Holy Shart! Holy saddle sores, Holy Moose, Holy hot, holy cold, Holy Matt Lee, Holy Mushrooms, Holy Mexico, Holy Shit.
A bit of lag in blog-age here, last entry came from San Christobal, Mex, this one is coming from Vail, CO. Back home.
Biking through Chiapas and into Oaxaca comes highly recommended. Found some sleepy moutain roads as well as hot hot desert. These photos are a taste
One of the nights spent between San Christobal and Oaxaca I ended up the tiny mountain village of Cameron. There was a hotel that claimed to be fully booked up. It puzzled me because upon visual inspection no one seemed to be there. I ended up meeting a dude who had lived in the states and was stoked to speak english. This man had a bed, which he kindly offered me. I did accept despite the fact the he was clearly fucked up off of Mezcal.
The following morning I got an early start and ended up at a sleepy village with a couple roadside restaurants for breakfast. I chose the less busy of the two and enjoyed some huevos, tortillas and chorizo with coffee and a book. My peace was disrupted with a large white van pulled up and out poured 15 gringos. What are you guys doing here? I hadn’t seen a gringo in a number of days at that point. Turns out it was a college group from Illinois on an archaeological dig. Big gringos. After chatting for a second I learned that they had stayed in the same village (Cameron) I had the night prior. Huh, no wonder the hotel was booked.
One of the more trying portions of the trip came in the mountains outside of Tehuantepec. The morning’s ride was exceedingly hot in the plains and the climb into the hills provided little relief. I found myself climbing into the driest scrubby landscape for hours. At a point I realized that i hadn’t passed a bit of shade for hours. My situation was just short of dire when i passed this sign…
Mezcal, Tequila’s evil twin, wasn’t what excited me, it was the prospect of water and shade. I pulled my bike under a tree in their yard and slouched for a half hour before I gathered the energy to interact with the family that lived there.
They ran a gnarly Mezcal distillery selling the firewater for less than $5/liter. Water and shade were what I was after so didn’t end up sampling the goods, but maybe I was better off that way.
The Mezcal operation was the first of hundreds from there to Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. Was happy to finally arrive there. At this point in the journey I had surrendered to the fact that I was not going to make it to Antelope Wells in time for the beginning of Tour Divide on time. If I did try and push I would have no recuperation time in New Mexico.
I ended up getting a cheap room in Oaxaca and kicking it with a couple from Australia who were touring on big enduro motorbikes down from San Francisco. A wonderful couple.
The couple and I were approached by an older women, American from San Francisco. Through an exchange of stories between us I learned that the women had been living in a homestead in the mountains above Oaxaca. It was an area that I was familiar with through a friend, Austin, who had visited these villages years before when we were staying in Puerto Escondito on the coast of the Mexican state.
After retiring to my room that night I recalled some of the things Austin had said about the area. ‘most beautiful cloud forests’, ‘crazy pines’. He also told the tales of what the region is famous for; magic mushies.
I sat on my bed for no more than 5 minutes before I was knocking on the door of the lady from San Francisco. ‘Juana, do you think you have room for one more tomorrow.” I had to see the place.
The next morning we loaded my bike into the back of her 1995 Volkswagen Beetle. Nothing quite as classic as getting a ride to a homestead in the mountains of Oaxaca in an old bug with a legit flower child. I had made the right choice.
Juana was a very honest person and we discussed all sorts of meaningful personal topics as we climbed the mountains above Oaxaca in her white ‘volkswagen peoples’ car’. She had a wonderful soul and the scenery was becoming more and more beautiful as we climbed. The region where she lives is home to huge pines in a moderately wet climate. Almost a northern coastal California.
When we arrived by her place I kept thinking of how magical it was. A house built by her husband and herself off the grid with amazing gardens. Quite an inspirational place.
I was able to procure a few of the season’s first mushies which was quite fortuitous. Was joined in my trip by a girl from Brooklyn. She kept calling psychedelics ‘medicine’ which was silly but she was quite a proficient yoga instructor. The two of us found an abandoned adobe hut with a small front yard where we sat and enjoyed mountainsides covered with lush pine forests.
The mountains moved and tesselating patterns popped as we sat idly admiring god’s handy works. The differing shades of green on the mountain side formed patterns that almost melted and flowed off of the mountain sides. Accompanied by a very slow paced style of yoga; the experience was pretty spectacular.
The same day we stubled into the neighbor’s yard who was in need of a little assistance feeding a few orphaned goats. Pretty neat/silly/slash.
An inspirational visit to the moutains in Oaxaca to say the least.
A day’s ride back to Oaxaca City followed by an overnight bus put me in Mexico City the following morning early. Mexico City was one beautiful bike ride with a vague to-do list as my compass.
Districto Federal To-Do
-find bike box
-find dentist to clean teeth (3rd world dentists = money in the bank)
-find book written in english
-print post cards
-take as much of Mexico City from the saddle of a bike
-get to airport
The logistical challenge of procuring a box large enough for my bike, packing said bike, and getting to the airport was a tall order. I don’t want to arrive to the airport too early because i would be sleeping there, already a 8 hour adventure itself. When I saw a street cleaner with a large big screen TV box strapped to his cart I considered myself fortunate but the hour was barely noon, far too early to disassemble the bike and head to the airport. So there I was, cruising down a busy street in Mex City with a giant Samsung box under my arm on a fully loaded bike. What the fuck can I do? I spot a run down hotel and quickly inquire to an agitated owner if i could leave the box with him…even offering to pay a bit for the rental of space. Nope. Shut down hard. Inquired with a car mechanic with the same proposition. No luck. Poop. Stuck.
Just down the street from the mechanic was a tiny tienda. A boy of around 14 years of age was sitting behind a set of iron bars. With little hope I asked him if he had room for my box. To my surprise he was more than happy to help, and at no charge. Booya. Bing bang, problem solved.
The generosity of the small Mexican boy didn’t stop there. When I returned for the box well after dark, he was happy to lend a hand helping me box the bike and even provided a bit of packaging tape. After the 50 lbs of bike and gear was taped inside the box I set out to find the nearest subway stop to get me and box to the airport. The young boy didn’t hesitate picking up one end of the box. He explained that the subway stop was more than a couple blocks and that the route was a little sordid. After helping me lug the box to the subway station (a sure life saver) through dark streets he then explained in detail the subway route to the airport. I was overwhelmed by his unwavering assistance. I offered him some pesos for his help and he refused. Again I showed him a few peso notes from my pockets, but the 14 y.o. boy adamantly refused. An unreal show of kindness from such a young person in a country like Mexico was really amazing.
Without the help of my new friend getting the large, heavy cumbersome box through the transfers in the subway was a challenge. The night in the airport was manageable misery. Meditating on homeless nights spent out in rough spots helps.
Uneventful flight to Hermosillo to the north of Mexico allowed me to make up enough time to have an ample recuperation in Silver City, New Mexico before the Grand Depart, start of the Tour Divide.
Got a ton of grief from an airport employee for putting my bike together at the airport. I was successful at ignoring and faking a total lack of spanish. In my mind, if i spend the money on an airplane ticket the airport is there for me to use. Suck it.
375 miles of hot Sonoran Desert lay between me and Silver City. Leaving Hermosillo around 9 a.m, i managed a extremely difficult century. I bonked harder than I had on the entire trip. It was a beautiful ride through dry and sparcely vegitated mountains that day. No food and little water over a surprise 40 mile stretch with no serves proved difficult. I was amused with amount of salt that had accumulated on my face that day.
The following day was a big one. I was determined to make it back to the USA. A police officer stopped me at one point explained how hot it was and gave me some water which i was grateful for. I was however, quite aware at the extreme temperature.
A hummer with military also stopped but were too shy for a photo shoot…shoot.
I did make it to the US border but opted to spend the night on the Mexican side for a cheap place to stay and superior/cheaper food. I was rewarded with a $6 room and spent my last pesos on some amazing fish tacos con fat burro. Booya.
An amazing last supper. I spent the evening chatting with a few awaiting border jumpers. An incredible and scary undertaking. One normal and very clean cut gentleman explained how he was very scared but jumping the border was the only way he had to return to his life in the States after a visit to his family in Mexico City. Wild to be on the other side.
My border jump was much less eventful albeit a joyous event. Ate breakfast at a McDonalds and bought food at a Wal-Mart. I was indeed back in my own country.
My ride from Agua Prieta to Silver City fell on the same day that Fixie Dave started his Tour Divide. 150 miles of HEAT. Had a decent tail wind for the first bits and was pleasantly surprised by mountains and pine forest as i neared Silver City. Was happy to encounter my first signed crossing of the Continental Divide.
Had 6 days in Silver City to rest and prepare myself for the Tour Divide. I was taken in with open arms to the Bike House. Jamie Thompson, former GDR racer, and the wonderful people he lived with hosted me with incredible hospitality. I am forever indebted. I left Bike House with a large tattoo of a world map on my back and a number of special brownies (no better TD fuel in my opinion).
The tattoo was given to me in the bike house by Cloe, a wonderful soul that lives there. Hurt like a bitch…I kept thinking of how i would prefer the pain of the race to that of the needle. I also kept thinking of people I know, namely my girlfriend Robin, who have much more ink and what a lady i am, but FUCK that hurt. Maybe 10 hours over 3 sessions.
Love Silver City with all my heart. The dudes at Gila Hike and Bike treated me so well, i am forever indebted. Also indebted to a fellow northbounder that i spent a bit of time with there, Chip Androus. Chip had toured the route before and was happy to help me out with tips and data. He even shared his custom made north-bound cues which totally saved my life on the tour. 56 years old and finishing just over 20 days…he is a total animal. Much respect.
The day before the start of tour divide i rode over to Lordsburg, NM to meet up with the other northbound riders. I caught up with chip on the way and was happy to sit on his wheel, fully knowing it would be my last chance to do so…drafting being illegal in the race.
Chip and I were under the impression that the shuttle down to the start was going to cost $70. I told Chip I was considering just riding through the night to arrive in Antelope Wells before the start. Chip offered to pay for my shuttle…can’t describe what an amazing man he is. The shuttle ended up being $20 bucks per, so i was more than happy to hang with the 3 others planning on running the tour northbound.
Chip and I spun over to the Howard Johnson where fellow racer Wes was staying. We found Wes changing out his lithium batteries in all of his gadgets. I was more than happy to inherit a number of almost-new batteries he was taking out. That night the three of us had our last supper at a local diner. Wes was very upset when his dinner had come with a fly on the top. I laughed later on the tour at the memory when catching flies with my mouth on a number of occasions.
Around midnight when the three of us were fast asleep, Arno, the forth and last Northbound rider arrived. The German had raced the Arizona Trail Race earlier in the season and was hurrying back from dropping his lady at the airport after a car tour of the southwest. Arno had amazing energy and was fun to be around. Riding an titanium single speed with all home-made luggage, he was a man after my own heart. He had even devised a solar setup to run his garmin and phone, all made by himself.
The following morning, the morning of the Grand Depart, I overheard bits of a conversation between Chip and Wes. Chip was attempting to coax Wes into starting somewhere in Colorado. I was a little lost. Come to find out, Wes was having second thoughts on starting the race at all. He had had a tough time arriving to lordsburg and was very concerned with how the heat of the Southwest was goin to affect him. Definitely a surpirse because the night before he was replacing good lithiums with even better ones. Wes had also obviously done his research as far as bikes and gears goes because his setup with killer…a brand new Moots ti rig with full Relevate bags. No joke. Sure enough, after getting fully kitted up Wes took the shuttle down the the Mexican border and proceeded to take the shuttle back…to Lordsburg. I felt very bad for the guy. I wouldn’t be easy to return home after that. Looking back, I wish i would have provided more enocouraging words but I too was uncertain about what was to come.
At the mexican border Arno hustled to put his bike together and we stapped a photo. Pure nerves…kinda.
10 minutes after 8 in the morning on the June the 8th, the gnarliest bike race on the planet began….
More to come in Divide Riding IV