Every beautiful spot in Baja is at the end of a terrible road.
Posts tagged ‘RV Travel’
The word around town was that we had to try the pizza in El Triunfo. We’d passed through El Truinfo on the way from La Paz to Los Barrilles and it looked like many of the other towns along the highway – a cute church, many hollowed-out buildings, a couple of topes (speed bumps). But Becky, our ever up-beat wagonmaster, had assured us that it warranted a return trip.
We prefer to calorically justify our eating excursions so I started to look for blog posts or web guides for an activity to do in El Triunfo other than the heavy lifting required to get pizza slice to mouth. We’d seen a tiny square sign when passing through Triunfo with a bicycle and a directional arrow. Did I dare dream of a biking trail in this tiny town in Baja??
We didn’t find any trails listed on Trailforks (this great app that a mountain bike guide in Los Barriles had told us about). And many of the listings on the on-line search were for mountain bike tours covering all of Baja. But I did find a couple of posts, in Spanish, about a mountain bike race in El Triunfo – Ciclismo Baja Sur. It sounded promising enough and, although the maps I’d found were vague, we figured someone in Triunfo would be able to point us in the right direction.
El Triunfo was once a mining boom town. At its height in the 1890s it had about 4,000 – 10,000 residents. But when the gold and silver ran out, so did the mining companies. Now it looks like there might be a couple hundred people living in the ruins. But they are really cool ruins and a few businesses are moving in to restore the old brick buildings and breath life back into the town. One of two remaining chimneys used in the calcination process (whatever that is) was designed by Gustov Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower and they are trying to complete some much needed restoration work on it.
When we got to El Triunfo (it is about 45 minutes north of Los Barriles) we turned at the arrow/bike sign on the main highway looking for the trailhead. No luck. It is a very small town though so it didn’t take us too long to drive all the way through it, on both sides of the highway, searching for any other possible clues to this bike trail. Still no luck. We parked and I asked a bartender in a cute little restaurant if he knew anything about it. He said that he thought it was behind the chimney. We walked to the chimney but the area was closed due to the restoration work. As we were walking back to the car wondering what to do next, I noticed what looked like a goat trail at the end of a street leading down into a wash. On a piece of paper smaller than a business card stapled to a fencepost (not the closest fencepost to the street), was a black arrow pointing towards the wash. I followed it and found another arrow pointing north. We’d found the trail!
Have I mentioned that we’d only brought one bike? So I ran the trail with Brandi (that’s actually not a punishment – I really love trail running!) and Mitch took the bike. It was marked well at first, although the paper arrows would be destroyed after one major rain. But then, as we got further, the arrows were turned the other way. So we’d missed something, somewhere, but we continued on, going against the arrows. After a little over three miles, going through an arroyo, over some hills, and behind the chimney, we ended up back in town. I decided that I’d call it a day but Mitch wanted to go back through.
About an hour later, Mitch rode into town, relieved that he’d found his way back but with a big grin on his face. “You missed the really cool part,” he said. There’d been a turn that we’d wondered about when we’d passed it. He took it the second time and it ended up being some really fun single-track with great views. Too late though – my brain had moved on to pizza.
The pizza was in a restaurant called Cafe El Triunfo, in an old brick building that the owner has beautifully restored. It was a unique space with one relic-filled room leading to the next, patios, awnings, balconies, and an open air bar and brick oven overlooking the Eiffel chimney. We sat at the bar and watched the staff make our pizza and slide it in the oven while the resident Great Dane buried chunks of bread in the dirt around the patios to dig up later (the server told us that he always remembers every hiding spot).
I am not a pizza connoisseur – almost any dough with cheese makes me happy. But this was goooood!! Nice thin, crispy crust, fresh, fragrant basil, lots of mozzarella. Before we knew it, our large had disappeared.
Calorically speaking – I know I didn’t come close to breaking even. But Becky was right – El Triunfo was worth the return trip.
Exploring the arroyos, beaches, and restaurants of Los Barriles.
We finally left Moab. We stayed for nearly two weeks – very ungrasshopperish! I’ll share just a few more photos. Keep in mind though, even with Mitch’s great photography, the feeling of this place is nearly impossible to capture on film. The vastness of the canyons and rock formations alongside delicate details such as the graceful swirl of a petrified sand dune combined with rocks colored orange, red, mustard, and Caribbean blue are things only the human eye can hope to comprehend. Just go see for yourself! (I am not a paid promoter for the Moab Chamber of Commerce!)
Wind and water are the insane artists that created the unique canvas of the Moab region. In our previous travels here we had experienced the wind part of the duo. One time a camper in the same RV park as us was blown sideways on its jack stands and four telephone-pole-sized poles supporting a billboard were snapped in half like toothpicks. We’ve been on bike rides here where we had to dodge tumbleweeds flying at us from all directions and even passing us like we weren’t moving. The grit in these wind blasts becomes part of you – it’s in your hair, eyes, teeth, and water bottle.
And although we’d heard stories of waterfalls cascading off of every cliff face and seen the evidence of violent and not-so-violent water events, we’d never actually seen it rain here – until this year. And now it won’t stop!
Like the rest of the country, Moab has had a bizarre winter. Locals say they’ve been covered in snow since November and have had more snow than even the old-timers can remember. The combination of the snowmelt and the hit-or-miss downpours has made many of the trails here very messy. Biking through wet clay is like riding through crunchy peanut butter. We made that mistake once and will always try to avoid it now!
Road biking is still good, just a little cold and damp. And the upside is that now we have seen what a little bit of water can do when it lands on a huge hunk of rock!
Ahhh!! We’re back in Moab. My wish for everyone is that they have at least one place that makes them breath a sign of relief every time they return to it. We are lucky to have a few locations that just seem to click internally and Moab is definitely one of them.
We left San Francisco the day after Mitch’s symposium. The thing about towing your home behind you is that you have to be vigilant about weather and road conditions ahead of you. We had to get across the Sierra Nevadas and, although we have enough chains for both our truck and our trailer, we prefer not to have to use them. So we had to get out before the storms started rolling in.
Many people dread the drive on I-80 across Nevada and Utah but I think it is fascinating. It is as if, without the watchful eyes of all of the millions of people in California, the earth and sky are finally free to do whatever crazy thing they feel like doing. Clouds reach to the ground and set off dust devils with every patch of sunshine. Barren mountains jut up a couple of thousand feet and then disappear abruptly into the flattest, sagebrush covered ground you can imagine. Water becomes salt and salt becomes water indistinguishably. One day when we have our 4wd self-contained, heavy duty RV we will return to this area and explore it thoroughly.
Moab is Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Almost anything you could ever think of doing to raise your heart rate is possible here. It is best known for mountain biking. We didn’t bring our clunky, old mountain bikes with us so we’ll get to rent the new models with all the bells and whistles. I have no doubt that it will be overkill for my abilities but it will be fun anyway!
This past December my college roommates and I had our inaugural “girl’s weekend”. It was fantastic! We hadn’t been together, in one room, for sixteen years. And although we all have very different lives, it was so easy to reconnect. My travels intrigued them and after talking a bit about past and future journeys, I noticed a confused look on the face of my driven, most ‘plugged-in’ friend.
“So…” she asked, tentatively, “What exactly do you do once you get there?”
It made me realize that not everyone gets this whole travel thing. So with this blog, I hope to keep friends and family and any other politely curious spectators up-to-date with where we are, where we’re heading, and most importantly, what in the world we’re doing!
We left our base camp in northern Florida in mid-January and arrived in San Diego a few days ago, our third crossing of the continent towing our travel trailer. One of the goals of our travels, along with seeing as much of our beautiful and diverse country as possible, is to find the ideal place to live. Our perfect place would have the following: be close to the coast so that Mitch can have his surf; close to trails for running, hiking, and biking; be a bike friendly community with paved trails and/or designated bike lanes; a population of 10,000 – 50,000 active, friendly, open-minded, forward-thinking, peaceful people; opportunities to see live theater and music; a couple of good micro-breweries; an artsy little shopping area; an interesting and well-preserved history; be comfortable enough in the wintertime to remain active outdoors; low cost of living; no strip malls or sprawling development; no pollution. Does a place like this exist? Probably not, but it is fun to search for it!
San Diego would have been very close to our ideal if we could have frozen it at the turn of the previous century. But, as usual, we missed it! I can’t help but wish that I was alive back then to see this incredible landscape without the homes and roads and unnaturally brown haze. However, it is still a lot of fun to visit!