(April 12 – written by Dave)
We’ve been off the bikes since the 1st of April and expected today to be hard on stiff old legs. And it may have been had we not been riding in crazy city traffic for the first 14k. We were both so focused on cars to left, bikes to right, pedestrians everywhere, motorcycles to the left and a whole stack of buses that pretty much went wherever they pleased. We ride with mirrors but dared not look in them for fear that we’d have to take our eyes off what was happening in front of us.
It was complete chaos!
We tried to get on Highway 90 as soon as possible because it meant fewer turns. Google maps didn’t seem to want to take us on Hwy 90 no matter what we entered. Now we know why. It wasn’t illegal and clearly we saw other bikes out there, but it was crazy riding with chaos at every turn.
It wasn’t just the “no turns” that attracted us to Highway 90. A few years ago a cyclist had their camera taken by a motorcyclist on Highway 90B, so we wanted to avoid 90B. Highway 90B was more direct than 90 but safety took a higher priority. Fear of “issues” also meant that we stuffed our phones into rear saddle bags and didn’t have them to help us manage directions. So, getting to 90 also meant that we’d avoid the need to check the route.
Anyway – we made it. At 14k we reached a toll booth and traffic died down a good deal. Motorcycles and bikes are free on the tollways here – and both are clearly allowed. We had a nice wide shoulder for the only climb of the day and mostly good shoulder for the rest of the day. Once out on the quiet tollway, and on the climb, we both felt the 10 days off the bikes in our legs. It’s amazing what a little adrenaline can do to one’s outlook.
The rest of the ride was relatively quiet. Being in a new country, meant we had a stack of new road signs to figure out. Most of them were pretty straightforward. Some of them were downright puzzling. The last one in the photos below is often posted in other cycling blogs. It doesn’t seem like anyone knows what it means (we think it has something to do with dimming your lights). I’d have to give it a fail when it comes to an effective design.
We reached our first potential stop at about 11AM – a truck stop at a highway junction. We knew that we were too early to check-in so we had second brekkies at the truck stop restaurant. This was your basic Colombian brekkie. I pushed the boat out and got the Huevos Rancheros. This basically meant that I got little bits of meat hotdog-like-things in my eggs. Nancy was more modest and just had plain eggs. Spot the difference.
While we waiting for our bill, I checked out the truck stop hotel. It is pretty basic but it had good WiFi so we called it a day. For $13 USD the hotel is actually not too bad. There is no shower head but there is a toilet seat. We’ve been waiting all afternoon for towels but we have our own pack towels so that’s not too big a deal. It would be noisy if we had a front room, where the trucks park but the check-in gal gave us a ground floor back room – so everything is pretty quiet and tonight it should be ok. We needed good WiFi today so that we could make some calls to the US to get our taxes done – life goes on even when you are on a bicycle trip.
For dinner, we are going to chance the truck stop restaurant again. Nancy just came back with afternoon tea of some little fried balls of cornmeal and cheese that she found in their “pastry case”. I’m a little worried that dinner will be something else fried but choices are limited when you spend the night at a truck stop, in Colombia, or any other country for that matter.
Tomorrow we have bit longer day planned, hoping to reach Tolu, a beach community. The whole area that we are travelling used to be homeland of the FARC and since the peace, many towns have been slow to lose their rough and tumble frontier edge. Tolu is supposed to be one of the more progressive towns with lots of hotels and tourist activity for the nearby offshore islands. We haven’t picked a hotel out, even though it is a tourist town – it just doesn’t feel like it is very busy here right now.
Depending on how dinner goes tonight, we may give the restaurant another go for brekkie tomorrow. It’s not fancy but they give you a lot of food for very little money. My senior editor may veto this grand idea, we’ll see… I think there might be a rule about how many meals within a 24 hour period that you permitted to eat from truck stop restaurants – even on bicycle trip.
And just in case you were wondering, the leftover pan queso that we saved for brekkie today – it was perfect – even cold.