I always have the worst luck when it comes to leaving. I was late leaving Portland because I hadn’t cleaned my room. I left Ashland when it was snowing and I had a head cold. I left Guadalajara just when it started to rain. I think it is life telling me that I have to get through the tough times to enjoy the good times…so it creates them for me at the very beginning.
The day I arrived in Guanajuato didn’t start out with an absence of rain. It persisted even though I set my alarm for 5:30 to get a good, early start to the day. I packed up, wet and tired and escaped from my agave field campsite as the delivery trucks started their engines. The early morning, no matter how miserable, always provides me with an extra jolt of energy and ability. I was going at a nice clip and enjoying the damp scenery. Sure there were still the drab yellow hills with the brown and gray dashed in there, but now they had trees! Trees with dying leaves from some forgotten fall softened the edges of the bald hills like infant feathers on a baby vulture’s head. The road rounded down the flats into a downhill bomb. I cranked on the pedals and enjoyed the effortless ride…and then saw a pothole. I was headed right towards it. Too late to turn away, I tried to lift my weight off my skinny front tire. Thunk! Pssht! Busted! I pulled over, just as the bomb was turning into a small climb. A flat tube just in time to kill all upward momentum. “Fuck you.” I said to Sir Norte. “Why did you do that? Fuck you, you just ruined my day. No matter what happens the rest of the day, it is ruined.” Fortunately it was a quick fix. Unfortunately there was a hole in my tire. Fortunately I have been carrying five emergency boots for just such an occasion (Cool biker tip: dollar bills work well too, just not as long. The more expensive the better).
The rain poured on and my legs stroked on. But then something happened. Lush, green fields started popping up on all sides of me. And then, with a small headwind and slight downhill I came into the state of Guanajuato. “Woohoo!” I shouted and pushed on hard. As rain splashed off my helmet, soaked my gloves, potential opened wide for me. I could get to Guanajuato at any time, and if I wanted it could be before dark. I grabbed hold, shifted gears and for the first time of Round 2…Fight! I felt I had my ol’ legs back. I even laughed as a group of five dogs chased after me and wouldn’t let off after repeated shouts of “No! Vete! Basta!” I was again a touring cyclist.
I rolled through lunchtime until I passed through a few roadside food carts. My stomach rumbled and I asked a couple of old men drinking beer outside of their car on the side of the road where the next taco stand was. Sure enough, one of them used to live in the United States and so we talked.
Twelve kilometers away was the next food cart. I passed a couple of cyclists who said, “Que tal, maricon!” Maricon? “Chupa a mi pito, cabrones!” I called back. The town ahead was Silao. I was amazed at how many people were riding through the rian. All of them streaked like road-skinned skunks as the rolled their bikes into one of the many markets, bike shops, or hardware stores. Bike racks lined the main street and guys in baggy clothes peered from open doorways over their bikes to my fully-loaded machine pulling into a restaurant for two lonches. The women at the restaurant looked at me like my mind had drowned in the rain as I loaded onto Sir Norte for the final 40 kilometers to Guanajuato.
Someone said to me that a bike trip must be relaxing. And it is, except for when you are around noisy, busy roads. And the highway to Guanajuato was that. I dodged exiting cars and flaring trucks. Signs ahead pointed towards the free road or the toll road. The toll road is always wider and smoother and more direct than the free road. I ducked my head at an approaching “No Bikes” sign on the toll road. And then another. And another. There must have been around eight “No Bikes” signs. In between each sign I thought of excuses to say to the police at the inevitable toll gate.
At the end of the day, my rear tire always feels a little squishy. This has more to do with fatigue than with actual air pressure malfunction. Well, not this day. Right as I’m headed into the last hill of the last three kilometers I look down to see that I am running on rims.
I fixed it and got through the checkpoint without any hassle. When I come to a city what I usually do is head for el centro, downtown. Well, in Guanajuato I came to a roundabout at the top of a hill. The route to el centro ended with a dark tunnel. To the right was a giant climb and to the left was a huge bomb. Remember Rev South? While I stopped in Guadalajara, Acey and Davin stopped and lived in Guanajuato. Acey told me that Guanajuato isn’t a very bike-friendly city. Lots of cobblestone streets and hills. He also got his bike stolen in Guanajuato. Not a fun place to get lost looking for a place to sleep with a fully-loaded bike. I asked around for internet and came to the conclusion that I would have to go to a hotel to beg for internet. And beg I did and paid dearly for it. Forty pesos an hour and I’m pretty sure it went in the receptionists pocket. I found a hostel and headed out in the dark and rain up and down hills around the city, through a tunnel, and then…serenity. Orange lamplights steamed fallen rain and illuminated a steep cobblestone street in front of a large stone building. Homes grew tall along the side of the road which curved its way down to a dim and leafy park. I smiled at the antiguity of the place.
I headed dowbhill and passed more parks in a couple of minutes than I ever saw in Guadalajara. Tamale and taco smells drifted into my nose and tickled my stomach but I staved them off until I was dry. I got lost almost immediately. Because of the two hils that collect the city into a puddle like a lifted tarp collects water there is no grid system. Everything just winds to the left or to the right…or up or down. I got off the bike so I could walk and ask directions better. All of a sudden a skinny alley came off my right and a small, three half-level cafe greeted me with college students in front of laptops. There must be hundreds more of these little alleys with secret cafes or bars. Finally, after many stops, many confusions, and many directions I found the hostel. I unloaded the bike and prepared my things for drying. I took a shower. Two minutes, but I wanted so much more. Went out for tamales and atole (a warm drink made with hot water, tortilla dough and various syrups for flavor). I went to sleep waiting for the day like a kid for Santa Claus. I couldn’t wait to get lost again, in the daylight.
No pictures again because of the rain…but wait until the next one.