(February 14 – written by Dave)
First an update on dinner last night. We went to the restaurant next to the hotel, right next to the army/military check-point. The restaurant did not have a menu, rather they sort of made you what they had. The nice young gal working there spoke very fast when telling us the choices. Asking to slow down and repeat them (in Spanish), got us repeats but no slower speed. We eventually just said we’d go with the first choice, chicken something. Dinner came and it was pretty good – definitely fitting in the “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” category. We ate dinner while we watched the army guys pull over and inspect random cars. Every solder has an M16 – so it was a good safe dinner… I’m also happy to report that 24 hours later, we both had no tummy issues – dinner passed the most important test.
Our room was super hot overnight. We both can’t get over how it was only 10 days ago that we were worried about not having enough blankets and 3 weeks ago, if the hotel had heat or fireplaces. We are further south and lower now, longing for those cooler nights. Some folks are never happy!
We had a hard start to the day – 15k and 2,000 feet of climbing right out of the hotel front door. The climb was hard but neither of us went below 3rd gear, so it was not overly taxing. Nancy wasn’t feeling great – stuffy head – so I tried to limit my photo stops. Normally on a climb I can sneak in a few and let her just roll on. I have to do a mini time-trail to catch back up. Today was about the same but she was slowing more as well, using my photo stops as a chance to rest.
At the top of the climb there was a nice shrine but still no summit sign. Summit signs are just not a big priority here in Mexico. It’s a bit like recycling – something that’s not strictly needed to get through the day, so they don’t do it. We see a lot of folks burning their garbage as well. Everything that cost money has to be weighed towards its return on day-to-day living – sometimes a bit of a short-term view but understandable when you are mostly trying to survive.
Anyway back to the ride. We had a nice descent off the pass but I stopped for one too many photos and kind of made a mental note that with Nancy not feeling well, I’d better limit my photos to things by the side of the road that I could snap photos of when we were stopped already. Mental note was preceded by a stern, “what are you doing..”. Got it. Readers will just have to take my word for it that the distant mountain scenery was quite spectacular. Imagine smoky ridge tops extending forever, with lovely blue fields of agave in the foreground.
So, it being Valentine’s Day and armed with a new photographic mission flowers became my theme for the day. The first flower was not overly exciting but the rest were all pretty interesting. I may have to have more flower days in the future. They make for some nice images and they also keep my riding partner happy.
We did get a few other photos today. And we answered a burning question we’ve had for a few days. Since Oaxaca, we’ve seen very little traffic but surprisingly, a lot of big double flat-bed trucks with a pilot car. The pilot car is sometime close to the truck, sometimes, especially on the downhills, they are often miles ahead. The road is not a very good road and these trucks are probably on the limit of what can safely be driven here – thus the pilot car. All of the trucks have identical loads, covered in identical big blue tarps. Covered, they almost looked like loads of bricks but it’s hard to imagine it being cost affective to move bricks this way.
Well, at a snack stop today we lucked out. One of the trucks and pilot cars were stopped. Even better, for us, the load on the truck had shifted and the car and truck drivers were trying to get it repositioned. I say lucky for us, because it turns out the loads are bagged cement and the guys were having to unload tens of 50kg bags of cement, reload it, recover it and tie it all back down. They were covered in cement dust. Had the load broken through the tarp, or much worse, come off on one of the steep mountain corners, I can’t think what would have happened. Maybe that’s why there are so many roadside monuments to diseased truck drivers.
And finally, as noted, we see a lot of these trucks. Just in case you were wondering if professional courtesy would dictate that they help a stranded mate – the answer is a firm no! We saw several truck/car pairs pass without batting an eye. And even spotted two trucks stopped for lunch only 100 meters up the road. You, and your pilot car driver, are on your own out here!
We had one more climb just before lunch, reaching the top just at noon. We’d only ridden 45k by noon and we started at 7:30 this morning. And it wasn’t because I was taking too many photos. We had about 4,000 feet of climbing today and all of it in the first 45k. We had another 45k to ride after lunch but the first half was downhill so we made good time. The last 20 sort of became a chore as the wind from the north became quite strong. We were heading sort of Northeast so it was not too much fun.
We had another, later lunch at Oxxo on the edge of town before making our way to one of the hotels we had picked out. Tonight’s lodging at Hotel Emanuel is a lot better than last night. We did have to haul all of gear up a flight of stairs but we have a toilet seat and I won’t bruise my knees against the wall by sitting on it.
The wind is blowing quite hard still. We are heading towards the narrowest part of Mexico – between the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. This area is always windy. And we are not yet to the bad part. We know cyclist that have been blown off the road and/or faced 50 MPH headwinds here. Several of our friends grabbed a bus. Tomorrow is a short day so we’ll leave early and be off the road before the wind comes up. The couple days after that, well, we’ll see how the forecast looks and make a plan then…
Meanwhile, Happy Valentine’s Flower Day!