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Our Bartender Biked 4,488 Miles from SF to Mexico and Back

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Jared Crabtree: bartender meets mad cyclist

If you’ve dined at Tacolicious on Valencia, it’s likely you’ve had a margarita or three made by Jared Crabtree, one of our veteran bartenders. Last fall, Jared took four and half months off from work to ride his bicycle—a Surly Long Haul Trucker—from San Francisco to Oaxaca, Mexico, a trip he’d been dreaming of for over three years.

And yes, he started pedaling in San Francisco.

Setting out in early September, he made his way to La Paz (just that leg is 1,492 miles) where he got on a ferry to Mazatlán, and rode his way down the coast to Colima, turned north towards Guadalajara, then on to Mexico City, Puebla, and finally Oaxaca. In each place he stayed as short as a night or two or as long as a few weeks.

Traveling via bicycle provided a totally new prospective. He found he could take in every detail just that much more vividly. The locals were also drawn to this (now) hairy man on a bike. His red beard had grown thick while he’d grown skinny. They wanted to know what he was up to, encouraged him and fed him. Sometimes they gave him a place to stay, even if it was just a spot next to them on the beach. In one town, he camped on the beach next to a coconut stand where he helped out the man who owned it. After a few days, Jared was setting up shop every morning for the owner.

Being his own tour guide definitely came with its hiccups. When he set out from Mexico City to Puebla, he unwittingly set out over a mountain pass where, as the sun set, he found himself at 13,000 feet. That night he spent in frigid temperatures, tucking himself in as tightly as he could in his sleeping bag. His bike took quite a beating too. A spoke that ripped through his tire landed him at Casa Ciclista in Guadalajara—a community project set up for traveling bike tourists. There he got his frame re-welded and his back wheel rebuilt, so he could finish his journey.

His final destination of Oaxaca brought forth his favorite food discovery—and it wasn’t one of the seven moles. It was tlayuda, a sort of Mexican pizza made from a tortilla baked on a grill and finished with refried beans, Oaxaca cheese, shredded lettuce, and choice of meat.

Finally, Jared made his way back up to Joshua Tree. When he realized the last leg of his trip would be through 250 miles of desert, he did what many of us would have done in his situation—if we were ever brave enough to be there in the first place. He rented a car one way back to his parents house in Auburn, stopping at the first In ‘n Out he could.

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Want to Bike to Mexico? Tips Straight from the Bartender’s Mouth
Read on for some of Jared’s favorite stops on his trip, or come into Tacolicious on a night on the rare night Jared is working the bar to hear even more amazing details about his trip. Today he’s more often found running the bar when there are events back in the private dining room.

“The desert reserve of Valle de los Cirios is one of the most breathtaking natural places I’ve ever seen. Mile and miles of untouched wilderness. I rode 65 miles at one point with nothing but highway and cactus. I camped under a 300-year-old Saguaro cactus and towering Boojum trees in the middle of nowhere. I made quesadillas with Oaxacan cheese and listened to the World Series on a faint am radio signal from the Arizona border. [Ed’s note: This is my favorite part.]”

“I loved the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan. There was amazing food at the nearby market. And the Museum of Anthropology there is the most incredible museum I’ve ever been in. It documents every region of Mexico from prehistory to modern culture with amazing Aztec, Mayan, and Huichol exhibits. Finally, the ceviche a la leña at restaurant Agua y Sal in Polanco. It’s my favorite ceviche ever: squid, octopus, shrimp, red onion, and Peruvian corn in a delicious, smoky, slightly warm sauce made with a special chile called hidalgo.”

“I took a night tour of the city with a cycling activist group. They closed down the roads throughout the city for a 200-person bike mob. The after party was held at El Sonidero, a really fun cumbia bar. However, you don’t wanna see me dance.”

“The pollo al carbon is a Sinaloan specialty. It’s made with chicken marinated in chiles, spices, and lime and then grilled over charcoal and served with rice, salsa, and tortillas.”

“At the Pre-Columbian Thursday market in neighboring Zaachila, they have everything for sale, from live animals and produce, to clothing, appliances, and flowers. I settled on a delicious bottle of locally distilled Tobala for 120P.”

The tlayuda in Oaxaca, think Mexican pizza

The tlayuda in Oaxaca, think Mexican pizza

“I was lucky enough to participate in a birthday celebration that featured freshly caught skipjack ceviche, cocos locos (coconut water, sugar, gin, lime, and mint), caguamas, and a live band singing Mexican classics.”

Jared will be showing some of his photographs at Cafe International in San Francisco this May. Also, check out the blog he kept during some of his travels.

—Written and reported by our very own Tacolicious Valencia chef, Caitlin Olmstead

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