Dec 31

Stage 2: Baja California (AKA Operation Fish Tacos)

Stage 2: Baja California

Don’t under estimate Mexico.  It’s huge.

A lot of people I have talked to seem to have a skewed sense of the girth of this unassuming country, the next one on the itinerary for the Tour de Zack.  People seem to think Mexico is a dainty little stiletto heel precariously balanced under the big fat America.  Others are more generous and think Mexico is roughly the size of Texas.  Wrong and Wrong again.

There are lots of statistics I could could choose to throw at you, but only one is important to me: 3,700 km.  3,700 km is how far I will have to ride to get across Mexico.  In case you are numerically impaired, that’s a long ways.  Coincidentally, 3,700 km is also the exact distance I would have to ride if I were riding across the United States of America (San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL), or Australia (Melbourne, VIC to Darwin, NT), or even Europe (Istanbul, Turkey to Edinburgh, Scotland)!

So, don’t under estimate Mexico.  It’s the real enchilada.

The Forgotten Peninsula

Mexico is so big I have had to split it up into three stages, and the first is the 1500 km long peninsula of Baja California.  With long stretches of mountainous desert emptiness, thousands of miles of untouched pristine coastline, and a unique history, the original California has adventure baked right into it.

Often called the forgotten peninsula, Baja California is indeed a product of centuries of isolation.  Back in the 1500s, legends began to emerge of an island somewhere just west of Mexico that was brimming with gold and overflowing with beautiful women, so of course, the opportunistic conquistador Cortes came running.  Unfriendly native men with pointy spears, difficult terrain, and no sign of accommodating females soon turned him back with his tail between his legs.  Altogether he sent four expeditions, one of which he accompanied, before he gave up and left the legend island of California to others.  He did succeed however in discovering that Baja California was in fact a peninsula and not an island.  After Cortes’ adventures, Baja was pretty much left alone for 200 years until 1697 when the Spanish sent in their most feared and respected conquering force: The Jesuits.

By the mid 1800s, the Jesuits had succeeded in establishing a string of missions along the peninsula.  They had also succeeded, by way of disease, in virtually eliminating the native population.  So for the next century Baja remained a very quiet place until the american tourists and adventurers began to trickle down in the 1940s and 1950s.  Amongst the Yankee explorers, were one John Steinbeck in 1940, and one Jack Kerouac in the 1950s.

Slowly developing tourism and the construction of the Transpeninsular Highway (completed in 1973), set the scene for the Baja you see today.  There is Tijuana and Ensenada in the North, the tourist resort mecca Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip, and not a whole lot in-between apart from desert.  I’m looking forward to the in-between.

With 1500km to ride, it would take a bare minimum of two weeks for Tony and I to pedal our way down to La Paz, so with stops and days off the bike, I’m expecting this stage to take about four weeks.  Now that Tony has been cleaned up and re-tuned and I’ve tied up a bunch of loose ends,  I expect to cross the border into Mexico tomorrow.

Oh, and as a side note, now that I’ve met in person a few touring cyclists who have ridden through Mexico, I am fully confident that Mexico will be as safe (or safer) to travel through as the USA.  If you are interested though, I wrote an article almost two months about this topic: Is Mexico safe enough to cycle across?



  1. Pena, Carlos Gonzales. History of Mexican Literature.  1969
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baja_California_Peninsula 
  3. Fisher, John. The Rough Guide to Mexico.  Rough Guides Ltd.; New Delhi, India 2010.


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