Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ride Day 179 Coatapeque to Antigua

Today I ate a huge breakfast of fruit and yogurt with granola followed by a 2 egger with refried beans, fried plantains and bacon with tortillas and of course coffee and orange juice. I needed energy cause I was thinking about riding all the way to Esquintla 90 some miles away. The ride out of Coatapeque was rough on the cobblestone roads. I had to stop and tighten the nuts and screws on my panniers from all the vibrations. I had some other nuts that could have used some help after all the bumps too but there was nothing I could do for them, the swelling should go down with some rest.

Once on the main road however it was relatively smooth for most of the way with some decent shoulder to ride on. The only places the shoulder seemed to disappear was in the areas where it was the most important like in the cities and on hills and curves. I survived it though. The road was especially bad and rough with big potholes in the cities I rode through. The terrain was mostly rolling hills again without anything real high just constant up and down. I stopped for lunch and rested for a total of 45 minutes trying to decide if I was done for the day or if I had another 40 plus miles in me to get to Esquintla. I went for it.

After around 90 miles very close to Esquintla my legs which started the day out like steel suddenly turned to rubber. At the top of a long slow grade in the high heat with humidity so high it was obscuring the views I could have had of the mountains and volcanoes, I had to stop and rest. Sweat was making it difficult to stay on my bike seat without slipping off and was blinding me running into my eyes. While sitting there trying to recoup enough energy to at least make it into town to find a hotel, a pickup stopped and offered me a ride to Antigua. I thought about it for about 3 seconds and then jumped into his truck. A vacation in the tourist filled city sounded good suddenly. I was planning on missing it because I have been there before. The man had lived in Texas for four years and told me it helped him tremendously in life. He seemed very successful now and happy. It was not far to Antigua but we talked all the way pushing my Spanish to the limit. He dropped me off a few miles from town and I rode the rest of the way. I did see another bike tourist coming up the hill while in the pickup truck but I have not run into him here in the town yet. I would love to talk with him about what and where about his tour.

I did go out and have a couple beers last night. I also ordered and ate a large meat pizza with the beers. The waiter was looking at me like I was some kind of freak eating so much. When I was finished eating it he came over to clear the table and I asked him for the menu and he almost passed out. I was only joking but in truth I could have still eaten more food. I burned a lot of calories going up all those rolling hills today.

I am only a days ride from El Salvador now and I am thinking about whether or not I want to ride through there and Honduras. I could take a bus for $43 to Nicaragua and that is sounding more and more like the best plan. Guatemala is dangerous but during the day there are plenty of people around to make it relatively safe traveling but those two countries have more isolated areas that I would have to ride through where the risk would be greater. I need to decide soon.

I only took a few pics and I can not upload them on this slow wifi connection so they will have to come later.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ride Day 178 Tapachula MX to Coatapeque Guatemala

I left Mexico this morning and rode to Coatapeque Guatemala. I was sorry to be leaving Mexico because before I left and for most of the time I was there everybody told me how bad and dangerous Mexico was. Well I was there for 2 months and everybody I came into contact with was wonderful. They were all happy, helpful, friendly, caring, fun, warm and I could go on and on. The few assholes that cause the problems in Mexico are seriously hurting the economy of the country. All the hotels and campgrounds were mostly empty, except for all the snowbirds from Canada. Mexico with just a little basic law and order and a lot less drug lords around could be a world class destination. I wish it would happen.

I rode out of Tapachula on busy city streets at 7 in the morning. Traffic sucked but I wove in and out and ran a couple lights to help me get out of town. There was a long grade at the edge of town but it was not too bad then there was a long slow slight incline that just made you work a bit harder even though it looked flat. I took the turn toward Hidalgo the border town and I was delighted to find that it was a very long slow downhill that allowed me to glide for miles or just pedal here and there. I arrived almost 50 kilometers later at the border.

I went into the Mexican side and got stamped out in about 30 seconds. Then I rode across the bridge after paying my 2 pesos to ride a bike over. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and watched the activities on either side of the bridge. Both sides had a very busy illegal border crossing that was crossing more goods than the legal crossing was, all of it was right out in the open. They were carrying big containers of gas because gas is way more expensive in Guatemala. They had giant innertubes that they tied plywood to and carried cars and small trucks across the river. There was an unless line of humans being taken across by coyotes. I was mesmerized watching all the action. There is obvious knowledge in both countries about this illicit trade but it was going on unimpeded so the officials are overlooking this.

Once stamped into Guatemala, again in about 30 seconds, I rode through town on the other side. I stopped at the park where I was told money could be changed. I changed my pesos and hit the road. I got taken for a few bucks in the transaction but it beat waiting in the long line I saw at the official bank.

As I rode along in the busy town, I felt like a one man parade. Everybody was calling out hello and waving or giving thumbs up signals to me. They seemed delighted to see a bike rider with a soccer jersey on riding through town. I waved and said hello as often as I was able to but there were many of them and only one of me. I stopped a few times to buy water and the shop keepers all wanted to chat. I had to repeat all the usual answers but I don't mind. The heat was slowing me down big time and I was drinking a lot of water to try to keep up with the water lost through sweating. I woke up this morning with a slight sore throat and during the ride I did not have the energy that I usually have. It could be I am getting a bug but I hope not.

I stopped at Coatapeque after about a 100 km ride and I was exhausted. I checked into a hotel for 12 bucks and took a cold shower then kicked back on the bed for over an hour before I went out and bought a whole chicken for three and a half bucks for a mid afternoon dinner. I gobbled the entire bird in one sitting thinking the whole time that I should save some for later today but such is life. Later I will just have to go out and get something else. If I get some energy that is. I hope I feel better in the morning because I want to ride about 90 miles and there are quite a few grades. More later.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ride Day 177 Tonala to Tapachula MX

I was full of energy today after the best night of sleep I have had in years. I wish I knew why I slept so well so that I could repeat the performance every night. I took advantage of the energy and tried to make as many miles as I could before the wind picked up on me again like it did yesterday. Again the road was flat to rolling hills but my beautiful shoulder disappeared. It did not make a difference though because the road was a four lane divided highway with very light traffic so all the traffic gave me plenty of room without any problems. The wind never came up to more than a light breeze which is a good thing.

The scenery was a dull brown as I started off today and it got greener and greener as well as more and more tropical. The trees were suddenly huge tropical hardwoods covered with vines and bromeliads. The birds were more varied also. There were more and more iguanas along the road and up in the trees. I saw two snakes but they were too quick for me to identify or get pics of. I must be slowing down. There were still coyotes and vultures and lots of grackles. I saw four caracaras, birds of prey which I love for some reason. I did not take a single pic though. I was too focused on getting there which is of course a mistake but hell I ride every day that I can so what am I missing I make for in volume of travel. That last sentence probably only makes sense to me.

I was wearing out as the heat built up. It was still cooler than recent days in the low 90s. I took a break under a big shade tree along the road and laid my bike down on the ground as I did so. About ten minutes later a Mexican guy in a truck stopped to check and make sure I was alright. He is just another example of all the wonderful Mexican people I have met on my ride through Mexico. After we talked for a bit and I assured him I was alright, he offered me a ride so I put my bike in his pickup and we rode the last little bit to Tapachula, the last major city in Mexico before the Guatemalan border a few miles away. He dropped me off right across from the ADO bus station which is the main first class bus company and pointed me to a hotel that he said he liked because it was clean quiet and cheap, three of my favorite qualities in a hotel. I have to agree with him it is a good choice for a hotel.

I spent some time online in the hotel researching Guatemala and my travel routes and options. The bus station across the street has a bus called Ticabus that will take you to Guatemala City for $23.00 in 6 hours, Managua Nicaragua for $46.00 in 24 hours or San Jose Costa Rica for $93.00 in 48 hours. It is a tempting option because there is no cheaper way for me to get to Costa Rica. The problem is, I want to ride there on my bike not on a bus. I will mull it over in my mind tonight. I am told that right off the bat I will have a long steep grade once I cross the border with the road topping out at around 12,000 feet. I may or may not ride out of here on my bike, or on the bus or maybe I will stay here for a couple of days. No tengo planes aun...PURAVIDA


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ride Day 176 San Pedro Tapanatepec to Tonala

I again left SPT very early before the sun was up hoping to ride in slightly cooler temps. The ride started out fine with a great wide shouldered road and perfect conditions with light traffic so I was flying along for a couple of hours. Then the wind started to whisper in my ear. In a few minutes it was blowing hard, maybe around 40mph almost directly in my face. My pace slowed down to a crawl. A very very slow crawl at that. I almost had to use granny gear at one point. I was tiring quickly from the effort it took. SO I stopped for a second breakfast to rest up and see what I could do. I talked to a lot of people about the wind and the general consensus was that this wind was abnormally high for this time of year. I considered stopping where I was for the night. It was only 9:30 in the morning and I had only been riding for three hours. I pondered my options and checked the map. The next town was 20 miles up the road. I figured I had all day to go 20 miles so I hit the road. It was brutal. The wind changed to come at me from the left hand side. That was dangerous because when it blows that hard you compensated by steering left and leaning left. Then if the wind lets up for a second you go flying out into the lane of traffic. My beautiful wide shoulder chose this point to disappear. It was very dangerous. I had to really concentrate to keep my bike safely along the side of the highway where traffic was increasing quickly. It took me a couple more hours to get those 20 miles but I made it and called it a day. Only fifty miles when I had planned for 90. Such is life.

I met a Mexican on a Honda motorcycle that rode next to me for about ten miles talking with me. He told me he wanted to practice his English and asked me to correct his errors. We chatted on and on mostly about his life and life plans. He had big plans and I like that in people. He had a plan to get there too, I also like that. I told him about my ride and where I have been and my plans to ride south until I feel like I have had enough. He was very entertaining to talk to with his open honest from the heart attitude. We split up when he had to turn off for his job which he was likely late for cause he rode so slow with me for almost an hour.

I am in a hotel cause the wind and heat were just too much for a tent today. Hotels run 12-20 dollars and are clean and friendly to bikes. Five bucks more if you want air conditioning instead of a ceiling fan. I stopped at a restaurant that serves local exotic cuisine like iguana, snake, monkey, peacock etc. i enjoyed reading the menu and should have copied it with my camera to show you, my bad. all I had was coffee. I a/m enjoying being on the road...more later maybe pics later too

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ride Day 175 Salina Cruz to San Pedro Tapanatepec

Today I was anxious to get out on the road. I have been crippled for the last couple of days due to the rough bus ride from Oaxaca to Salinas Cruz. My body was ready for a good workout. I did not really know what to expect as far as road conditions or anything else for that matter, I was riding blind. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the road was today. For 80% of the way there was even a good flat smooth shoulder for me to safely ride on. I left Salina Cruz before dawn and had to run a few deserted stop lights on my way out of town. The first 25 miles were mostly populated outskirts of Salina Cruz and Tehuantepec. At least the road was flat. The shoulder came and went along this stretch of road and traffic was light except for a few minutes near Tehuantepec. Once past there it was smooth sailing all the way with great wide shoulders for most of the road.

I did have some wind issues but I am not complaining. The wind was blowing about 20-25mph from about 10 o’clock which is a headwind but in this heat, 100 Plus degrees, the headwind was a welcome cooling wind that kept the sweat from dripping in my eyes. The wind did slow me down a bit but with the great smooth flat road I was still doing over 15 mph so I was happy.

I rode about 85 miles in seven hours and then came upon a road block. The road was blockaded by locals with fires burning in car wheel rims and a large mass of people standing on the roadway. They were soapboxing about whatever the protest was about and would not even let pedestrians go through. I rode along the almost 2 mile long backup of cars, trucks and buses and when I got to the blockade I just waved and went right through the fires and the group of people as they parted for me. I heard one guy yell at me in spanish, “Don’t you understand Spanish?” I smiled at him and answered in Spanish that I did not understand him. The crowd of protestors laughed at my response but let me keep riding. As I rode down the long line of vehicles on the other side of the blockade, they all waved and cheered at me. I just smiled back and kept saying buenos dias to them all. As I passed a group of onlookers along the road, I rode no hands and waved with my left hand at the line of cars and with my right hand at the onlookers. They got a kick out of that and cheered, whistled and clapped at me. I saw military trucks with soldiers heading for the roadblock while sitting at a cafe in town hydrating from my ride.

I rode the last five miles to San Pedro Tapanatepec on an almost empty road. I was tired but I felt great as I got to town. I got a cheap hotel room, for $13, and took a long cool shower to try to cool down. I will need to go out in town and find some food later after I rest up for a bit. Tomorrow I ride south some more but from here to the Guatemalan border it is sparsely populated and there are some mountains to cross. I will likely be out of touch until I arrive at the border. I only took a couple of pics but this wifi is not up to posting even those so later with the pics…