Day 40, San Elijo State Beach to Tijuana Mexico, 42 miles
An embarrassing admission: I’ve never left the country. At 52, no stamps on my spanking new passport, which I just got in 2013. Except for Canada, but we an know that doesn’t count.
And now, I’m heading south of the border, into Baja Mexico. Everyone knows how dangerous it is, warns me not to go, the traffic or the banditos or gangs or drug cartels. Of course, all those things don’t phase me. What I’m anxious about is more a general dread, being in a country I don’t know anyone, don’t know the language, can’t find directions, can’t drink the water…
Hush, little scared child, I tell my inner fear monger. I’m trying to sooth myself, convince myself this is a good idea. And in leu of doing this, I pedal. South. I’m glad to follow my Google Nav, while I still have it. More miles, I pass familiar landmarks Torrey Pines, San Diego University, Rose Canyon, Mission Bay. On to the bay front, then down past a huge Navy port, then under freeways, more miles of city scape. Making me feel more insignificant, so small.
I arrive at the border. I sit for a long moment in the Jack in the Box. I was going to eat a burger. I’ve lost my appetite. I’m teetering again. How about getting on the trolly, head back to San Diego? Sit on the beach, waste a few more days? I’m indulging my fears. What if the host I’ve contacted through WarmShowers is actually going to rob me?
I look out and see so many people walking across the border, coming this way, home to San Diego? Look, there are mothers and children, and tired men, and youth on bicycles. Ordinary people. What’s to worst that could happen? Don’t answer that. Ok, I’ll just go over the border. If I don’t like it, I’ll come back across. This is how I get up my courage, walk along the pedestrian path, with more ordinary people, heading home to Mexico.
The passage is simple. I read about the tall turnstiles on the Facebook touring page, so I take of the front bags, sling the over my shoulder, stand my bike up and walk it through. I pause at the border desk, get a temporary visa, and I’m in. I walk out of the official building, where I first see the military, two men in khaki clothing, carrying automatic weapons. That’s different. I follow the crowd past them, and out onto the streets of teeming Tijuana.
The sun is sinking behind clouds. I’m excited now. I’m here, in Mexico. To explore this foreign land, such a close neighbor. I have no idea where to go. I walk back over the highway, around a traffic circle. I stand for awhile, looking at my inadequate map on my phone, then a cabbie comes up and offers me a ride. Taxi? How much? Ten dollars. Sure, I tell him.
He drives off into the crowded roads and streets, winding in circles to find Calle Rio Colorado, where my host lives. He stops shouts out to people on the street for directions, once, twice, three, four times. No GPS in this cab. But easy directions from people on the streets.
Eventually we are on the street, but he turns, two blocks before he should, circles three blocks back. Ah, he’s looking for a higher fare. Eventually we reach the place. I pay the driver the agreed upon fare, plus a $5 tip. He looks disappointed, but I thank him for the ride, wishing him a good evening.
The house is dark, I have not cell service. No doorbell. I wait outside, content to be here. My host will eventually arrive. I sit down on the pavement in the carport, tired and glad to have arrived, for a moment. Then the door opens, my host greets me. Home!