In 1991 I was working for California Bicyclist, and that winter we decided to close down for the month of January and go ride bikes. I wanted to see if I could make it to Acapulco. I didn't figure the mileage or anything, but some part of my unconscious mind knew it was the right distance away to be a challenging yet attainable goal. "Acapulco." I just loved the way that name sounded. Could I make it there in a month? I was drawing a salary of around $12,000 a year, so I needed to spend less money than I would have spent had I stayed in San Francisco -- roughly $500.

There are so many stories to tell from this trip; but that will have to wait for another day. For now, I'm just starting to go through the pictures and get them scanned in. But I figured it's better to throw something up in meanwhile, so here you go.

At the time of this trip, I was 26, and a relative novice at bike touring. I had just bought a beautiful Singapore-made Rollei 35, and I took about 200 slides during the trip. About 100 of them seem reasonable enough to share... here are the first 50. Warning: they are mostly landscapes, so I hope you like that sort of thing! If you just want to cherry-pick, the best ones are Big Sky, Orchard! and Two Up.

Basic Roadside Bike Shot. This is the picture that sets the pattern. Traveling alone, through dramatic scenery, I would often include the bike in the foreground. It is a Bridgestone T-700 touring bike, complete with fenders and a generator light. It is pretty loaded up, because I needed warm gear for January in cold-snap-inflicted California (91 was the coldest winter ever in California). If you click through _all_ these I imagine you'll be tired of looking at my bike, but for me she's always a sight for sore computer-strained eyes.
What in the World? Can you tell what this is a picture of? Hint: What essential life-support service is provided by about half the trucks on the roads of Mexico? Still don't know? Click here. And, in a similar vein...
Burned Out Bikes. One time, there was this whole group riding through Mexico, but they burned out on it and lit fire to their bikes, and... Actually, it was interesting to see which bike parts melt (anything aluminum) and which survive (steel).
Very Henry. I don't know what a French cafe was doing in the middle of mexico, but you do have to admit that it's VERY, very Henry. Spot the upturned Tequila bottle and win a prize.
View From the Road. This is what I'd see, for endless lonely miles. Well, actually Rte 1 through Baja is NOT endless. It's really only 1,000 miles long... and 19 feet wide.
Skull. This is from the Desierto Nacional, just near Catavina. Beautiful place!!! Next to the road I saw these two big boulders that looked like a skull from just the right angle, and I tried to get a shot with a cactus sticking up behind the skull's head like a giant peace sign. To flatten the image I had to shoot it at F22, but the light was very low. So, thinking I was pretty smart, I rested the camera on the handlebars and did a two-second button exposure -- with the brake cable right in the way. I still think it's kind of a neat shot, although I over-compressed it and it came out slightly posterized. Think of it as the skull of the Chthonian Mexican Progenitor, complete with departing spirit. And let it be a lesson to you: if you care about a shot, take it a couple of times, to be sure.
RoxAnne. As in, the Police song. "RoxAnne. You don't have to put on the red light tonight. Walk the streets for money you don't care if it's wrong or if it's right."
My Red Joystick. That's the name of a Lou Reed song, if you didn't know. "Take the kids; take the car; take the etc... all I'm asking you to leave me is my Red Joystick.
Stripes. You get some pretty dramatic lighting effects in the desert when it rains. It doesn't happen often, but when it does? Wow. This picture does no justice. You can hardly see the rainbow at the end of the cactus.
Heavy Sky. I grew up in the desert, in Nevada, where rain was so rare it gave you a feeling of incredible reverence when it happened. I can almost get that feeling back from looking at this picture.
Drama. There. Now you can see the rainbow a little better.
Bluescape. A moody shot; if only you could smell it...
Sweeper. Baja California isn't flat at all. The topography is the same as California. Word is, the climate used to be the same, but there's been a 60-year drought since Hoover Dam went in, reducing the flow of the Colorado River to a trickle where it enters the Sea of Cortez.
Cactus Forest. Funny I can remember so well forcing myself to a stop on a beautiful descent to take this shot. Was it worth it?
Proyectada. Another word I love to roll my tongue around. "Project," it means. I read this sign and thought, I, too, am using it for development, but also for high speed. After all, I had beaten that big bus up a long climb just the day before. Was I in the right place? Was this a good sign?
Baja Map. This is blown up from the sign, and you can't read the names of the towns unless you already know what they say. "Tijuana, Ensenada, Sta. Rosalia, Catavina, San Ignacio, Mulege, Loreto, La Paz, Cabo." No, that's not quite right, but I got a few right.
Two-tone Sunset. This photo is tweaked so you can see more detail in it than you really ought to be able to. PhotoShop is pretty amazing that way.
NightScape. Similar style. I rode hard to get to this tiny town of three buildings by dark. I can't remember what the town was called. Perhaps it didn't have a name. The town had no motel, only a restaurant. I arrived late. The restaurant was warm and smelled good. I had comida corrida, which means "dinner special," and is almost always the best thing to get. I drank a beer with it. It was so good that when I was done, I ordered the exact same thing otra vez. When I finished, it was quite dark. I asked the waitress where I might find a place to set up my tent. She showed me out to the patio, where an addition was under construction. Half of it had a roof, and she said I could sleep there. There was even a shower, with hot water. That night it rained all night, and in the morning a huge puddle covered the floor -- up to within a foot of my sleeping bag, where the water magically stopped.
Pom Palms. The next day the earth was very moist and misty. I left early, and soon came to this weird, soggy unearthly land. The whole desert had just turned on.
Freeky Plant. I had a little fun with the colors in this one... I'll have to post the original at some point, but this one has the right feeling.
Man, Bike, Dog. Pretty much says it all. I took this photo seven years ago and I still haven't learned the importance of a flash fill for portrait work. Bah! Landscapes are easier!
The Thingg! Baja California is comprised of two states, or estados, of roughly equal size. There's Baja California Del Norte and there's Baja California Del Sur. As you approach the border, you can see this, this, Thingg hulking there up ahead on the road for miles. "What the heck is that thing?" you wonder. It looks like a massive H, like a goalpost in the distance that you'll never ever get to. And then, finally, the road leads you right down under it unless, like me, you circumambulate the thing to get a better view.
Two Up. One of the few non-landscapes, and I think a very successful shot. The next picture is an uncropped version.
Uncropped Two UpQuite common to see proud youngsters lucky enough to borrow Dad's for an errand or joy ride. My friend Darrylnotes that Mexican bicycles often follow the "English Cop" design, which has a double top tube. In England, police officers are required to exceed 6 feet; hence the need for a double top tube. In Mexico, the design choice is difficult to defend.
Iwo Jima Cactus. I probably mangled that spelling. Anyway, you get the association, right?
Bucket Steve. I had been in Mexico for three and half long days of riding when I met the first and only other bicyclist I'd see the whole trip. Bucket Steve had left Tijuana, as I had, but he had started 19 days earlier and arrived at the same point by way of an off-road route. Pretty cool, eh?
By profession, Steve was a salesman of airconditioning systems and solar power cells, and he worked the Baja region in a big truck, learning the back roads, getting to know the people, and plotting the day he was going to ride through on a pedal bike. He had a rough time of it in some of the really gumbo places, where the dust is so thick you can't ride through it. Other places there were washboards. He had gotten lost and run out of water a couple of times... that sounded scary. The bucket is for clothes washing. "You'd be surpised how useful it is to have a bucket. You just don't know until you have one."
Oh, She's So Pretty! I could look at her for days. I remember when I used to lean the T-700 up in the living room and just stare at it, taking in the angles and the trim lines. Sigh! If you look at this photo really, really closely, you can just see the logos (file size=). If you step back a few paces you can see more of the lovely countryside (File size=).
Motion Blur. One of my first attempts at shooting from a moving bicycle.
Landscape. The colors... the smell... you either think this kind of shot is really boring, or...
Big Sky. You don't. This is one of my favorite photos that I've ever taken. If you have a small or a cheap monitor, you won't get the full effect, but... remember to use the scroll bars on the bottom of the screen and at the right side to move around inside the picture. And, if you really want to be blown away, try the full resolution verion:
Huge Sky. Wait! before you click this one, consider that even though it is highly compressed (lowest JPEG quality) it is HALF A MEGABYTE in size. But if you're curious, go ahead and click. Then go get a cup of coffee or whatever and maybe it'll be done downloading by then.
Pothole. There are colors in Baja that I have never seen anywhere else.
Paper, Rock, Scissors. Don't know why, I just like that name for this.
Lonesome Road. Then the road to San Ignacio is just so long and lonesome. I rode past a man walking to San Ignacio, which has a government shelter. He was 50 miles away, a beggar on an alms pilgrammage. As I rode past, his scraping, hunched figure straighted. "Tienne aqua...?" I checked, had two full and gave him one. He opened the top and drank it all, at once. Then, more shyly, "Tiene Pan?" I was already rummaging for the six leftover tortillas left from the dozen I'd bought that morning for a quarter. The way the beggar said San Ignacio it sounded like "saninacio," like he had said it over and over to himself so many times it was all worn down into almost an entirely different word. Riding on, I repeated it over and over too, and found it incredibly soothing.
Red Rocks. The rocks near San Ignacio were red.
Oasis! At last, there it was, with civilization and date palms.
Orchard! The tall trees are date palms. The smaller ones are banana trees. If you look closely you can see the fruit. Palms and bananas always seem to grow in the same orchards, for some reason.
Eureka! The Mission San Ignacio was my favorite in Baja -- and not only because I had sought it for so long! It is truly a beautiful building.
Godlight. This is what the inside looked like.
Roses. There was a big red flowering plant in front of it.
Bike, with Flowers. I love my bike! I took this photo on a Sunday. Behind the tree, in the house, there was a wedding party happening. I hung around to see if they'd invite me in, but no such luck. So I ate at a restaurant and left to set up camp.
Date Camp. That night I set up camp in a date palm grove on the edge of town.
Ferny Bog. It may look like scummy green water to you, but after riding Hell Bent for Leather across scrub and cactus desert for a few days, it looked mighty nice to me.
Laguna San Ignacio.
Not Flat. A few dozen miles east of San Ignacio you start a long descent. This is the top of it.
Hairy Descent. This shot looks the same but is actually halfway down. See how much closer the big mountain is?
Tolkein Mountains. That isn't what they're called, but the shape of these steep, eroded white hills reminds me of the way the mountains are drawn on the little maps in the front pages of J.R. Tolkein books, such as the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
More soon! This page still under construction! Between 10% and half done, depending on my level of interest, the response, etc... I imagine if you made it this far, you probably enjoyed it so please let me hear from you!