This past month Swift Ambassador Beija Flor made her way down to Ruta del Jefe in Cuenca Los Ojos in Sonora, Mexico. We asked Beija for some words and pictures to encapsulate her participation in this unique binational festival celebrating adventure, education, community and advocacy.


Breaking Down Walls at Ruta Del Jefe

Beija Flor


First and foremost I feel as though I ought to thank all the organization and efforts put into this event as they were truly monumental. From the jump I felt inundated with nerves and daydreams of every which way my passage into Sonora, Mexico could fail.  The event creator and co-organizer Sarah Swallow made it her duty to quell our concerns. Our mailboxes were brimming with endless information and “how-to’s” for border crossing and supplies lists and weather expectations. When it all happened in the blink of an eye, those four days flew by without as much as a single hiccup. The organizers: Sarah Swallow, Karla Robles and Daniel Diaz moved mountains to put this all together and I cannot thank them enough for their hard work assembling all these moving pieces into the immaculate seamless weekend that it was. I must also express my deepest gratitude to the Cuenca Los Ojos staff and crew who maintained camp, fed us food I’ll reminisce about nightly, and provided us with some truly immaculate energy.

You can research more about the event on the website, learn about the history, the organizers, the purpose, the intent all linked here.


Here, now, I’d like to share with you my personal experience over the weekend. Unlike any bike event or really many events for that matter, Ruta Del Jefe (RDJ) felt like a serendipitous reunion, a blissed out hallucination of summer, a portal to witnessing and listening to a space we can only ever experience if we are welcomed into it. My chosen role over the weekend was as an observer and participant. I enrolled in and attended as many workshops, talks and social rides as I could possibly cram into my schedule without spontaneously combusting. The schedule itself was robust, stacked with artist-led workshops, a coffee intensive, a cacao tasting, native speakers, researchers, yoga, ecology walks, bird-watching walks, and each with something wonderful and new to share with us. Subsequently we all were paralyzed by choice and with much luck did RDJ coordinators shift the schedule around to allow us to cram in even more. I was excitedly hustling to get from one workshop to another and I can’t say I had any favorites. I preemptively charged my (personally limitless) social battery and set out like a sponge to soak up as much as I possibly could. I didn’t even have time to take a damn nap.

The cadence of cycling through a new terrain feels succinctly perfect for taking in new surroundings. Walking is tedious and slow – big distances can’t be covered efficiently. Running takes it right outta my knees and requires me at least a few business days to fully recover. Motorized vehicles have an added degree of separation between us and the earth and personally I feel it icky to put out all that pollution on my behalf. When our two wheels touch the ground and spin entirely by our own doing, we lock into a harmonious dance with the world around us; the views are more breathtaking, the aroma more fragrant, the cooling creek water more rewarding on hot feet. 

The ride itself was rugged to say the least. Even the Thursday and Friday social rides caused a few spills (don’t worry everyone is a-okay). The routes are 100% unpaved and fully double-track. The earth was sandy and riddled with baby-head boulders. We crossed creek after creek and all accepted a preliminary trench-foot reality. Most folks were rocking at the very least a suspension fork. Those of us brazen enough to rip around on a rigid-frame rig certainly nursed some sore wrists and elbows on our ventures home. There were three routes, Valerio (11 miles, 1.2k feet), Bonito (27 miles, 3.3k feet) and El Jefe (38 miles, 4.2k feet). I opted for the medium-length route which was perfect, chock-full of steep climbs and rewarding views and descents. Aid stations a-plenty, the ride itself felt safe and just challenging enough to keep our heart rates up and our palms sweaty. We were blessed with utterly perfect weather. Full sun the first two days, partial cloud cover for the big rides, big wind to sweep us off our feet and into the dance party (thanks Fabrica De Rosas for absolutely throwing down on both the set and dance floor that evening), and chilling hail as we all rolled out of camp.

It was a privilege to participate and observe everything that is Ruta Del Jefe. With heartbreaking joy I celebrated the successes showcased and with the deepest grief I listened to stories of the adversity shared with us. On Friday night after dinner we all sat and listened to six different speakers’ presentations, spanning topics from humanitarian efforts, local conservation efforts, indigenous peoples’ fight for recognition and preservation, and the wall’s devastating effects on the migration of both human beings and animals. 


For many of the participants it was our first time driving across the border. I’ve seen media coverage of the wall, but it’s drastically different driving alongside it and straight up past it. Man-made structures are both a miracle and a devastation. We watched a documentary I highly recommend you watch called the American Scar. Senseless construction spanning miles and miles and miles – endless and in the end often failing in function anyway. We’ve all heard the phrase “the grass is greener.” Applied to most situations, the grass might be greener, but we won’t know until we cross the fence. In this case, the grass is and has always been all the same, but we put a big fat fence splitting the space.

Bikes were the big unifier of this weekend, my sub-par Spanish was less handy than the joy we all spoke so fluently. It’s a warm and gooey feeling looking back on the weekend, when so many variables could go wrong and ultimately nothing does, it’s hard not to feel everything’s kismet. It struck me in the end that this weekend wasn’t at all centering bikes, sure they played a huge role, but it was human connection that was the most important take-away in the end. The conversations and sweet invisible tethers we got wrapped up in are the souvenirs we took home (and a bottle or three of Bacanora). To feel welcomed back to a place and called back to the people that inhabit it – dare I say – it feels like home.

There are stories buried and silenced, hidden away from us and rarely do we take the time to unearth them. Maybe in the mere act of putting two wheels to dirt do we attempt to connect with that which has been hidden from plain sight. Maybe in experiencing profound discomfort are we able to look up and in contrast witness profound beauty. Eventually our bikes will reunite us again, but it’s the connections we built and the walls we tore down this weekend that make this event so meaningful.