Thursday, May 13, 2010

A visitor from a bicycle event 25 years ago.

A few months back, a woman with whom I share a mutual friend called to ask if she could leave her truck in my driveway while she was on a birding trip hiatus en route from her job in Big Bend National Park to a new job in Guadalupe River State Park. Of course!

Karen arrived in the thick of the drywall installation.

No water.

And even if there was water, no bathroom fixtures. No indoor plumbing.

House covered in drywall compound dust.

One functional jury-rigged light in the house.

She would have to sleep in the tiny wooden trailer.

No problem.

(Thank goodness she's a camping enthusiast.)

As we got to talking, I realized we had both been among a group of about nine or ten people who drove, 25 years ago, from Tucson to Mexicali, Baja California, to join 5,000 other bicyclists in riding 120 miles southward to San Felipe: the Mexicali–San Felipe ride sponsored by Monday International. A wonderful trip built on youthful enthusiasm, calloused bottoms, and strong quadriceps muscles. Great memories: a spectacular crash and road rash when I fell asleep on my bicycle and touched the wheel ahead in the paceline, a stop for roadside tacos at almost every house and stand on the return trip, a rural resort with delicious swimming pool the day after the ride, driving out on a concrete fishing pier to purchase diesel fuel for the return trip.

From an inauspicious start to a very satisfying conclusion. As it happened, the sag (support and gear, I think) driver I had engaged cancelled the morning we were supposed to leave. Determined to go and ride, instead of being pressed into rotating sag service, I decided to ask the first person I saw that morning in the ladies room: Anna, a coworker I hardly knew.

"Anna, would you like to take off an hour or two early to drive, late into the night and early morning, a rental car filled with five unknown persons, their gear, and bicycles through the barrens of the western Arizona and southeastern California and across the border? And the next day, would you then drive alone in the car with our gear, competing for space with 5,000 bicyclists and other sag vehicles and regular traffic on the narrow road  south on the Baja California peninsula for 120 miles? And, of course, you'll be sharing a motel room with all the other females on the trip. Then we'll spend an extra play day in San Felipe. We'll pay for your lodging, but that's all. How 'bout it?"

After 10 seconds of thought, trooper that she was, Anna agreed. After lunch, she returned to work packed and carrying maps of Arizona and the Baja Peninsula and ready to go. Anna was an expert driver. And she spoke Spanish, so she alone takes credit for asking directions and finding our first nights' lodging when we were hopelessly lost. She was the angel of the event. The memory of it all still makes me smile.

Thanks, Anna. Thanks, Karen.