There are two types of people.
Okay, well I can’t actually say that. There are lots of different types, but when it comes to working there are two extremes. Those that live for it, and those that can’t stand it. In reality most of us fall in the middle, like politics, class, and milk chocolate. Some people see a forest and a calendar flips through their mind measuring the many days of long hours filled with chopping ahead of them. Others see the forest and want to build a fort in it with a bunch of peace signs.
Sorry to use such a stereotypical explanation and description of hippies but it takes one to know one. And being a hippie, I hate work. I’ll say it again. I hate work. Especially when its for somebody else and especially when it is on the weekend. That was why I went on a bike tour. I hated working. I was 25 and I was done. No more punching the clock for the man. No more staying late and no more meetings and dates. I replaced his whip on my back for a bike-drawn breeze. Alarm clocks forgotten for the slow progression of day and its waking light. Paychecks an unnecessary evil of the past as poached campsites and day-old dumpster sandwiches filled my needs.
Well, to be honest I really loved my old job and my boss was a woman.
But the point is that I loathe my new job teaching English. I wake up thinking of excuses to explain for skipping class and hitting the snooze button. I complete my paperwork incorrectly on purpose to get even with the bureaucracy of the office. And sometimes I don’t say hello when I go into the office. Sure this may sound a little rude, but they deserve it. I have to work eight hours every Saturday. Starting at 8. Boo.
Now this wouldn’t be so bad if my weekend was extended until Monday, but it isn’t. No, this whole working Saturday thing has completely messed with my happiness. I do not have a single day without some prescribed activity. Monday-Friday: work. Saturday: work. Sunday: polo. I have no free time which means no time to explore Mexico. Since coming to Guadalajara on Easter I have not left the city once except for a lovely but exhausting blitzkrieg week for my cousin’s wedding. I thought about that this weekend and realized that is completely out of character for me. While living in Portland I left the city at least 8 weekends and 3 weeks out of the year. For 6 months I did nothing but travel. I need to explore. Places are not to be taken for granted they are to be scavenged, they are to be uncovered, they are to be investigated! I have always been doing this. In every city, home, park, neighborhood, school, church, whatever. I know where things are and where things were. In the middle of a bike tour I have abandoned my instincts. And for what?! $85-$120 pesos an hour?!
But last weekend, ooooooh last weekend it was different. I was to have three glorious days of work-free wonder, rest and relaxation, and best-of-all time to explore! Thursday night was seeing the celebration of freedom, Friday for pensive thought on freedom. Saturday and Sunday? Living freedom by camping in the wilderness.
Loaded up and ready to go we headed out to La Primavera, a huge forest that borders the Guadalajara metropolitan area. Everyone had warned us that it was illegal to camp in the forest and very easy to get lost, but we were not afraid. Nothing could stop us. Except for the hold that deflated Carla’s rear tire after five minutes of riding. But that didn’t matter. We were going camping!
My spirits soared as we quickly came to the end of the city and were granted a shoulder away from traffic. Vegetation glowed green in the sunlight as the buildings began to disappear and deluxe vacation homes poked their roofs out from the leaves of nature. I had forgotten how the bike felt loaded, but I quickly got reacquainted and reveled in the effort of pedaling and the breathing of prolonged riding. I saw a small road on the other side of the highway that I thought might be a good entrance to find a hidden campsite since I thought it was illegal to camp. We turned around and came upon a man walking his bike home from work. He had a flat so we patched it while we asked him for camping advice in the woods. He told us that people camp there all the time and that there were a lot of folks at the moment camping. Since we were clearly foreigners, he warned, we should be sure to make friends before we go to sleep. Thanks dude.
We headed back out towards the entrance to La Primavera but five minutes later my bike felt weird and I looked down to see my rear tire quickly flattening. A rusted nail had viciously stabbed my tire. I patched it, but not before breaking one of my tire levers. One left. Hopefully we don’t get another flat and break that one too. But while I was attempting to inflate the tire it just would not go. Very carefully I popped the wheel off and investigated. There was a small lift in my patch job, so bad job on my part. I ripped it off, patched it again. I put the tire on and PING! The tire let us know it had seeded itself but the sound was similar to the sound of the tire lever breaking and gave Carla quite a fright. Once again I tried to inflate the tire again. Nothing going past 20 PSI. Argh. I took the wheel off again and investigated. The goddamn nail had gone through the tube and left three small holes on the other side. I took care to do a quality patch job and reassembled the bike. After about 20 pumps I finally got past 20 PSI to great relief.
To get to the forest we had to ride through a small town, which, although it was downhill, was the hardest part of the ride. Cobbled roads acted as a poor excuse of paving and rattled our bones, brains, and muscles as we slowly braked our way down the meandering route. Carla especially hated it was she doesn’t have a very comfortable seat and thin tires.
We rolled into the entrance for La Primavera and I was surprised to see how official it was. A gatehouse, paved road and a concrete restroom greeted us in the setting sunlight. The gatekeeper let us pass without paying and we rode in passing grazing cows and barbeque smoke. Many families were riding horses on dirt roadside paths. Most Mexican parks are chock-full of activities. Bikes, or horses for rent, zip lines to fly on, rides to ride on, and trampolines to jump on. It is rare to find a park that is simply a park and La Primavera was no exception. A few stands were selling coconuts and elotes, a warm and sweet, cream-covered corn treat that I have yet to try but it smells and looks delicious.
Eventually the pavement disappeared and giant rocks became our road. Again, Carla was in trouble, but it was only a short time before we found an awesome campsite looking over a valley, completely separated from anybody. After setting camp it started to rain so we hid in the tent to wait it out. Thunder cracked in above us and sounded like a gas fire fluttering to death. We spent about an hour struggling to get a fire going. We had planned on having a big dinner but neither of us was hungry and so we shared a meal of a bottle of tequila and peanuts in front of the fire and spent the night talking under the stars. A party raged somewhere in the distance and treated us to traditional singing of Mexican rancho songs and the faint colorless flashes of fireworks.
Carla and I were both restless at night. She was afraid of some thief coming for us in the night and I was worried over some creature stealing our food. I heard a dog growling behind my head, near our food and so I growled at it and told it, “Vete…vete…”(get away) but it came out slurred and unclear so I barked at it instead. Carla shook me awake. Apparently I do talk, or at least growl, in my sleep.
The next morning we rode off deeper into the woods to Rio Caliente, which lives up to its name. For the entire length of the river hot springs bubble and feed the river with hot water. Families had set up tents and were enjoying the warm water with barbeques and beer. Carla and I felt the water but on such a hot day it was a little uncomfortable for us, but we did enjoy lazing in the sun a bit and looking at the valley around us. It was nowhere near spectacular but just to be in that environment without artificial lights, without the sounds of cars and with fresh air was spectacular. I almost decided then and there that I don’t want to go to Mexico City, because it was these views that I appreciated and liked. Not the towns, but the different wonders that only the Earth can provide.
The ride home was mostly uneventful. We stopped for pollo carbon (barbequed chicken) and a beer and ice cream which made it a bit more difficult. Carla killed it. She was having a great time and I could barely keep up with her. Once we got back into town we passed a bus station filled with older ladies and even though I was a good five yards away from them I nearly choked on their collective perfume. Carla and I laughed at the back of a bus which reminded road users to respect cyclists and pedestrians. We think it should be on the dashboard of the bus. Some asshole apparently hadn’t read the sign before and nearly ran me over as it tried to turn, thinking that I, a lowly cyclist, would just stop for him because he was a car.
The trip was exactly what I needed. I’m like a poisoned video game character. My life is always depleting unless I fill it with nature. I am replete right now, but I worry that it might be too long before I can re-up again.