(October 10 – written by Dave)
Today was uphill and into the wind the entire day. Ok, to be fair, it was so slightly uphill, that it really doesn’t count. But boy, believe me, the wind counted. It would seem that the wind storm of a couple days ago had not quite run its course. Today we had wind from the start and it if anything, it strengthened as we rode. The only good news about the wind was the ride being so short so we didn’t have to slog it out all afternoon.
We have about 170k total to ride from San Juan to reach Mendoza. If we had a tailwind, we could do it in a day, but we didn’t have a tailwind. No worries, we had always planned on making it two days. As sometimes works out, the distances between towns, and logical stopping places is not perfectly spaced. Today we only rode 1/3 of the distance to Mendoza, tomorrow we have to ride the remaining 2/3s. The forecast for tomorrow is more wind, but lighter, so hopefully today being shorter will work out okay.
We got up early, not to avoid the wind, but rather to be early enough at brekkie so as to do proper damage on the buffet. The brekkie room opened at 6:30 and we were the second table to arrive. We outlasted the first arrivals and a good number of those that arrived after us. Facing a short day meant we could linger, graze and of course, have a couple espressos. We “accidently” took too many bread rolls and cold-cuts – woops – no sense wasting them however so we turned them into our lunch and snuck them out in Nancy’s vest (who does that anyway?).
There some construction out on Ruta 40, so I mapped out a route that took us on a parallel road for about 12k. There were quite a few traffic lights on the road and of course the wind was blowing against us. Nancy got a little frustrated as I was making her lead and she didn’t know the route – it was straight with no turns. It was probably a little harder mentally than anything. Luckily, our marriage was saved by the appearance of a very nice gourmet bakery right at the end of the 12k. We ducked in, out of the wind, got some nice chocolate scones and a couple of cortados to revive my senior editor (ok, revive us). Heading back out on the road, Nancy was much happier, in large part because I took the lead into the wind, but also because she now knew the route.
We soon returned to Ruta 40 but didn’t really enjoy the ride all that much. Sure, the wind made it hard but really it was more to do with the road construction than anything. Up north in Argentina, on the quieter highways, there was no paved shoulder – rather a massive un-paved shoulder and verge. Here, where there is more traffic, they made the road two lanes in each direction but they still kept the same treatment for the shoulder. Luckily, there was minimal traffic but it is very nervy riding with fast traffic, heavy winds and not having any safe place to ride. If two cars came by at the same time, or there was simply a driver that didn’t want to use the other lane, well, we had to share our lane or bail out. We bailed once. But really, it is not very relaxing to ride with an eye on your rear view mirror all the time. Assuming that Ruta 40 stays like this all the way to Mendoza, we’re in for a challenging day tomorrow – especially as we near the city and traffic increases. If only I knew who in the Argentina Road Work Department to raise a formal complaint with.
We didn’t stop but for nature breaks from the bakery until we reached Media Agua. While riding was slow, there just wasn’t much to look at other than maybe one shrine. Media Agua is a small agricultural town with some grapes and other crops being the focus. There is not much to town really. We stopped at the supermercado on the way to camp, more for snacks than anything as we have more than enough food for dinner.
Arriving at our planned stop, Camping San Antonio, we found the front gates locked. There was a side gate and lots of kids were going in and out of it but the front gates were locked. A nice young local lad came over from his house to see what we were up to and to speak of all sorts of worldly matters so fast that we had no clue. We think he said that there would be someone at the gates at 1PM, in 15 minutes. We waited a while, more boys showed up to inspect us and speak fast. They spoke so rapidly, our comprehension was very low, we were not sure what any one was saying – and being boys there was a lot of saying going on.
Eventually, we gave up on getting information from them and rode around to the side gate and let ourselves in. It was nicer inside as there was some grass and chairs for us to sit on. Eventually, one of the parents who was bringing his kids to the thing the kids were sneaking in for came over and spoke with us. We think that he gave us permission to camp, told us about the water (it is potable) and where the showers (cold) were. We’ve set-up the tent, sponge bathed and are settled in for the night – or at least until someone with higher authority than Carlos (the parent) comes over and tells us to move along. We don’t expect that this will happen.
As luck would have it, there are several marquees set-up where we could pitch the tent. It doesn’t look like rain, so that’s not the lucky part. Rather, they have lights so that we can get up super early tomorrow and try getting some miles in before the wind kicks off. We have about 115k to ride to reach Mendoza – we’ve booked an AirB&B and have no set time of arrival. So one way or another, we’ll get there tomorrow regardless of the wind trying to blow us back to San Juan at some point.
We are looking forward to another longish break in Mendoza and also looking forward to riding towards Chile from there – we hoping that Chilean road designers are a little nicer to us bikers…