(November 1 – written by Dave)
Yesterday we discovered the lower fun factor of riding I-5. And while yesterday was a Wednesday, it was technically the last day before a long weekend. Today and tomorrow are holidays here in Chile (today is All Saints Day, tomorrow is Reformation Day). So a good deal of the traffic we saw yesterday could have been related to folks trying to get out of Santiago for the really long weekend.
We were back on I-5 today just past 8AM and traffic was probably worse than it was yesterday. Today there were very few big trucks but cars and those long weekenders getting out of Santiago more than made up for the lack of trucks. It was mostly bumper to bumper. The shoulder remained very wide and it was more than safe enough for us but it was super noisy. We pulled off at one of those freeway rest stop/servos and it was an absolute mob scene. Cars were backed up onto the exit ramp and there was no place to park in the carpark. The line to the ladies bathroom was out the front door of the building. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to get a simple cup of coffee. We originally stopped for quick bio break but quickly just said forget it and headed off down the highway to find a bush.
We exited I-5 near the town of San Javier, found a bush and decided to look at the map for alternative routes. Mostly the cyclists ahead of us we have read about in blogs stayed on I-5 but we were seeking a more peaceful option. Looking at Google maps we figured out that by adding only a couple Ks to the overall distance, we could re-route and take small farm roads all the way to Linares – sold, we said goodbye to I-5 for the day.
Before we got very far into our new route, we came across a small bakery advertising empanadas and were delighted to find that they were open. They didn’t have any empanadas (they wouldn’t be available until 11am) but they had fresh bread rolls from the oven and when the baker/sales clerk offered to put butter and cheese on them, well, she didn’t have to ask twice. We hadn’t probably ridden far enough to have morning tea yet but we needed to calm our nerves from the I-5 madhouse.
From the bakery, it was nice, quiet farmland riding for the rest of the day. We saw mostly grapes but also a good number of fields with nothing obviously growing or planted in them. So, we are not sure what the main crops are in these parts. We stopped at a farm stand just short of Linares to see what might be fresh even this early in the season. We were delighted to find big, ripe, fresh strawberries – we picked up a bag for later afternoon tea later in the day.
It was just past noon when we reached Linares so we decided to have lunch before heading out to our planned campsite. It was coolish today and the inside of cafe we found was very inviting. We had lunch and lingered over the idea of grabbing a hotel room. Nancy even had a second cup of coffee. Rain was forecast and there was that chill that I mentioned. We went back and forth before agreeing to stick with the camping. We’d heard such nice things about the Sin in Más Lagos campsite, we decided to stick with the plan – given that the campground is 7k the wrong way out of town, sticking with the plan was actually a pretty big commitment.
We had feared that the campsite could be full with the long weekend but needn’t have worried. We are the only folks here and have a very nice campsite all to ourselves. The woman running the place is very kind and helpful, even letting me use one of the un-occupied cabanas when Nancy had trouble getting a proper warm shower in the units tent people are suppose to use. We are set-up in the back of the complex and have a pole barn of sorts over our heads. We have pitched the tent under the pole barn so that it will not get wet from the rain. It’s been trying to rain all afternoon but we’ve not really gotten more than a few drops.
The campsite has at least 5 cats and one super friendly black collie like dog. The dog and campsite manager have been back to check on us a couple times. Well, I guess the dog technically comes for a tummy rub but it is nice to know that we are being looked after.
I have to stop here and get working on the stove for dinner. Tomorrow we really have no option but to get back out on I-5 again for most of the day. We hope/suspect that traffic will be less manic than it was today. We are heading for either San Carlos or Chillán – it depends on the rains holding off and how I-5 traffic stacks up.