(February 6 – written by Nancy)
Well, we had our first non-bike equipment failure this morning – our immersion heater is kaput. We use this all of the time to heat hot water – for oatmeal and coffee in the morning and for tea in the evenings, so to be without it throws a wrench in our normal routine. We will have to work around it until we can find another one – hopefully soon as we both really like a cup of hot coffee in the morning and a cup of tea at night is a nice way to unwind.
Knowing we had a long day of climbing ahead of us we left the hotel before 7:30, without our coffee. We made our way through the edge of town, passing by several houses with turkeys hanging out on the second floor – they obviously escaped the market we went through yesterday.
Once we hit the 135D cutoa (toll road) we had some great riding for the first 25 kilometers. Smooth pavement, nice wide shoulder and some great downhills. Despite the several “no cyclists” signs that we saw there were several groups of cyclists out on training rides – all gave us friendly waves and “buenos dias”. We finally got to the toll booth at about the 28k mark, where we rolled around the barriers and finally stopped to get a coffee. It ended up being an overly sweet kind of cappuccino but at least there was some kind of caffeine in it.
We finally came to a large bridge across a dry river and knew from other cycling blogs that this was where the climbing really started. And so we started the slower part of today’s journey. We essentially climbed from there for the rest of the day, with the gradient fluctuating between 3% – 6%. So, not really hard climbing but just a bit unrelenting. The sun was out as well, so we were nice and warm – actually it didn’t feel bad after the last few weeks of colder weather.
Part way up a couple of motorcycles pulled over – one wanted to take a picture of us so we stopped to talk to them. Bob and Doug, friends from Texas, were on their way to Oaxaca and on to Guatemala. They were a kick and it was fun to have a roadside chat with them – it was a nice break from the climbing. Soon we were back on the road, slowly ticking off the kilometres. We stopped about 11:30 to eat our sandwiches and watch the heavy trucks inch their way by, sometimes not too much faster than we were going!
Thankfully, the great scenery we had was a nice distraction from the climbing today. It was quite different than what we have seen the last couple of weeks – lots of mountains surrounding us, many covered with cactus and rocky tops. We’ve still not done “Road to the Sun” in Montana, but we’ve seen lots of photos – today the climb looked a lot like those photos. Very scenic and the light traffic and great road surface made the climb as enjoyable as long climbs can be. We did find one little store to get some more water.
We finally made it to the little town of Tepelmeme about 3pm or so, after climbing almost 5000 feet over the 80+ kilometers. We knew from another cyclist’s journal that there was a hotel on the highway right next to a gas station. We got our things into the room – kind of a strange little place but it seems relatively clean, the wi-fi works well and there is Sky cable on the TV, with CNN International, so we can catch up on what is going on. We had a bit of an issue with the hot water initially, but Dave went back to the reception and worked his magic and got them to finally send a maintenance guy down to check. Turns out the hot water heater wasn’t on – hmmm. In one of his several trips to get the water sorted Dave also snuck into another room and stole (borrowed) the toilet seat, as our room was missing one. Sometimes Dave really comes through….! (Junior editor’s note: Yes, yes, yes, I washed my hand thoroughly after said seat relocation)
We ate dinner at the restaurant at the hotel – the food wasn’t bad, though we were the only people in the place. We took our mugs with us and got them to fill them up with hot water for tea, so notwithstanding the loss of the immersion heater we are enjoying a relaxing cup of tea while we listen to the latest news on CNN (perhaps those two things are just cancelling each other out, though). I think we may be the only guests in this “lovely” hotel so perhaps it will be quiet – though there appear to be three guard dogs and that usually means it’s high risk for barking.
More climbing tomorrow, though not as much and the day is quite a bit shorter. Phew….