Ville and I were weaving between busses and traffic heading south on the main artery heading for the central/downtown Oaxaca, when we flew past the rerouting of traffic straight into the center of a giant protest in the middle of the street.
But before even heading to Oaxaca, let me tell you a little bit about staying in Puebla for two weeks. When we left Toluca to begin heading south, we had no intention of even riding through Puebla because it was completely south east of Mexico City and we wanted to head south, but our good friend Pedro, from Morelia, had a couple friends in Puebla and we thought, "why not?" We have always been pleasantly surprised by the towns we least expected to be surprised by. Puebla was of no exception.
Luis and Ari welcomed us into their apartment without knowing us at all and only by the referral of said friend, Pedro. But welcome us they did, and for a solid week of bike fixing, quinceanera, birthday and Mexican wrestling festivities. And the night before we were planning our goodbyes and heading back out on the open road, I, K.G., ate something that didn't sit right and was laid up for another week at their place. And did they roll their eyes, stomp their feet, and kick us to the curb as I would have done, no! They made me breakfast and lunch I could stomach every day before leaving for work. They harassed me with text messages to make sure I was still breathing. They tracked down a naturopathic doctor because I didn't want to pump myself full of antibiotics. And STILL they were sad when we left! These two win the gold star for true friends! Can't thank you both enough and excited to see you both again after the ride :)
So after a long two weeks, Ville and I packed up, said some teary goodbyes and got back in the saddles heading south towards Tehuacan, where we stayed one night with Job and his roommate. Thanks boys for the tasty tacos and a bed to sleep. We pushed on into some decent hill climbs back into pine forests and some beautiful camp spots for a few more days into Oaxaca City. From about 25 miles outside the city, the road turned to shit and there was broken glass, garbage, and graffiti (and not the cool to look at kind, but the tagging your name everywhere in dirty parts of cities kind) where we ended up with multiple flat tires and were happy to get into the city and off the road. On our way into downtown, we found ourselves right in the middle of a giant protest against recent changes in education reform. Ville was reminiscing of when he was here back in 2006 and they were protesting then more violently for teachers. Mexico is not the only country where governments make cuts and it appears that education is always the first to go. Children are the future of Mexico, US and the world as a whole. If we want to progress, we cannot wallow in fear, but rise above fear through education and knowledge and only then will we accept others as they are and discover true happiness. My words of wisdom for the week.
After cycling right through the demonstration, we found a cheap hostel in the downtown and walked around looking at the artisan textiles that are so famous for this area (made by the the natives in and around the state of Oaxaca), watched a graduation celebration/parade, and decided to push on the next morning heading south. I had picked up a nasty cold in Puebla and was in dire need of rest, but didn't want to take more time off the bikes after already being out for 2 weeks, so on we pushed. After so many tire punctures (2 of which were Ville's tubes right at the valve rendering the tubes useless) and leaving Ville with only the two tubes in his tires and no back-ups. We scoured every bike shop for tubes to fit his tires, but came up empty handed and realized we might just have to cross our fingers that we make it all the way to Columbia where there is a big cycling culture and possibly more tube sizes available. Luckily, Lois and Elvis, came to our rescue again and are mailing the right tubes to Tuxtla where we will pick them up in a couple days ride.
From Oaxaca, we rode south to Santiago Matatlan, town of Mescal, where I bought artisan chocolate, we ate beef tongue tacos, got a hotel room for the night and headed south into the dry, windy, hills on Highway 190. It was a really tough four days of ups and downs in very gusty, dry hills and when we were to drop out of the hills close to the coast and get some flat land to cycle, we hit the worst winds we have experienced since Baja. So intense we had to pedal to try and get downhill and from Tehuantepec to Union Hidalgo, we rode through garbage ally where the entire stretch of road was covered in garbage and gnarly winds. Once we reached Union Hidalgo, we decided pushing so hard when now both of us were sick was a bad idea, and asked the local police a safe place to stay. They were a great group of guys that let us sleep in the town open-air gymnasium, we were able to watch the local high school kids volleyball practice for a few hours before bed. And as they shut the lights and we locked the door, the bats came out to feed as we fell off to wrestles sleep.
With one day of push left before a planned rest day in Santo Domingo Zanatepec at a Warmshowers host's house, we rose at first light and turned north for 8 miles heading straight into the wind to La Venta. We had breakfast there where outside we caught a big parade of the local elementary school kids celebration of the first day of spring. They were very cute adorned in animal costumes and marching down the street. The rest of the day was spent pushing on through the winds surrounded on all sides by hundreds of wind turbines. It was very exciting to see that Mexico is investing in green energy and a young local guy we chatted with is studying engineering to work generating energy with the wind turbines. While some countries are regressing back to dirty coal mining, Mexico is moving forwards in the use of clean green energy, also creating jobs. Good job Mexico!
As we rode east, we slowly pulled free from the wind vortex where the winds were blocked by mountains and by late afternoon we finally reached Santo Domingo Zanatepec where our Warmshowers hosts, Rodrigo and Lupita welcomed us to their home. Yesterday we decided to take a much needed day off the bikes to rest and recuperate and went to the local highschool where Rodrigo is a teacher and spoke to two of his classes about our ride and practiced English and Spanish with the kids. Then yesterday evening, a group of the girls from one of the classes came by to take Ville and I to dinner to try some local food and interview us. We have felt so incredibly welcome by this town and so many of the people here it feels very nice. Sadly, Ville woke up this morning when we had planned to hit the road early to beat the sweltering heat, and is sick. DAMN!
With all the best intentions of making it all the way to Oaxaca in 6 or 7 days, we got stuck in the middle in Puebla. For a week! Here's how it went down...
Justin Bieber, aka Ville, and I made it back from a few days in Mexico City to our Warmshowers host that lives in Toluca and had a great night with them, and 2 other cyclists they were hosting, Luz and Sylvain. We had some fun nights of board games, shenanigans, and were able to get a lot of tips about the journey south, as Luz and Sylvain were traveling north by bike. We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out of Toluca (city at the highest elevation in Mexico) dropping way down to Cuernavaca, where we stopped for a night to see the sights. From somewhere outside Toluca a ways up in the forested hills, we began passing hundreds of Mexicans walking the road going east on a pilgrimage or camino to a sacred sight i n the mountains where there is a church wedged into a canyon. We understood that from the end of February through mid March is the time for the pilgrimage and people begin where they live or as far out as Puebla, walking anywhere from 5-200 miles. Their belongings carried by trucks, but carrying large crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary along the way. Even though those we passed did not know about our own pilgrimage by bike, it was a special experience saying hello to so many people we passed sharing a common goal of learning more about oneself while on a journey with a set destination.
Leaving Cuernavaca in the rush hour morning traffic was intense, and for almost the rest of the entire day we rode through a series of towns that seemed to have blended into Cuernavaca, and we never really felt as though we got out of town and traffic until getting onto a cuota (toll road) just before dark. After two days of dropping extreme amounts in elevation and riding in the chaos of city traffic, our shoulders and backs were locked up and I had a decent raging headache. We rode through a small village, in the hopes of finding a safe spot to camp in a yard, and after asking a bunch of farmers and townspeople, the police said we could camp in the town's square. After imagining what it would be like to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to pee on the concrete in front of the police station in the town's square, we agreed agents it and continued on as the sun set. On our last ditch effort, we asked a very poor family on the outskirts of the village if we could camp in their yard and they were super kind in allowing us to camp. Kindness has come to us in all forms and from all kind of people.
At first light, we packed up, thanked the family, and headed back to the toll road to cook some oatmeal on the side of the road (not wanting to fire up a stove in the yard of the family) and continued on the toll road where we passed a bunch of day cyclists from Mexico City on training rides, us heading for Puebla. Our good friend, Pedro, from Morelia had sent us some contacts in Puebla and we were planning maybe a night off in town to check out the sights. Once arriving in Puebla, we called Luis who met us in the city center and we biked back to his apartment with him where we were given our own room and had beers with his wife, Ari, her sister, Sele, and her boyfriend, Elvis. Our one day of visiting Puebla has now turned into nine days of hanging out with this crazy group that we now call our friends.
We spent a day riding bikes out to Cholula, where there is a pyramid with the largest base in the world and even a church at the top. A couple days we spent at Urban Bike, where Elvis the Genius works and was nice enough to add extensions to both our handlebars so we don't have to lean over so far (this will hopefully greatly save our backs and wrists!) and cleaned our bikes just because he is a great guy. He was also able to fix my shifter, which had stopped working after leaving San Diego and I had to set to friction to keep working. My frame had bent slightly, he bent it back a little and adjusted the shifter back to microshift, and I blame all the tacos and good Mexican food for the bent frame.
Luis spent all the time he was not overworking himself as a chef, showing us the sights of Puebla (these lazy Mexicans all work 6 days a week and only have Sundays off, man do we really feel like slackers, we don't even have jobs). We tried artisan beers at Sele's restaurant (where she works as a chef) and got to go to the museum there to see hand carved skulls, bones, pots, and relics dug up when they had done a full renovation of the building dating back to 900-1500 A.D. The history here in Mexico is just so mind-blowingly old! We drank pulque (fermented maguey plant) at a bar where a kid walked in off the street with his guitar and riled up the whole place singing Mexican pop songs. Check out the video below!
We ate fried grasshoppers and tried all kinds of local eats. Elvis joined us for a Group Night Ride for all ages and types of cyclists to come together and take over the streets for an hour ride around the city. Was a fun place to meet a bunch of locals who like to bike, and stop traffic with hundreds of bikes at night with music and lights winding through the streets.
We stayed through the weekend because we were invited to join Ari, Luis, Sele and Elvis at their cousin Caitlyn's Quinceanera party on Saturday evening in Cholula. It was an unbelievable experience! The festival was unlike any wedding I have ever been to in my life, around 200 guests dressed to the nines, tables set ready for a Presidential dinner, a massive lit dance floor where a choreographed show of young boys danced with the girl who's birthday it was, followed by another choreographed show with the girl and her Dad and guys from the family. There was a wild band throughout the night complete with balloons and cowboy hats passed out by people on stilts. There was a photo booth with props and a professional photographer. A dulce (dessert) table set for a king and she cut a cake that rivaled a wedding cake stacked 4 tiers high. A waiter for every table who literally refilled your glass of whisky/coke every time you took your last sip. And it felt as if the entire room of people, kids to elders, all knew how to dance, and not just dance, but really well! I was SO jealous. In Finland and U.S. we might get invited to a wedding a year or every other year and you shuffle around the dance floor and try and look like you didn't break a hip, but everyone in Mexico makes it to tons of these parties and all of them learn how to actually dance. Like where they shake and thrust everything from their hips to their chests to their feet. Dang! Ville and I have a lot to learn!
At about 3:30 a.m, as per tradition, breakfast of chilaquiles was brought out for everyone and then the party finally ended around 6 a.m. And almost all the guests were still there until then! And before everyone left, they were sent with gifts of drinking glasses full of candy with the birthday girl's name engraved on it and tank tops with her name and date printed on it. Like I said, I have never experienced anything like it. I can only imagine what this girl's wedding will look like! And after a few hours sleep we were all up again, had lunch at the nearby indoor marketplace, and dressed again to go to a baby cousin's first birthday party. Ville opted to sleep more, but Ari, Luis, and I made it to a rented hall where there was the most elaborate one year old's party I have now ever been to as well. The theme was all Monsters Inc. and the party was catered, with a band, lots of dancing, 3 pinatas, candy baskets for all the kids, and lots of alcohol and Grandma came around all night pouring shots of Mescal for the guests. To end the night there was a massive cake and another dessert table complete with a chocolate fountain.
By the time we made it home, I was the walking dead and Luis and Ari had to hit the hay to work the next day. Tonight we are going to see a real lucha libre match (Mexican wrestling) here in Puebla with Ari and we are opting for the cheapest seats because they said there are LOTS of people chanting and yelling obscenities at the wrestlers and it's the most fun place to sit. But tomorrow, Tuesday, is our big day. Time to get our fat butts back on the bikes and continue this party train south. We are already sad to leave such great friends and are hoping that we will be able to get them visas to come visit us in Bend so we can return the favor and show them our home and town when this ride is complete.
Thank all of you for following our journey and until next time, keep on keepin' on...
Dear Diary, it's me Ville. Let's give K.G a break from writing and let's let the idiot loose on the pages of this blog.
Exciting personal things that have happened to me after Morelia :
1. I got a haircut
2. I got to play football/soccer with a fun group of guys in Toluca
3. I got a slight black eye from hitting my head on a branch while playing soccer
with a 6 year old.
4. K.G told me I look 10 years younger after my haircut (positive)
5. K.G told me I look like Justin Bieber (you figure out if this is positive)
Enough about me! Let me tell you what our new friend Pedro "The Godfather" did for us in Morelia. When we were leaving Morelia, Pedro felt that on our way out of the city there was a curve that was too dangerous for us to ride without support. The Godfather showed up in the middle of his work day to drive behind us with his car to block the traffic coming from behind and possibly hitting us at the blind curve, after we reached the straight portion of the road he pulled over and let the colony of honking cars and trucks pass us. Thank you Pedro!
After 25 miles/40 km of fairly flat riding we started climbing like it was going out of style! The next 30 miles were intense climbing towards the pine tree covered mountains passing Agave fields left and right, the thing about climbing for 30 miles straight up is that it puts your body in a new position on the bike. Problem with new positions on the bike is that your butt rubs on the seat in a new way and the spot that you have already worn to the level of tough leather is not anymore the spot getting the action. A new saddle sore is born, Hallelujah!
The view and the fresh air was worth the sore butts, all of a sudden (in 5 hours) we were surrounded by pine trees galore. It felt like we were riding over one of the passes crossing the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. The air smelled like home. We truly enjoyed riding in the cool air of the high altitude in this beautiful setting but the day was coming to an end and the sun was about to set. Just when we were bombing down the mountain, I spotted on the side of the road an old man smiling at us in front of his house. I quickly yelled to K.G to reduce the speed from the speed of sound and to pull over. I made my way back up the hill a bit to talk to him and ask if we could camp in his yard, he said we could and started showing some spots to pitch our tent. After multiple options we decided to camp on the patio of his brother's house since he wasn't home. Oscar was the man's name and he and his family owned a little store attached to their house to cater for the people passing by on the busy highway leading over the mountains between the cities of Morelia and Ciudad Hidalgo. One thing to consider when camping close to a road in Mexico is to avoid the downhill sections, trucks here have incredibly loud air brakes, it's almost like they have Metallica's sound system attached to them. Just when I was in full sleep mode dreaming of shiny bike parts I was rudely woken up by what sounded like a machine gun the size of a Walmart, I could see the driver in my mind grinning at us and saying " Wake up suckers!"
The next morning we thanked Oscar and his family and finished the rest of the downhill, all the way to the city of Ciudad Hidalgo, this was also the first time since Alaska that we were wearing our puffy jackets due to the cold morning high up in the mountains. In Ciudad Hidalgo we stopped to grab a bite and ask for directions on what route to take up to the mountains to see the Monarch Butterflies, we got quite a few directions that seemed to all be very different from each other. Every time we talked to someone they would ask us where we're from, I tell them I'm from Finland and most people don't have a clue where it is and Kristen is from Canada due to recent "tensions" between USA and Mexico. This is something she doesn't do lightly, by no means is happy not to tell where she is from.
I was desperately hunting for a Oxxo ( Like a SevenEleven ) for a coffee and once finding one and pulling in to the parking lot we met Javier, Javier turned out to be a great source of information on how to get to the butterflies and insisted on buying us coffees. After we had detailed directions on how to get to see millions of flapping wings we headed up the mountains, climb was intense but beautiful. I guess you have to work for the view. Once we reached our destination, Ocampo, we had already gotten a message on our phone from our friend Javier, he met us downtown and helped us wheel and deal with the owner of a cheap hotel in town. He rode his bike 30 miles just to help and hangout with us with no hidden agendas. That's Mexico.
The next day we woke up early to catch the first minibus at 7am to the butterfly sanctuary, it turns out that the first minibus leaves at 8am. Classic Mexico! Once we got up to the Sanctuary we still had good 45 min hike up in cold mountain weather to find the hiding butterflies. It was worth the shivering cold jaunt up to 9 400 ft/2865 m to see the Monarch Butterflies that have made it all the way to Central Mexico from Western Canada to meet up with their homies and make babies, yes that it the official National Geographic's description. We were bummed we couldn't see them flying around since it was too cold for them to do nothing else than great massive clusters of butterflies hugging each other to stay warm. Just seeing that was awesome so we left feeling happy to have climbed all the way up there to see these beautiful creatures that have traveled almost the same distance as we have. Have a great journey back to Canada buddies, may the currents be at your back!
Gee gully whiskers we had a blast flying down the mountain, passing logging trucks that were loaded up so full you couldn't fit a hair between. Here's a video of the rollercoaster!
After the down hill came the uphill, this one was 17 miles long! We got almost to the top when the sun was setting and I asked a farmer if we could camp on his field. He said no problem, pitch the tent wherever. We found a spot that we liked, pitched the tent and crawled in to hide from the cold night. We were almost asleep when 2 men with flashlights woke us up, they were telling us we were camping in a bad spot and should move. I asked what was wrong with the spot and they told us there were some bad hombres wandering around and that we should camp closer to where they were camping since they had guns. Telling a stranger that you have guns doesn't always make them feel safer, that was the case with us too but we still decided to take down the tent and move to a safer area code. It turned out that Enrique and Antonio were hired by the farmer to guard the tractor and rest of the equipment on the field. We ended up sleeping just fine but I was so restless that I woke up every time a cricket farted. In the morning before taking off we thanked the guys and gave them Snickers bars for snacks.
By late afternoon we reached Toluca, we did get thrown out of the toll road first time in Mexico but ended up riding just fine on the free road even though it did have substantially smaller shoulder for us. We had written to Warm Showers host Guillermo (from Mexico) and his wife Janelle (USA) about staying with them, we wrote them from Guadalajara and estimated that we would get to their house on the 11th. We ended up getting here on the 18th due to the kindness of Mexicans along the way. We did keep them updated on our progress and luckily since they've done a lot of bike touring they understood exactly what was going on. Guillermo (Memo) and Janelle live in a beautiful house a little outside of downtown Toluca with their 2 kids Anna and Mito. We've had a great time hanging out with them sharing travel stories and getting lots of good info for the road ahead.
From Toluca we made a 3 day trip by bus to Mexico City where we got to see all the sights we were hoping for, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museum of Anthropology and Diego Rivera's murals in one of the government buildings. We stayed with 2 different Warm Showers host in the city. First with Tomas (Argentina), he is doing his PhD in Mexico City on renewable energy, thank you for thinking and working for future generations Tomas! He lives with his wife Ursula (Mexico) and we had a blast staying with them and had a great dinner laughing our worn out butts with their friends brainstorming on business ideas on how to make Pajarete the national drink. The next 2 nights we stayed with Nelly and Erik in the southern part of the city, Nelly is a teacher and Erik drives Uber. They made time in their busy schedules to show us around the cool & hip parts of the city and we got to taste more traditional dishes that we would've never found out on our own. I could describe you the city but it's better to see our pictures, or even better come and see it yourself. It is awesome! The public transportation system works like a charm and there is enough things to see for multiple weeks.
Yesterday we returned and we held a speech at the local university for one of the classes Memo teaches. The students seemed to enjoy hearing our stories and no one was sleeping while these 2 yahoos were ranting and raving about the beauty of traveling by bike. We had fun sharing our stories and hopefully inspired someone to jump on the bike for even a short ride to the next town.
Tomorrow we're heading towards Cuernavaca and from there to Oaxaca. I attached a Google Map with a route that is not quite like ours (instead of 5 758 miles we've actually covered 7 100 miles) but it gives you a pretty good idea on where we are and where we've come from.
Yours Truly, Justin Bieber.
But before we jump to Morelia, we had two very eventful stops first, San Juan Cosala and La Isla. We arrived in San Juan Cosala to visit with Peter and Madeleine and ended up staying a week dancing, eating, learning to play pickle ball, swimming in their club pool, hiking, and just plain relaxing. It was such a treat, big thanks to you both for having us in your beautiful place! We also took a bus for one day into Guadalajara to walk around and see the city, much easier than trying to bike through the city. Ville met a guy near the Cathedral in the city center to juggle a football/soccer ball with and we ate the best chile rellenos plate (so good we had 2 plates) in the largest indoor market in Latin America, Mercado San Juan de Dios. When it was finally time to leave, Peter joined us for the ride east to Chapala and up the climb out towards Guadalajara. We had the plan to camp a night and head the rest of the way north to La Isla, but decided to push through the 90 miles and arrived by dark pretty wasted and without even having an address, in front of our friend Samuel's home. What luck!
Samuel is a friend from Bend who happened to be down visiting his family in La Isla, a very small town in the farmland and hills near Ayotlan (about 80ish miles east of Guadalajara.) Since only corresponding with his daughter, Denise back in Bend, and niece, Isis who was in La Isla, we were not sure how convenient our visit would be for Samuel and his family. What a fantastic stop and time we had with the entire Segoviano family that made up almost the entire town and their friends! We thought we might stay a day and every day we said we would leave they had another party, get-together, fiesta, sigh-seeing trip, tequila drinking fest planned. Not only were we given the royal tour by everyone, we have been completely taken in as family and have promised many returns. We send many many warm hugs and thank yous to all of you that made our time in La Isla special and look very much forwards to seeing you all again after this crazy bike tour.
One of the mornings in La Isla, vaquero (cowboy) Oscar and his wife Sol had us over with a group of friends to have a taste of our first pajarete. Oscar mixed coffee, sugar, chocolate, and alcohol in our cups and then after locking one of their cows in a chute with grain, filled the remainder of the glasses with fresh warm cows milk straight from the udder. It was so delicious we had 2 for breakfast! And still tipsy, we headed by car with Samuel, Isis, Chuy (Isis's little tyke) and Gabriel (Isis's dad and Samuel's brother) to San Juan de Los Lagos and Arandas for a day of sighseeing, eating ourselves silly, and being showered with gifts for the road. When we finally had to pull the plug and keep on keepin' on, we had some sad goodbyes, but were very grateful for coming. And an hour up the road we stopped at our new friend Alex's butcher shop for a bunch of dried meat for the road.
We had a rough patchwork of roads, very bumpy roads, dirt roads, most with no shoulder, on the way into La Isla and much of the same all the way back south east heading towards Morelia. After a night of camping in a cow pasture surrounded by cactus, we pushed on a full day to arrive just outside Morelia to discover it was a massive city (around a million people) and as the shoulder ended and it was getting dark, we decided better to get a motel and ride the last few miles into the city center when it wasn't dark with zooming traffic going by us. Ville scored us a super cheap auto motel; you can pay hourly or stay the whole night, pull your car into a garage no one can see, the reception is behind mirrored glass, and a whole channel of free porn and the rest of the channels were sports. Although, they are very clean and a killer deal for a spacious room complete with shampoo, soap, and even towels.
After late checkout, we rode the few miles in a bit less chaotic traffic into the city and just as we pulled over to check the phone for directions, a cyclist rode up and asked if he could help us. Ville asked for a cheap place to stay (maybe a place without a free porn channel) and he told us to follow him. Pedro, took us to a couple places and found us a hostel right in the heart of the city center and then after dropping our bags, we followed him to his restaurant to have breakfast. Pedro has the coolest little Italian restaurant, Restaurant Palermo, just south of the city center, and when we arrived, he made us fruit and yogurt and eggs with garlic olive oil and toast. And as if we weren't already beaming with gratitude, he insisted that he was so happy to meet us. That he was suppose to have showed up to open the restaurant earlier, but overslept and just made it in front of the passing train to meet us. Destiny! Still in amazement almost daily how we meet these people that are all so incredibly special and we are able to be on this journey sharing our time/lives together. That is what life is really about for Ville and I, the people. The bikes are only the cheap transportation to get us to these people and moments we are sharing.
After breakfast, Pedro took us to a great bike shop, En Eje Del Ciclismo, where the owners were so thrilled to hear of our journey they gave us a discount on Ville's chain, installed it, and threw in a free patch kit. This bike shop is awesome for any cyclists out there heading through Morelia, thanks guys! And Ville and I left bikes and headed out exploring the city center by foot before heading back to Pedro's restaurant for an authentic fine dinner of a special cilantro sauce on jicama followed by homemade pesto pasta, bread, sangria and a fruit/nut/cheese desert! What a treat! And after, he took us on a wild sightseeing tour of the city by bike. Pedro is the happiest most positive bloke we have met (o.k. there have been quite a few, but he is at the top of the pile), and always smiling, put a positive spin on everything. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide. We stopped at a trendy new beer and food warehouse for beers and then after leaving bikes at our hostel, walked to his friend's restaurant/hotel/home to have beers and chat.
Victor and Josue are engineers that have lived in the city most or all of their lives with some of the most incredible stories to tell. Victor gave us a tour of his hotel and home that puts many multi-million dollar Bend homes to shame. His attention to fine detail and construction is unreal and well worth a stay at the hotel, La Casa De Las Rosas, when you are in Morelia. Victor had an assortment of bull fighting photos hung behind his bar on the wall, which we then learned they were of him. We also spotted a photo of Victor on the set of a popular t.v. show set on the same wall.
Josue, after we had a few mescal shots, spoke of his experiences as a professional bull fighter, where the animal and man truly come together in an even matched fight to the death. He had been gored by a bull and broke his neck in three places where somehow he miraculously healed from and is back to good health. He has changed professions to owning a construction company and teaches classes on bull fighting instead, but spoke of how crazy one feels when in the ring with a pissed off bull. And how your fear, and how to harness that fear, is what keeps you alive to fight another day and another bull. Victor used to be one of the highest judges of bull fighting in his day and we couldn't have been more pumped to meet all these great people and hear their stories. We are hoping to get to go learn how to bull fight from Josue before we leave town.
After a few beers and tour, we all headed to Pedro's friend's restaurant and bar, Dos52, where we listened to booty-shakin' live toons, chatted, laughed, drank mescal and beer until we all stumbled home at five this morning! Throughout the night, the band had joined our table, other patrons, the owner and her sister, and we had the most welcoming night of friends in Morelia. These two old farts should not be staying up drinking until five in the morning anymore, and it took a full day of recovery after. Last night Pedro took us to get gazpacho (very popular chopped fruit cup mixed with cheese, hot sauce and salt/pepper) and this morning to his friend, Leonorilda's restaurant for a phenominal breakfast of meats, beans, tortillas, salsas, and we even shared shots of mescal and sweet corn cakes. Marceva Fonda is another must visit restaurant when in town! Thanks to destiny and Pedro, we are enjoying our stay in Morelia with new friends and will keep on keepin' on...until next time. Adios.
People of Morelia peacefully protesting against the recent immigration regulations and import tax implemented by the new US government
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...
The last time we were on a ferry, BC Ferries, was in British Columbia. Once we arrived back in La Paz following our tour of the tip of Baja, we biked up to the ferry terminal about 12 miles north of the city and met the BC Ferry, now Baja California Ferries. The boat is the size of a small cruise ship, very clean, and we even booked our own cabin for $35 extra. This was worth it for us not to have to listen to karaoke until midnight up in the lounge or a blaring TV where the passengers are seated in chairs much like airline seats. Oddly enough, we had to clear customs even though we were not crossing any border, but the guy seemed very unconcerned with the mace Ville was carrying and just chatted us up instead of X-Raying our bags. On the boat, we stood in line for our free meal at the cafeteria, listened to some eccentric karaoke, and watched as the guys pulled up the ropes and the ship shoved off at 8 pm. Once at sea, these old farts went to bed. After all, 8 p.m. is late for camping cyclists that go to bed soon after the sun goes down. Our cabin had separate small beds, no window, but with a bathroom and even a shower! We arrived at exactly 8 a.m. and disembarked with Curtis and Jenny, other cycling friends on the same ride we had met earlier on, and cycled through Mazatlan together heading to a cheap motel to stay.
Once Curtis and Jenny and we had checked into rooms, Ville and I headed out for breakfast and to explore the town of Mazatlan. We spent the 2 whole days walking all over the old city, along the Malecon, up to the top of tower hill and the lighthouse hill and ate lots of great food. The buildings were really colorful, the people incredibly friendly, and the town alive with music and theater. On our last evening in town, we attended a Women's March along the Malecon for women's rights and human rights. Felt empowering for a moment to realize there are a lot of people out there globally who care about loving thy neighbor and treating all humans with love and respect. We are a part of that movement.
After riding south out of Mazatlan, we wound through the chaotic streets until finding the toll road or quota. For two and a half days we were on this road, two of which were pretty flat along the marsh land of the coastal area with intermittent mango groves. In complete contrast to Baja of dry, cool desert, with a ton of wind, and minimal climbs we are now in very hot, humid mountains with perpetual climbing. What use to be a full day on the bikes of 60-80 miles and felt fine, we now are completely wiped out after 40-45 miles. And since the toll road bypasses all the small towns, we are struggling to stay hydrated and find enough water. But the shoulder has been spectacular and the traffic could not be more amazing and inspiring! The giant semi trucks are almost always moving over and giving us room as well as the cars, all while honking, waving, cheering, and flashing their lights to alert other drivers of us on the road. Every town we do ride through we are constantly greeted by people on the street, smiling, waving, and telling us "buen viaje" (good travels) or "mucho suerte" (much/good luck). We couldn't be surrounded by kinder people.
On our second days ride out of Mazatlan, we had pulled over at a gas station to get water (which there was hardly any) and met an awesome couple, Greg and Lee, from Ontario, Canada. They were kind enough to give us some water and told us they live in Tepic and invited us to come see them on our way through the next day. Since we only had 20 miles into Tepic and the road had been only flat to mild rolling hills, we were excited for a short day. Wrong! It was over 3,000 feet of climbing in under 20 miles. By the time we showed up, we were completely soaked in sweat and completely spent. Greg and Lee welcomed us into their home, let us shower, do laundry and stay a day to drive us around and do much needed errands. Thank you both so much for all your kindness and generosity!
Tepic was a much larger city than we had imagined and lucky for us to have locals showing us around, were able to see so much of the sights. After so many touristy towns on the Baja and Mazatlan, it was great to finally be in a city wandering around that we were the only white skinned people we saw the entire time. Riding out of Tepic, will be a lot more heat and climbing, but we have a plan to try and meet up with Greg and Lee in 2 days ride in Tequila for some distillery tours and party! Until then, keep on keepin' on...
The last couple weeks have been one big party, with a bit of biking in between. But mainly relaxing, spending time with great friends and fun in the sun. It was much needed. Baja was a rough ride. Lots of sand, not a lot of water or food stops, and a thousand miles of it. Since our ferry leaves tonight out of La Paz, we had no need to cycle more south, but we wanted to see friends and celebrate the end of the Baja and it was well worth the trip!
In El Pescadero, Jesse and Sherri spoiled us rotten. They lent us a vehicle to get to the beach with a surfboard, lounge chairs and cooler in tow. We hit up the local farms for fresh produce and lobster and they chefed it up every breakfast and dinner. They took us sightseeing in Todos Santos, rescued turtles, snorkeled, drank a lot of margaritas , and met lots of their great friends. We had a complete blast and we thank you both like crazy! Expect a visit again when this crazy ride is complete.
Next we rode to Cabo San Lucas (a decent shoulder and along the coast but hotter than the surface of the sun) where we met up with Rick and Brenda who drove us out to their place in La Fortuna and also showed us a great time. Ville surfed, we swam in their pool, played with their pups, toured San Jose del Cabo and ate like kings. They had some neighbors over for dinner and a whole slew of friends stop in on Jeeps on a Poker tour. We were connected with Rick and Brenda through a friend from home, Tony, and my cousins in Orange County, Jeff and G.K. and now consider them friends of ours. As they hopped a plane home, we biked north to Los Barriles where Rick and Brenda have a hotel and insisted we stay. The road was fairly pleasant and meandering but with no shoulder and little traffic. And man, what a treat when we arrived at the hotel!!
The Agave Hotel in Los Barriles was magical! After all our tenting it and splurging on cheap motels we shared with Ryan and Lydia (although a great bonding experience), it was SO great to have our own cushy bed in our own room right next to the pool and ocean. We were lulled to sleep every night by the waves and kayaked, swam, walked on the beach, cruised through town and just relaxed! When we arrived we met a great group of Canadians who welcomed us to dinner and fattened us up. Thanks all of you for fun conversations and great food! If your looking for a easy place to get away with relaxation in mind, check this place out. It was awesome. Thank you Rick and Brenda!!
It was a very sad day when we had to pack up our bikes and get back on the saddles heading northwest back to La Paz. A lot of steep hill climbing up and down and then headwinds on our homestretch to La Paz. By the time we made it through the miles of busy La Paz traffic to our motel, we were both wrecked. Today is our big day leaving Baja and heading by ferry to Mazatlan and the mainland Mexico. If any of you will be in our path, hit us up! Would love to see friendly faces. Otherwise, keep following and keep on keepin' on...
Barely had I rubbed the Sandman sand and literal Baja desert sand from my eyes and a quick movement of a critter caught my eye. I rolled over in the sleeping quilt to catch a glimpse of something the color of sand climbing from Ville's bicycle bag to just under me in the tent. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a small scorpion trying to find a comfy place to crash. Not only do most all desert plants; cacti, scrub brush, and such unknown plant material have thorns on, around, and strewn about the sand, but the animals are not the friendliest folks either. The wide open desert does, however, present some of the most epic star-gazing nights we have yet seen on this bike tour yet. Many wishes on stars should take us safely to the end of Argentina and beyond. And even if the plant and animal life keeps you on your toes, the Mexicans and people of Baja so far have been some of the happiest, kindest and generous folks we have met (of course, the Canadians are an even contender in that evaluation). The road, Mex 1 south, has been very hit or miss with a shoulder or even a decent pavement (we have heard the entire road was more recently paved in stages), the traffic on it seems to do their best to move over, give us room, honk, wave, cheer, and especially the big semi-trucks.
Our first big day off the bikes from the time we left San Diego and crossed over the Tecate border into Mexico, was spent splashing around in a giant downpour of rain in Guerrero Negro while K.G. and Ryan were trying to beat crappy colds in bed at the cheapest motel in town. After a day, we rolled back out of town splashing through the giaint puddles heading to Vizcaino pushed on by glorious tailwinds. The next day brought forth more zoning-out wide-open desert until we dropped into an oaisis of palm trees at San Ignacio. San Ignacio had a very endearing downtown built around a beautiful misssion built in 1728. Ville kindly volunteered to help build a roof on a patio of a casa de ciclista in town, and the next morning we were back on the road heading east to Santa Rosalia.
Heading out of San Ignacio, Ryan, Lydia, Ville and I had a slow steady climb into the mountains of sandy, cacti-littered desert near the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. After a very windy summit, we rocketed down the windy hills into the valley of the Reserve before a long hot climb into the sandy hills that border the coastline and Sea of Cortez. Dropping to the waterfront and south into Santa Rosalia, the city was a chaos of Christmas Eve partiers. We were able to find a tasty fish taco shop open and somehow managed on Christmas Eve to find a room at a very delapidated, over-priced inn to spend the night drinking Tequila, eating Peach-Os and celebrating the holiday together. Aparently Christmas is a huge drinking holiday in Santa Rosalia, for there was music and partygoers all night long and into the morning. We rose early into the quiet, abandoned streets and made the journey south to find a beach to camp on. Upon hitting the coast, the cacti landscape now included various grasses, flowers, and organic plantlife. With that brought an array of colorful butterflies, birds, and bugs. The road south was easy rolling hills with a slight tailwind and we flew through miles, passing Mulege and into the beaches of the Bahia Concepcion.
After just shy of 600 miles since crossing the Tecate border, we had finally arrived on a camping beach, Playa Santispac! With a slew of RVers (lots from the US and Canada), we pitched our tents on the sandy beach and borrowed some kayaks, snorkeling gear, and fishing gear from the incredibly generous RVers. Ville caught a decent sized Trigger Fish and he cooked it in our little pot for our Christmas feast. Was a pretty memorable Christmas I have to say. We decided to take a day off on the beach relaxing in the sand, watching dolphins feast, reading, and not biking before our next days long ride to Loreto. Since leaving Ensenada, Loreto was our first touristy town, chalked full of mini to full on resorts (they even have a Starbucks, folks). We stayed a couple of days in Loreto due to timing and weather issues, for us Loreto didn't seem that attractive but it might be because the weather was rainy and gray while we were there. However, they had some pretty tasty fish tacos.
Dec. 30th was my, K.G.'s, birthday and luckily the rain broke long enough for a breakfast place to open and I had french toast complete with candles on top! We packed up and cycled 20ish miles south to Playa Ligui where a local fisherman directed us to a deserted georgous beach where only the local fisherman seemed to come. It was one of the most beautiful places we have enjoyed on our trip yet. We decided to ring in the New Year on the beach far from any town or chaos and were joined by another cyclist, Helena from Florida. Climbing the giant rock at the end of the beach, Ville and I watched the sunset over the mountains and reflected on a pretty kick-ass full year of travel! New Years Resolution: keep right on traveling.
On a mission, we climbed back on our trusty steeds and began the long slow climb away from the coast and back up into the hills that took us to the top of the plateau and back southwest towards Ciudad Insurgentes. The long climb was cake compared to the side winds we hit once back out on the open desert. We had a nice roadside visit with Rick and Brenda (thanks a million you guys for taking our papers to mail in the US for us!!) whom we met through a friend in Bend and have a place in Los Barriles. We arrived in the tiny town pretty wiped out and the boys scored a really nice room for us at one of the only hotels in town. Once we hit Ciudad Constitucion, only 15 miles down the road the next day, Ryan had the stomach bug and I had a migraine and we decided to hit the market and another motel to rest. Poor Ryan was still sick by the next day and they scored a ride into La Paz, and Ville and I climbed back on the bikes for the last big push into town. Out of Constitucion we pushed through nearly 80 miles of some of the most dangerous and crappy road ride yet! Until now, the drivers in Mexico had been fantastic, but on this stretch we completely lost the shoulder and most drivers seemed in too much of a hurry to give us any room. I counted at least 6 near death experiences as did the other cyclists we talked to on this same stretch. I would not bike from Constitucion to La Paz again, unless I had a death wish.
At dark we found an open gate and piched our tent with Helena amid the cacti. The open desert made for some fantastic quiet sleep. Cool nights, no crowing roosters, sewage, barking dogs, loud music, jet brakes, or just the chaos of a city. At first light we ate our super tasty oatmeal and headed into the hills towards La Paz. The traffic was still unnerving and the winds maddening, but we had only 55ish miles to town and were on a mission. But a mere 15 miles out from town, Ville spotted one of the coolest things we have seen yet on the side of the road: a giant black dildo! And after stopping to kick it around and snap a couple pics, he kicked it up on the road in the hopes Helena would get the pleasure of seeing it too. The last 15 miles we cruised downhill in, finally, a big bike lane to town where we met up with Ryan and Lydia recouperating in a motel downtown. We spent a day together enjoying eachothers company and said our goodbyes the following morning as we headed south towards Todos Santos and they had a plane to catch out of Cabo back home to Pennsylvania. Thanks for the fun times in Baja you guys!! :)
Once on the outskirts of La Paz, a giant bike lane appeared complete with tailwinds to push us all the way into Todos Santos. It's what touring dreams are made of. Todos Santos was named a pueblo magico, and riding through it you could tell that they have put money into this small town: cobblestone roads, painted and cared for buildings, and lots of quaint touristy fashion, food, and hotspots. We stopped to grab some margaritas, but the menus were in dollars and about 6 times the price of any we had seen since coming to Baja Mexico. We got drinks at the OXXO (like a 7-11) instead and sat and people watched on the street. Just before dark, we rode the 8ish miles south to El Pescadero where our friend Jesse and his girlfriend Sherri live. We had chatted about this bike trip with Jesse way back in Bend while white water rafting and he said if we made it down the Baja alive, we should come for a visit. And, well, here we are!
Here we are, two other Bend friends, Ryan and Lydia, and Ville and I cowering under our sleeping quilt under scraggly desert chaparral being pelted by desert sand and gail force winds howling over our heads. The fear of falling too deeply into sleep and letting go of the edge of the sleeping quilt and having it ripped from our bodies would make for a fiercely cold sleepless night. How did we wind up here and what were we thinking getting into this mess cycling Baja?
After getting a lot of friend love from Dan, Jeanne, Peter, Kristyn and Kaitlyn, we were very ready to get back in the saddles and start heading south into the Baja and out of the US.Heading east we decided to forgo the crossing at Tiajuana and instead opted for crossing at Tecate. The hill climb up to Tecate went from sea level up to 3,000 ft and was an extreme push after sitting and fattening up in OC and SD for so long. Crossing was easy and the ride out of the city was followed by baking hot hill climbing in open desert with patches of vineyards littering the valleys. The road beautifully paved with a huge shoulder and the passing trucks and cars gave us loads of room and even honked and waved. This was a good start Mexico.
We camped in Guadalupe, in a campground where proceeds went to run a school for the deaf, and there we met Ryan and Lydia. Originally from Pennysylvania, they had both spent the last couple years living in Bend! What are the odds?! After camping a night, we head out going southwest together to Ensenada. After more hot winding hills, we had a steep, fast downhill into the coast and turned south into the sprawling city of Ensenada. There we found some delicious street tacos of stingray (Ryan's first meat in 8 years, go big or go home Ryan!) and they were what we had all been waiting for. We biked a 14 mile side trip out to the point with images of camping on the beach dancing through our heads and instead camped in a parking lot of an RV park for $20, on the other side of the beach. *sigh* Can't win them all.
The road south from Ensenada took us unfortunately back inland and climbing through more baren desert landscape. Very similar to what we imagine LA, OC and SD to look like if you deleted all the people out of it. It was a peaceful, pleasant ride, save fpr the miles and miles of random construction and deep bumpy gravel. By evening we rolled into San Vicente, where we asked at a small family run restaurant where to camp and they showed us their backyard. We set up camp near the chicken coop, played on their kid's teter-totter, made friends with their dogs (I like to think their puppy liked me the best because he would not stop humping my leg and I renamed him Hump-a-tron), had a tasty dinner in their restaurant, and hit the hay. Sadly the roosters were a bit confused and began crowing at 1 am and then on the hour every hour thereafter, NOTE: don't camp near a chicken coop.
From San Vicente south the shoulder began to dissapear and although there was heavy traffic, they respected our space and still continued to move over for us. After a big breakfast, we stopped a few times for road tacos and burritos, but the road was pretty flat so we moved through the miles pretty easily. When I got distraceted by a stray dog that nearly got hit by a car, my tire went off the road and I hit the pavement pretty good and got some scrapes and bruises but was able to hop back on the bike and keep on keepin' on. When we arrived in the busstling city of Vicente Guerrero, we stopped at a fish taco stand and a man and his wife (he originally from there and his wife from LA, now live in Klamath Falls, Oregon) came up and asked to help us find a place to camp. They followed us to a restaurant and RV park, and tried to pay for us to camp. He said that he knows what it's like to be in another country where you struggle to understand the language and don't know where to go. We are grateful to this couple for the reminder of having sympathy/empathy for others.
From Vincente Guerrero to El Rosario, it was a very narrow road with a ton of load, dusty, obnoxious traffic that we put our heads down and just tried to fly through it. We passed miles and miles of massive greenhouses full of farm workers growing food for hungry Americans. Thanks Mexicans for all the hard work feeding us, without you who really would feed America? At the very end of the day we had a very long and steep climb up and over the hills into a fast and steep drop into El Rosario. The first restaurant we came to Mamma Espinosa, a famous checkpoint on the Baja 1000, and we were able to camp out back. Out back put us right next to the busy highway at a huge hill (lots of jett-brakes all night) and next to the open sewer. Note: scope out the free camp site in someone's yard and maybe try the next yard if it is loud and smells like poop.
The next morning we had a hard start when we watched some guys in a pick-up run over a stray dog and drive away. We are pretty sure it ended fast for the dog, but always hard when traveling in other countries and remembering that the differences in culture are far reaching. In America we put sad looking pooches on TV with Sarah McGraphlin sappy music to raise money for rescueing them. Mexico and many, many other countries we have traveled, dogs and cats are stray, mangy, and littering the streets. They don't have sappy commercials for the starving children here, or for the starving children in the US for that matter. Cultural norms are weird aren't they?
Leaving El Rosario we would have a long dry stretch inland throug the desert without any stops, so we packed up food and headed out east on Highway 1. The first night we camped in Guayaquil, a one building town. The homeowner let us camp out back in his garbage/tire pile and drunkenly made us quesadillas before camp. Guess it was the local truck stop because it was super noisy all night. Note: Don't camp at a truck stop unless you want to stay up all night drinking with the truckers. And a garbage pile is not an ideal campsite.
The wind howled through the night and continued to blow into our faces as we trudged east all day and once we made our 50 miles, we found some cool rocks to set up camp early and relax a bit. Wrong. As soon as we ate, and the sun was setting, the winds picked up and began to howl and rip at our tents. We made a quick decision to pull down the tents before they shredded and blew away, laid out the tarp under the trees and all four of us spooned for warmth and huddled under our sleeping bags and quilts while listeneing to the gale-force winds howl outside. Not a lot of sleep was had that night. As the sun lit the sky, we packed up and trudged back to the road to try and get somewhere out of the terrible winds. And they only became worse through the day. It was the most insane side winds I have every experienced. We took turnes trying to ride leaning into the side-wind, walking bikes, and trying to make some miles. For a brief period, the road turned in our favor and we flew 35 miles an hour on flat and rolling hills from the tailwinds! It was surreal! Somehow we managed to ride nearly 80 miles in the chaos of winds and made it to El Rosarito where we splurged on a room to wash the sand from our eyes and get some actual sleep.
One more day of not nearly as bad side/head winds and we arrived in Guerrero Negro. So weird to roll into a large town after fighting the desert for so many days in completely wide open desert. Beautiful, but man, it was a rough stretch. Today we are taking a rain day off here in town to finally get WiFi to catch up with all of you and call our families. Thanks all for your patience, we promise to write again and post more pictures soon when we get some stronger WiFi. Until then, keep on keepin' on...
Ville and I took a day off in Santa Barbara walking around and being tourists. Every now and then we need a day off the bike seats and a chance to enjoy the places and not just ride right through them. We stayed with my cousin Chelsea and her boyfriend Erik, thanks for showing us around and letting us stay guys!! Riding south we rode along the coast (had a long stretch with an amazing new bike lane just above the water) into Ventura, where we stopped to eat lunch and watch the surfers. Met Chris from Portland, OR/Ventura who works for Patagonia, thanks for the gear coupon Chris! From there we continued along Highway 1 making it to Leo Carillo Campround just before dark. As a camp spot with time to explore, we hear this camp spot is sweet, with access to some beautiful tide pools along the water. For touring cyclists who show up before dark and ride out in the morning, this campground was the worst on the trip so far! $10/each for the crappiest construction site placed right next to the RV dump site, with not even boxes for our food (since we have no way of locking food in our cars, we rely on boxes to store food away from critters when in busy campsites).
The next morning we had to fix a flat in Ville's tire, and rode south through Malibu with georgous ocean views to our right and towering desert hillsides to our left. For miles we saw some pretty unbelievable homes and cars pass by, but as odd as it sounds, at 5 months into the trip and footloose and fancy free, I rather be on the bike traveling. If anyone remembers the beginning of the movie American Beauty, Kevin Spacey's character quits his big office job and goes to get a job at a fast food joint stating he wants a job "with the least amount of responsibility." After working full time jobs and tackeling a full house remodel for a year, we wanted a 2 year bike ride with the least amount of responsibility.
After Pacific Palisades, we rode into Santa Monica, where it had recently rained so the crowds were minimal and my friend, Danielle, came to pick us up with our bikes and we headed to downtown LA to hang with Dani's sister Kristen and her husband Adam. We got to check out their fancy, cool new loft space they have been remodeling and headed to Grand Central Market for some pretty epic food stall eating!! If you want to enjoy LA, you need to know people in the know. Otherwise, your just sitting on freeways. Thanks kids for taking us out and showing us a good time! After, we went back to Dani's place up in the hills of Montrose to stay a night and get spoiled with butter coffee for breakfast. Ville is still going through withdrawl and talks about it in his sleep :) Thanks Dani for taking the time to come get us and drive us all the way back to Santa Monica in the morning. When we decide where in the world we are going to live next, you need to move right next door so I don't miss you so much!
From Santa Monica, we spent the day riding down the coastline of LA, through Manhattan and Redondo Beaches, where Google Bike Map routed us through Torrance, Carson, and south along the LA River to Long Beach. Somewhere in Torrance at a stop light, a car pulled up to us and asked us where we were headed. When we told him where, he asked if we needed anything and if he could buy us lunch. We pulled over to Marie Callenders and met Ricardo, a local math teacher who had cycled a tour down the US coast some years back and was SO excited to hear about our trip. Ricardo, you really saved the day! It was the first time we didn't have much for lunch and didn't have much for funds to get lunch and you didn't know it, but thanks for feeding us.
I'm pretty sure Google Bike Route didn't account for sketchy neighborhoods that cyclists probably shouldn't ride through cause we saw some characters with lots of neck tattoos on our route to Long Beach. Along the LA River we ran into a guy (looking back it just might have been a stolen bike) who had a flat tire and we stopped to help him fix it. He "God Bless"ed us and headed the other way as we pedaled south. From Long Beach we rode along the coast through Seal, Huntington, and Newport Beaches. In Newport we rode inland along the San Diego Creek bike path to my Aunt Lori and Uncle Steve's house in Tustin. My Uncle Steve is a big cyclist/cycling fan and the reason Ville got into bikes. He took us to The Path Bike Shop where our bikes are getting a complete overhaul and shiny new parts as we head south into Mexico with a lot less bike shops. Thank you so so much Aunt Lori & Uncle Steve, your unconditional support & love is overwhelming! We made a quick trip down (by rental car) to Encinitas to spend Thanksgiving with Jeanne and Max ( I use to be Max's nanny and tutor since he was 7 years old in Bend and he is now 19 and going to flight school in Arazona, but only home for Thanksgiving) Thanks for having us for the holidays and we loved getting to see you both! See you again on the bike down.
Taking the week off to get bikes fixed, we have tried to see as much of my family here in the area as possible. Thanks all of you for taking the time to see us while we are in town, we love you all tons: Lori, Steve, Terri, Tom, Sara, Scott, Cindy, Steve, Josh, Travis, Sean, Eileen, Chelsea, Shannon, Kurt, Dominic, Gavin, Jeff, G.K., Chip, Taylor, Kendyll, Mike, Trish, Duncan and Meredith. If we forgot anyone, you are still loved!
K.G. & Ville
Ville and Kristen are in Zanatepec, Oaxaca, Mexico and heading south.
“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
Make a Difference!
Together, let's send this girl to Argentina!