Days 167-177: 10,000 km, 2,700 m, and a whole lot of orange juice

Guadalajara to Tecamachalco 784 km

Yes, it is true we have hit quintuple digits, we were at about 2,200 meters above sea level about 100 km north of Mexico City.  Now we are below Mexico City, in one of many little and vibrant towns taking the afternoon off as Glenn recovers from a bit of a flu... 

The past week and a half has been full to the brim.  We are trying to cover as much distance as possible, which has its up sides and down sides.  It feels good to be covering a lot of ground, but we also feel as of there is so much more that we would like to see...this country is amazing, we could probably spend months here if time allowed.... The riding has been very challenging, major major hills, head winds and traffic; But it has also been beautiful, and of course with major ascents come major descents....sometimes up to 20 km long!

Here are some photos from the past little while:

Mainland Mexico: Part 2

Oct 7, 2012:  Guadalajara to La Barca 107 km

We very sadly left the casa Ciclista in Guadalajara after just two felt a little wrong, but we are on a schedule now.  We were lucky enough to leave on Sunday, when from 8-2 most of the main roads in the city are closed to cars.  It actually almost brought tears to my eyes as we left, there we so many people out riding their bikes, running, walking...just enjoying the space, it was a beautiful thing. If only more cities could follow the lead of Guadalajara....  The rest of the day's ride was pleasant, we had some good climbs, but nothing too bad and the last 25 km was flat with a slight tail wind.  We were continuing on the Cuota (toll) road which was quite pleasant after we got out of the urban sprawl.  The town of La Barca was pretty happening, as it was Sunday night....everyone was out in their best cloths.  As we were walking around we met a guy who offered us a couple of beers and went on to tell us that he had lived in Chicago most of his life and had recently moved back to Mexico to open an English school.  We got talking about safety in Mexico, and told him that we have been feeling completely safe.  He said that he was glad to hear it, and that La Barca is a very peaceful place... but not because the police have things under control, because the 'bad people' do.  He was actually pretty hesitant to talk about any of this, even though we were speaking in English, it was actually the first time that anyone was talked about this with us.

Oct 8, 2012: La Barca to Torrecillas 69 km

We took off early in the morning after Churros and coffee at the market.  The road continued to be relatively flat for the the first 40 km or so, but a head wind made it less pleasant than the day before.  We got to a rest stop around noon and decided to have a little siesta before we hit a 20 + km climb.  Here we met Jesus who kept us company for a couple of hours.  He worked at the rest stop cleaning windows and claimed to make piles of money doing it, but said that he had had way too much tequila the night before and didn't feel like working, so he sat and talked to us. He even offered to watch our stuff while we took naps.  I know that it may sound a little sketchy, but it wasn't at all... He was pure kind hearted, just a little hung over.  We continued on our way, bidding farewell to Jesus and climbed and climbed all afternoon. Near the end of the the giant climb was the little town of Torrecillas, sitting at 2,100 m.  As we pedalled in, we found a nearly abandoned town with a lot of fairly posh looking houses.  There was one little shop, and we asked the keeper about camping.  She said that she new a man who had a ranch and was pretty sure that we could camp there, but that he wouldn't return from work until 8:00 pm.  We bought some food from her and waited in the park for a couple of hours.  When we returned at 8:00, the man still hadn't come back - we waited about an hour and finally asked if we could just camp in the park. She said that shouldn't be a problem, but to ask the people around there.  We found a group of men hanging out on the edge of the park, they said that it would be no problem.  Then a few minutes later a man approached us explaining that he was working on a house just a few blocks away and we could sleep in there if we wanted.  So that night we found ourselves sleeping in a half built house, in a half abandoned town in the mountains in Mexico....we had an incredible sleep.

Oct 9: Torrecillas to San Agustin de Maiz 107 km

Another long day, with a lot of long climbs.  But beautiful.  I think that we reached a max elevation of about 2,500 meters today.  The air was fresh and cool, incredible to think that a few weeks ago our clothing was saturated with sweat!  For the last part of the day we rode alongside the Laguna Cuitzeo, a beautiful and large lake.  As I've mentioned before one of the downsides of being on the toll road is that there is not a lot of access to towns and villages.  Today we spent about 7 km getting off the toll road, passing through a series of interchanges and overpasses that seemed to be taking us in circles.  But, at the end of this maze we happened upon an Agua Thermales (thermal waters) place, where we were able to camp.  It was a blissful spot with several pools of hot water, that were perfect on the cool windy evening.  We would have loved to stay another day, but alas... 

Oct 10, 2012: San Agustin de Maiz to Maravatio 88 km

Today started out with a little flat riding, but we were heading up eventually, as seems to be the theme.  For some reason I don't actually remember a lot from the riding part of the day.  Aside from a long and windy descent into the town of Maravatio.  Although descents are mostly awesome, sometimes I find them a little stressful.  While climbing requires a lot of physical energy,  descending can require a lot of mental exertion. Particularly when giant trucks are zooming past, the road is less than smooth, and the wind is pushing you all over the place.  But it was a beautiful descent, you could see for miles and miles into the valley below, it was breath-taking.  After our exhilarating descent we looked for a place to stay...and ended up doing a bit of a hotel tour of the town.  For some reason all of the hotels in town were really expensive, compared to what we have been used to... Riding around town like this was also pretty tiring.  But we ended up finding the very cute and reasonably priced hotel Hidalgo.  

Oct 11, 2012: Maravatio to Atlacomulco 80 km

Again off first thing, although I should say that now that the weather is cooler we don't need to be on the road so early...nine o'clock is now the norm.  What can I say, more hills and beautiful landscape....But I was tired and felt sluggish most of the day.  Towards the end of the day we stopped at a little shop to get some snacks, and for the first time since being in Mexico we were approached by seven or eight very poor children asking, quite aggressively, for money.  We spent some time talking with them and shared our snacks.  I have to say that it was a bit of a shock to my system, and as we pedalled on I felt shaken.  When we arrived in Atlacomulco, a pretty big town, there were more adults and children asking for money.  I suppose that we have not entered the more impoverished parts of Mexico yet, or that we are beginning to now.  It gets me thinking about our choice to be on this cycling trip, seems frivolous in a lot of ways.

Oct 12, 2012: Atlacomulco to Tula 80 km

Climbed back out of Atlacomulco to the toll road.  We will actually be getting on a new toll road today, the Arco Norte, which is a four year old privately owned highway that arcs over Mexico City.  Turns out that this highway is not so friendly, or oblivious, to cyclists.  As we passed through the first toll booth, the guard told us that we could not come on.  Since there was no obvious way of getting off at that particular point he said that it would be OK to get off at the next exit...which we somehow missed :).   So we continued on, traffic seemed a little heavier, but still a good wide shoulder.  Oh, and it was cold today, and stormy, although we did not get a lot of rain we did have to wear our jackets all was like we were back in Alaska!  We arrived in Tula late afternoon, found a hotel and crashed...

Oct 13, 2012: Rest day in Tula

Took a much needed rest in Tula, visited some last! Did some errands, drank a bunch of Fresh squeezed Orange juice and ate a bunch of delicious food! It was a good day!

Oct 14, 2012: Tula to Villa Tezontepec 70 km

What a day.  I woke up feeling strange, I'm not sure why, but I felt anxious and weird.  It probably didn't help that I made super strong coffee with our new water heating device... We started riding and I couldn't shake the feeling, as we climbed up the hills instead of feeling focussed and strong, I felt unsure and weak... But I pushed on.  In the midst of this weirdness we hit a pretty amazing milestone...9999km!  Just as we were about to stop to have our musical celebration an Arco Norte official pulled ove his van and approached us.  He told us that we had to turn around and get off on the exit we had just passed.  We had a very long conversation with him (testing our Spanish skills) and eventually convinced him that it was safer on this road because of the shoulder, however, he insisted that it was still against the rules.  Finally I said (out of desperation) that we had been telling our friends and family how safe we have been feeling in Mexico, and if we were forced off of the Cuota then we would not be safe and might die or get mugged by bandits and that it would be bad publicity for Mexico...this somehow worked and he let us continue, cautioning us that we were our own responsibility.  We got stopped one more time that day, but this guy was less persistent.  Truth be told we were getting sick of the Cuota, the traffic seemed to be getting heavier, probably because we were closer to Mexico City, and it felt like we were missing out by not passing through towns and villages. Got off towards the end of the day, and it was as if events conspired to shake the weirdness I had been feeling.  A stranger helped us find a safe spot to camp, some more strangers insisted on buying us beer and tequila, and the evening turned out to be lovely.

Here is our 9999 celebration....

9999 km!!!!!!!!!,

October 15, 2012: Villa Tetontepec to Texmelucan

We decided to weave through the back roads for the first part of the day, at least. It was very cool, but definitely more time consuming, not a lot of signs so we had to consult the map a lot and the roads were far from straight.  As we were climbing up a hill a woman in a car slowed down and started asking us about our trip, she then invited us to her house, about 15 km down the road, for some food and drink.  Rossy and her husband Halo welcomed us into their home, and were so so nice! They are big cycling enthusiasts and have three kids who also love to bike.  After we visited for not long enough we needed to get back on the road, we decided to get back on the Cuota to save some time.  We arrived in Texmelucan, and for the first time got rejected from a brothel...  It was really cheap so we inquired about a room, and the woman just looked at us and said 'no', in no uncertain terms... Oh well.   

Oct 16, 2012: Texmelucan to Tepeaca 80 km

We were off to a slow start.  I think that I mentioned last time that our Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires are losing their awesomeness, and we are getting punctures.  Glenn is getting one just about every day....ick.  So he was repairing a puncture this morning, and the valve decided to rip out of the tube, so into town for a new tube.   We didn't get away until about 10:00 am.  We had intended to get back on the Cuota as we would be going through the big city of Puebla and the free roads cut right through town... But missed the exit, so the free road it was.  It actually wasn't too bad, similar to biking from one end of Toronto to the other, it took about 4 hours to cover about 30 km!   Luckily the terrain was pretty level so we could concentrate our energy on dodging trucks and buses!  We decided to stop in Tepeaca and found a cheap hotel.  Glenn crashed right away, and within about thirty minutes started feeling feverish with chills.  This progressed into the evening, and seemed to get worse.  Luckily he was able to get some sleep, even though we had a taco bed.

Oct 17, 2012: Tepeaca to Tecamachalco 24 km

Glenn was feeling a lot better this morning, but tired and achy.   We decided to move on a little because the bed was pretty terrible,  so we left late and just pedalled 24 km to the next town were we are now.   Glenn has been sleeping most of the afternoon...and hopefully by tomorrow we will be ready to rock our way to Oaxaca which is about 300 km away...