(January 6 – written by Dave and Nancy, trying to get back into the swing of things)
We are back at it. Back at riding that is. Our study and tourist breaks are over. Given how little we’ve ridden in the past two months, we took it easy today. We rode only as far as Concordia, only covering 52k. This was part of the plan as we have some serious climbing ahead of us over the next few days. Mazatlan is at sea level. We are riding over 9,000 several times to reach Durango. Tomorrow’s planned ride is even shorter but it has close to 5,000 feet of climbing. Today we climbed a little over 1,000 feet.
We were sad to leave our comfy old-town hotel this morning. We knew we’d have some city riding to get through so we planned a Saturday departure and an early start. The only thing open for brekkie was the hotel buffet so that’s what we did – it was ok, but not so good that we over ate. It was a chore getting all the bags and bikes down to the ground floor without a lift but at least it was all down. Unfortunately all of the hotel staff were busy doing other things so we didn’t get any help getting things downstairs like we did getting them up to the room. Oh well, better get over the soft life we have been living.
We took a few photos at the hotel and headed out. I mapped out a route with only a couple turns so it was pretty easy navigation. It was only a little past 8AM and being Saturday, the normally busy roads we took were still quiet. At one point we made a right turn on Jose Maria Pino Suarez Street (no the name didn’t fit on a road sign – there was no road sign) and we knew that we’d left the tourist districts of Mazatlan. Things were clearly a bit less well off, with the glitz of gringo land gone.
At the end of Jose Maria Pino Suarez, we joined up with motorway, Highway 15. We had motorway riding for most of the rest of the day. There are advantages to riding on the motorway sometimes – while not scenic, the shoulder is usually quite large and traffic is always a long ways off. Most of the smaller roads have little shoulder so are not as safe if there is a lot of traffic.
There are two roads leading up to Durango – one is the old road, referred to as the Devil’s Backbone (Hwy 40), and the other is a new toll road with something like 115 bridges and 61 tunnels (Hwy 40D). While we want to take the old road, we have heard from a couple of cyclists that the initial section of the old road is not so great, with very little shoulder and quite a bit of traffic. We knew there was an exit off of the toll road to get to our intended stop today, so we took the toll road for today. I think we are technically not allowed on tollways (we did see a couple ‘No bicycles’ signs) but the police that passed us didn’t bat an eye – so it all seemed to be fine. Traffic on the toll road was pretty light so it was a calm ride.
We were on the toll road (40D) for about 20k before skirting a toll booth and exiting to head towards Concordia. No one paid any attention to us or said anything about us not paying a toll and we didn’t stop to ask – seems that it is ok. Once we exited the toll road it was only a couple of kilometres back to Concordia. From here we are taking old highway 40 to Durango. Highway 40D, the new tollway is only two lanes but it is much straighter and has a massive shoulder. It is so much faster than the old highway 40 that most of the traffic takes it. For us, the thought of trying to get through 61 tunnels is not too enticing, not to mention that there is little in the way of services along the road and very few exits to get to anything. The other cyclists we have followed that took the old highway have been unanimous about how great the road is, with super views and very little traffic.
We had some new “roadkill” today – back out on Highway 40D, we kept passing lone green peppers on the road. We didn’t pick any up but at some point I had to stop for a photo. I also snapped a couple photos out there for Frederik – he was very bothered when Nancy’s mudguard extender was not straight. I only got around to making it straight near the end of the day. The photos below are for Frederik just so that he knows that we did get it straight eventually.
We made it to Concordia around noon, just as planned. It was getting hot and we were tired but not overly stressed. Our hotel, The Posada del Virrey, has been used by a couple other cyclists and is more than adequate. We were early enough to get one of the first floor rooms so no schlepping the bags and bikes up and down the stairs.
Today is the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, the 12th day of Christmas. You can imagine that this a big deal in a mostly Catholic country. The main square was full of stages, jumping castles and hundreds of kids. Everyone seemed to be gearing up for a big night, with the highlight clearly being a special cake with hidden miniature baby. Apparently the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy tostadas for the family at the next holiday, which is sometime in February. We saw lots of ‘pop up’ booths today selling the cakes along the way today. We had our cake yesterday in Mazatlan (I (Dave) got the baby) so we didn’t hang out for a slice of cake tonight, miniature baby or not.
The main church in town is quite spectacular, having been built in 1785 from local stone. The town itself was founded as Villa de San Sebastián in 1565 by Francisco de Ibarra. Apparently Concordia was originally a center of gold, silver and copper mining. Given that the pilgrims didn’t make it to America until 1620, it kind of amazed me that this spot, on the far western side of Mexico, was 55 years older. The Spanish really did take on the new world with gusto.
We had an early dinner in a cafe off the main square called La Chara Enmorada Cafe. The owner was a very helpful woman named Angela, who explained to us that la Chara is the name of a bird (looks a bit like a magpie) that is found in a national reserve up the road. She spent a good deal of time with us asking about our trip and giving us advice for the road ahead. She even called the owner of the hotel where we hope to spend tomorrow night to make sure it was open and to let them know we were coming. Then she called the next town and helped us with a contact there. We had a delicious meal and left with Angela’s phone number, Senor Fredi’s phone number (for tomorrow night) and Senor Santos’s phone number (for the next night). Very nice people in this little town!
We have somewhere between 3,000 to 6,000 feet of climbing tomorrow. It’s hard to get an exact reading with Google maps in these more remote areas. We are taking Angela’s advice and shooting for an early start. We’ve learned that in Mexico, Sunday afternoon is better spent resting at a hotel than it is out on the roads with people finishing up their weekend.