So if I haven’t explained it very well yet, this trip is one last hoorah in Mexico before flying (I know, I’m cheating) back to Oregon to work for the BTA again. It seems wrong after a year and a half of completely new experiences to be heading back to the same city and (almost) the same job but I think it will give me a smooth and easy transition back from the wandering life. Plus, who knows how long it will last before my legs start involuntarily turning in a pedaling motion and I am off again.
I am calling this portion of the journey Round 2…Fight! because after 9 months in Guadalajara I can hardly call this the same trip, but I am still in foreign land. And just like in Street Fighter, the second round isn’t the same fight but it is the same battle. Resuming a bicycle trip is just like trying to get past M. Bison. It takes a lot of tries. Back in Ashland I said goodbye to my friends three times before finally leaving on a snowy day and with a head cold. In Guadalajara it took me three weeks to say goodbye, find all the parts I needed for Sir Norte before leaving with a (likely) broken rib and a hurt knee. Polo’ll getcha. The rib is getting better, but the repetetive motions of pedaling might make the knee worse for wear. We’ll see.
This first leg is a 3-day stint to Guanajuato with a stop in Atotonilco el Alto to sample some tequila (Patron calls the town home). On the first day I stopped for lunch in Zapotlanejo. I had ridden past the town on Christmas and thought it was nothing more than a poor town with car mechanics and little else. But when I rode to downtown to find the plaza I was greeted by parks with green grass and cobble-stoned main drag. As I worked my way through I passed five blocks of women’s clothing stores. I have never seen so many fine mannequin asses in perfect jeans, nor for that matter, fine mannequin bare asses beneath buxom bra-topped bodies. They say sex sells, and Mexico knows how to sell it even to the plastosexuals.
I ate my lunch in the plaza surrounded by stares and a fantastic view of the cathedral. A Mexican man who lives in Alabama smoked his cigarette over to my bench and we began a conversation in English that lasted for an hour. Seeing rain clouds crawl above the domed spire of the cathedral and spending 30 minutes more than I wanted for lunch I hopped back on the bike.
It wasn’t long before the wind from the coming storm blast me head-on and I had to stop to ready my ride for rain. Dust from a nearby parking lot scratched at my face just before an onslaught of rain plastered it to the ground. Of course, this was all perfectly timed to be at a hill. Nothing makes climbing more fun than a little headwind. As I crested the hill the rain stopped and I began a long, shallow descent towards Tototlan. I knew I was in the land of tequila (Jalisco is the only state where tequila is produced) when vapors of cooking agave wafted into my nostrils. A wide smile across my face and hunger boiled in my stomach. I stopped for a Snickers at a market across from a Los Hermanos 19 dairy factory. Two men came in after me to buy beers for the ride home from work. And of course, one of them was born in Los Angeles and wanted to speak in English. You can’t practice Spanish in Mexico because everybody wants to practice English! Once again, a 5-minute stop turned into half an hour. They offered me beer, mota, and a place to stay on their ranch. Actually, they told me to go into town and find one of the many beautiful women in Tototlan to stay with me at the ranch. I crassly declined (it’s not appropriate to be polite in this situation) and rode on. It wasn’t long before I passed the bridge I slept under on my Christmas trip and was sorely beaten by the headwinds. A pile of dirt behind a locked gate provided a hidden campsite and I read until just before dark and could set-up camp stealthily. I finished in the golden hour just as two workers from the nearby farm came to fetch a truck 100 meters from me. I ducked and hoped they wouldn’t see my mesh tent. Survived! I made a bean and rice dinner while dozens of mice scurried in the tall grass around me trying to get at my succulent meal. I warded them off with hisses, lighter flashes and branch swishes. Out-of-practice I climbed into the tent after eating and then climbed out to bring all food items into the tent to prevent the mice from chewing through my bags to get to it. This took three zippings and unzippings. I then felt a few small drips. So I vacated again to quickly set-up the rain-fly. I turned on my headlamp and did it as quickly and shoddy as possible. I did not think it would rain heavily. Again, just as I turned off the headlamp another truck zipped past, fortunately seeing nothing in the dark. I got lucky.
But not lucky enough to avoid the rain. I woke up in the morning to a heavy fall and a puddle in the middle of my tent that soaked my sleeping bag, iPod, a book and sleeping pad due to my poor set-up. Miserably, I gathered all my things once the rain stopped and loaded them onto the bike. Midway a truck passed by, reversed and said, “Que haces aqui?” Shit. “Solo campe en la noche. Voy ahorrita.” He nodded his head and let me be. Phew. I pushed my water-logged bike through the mud and got back on the road. The road was a depressing yellow with the occasional brown stream of rocks. This was completed most atrociously with gray skies and grisly naked trees. It’s hard to be more inspired when you are wet and cold.
I rolled into Atotonilco and was a little underwhelmed. First of all, there were no tequilerias to stop at along the highway. Only the very official Patron facility with a guard stall and three security trucks. Didn’t really want to bother with them, especially since they don’t really sell product in Mexico. My roommate told me that chatazos, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, soda, and tequila, in Atotonilco are the best in Mexico. I found one at 10:00 in the morning and was very unimpressed. It was good, but give me a good tequila straight or with Squirt and I’m set. The best part of the bar was the delicious caldo de camaron they gave me for free. Again, half-hour conversation in…English. Still wet, but a bit warmer I climbed the hill out of Atotonilco and found myself in Arandas. The town has a giant cathedral that can be seen very far out of the city. I watched two guys play with puppies in the square and had my first conversation with someone in Spanish. Again, too long. I have realized that if I keep talking to people my riding window is going to stay narrow. I’m not going to stop talking to people so I’m walking up early from now on. I stopped at a place to buy some tequila and ended up speaking with the clerk for another hour while the attendant searched for a special bottle of tequila (only $70 pesos too!). There is no escaping the talk. I finished out a couple more hills and set-up camp in the rain next to an agave field, this time prepared for the rain.
Sorry for the lack of pictures, friends. Lots of rain creates a lack of photos.