[Did you miss us? After a month off from blogging, we’re picking up where we left off. In case you’re wondering where we are right now, we’re currently hunkered down in a quiet little town in Jalisco, a little over 5,000 feet above sea level, hoping to finish writing our Tiny House eBook. It’s an absolutely beautiful time to be here right now – the rainy season is coming to an end, mountains surround us and we have a short walk to the largest lake in Mexico. It’s lush and green, every imaginable flower is blooming and the daily temperature ranges between 72-78 degrees (22-26 C) during the day and goes down to around 60 degrees (16 C) at night. It’s heavenly! But I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that later…….now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.]
July 22 – August 1, 2012 :: Where We Left Off
We leave Escuinapa early in the morning, intent upon getting to our next stop, the town of Acaponeta, before the mid-day heat can overtake us.
I love the meaning of the town Acaponeta’s name. It means, “Place near the river where the bean tangled in the reed grows”; which is formed by joining the translation of the indigenous Tepehuano word Acaponeta (Caponeta) which means, “place near the river”; and the Nahuatl Acatl-pol-etl-tlan, which means, “place where the bean tangled in the reed grows”. The area we are cycling through is heavy on agriculture, fishing and livestock. They grow corn (maize), beans, sorghum, tobacco, chile, mangos, avocados, tomatoes, wheat, sorghum, potatoes, soybeans, sugarcane and squash, among other things (*cough*, like Cannabis and Opium).
Close Calls :: Things We Don’t Tell Our Mothers
We had a hair-raising experience riding the free (or ‘libre”) road the last seven miles in to Escuinapa the day before last. Life tends to flash before your eyes when you’re in a narrow valley and see an oncoming tractor trailer nose its way over the hill ahead and then look in your rear view mirror to see double vision coming over the hill behind you – two tractor trailers neck to neck, one passing the other and doing so at break-neck speed. When you hear the guys behind you laying on their horns you know you’re in trouble. You look to your right to see there is no way to bail off the road without also tumbling in to a deep ravine. You’re body and mind kicks in to pure adrenaline mode. You have to make an instant and crazy-critical decision. Bail off the road right there and possibly die. Continue straddling the road and possibly die. Try like crazy to get to that narrow strip of shoulder you see just ahead before either of the latter scenarios can occur. In seconds, for good or bad, I decide the narrow strip of shoulder offers my best chance of survival. Obviously, I survived. But I will tell you that there is nothing so unnerving as feeling the momentum of multiple tractor trailers passing within a couple of feet of your body at full speed within seconds of you and your bicycle dropping off the pavement. I steel myself and grip my handlebars, close my eyes and feel the hot wall of air hit me like a brick, threatening to push me over the edge of land I’m teetering on. As you can imagine, it’s a game changer.
Up for riding the free road with no shoulder again tomorrow, honey? No. Thank. You.
So we both agree to ride the toll (or “couta”) road for the next few days. Supposedly, it’s illegal for cyclists to be on the toll roads but we’ve heard rumors of other cyclists riding it without harassment. It’s not our favorite kind of road to cycle. Double lanes bring loud and speeding traffic and it skips by a lot of the small towns that the free road goes through but it has wide shoulders, which will help keep us alive for at least a little while longer.
Once we’re out on the highway we realize we made the right decision. Traffic is low and most drivers move into the far left lane when passing us, giving us a worry-free day of cycling. It’s a nice departure from the stress-inducing activity of constantly calculating your chances of survival. Without having to maintain a tight line while teetering on the edge of an often crumbling shoulder, we are flying!
Our Favorite Part : Meeting people in Towns
By early afternoon we’re rounding on to the exit to Acaponeta and when we meet the toll booth the staff stops us and tells us to cycle off the road and around the back of the toll buildings, where we’ll be out of range of the cameras, then wave us on with a smile. Guess they’re getting used to cyclists coming through and are choosing to turn a blind eye to the “illegal” (or deadly) nature of sharing the free road!
A few miles outside of town a man furiously waves to us from a small roadside café attached to a hotel. We stop to chat with him a bit before heading in to town for a meal. As we’re standing there, two boys pull up on their own bicycles, huge crates of mangoes bungee-corded to their wide rear racks. As they unload the mangoes in to a crate against the building they whisper between themselves while staring at our bicycles.
I smile and say hello and that’s all it takes. They’re both immediately next to me, question after question falling from their fast moving mouths. I laugh and utter one of my most used requests…..”Please, are you able to speak more slowly?” but even their speaking slowly leads to a mostly-miming conversation. Heads bopping around my bicycle, they point to one thing after another, waiting for my bumbling explanations.
“Agua……Agua….. Agua.” I say as they point to each water bottle. Nods and smiles.
“Gasolina,” I respond when they point to the canister hanging off the underside of my frame.
“Ahhhh!,” they say and smile and nod. But then they look confused and ask why we need gasoline if we’re riding bicycles. Oh boy. Here’s where it starts to get fun. Let the charades begin.
“Comer (to eat),” I start off with, combined with miming cooking over a stove. They still look confused. I form the stove with my hands, imitate lighting a fire and stirring in a pot. I bring the imaginary spoon up to my lips and pretend I’m eating. Eventually a face lights up, smiles, nods then quickly informs the other of what I mean.
When they realize we’re heading toward town they frantically wave their arms at us and start throwing the mangoes recklessly from their crates into empty crates lining the wall. They want us to wait so they can ride with us. We laugh and tell them not to hurry, we will gladly wait.
We get to town, drop our bicycles and gear off in a hotel room and head to the nearest restaurant. It’s only 2:30 in the afternoon but the heat is so intense that it completely drains us of any motivation to explore the town. After a leisurely afternoon meal under the fans of an open-air restaurant, we crash in our room for the rest of the day.
The next morning we leave at dawn, intent upon riding the almost 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the next town before the scorching mid-day heat can zap all the energy out of us. The ride is fairly flat with some gentle rollers thrown in for good measure, but by the time we cycle through the tiny town of Tijuanita to get to the bustling railway town of Ruiz, we’re completely fried (literally). We decide to take a rest day away from the heat and the sun and to mentally prepare ourselves for the long, hot climb in to Tepic.
What Doesn’t Kill You….
…makes you stronger. Or so the saying goes. And that’s the mantra I repeat to myself as we climb, and climb, and climb(!) in to Tepic. Even though it is only 48 short kilometers (30 miles) from Ruiz, the combination of the heat along with climbing from a little over sea level to 3500 feet makes for a long, hard day. The occasional honks of encouragement from drivers passing by, the beautiful vistas and the sighting of waterfalls tumbling down from rocky cliffs into the dense green hills below help to keep our legs moving but, even still, we have to take frequent breaks under shade trees. We pedal in to Tepic well after darkness has fallen. We hobble, after a little directional help from the local police, in to the first hotel we can find. I can safely say this was the hardest day of cycling we’ve had to date. The climbing just never ended and the heat combined with altitude gain really sucked the life out of us.
The next day we ease our way another 11 miles. Passing through down town, we make a detour to check out the town center, to take in the hustle and bustle of the city and to grab a late lunch. Eventually we make it to the other side of town where we settle in to the cheaper Hotel Tepic for an extended stay (more on why in the next section).
Gold-Medal Winner for Quickest Dash to the Toilet
Why the extended stay in Tepic? Well, I had been dealing with a manageable case of diarrhea for a couple of days prior to our reaching Tepic (I could make it off my bicycle to a fairly hidden location off the side of the road at least) but my body had decided to kick it up a notch over the last 24 hours. Kai was starting to experience similar symptoms and with another day of heavy climbing ahead of us, neither one of us was interested in pushing our bodies to the limit when we could have the luxury of a porcelain throne within a few feet of us. We’re not much for taking drugs, rather letting our body take its best shot at working things out on its own, so we settle in to our respective lounging positions in front of the tele, where we watch Mexico’s 24/7 coverage of the Olympics (by the way, who knew trampolining was an Olympic sport?!). We take turns setting our own records, besting each other’s time dashing to and from the bathroom.
About a week later, when we finally had had enough, were tired of feeling weak and realized our bodies just weren’t going to take care of business in the way we needed them to, we both took an Imodium. And, WOW, does just one pill work to take care of business! In fact, it works a little too well, swinging you toward the other end of the digestive pendulum, which isn’t necessarily any better of a situation. Note to self & others: Start by taking only ½ a pill.
Summary Video July 22 – August 1, 2012
Music performed by a local band and recorded in Ixtlán del Río, Nayarit, Mexico,at the town plaza on a Sunday night.
Next Stop : On to Guadalajara