Desert tales - The Not So Long Way Down - CycleBlaze

November 25, 2018

Desert tales

Taking place entirely in the desert

A rather terrible ordeal befell me this morning, a disaster in the desert, a Mexican mishap, a cactus calamity. What happened is this, as clearly as I can remember the traumatic episode: Firstly I stepped upon a piece of cactus that was lying on the desert floor. It was a piece of some kind of cholla (see yesterday's "♫ Cool desert plant of the day ♫" for evidence of how fearsome chollas are) with a dozen or so long needles upon it. The offending piece of cactus was stuck to the side of my right shoe. This would not have been a disaster in itself, had I not decided, upon seeing the cactus impaled upon my right shoe, to kick said cactus with my left foot in order to try and remove it. This idiotic manoeuvre brought with it predictable results - one of the needles of the cholla went right through the mesh on the top of my left trainer and into the side of my foot. I knew it had gone into the side of my foot because of the agony. Also because there appeared to be something very pointy rubbing against the bone at the base of my big toe, which I knew was not normal. I reacted quickly, and with a consistent level of stupidity I tried to pull the cactus piece out with my right hand. Another needle pricked my thumb. I fell to my backside in my angst and, if only the world were a cartoon I would have found another cactus needle waiting to impale me there, before jumping up and banging my head upon another cactus. But my misfortune had reached its peak, the ground beneath me wasn't pointy, and all that remained was for me to more carefully remove the needle from my foot, and turn to my girlfriend for the required level of sympathy. As I understand it chicks dig scars, but unfortunately the very thin and pointy nature of the cholla needle meant that there was nothing more than a tiny little red spot on my skin to show for my pains.

"♫ Cool desert plant of the day ♫" This is not a cholla, I didn't take a picture of the offending cactus. This is a... (see comment below)
Heart 3 Comment 4
Andrea BrownBarrel cactus ya big dummy.

I'm filling in for Bill today, although if you want the latin name you have to pay extra.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Andrea BrownChuckle!

Fire barrel cactus is correct! But I will only charge him my usual fee... nothing extra for: -Ferrocactus gracilis-

https://www.cactiguide.com/cactus/?genus=Ferocactus&species=gracilis
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltI will never forget kneeling on a jumping cholla section as a 10 year old!

We had to use pliers to pull the spines out of my knee! You have my sympathy!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI was going to warn him about jumping chollas myself. One affixed itself to my calf in Joshua Tree on a cycling trip, before I knew about them. When I tried to pull it off it just rolled along my leg, grabbing on in new spots. I finally got loose by grabbing it from beneath with a pair of tire levers and yanking it out. I ended up with about a hundred tiny red spots. Pretty traumatic.
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3 months ago

Well somehow I was able to get on my bike and cycle, and soon we reached the end of Highway 5 and found ourselves turning left onto Highway 1, our only realistic onward route and the road we planned to follow for the next 900 kilometres. Rather disappointingly for the major arterial route down Baja California there was no shoulder whatsoever, and the road was barely wide enough for two trucks to even pass one another. The traffic was not excessive, but even so it was nervewracking to be on such a road, especially for Dea I think. Really it was the first time we'd been on such a road since leaving China, and the careless way that people drove in that country had left Dea scarred somewhat. She remained on edge until a truck came up behind her with something approaching from the opposite direction. The truck slowed behind her and waited until it was safe to pass, something no truck driver in China would consider doing, and an act that seemed to restore Dea's faith in the Mexican drivers.

Two trucks passing each other cautiously.
Heart 3 Comment 3
Scott AndersonYow! Be careful, folks. Think thin!
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3 months ago
Ludo VerhoevenWow, that ‘s very close. If possible, drive in the middle of the road so that they can not overtake you at oncoming traffic.
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3 months ago
Chris PountneyI should add that this truck was not passing me this close - it had already passed me and was then waiting for the truck coming the other way when I caught it up again
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3 months ago
Not the wide road we'd hope from the major route, but traffic was not excessive.
Heart 4 Comment 0
A lot of motorbikers passed us during the day. Also take note of the giant cactuses we were riding through. They must have been ten metres high!
Heart 2 Comment 1
Bill ShaneyfeltKind of far off, but tentatively... I think they may be organ pipe cacti.

https://www.cactiguide.com/cactus/?genus=Stenocereus&species=thurberi
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3 months ago
The cactuses weren't the only big thing. I have no idea how anything managed to pass this on the narrow road.
Heart 2 Comment 0
"♫ Cool desert plant of - oh no, we've already done that today.
Heart 3 Comment 1
Bill ShaneyfeltNot absollutely positive, but that might be dagger cactus.

https://www.cactiguide.com/cactus/?genus=Stenocereus&species=gummosus
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3 months ago

The paved road and a nice tailwind meant we made fast progress and we'd done 60 kilometres by midday, when we stopped at a shack of a restaurant for lunch. The owners, an old couple, didn't speak English, but our Spanish had come on enough to order ourselves some eggs and beans. It was nice to be in such a place, reminding us of travelling in Asia, where lazy dogs lay outside and chickens dug in the dirt outside, and we didn't need to ask the price beforehand, because we knew these were good, honest, people.

We love places like this.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Waiting for our eggs.
Heart 4 Comment 0

As we waited for the old woman to do the cooking in the kitchen the old man sat in a chair and watched TV, until a campervan pulled up outside. From it emerged an American man, who could speak very good Spanish, and his son. They came in and took a seat at the next table, and we got to talking with them. Eric told us that he lived in California, but had a home down at the bottom of Baja California that they spent their winters at. They were on their way down there now, him and his son Jackson. His wife and daughter would fly down to meet them, but for now he and Jackson were on a boys own road trip. They planned to go surfing for a couple of days before continuing south, which fit pretty well with their appearance - Jackson, approximately ten years old, had long, blonde hair and looked every bit the boy from California. We told Eric that we planned to soon stop for a couple of nights in the town of Guerrero Negro.  "Don't stop there," he said, "Guerrero Negro is a sh!thole. Excuse my French!" he said, glancing at his young son, and seeming embarrassed to have used the word, "but Guerrero Negro," he felt necessary to repeat, "is a sh!thole."

Eric was really friendly, and was amazed by our journey. He turned to the old Mexican man and told him in Spanish that we were cycling around the world. The Mexican seemed indifferent, and, barely taking his eyes from the TV screen, replied that a lot of cyclists stop here on their way down to Central America. "That's true!" Eric told us, "We've passed five groups already today. A guy on his own, a girl on her own, and three in pairs. They're not far behind you!"

This news excited us. We'd not met any cycle tourists in weeks, months maybe, and we felt in need of some friends. Hopefully we'd have some soon. For now, though, we were happy to have met Eric and Jackson, and to have had some pleasant company for lunch. Which was just enough to compensate for being charged 180 pesos ($9 US) for a couple of fried eggs and a splodge of refried beans each. We resolved to start asking the price beforehand from now on.

Nothing happened for the rest of the day, except that we cycled a bit more and then made camp in the desert again.
Heart 3 Comment 1
Bill ShaneyfeltCloser shot a bit dark, but I'm more positive about dagger cactus.
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3 months ago

Today's ride: 95 km (59 miles)
Total: 585 km (363 miles)

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