The youngish Mexican guy rode past me, Kristen, standing with our bikes outside a small shop while Ville was inside buying water, and when I nodded and said, "buenos tardes" he spun around and rode up to me asking where we were heading (this in Spanish, because people speak Spanish here in Mexico). I told him "Argentina" just as Ville came out and he was so excited to talk to us about our ride and show us pictures of his bicycle group there in Ixtlan del Rio on his phone. Ville asked for recommendations on a cheap motel and taco shop to eat at and the boy, Angel, invited us to follow him back to his house to eat. Super sweet of him, we filled our water bags and headed off behind Angel through the town. This was after a long hard day of hill climbing in baking heat along the 15D, after leaving our good friends, Greg and Lee in Tepic.
After leaving the Baja, the mainland of Mexico has been an insane amount of climbing in pretty intense heat. We filled our bags with rehydration packets from the pharmacy to add to our water and try and help to stay hydrated on the long grueling days of heat, but it's almost a losing battle. The moment we suck down water, we watch as it pours down our face and soaks our clothes. And on top of that, for some reason I, Kristen, have taken to getting intense nose bleeds every single day for some unknown reason. Either from the change of weather or the stress of constant traffic zooming inches from the handle bars, I don't know. But are just hoping that it will straighten itself out somehow and the weather might cool off somewhat.
Arriving outside Angel's home, we walked our bikes through to the back yard and sat inside at the table in the single roomed home with dirt floors and concrete walls. His mom made us a tomato soup with noodles and tortillas and we ate and Ville chatted a bit in his ever improving Spanish. After, Ville offered him some money for food and he was almost offended he offered and told us we were his guests. He pulled out his cycling jerseys and vests and was so proud of his cycling group. After the meal, he led us to a hotel on the second story off the main square in downtown Ixtlan del Rio. One of the cheapest hotels we had found in Mexico, Ville paid for the night and Angel helped us carry up all our bags and bikes to the room. Then took us on a walking tour of his town and introduced us to his friend, a lady in his bicycle group, who makes hand-made sweets she sells in a cart at the square. She loaded us up with bags of goodies and then also refused our money, throwing it back at us and insisting it is a gift.
After heading back to the hotel to shower and hand wash our clothes, we met back up with Angel and his friend to walk to the square where their bicycle group, Ixtlan en Bici, was meeting up for a night ride. It was incredible! One of the group leaders had bungee-corded a large speaker to the back of his bicycle and with a microphone introduced Ville and I to the large group of mainly kids and young teens all on various kinds of bikes. We posed for a photo and they were so excited to hear about our bike trip. Then Angel presented Ville with his very own Ixtlan en Bici bike shirt and they headed out for their night ride.
The next morning, the elder nightwatchman asked Ville where we were headed and to be very careful because the president was speaking on his little handheld radio about Trump, and he was worried about us and our safety. While I, Kristen, waited outside with the bikes, an elderly man walked up to me and asked if I am American. I said that I was from Finland. And he walked away. I felt really saddened that I had to lie about my own nationality. We walked with Angel to a local breakfast hall and bought him breakfast to thank him for his hospitality. We gifted him with a We Lost The Map Bracelet and he hugged us both as he headed off on his bike to his job in a veterinary office.
Once back on the bikes on the 15 D toll road and heading towards Tequila, my mind was swirling with thoughts and emotions I was having a hard time letting go of. When I tried to talk to Ville about it, just to process through it all, I found I kept getting choked up and tears were running down my face. Ville and I try very hard to respect others and their opinions and stay out of politics, but this is not just politics anymore, we are in it! We can't just turn off the news and ignore social media and keep our opinions to ourselves. We are bicycling through Mexico and USA (Trump), has decided to build a wall between USA and Mexico and make the Mexicans pay for it by imposing a tax on goods coming into the US from Mexico. After spending a month and a half bicycling through Baja and mainland Mexico, we have had nothing but kind, welcoming, positive experiences with Mexicans and the people living in Mexico. So we are at a complete loss to know what to say, do, behave, help, and all while reverting to speaking in Finnish and saying we are both from Finland or Canada.
After a very long, emotional day on the bikes, we arrived in Tequila, checked into a hotel and went to bed. The next morning, our Canadian friends Greg and Lee drove from Tepic to meet us to spend the day checking out distilleries and drinking Tequila. First we drove to Miravalle Distillery, Home of Azunia Tequila in Amatitan, where our friends Rick, Brenda, and Jim had set up a tour of the distillery for us. Really fascinating to see the whole process of making Tequila and we were gifted with a couple bottles of really good tequila at the end. Thanks so much all of you for a fun Tequila experience! After we drove back to Tequila where Greg and Lee took us to La Alborada Distillery to sample a bunch of different tequilas and we watched a large group of college kids whom had gathered from all over the world, whack at a pinata while having a hysterically good time.
On our walk back to the hotel, we were ambushed by a group of Guadalajarans who pushed beers in our hands and insisted we dance in the streets with them. These happy Mexicans really know how to party! We all took turns dancing and posed for a bunch of photos and then we said our goodbyes to Greg and Lee as they headed back to Tepic and we headed to bed. Just before bed, Ville headed out for a short walk and returned upset because a very sweet little black dog had followed him for blocks and jumped in his lap for loves and now was waiting outside the hotel for him. It's pretty hard to see so many stray dogs in Mexico and not want to rescue so many of them, but while on a bicycle tour through numerous countries, we cannot. We hope in Tequila, a bit of a wealthier town than some of the towns we have biked through, Ville's little buddy will have someone take him in.
The next days ride took us east back through Amatitan and then south through fields and dirt paths onto highways where there was less cars thanks to it being a Sunday. In Mexico, Sundays are Family Days and most Mexicans spend the day together in parks, beaches, back yards and such and leaving less drivers on the road. We have found that Google Maps Bike Routes are horrible in Mexico, many times taking us a "short cut" through a town that the road turns into farm roads a lot of times that just dead-end or are really unsuitable for biking on, like gravel, sand, and boulder fields. But we managed to get as far as Santa Cruz de las Flores where Ville asked a man where we might find cheap accommodation. A very elderly man, who was very dirty, with an old broken bike, missing most his teeth, but with a very sweet smile gave us very detailed directions to find a nearby hotel. Then he offered to show us, but said he would not be as fast because of his bike. We followed him up over a walkway overpass, down a couple streets where there was a sign for a hotel. We profusely thanked him and when Ville offered him money he refused and said, "next time." He was embarrassed to shake our hands because his were so dirty, but we insisted and asked to take a photo of him (to add to our Kindness page.) Both Ville and I almost moved to tears by this mans incredible kindness and refusing money, just helping us to be a kind person.
The hotel was actually even cheaper than the last, at only $6.50 a night, and filled with lots of semi truck drivers. Excited to get to Lake Chapala and see our friends Peter and Madeleine, we got up early and hit the road after a quick breakfast street taco stop. There was a group of men there who were really excited to chat about our ride and asked if we still like each other so far? They wished us a safe journey, as has been with most of the Mexican people we have encountered, and off we headed the last 25 miles into San Juan Juan Cosala where our friends live. We spent a relaxing day catching up with our Canadian friends, both whom we met on Vancouver Island where they had been Warmshowers hosts to us there, and are now able to visit them at their winter place on Lake Chapala.
We are hoping to take a few days rest off our bikes, maybe make a bus trip into Guadalajara to see the sights (we have read how not bike friendly Guadalajara is being such a large congested city), and catch up with our friends before heading back on the road going east towards Mexico City. Thanks all for your love and support on this journey and keep spreading love and kindness. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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