain even after 1000 miles. Each morning we set out wondering: How far will we have to push our bikes up that climb? Can we find shade in the heat of the day? Will 14 quarts of water get us to the next town?
Under ideal conditions we are challenged, but enjoy the adventure. When the tracks are reasonably smooth and temperatures moderate we make good progress, averaging as much as 40 miles a day in some sections. Five good days of riding from Bahia de Los Angeles to Vizcaíno take us along the Sea of Cortez through majestic uplands. We camp on the beach and watch a full moon rise out from the sea. We ride through towering cactus and successfully repair a broken part on our towing attachment along the track. Every day has surprises that keep the riding interesting. Near the end of our second day we race dusk to a nearby ranch, riding hard in our train with father, daughter and son tethered on one track and Alice racing along beside us. The speedometer on this slight downhill reads a rare 15 miles per hour and the cool evening air is luxurious. We are filled with wonder at the hues in the sky and talk excitedly about what we will find at Rancho Escondido. It is moments like these that bring us to these distant places.
When conditions are less than ideal the challenge often seems too great for our family. A week later we are at an important intersection: turn into the mountains for three hard days to Mulege, or take a shortcut to the south. Our morning progress is fifteen hot and sweaty miles to a pine tree in a river valley. This is the only shade in miles. Even out of the sun we are baking in a hot northerly wind unlike anything we have experienced. We cannot move in this oppressive heat that exceeds 100 degrees in the shade. Our two hour siesta stretches into the late afternoon and yet it is still too hot to be exerting ourselves. Soon we are joined by a herd of goats seeking respite from the heat. To make this vital route decision, we launch into a difficult discussion where everyone has a say. We lay out the details of the options, and encourage the kids to share their opinions. As parents we worry about the kids and their ability to regulate their temperature in the intense heat. As adults, we worry about our own ability to function with our heavy load. Consensus evades us. It is dusk by the time we decide on the easier route south to a nearby town. I am disheartened to leave the route, but cannot reconcile the difficulties required for our family, the heat wearing down our physical and mental reserves. As darkness overtakes us, we turn on our lights and ride rolling hills to San Juanico. It is still hot at 8pm, and the decision feels right.
Back in the Sierra days later, we ride between Spanish Misions on the route. Much of the road is littered with volcanic rock that tinkles like broken pottery as we roll over it. In the sandy sections there are more goat tracks than tire tracks. The riding is hard, but doable. Each night we sleep in a date palm oasis hidden in a remote valley - cool, humid and comfortable. On our last day, rain fills the sky we are again forced off the route, making 14 river crossings on our way to the paved highway and some rest days.
Attempting to ride this difficult route as a family requires a few compromises and leaving the route on occasion to deal with rain, sand and heat. While we rest in Constitucion and plan out the final 300 miles, we hope we can successfully ride the last portions to La Paz and then to Cabo San Lucas. Experience has taught us to take it a day at a time.
Today the kids are enjoying a first for this trip: a swimming pool at our hotel!
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The Clark Family: Dan, Alice, Koby, and Ava Fei
Cycling has been part of our life since our kids were born. When they were babies, cycling provided us a time-crunched workout between diaper changes. But these were solitary missions, not family adventures. Our cycling took on a new dimension in 2014 when we left our home and jobs and flew to the tip of South America for our first bike trip as a family. During our eight-month ride, north along the Andes of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia we discovered the freedom that bikes and an open itinerary allow. We experienced the peace and solitude of roads less traveled, strengthened our family bonds, and were welcomed into a larger family of cyclists from around the world - our “Familia Ciclista.”