For some it’s the destination.
For resident Jerry Lila, it definitely is the journey.
A bicycling enthusiast, Lila recently completed a 1,833 mile, 11-day ride covering four states, two countries and two time zones. Over those days, Lila experienced extremely hot days, extremely cold days, one period where he had become so dehydrated, he wasn’t certain he could manage another mile if not for some good Samaritans who helped him.
The trip he called “Locura Mexicana” (Mexican Madness) started and ended in Fountain Hills. Lila never rode fewer than 100 miles every day (the fewest number of miles he covered was 133 miles) and clocked two “double century” (200+ mile) rides over the 11-day excursion. Every day he achieved a “century” and then some. He pedaled 226 miles the first day, setting that number as his record.
“My personal record I cherish the most is completing 1,000 miles in just five days, three hours and 45 minutes,” Lila said. “It just so happens that the final day of this tour is my 300th century day ride in my lifetime.”
Lila not only is a ninja bicyclist, he also is a fantastic storyteller. Distance riding is not only grueling physically; it is mentally challenging, spiritually inspiring and a bit perplexing on every level.
He speaks of mental rhythm, of physical illness and of redemption – all from one day.
On day two of his ride, he crossed into Mexico. He made it to Baja California via Los Algodones and the Morelos Dam. The road to San Luis was rough and uneven, wreaking havoc on his bike, particularly the tires.
As he was riding, his rear wheel rubbed up against something. He nearly fell but was able to recover before dumping the bike.
“I noticed my rear wheel was rubbing up again the frame, and the wheel was clearly no longer true,” Lila said.
Lila said the incident caused him to lose his mental rhythm.
“That rhythm is really necessary to take on long rides,” he said.
He rode on, arriving in El Golfo not only thirsty, but exhausted. After spending some time in the little city, he proceeded to a tire shop on the way to Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point). The rear wheel was repaired, but in the nearly 100 degree heat, with almost 83 miles to go, Lila was concerned.
“When I passed a sign indicating that I had 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) to Puerto Peñasco, the sun was getting closer to the horizon and the nausea in my belly was growing. I felt like God was telling me to just stop and sit on the highway shoulder, and He would send me help promptly.”
It wasn’t long before a motorcycle stopped. The rider had no water but he said he had friends following him and they would be there soon. They arrived and gave him water, which he promptly threw up.
“These kind men offered to bring me with them (to Puerto Peñasco), but I insisted I would be okay,” Lila said.
He took slow sips of water, managing to keep it down. After a wrong turn in the darkness and realizing he was off the track, he turned back, finally reaching the center of Rocky Point.
The wrong turn took him past his original destination, giving him a few miles ahead on the ride the next day. He had ridden 191 miles that day, despite difficulties.
Lila’s 11-day adventure is laced with tales of beauty and luck and challenges.
He was up early each day and rode until after dark to each predetermined destination.
Weather varied from extremely hot to extremely cold and windy. Terrain ranged from flat and dusty with cactus to mountains and pine trees.
In these rides, Lila is alone. He carries minimal gear and stays in hotels and motels. Riding with enough food, water and clothing for 11 days would not be possible for a solo rider. Many riders have support teams carrying their gear.
Lila also explained that in order to finish his goal each day, he thinks of songs to keep him going. A hard ride was made to the tune of Yes’ “South Side of the Sky.” He sang the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” when he felt as if he could fall asleep.
He also spends hours preparing for long rides, studying his route, keeping it all his memory. He was able to stay mainly on course, losing his way only a few times. He was never really lost, but when you are not using maps, you might miss a turn or two.
Some of the trip was euphoric, when Lila reached a so-called runner’s high.
“Those times are rare,” Lila said. “And the moments are short. I’ve had maybe eight in my lifetime, but those moments are incredible.”
And it seems what goes up, must come down. Lila said after his euphoric moments, he often has experienced serious lows.
“All the choices are mine as a solo rider,” he said. “On those times when I feel like I just can’t go on, I find something deep inside myself to keep me going.”
He said if he were traveling with a support team or even another rider, he would not have the choices he has when riding alone.
Lila’s experiences are unique to him, but he loves sharing the stories. At his job as manager of the local Hertz Local Edition, he is able to talk with his clients about his trips.
He also has made a video of his Locura Mexicana trip. He invites people to view the video on YouTube by entering “Gerald Lila Locura Mexicana” in the search bar.
“It is a short video, but it will give people a good idea about the trip,” he said. “I think they will enjoy it.”
Lila said friends asked him what would compel him to choose such a curious route for his latest tour.
“They need only to understand that my desire to explore new places is one aspect, but my desire to conquer is the driving force,” he said.