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!
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...
We limped into Portland on fumes, but Jordan (Kristen's brother) picked us up and we soaked in a long and much needed stretch of rest, relaxation and catching up with friends and family. We spent time with Jordan, Lisa, Sean and little Braydon (Kristen's sister, husband and little one), and met up with JBro! We had great times hiking parts of the PCT with JBro back in 2011 and he had just completed the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) a few days prior. After a few days in Portland, Oregon, JBro, Ville, and I got a ride from Suzanne (Kristen's Mom) to Bend, Oregon and our hometown where we finally put our stuff down and took some time off.
Once in Bend, I, Kristen, had to undergo PRP injections in my neck to try and heal an old bicycle injury I had when I was, of all things, doored by a car. The recommended time-off for healing is 2 weeks, and although really stubborn and wanting to get back on our bikes and hit the road, we decided to be good and actually take the time off. Here is some pics from fun times spent in Portland and Bend enjoying our friends and family while here. Thanks all for making the time to see us and for all the love and support you have given us!
Hello all our friends, family and supporters!
To celebrate our, Ville and Kristen's, arrival in our hometown of Bend, Oregon, we are kicking off a fundraiser for Carly's Kids. For those of you that don't know about Carly's Kids yet, Carly's Kids is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to provide underprivileged children access to outdoor education school. Your charitable contribution is tax deductible and directly impacts, enriches, and inspires kids.
Would you like to help support Carly's Kids mission to help kids AND get a cool postcard from us from somewhere cool that we travel through while on our crazy Alaska to Argentina bike tour? Well, here is how you can help:
1. Click on the Carly's Kids link below or on the Carlys' Kids box on the right side of our page.
2. Click on the button DONATE
3. Donate a minimum of $20 to help kids in need get to outdoor school and before you checkout, fill out the following information in the comments:
We Lost The Map
Name (of who will receive the postcard)
Mailing Address (where to send the postcard)
Thanks all for the continued love and support along our journey! Cheers to Bend, Oregon, Carly's Kids, and 3400 miles. Keep on keepin' on!
Ville and Kristen Jokinen
We Lost The Map
This stretch was, um, depressing, stressful, and took a LOT of patience and compassion on our part. That is a wide array of emotions so I'll explain. We had heard great things about the Olympic Peninsula before heading there. Enough to decide that if there was some extra miles involved to go north again, west, then south before having to head back east to get into Portland, it would likely be worth it. And let me say this first, if you are driving a car around the Peninsula and make your way into the Olympic National Park to hike, camp, or check out the handful of rainforests there and then get back in your cozy car out of the rain and turn on your windshield wipers and drive yourself back to a warm shower somewhere, it was probably epic! If your on a bike, in our personal opinion (and keep in mind folks this is our opinion based off our experiences that may be different for everyone), SKIP IT.
First of all, the scenery was not very memorable other than beautiful forests hacked into a patchwork of clearcuts and fairly recently replanted forests. The whole whopping' 15 mile stretch along the coast had only peekaboo views of the water and then we were back inland until we were nearly to Astoria. However, the brief road winding the shoreline of Crescent Lake was pretty and the very southern Bone River Natural Area Preserve was georgous. The road itself, Highway 101 along this stretch was terrible for a cyclist! Chipseal pavement, mostly little to no shoulder, and a constant stream of traffic and logging trucks flying by you at excessive speeds. Every town we passed or stopped and spent time in; from Port Angeles to Forks to Humptulips (no, I'm serious this is a real name of a town, Google it) seem to exist in sheer part thanks to logging. And the occasional tourists, but mainly logging.
Also along this stretch was more garbage (diapers, whole bags of trash, bottles, car parts, tires, and even an entire back seat of a car) scattered all along the road. There was a handful of houses along the road, but mainly trailers, (one had a cool Playboy Bunny towel covering a window and the other a Duck Dynasty towel), the characters in Safeway where we stopped in Port Angeles to eat and hang out tent to dry were just that, characters. We stopped in Forks to eat breakfast in a park under a shelter and watched 6 different drug transactions go down in the 20 minutes we were there and even met a few nice junkies with soars on their faces and everything!
What we very quickly realized, was all the locals and loggers HATE bicycles and the cyclists. There was broken bottles and glass everywhere, and I really mean everywhere in the bike lane. We had more glass just on the Olympic Peninsula in about 200 miles than we had on the entire rest of the 3,200 miles! It became really obvious quite quickly that it was not coincidental. We even had quite a few cool people in trucks gun it right next to us mere inches from us on purpose to let us know we were not wanted. So after our 3rd flat tire (on the Olympic Peninsula alone) our blood was nearly boiling and now we are left trying to change a tire on a busy road with no shoulder and no where to pull off. Sweet, thanks.
What we had to keep reminding ourselves as our stress and anxiety level rose, was that most of these people are poor, uneducated, unhappy, underpaid, under appreciated, and they are taking their anger out on cyclists. I feel really sorry for them. They must feel stuck in their situation with no way out and when their stress and anxiety levels rise, they look for someone to blame. We also saw more TRUMP posters, stickers, banners and such on this stretch than anywhere else. If you are asking yourself why, reread this paragraph. There is a correlation. Needless to say, we HATED this stretch and it was a good lesson in patience and understanding for those less fortunate than ourselves and really unhappy in their lives.
After kicking our asses and riding over 90 miles a day for 3 days (we were soaking wet and really ready to be done with this stretch), we camped just north of Astoria on the coast in a campground where we finally met a super nice couple, Deano and his gal pal, who welcomed us to their fire and invited us over for breakfast and coffee in the morning before we hit the road. Keep rockin' it in your birthday suites you two!! And with a 4.1 mile ride over the Astoria-Megler Bridge first thing (we had to see over 100 dead birds smashed on the bridge), we jumped right on Highway 30 and made a beeline for Portland. Having never driven the highway, I made the assumption it was flat following the Columbia River. Wrong. It had at least 3 giant passes full of fast cars, completely blind curves and no shoulder to climb. By the time we limped into Portland for the 4th consecutive over 90 mile day, Ville's knee was hugely swollen and back locked up from being blown over the handlebars by a passing truck!
But boy were we glad to see J-Lo (this is Jordan my brother who lives in Portland)!! He drove to pick us up just outside the city (thanks so much to the guys at Barlow Bikes & Boards who got Ville's bike back riding straight after his fall) and after putting bikes in his apartment in North Portland, we headed out for some damn fine Thai food and stiff drinks. The next day we were able to connect with JBro (our good friend Jonas from Germany who we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail on and off with in 2011) who made it to Portland after completing the Continental Divide Trail a few days prior and waited for us in Portland to show up. We went out for beers to celebrate and share travel stories at a walking street fair before all heading to Tualatin where Lismeister and Alejandro (my sister and brother-in-law) live with our nephew Braydon. Mr. Braydon was a crawler and only being gone for 2 in a half months, he is now a full-on runner. Spent a day being tourists in downtown Portland, eating and drinking everything in sight, and then Mrs. Magoo (my Mom) drove up from Bend to pick up this motley crew and take us to Bend!!
The ride from Victoria back to the ferry terminal up in Sydney was meandering through the heart of the vibrant downtown Victoria which turned into a great biking trail through tall canopied trees, rolling pasture land, along country roads, along ocean vista bluffs and straight to the ferry. The only ferry that stopped on San Juan Island left at 5:55 pm and while standing on the top deck watching the thickly forested islands glide by, we got chatting with a girl, Kate, from Montana. Kate was on a week long random vacation with no plans and ended up on the ferry through the San Juan Islands with the plan to get off at Anacortes. We very quickly talked her into getting off the ferry with us on San Juan (her car was parked just in the right spot to get off), and we agreed to meet at San Juan County Park. Ville and I had to haul butt to get to the park right at dark and Kate had got a great camp site with the camp fire roaring and even a full spread of Thai food she picked up in Friday Harbor! Ya Kate!
The next whole day we spent at Lime Kiln Park and the parking lot on the bluffs just south of, waiting to see if we would be lucky enough to catch the orcas swimming by. On the west side of the San Juan Island, there is a very steep shelf that drops steeply off right at the shore that makes for an excellent place to sometimes view the local pods of orca whales right from shore. We had heard they hadn't been spotted in over a week and so after sitting for a couple hours, were pumped to see a large pod of them swim right in front of us feeding on salmon. It was pretty awesome! Sadly, these beautiful whales only eat King Salmon (an endangered species) and therefore are now an endangered species themselves. Of course because we all love to eat the salmon, they are still overfished, but the whales are not able to adapt and eat other fish and are therefore slowly dying off. If you want to do something to help, get educated on the issues, and get involved, don't eat King Salmon or donate to foundations working to help the salmon and whales.
We made the loop around the Island, all the way out to the lighthouse on the south side of the island and finished with delicious fish and chips at the Bait Shop in Friday Harbor. While standing in line, Ville turned around and recognized Chris Pratt standing in line behind us and asked, "Excuse me, are you Chris Pratt?" at which he said, "Yes I am" and Ville told him how much we enjoyed watching him in Parks and Rec and Jurassic World. After telling him about our ride, he seemed super excited about it and I am sure he was thinking what complete lunatics we were for riding bikes for so long . Since it was only us in the tiny shop we were able to chat for a while with him and his son and when he left, we watched the teens start freaking out and chasing him down a street. Ville deals with that all the time being so dang sexy, so he knows how annoying that is. Chris, you ever need a break from being a big movie star, you can join us for a little bike ride. If Jack wants to come, he can peddle my bike and I can sit in a kid seat on the back. :)
Kate left to catch the ferry (we really miss you Kate!!) and Ville and I stayed another night at our new favorite campground, and cycled in the morning to Roache Harbor for donuts. We are pretty pathetic these days, someone mentions good food anywhere and we will climb hills for it. On the way we passed a random suit clad dude with a beret walking along the side of the road shoeless. I wasn't sure if I should have stopped and offered him my extra running shoes, but he looked like he was a shoeless man on a mission and we rode on. Then in town we had to mail Kate her axe she left from the post office (thank you nice Mr. Postman for not thinking us nuts for mailing an axe) and then passed a girl who had driven her car off the cliff down into the water and the paramedics there trying to talk her down from hyperventilating. On the road back to Friday Harbor, we passed a camel in a pasture and then agreed that this island has been quite the experience!
We grabbed the ferry over to Orcas Island next and had a great ride around the island to camp at Moran State Park. In the morning we decided we needed a good ass-kicker and rode up to the top of Mt. Constitution with all our gear. It was a super fun ride up, even better on the way down, and some great views from the top. Back through town and then we caught the next ferry over to Lopez Island. Each island in the San Juan Islands has very different personality as well as terrain. Lopez all the locals waived as they passed by, littered with farms, was pretty laid back with a tiny downtown and the flattest of all the islands making it great for easy riding. Orcas was the hilliest, very lush, had a huge State Park to adventure in and is full of characters. We met a guy in the library who showed us on his Orcas map ring places to see, where to get killer weed, and left with his Looney Tunes DVDs. True story, I can't make that up.
San Juan was medium sized hills, mix of thick greenery and grassland and a very mixed bag of people. Lots of summer homes for those pretty well off, eccentric places with trailers and buildings made to look like fruit, a very hoity-toity Roache Harbor, and the easiest place to view the orcas. On Lopez Island we camped out at Spencer Spit State Park where we met a huge group of friends and their kids on Labor Day holiday from Seattle areas. They invited us for dinner, breakfast and to share in their company. Was really nice to feel so welcomed. The next morning we ferried over to Anacortes and cycled south the entire Whidbey Island, through Deception Pass and caught the ferry over to Mukilteo.
Right outside the ferry we had a couple beers to celebrate hitting our 3,000 mile mark on the bikes at the Diamond Knot Brewery. There Dan the Man (my Dad's friend from childhood) drove up from Burien to get us and we got showers and a warm bed to sleep in. It was really nice to get to start seeing friends on this trip and hugs and love has been so special after so long in the wilds of Alaska and Canada without. Dan took us to Mexican food, ice cream and we then connected with Jeff and Kristen (friends we met at the winery in Myanmar) and stayed at their place a night north of the city getting to catch up on travels. They peaced-out of their big jobs, rented their house as well, and traveled the world for the last 7 months so we had a lot to talk about. Only crazies like us can understand crazies like them :) Thanks Dan, Jeff and Kristen for all the time and attention you gave us on this ride.
From their house north of the city, we cycled along the waterfront down into the city and stopped to check out the space needle. There was some big music festival going on and the chaos was a bit maddening after the Islands. Ville's friend Jussi and Paula (from Finland) picked us up from downtown and we spent a night getting spoiled with great food, serious Pokemon card games with their kids and updating blog time. We even were cooked a tasty Finnish dish for lunch before heading back to the city to get back on the road. And now we are off, planning to take the ferry back to the Olympic Peninsula to cycle around it, down the coast of Washington and will be in Portland, Oregon in about 5 days. If anyone is enroute and wants to connect, give us a shout. Otherwise, see you all in Portland and Bend in about a week!!! YAY!
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!