(October 11 – written by Dave)
We had low expectations for our Ruta 40 ride today. It pretty much met those expectations. The wind was not too bad but the road was not much fun to ride. It was 2 lanes each way for the first 15k – giving the cars and trucks an easy way to pass us safely. After that it turned to 1 lane each way and passing became a test of driver patience. Our mirrors got a good workout as did our nerves. We bailed off onto the dirt shoulder a few times.
The scenery was pretty boring as well – mostly scrub desert in all directions. Just as well really, as we needed to focus on the road and traffic. It probably sounds worse than it actually was. We never really felt unsafe; it was just low on the fun scale. I really hate to sound like a whinger but it was just one of those days that you have to get through.
I am better at riding behind, spotting cars and calling them out. So, that’s where I spent most of the day. Nancy got to sit on the front and break the wind for us. It is harder physically riding on the front but you don’t have to concentrate so much and it’s easier on your nerves. Today was definitely a day of “teamwork makes the dream work”.
We had lunch in the town Jocoli. It was 65k into the day and the first place we could stop for food or drink all day. No nice bakeries like we had yesterday. Lunch was a funky “milanesa” sandwich. Milanesa is some form of meat, flattened to about a quarter inch, breaded and deep fried (a bit like a chicken-fried steak, for those who know what that is). It sounds weird but in keeping with the theme that anything fried is good, it’s pretty tasty. The only issue was that we should have shared one as it was large and came with an egg and salad on top. Yumm.
We expected traffic to pick up as we neared Mendoza but it was not too bad the last 40k to town. It wasn’t until we only had 10k to go that we got the second lane back going our way but traffic was light and polite. At about 8k to go, we even got our own private bike lane. Getting on and off it was a little choppy at the intersections but it felt safer than the road so we used it. Getting to our AirB&B was pretty easy as traffic in the city not too bad either. We were not sure what to expect in Argentina’s second largest city.
Our apartment is nice, not as well kitted out as the Salta apartment but good enough. There is a Carrefour grocery store very close so we went shopping to stock up for the next 6 days – we are taking a mini-break here. The store was typical Argentina – that is an entire row of mate and heaps of dulce de leche. On the dulce de leche row, on the top shelf, they had a sign for peanut butter. I was quite excited to find that there was a solitary jar of peanut butter – yes, that’s right, one jar. I got out the camera, snapped a photo, and the quickly put the jar in our basket before another touring cyclist spotted it.
The first thing on the agenda tomorrow is to get our bikes over to a shop. We need new chains, a good, proper clean and most important, new bottom-brackets. The later have been problematic since Mexico. We got Nancy’s replaced in Cusco but it is still not right. The longer break here should give the shop plenty of time to get things sorted for our final push to the bottom. We are also keeping our eyes open for new tires – we are probably ok but it would be great if we could get a couple new Schwalbe tires for the back of our bikes. If not, we’ll just put on our last set of spares.
We’ll report updates from Mendoza as we make progress on Nancy’s to-do list here. I’m sure that a there’ll be a few glasses of malbec.