Cycling in Mexico
Cancun to Mexico City
November 8, 2005 to December 18, 2005
First, A Brief Update
Just a note to let our World Wide Family know about new plans. The roads in Baja are too narrow and too heavily traveled by speeding trucks and buses. So, after visiting Cabo San Lucas then returning to La Paz on one of those speeding buses we chose to go back to the Mainland. On January 25th we took the Ferry to Topolobampo. After an aside journey to the Copper Canyon on the famous train we’ll set off north on Hwy 15 along the coast of The Sea of Cortez. If you’re in the neighborhood let us know, we’d love to meet you there. The new plan is to cycle to Tijuana in Mexico then cross into San Diego. Our 1st week in March ETA should remain the same, we’re HOMEWARD BOUND!
These pages of our journal include the ride across the Yucatan Peninsula and a visit to marvelous Chichen Itza. Up the Gulf of Mexico then really UP and into Mexico City. So, come on along, meet new friends and enjoy the scenery. Once again we have outdone ourselves with too many pictures and words.
We’ll Ride Will You Read?
November 8, 2005
Catching Up in Cancun
Cat sought and got some mediocre muffins and so-so coffee. The coffee is Nescafe but the Vendor, Olivia, lived and worked in Beverly Hills for 5 years. Olivia speaks great English, she says that she worked for a “Rich Woman”. We ate in the room then I jumped on the Computer and Cat went back to the Laundromat loaded with clothing soiled with the dust of Cuba. .
Intrigued with Olivia, Cat stopped at her little stand again and bought her Tortas. Our second meal in the room today, petty good. By the way, our room seems so much better than the one we had 3 weeks ago. Maybe because it’s a little larger of colorful or located above the pool? Or, maybe because of the places we’ve stayed in these past 3 weeks in Cuba?
I turned to getting the bikes out of the wrappers and road ready. Our new Continental Tires, thorn proof tubes and Lonely Planet guide book to Mexico was delivered this afternoon. I did the best I could to repair the damage Cubano Air has done to Cat’s bike. Somehow in the rough handling they have broken a piece of the fork where the bolt holding the rack is located. We dug out our trusty zip ties and did a criss-cross. Hope it holds. Those precious zip ties are becoming as important to us as Duct Tape was to Acadiana, our band. Also, changed out Cat’s shifter that has begun to growl and show signs of wearing out. We tried to remember when we installed it? A long time ago. It may be the longest living shifter yet?
Cat found ham and cheese for sandwiches, another meal in.
Dinner down, they have a buffet. The place is pretty bleak especially when compared with food and atmosphere of La Parrilla. The food was okay.
Lest we forget, the Tourist Office at the Airport booked us back here at less than the rate we paid before. Part of the reason may be due to missing features since Hurricane Wilma. They are down to 3 local TV Stations and the Free Internet is down for the count.
A little laying in bed watching meaningless TV then early lights out.
November 9, 2005
Wal-Mart in Cancun
Olivias for breakfast, we sat curbside and felt like locals. Eggs and chorizo with ham, beans and toast. Very tasty.
Off via bus to Wal-Mart and filling a basket with food and drugs that we used up in Cuba. What a treat to be in a store that has everything. W even found an Allen Wrench to replace ours that is falling apart. We were like kids in a candy store.
New Tires and Tubes
Another day of greasy hands, I changed out the old tires. Put new tires and tubes on. The bikes should be road ready now.
We ate left over ham and cheese for lunch.
Finishing touches on the bikes and we spent time reading the new Guide Book. Also, we found an inexpensive Internet Shop just a block down the street. Geez, 5 Pesos per hour. (50 Cents) compare that to Cuba’s 6 to 9 CUCs and it makes you wonder about their super socialism. Well except that it keeps the locals there off the machines since that represents 1/3 or more of a month’s wages. Just another way to suppress outside information?
Walked down the street to a nice little Italian Restaurant and enjoyed Pizza. Not the very good and very inexpensive Cuban kind but quite good for western standards. A fellow seated across from us was eating veraciously and talking on the cell phone incessantly. He’s from Chicago, works on some project or something here. Told us that he’d ridden out Wilma and was “scared to death”. He said that the wind and rain just hung over his Condo for 16 hours.
November 10, 2005
A Test Ride
Out and Back to Hurricane Damaged Area
Cat went back to Olivia for coffee. We drank fresh orange juice with our bananas and ate sweet rolls from Wal-Mart with the coffee. A real in-room treat. Memories of home, we used to have juice, fresh fruit, muffins and coffee daily before we set off on this crazy odyssey.
Jonathon found a box that we are able to cut down and make work for mailing and booked us in for the extra 2 days at an even better rate. What a guy! This is an important mailing. All the back up pictures of Cuba, brochures and maps. After taping it carefully we walked to the Correo only to have to take it back apart for inspection? They hadn’t done that before? Once they sifted through we re-taped and they accepted. Should take 10 days to 2 weeks, they say?
Back home at Margaritas, we donned our cycling cloths and went riding. Down through the narrow busy street and out to the Hotel Zone. Hoping to ride to the 12 K marker and have lunch we found parts of the route tough going. There are still lots of visible damage and cleanup going on. The road is narrow so we rode the sidewalk until it disintegrated. Then as we cycled along the gutter with cars and buses almost touching our elbows, a Motorcycle Policeman pulled up and demanded that we cross over and ride the bike path. It was being repaved earlier but he pointed out that this portion was still okay. Crossing was another dash to beat the deadly traffic.
We did get a few pictures of the damage but gave up on reaching the Fast Food Zone. The bike path relapsed and we cold see that most businesses were still closed. So, we turned back at Kilometer marker 8. Windows and roves missing, Trees down, everywhere. This traffic is really terrible, they give no quarters to cyclists even when they can see that the bike path has been covered with trees. Then, to add to the misery, we felt the rain drips start. Light at first then pretty thick and we weren’t ready for it. The good news, the bikes functioned perfectly.
A real capitalistic treat, we had chicken sandwiches at Burger King.
Back at Margaritas, we began the bag packing frenzy.
Dinner at La Parrilla again. Still great, food and entertainment. I had a wonderful piece of fish, Cat stuck with the tacos. A guy with great voice sang and joked with the band. WE think he was sort of auditioning them. He may have a show in one of the Hotels and is currently trying to get musicians to get back up and running. There are signs in almost every window along the streets looking for employees. At any rate, we enjoyed the show.
November 11, 2005
Cancun to Valladolid
100 Ks on Bici, 86 Ks in Marcos Pick-up
Last breakfast with Olivia, she wasn’t there until just before we finished. Leaving is always a slow process after being off the bikes for a while. Checking out was a stand in line process. Everyone was in a hurry to get out. Jacob, Jonathon’s understudy got our bill confused with someone else’s. The room rate was more and they had several meals charged also. Finally our turn, the right figures and a photo of the boys.
Even after getting up early we are off late, well, 9:00 AM. After asking several times, we set off on the same road that we rode in on almost a month ago. Lots of Wilma damage here, too. The McDonalds we stopped at on the way in is closed and the windows are covered with plywood.
At 20 Ks out we asked Police at a little food stand about how to get to the road to Valladolid. Language played a roll in the directions, they seemed unsure of what we were asking then motioned for us to go ahead past the Airport turnoff to the next road. We passed through a forest of completely stripped trees, not a leaf on them and many were broken like matchsticks. It’s an old, bumpy road with few cars or trucks on it.
Two jets took off and one landed as we passed the Airport. It’s not visible through the barren brush. We figured the guy from Chicago was aboard one of them, waiting for food service and the okay to turn his cell phone back on.
Trapped On the Autopista
Our old road just folded into the Autopista. We had no choice. The map shows the old highway adjacent to us but we can’t see it? The Autopista is nothing but a road. There are no turnoffs, no Service Stations of other businesses. Just a wide shoulder and the now scorching sun above. We seem to be riding in the midst of a swamp. The shade of an overpass without any exit or entrance to the Autopista was a good Gatorade stop. Onward, we passed a dirt road at the next overpass that led off to the right. We’ve been seeing signs of the old highway through the trees. For a moment we discussed turning off but uncertainty about the condition of the other road left us moving along on the wide shoulder in the hot sun.
Then the Autopista turned to a narrow dirt road. It has been under water in this area, probably during the incessant rains of Wilma? Struggling for the next 5 Ks we came to workers and a flagman. They gave us the bad news, its 50 Ks to the next Services and 130 more to Valladolid. There is no Motel or other sleeping place at the Service Station. This took our expectations down a notch.
They told us that we cold go back to the dirt road we’d passed on and get across to the old highway. We decided to forge onward. They got the point across that we couldn’t get across anywhere ahead because there’s water on both sides the road. So, a new plan, ride as far as we can then see if we can catch a ride.
Lunch, a can of meat, crackers and Gatorade. We parked against a Speed Limit sign and crawled through barbed wire to find shade. Not very satisfying but at least filling. You can see in the photo that the trees here were able to retain some of their leaves during the big blow.
Marco to the Rescue
Onward, we made it to 100 Kilometers found a guard rail to lean against and began trying to hitch a ride. Few cars pass, even fewer pickups or trucks. Then, at 4:30 PM, Marco pulled up in his new looking black Chevy Camionetta. What a nice guy, he jumped out and helped us get the bikes on board Maina, his wife waved from the window as we settled down next to the bikes in the back. It was a hot wind a-blowin’ against us as we rolled 85 Ks into Valladolid. Funny, we thought Marco and Maina lived here. He helped us unload then let us know that they live in Merida. They’d driven off the Autopista at least 5 kilometers just for us. They have a Family business, building Cocinas Espanolas. (Spanish Kitchens)
They dropped us at the Main Plaza across from Hotel Maria de la Luz. I watched tings while Cat took a look. She came back disappointed then walked across the Plaza to another near the Church. Back in just minutes, she found it disappointing, too. We’re taking a day to explore here and want a nice room. I found Hotel El Meson del Marques in the guide book. We pushed the bikes down the block, to the door and loved the place. It’s elegant and not that much more than costly than the others. The Bellman had us bring the bikes around to the garage entry to avoid lifting up half a dozen stairs. The Desk Clerk and another guy held a long intense conversation about allowing us to take the bikes upstairs in their elevator. They had no problem allowing them in the room and finally decided it would be too difficult to drag them upstairs to the 2nd floor.
AC on and though no CNN, they do have several stations with English language shows subtitled in Spanish. AND, they have wireless Internet in the restaurant. We took the computer down and tried but failed to connect. A young girl, Maria, spoke good English and tried to help, all to no avail.
A Bicyclist Has Been Killed
Dinner there and we met David. Originally from Australia, he spent a few years working in Singapore but has recently taken a job with International SOS and moved his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s here reviewing an accident involving one of the Company’s SOS Assist Clients. One of their truck drivers hit and killed a Bicyclist. They’re not an Insurance Company, they investigate accidents like this to help Companies avoid them in the future. He has concluded that this Company has little liability because the guy on the bicycle was riding after dark without lights. He
threw in the fact that the driver of the truck hadn’t hit a kid but an old man. I asked how old then told him that 55 isn’t very old to an old guy like me. Though it’s not a joking matter it did lighten the conversation. David is so glad to be leaving tomorrow morning, he misses his wife and 2 boys. A real joy for us to converse in English.
November 12, 2005
A Day in Valladolid
Filled with hope, se took the Lap Top to breakfast. Voila, it worked. We were checking e-mails when the girl Maria came in. She sat next to us then we invited her over. She’s 30 years old and from Mexico City, here working with General Electric, installing Thermal Generators at a nearby site. An Engineer, she spent 4 months in New York studying at GE’s Energy Learning Center. They work from 5 AM until 5:00 PM every day.
David joined us briefly but he had to rush service and food. His ride to the airport came just as he finished. Nice guy, anxious to get back to his family.
What the Heck’s a Cenote?
We want to visit a Cenote. What is it? Well they say that some 60 million years ago this area was struck by a huge meteor. The result, a huge crater that over the following millions of year’s cracks formed in the limestone around the perimeter and water began filling them. The limestone began to erode and cavities were formed. Many became connected by underground rivers flooding the cavities. The Mayans held them in exalted esteem, using them for sacrifice, usually of young women. Our LP Guide Book says that Cenotes were viewed by the Mayans as a direct route to heaven for those sacrificed as well as women who died during childbirth and soldiers killed in battle. There are nearly 3,000 Cenotes here in the Yucatan.
2 Cute French Girls in a Cenote
Guide Book in hand, we walked the streets and found what it called a bus stop. There are no buses just taxis. As we talked with one driver a couple of girls, Dorothee and Marina came up and joined the conversation. The driver quoted a high price they joined our argument that it was too high. A strange mix of cultures, Dorothee is French, Marina was born in Lebanon but parents moved to France when she was a baby. However, they both now live in Amsterdam, Holland. Their on a hitchhiking holiday, jus the 2 of them. The good news for us, they speak pretty good Spanish. After haggling with the guy the 4 of us decided to move toward a van parked nearby. The driver quoted the exact low price as the guidebook, we were on our way.
Cenote Dzitnup is out the highway about 6 Ks then off to the left another 2. The village is pretty non-descript. Dorothee argued with the guy selling tickets, trying to get a Student Discount for them and a Seniors for me. Didn’t work, discounts are for locals only.
Down a slippery stone stairway and into eerie green light. Too dark for good photos, the brochure has wonderful shots but they must have set huge lights for them. Also, there’s a hole above the water that would let in better light at midday. The girls stripped down to swim suits and dove in. We watched. There are bats hanging on the roof of the Cenote. So, there must be bat guano falling from above? A great experience for them and fun for us to watch. We left them there, laughing and swimming.
There’s another Cenote across the road and down about ½ K. We walked there, looked at the few trinkets offered and decided, “Seen one Cenote, seen them all”! Well they to wanted 300 Pesos each so that weighed in on the decision, too.
A Taxi Van came bumping along from the direction of Valladolid, we waved, he stopped and sort of indicated we could wait here but we wanted to see the village that’s further down the road. All locals on board, students. They were as interested in us as we were in them. After looping we past both Cenotes and were on our way back to Valladolid.
Lunch in a little Taco stand, excellent Chicken Tacos then a walk to the Convent. The neighborhood is upscale, the street lined with nice single story colorful townhomes. The Convent was closed. We found the exterior interesting enough to have made the walk. Then the smell and sound of Tortillas being made drew us to a small factory.
Five kids were playing in a courtyard as we passed. The little boy was saying “Whiskey”, the girls were standing in a line. He was using a pair of toy binoculars as a camera and pretending to take their picture. So cute, we had to have a photo. The looked at it then laughed and giggled as we walked on down the street.
Cenote Zaci is right in town. Another nice thing, the cost is less than a dollar each. It’s open on the top or should we say the roof has collapsed. There are 4 young guys swimming, the water is translucent blue but dirt and debris have collected at one end. The lighting is perfect as you can see. Vines hang from the roof all the way down, into the water. Really quite beautiful. They have a few sad looking cages with birds and a monkey along the trail. We walked past and felt sorry for them.
An hour at the Internet and this day was in the record books. Dinner in the dining room of the Hotel again. Really good food and company as Maria joined us and we got better acquainted.
The sign at the elevator door is another lesson in language differences and the difficulty of translation. We have to assume that they don’t mean dead bodies?
Limited TV then unlimited sleep.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Valladolid to Chichen Itza
Loaded and down the elevator we rode to the other Hotel for breakfast. They have a pretty extensive buffet. The price and food were both extremely good.
Its only 45 Ks to Chichen Itza and the road is flat but we did have intermittent rain. We’d called the Piramide Hotel in nearby Piste and reserved a room but took the turn off to Hotel Zone and decided to check in at the Club Med. The place felt deserted. When the Clerk appeared he had plenty of rooms, We would be the only guests. Cat looked at the room and found it to be small, no TV and twin beds but adequate. The price was slightly above adequate. We moved on.
Had to backtrack to the highway then into Piste. Passing the Piramide, we chose to move on, it didn’t have much curb appeal. Hotel Chichen Itza looked great on the outside but the room was small and only had a fan, no AC. Back down the street, The Piramide turns out to be a good value and the room large, the bed king sized and the AC pumped cool air. Even better, the owner, Carol is an interesting gal. And as a bonus, Calypso, a sort of long lost Hippie from Globe Arizona sells her hand made jewelry and tells stories of her youth and the Flower Children.
They were just cleaning the room so we walked across to an Internet Shop. An hour on the machines then back toward the Hotel. We’d just hit the steps when a voice called out, “Pat & Cat”. It was Klaus, remember, he and Sonia and traveling the world in a big camper truck? We met them in Panama then again on the road in Honduras. They’re parked in a grassy spot next door. We’ll meet them after we get a shower, we’re in no condition to be sociable.
Sonia and Klaus’s rig has the entire area to it’s self. We learned that Carol also owns this Camping area. Calypso lives in a little house on this property, too. We enjoyed a nice chat and catching up on their adventures. They were marooned in Guatemala by the big rain storm that followed Hurricane Wilma. Had to wait a few days before the local authority would allow them to cross a bridge that was weakened by the storm and flooding. They also enjoyed the “Night of the Dead”, in Valladolid. They’re going to Tulum then back to the north through Veracruz on their way to Texas. We may see them again? Made a date for dinner tonight.
Cat went on a quest, looking for a nice restaurant. I hit the keys of the computer.
We met Klaus and Sonia at 7:00 PM and walked to the Hotel Chichen Itza for a buffet dinner. Cat had found that it’s the only real restaurant open in Piste at this time.
The food was just okay but the conversation was fulfilling.
TV at Piramide is Spanish only so, early to bed. .
November 14, 2005
Wandering a Wonder of the World Chichen Itza
Hoping to get inside Chichen Itza we loaded the bikes and rode to the entry gate at 7:30 AM. The Guard at the parking lot gate wanted us to park the bikes under a tree. We couldn’t get the point across that we wanted to take them inside for pictures. Finally leaned them against a wall and I went to ask inside. The first guy I spoke with seemed doubtful but led me to another. He in turn listened, shook his head but said that we could talk with the Manager. She looked up from her paperwork, listened then asked how long it would take. I estimated a half hour. She said, “You must buy tickets”. Of course, and they’re good for all day, even into the evening when they have a sound and light show.
Bikes up the ramp, tickets and wrist bands then we pushed through the entry turnstiles and onto the grounds of El Castillo. It is wondrous, to stand where others lived, worked and built such a monument more tan 1,000 years ago. We met Emily & Kelvin from Hong Kong who agreed to take pictures for us. The sun is from behind the great pyramid so after a couple of shots we pushed around under the watchful eye of a Guard. More pics in the sun. They took shots of us and we returned the favor for them.
at Chichen Itza
Itza From Above
Back into Piste, we went directly to the Internet Shop which is also a restaurant. Another treat, pancakes and maple syrup. Isabelle & Jeff from Quebec talked with us as we ate. They’re going to Costa Rica where she’ll work as a Massage Therapist. She says that Jeff worked hard while she attended school so he’ll take it easy for a while. He told us that he has lots of projects in mind that will keep him busy.
A shower then I hit the Journal Pages again while Cat explored. She brought a roasted chicken back and we had another “on bed” picnic.
At 3:00 PM we walked out front and hailed a Taxi to take us back to Chichen Itza. The place really does share that feeling of mystery and intrigue we’ve experienced at So many of the other ruins visited along our route. El Castillo is more than just a building. It’s a time piece, too. The Mayan Calendar measures from the Vernal to the Autumnal Equinoxes. The shadows produced on it cast an illusion of the serpent ascending and descending on March 20-21 and September 21-22. They say that mobs of people also descend upon the place to witness this phenomenon. The calendar is represented by the 9 levels, 4 staircases with 91 steps and 52 panels. When you add the top platform the stairs represent 365 days. The 52 panels are weeks, of course.
The Sudden Death Playoff
Another area of extreme interest is the “Great Ball Court”. There are 8 courts here and other in most of the other cities of the Mayans. It’s flanked by temples at each end with walls on each side. There are stone rings hung high on the two walls. The name of the game seems to be to get the hard rubber ball through them. The players use bats and it’s said that when one team gets a ball through the ring the losing Captain, perhaps the whole team, are sacrificed. Put a whole new meaning on “Sudden Death Playoff”. .
Though there aren’t a lot of people here today, they all have to clap to experience the amazing acoustics in the court. We climbed El Castillo then wandered through The Warriors Temple also known as the Thousand Columns. There is also a Steam Bath or Sweat House. They close the park at 6:00 PM. We joined a parade of vendors carrying their packs out as we exited. During the Taxi ride back to Piste we decided to skip the Sound and Light Show.
Back to the Internet place for dinner. Poc Choc, thinly sliced pork with rice, beans and tortillas. Quite good.
November 15, 2005
Chichen Itza to Izamal
Breakfast at the Internet Café then as we checked out Carol told us an incredible story. She began by explaining the Mayan Memorial called Joe’s Temple in the garden. Joe was her Father, he died in his 80s. A strange way to go, he was allergic to Bee Stings. Sitting, sipping a Coke, he swallowed a Bee that had flown in. He was loved locally, he had been operating Hotel Piramid for 30 years. They held a Mayan Funeral for the man they called
Paint By Numbers?
That story in it’s self is amazing then she told us that her Dad, Joe, had been in the Movie Theatre Business years earlier. The posters he received to advertise films were black and white like the movies in those days. He numbered areas for different colors and his staff did the coloring. That evolved into a product known as “Paint By Numbers”! He took Paint By Numbers to market and it was a huge hit in the 1950s and 60s. Remember those canvases and how many we’ve all seen on the walls of Grandma houses?
Carol began suggesting that we would find a place to stay in Izamal just 65 Ks from here but the road was narrow. She felt the hazard would be offset because there’s much less traffic than on the main highway. She called a B&B that had been owned by a friend and reserved a room for us there.
The ride was easy, the road as she’d said, was narrow but almost no traffic. Most of Izamal’s buildings are painted gold. A very impressive sight as we cycled through the streets full of horse drawn carts. After asking several times we found the street of our B&B. Riding and looking we happened upon a couple, Gringos Rachel and Larry from Baltimore, Maryland. They were walking to a run down ruin right here on the street. They’re Honeymooning and staying at our B&B. They pointed it out then went on into the falling down Mayan Temple.
A ring of the bell at the gate and a gal appeared and led us to our room. The grounds of Hotel Macanche are very pleasant. The buildings mostly single story. Our room feels like a cottage. Hungry, we got the bikes inside then walked back to a Restaurant we’d passed on the way in. Tacos served in a local style, very good.
Back at our room, we found that there was no hot water. The gal fired up the heater but it will be an hour before warm showers. We walked into the Center, got a feel for the lay of the land and took pictures. The centerpiece is a beautiful Convent sporting the same golden color that has become the hallmark of Izamal. A couple of Plaza Parks enhance the small town feeling and there are more falling down ruins scattered everywhere.
Back home, we showered then relaxed and lounged until the dinner hour. Walking back into the village at dusk was a wonderful experience, the place takes on a golden glow as the sun sinks. We found a place across from the Convent and watched the golden hue and twinkling lights while enjoying good Mexican food.
Larry and Rachel told us of a Sound and Light Show tonight at the Convent. We watched for them as we watched our watch. The show starts at 8:30 PM. We’re tired, we didn’t see them and decided to forgo the show.
There’s no TV in our room, we lay back and surprisingly, were sleeping by the time the sound and lights was filling the air in town.
November 16, 2005
Izamal to Merida
Anxious to get going, we had the bikes out and ready by the time the gal opened the kitchen to prepare our included Breakfast. Emily and Alfred straggled in as we ate. They’re the new owners and Emily just returned from Seattle late last night. Alfred picked her up at the Airport so they’re both drowsy this morning. As we were pushing toward the gate Larry and Rachel joined us and we 6 posed for a photo in front of the sign for Hotel Macanche.
Rachel told us that they're going back to Merida this afternoon. She recommended Hotel Luz en Yucatan, where they were staying. It was one of the places we’d seen in the Lonely Planet so we told her we may see them there.
As is typical in the Yucatan, the ride was hot, flat and fast. Light traffic and they were courteous, even the 34 wheelers. Hungry, we stopped at Hacienda San Ildefanso, about 20 Ks out of Merida. Established in 1683, this was the Sisal center back then. Remember Sisal? The plant we first learned of in Africa that was used for making rope during the sailing ship days. As the sailing ship era ended the demand for rope waned and the Hacienda converted to a cattle ranch. The old buildings fell into disrepair until a brave local fellow bought them 20 years ago. He and his family have been constantly renovating and upgrading since that time. They recently completed converting the old Sisal spinning mill into a Convention and events center. Located as it is in the middle of nowhere, we were surprised to see the tables fill as we ate our lunch.
Merida is a large City. Most of the narrow streets have been converted to one-way and the traffic is hazardous for cycling. Asking and following our map, we made our way through the numbered and lettered grid of streets to Hotel Luz de Yucatan. The building, painted a light purple, stands out amongst the more traditional colors of the street. A young girl greeted our ring of the bell and told us of a vacancy. Cat looked at the room but was disappointed. It’s small and upstairs so we’ll have to leave the bikes in a storage room down. She decided to go exploring.
Another Hotel just next door was 1/3 the price but had only 3 local TV Stations. Since we’re staying for a couple of days we want a wider range of programs. (TV Snobs?) I stood in the shade while Cat went off down the street shopping Hotels. The young girl re-appeared and told me that they had a room on the ground floor and matched the price of the place next door. I deferred the decision until Cat’s return. .
An easy decision, Cat found that all the other nearby Hotels were fully booked. The room is more like a small apartment with hotplate, refrigerator and coffee maker. Just outside the door is a full kitchen that we also have use of. Without asking, we pushed the bikes into our oversized suite. Oh there are a couple of interesting features like the light switches are in the hallway, outside the room. But, all in all, it is pretty much perfect for us.
Cat found Larry and Rachel lounging by the pool. She also learned that there is a Costco here and we can take a bus to wine shop. She was like a kid in a candy store, walking around and comparing the layout and merchandise to her home away from home, the Oxnard Costco. We bought Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay, bananas, muffins and food to cook in our new kitchen. Too much to try to carry on the wild bus ride. They had to call then we had to wait about 30 minutes.
So, with a kitchen and food, we chose to eat in. Macaroni and cheese and roasted chicken. Very good. Hot showers, hot food, a Woody Allen movie and then, lights out.
November 17, 2005
Day Off in Merida
Breakfast just like back home. Juice and bananas then coffee and muffins. No Today show or CNN in English so we watched the local news in Spanish and tried to guess what they were talking about.
We found a nearby Lavanderia and left our very stinky cycling cloths. Also, an Internet Shop where we communicated with our World Wide Family of Friends. Sandwiches of left over chicken in the room and we made a date for dinner with Larry and Rachel.
The restaurant they chose was quite a walk. Through the main square and down side streets. They’ve eaten here before and liked it. We found the specialty that’s served at room temperature to be only so-so at best, at least according to our tastes. They served
tiny margaritas at a grande price. In fact, the place is pretty touristy and pricey. However, the company, Rachel and Larry made the evening. Back through the night streets and plaza. A nice walk.
Caught a movie, Cat napped through part of it but as usual, I was hooked and watched until the bitter end, midnight.
November 18, 2005
Day 2 Off in Merida
Merida City Tour
Larry appeared at our door bearing a gift of Mexican Coffee. Rachel is feeling a bit of the Montezuma this morning. He sat, had a muffin and chatted. Our plan to see Merida on the tour bus together had to be scratched. We decided to go so walked to the corner and got a good seat. Elaine and Jordan are from Chicago. He works with The Hyatt Hotel and they have travel privileges. Almost like Honeymoon for them. Two other couples, one from Mexico City the other from the States but we didn’t get to talk much with them.
Lots of pictures of buildings and monuments. A good chance to get to know the city. A Burger King Chicken Sandwich lunch then I worked on the journal pages. Cat watched TV until dinner time then we walked to Corrleonis for Pizza. Our hostess, Madeline recommended the place and told us that we should look for the bicycle hanging in the doorway.
We took a seat under the bicycle, near the door. Great people watching and wonderful Pizza. It comes hot from the wood fired oven and is square in shape.
A little TV then off to dreamland.
November 19, 2005
Day 3 Off in Merida
Breakfast in, again. I hit the journal pages while Cat sought shoe repair. Another strap has pulled loose on her sandals. She walked to Mercado Central and found a guy that stitched them for 50 cents.
When she returned she also had a new haircut and convinced me to do the same. A little more walking then back to our home for more chicken sandwiches. Out again, we spent an hour at the Internet Café.
Larry and Rachel brought us an appropriate gift, a stencil of a person on a Bicycle. We sipped wine together and enjoyed another hour of getting to know each other. Rachel is a Esthetician, manicures and facials etc. Larry works with Quest Diagnostics. Medical diagnostics. What a nice young couple just setting off on a life journey, together. As we chatted Madeline knocked and came bearing a gift, too. She gave us 100 Pesos ($10) for our breakfast tomorrow. The Lonely Planet had said that she would greet us with a beer. We missed that and we assume this is her gift in lieu. Much better for us as we don’t drink beer that often.
They’re cooking in, we decided to try Pancho’s. A Mexican Restaurant also recommended by Madeline. The place is pretty touristic, I had Lamb and it was wonderful, Cat had beef tacos and they were at best, okay.
A combo was setting up to play Mexican music. We ducked out before they fired up. We walked past a church and watched a young bride kneeling at the Alter. Further down the street another band had set up. Too dark for a picture but a nice little Video. Then an old guy’s band. The place is full of entertainment.
A little TV then lights out.
November 20, 2005
Merida to Calkini
The sounds of a Parade pulled us form our sleep at 6:30 AM. We dressed quickly and went out to see the commotion. Larry and Rachel were there, too. We couldn’t figure out what the occasion was but there are hundreds of young people, students with banners, parading through the streets.
Bikes loaded, we pushed to the curb and got pictures with Larry and Rachel then set off on a quest for breakfast. The Café Havana had a seat near the window. We leaned the bikes and took the view seat. A full breakfast of eggs, bacon, juice, toast and coffee and it all fit inside Madeline’s gift.
The crowds remain thick, we had to walk the bikes through them. Even a TV Crew there filming the event. An interesting thing learned on the tour, there are street signs with animal pictures. The Spaniards began teaching Mayans Spanish by using the image of birds or animals with the written word.
It was 9:30 by the time we got to the Highway. For the sake of speed we took the Autopista. It’s not very picturesque and those big 34 wheeler trucks don’t add much to the décor. It is flat and fast. There are no stores or service stations, our lunch break in the shade of an over pass consisted of Gatorade and a can of meat. Not very good but sustenance to carry us into the little town of Calkini.
Rolling in at 5:00 PM, the nice guy there told us that we’d have hot water in an hour.
The place is being refurbished and is definitely a Sexo Hotel. The best news, we’re the only guests. We decided to walk to the only Restaurant in Calkini and get a couple of beers. Once there, we were faced with a dilemma, they close at 6:00, so we had our beers then ordered food, Mexican food, of course. Turned out to be very good, Poc Choc again, but they were in a hurry to go home and pressed us to finish.
Our friend had the hot water ready, we showered then found that one of the 3 TV Stations was running an old Woody Allen Movie. Another evening with Woody but it kept us from having to look at the ceiling, trying to stay awake until at least 9:00 PM.
November 21, 2005
Calkini to Campeche
It was easy to get up early. Our friend was there and suggested we might find breakfast about 5 Ks down the road. The place looks pretty questionable but the young guy there whipped up scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, beans and homemade tortillas. Very fulfilling.
We cranked out the 90 Ks in record time. Had to turn off the Autopista and roll about 10 Ks on a narrow road until we found the beginning of the Malecon. A beautiful ocean front bike path.
A Movie Star?
Our first choice, Hotel Ocean View, had no rooms. They called Hotel del Paseo, they had rooms from 520 Pesos. As the Desk Clerk called and booked us the Bellmen surrounded Cat and the bikes in the driveway. Nervous at first she got a laugh when one who spoke English told her that they think I’m a movie star from California. To Cat a laughing matter, to the old cyclist a real ego boost!
With only verbal directions we wondered about a bit then realized that we’d passed the entry and were at the back door. Up the stairs and we pushed directly into the Lobby. They had us leave the bikes with bags there. We had to carry the necessary bags up 2 flights as they had no elevator.
The little Restaurant here had a nice sandwich. As we ate the wind came up. By the time we finished it was blowing a hurricane outside.
We settled in, Cat watched TV and wrote in her journal. I set up the computer and worked on the journal.
It felt so good to be in and out of the wind that we ordered room service. They don’t have CNN but the cable does offer several stations with English for Cat to flick back and forth to.
November 22, 2005
A Day in Campeche
Breakfast at the little Café across from the Lobby then we walked around, looking for a Laundry. Elva Maria is second generation in the Laundry Business. He parents started the shop in 1965. She recently moved it and we had to ask and, and ask to find her. Nice gal, fun to talk with.
Our walk to Fort San Miguel was great, the sun is shining and it’s a perfect day for Photos. Well it was perfect until the camera’s battery ran down. We had to return to the Hotel to get another. Back into the old Center of Campeche and we had lunch. We’ve seen a picture of another so set off in search of it. The walk became difficult as we neared the hill. Then a fellow told us that it is still a long way, up and over the top. Walking in our sandals, we were tiring so called off the hunt.
Sam’s Club is off to the right as we returned. Making our way through fields and around Construction, we found the entry but that was as far as we could go. They refused to give us a Guest Pass, wanted us to join? We passed, walked across the street and found reasonably good wine in a Super market.
Tired of walking, we took a Taxi back to the Hotel. The early evening watching TV then, Room Service, again.
November 23, 2005
Campeche to Champoton
American Breakfast except bacon instead of hamburger. A struggle down the stairs then we loaded the bikes in the Lobby. Haven’t mentioned but they have Internet Access so we checked in one last time then set off.
The ride here is down the bright and sunny Malecon, past the buildings that make up the little skyline of Campeche. It must have been 8 Ks then, as all things must, it came to an abrupt end. The road is narrow and hilly. It was up and over then back to our shoreline ride. Past fishing villages then off the coast.
We stopped for lunch at a local food stand. The guy was anxious to please. He told us he had beef tacos that turned out to be hamburger but were good. As we ate we watched a big Tom Turkey strutting his stuff across the street. Lucky guy, to have been born here rather than further north. He would probably be frozen and wrapped in plastic there.
Back on the coast, which reminds us of cycling in Santa Barbara County. Ups and downs then back to water level and flat, we moved along and got into Champoton by 3:00 PM. Cycling through, we decided that the Recommended Hotel looked pretty seedy. A guy spoke to us and confirmed that there is another place on the other end of town. We headed there.
Hotel Venezia is very basic but there are a couple of Restaurants nearby. We pulled the bikes up 5 stairs and into a Motel atmosphere. They did allow them in the room. I went out back and found a piece of aluminum to block the window closed. They have an Internet but it closed, almost in our faces. They said that they’d open again at 7:00 PM.
Showered, we went searching for food. The large places across the street were both closed? We went next door to a little Café and found enough food to fill the void from today’s ride. Fried fish fresh from the Gulf, rice and French fries. Good but greasy.
Though the Internet Café was open, they were booked. Lots of students doing school work, we assumed. The room does have TV but only a few stations. After watching and working on our Spanish, we shut it down and hit the sack early.
November 24, 2005
Champoton to Sabancuy
Breakfast back at the same little Café. No Bacon or Ham, Chorizo w/scrambled. The owner went to market for milk and juice. Fresh juice came in a plastic bag. Coffee, hot milk and Folgers Crystals. There’s a plaque in the corner telling of the first Spanish landing here in 1517. The Mayans gave them water and told them to leave. When they refused the leader, Moch-Cuouh ordered his men to attack. They did with a vengeance and killed the entire crew. It wasn’t until after Moch-Cuouh’s death in 1540 that the Spaniards finally were able to establish a settlement they called Villa de San Francisco de Campeche.
Cat slipped across and got pictures of the fresh Catch of the Day coming in from the morning sea. It’s cool, almost cold this morning.
Thankful on Thanksgiving Day
The road is completely flat and along the Gulf Coast. This is a wonderful Thanksgiving surprise for us. Rolling fast on the flat, we stopped at a restaurant for soft drinks. It’s a Bus Stop, and there’s a bus load of French and German tourists. Some are swimming in the ocean, some in a pool. Most are just sitting and smoking. So we have plenty to celebrate, the flat road, the fact that we won’t have to climb aboard the smoker’s bus and we’re feeling healthy on this sunny Thanksgiving Day.
Yesterday we saw Helicopters. Today there are more. Then a fleet of several Mexican Navy Ships made arcing curves in formation on the glistening waters of the Gulf. We have a wonderful wide shoulder and the sun. Rivers pass under the road and spill red water out to sea. A fisherman confirmed that this same condition I’d seen in Nova Scotia when cycling there in 1988. Iron ore rusts and makes the water look almost blood red.
A strange tree with a Palm Tree growing in it was god for a picture. Wild Cotton grows along the road. Lots of lots with new homes being built. It brings back memories of the Oxnard beach in the hot market days.
A car pulled past and the driver shouted praises then gave us a big thumbs up. Moving ahead a few hundred yards, he pulled over. Wary, we watched his hands as he emerged. Something in his right, maybe a camera? No, not a camera and just as we were getting ready for a confrontation we saw, bananas. The little tasty ones. Manuel Jesus is a cyclist. He kept repeating, “Potassium, good for you”. He’s from Merida going to Ciudad del Carmen to visit his brother. He told us that he rode his bicycle from Merida to Mexico City when he was 14 years old. What a nice person. Now we’re Thankful for Manuel Jesus, too.
Sabancuy lies off the Highway across the lagoon. We found the only Hotel in town and it wasn’t bad. There’s a little Taco Stand next door, the gals there made us an assortment of their stock in trade. Very tasty and of course we were very Thankful!
Then the quest for wine. Into every store only to get a “no”. Then we did find a bottle of Spanish white. They did have an Internet Shop so we checked messages.
Dinner in the Hotel diner. The owner came in, took our order then went back to cook. Well, we heard the micro wave dinging and he returned shortly with thin pounded steak and fries. The meat was boney and tough. The fries were tough but represented food and we needed food. We ordered another plate. When he returned with them he had another piece of steak. He said something like, “Meat is small”. We accepted. Not much of a Thanksgiving feast yet we were thankful.
No English language TV so it was early to bed. We’re the only guests tonight.
November 25, 2005
Sabancuy to Ciudad del Carmen
Surprised, when Cat peaked out the window to see what the commotion was the parking lot was full. Several pick-up trucks pulling boats. Early to rise fishermen looking for the worm. By the time we dressed and headed to the restaurant they were all pulling out. Breakfast at the Hotel was much better than dinner had been. Typical scrambled eggs with ham, beans and tortillas.
The water on the coast is sea foam green. The road continues flat and we are riding fast. Fishermen stand along the road holding up the catch of the day hoping to catch a passing motorist. Rock fingerlings that jut out protecting the coast form erosion are covered with Pelicans. The bridge to the Island is 3 ¼ Ks long. (A little over 2 miles) There is a low guardrail but it makes us feel like an easy trip to the water below if the wind gusts catch us.
Ciudad del Carmen is larger than we thought. The streets became typical city traffic as well as the typical cobblestone deterrent. We followed signs to the Holiday Inn and though it’s more than our budget, we need a really nice place for a much needed rest. Settled in I hit the computer keys and Cat hit KFC for chicken sandwiches. Lunch in then Cat was back out to the Mall.
She was astounded by the size and complexity of the Mall and the nearby Marketplace. It was almost dinner time when she returned. Feeling like a shut in, I walked to the nearby Pizza place. We again dined on the bed and enjoyed a full range of English language TV. A full stomach and as much CNN as we could stand then off to sleep.
November 26, 2005
A Restful Day in Carmen
Up early we took a walk looking for breakfast. The only choice at this hour is Burger King. Hot cakes, juice and coffee. Not cheap but really felt like home. There are 3 guys sitting, speaking English, nearby. We had to ask. They’re from Texas, working on the Oil Platforms off the coast here.
There’s water standing in the street, we had to jump back several times as cars and buses passed to keep from being splashed. At first we thought it was from a couple of industrious guys washing cars but the sheer volume was too great. Then we saw the problem, a plugged drain. They had a guy in it, up to his neck. He would take deep breaths then dive down and come back up with hands full of the gunk that was impeding the flow. We’re hoping he was earning hazardous duty pay. The sludge looked like it could be hazardous when applied to human skin.
I did the shut in again, Cat went out shopping then came back and left again with an arm load of laundry. We’re luxuriating, thinking about how life will be when we get back to normal? IN a sense, this is normal. Two nights in the same bed and a bathroom in the same location.
Spent the afternoon typing, stretching and relaxing in front of the Tube. Almost forgot, they do have wireless Internet Connection so we did a fair amount of reading and answering.
We almost forgot our laundry, Cat made a running trip just before the 6:00 PM closing hour. Dinner in, Room Service, Salmon that was really a taste treat.
Propped up, we watched a movie then more CNN.
November 27, 2005
Ciudad del Carmen to Frontera
We’re up early and loaded so splurged on a Hotel Breakfast. Easy and expensive but quite good!
A little work getting through the streets of Carmen then onto the second bridge. Not as long as the one onto the Island, it arched up then sort of rolls a bit. There was wind but much less than the afternoon crossing of day before yesterday. The road bends abruptly to the right at bridge end. We sailed past an unfortunate ship left aground on the shoreline. Apparently the Captain missed the light house light? No wonder, to us it appears to be in the middle of the street.
Another turn, this time to the left and we’re in the midst of a very swampy region. The temperature is climbing and of course, the humidity adds its weight to the mix. At times buildings seem to be sitting right in the water. We wonder if this is the norm for this time of year or a leftover from Wilma?
Lunch at a roadside chicken place then we continued out blazing pace on the flat hot road.
Frontera seems large enough to have several Hotels. Yet, our search led us to only a couple located near the Plaza. The first looked okay but once in the courtyard it lacked. We were almost happy when a guy leaned out the upstairs window and told us that they were complete, all rooms full.
He pointed around the corner. After a short walk we pulled up and got a popsicle for me and soft drink for Cat. Then I stood the guard while she checked out the other place. Back shortly, she has us a room and spot for the bikes at street level. She has even talked the guy into a slightly discounted price. Way to go Cat.
The rooms are all upstairs, the bikes will lay in repose under the stairway. Of course that means that we have to carry the necessary bags up a long flight of stairs. The discount must have been in lieu of help carrying? The room is quite okay and the shower water is hot. Who could ask for anything more?
Hungry, the young guy at the desk gave a hearty recommendation to a place across the Plaza. It was filled with girls in frilly dresses, perhaps a coming out party? Also, they only have desserts tonight. A stroll around the Plaza brought us to a Taqueria with street seating. It was crowded and smelled terrific.
Sitting and watching the crowd and Tacos come and go. They cook some of the meat on a vertical spit like the one at the Parrilla in Cancun and Greek Restaurants. We hope that you enjoy the pictures as much as we did the food.
Mpeg 056 4 More Tacos
A little local TV then sleep.
November 28, 2005
Frontera to Villahermosa
Since we have to pull the bikes out to load we decided to take breakfast first. The Plaza is virtually empty and most doors are closed. We did find a building with Restaurant sign but it looked like the party last night ended late and the leftovers were still on the tables. A young girl indicated they would serve breakfast and ushered us into a window seat. The other tables were still heavily laden with last night’s revelry. They did take our order then begin clearing. The building is old and quaint but doesn’t clean up well. Cat was beginning to think we’d made a mistake by the time they brought our food. That changed our minds, a very tasty and fuel filled breakfast to get us off to a good start today. Oh, Cat reminds me that it was expensive. Food like last night was good and cheap. However, in general, food, rooms and other services seem pretty pricey. Cat asked, “Who said that Mexico is cheap”? We thought a moment then agreed that once we get back home this may seem really cheap.
Starting was a backtrack. We had thought we’d begin from the Plaza in a different direction but after asking several we did go back to where we’d turned off the Highway yesterday. Starting, we were passed by a group of local cyclists with rough bags on board. They all whooped and waved in passing. Looks like a club traveling together.
We crossed over the Rio Usumachinta and enjoyed the unique view of Frontera. It looks much more picturesque from a distance. A channel filled with floating plants like we’d seen on the Amazon, then we were back in swamp land and waterways. The road does turn inland part of today and that part is hotter still.
& Down Stream
Lunch, another roadside Chicken. A language inspired misunderstanding led to a slight confrontation abut the price. When the food arrived it was good enough to forget the price. Then, when the young guy working there presented the bill it was exactly half what we thought he’d originally quoted. Mmmm, good food and good price.
Villahermosa is a big city and tough to navigate. It took lots of asking and help while studying the little map in our Lonely Planet. Finally, the main street and it spilled us into the downtown area. The Christmas Spirit is everywhere. From trees to Nativity scenes.
The Howard Johnson’s Hotel drew us in but Cats look at the room sent her down the sidewalk to another place. I sat at a table at the Sidewalk Café in front of Hojos and had a frozen lemonade.
Cat returned and we pushed through the narrow streets to the door of Hotel Miraflores. The guys there were anxious to help. We pushed the bikes up a steep wheelchair ramp and into the Lobby. They even allowed us to take the bikes to the room, one at a time on their rear wheels in the cramped elevator.
A hot shower and lots of TV Channels to chose from including CNN News. The location is great and there are plenty of nearby Restaurants but for the sake of ease, we chose the Hotel Dining room. The room was empty, the food just fair and the price typically high as is the norm in most Hotel Restaurants.
CNN then sleep.
November 29, 2005
Resting in Villahermosa
The breakfast buffet here is pretty good. Sitting on the deck overlooking the street we enjoyed the food and people watching. It is cold, we had to keep our jackets on.
Another day of mundane housekeeping, Laundry, Internet and a trip to the Post Office. Cat went searching for a nice dinner place while I spent a little time typing. Then, we found that the Shifters from LandRider are here and we must show up to pick them up.
A Taxi to Plaza Olmeca
The Bellman told us to go to the corner and find a Taxi to Plaza Olmeca. Easier said than done. Taxis are like collectivos, they go to certain areas and take more than one passenger on each run. A good idea but difficult when language is involved. A nice guy, Andy from Chicago, helped us begin to find a taxi. As each pulled up they yell out where they’re headed and people behind us surge past and fill them. Finally one took us and a couple of others. FedEx had our package and it easily transferred to our hands. Now all I have to do is change Cat’s out. It’s been growling.
Lunch at Big Mac
Just across the street is Big Mac and lunch. Then nearby is a Tourist Office. They were able to provide some basic info and a good map.
Cat’s dinner quest had left her thinking that the place across the street was our best bet. It’s a rowdy bar but they also have a menu. I chose Chicken Cordon Blue Cat tried their shrimp. We both liked the food and enjoyed the people watching.
CNN News, a Sit-Com and then lights out.
November 30, 2005
Villahermosa to Cardenas
With bikes loaded we left them leaning in the room and walked to VIPs, a chain restaurant. It’s similar to several Chains back home including in the prices category. Good food, but not inexpensive, at all.
Heavy traffic and we were soon finding it difficult to find our way out of town. Back on the Autopista we rode the side road most of the time. Cars, trucks and buses roar past just off our left elbows. The road surface is bumpy and makes it even tougher.
Finally we broke free of city life and hit the countryside. Traffic remained heavy and a bit treacherous. However, we did have a wide shoulder that we dubbed our personal Bike Lane. .
Into Cardenas by 1:00 PM
Entering town we came across Cardenas Street and a statue of Lazaro Cardenas, the founder of this Pueblo. Of course it reminds us of our good friend, Roberto who worked with us for many years selling Real Estate back home. We past Lazaro then had to backtrack to get cross the Autopista on a bridge.
To the Plaza, found Hotel Ruiz, Not Bad, Not Good
Hotel Ruiz is slightly less than described in our Guide Book. Another where the rooms are all above Commercial Shops at street level. Walking we found a chicken place and ate a whole, good and inexpensive chicken. Chose a Pizza place on the same street to come back to for dinner. Awe the quest for food is second only to that for wine. After an hour searching Cat headed to the large Super Market while I sat up and typed a little. She returned with a couple of bottles of Mexican white and water, neither of which was available in the smaller shops here.
Back to Ruiz and showers. No hot water then too much hot and Cat couldn’t turn it off. We had to get our tools out and reset the set screw in the handle of the cold side. A good shower really makes for a great day after cycling.
Back for Pizza, pretty good and pretty filling. By the time we finished we were in a crowd of locals. Local TV only, early to bed, early to sleep.
December 1, 2005
Cardenas to Coatzacoalcos
Decided to ride to breakfast at the Pemex Station. The place here is unfriendly and doesn’t look that good. Out the door at 7:30 AM then through town and dined on scrambled eggs and hot dogs. Not bad. Lots of Candy truck drivers eating too. They laughed and joked among themselves then turned attention to us. We gladly told them our story as best we could and asked them to watch out for us on the road.
Good road, concrete flat and fast. A car over the side. We stayed on the Autopista,
many of the big trucks and buses took the narrow old road to avoid paying. A
wide shoulder shields us from close traffic but not it’s noise and fumes. The
overcast skies kept it to a cool and good cycling temperature.
Crossed into Veracruz State and the road disintegrated. It became more narrow and the shoulder was so rough that at times we had to walk. Along that area we were passed by 4 young guys from Campeche on a Religious Ride. It now dawns on us that they’re riding to Veracruz in honor of “Our Lady of Guadalupe”. They ride every day and sleep in Churches. They look rough and ready, for the road or a shower. They’re trying to get from Campeche to Veracruz in 15 days. We left Campeche on November 23 and hope to get there on December 8? So, we’re on a softer gentler trip but making close to the same daily distances.
The last 40 Ks were a real struggle. Little or no shoulder, very rough road and the sun came through with a vengeance. This is a long tough day for us. The bridge into Coatzacoalcos was a sight for our sore eyes. Dangerous to cross, we had to get into the traffic and blatantly hold them behind us as we pedaled around lumps, bumps and huge metal grates. Our thoughts that we had it made faded when a nice guy pointed to the hill ahead and told us that the Hotels were up there.
A push on a narrow sidewalk was almost as dangerous as the bridge crossing. The first Hotel we found was not good. Old and in a poor neighborhood. A guy on the street suggested another and it turns out to be great. Hotel Enriquez had a nice room for us but they made us keep the bikes in the parking garage. They did find a sort of room for them but not really secured. So, we took al bags off and secured them to a pipe with all 3 cable locks. Daniel, the Bellman, hauled our bags on a 2 wheeler. Hard to believe the volume and the weight they make when stacked.
We’re so tired, this is the longest, toughest day of cycling since we can remember. A hot shower did revive us slightly but dinner down was the most strength we could muster. The food wasn’t great but the Margaritas were. They smoothed out the food process and even too the edge off the Waiter’s attitude.
It didn’t take much Spanish language TV to put us to sleep this night.
December 2, 2005
R & R in Coatzacoalcos
A very good Buffet then Cat went looking for a Lavanderia, Vino a Map and a Post Office. She found all and got a package sent home that lightens our load considerably. Not of course without the usual challenges. She did her time in the long line then with the help of and English speaking guy she found that they were requiring the package be wrapped in brown paper. A woman came and took the box from her rattled off lots of Spanish then talked with her new friend. He told her that she must get it wrapped just as the gal returned with paper, scissors and tape. She motioned for Cat to join her, they went into the back and wrapped the box with few words between them. Then the big surprise, she didn’t work there, she was just helping. She even refused to take money for the paper and tape. Aren’t people nice? Cat reached out to hug her with teary eyes. She shrugged off the hug, smiled and walked away. .
I am working pictures like crazy. Trying to complete the Cuban section of our journal.
When Cat returned we walked to another Chicken place for lunch. There are lots of Sea Food places along the water but fish just didn’t sound good to us, chicken burgers did.
Our search for a Tourist Office led us to the Municipal Building. Though there isn’t a formal Office a couple of people there, Cesar the Manager of the Visitors Bureau and his assistant Millie took us under their wings. They broke out lots of info and picture books of Coatzacoalcos and Veracruz State. A real treasure trove but it will weigh almost as much as the box Cat sent off this morning. Then, Cesar offered us a ride but we declined as the light is right of photos on the Malecon. He and Millie were leaving for lunch. We walked together then he insisted that we stop while he searched his car for a map. Voila, he gave us his only road map. Wow, 2 kind and generous people in one day.
The rest of the afternoon we spent just walking and taking pictures. Well after the walk we did take a Taxi to the Wine store. Perfect selection then back to the Hotel.
Dinner at a little place Cat saw earlier. A real Mom and Pop shop, good steak and great flour tortillas. Excellent and it went well with our wine selection.
December 3, 2005
Coatzacoalcos to Acayucan
Another good breakfast, plenty of fuel food, eggs, bacon and toast. We supplemented with bananas. Daniel was off this morning. The young guy on duty today isn’t as experienced or interested in handling the difficult load. Several stair cases between us and the garage. We loaded under the quite, ever watchful eye of the Security Guards then wheeled out through the gate. .
It’s a hard pedal up then swoosh down to the Malecon. What a beautiful day for a bike ride. The bright sun sparkles on the clear waters of the Gulf. Plenty of Photo Ops along the way. Even a pose on the steps of an Olmec. Another big ship hard aground speaks to the dangers of the Gulf waters. Could it have been the results of a Hurricane, fog or just human error?
The road is narrow and bumpy. Cat hates it. Off to the right we see something that is needed throughout the world. A small mountain of plastic bottles and workers sorting them. We’ve said it before but worth repeating, “Why not charge a deposit on plastic items and pay it to those who would spend the time collecting them along the highways and byways”?
Charbroiled Hamburgers for a wonderful lunch at a roadside Café. A brief respite form the traffic and bumpy narrow road. Traffic has been heavy, fast and comes too close for comfort at times. .
At the edge of Acayucan we pulled up for a cold drink. There are 2 groups of cyclists lounging, resting in the service station parking area. We drank Gatorades and enjoyed chatting with the holy cyclists. They’re all from the Yucatan and going into Veracruz to celebrate the “Day of The Virgin of Guadalupe”. They like the others we’ve talked with, cycle by day and sleep in churches every night. The Parishioners feed them. It’s obvious that they have few if any places for bathing.
From the Station it’s all City ride through Acayucan to Hotel Kinaku. The sun set and it got cold. Hot showers then Dinner in the Hotel dining room.
The sound of drums and fireworks drew me back out into the cold evening air. A group of students pounding on trash cans, buckets and pans are celebrating Dia de la Virgin. Oh, there’s a great looking Mercedes parked across the street. A rare sight, indeed.
December 4, 2005
Acayucan to Cotemarco
Ordered fried eggs and bacon, received scrambled eggs and ham?
Met a couple from New Mexico but they were sort of standoffish. Gave them a card but they didn’t even give us their names. They did tell us that they come here often, their project is “Renewable Energy”? The guy with them, Arturo, gave us his card. He lives in Mexico City and told us to call if we need help. His card describes his business as Ecotourism and New Technologies.
Out the door by 8:15 AM and it took 15 minutes to get down to Hwy 180 to Cotemaco. Fairly flat and little traffic at first. Then about 30 Ks out we hit the hills. It was some up and down then mostly up for the next 35 Ks.
Stopped after 50 Ks looking for food. Cat was beginning to fade from heat, exertion and need of nourishment. Police Commendante Faustino and Officer Omar. Commendante told us there was no food here. I told him that Cat really needed food. He walked, we followed to a little store and talked with a local. Then the local led us back to a bar and told us they would make food. Cat ordered Chicken Asado. It was like ½ chicken barbequed served with beans and corn tortillas. Now great but the best food in town at this time.
15 Ks more up, Cat has completely run out of steam. I re-scheduled the shifter on Cats bike to get the lowest gear. Shortly it came apart, the spring came off inside? I have had this happen before. Too much adjustment on the setting. She was doomed to riding in the highest gear on the rear derailleur making it too hard to pedal.
We tried to flag down a ride but no one would stop. So, we pushed to the top of the next hill then coasted down. A couple of guys there told us that it’s 11 Ks to Cotemarco. I wanted to go for it but Cat really has no strength left. I used a rubber band to hold the weights together on her shifter. That held it in a mid range so she could pedal up some hills. We walked on some and struggled up others. Then coasted down toward the Lake. Still a few ups and downs but pulled into the first Hotel, Finca, and I went in. Cat was so tired that she almost cried. I went shopping for a room.
Yes, they have one. Our Lonely Planet Guide Book says that room rates start at 910 Pesos. I was surprised to see the sign posted behind the desk was over 1000. The clerk instantly discounted to 640. A good deal for us.
Surrounded by California Movie Moguls. Much of the crew are staying here. Richard had seen us on the road. He’s from Australia but living in Malibu and a Cameraman. It’s a Mel Gibson Movie called Apocalipto, about Mayans here 600 years ago.
A couple seated nearby got up to leave and Cat asked if they were with the Movie. Yes, they are the Editor and assistant. They sort of hurried off then she, Barbara, came back with a card. She and her Brother own a winery in Paso Robles, California. She lives in Westlake Village, CA. www.DunningVineyards.com
We stopped at the standup computer and were answering e-mails when a guy struck up a conversation with Cat. He lives at Hollywood Beach which is Oxnard, our Home Town.
It’s A Small, Small World
Another guy, Danny, walked up and introduced himself. He lives in Thousand Oaks. When he wrote his e-mail address down it contains his last name, I asked, “Do you know Hank”? He was shocked, Hank’s his Dad. Both Cat and I met Hank and Nancy, his wife at a Dinner. It was the first time she and I met. We were both with ex’s at that time. Geez, it really is a SMALL WORLD.
We have dozens of TV stations including CNN. We were just too tired to take advantage.
December 5, 2005
R & R in Cotemarco
Slept in, until 6:45 AM. Slow moving, we had breakfast on the patio. Met a wonderful family, Rogelio, Sara and boys, Virgilio and Augustin. He is a farmer, converting from citrus to trees for wood. A long range process, he will pick up trees today but won’t harvest for 7 to 10 years. He is concerned about global warming and it’s affect on life. His ranch used to have 2 creeks that are now dry. He feels refrigeration is a big culprit. I mentioned exhaust fumes then he made a point, there are now 3 billion cars on planet earth. Most of them run and create heat, daily. We all agreed that we in the US feel like we’re making changes that improve air quality then ship the old smoke and fume belchers to poorer countries like Mexico.
Cat took a short lesson in Motion Picture Editing from Barbara. Then she rinsed our cycling cloths while I did pictures then journal pages.
Hold the journal, I almost forgot to fix Cat’s bike. Maybe because I hate working on bikes? I put one of the new shifters on in fairly short time then went to work on repairing the one I’d over adjusted. The rubber band that allowed Cat to cycle into Catemaco was wound around the shaft of the counter weights. A 20 minute struggle then it turned freely. A 20 minute struggle trying to get the spring back in place then a walk toward the Front Desk to borrow some needle nose pliers. On the way I passed the open door of one of the Editing Crew. There’s a bicycle leaning against the desk and a guy deep in thought, hovering above his computer. There are no markings or name on the bike so I said something like, “Nice Bike”! Mark laughed, he had just bought it from a local store here for only 700 Pesos. ($70) He says that he always buys a bicycle when they’re on location. Rides it everywhere and really gets to know the place. I told him about our problem and he whipped out a sleek, thin pair of needle nose pliers. Back, I had the shifter together and working in no time. Mark came by our room and took a look at our steeds and my home grown tool kit. Thanks to him, we still have 2 fresh shifters aboard.
More journal picture placement, movies on the side. Dinner in the Lake Side Dining Room. Fajitas for Cat and a Steak for me. We watched as Danny held court, talking of a stunt they will perform soon for the movie.
December 6, 2005
Catemaco to Angel R Cabada
Good breakfast while viewing white caps on El Lago. Blustery wind churning the brown gray water. Danny and John stopped to say hello and goodbye. They were headed to the Set. A last goodbye to Barbara and we pushed off at 8:50 AM.
Trauma numero uno, no water. And, the Pemex didn’t have a mini market. Onward, fearful of being stuck out there without. A backtrack then the second Pemex and they only have 5 liter bottles. So, we decided to go without the flow until San Andres Tuxla about 13 Ks down up the road. And up is the word of the day.
Combine the up with cold wind then mist then rain and you have our day in a nut shell. During a moment of clear weather on a down hill run we passed a group walking up and singing. Obviously more of the gathering celebration for the upcoming Dia de la Virgin. Then one of the saddest looking dogs we have ever seen was trying to find a bit of edible meat from the flat and dry remains of a skunk. There are also several stands selling bottles of some kind of fruit? The one in our photo has a Mom and Daughter in the background. As we raised the camera the Mom turned her face away and covered the little girls. Camera shy?
Stopped at 1:00 for lunch, a little roadside place called El Trapiche. (Memorable because it’s the same name as an Argentinean wine that we enjoy.) The girl had soup with pasta, we had 2 bowls. Then I ordered cerdo ahumado, a thin sort of smoked pork. We’d had one order of tortillas that she called manteca, lard. The pork came with another 3. Cat helped, we ate all but ½ of a lard tortilla.
Three trucks pulled in and the drivers took seats outside. We were in to try to find heat. Cat was shivering, she pulled her long sleeve t-shirt out.
As we left the drivers asked where we were going etc. They were great, we could tell even through the language veil that they were talking about such a trip. They confirmed what the waitress/cook had told us, 3 more Ks to the top. The fog was now so thick visibility was hampered. Then, at the summit a vaca incident. Two cows walked out in front of a semi truck. He slammed on the brakes and Cat let out a yelp. These cows have been in the street before. One bolted the other just stood and stared. The driver laid on the horn and she finally stepped aside.
Rolling down the wet and foggy hill was tricky. We held the brakes so much our fingers went numb. The truckers from lunch went by, honking and flashing lights.
Then down, into thinning fog and thickening rain. A long run, even a little shoulder to ride on. Funny, when we have no space the drivers will slow, even stop or swing wide. Now, in the gutter, they give us no quarters.
Pulled into a service station and learned that we were on the outskirts of Angel. The Guard with big gun there told us that there are Hotels in Angel Centro. Onward, we stopped and looked at a pretty bad looking concrete Hotel. Onward, Cat asked a Policeman with huge gun, bigger than the Guards. He pointed on down the Main Street. There are 2, one on the main that looks slightly better than the concrete pill box. Then, off the main, down the side street, a nicer looking place.
They had rooms. They have TV and hot water. We took their deal. Tiny room, no room for bikes but she let us keep them in the linen room.
We’re cold and soggy, the shower would only run cold water? A guy came and said, “10 minutes”. We had to stand because we were too wet to sit on the bed. At last a dribble then torrent, we had way hot showers. It’s the little things in life that often mean so much!
Even a couple of melodramas in English. Wow!
5:30 and I will work pictures until wine time. . .
Dinner at 7:00 PM. I had a steak parilla, Cat opted for Fajita. Mine was very good, hers was more like sweet and sour Chinese food. Oh, and we brought our own wine.
A little TV then lights out and TV off. Big day tomorrow.
December 7, 2005
Angel to Alvarado
Up at 7:00 AM after a toss and turn night. Killed a medium sized Cucaracha in the shower then Cat discovered a Gigante in the drawer where she’d put her hair dryer. Hola amigos, this is Mexico you know.
Packed then down the street to the same restaurant. Good scrambled eggs and ham. Toast, jam and coffee. Oh yes, fresh squeezed OJ, too.
Back at the room, Cat had an attack of the Montezuma’s Revenge. Slow moving, late start at 8:45 AM. Didn’t get too far before Cat had to hit the bushes. Awe that Montezuma!
Everyone had told us it’s all down hill from Angel to Veracruz. We found it to be rolling hills. Many ups that required gearing down to granny. A few that brought us to a walk. Our trucker friends from lunch yesterday came past, loaded to the hilt, honking and flashing their lights, again.
Saving A Turtle
Cat first noticed, I was gawking at the scenery and almost ran over it if she hadn’t yelled. A cute little turtle is trying to make its way across the road and we sense a disaster in the making. Leaning my bike against Cat I ran back to save the little fellow. When I grabbed him up off the hot pavement he made it clear that he didn’t trust us or our motives. He hissed and barred his toothless little mouth. He has a hooked lip and must be a member of the Snappin’ Turtle family. After a picture and close inspection I ran across and set him in the bushes. He scurried away and so did we.
More Flame Bearers, runners this time. The crossroads for Cosamaloapan is on one of the ups of the day. Then, a Cuoto or Toll Gate and toilets. Cat was in dire need of the latter and we were getting hungry. While I stood the guard a guy selling a sort of cake came across the road and pitched his wares to me. Cat got back and we offered him the only small bill we had, a 20 Peso note with a torn corner. He looked it over then rejected it. He continued to try to get us to buy but, our only other money is large denomination. A very nice guy, he sadly went back to the road and running along with cars and trucks to make sales.
By 12:00 noon we were on the outskirts of Alvarado. Time for a decision, the next accommodations at are least as far from us now as we’ve come? So, stop for the night.
Cat really isn’t feeling very good and needs a toilet.
Coming into town we have to cross a high arching bridge. The old Ferry is lying on her side slowly rusting away. We can see the old part of town from the high point of the arch.
Off the highway, down the main then using a list given to Cat in Catemaco we began asking for Hotel Parque. A taxi driver gave us direction then led us off to the left then around a corner into the Plaza. The Hotel looks bad. We went across the Plaza to the Municipal Building, found tourismo and they insisted that Parque is the best then confided that it’s not very good. Back and Cat looked, she agreed with them. However, she really isn’t feeling good so, we took it.
Decided to get food first then find an Internet place. Sandwiches at a small café, also on the Plaza then Internet for an hour. Cat took a machine and looked at Hotels in Veracruz. We are ready, really ready for another nice place. Are we getting spoiled, is short timers setting in?
Next, a long walk, really getting to know Alvarado and to know that they have no wine here? A fishing town without wine? We were even ready to go for red! Finally a decision to drink a couple of beers tonight. Walking back, looking for a Cervezeria, we found one that has 2 ½ bottles of Diablo Char and 2 of Toro Concho SB, we’re set fro the evening.
Another water problem, no hot again. I went to the desk and asked, the clerk called out to a guy just cycling away. Must be the maintenance guy? He came in and turned on the cold water then the hot and held his hand on the cold? Sort of like back flushing we guessed? After several attempts he went upstairs to the water heater. When he came back down we had steam and bursts of water. He tried to explain, we think the hot water tank had gone dry and was only putting out steam. At any rate, we finally had hot and Cat jumped in.
Dinner, tacos, tortas and empanadas at a place on the plaza. A guy runs the place like a Franchise. Maybe he should franchise the idea? The food is so good, the service superb and, he let us bring our own wine. ON top of all that, there was a constant flow of local humanity and a very strongly contested series of Chess Games just across from us. Local is so great.
A little TV then sleep on a full stomach.
December 8, 2005
Alvarado to Boca del Rio
Final 8 Ks in Israel’s Pickup Truck
Breakfast at a local stand with locals only. Cat loves these places, I hope we survive without an attack of Montezuma. The food was surprisingly good. It began to drizzle rain as we ate under the awning. We were on the road by 8:30 AM.
With so much advice and promise that the road ahead was flat or down we set off confidently. Of course, the confidence faded as the hills set in. And then, the wind. We were either in a heavy side wind or struggling directly against it for the entire day. A real challenge!
The good news as we wobbled along is the shoulder, it’s wide and clean and rideable. The route is slowly bringing us to the shore of the Gulf. We stopped at a roadside café and ate more local food with the locals. A crew from the Power Company was re-doing some of the wiring. The foreman, a guy of advanced age, was up and down a rickety ladder and left us worrying every time he grabbed one of the wires to support himself. There is a hotly contested Pool Game going on inside the covered area of the stand. The Power Company guys were so interested in the game that they often just stood and watched. We had fish empanadas and enjoyed the entire scene play out.
Back into the wind that by now is howling in our ears. This is becoming a real struggle. When we reached the turn off to Veracruz we turned directly into the wind and the resulting dirt filled our eyes. This is particularly tough for Cat as her eyes are already full of contact lenses. Ground to a stop, we stood contemplating our next move as the dirt and rocks pelted our bodies. A car pulled up and the couple waved, it was Adriana, Carlos and their pooch, Doodles. They could do little or nothing for us, their car was full, to the hilt.
Then, as we resigned our selves to finding a bus Israel pulled up in his big, white Chevy pickup. He’s a Surveyor and saw us this morning near Alvarado. The 3 of us lifted the bikes in then Cat and I joined them in the pickup bed. Sure it was dirty and dusty but we were on the move. It’s only 8 Ks to Boca del Rio (Mouth of the River) but it might have taken us hours to push on the narrow roadway. Far too dangerous, we enjoyed the wind and dust and the ride.
Israel dropped us on a corner in front of a wine store and within visual of The Holiday Inn. The wind continues to howl, we bought a bottle and pushed against it to the Inn. The Hotel is a typical Conference Center. Huge, cold and expensive. We are not going further today, tomorrow is an other day. By now the wind has to be at Tropical Storm force without the warmth of the tropics.
They did allow the bikes in the room. The best of it is the shower, hot and heavy flow. Also, great TV, too many channels but we found joy in those we chose. Oh, and the Internet Service is included, too.
Dinner in, we had room service Chicken, very good.
TV to Dreamland.
December 9, 2005
A New Home in Veracruz
Breakfast isn’t included and isn’t cheap. The Restaurant is huge and cold and overlooks the wind blown Gulf waters. The water is blue gray and foamy. The scene increases the feeling of cold. They call this weather system Vientos del Norte, winds of the North. It feel like a hurricane to us.
A bus ride to the Center of Veracruz and a quest for a more homey feeling Hotel that led us to inspect 5 before we hit home. The Gran is on the Plaza. Though it’s less costly than the Holiday, its still above our budget. We need and want comfort, we bought in.
Our next need is a Bicycle Mechanic. The young guy at the Hotel suggested a street nearby where we’d find several shops. We walked and repeated the Hotel quest in Bike Shops. Strange how many shops here sell but don’t work on Bicycles. Each place sent us on to another until we finally found a place that indicated they could fix bikes, too. The girl called someone then told us to wait while he comes. There is a guy doing rudimentary repairs here on the sidewalk. We’re hoping for more. We have been looking for someone with a pickup to come to the Holiday Inn rather than having to ride in the traffic and wind. After an hours wait Arquimedes pulled up and agreed to meet us and pick the bikes up at 2:00 PM, today.
Bikes to Arquimedes’s Repair Shop
A quick lunch at another Street Place then the bus back to Holiday Inn. They allowed us a late checkout, we loaded the bikes and had them waiting for Arqui on the sidewalk at 2:00. When they Parking lot Guards stopped an older truck and questioned his being here we know that it must be Arqui. He got past them then pulled up right at the door as though he were a Limo. We lifted the bikes in and jumped into the seat with him. He is our Limousine! What a nice guy, we’re taking the bikes to a different shop. They, as a Family, own 5 shops scattered about in Veracruz.
We waited and watched as they assessed the condition of the bikes. I was particularly interested in getting the point across that they should not try to fix or even understand how the Shifters work. Jose, the mechanic, knows his stuff. He just began to completely dismantle Cat’s bike. Though it’s more than I thought we need, they feel that they should get to bare bones then rebuild, checking each part, replacing or repairing as the go.
We walked to McDonalds, down the street for a chicken sandwich. Back at the Shop, Arqui was ready to take us ant the bags downtown to the Gran Hotel. What a spectacle, as we unloaded our strange looking baggage from Arqui’s old truck with a homemade camper shell. Guess not many guest here arrive in such style?
What’s Become of Aaron Brown?
Settled in, we decided to dine in. The Concierge helped Cat call Dominos Pizza. They delivered and we enjoyed Pizza and CNN. Larry King had Marlo Thomas on, telling of the work of St. Judes, a hospital that her Father, Danny Thomas started to repay St. Jude for his good fortune. Very interesting. Awe, and a small feeling of loss. Without so much as a word, CNN has replaced Aaron Brown on the late news show. We have liked Aaron but have noticed how he seemed to be losing ground to younger, faster talking, Anderson Cooper. (We checked with our pal, David, who works with CNN, he says, “Let’s just say that CNN didn’t renew Aaron’s contract”.)
An Invitation to Dine
We received an e-mail from Adriana & Carlos today inviting us to their home for dinner. You know, the couple we met at lake Catemaco then saw again during the dust storm yesterday. We called and made a date for dinner, tomorrow night.
December 10, 2005
Checking on Bikes
Breakfast at Sanborn’s a combination book store Restaurant. A good, home feeling treat, pancakes with maple syrup. We walked through the Plaza and some adjoining streets getting a feeling for Veracruz.
I caught a bus to Aruis’ Shop. Cat went in search of a Laundry then will spend her morning reading and sending messages at an Internet Café. My idea is to oversee the repairs of the bikes. When I arrived at the shop it was obvious that Jose was in control and doing the total strip and clean on my bike. He had Cat’s back together and it worked perfectly including the shifter that he had cleaned and reinstalled. I did stand and watch for a while but felt useless. So, back on the bus and back to the Gran.
We walked to KFC for a lunch sandwich then just explored.
Carlos and Adriana arrived at 6:00 PM. They parked in the Hotel zone and we walked across to see a dance show going on in the Plaza. A big band was playing Cubano Music and couples were swinging and swaying to the sounds. I even got up on the stage and got a video of the band and dancers. Very interesting, fun amidst the Christmas Décor.
Dinner With Adriana, Carlos and Doodles
Doodles was waiting impatiently for us. He barked as we entered the house and rarely stopped during the rest of the evening. Adriana is a Certified Chef. She has completed a course at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. She has cooked with Bobby Flay, a name Cat is familiar with from her Cooking Channel Days. Adriana speaks English because she was raised in New York. Carlos speaks a little English and is trying to learn more. They own a Liquor Store and Bar. Adriana makes Tapas that they serve at the Bar.
Cat outlines the menu, Bruschetta as an hors d’ouvre then salad with apples, large shrimp over pasta and ice cream for dessert. Delicious!
Great fun talking, Carlos told us that his Store and Bar are partnerships with Corona, the beer company. He says that Sol Beer is the most popular in this area but Corona is by far the leading beer in Mexico. They do have legal hours but often stay until the last person leaves. He says that the Police sometimes do come in but usually leave if he pays them. A confirmation of the stories we’ve heard of corruption although Carlos says it really is a rare event.
Tiring, we hated to see Carlos have to go back to work, to close the Bar. However, we are dog tired and ready to go. Doodles barked and “Adios Salute” as we exited. Carlos drove us back to the Hotel on his way to work.
Goodbye to Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy
Larry King has a special tonight remembering Richard Pryor, the Comedian. Both he and former Senator Eugene McCarthy died today.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Lazy Day in Veracruz
Late Breakfast on the Plaza, we sat in the sun and enjoyed our eggs with beans and the passing scene. Another walk around but there is little to see beyond the Plaza its self.
We took the now familiar bus ride to the Bike Shop and found almost new looking bikes waiting for us. Only young son Kimo was there, waiting for us. He got the bill then accepted payment. What a bargain, the entire complete tear down and rebuild cost only the equivalent of $60 US. Amazing! We hailed a Taxi, put them in the trunk and were back at the Gran in no time.
Band in Plaza, Dog Show
The Plaza is alive today. A dog show at the center but a Band is playing lively music too. We found a few good buildings and sights to photograph then went directly to Carl’s Jr.
Another treat, lunch at Carl’s Jr, I love their Santa Fe Chicken sandwiches. It was as good as I have remembered.
We spent the rest of the afternoon packing and writing.
Room service dinner, we both ordered broiled salmon. Really fantastic. We’re gonna miss this place. Oh, and TV, CNN and a movie. Life is great!
December 12, 2005
Veracruz to Cordoba
A bad decision, we went to the famous old Restaurant for Breakfast. Pretentious, expensive and uncomfortable, we ordered then decided against. Cancelled the order and walked. We never do that but it just felt right. So, off to Carl’s Jr for an Egg Sandwich. They don’t open until 8:00 AM. Had to wait 15 minutes but it was worth it, good sandwich, good price and no overly confident waiter breathing down our necks. And, we were interested to see that they serve Channel Islands Coffee. Has to be a brew from our home town!
Dia del Virgin del Guadalupe
Today is the reason for all the runners and cyclists, it’s Virgin Day. The day of the Miracle of the Virgin de Guadalupe. There are stalls all along the church wall set up to take family photos with religious backgrounds. They also had a Military band playing in the square. Lots of action in honor of our leaving.
Music & Art
Flat out of Veracruz and not too much traffic. We rode up an overpass, past a huge Olmec face then down. We past a sign and Cat posed next to the red circle with line through a bicycle, “No Bicycles”! Coming down off the bridge was the last down of the day. After the first 25 Ks it turned upward. Climbing in fog then rain. Cat got the shivers and couldn’t shake em’. We had to don our rain jackets. The road is constant up now. When the clouds clear we can see a huge mountain ahead.
Lunch at a small roadside Café. It was too cold to sit for long. I got a picture of a giant Snowman between raindrops. Time was fleeting as we slowly ground our way upward. We’re on the Autopista but the size and quality of the shoulder comes and goes. Then, the already dark skies darkened even more as twilight set in. Still at least 5 Ks from Cordoba, we pulled into a Pemex Service Station to seek a ride. A couple of Policemen seemed to be saying that they would take us but we should get coffee first.
Bikes in the Kitchen of the Italian Coffee Company
Thinking that they might want us to buy them a cup of coffee, we went in and were happy to hear Mary Jose, the Manager, speaking English. She went back out and talked with the Police. They told her that we were mistaken, they had only suggested that we could go inside and get some warm coffee. Then, Mary Jose said, “You can leave the bikes here, I’ll call a Taxi to take you to town. Come back tomorrow and get the bikes”.
With the bikes safely inside we waited for the Taxi and talked with Mary Jose. She has lived in Seattle, Washington. Hired for what she thought was a Restaurant Position, when she arrived in Seattle she learned that they really only wanted a housekeeper. She worked for a while then left and found work in a Restaurant. She lived there for 2 years.
Taxi into Cordoba and to the door of Hotel Mansur. Cat waited while I ran to check on availability and price. The girl quoted 280 Pesos, I agreed and ran back to taxi. Brought bags in then she said, “335 Pesos”? She did agree to take our Amex Card then backed out on that too. All this was in the midst of a parade in honor of The Lady of Guadeloupe.
The first in line to march past were the Firemen, then the Police followed by a blocks long stream of locals pounding on drums and blowing horns. Quite a spectacle.
Small room, good shower then Dinner down the street. It’s cold and damp. Shivering our way through the food, we hustled back and huddled under the covers.
December 13, 2005
Cordoba to Orizaba
The girl was not here this morning. We decided that someone had prompted her about the price while we unloaded last night. Our plan has been to return here, stay a day, then cycle on. The woman at the desk was not very friendly and used lack of common language to fend off questions about the rate. It’s the rack rate based on the sign above her head.
We paid up, told them goodbye, I did a quick once around the Plaza for photos while Cat waited and tried to hail a taxi. The Taxi back to Italian Coffee Company was less expensive than the ride last night. Well, last night we were desperate, this morning the sun is shining its warm and a beautiful day. Mary Jose was already holding court a the Italian Coffee Roaster. She convinced us not to go to Mendoza as I had begun planning. She suggested Orizaba, more to see and if we do choose to take a bus they leave often from there.
Bike or Bus?
Mary Jose is urging us not to cycle and Cat is taking her side. She says that the road is so steep and winding that there are untold numbers of accidents. Also, she called the Highway Police to confirm, there are no Hotels on the Autopista, from here to Puebla. There is a 22 Kilometer climb to more than 8,000 feet and the road is often foggy. Cat doesn’t want to push for hours and it doesn’t sound that great to me. We ate ham and Cheese sandwiches and washed them down with fresh squeezed OJ then fantastic Café Latte as we contemplated.
The uphill ride to Orizaba
So with full tummies and big hugs from Mary Jose we rode back out onto the warm roadway. It felt so friendly after last night’s debacle in the dark. It’s only 29 Ks but it is definitely all up. A couple of guys pulled over and introduced themselves. Jose is a cyclist, his friend Fernando and he work for Pemex. A cyclist of a different persuasion pulled up, he’s from Cancun and headed to Mexico City. A real low rider.
When we arrived at the bridge across the highway to Hotel Fiesta Cascada we looked down on what appeared to be a huge tragedy. Down and around and we learned that the crash had only been the second in a set of double trailers. So, a little roughed up paving but no injuries or loss of life.
Quick showers then a taxi into town where we bought bus tickets for tomorrow. We’ve decided to bus up to Puebla, explore for a day then go on to Mexico City. We also walked the streets searching for a plastic travel bag. We have 3 but want to lighten the load on them. Found it at a classic junk store.
Back at Cascada we took a walk to the rim of the canyon. Yes, we can see the waterfalls below. There are stairs down and several walkers and joggers past as we viewed. We decided to save our energy.
A Taxi ride into Orizaba, just a direct run to the bus station for tickets. We did walk the street a bit and get slightly acquainted with Orizaba.
Dinner in the Fiesta Restaurant, good food and they allowed us to bring our own wine. Better wine and price, too. A woman from Atlanta, Georgia seated nearby reading a book told us that she’s here with students. We invited her to sit and talk she declined preferring the book?
December 14, 2005
Orizaba to Puebla
154 Ks on Bus
At the included breakfast we met more of the Professors and Students. They are from a variety of Universities all in the States. Quite a few are from Atlanta, Georgia. They’re here taking lessons in Spanish and Mexican History.
They called for a Taxi to the Bus. The first driver refused to take us, our bikes and bags baffled him. The second guy, Felipe de Jesus smiled and then helped us jam bags and bikes into the trunks and back seat. He even stopped so that we could take a photo of snow capped Citlaltepetl, Mexico’s tallest mountain. Only charged us 30 Pesos, we tipped him 29 more. What a very nice guy.
Bikes aboard and off at 10:35 AM
Booked and ready to board, we managed to hook seats 3 & 4 the ones with a view. ADO (pronounced Ah Day Oh) is a huge Bus Company. We have been waving at the drivers and accepting their waves and honks back for weeks now. They have buses coming and going in every direction.
Finally aboard, we found that they keep the bus at freezing temperatures. So, we had to pull out jackets and our long sleeve shirts to bundle up. The ride is as smooth inside as it looks when they pass us. The buses are quiet, often they come up from behind and we’re surprised, we can’t hear them.
WOW, it is a huge climb. Would have taken us at least 10 hours of pushing once we started up. Thanks to Mary Jose and a few others we are enjoying this climb. This would have been a 3 day struggle in cold and damp. We crested the pass at almost 9,000 feet then started a slow decent into Puebla.
The Puebla Bus Station is large and 4 Ks from the Zocalo, the Plaza. We had a chicken sandwich there then Cat called the Hotel del Portal as recommended in our Lonely Planet Guide Book. No answer so she called the nearby Hotel Gilfer and they had room for 590 Pesos. A station wagon taxi got us and our things in to town. We completely unloaded and hauled bags and bikes up stairs and into a storage room. Then we went to look at the room. Terrible, the entire 7th floor was under construction and the room looked like it needed rehab, too. Then down to floor 6 and a room with odor of smoke so thick that we both got slight headaches. Then the final room and it was the same without smoke. We decided to move on. I sat on the Lobby floor with our loose bags while Cat shopped the street. Ended up just next door at Hotel Palace. Great looking lobby, decent room. Cash only, but a bargain at only 410 Pesos. ($41 US)
No CNN but plenty of Subtitled programs.
A walk around the Plaza then, Dinner at Vittorios,. So-so wine Great Soup and Pizza!
In bed, lights and TV off at 9:00 PM. Moving and schlepping is tough business.
December 15, 2005
A Day in Puebla
An Election Day in Iraq
Eight hours sleep and awake at 5:00 AM. Too early to bed, too early to rise and it’s way dark outside. Finally jumped into the crisp air of the room at 6:45 and dashed into the shower.
Breakfast down, traditional and pretty good, priced right, too.
Not wanting to find ourselves in the same Hotel dilemma in Mexico City, the largest City in the world, we walked down the street to the Holiday Inn. Dayami, the helpful young woman there called then booked a room for us at the Holiday Inn Zocalo, a nice place right on the Plaza. Then a walk around and photo shoot in this very photogenic City. Puebla is famous for her tile works. You can see some examples in our pictures.
We also spent time shipping shoes. We want walking shoes, it’s too cold for our sandals and we think that since we’re off the beach now they may be more appropriate for dinner wear. As for me, they don’t even come close size wise. The largest most stores carry is 10. We did find a pair of 12s but they’re way too tight.
I went back to our room and broke out the computer to save pictures. Cat walked to the Market Place for sandwich things. Lunch in the room, Turkey & Cheese & left over bread from Vittorios.
An afternoon doing pictures and Internet. It’s way too cold to walk around after the sun begins dipping below the horizon.
Happy hour then dinner down. Pretty good food and we brought our own wine.
December 16, 2005
Bussing to Mexico City
Mexican Breakfast down, funny we remember when we were first served beans in the morning. We thought we’d never get used to them, much less like them. Today we agreed, breakfast will seem flat with out them.
A Taxi ride to the Bus Station bags and bikes stacked near the gate then we prepared for an hours wait. They were boarding a bus as we watched, an ask and we saved that hour. They let us trade our tickets for the earlier bus. We can use the hour in Mexico City rather than hanging around here.
In the exchange, somehow we got the 2 front seats, too. A very good view, a very good trade. The scenery at first is pretty boring typical high plateau. Flat farmland now brown from winter’s dry and cold. Then, we found ourselves in a pine forest as we neared Mexico City. The traffic really isn’t that bad until you get close to the City. We could have cycled but too late now, no sense looking back. Then, came the City traffic and the reason we didn’t. It is frenetic and goes for miles. This largest City in the world is almost 50 miles long and 25 miles across. It’s ringed by a low mountain range that’s accented by the silhouette of Sleeping Woman and of course Popocatepetl, the volcano. These two high places are almost obscured by the haze or smog that forms a lid on the City.
In town and ensconced in our new luxurious Holiday Inn, we went walking. Located on the corner of the Zocalo, we are right in the heart of the City and the action. The Plaza is alive with peddlers selling their wares and Aztec Warriors using burning leaves to cleans tourists of bad spirits. Exactly what we thought we’d see here.
Around the Plaza
Lunch in a little Taco stand just 3 doors down from the Holiday Inn. They have the Arabic vertical spit and serve pork from it in flour tortillas. They call it Gringas. Delicious, meat with pineapple chunks and cheese inside. Yum! And, the best part, all for only 20 Pesos. Our lunch including a soft drink came to less $5.00 US. Yum, Yum!
A little more walking around, we went into the shopping area looking for long pants for me. My old Cargo pants bought in Helsinki, Finland 3 years ago are now falling apart at the seams. We did find a pair that fit at a discount Department Store. Not the Cargo type but more like Dockers.
A restful late afternoon, Happy Hour then Cat went back to our wonderful lunch spot and got more of same, to go. We feasted on Gringas and watched TV. News then a Movie. This is the good life.
December 17, 2005
A Tour of MC with Salvador
We sat on the Patio overlooking the Plaza and ate our included breakfast. It is brisk and the light wind actually sent a chill through us. We had to move back from the view to a more sunny seat.
Memories of Mrs. Wright
Popocatepetl, Chapultepec and Xochimilco
The guys at the Hotel have found an English speaking guide with a car. He will take us to all the sights with names familiar to me thanks to Mrs. Wright. There are certain people who have life long affect on most of us. One of them for me was my 7th and 8th grade Teacher, Mrs. Wright. She made a trip to Mexico during the summer and brought back all kinds of wonderful words that have always lurked in the shadows of my mind.
Popocatepetl, the volcanic mountain that watches over Mexico City and was worshiped by the Aztecs. Chapultepec, the Hill of Grasshoppers to the Aztecs, was their summer residence, among the pine trees. Perhaps the most memorable to me from those classroom days is Xochimilco, the Floating Gardens. Originally a gardening spot, the Aztecs began filling the area and it is now a network of canals and small lakes.
HE IS NOT DEAD, HE’S IN THE MOUNTAINS
Mrs. Wright must also have been taken by the story of Emiliano Zapata. He and Pancho Villa were heroes of the Mexican Revolution. Though Pancho was a Bandito before the Revolution Zapata was the more radical, espousing confiscation of the land from large Spanish Ranches and distribution to the Mestizos, the farm workers. Mrs. Wright got the script for the Play about his life. As a Mestizo, I had one speaking line, “He is not dead, he’s in the mountains”! Little did we know then, that our performance about Emiliano emulated a Communist, at a time when Joseph McCarthy etal were performing Commie Witch Hunts. Well, you know that we began experiencing feelings that Land Reform in Zimbabwe. Did Emiliano Zapata and Mrs. Wright instill these feelings early on in my life?
A Tour With Salvador
Salvador’s tour was fraught with traffic problems which he says is fairly normal in Mexico City. He’s retired after a 26 year career building Volkswagens. Married, they have a daughter and teenaged twin granddaughters. He loves his country and is proud to be able to show it off. We’re surprised at how well developed Mexico is, even the roads are pretty good though overtaxed by the amount of traffic.
First stop, Tlatelolco, Salvador says they call this place 3 Cultures because it was originally an Aztec Temple that the Spaniards built a Church on, from the Aztec Stones. The 3rd culture is current Mexico. You see the site is surrounded by modern buildings. .
Basilica de Guadeloupe
Approaching our second stop we were witness parades of Pilgrims. Some carrying banners others making pretty good music or just pounding drums. There’s a pretty large crowd funneling through the gate. The place is huge. So huge that the underground parking is 2 levels deep and it’s hard to find a space.
The plaza is divided between the old Basilica built around 1700 AD and the new circa 1970. The old is slowly sinking into the ground like lots of buildings here in Mexico City. The new, sort of garish looking Basilica is huge as you can see in our pictures and video. We were there during a Mass. Crowds of thousands make pilgrimages all year long but its December 12 and the 3 following days when things really happen here. Salvador says that about 6,000,000 Pilgrims pass through to view the image of the Virgin Mary. We took the walk behind the Alter, onto a moving walkway and under the Cloak with the image of The Virgin.
Juan Diego & The Virgin
An interesting phenomenon that we’ve seen as we rode through the Yucatan. Remember all those young people jogging or cycling to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe? It brings up memories of Correa Difunta in Argentina and Santiago del Compostelo? Here, Juan Diego, an Indigenous fellow saw The Virgin and reported to the Bishop in December 1531. He said that he’d seen a beautiful Lady dressed in blue and gold. She told him to go to the Bishop and urge him to build a Shrine in her honor. The Bishop didn’t believe him. It’s said that Juan had the vision several more times When the Ladies Image miraculously appeared on his cloak the Church accepted his story and a cult grew in her honor. In 1737 a miracle, word that She had extinguished an outbreak of plague, She was officially declared the Patron Saint of Mexico City. The Old Cathedral was built in the mid 1700s. The stream of Pilgrims grew to thousands. As the Old Cathedral slowly sank into the soft soil the New Basilica was constructed in 1970. The Capilla de Indios (Chapel of Indians) was built nearby and Juan Diego is said to have lived there until his death in 1548. By the way, December 12 is her feast day, the day that all the cyclists and runners were traveling toward. So, it is an interesting phenomenon, don’t you think?
Cruise through downtown to Chapultepec, then San Angeles and finally Xochimilco. We slipped out of Salvador’s car and got a picture of us in a boat floating in the Floating Gardens.
Posada Parties are a wonderful custom that has evolved in the Christmas Season, here. Families that have had a good year financially sponsor these block parties for the neighbors. We stepped into one yard and watched as they danced and partied. Isn’t this a great way to give a gift to your friends and neighbors?
It was 5:00 PM by the time Salvador dropped us at the door of our Holiday Inn. We’re as tired as if we’ve cycled all day. A City tour can be draining.
A Happy Hour glass of wine then Cat went back to our best value food and got Tacos and Gringas. A very good meal, and a nice evening of CNN News and a Movie.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Sight Seeing around El Centro
I was up and showered by 7:00 AM. One of my favorite TV Programs, Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood is the reason. Have you seen it? They feature such a variety of interesting stories. Well, I miscalculated, though it starts at 7:00 in the states it’s on at 8:00 AM here. So, I did some work on the Journal while I waited. It was worth the wait, as good as I remembered it to be. Of course it delayed breakfast until after 9:00. It was way too cold to sit on the Patio. We got a place in the sun but people coming and going kept leaving the patio doors open. Finally we picked up and moved further inside.
German Organs, Mexican Organ Grinders
Our last day in Mexico City, we decided to just stay close to home and visit places nearby. There are guys in brown uniforms scattered all around the area. They have chosen to keep the tradition of German Organs alive, more than 100 years after it first began. They are families that maintain the machines and play them. They earn their living by holding out their hats for donations. I too pictures of a couple of Organ Grinders and of course gave them a nice tip.
Mpeg 026 Organ Grinders
Inside the Cathedral, it’s dressed up for Christmas but the real interesting feature is a statue of a Black Christ. My Grandpa Portrey often told me that Jesus was Ethiopian and definitely Black. Of course that caused real ripples of dissidence through the family. Could it be that Christ was Black? Why not?
At the corner of the Zocalo we found the uncovered ruins of what was once the heart of the City in Aztec times. As usual, many of the stones were removed to build the Cathedral. Interesting to see the remains of a great civilization scattered among buildings of today.
In the Palace Municipal there are murals, up the stairway and around the balconies. Very interesting. Met a nice young gal, Christina, there enjoying the murals, too. She’s from Louisiana, attending LSU but now traveling for 6 months. A little time away from the books.
Music in The Zocalo
There’s a big band playing in the Plaza. We stood and listened until the setting sun left us in the cold. It is definitely middle of winter here. You can feel the frost starting to form as the shade sets in. The Weatherman is saying that it’ll get into the minus numbers tonight. Brrr.
We went back to our luxurious room, watched TV then ordered room service. Big Meat Night, I ordered the Rib Eye, Cat had a lesser Steak. Mine was a winner, hers was lesser.
Our bags are packed, we’re ready to get back on the trail tomorrow. A short bus ride then back on the bikes.
As we move toward HOME it’s often easier to reflect on experiences than think about life after this Odyssey. Can we actually adjust to amore normal lifestyle? What affect will waking up in the same bed every day and not having to hunt for the toilet in the dark be like? Well, one more chapter of travel on bicycles then we’ll begin work on those new opportunities!
Are you keeping track of our physical progress? This chapter had us on the seats for 1,495 Kilometers or 927 Miles. Our totals are now 33,723 Kilometers and 22,584 Miles.