Saturday, August 27, 2011

Robbed Leaving Acapulco

A nightmare day.  We were robbed for about $155USD.  Just after climbing a killer hill to leave Acapulco, Trevor and I descended down this road overlooking Puerto Marques Bay.  All was fine and dandy until we were pulled over by the municipal transit police.  This fat lard with shades on starts rambling in Spanish to me that we had done something wrong while his dumbass partner tries to give attitude towards Trevor.  Once he knew my Spanish wasn't great he started to speak in the little English he knew.  He said that we were not allowed to ride on that road as it was dangerous.  He insisted there was a sign at the top.  I said BS (well I didn't actually say that but I said there wasn't).  He also said we were caught on camera.  He then asked for our passports and we complied.  Stupid move on my part to hand them over as possession is nine-tenths the law.  He showed me a chart outlining fines associated with various wrong doings.  He said not obeying the road signs carries a MEX5,000 pesos fine for each person. That is about $400USD each.  Anyway, I could tell from the get go that something didn't feel right.  This was a classic textbook case of the paying off the cops.  I pleaded with him to let us go with our passports and if he can make an exception but he was stubborn as a mule.  He then said we either we pay in full back at the police station or we pay them there.  I asked how much and he said MEX6,000 pesos.  I then negotiated with him as we didn't have that much on us.  He then lowered his price to MEX4,000 pesos and then finally MEX2,000 pesos.  Since we didn't have that on us I got him to accept just what we had which was MEX750 pesos, $32USD and $60CAD.  Once we exchanged the money back for the passports he told us to leave promptly.  I think they were being radioed by the station to do something and needed to move.

Leaving I desperately tried to note the licence plate or something but his partner was blocking the rear and there was nothing on the front.  I looked for anything but wasn't very successful as I just wanted to get out of there asap.

Afterwards we spent a good 2 hours trying to find a police station to report the incidence.  Trevor didn't really want to report this but I did.  You don't let stuff like this happen and do nothing.  I admit nothing probably will happen but we had to do something.  Unfortunately we weren't very successful.  After asking around numerous times we found 2 police stations and told them what happened.  They agreed that we were allowed to cycle down that road and that we had been swindled, however, they didn't write reports.  They told me to go to the tourist police which is way back in Acapulco.  It is tough at times when something like this happens and I have to communicate in Spanish.  My Spanish is elementary so the stuff I was being told didn't always come across clear as day.  I was being told many things that afternoon and getting mixed information of where things were and what to do.  It was very frustrating.  So as of now we still haven't officially filed a police report and I am not very optimistic that we will.  I will look to see if I can report this online as that would be much easier.

All in all I was shaken up a bit.  Being a victim of crime is obviously never fun.  I couldn't stop thinking about the whole ordeal and kept thinking woulda, coulda, shoulda.  But what's done is done so I must brush this off and keep going.  However, I will still be on the lookout for police stations and whatever else I can find to possibly report this.  I am real pissed.  I hate that those lowlife transit cops can get away with stuff like this.

We are approaching our second to last state in Mexico.  It will be nice to get out of Guerrero as I want to put this ordeal behind me.

The morning started great as we entered Acapulco.  We cycled to one of the most famous sites of the area, La Quebrada.  This is where cliff divers come to do their thing and entertain tourists.  The cliffs certainly look quite dangerous to dive from.  None were jumping while we were there but the setting was very nice.  

Acapulco Bay.  Aside from getting jacked by the transit police I really liked the 'Pearl of the Pacific'.  Back in the day this was the playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Liz Taylor and Judy Garland.  I would rate this town better than the other well known party resort towns Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa.  

A dejected and shaken me.  Shortly after the police incident we went to reload our funds and met a very nice Mexican man from Mexico City.  He asked about our trip and where we were going.  I then told him about the police robbing us and he got all riled up.  He was very annoyed with his nation's social state of affairs and sad for us that it happened.  He immediately took out MEX200 pesos from his pocket and said to take it.  I said no but he insisted.  It is a shame because there are a lot of really nice people in this country but the crime seems to be getting way out of hand.  We also spoke of the arson attack on a casino in Monterrey that happened a few days ago.  

Rant – Mexico’s Cops: What Use Are They?

After a better than expected stroll through Acapulco (the traffic wasn’t as bad as we had read it was going to be and the roads were pretty good) we get extorted by some cops. They must do this a lot because they set things up perfectly. Basically it went down like this we were on our way out of Acapulco and just crested the 200+ meter hill that blocked our way. At the top we took a breather. Kevin had waited for me to catch up so he had time to notice a cop car sitting there at the top too. After catching our breath we start heading down. About half way down the hill I see a cop car drive by and start waving at Kevin to pull over. Great! What did we do? Ride too far out on the road or something? We both pull over and the rotund cop with shades starts talking to Kevin while the skinny cop starts talking to me. The copy talking to me seemed to be trying to give me attitude, but as he was blabbering on in Spanish I really had no idea what he was trying to tell me. I just responded with my usual, “No hablo español. Hablo ingles?” He continued giving me attitude and then finally started cluing in that I didn’t what he was talking about. He finally responded with, “No hablo español?” To which I nod and point at Kevin saying, “He hablo español.” This on for a bit but he finally gets it, gives up, and joins the other cop who’s been talking with Kevin. They then wave us over behind the cop car away from the road.

The skinny cop stands guard at the back of the cop car (watching the traffic and us). The rotund cop starts talking in English. Kevin, as usual, does all the talking. While I just sit back and watch the show. The cop says we’ve broken the law and that bicycles are not allowed on the road we’re on. He insisted that a sign saying no bicycles allows was posted at the beginning of the hill. Kevin insists that we never saw any such sign and are pretty sure bicycles are allowed. I concur. The cop says no we are wrong and they have video evidence of us going by the sign. He points out that it is unsafe for us to be travelling on this road and it’s unsafe for the drivers too. (Uhhmmm… has he been reading the blog? There are plenty of other roads in Mexico on which are a whole lot more dangerous than this one and bikes are allowed on those. This road actually has pavement without potholes. That’s a pretty safe road in my books.) Anyway he then shows us a sheet which supposedly shows the fine we’ll have to pay. The fine came to 5000 pesos each or something like that (almost $1000 US). He says we’ll have to go back up the hill to the police station and pay the fine. Kevin starts getting pissed at this point and asks the cop to prove that bicycles aren’t allowed. He repeats that they have video evidence. That gets nowhere. Kevin then asks if they’ll make an exception this one time. He repeats that it is dangerous to ride a bike on this road so we’ll have to pay the fine at the station. Oh and by the way the station is closed today (Sunday) so we’ll have to pay it on Monday. He then asks for our passports which we reluctantly hand over. He checks the visas which are all good, but then he holds on to the passports. He says he’ll take them back to the station and after we pay the fine we’ll get them back. Kevin pleads to have the passports back now. The cop won’t budge. Kevin then asks can we pay the fine on the spot so we don’t have to go to the station. The cop seems to be receptive to this suggestion. He says yes that we can pay the full fine now and then we can be on our way. He still says we need to pay 10000 pesos though. Kevin tells the cop we don’t have that much. After some more back and forth the cop reduces the on-the-spot fine to 6000 pesos and gets in the car (the skinny guy is still standing guard). Kevin asks me how many pesos we have and I pull out 600 pesos. Kevin asks if 600 pesos is enough and the cop says no. We must pay 6000 pesos. This 600 vs 6000 goes on for a bit until Kevin asks if they’ll take American money. The cop says yes. Kevin then asks me to pull out all the money we have and I do (dumb me I should’ve pulled out half). Kevin counts it and then shows the cop. At this point the cop got a call on the radio (Kevin told me this later as I didn’t see this). Kevin then asks is this enough money? The cop says yes. Before handing over the money Kevin insists that we get our passports back first. After a little back and forth the cop reluctantly hands over the passports and Kevin hands over the money. Kevin then asks are we good. The cop waves us off. Kevin and I check our passports and then Kevin heads off down the road. I then follow and see the skinny cop checking to see that no cars are coming so that it’s safe for me to get back on the road. How nice of him. As I head down the road I look back to see if the cop car is following. I never see it pass us. I assume they headed back up the hill.

Okay, that’s how it all went down and I’m sure Kevin will retell the story from his perspective in his post too. Now let’s analyze what happened.

Q: If we did something wrong why didn’t the cops stop us at the top of the hill when we we’re taking a breather for five minutes just meters from their car?

A: By waiting until we’re halfway down the hill they’re putting us in a situation where we’d have to climb back up the hill to get to the police station. Not something a cyclist wants to do. Essentially they we’re trying to dissuade us from ever going to the police station as they wanted us to pay them the bribe.

Q: Why were they giving us attitude?

A: They we’re trying to make it look like it was a given that we were in the wrong. That there charge shouldn’t even be questioned. “Of course bicycles aren’t allowed.” However we never saw this supposed sign. And Kevin later confirmed by asking locals and even other cops. Cyclists are allowed to ride that road.

Q: Why say that the police station isn’t open today?

A: All the more reason to pay the bribe on the spot. We’re leaving Acapulco, it isn’t likely that we’d want to go back and have to stay another night waiting for the police station to open.

Q: Why is the skinny cop keeping guard watching the passing traffic?

A: To make sure bigger fish don’t come along and spoil the fun. These we’re lowly municipal cops. If non-corrupt cops (municipal, tourist, state, federal) came by they might stop and ask questions.

Q: Why did the cop come down in his asking price so quickly?

A: Two reasons. First they’re breaking the law and are taking a risk trying to extort us. Second they got a call and needed to go.

So what can be learned from this?

  1. The cops will try to put you in a situation where you’d rather pay the bribe rather than go to the police station. It might be best to call they’re bluff and threaten to go to the police station. Either they’ll give up or you’ll have to argue with them at the police station (which might be worse, but I’ve read in the guide books that this is the recommended way).
  2. Time is on your side. The cops are taking a risk so they want to get your money quickly. Just stall by asking questions and don’t budge. They’ll either give up, reduce the bribe, or get a call on the radio.

I think Kevin handled the situation very well. I was kind of surprised when he started giving the cops attitude. I wonder how I would’ve handled it if I were doing the talking. Not sure I would’ve done as good a job. On the whole I think this was just another experience Kevin and I now have under our belts. Sure we’re out $150 or so but when it comes down to it that’s not really a big deal. We’re still cycling and that’s what matters.

Now for my rant. Before leaving on this trip my biggest fear was not getting sick, getting hit by a car, the weather, terrorists or criminals. It was the cops. Everywhere I travel it is always the cops that I fear most. Why? Because they are essentially the biggest street gang in any country. And worse yet they are government sponsored. They can harass you, they can intimidate you, and they can extort you. Who can argue with them? They have the guns. In Mexico for example they carry around huge assault rifles. If you’re a regular citizen or a tourist you can’t do anything but comply with whatever they want. In first world countries at least there’s some oversight to weed out the bad apples (e.g. the internal affairs department). In poorer countries this oversight doesn’t exist and this corruption is allowed to continue. I just did a quick search online and it seems that a lot of other people had similar occurrences all around the same area we got scammed. That just goes to show that nothings being done about it. Cops will continue on being corrupt. Not all of them mind you, but enough to make me not trust the lot of them. This begs the question. What use are the cops if you can’t trust them and they’re the ones committing crime? A useless job if you ask me. Either get them to do their job properly or get rid of them. No use wasting tax dollars supporting another street gang.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trevor's Troubles

Ever since we entered Michoacan state we have seen a lot more military and police presence.  They have been fully armed with machine guns ready to go into battle.  We met a fellow Canadian cyclist from Quebec who is riding solo from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego who told us that Michoacan and the current state we are in, Guerrero, are red zones.  Meaning not the safest places in the world.  Apparently they are drop off points for drugs that come in from South America.  As a result we are making sure we are not cycling when it starts getting dark.  The French Canadian, who I might add is a grandfather, told us of 4 English motorcyclists who were touring about 3 months ago were held at gunpoint in and around this region.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear but it is better to be aware than not at all.  

The last couple of days haven't been so great for Trevor.  He had comfort problems downstairs again, been sick and had bike troubles.  His back tire kept deflating but there was no puncture.  So when he decided enough is enough, he'll put in a new inner tube, he realized the valve of the spare Schrader's we have do not fit the hole in the wheel.  As such he had to keep pumping up his tire every so often for about a 50km stretch in the blistering heat until we got to a bike shop for assistance.  When we arrived in the next town called La Mira, the bicycle shop (a little shack on the side of the road) did not have the Presta inner tubes we needed.  So we were in a bit of a predicament.  Then to make matters worse Trevor breaks the Presta valve which was on its last heels.  Oh joy.  As a result, Trevor spends the next hour or so filing the hole in his wheel to make it bigger so the Schrader valve can fit.  Not entirely sure if that was the best idea but right now things are working fine.  So good on him.  

Today we stopped in Zihuatanejo to look for a bicycle shop because Trevor's bike had been making ticking noises.  When we cycled around the Big Island of Hawaii in 2009 he had the same noise and the bike mechanic there ended up taking his bike apart and replacing some ring inside the bottom bracket.  This time around the mechanic just tightened up some bolts and that seemed to do the trick.  So fingers crossed we don't hear that noise again.    

Me somewhere in Michoacan state chilling while the rain comes down and down and down.  Doesn't look that bad here but seriously the rain came down and didn't stop on one particular day.  It was like I was swimming all day in the rain.   

They call Michoacan the untouched state.  I would have to agree because there wasn't much there.  But it did have some nice beaches and landscapes.

Vultures lurking about.  We saw plenty feasting on these dead pigs.  The smell was quite bad.  

Mr. Fix-It.  Here is Trevor filing that hole in his wheel.  

Zihuatanejo.  You may remember this place from The Shawshank Redemption as it is the coastal town where the characters of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman reunite after they get out of prison.  I totally forget that scene and most of the movie so I need to watch it again because it was pretty good.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journal Entries - August 24th, 2011 - Bad Things Come in Threes

After experiencing two bad days in a row why not make it a third? The day started well; the rain decided to take the day off and the sun was out. My kind of weather. And my cold was on the mend. Finally we should get a decent day under our belts. Our first stop was just 5km down the road from our hotel. We stopped to have a bite to eat for breakfast. Before sitting down to eat we argued for a couple of minutes about where to place the bikes. Nothing out of the ordinary. Well actually that’s not quite true, upon entering the town I did notice a couple of guys in a black truck pulled out onto the road just as we entered the town and they just sat in the middle of the road for a couple of minutes watching us (or at least that’s what it felt like). They eventually drove on but not before giving us a good stare down. That made me feel a little uneasy given the story the French Canadian told us the day before about the motorcyclists getting robbed. Also the town had a military garrison stationed across the street from where we parked ourselves for breakfast. Not the kind of place I’d like to get stuck repairing the bicycle. The only positive vibe I got was from a jolly Mexican across the street yelling at everyone who passed by to come and have some of tacos he was selling. We declined and instead chose to go to the mini-market to get Froot Loops and some bananas. Most of the locals took up his offer and went over to eat his tacos. Even a bunch of the military guys did too.

After breakfast we head onward. As usual the town was littered with speed bumps. After going over the third or fourth speed bump my rear tire feels a little mushy. I look back and, yup, I’ve got myself a flat tire. Why, of all the towns, did it have to happen in this one? We back track and find a place to repair the flat. I unpack everything and tear apart the tire only to find nothing. The patches are fine, there’s no puncture that I can see; the tube seems fine. I suspect a valve leak and pump up the tire to see what happens down the road. Off we go again. As we ride I’m constantly looking for that black pickup truck I saw in town as I’m paranoid thinking they’re waiting for us down the road, just waiting to rob us or something like that. Somewhere between 20 and 30km down the road, as we crest a hill, we do see a black pickup trunk ahead. Seconds later it hits a telephone pole and the hood pops off. Two other trucks stop to see if the occupants are all right. As we approach two guys get out of the black truck and look to be unharmed. The driver shrugs his shoulders and then begins speaking to who pulled over to help out. We slow down but continue on. Kevin saw it unfold better than I did and says he saw a delivery truck pass the black trunk which forced it off the road into the telephone pole. That’s one thing we’ve noticed, Mexicans pass all the time. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dotted yellow line, a solid yellow line, a double yellow line, a hill, a curve, or someone already coming in the other direction; they’ll pass. So this type of accident isn’t really that surprising. A little later at a point where Kevin stops to take a picture of some vultures I see the black pickup speed by with its hood back on. I’m not sure but that could have been the same pickup I was afraid of in that first town. Nothing to worry about, just some crazy Mexican drivers that’s all.

What I should have been worrying about was my tube. Shortly after it gave out again. As we were only 5 or 10km outside of another town I just pumped it up again. As I was pretty sure it was the tube’s valve failing I would replace the tube while we snacked in town. We reach the town and sit down in a park. I get to work on the tube while Kevin goes in search of food. I unload the bike, tear apart the tire, pull out the replacement tube, put the replacement tube in the tire and try to feed the valve into the rim. Only to find that the replacement tube’s valve doesn’t fit through the valve hole in the tire rim. This is a problem, a rather serious problem. The tubes that are currently installed on the bikes are Presta tubes. All the spare tubes I’ve brought are Schrader tubes. Schrader tube valves are wider than Presta tube valves. The tire rim on the bikes only have enough space to fit the Presta tubes. This sucks. And here I thought that the rim would fit both valve types. Okay so now what? I can try filing the valve hole in the rim to make it bigger and fit a Schrader tube or I can continue pumping up the tube every 5km or so until we reach a town with Presta tubes. I chose the latter since I worry that filing the rim will structurally weaken it and make it fail sooner. So I put the Presta tube back in and pump it up. The next town, Playa Azula, is around 50km down the road so I’m going to be doing a lot of pumping.

3km down the road, after a stretch of speed bumps and potholes, the tube goes flat again. Off I get and pump it up once again. 5km down the road the tube goes flat again. Off I get and pump it up. Let me tell you that pumping up tires in the tropical humidity with the sun blaring down on you is sweaty work. The sweat was pouring off of me. So I go for a drink of water. I’m all out. Kevin gives me what remains of his water: 250ml. I down it and off we go again. 6km down the road the tube goes flat. Again I pump it up, but this time without water. This goes on and on until we make it 5km from Playa Azula. The tube goes flat again and again I get off and pump it up. However, this time, after I remove the pump, I notice that something is missing. The tube’s valve lock (the piece that keeps the air from escaping and allows air to get in when you pump it up) is missing. Fortunately it’s in the locked position but I don’t think I’ll be able to pump it up again the next time it goes flat. We’re only 5km from town so if the roads don’t get any worse than they’ve been we should be okay assuming the town has a bike shop with a Presta tube.

We make it Playa Azula, but my tube is on its last legs and probably can’t go any further. There had better be something here. Kevin asks someone and they say Playa Azula doesn’t have a bike shop but the next town 3km down the road does. I look at the road leading to the town and it doesn’t look pretty. The road is riddled with potholes, hills and speed bumps. I attempt it anyway but am only able to make it 1.5km before the tube goes completely flat. Kevin goes on ahead while I walk.

Walking wasn’t fun so I decide to try pumping the tube one more time and ended up being successful at getting some air in the tube, enough to get me down the hill into town where I find Kevin who says the bike shop is just 2 blocks ahead. We cycle to the bike shop only to find that it is literally a hole in the wall. As soon as I see the shop I know there’s no way this place is going to have a Presta tube. It doesn’t even look like a bicycle shop. Sure it has three beater bikes sitting in front, but so does the mini-mart situated next to it. Other than that I don’t see anything that even resembles a bicycle part. We’d probably have more luck getting the tube at the mini-mart than we will at this so called bicycles shop. We give it a shot anyway. Two guys sitting on the stoop out front try to help (one guy can speak a little English). We show them the tube that needs replacing and the owner doesn’t give us a very optimistic look. However, he goes off in search of the tube. Not at the bike shop though. He heads off down the road in search of the tube. Uhmmm… Hold on a second. If we’re standing in front of the bike shop why is he going somewhere else to get bicycle parts? Isn’t that what the bicycle shop is for? Where’s he going off to? The mini-mart? Anyway, he returns with, as I predicted, another Schrader tube and it’s even the wrong size. Well this isn’t going to work. Kevin asks where then next bike shop is. They say it’s in the next town which is 17km down the road. I don’t think my bike can make that distance. I’ll be pumping up the tire every kilometer. At this point we’re hungry so we decide to have a snack while we think about our predicament.

We cross the street, park our bikes and while Kevin again searches for food I pump up the tire. I find that I can completely pump up the tire after tightening the pump’s head. This is good news; maybe I can make it the 17km to the next town. Kevin comes back with only drinks as the mini-mart didn’t have pastries. We’re still hungry so we cycle a couple of blocks and stop in front of another mini-mart confident that my tube can make it to the next town. We park the bikes and Kevin searches for food. He tries several mini-marts before settling on the first one he had entered (none of them really had the best selection). He emerges and we finally eat.

After replenishing ourselves we get up to leave only to find that my rear tire has deflated yet again. No matter I go ahead and pump it up again. I remove the pump from the valve and… Pop! Phhssssssszzzzzz! What remained of the Presta valve is no more. The piece that was holding in the air blew out. I hate Presta tubes (this isn’t the first time this has happened to me)! I uselessly try to pump up the tube several more times. Maybe if I’m quick enough I can get the cap on before the tire completely deflates. That doesn’t work as half the air escapes before I can screw the cap on, and even if I were quick enough the cap would blow off after I hit some potholes. What to do? Get a hotel here and bus into the next town? Or find someone with a file so I can make the valve hole bigger? I even played with the idea of taping the keeping the pump attached to the valve (so the air doesn’t escape) and then taping the pump to the spokes of the wheel. I dropped that idea as it was just stupid.

Kevin remembers he has a swiss army knife which should have a file. It doesn’t. I end up using the small knife and carve the hole bigger. This takes me a good 45 minutes but finally I make the hole big enough to fit a Schrader tube. The Presta tube goes into the trash where it belongs. However, I’m worried the filing I’ve done to the rim will cause the rim to fail prematurely (something I’ll need to research the next time we find some WiFi—I’ve just checked and it looks like it’s safe to do). In either case I now have a rim which can take Schrader tubes. That makes life a whole lot easier because not very many bike shops in the countries we’re headed to probably won’t have Presta tubes either.

All sorted we tackle the remaining 17km to our final destination. The 17km road was riddled with potholes and upon entering the town there were speed bumps galore. There’s no way the Presta would have survived that. As it was approaching 6:30pm we decided to skip looking for the supposed bicycle shop. There should be one in Zihuatanejo which is only 100km down the road (I hope I don’t eat those words tomorrow). Instead we look for food and a hotel. There was a Walmart but it was still under construction so we settled on a Bodega Aurrera. As usual I waited outside guarding the bikes while Kevin went inside.

This supermarket was pretty busy. Out front a bunch of taxi drivers were trying to drum up some business, some Walmart spies were conducting a survey (actually Kevin tells me Bodega Aurrera is associated with Walmart), and a guy who sells useless car accessories (window wipers, car wax) was trying to make some sales. The guy ends up selling a pair of window wipers to one of the taxi drivers. He then goes on to demonstrate his car wax to some lady before she enters supermarket. After his demonstration the lady heads towards the supermarket entrance with a shopping cart. A shopping cart that won’t fit past the bikes. So I start moving them. The guy who sells the car accessories sees me doing this and to show his potential customer he’s a good guy he helps me move the bikes. But he does so in a rush and bumps Kevin’s bike into mine. Not a big deal but Kevin wouldn’t have been pleased had it known. The lady passes but the guy stays as now he’s interested in the bikes. He starts talking to me in Spanish, none of which I understand. So I respond with, “No hablo español.” Then he comes back with, “Ahh. Inglés.” And after a pause continues with, “Cuanto.” And points at Kevin’s bike. Crap, the dreaded question: how much are the bikes. This is a question that you always want to avoid as you don’t want to give potential thieves an idea of how much money you have. So I umm and ahh and play stupid (which isn’t too hard). Eventually he gives up and goes in search of someone who can speak English. It seems like one of the taxi guys could speak a little English but was too embarrassed to try his English on me. Good. Unable to find an English translator he resumes trying to find potential buyers of his wares.

Kevin returns after what took ages. The supermarket was really, really busy. We head off in search of a hotel. We happen upon our cheapest hotel to date in Mexico. Only 120 pesos ($11 US). And for that price it’s much better than that 250 peso box we found ourselves in the night before. By the time we get in it’s 7:30pm and we only accomplished 116km on the day. Yet another pathetic showing.

As they say, bad things come in threes. So tomorrow things should finally turn themselves around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Journal Entries – August 23rd, 2011 – Trevor vs The Rain

My chafing problems from yesterday have been solved but as predicted my cold has progressed into the sniffles and coughs. Nothing I can’t handle. So we set of to tackle what we know will be a day of rolling hills on cliffs by the ocean. We’re also expecting some rain as a couple of days earlier I had looked at the cloud patterns in Google Earth and saw that the entire Michoacán state is covered by cloud. I’m expecting a day of rain but the morning was cloudy, without rain and the sun was making an effort to peek through. So at our first stop not 10km away from where we set off that morning I went ahead and performed a long overdue oiling of the chains. Hopefully the rain won’t wash away my work.

As I’m working on the bikes Kevin meets Michel Beaudoin (you can read about his travels here: who’s from Quebec. He started in Alaska and is going to the tip of South America too. He told Kevin that the current state we’re cycling through, Michoacán, and the next, Guerrero, are in the Red Zone. Meaning that they are known for having aggressive bandits, either bandits disguised as police or the police are the bandits themselves. He said that 3 months ago four motorcyclists from England doing a tour from Alaska to South America were stopped on the road by 16 or so guys with machine guns. The bandits took everything from two of the motorcyclists—passports, everything. The other two motorcyclists were able to speed off before the bandits got to them. This would explain why we’ve been seeing lots of military jeeps/trucks driving up and down this road. All of them loaded with guys in fatigues with their assault rifles ready. When I see the trucks go by I’m not sure what I prefer: them heading in our direction or in the opposite direction. Anyway, all the more reason to stay at hotels (as we have been doing as of late) rather than camp out.

Red Zone or not we head onwards. And just minutes after we leave town it starts to rain. Great, all my work on the chains all for not. It’s not even the type of rain I’m expecting. It’s not that tropical downpour that comes out of the sky in buckets. It’s not even really that warm. Rather it is kind of like the rain that I’m accustomed to back home in Vancouver Canada. That dreary unrelenting rain. This sucks. All day it rain never letting up. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it showers, sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours, but it never stops.

Well if it’s going to rain then so be it. I’m from Vancouver, dammit, I can take it. This rain isn’t going to get the better me. I’m not going to take cover, I’ll outlast it. Completely soak me for all I care, after all I can’t get any wetter than I already am. As I battled with the rain I tried to distract my mind by paying a little more attention than usual to my surroundings. For instance did you know that there are a lot of vultures down here in Mexico. Big black ones. And they usually hang out in groups of 20 or more. And they usually are hiding around a corner which is freaky because they just appear as you round the turn. All of them just turn their heads and just stare at you with their beady little eyes from behind their masks. Wishing that you’d turn in to road kill so they can feast. It’s freaky I tell you.

Speaking of road kill, did you know there’s a lot of it down here in Mexico? Today we saw a large python dead on the road. We see a lot of dead snakes, possums, dogs, armadillos (Which surprisingly can’t piece themselves back together again like they can in the movie Rango. I guess you really can’t believe everything you see in the movies.), vultures, other unnamed birds, cows, pigs, large grasshoppers, large crickets, lizards, butterflies, and even crabs. I even saw a live crab (quite large) on the road and we were over a kilometer away from the ocean. What’s a crab doing way out here? From the ocean to the road it would have had to travel through a lot of dense jungle. However it got here it was just as stupid as dogs are when it comes to bikes and tried to attack me. It started running towards me with both claws on the ready. Hah! Stupid crab you’re no match for my Schwalbe Marathon tires. Don’t worry I didn’t run it over, but I’m pretty sure the car behind me did. That’s what happens to anything that ventures on the road it turns into road kill in minutes. When are these critters going to learn you don’t mess with vehicles?

That reminds me. A couple of days ago we saw our first tarantula. A medium sized hairy brown one. Unfortunately it ventured onto the road so you know what happened next right? Upon seeing it crossing the road (I nearly ran over it myself) I yelled ahead to Kevin knowing he’d want to take a picture. He stopped and took the camera to take a shot. As he approached the tarantula three cars passed. They all missed the tarantula. Kevin gets ready to take a picture. A fourth car wizzes by and splat! No more tarantula. It’s now an unrecognizable pancake on the road. Kevin retuned to the bike pictureless.

Having spent the day distracted by the things you find on the road we eventually reached the hotel we were told about. The rain was really coming down now (on the verge of torrential rain). Kevin went in to get the hotel situation sorted. I on the other hand, not wanting to lose to the rain, stood with my bicycle in the pouring rain. Kevin returns frustrated because this will be our most expensive hotel thus far: 250 pesos (or ~$23 US). But they’ve got us by the balls. There’s no other hotel for miles and we’re not camping in the Red Zone. Kevin needs more money to pay the owners. So I finally give up my battle with the rain and move under a covered area so I can open up my bag to get some money. Looks like this round goes to The Rain. At least it didn’t score a K.O like it did in our last battle. I’ll be back for a third round, Rain. I won’t let you go that easily, you can count on that.

Frustrated we head down to our room and find that it is a little square room. Our most expensive room to date and also our worst room to date. Great! To make matters worse a large spider crawls up the wall as Kevin is parking his bicycle. I hate spiders so I jump into the washroom while Kevin coaxes it into the trashcan and throws it over the balcony.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Journal Entries - August 22nd, 2011 - My Butt Hurts Again

Not much to say today except that my butt hurts again. After making fun of Kevin yesterday, because he was having a bad day on account of the unrelenting hills and he was feeling a little under the weather, the tables have turned and it’s my turn. Towards the end of yesterday I was feeling the effects of some chafing in my neither regions. Nothing I couldn’t handle but definitely something I should have dealt with that night. I was lazy (too busy eating and sleeping I guess) and today I paid the price. This morning, minutes after hopping on my bicycle, I can feel the effects of chafing. No matter how I repositioned my butt it got worse and worse. Usually I’m able to keep up with Kevin with ease. Today he was constantly waiting for me. The chafing was unbearable. To make matters worse it started raining at the end of the day (the first time it’s done that while in Mexico while we’ve actually been on our bikes). At first the rain helped sooth the chafing. Not for long though, minutes later it made it a whole lot worse (water creates a lot of friction).

We only ended up doing 114km on the day. A pretty pathetic showing. I’m not making that mistake again. Tonight I’m moisturizing. Chafing be gone!

To top the day off I’m also developing a cold (arggh… the first time I’ve been sick in a year and a half). Yesterday it was at the sore throat stage and today it progressed into the sniffles. Tomorrow it should progress into the sniffles and coughing. That should make for another crappy day tomorrow too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stormy Nights

I'll admit it, the times have gotten a lot tougher since we entered Mexico.  We just don't have as many options for eating and drinking like we used to in the good ol' U S of A.  Don't get me wrong, there are more on the mainland versus what we had in Baja but it just isn't what we hoped for.  Seems like we hope for a lot of things but are never lucky.  Also, being in the tropics now the heat is constantly on.  When camping I lay in puddles of my own sweat and it isn't comfortable one bit.  As such, we are staying in hotels more often.

A few other annoyances are the plethora of insects and speed bumps.  We can't standstill for a few seconds without some bug saying hello.  I would love for them all to just piss off.  I really don't understand why they put speed bumps on very crappy roads.  A vehicle has no choice but to slow down because some of the roads we have cycled on have cracks and holes.  So why make things even worse and add a speed bump?!

In other random news, today Trevor pointed out to me a tarantula crossing the road ever so quickly.  I got excited and rushed to get a shot.  But before I could do just that it was squashed by a big SUV.  Argh.   

We spent one night in San Blas.  It is supposed to be an up and coming beach town.  One guy we met said it has the most beautiful bay we would ever see.  I didn't think that was the case.  Anyway, we camped on the beach and were somewhat hit by a storm.  Nothing major but I did get a lot of sand and water in my tent as a result.  And as you can see the next morning we were cycling out in a pool of water.  

The following night was the worst.  The place: Sayulita.   In the middle of the night we were hit hard by a storm.  Basically our tents were in a pool of rain and there was no other choice but to vacate the scene.  As such, I ran out almost knee deep in water and screamed at Trevor to get a move on.  Trevor can be strange at times... not sure why it didn't occur to him that it would probably be best to move shop.  In any event, we hurried to get all our things and move them under shelter.  We lost a few tent pegs and the zipper on my beloved tent that I have used for years is now busted.  I hope I can get it fixed because that tent was awesome.  In the interim, I picked up a cheap tent at Walmart.  
Welcome to Puerto Vallarta!  More like a work in progress.  It seemed like the entire promenade was being reconstructed.  Wasn't too impressed with this place.  The roads especially were horrible to cycle on. 

I watched and listened to this band play on the waterfront in the city we are currently in, Manzanillo.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Journal Entries - August 19th, 2011 - There's a Storm a Brewin'

Okay, before I get started with today’s journal entry I need to recap yesterday afternoon and evening. We intentionally planned a short day yesterday (August 18th) as we didn’t want to get as far as Puerto Vallarta just yet (we didn’t anticipate cheap accommodations there). So we planned to only cycle 121km to Sayulita (from San Blas). On the whole the cycle was okay. We cycled through a lot of empty road, rolling hills and lush jungle. We saw lots of banana trees and jack fruit trees. Unfortunately they were all behind fences and the bananas were far from ripe so I couldn’t pick any. I’m keeping my eyes open for wild fruits, but they’re hard to come by since vines cover all the trees and it’s hard to see what’s growing underneath them. Anyway we eventually make it to Sayulita later than we would’ve hoped. For some reason the short days seem to always just as long to accomplish as do the long days, go figure. Well actually I guess I do know the reason it took so long, I got two flat tires that I had to fix. Neither were the tire’s fault, rather both were due to the crappy patches we’ve been using. They leak. I had a puncture two days before (I think, or on the day we left Mazatlan) and patched it with one of these self-sticking patches. It leaked and so I removed it and patched it with another self-sticking patch. It leaked a little later in the day after I hit a big pothole. I’m never using self-sticking patches again. We’ve had 6 flats between the two of us (including the two I just mentioned) up until this point and 3 of those have been due to these leaking patches coming off. I think they can’t handle the humidity or something. This time I used to glue based patches we just got in Mazatlan (the ones I’ve used before and I trust). Anyway, fixing those flats was the highlight of the day on our way to Sayulita.

The town seemed pretty touristy as we’re greeted by tourists saying welcome and have a great stay. Just over the bridge were tourists galore, several of whom were interested in where we were cycling. One girl was even from Vancouver and had done a cycle tour of Europe back in 2008. Small world. We stock up and go find the camp site which to Kevin’s dismay costs as much as a hotel (160 pesos). We stay anyway as we’re there and there’s not much else we can do. We chose to setup camp on the grass. The night before we were on the beach and we’re still getting the sand out of our gear, so we weren’t doing that again. We made sure we didn’t setup underneath the coconut trees as we didn’t want those falling on us. And we setup well enough away from the sea so as to avoid getting sprayed by the ocean sea water. Just like the night before it looked like a storm was coming. The night before we went through a massive rain storm complete with crackling thunder and bright lightning. It’s monsoon season after all. I came out of that unscathed while Kevin suffered some minor water logging and one of his tent zippers got stuck (probably due to the sand). Nothing major though and the tents held strong. We expected no different tonight.

I awoke in the middle of the night (probably around 1am) to loud thunder. Then a bright flash of lightning. I start counting the seconds to determine its distance. On… Bang! Crackle! Boom! Hmmm… that was pretty close. It must be right on top of us. No big deal, the lightning show the night before was that close too. I open my tent fly a little to see if I can see the lightning in the sky. Can’t see it through the tiny opening but I leave it open to get some air flowing through the tent because I’m roasting and the sweat is pouring off of me. I try falling back to sleep. What must have been a short while later I am awoken again to the sound of heavy rain. Really heavy. I close my tent fly and go back to sleep. Again I’m awoken to the feeling of floating. Hmmm… it must have really rained because my tent is trying its darnedest to float away. I staked out my tent pretty well so I’m confident it’s staying put, especially since I’m in it. I look at the water sloshing around outside my tent. No big deal. The tent has a waterproof rating of 1200mm and the water is only halfway up the tent’s waterproof barrier. I go back to sleep. I’m awoken again, this time to the feeling of water under my feet and dripping from the ceiling. I look over and the water level has risen to ¾ the height of the waterproof barrier. Ah, no big deal. My tent is still holding strong. The water inside must just be my own sweat and condensation is just dripping from the ceiling. I don’t hear rain outside so the storm has passed and the water level outside will start subsiding. I go back to sleep. Yet again I’m awoken. This time to the sound of howling wind and some people yelling outside. No big deal. The tent can withstand hurricane force winds. However, I’m not so sure about the tarp that we’ve put over the bicycles outside. It is getting whipped around pretty good outside. But I’m not about to put on my shorts and go outside and check it out. I don’t want to work up a major sweat doing so. I’ll probably just find the tarp stuck in a tree in the morning. No big deal. As for the people yelling, they’re probably some of the other car campers watching the show. Not something I should concern myself with. I go back to sleep. I’m awoken a short time later to find the bags I had brought in the tent with me are now floating around me. And what’s this I’m also floating on my inflatable sleeping pad. This is a big deal. I grab my bags and pull them onto the sleeping pad with me. So there I am straddling my sleeping pad with a bag in each arm floating in the middle of my tent wondering how am I going to sleep in this. And just as I’m about to go for a swim I hear Kevin calling to me with alarm, “Trevor, let’s go! We gotta get out of here now!” Now that’s an idea. Why didn’t I think of that? I splash into action. I unzip my tent and… hold on a second I don’t want to be running around out there naked. I let go of my bags letting them float while I feel around for my shorts. Upon finding them I slosh about trying to get them on. Now dressed I grab my two bags and jump out into knee deep water. I grab some of my other bags and follow Kevin to a covered area where we both throw our bags up on to. We both go back through the massive lake that’s formed over what once was a campground and grab our remaining bags. I grab one of my rear bags. Hmmm… that’s quite a bit heavier than I remember it being. No time to think about that now. I lug it to the covered area and throw it up. Next we go back for the bikes which have fallen over and are now submerged. We pick them up and carry them over to higher ground. Next we go back for our tents. This takes some work as they are heavy with all the water that’s in them so we tackle one tent at a time. First we tip it up to dump all the water out and then carry it to our area of refuge. While we save our tents Kevin yells to me to say his tent is fudged. It is completely trashed. We’ll deal with that later and get the tents to higher ground. As we’re hauling our tents I notice another tent in the pool of water that wasn’t there last night. Kevin tells me they were other campers who came later and were the ones I had heard yelling earlier as they escaped there tent and fled for their car. We don’t have the luxury of a car so we’ve fled to the porch of the house belonging to the owners of the campground. As we now each haul our bikes up to the porch I find one more surprise waiting for me. My rear tire is flat again! Doesn’t that just put icing on the cake? We’ll I’ll deal with that later. First I need to try and dry out all my wet gear. I lay everything out. Then I take a look at the damage done to my bags. Only one suffered water damage (because I didn’t really tie it up properly and left it sitting upside down overnight). It’s the bag that felt a little heavier than usual. I open it up to find it completely filled with water. What did I store in this bag I wonder? Hopefully none of my electronics. After unpacking it I find that it didn’t hold anything of much importance, much of which I was meaning to throw out anyway. So I go ahead and create a garbage pile with all that junk. Now with my bags and tent sorted I set about fixing my bicycle’s flat tire. So at five o’clock in the morning I flip the bike and set to work fixing the flat. It turns out that the new patch was still holding strong, rather it was the other self-sticking patch that failed. I rip it off and glue on one of the new patches. I do all this while Kevin sleeps in a chair not far from me. Lucky him. Well actually not so lucky as his tent broke. The zippers to the tent broke so he can’t close his tent and keep all the bugs out. He’ll need a new tent.

At around 6 o’clock the owner comes out to find us on her porch. She doesn’t seem to mind and heads back into watch the news. We start packing all our soggy belongings up. As we do the husband appears but says nothing. I get the feeling he’s not too pleased we’re on his porch. Whatever. We continue packing and by 7 o’clock we head out. As we wheel our bikes out to the street we find the front of the camp ground fared no better than the back. All the cars are sitting in knee deep water too. We wade by with our bikes to the road and find that the road is hidden under a river of water pouring down the hill. So we slosh through that too before making it to solid ground. We head into town for a morning breakfast where we find a repair crew already at work filling in the road with sand to keep it from washing away. They get there work done in short order. We pass them by and grab breakfast: a bag of Froot Loops and some milk. As we finish the sun appears and starts sucking up all the water for what’ll probably be yet another deluge tonight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journal Entries - August 17th, 2011 - Mexican Road Builders Must Be Comedians

After a 160km day yesterday (even after a late 10am start) on nice roads with little traffic we were hoping for the same again today. No such luck. It seems Nayarit, the state below Sinaloa which houses Mazatlan, doesn’t maintain its roads as well. All the way the roads were cracked and bumpy. Not horrible but not good either. I tend to use the road conditions to gauge the relative wealth of a state or country. So it seems Nayarit is poorer than its neighbor to the north. This makes sense since Sinaloa has some popular tourist spots (i.e. Mazatlan) and Nayarit has squat. So as soon as I saw the road conditions deteriorate I started expecting to see poor towns all lacking large supermarkets. We rely on those supermarkets to power ourselves up for big kilometer days.

We started the day in a town called Acaponeta which is just south of the border between Sinaloa and Nayarit. This town did have a decent sized supermarket so we were able to power ourselves up for the 50km span of little to nothing between Acaponeta and the next town called Rosamorada. It took us almost 3 ½ of extensive sweating to get there. – Whoa! A bug of some kind of bug with two neon green glowing eyes just landed on my foot. Hmmmm… It seems its eyes light up if you aggravate it. It’s just chilling in the sand below me now. Should be okay. By the way I’m writing this on the beach with a storm headed our way. – Anyway, this Rosamorada town isn’t much to speak of. Its roads sucked. The entrance road from the main highway was made of gravel. It had a church off in the distance (the tallest building around, every other building is only one story tall). We made it to the center of town before turning back as there didn’t seem to be any hope of finding a supermarket. We went back to a mini-mart we saw a couple of blocks earlier. We parked ourselves in front of the store beside the mini-mart which sold a bunch of miscellaneous stuff, had a kid crying at the counter and three small dogs that came out to investigate. Beside this shop, opposite the mini-mart, was a little shop that sold cellphones. That’s the thing about towns in developing countries; they always have lots of mechanic shops and lots of cellphone shop. Eventually Kevin comes out with food and we sit down on a stoop under the shade of a tree. The food was okay but the pastries weren’t that great as they were pretty bland. The three dogs seemed to like them as they cleaned up all the crumbs we dropped.

Somewhat powered up again we head onwards in search of a big supermarket. It’s during this leg that I get a flat tire. I just had one the day before so we’re guessing that this flat is due to yesterday’s patch failing. On the side of the road I unload the bicycle, flip it over and take a look. I find that we’ve guessed correctly, the patch from yesterday is leaking. We’ve been using self-sticking patches and every time they fail. It usually takes two patches before the finally stick. We’ve only had 3 flats due to actual tire punctures yet this is the sixth flat (3 punctures + 3 failed patches). When we were in Mazatlan we got ourselves another patch kit which uses glue but I haven’t started using them yet. In the blistering hot sun I apply another of these failing self-sticking patches (got to use them up), pump up the tire and reload the bike. After a big drink of water we’re off again. Shortly we reach a gas station and take a break. I have a 2L bottle of Squirt (I’ve been wanting to try this drink as we had met its inventor back in Baja—I’ll be writing a post about this guy sometime in the future) while Kevin smartly has a 1L carton of milk. Usually I can chug anything. However, ever since that 3L pop I had in La Paz my powers have been fading. I have a lot of trouble downing this Squirt drink. Quite possibly because it isn’t very good (I guess it’s not one of his best inventions). After vowing never to drink Squirt again we head off.

Up until this point we’ve been following highway MEX-15. As I said earlier it has been pretty good though it did take a turn for the worse once we entered the state of Nayarit. We now leave the MEX-15 and make our way towards the MEX-200. We’re taking state roads now. The good part about this is that the traffic eases up noticeably; the bad part is that the roads get a little more cracked and a little bumpier. Nothing we can’t handle though as we’ve been through worse in Baja. That is until we reach the next town when the Mexican road builders start having some fun. In the town of Santiago Ixcuintla all the roads are made of brick which has not been laid evenly at all. We spend a lot of time bouncing around on these roads in search of a market. All the while I’m sure the guys who built the road are having a good laugh at our expense. After having a bite to eat we try to find the town’s exit which is not were the GPS says it should be. It seems the bridge moved so we bounce around some more but this time on road built from rounded stones that are all placed willy-nilly. These stones make for some major bouncing and the bicycle tires keep slipping on the things as those stones are smoothed. So we bounce around until we find the bridge and we return to some proper asphalt. Unfortunately it’s short-lived and we come to a road built by the biggest joker of all. He’s got a real sense of humor as not only does he build the road from those rounded stones, he doesn’t even bother placing them evenly at all. There are dips and bumps everywhere. And to top it all off, as if anyone travelling isn’t already doing so at a snail’s pace, he has the bright idea of sticking a massive speed bump smack in the middle of the road. A speed bump made of those rounded stones. I mean really. Is that really necessary? Who in their right mind is speeding on this road in the first place? Nobody, that’s who. It’s impossible on such a thing unless you like pounding your head on the ceiling of your car. After taking an ass whooping we finally make it back to somewhat flat road. A road though that isn’t without its fair share of speed bumps. Speed bumps of all shapes and sizes, some you don’t even see coming as they blend right in with the road. Are that many speed bumps really that necessary? Granted most are placed before and after towns. But some are out in the middle of nowhere where you’d least expect them. You turn a corner and then bang a speed bump followed by 19 more speed bumps, then a gap, then 20 more speed bumps. At one point someone was trying to be somewhat helpful by putting up a “speed bumps ahead” sign. However, they missed the mark because, as my butt will tell you, I had just gone over 3 nasty speed bumps before reaching this sign. So thanks for letting me know that there are several more to come.

We finally make it over all the speed bumps to the day’s final destination of San Blas. As you’d expect by now it too has nasty roads all made of uneven brick. By this time my rear end is completely pulverized. It’s nice to get off the bikes and setup camp on the beach. But not before Kevin goes on a wild goose chase for a supermarket. Really? A town like this is going to have supermarket. I think not. He asks around and is told that there’s one over yonder. We make it close to over yonder and find farmland but no supermarket. We turn back for more butt pounding. Great. We circle around a little more before finally giving up (the things Kevin does in the hopes of finding a supermarket). We eventually settle on two mini-markets: one for a little pastry snack and the other to get the ingredients for tonight’s tortillas. Now we finally head to the camp site on the beach. It turns out that there are some other foreigners staying there already (they’re travelling around the world by car). After chatting with them for a little bit we setup camp and have our dinner before turning in for the night.

PS: You know I think I’ve figured out the scheme these Mexican road builders have hatched. Step #1: They build these crappy roads and place speed bumps all over the place. Step #2: They all setup all these mechanic shops I see everywhere. Step #3: They all watch the money roll in from all the vehicles they fix that break down due to the rollercoasters they call roads they’ve built. Those sneaky Mexican road builders. Quite a sense of humor they have.

Journal Entries - August 15th, 2011 – Mazatlan

After a night of sleeping uncomfortably in a pool of my own sweat and listening to a lady several seats over snore I got up and went to the ferry’s cafeteria where it was much cooler and a movie was playing. (That’s what I should have done: hang out in the cafeteria all night instead of in the passenger cabin.) The movie playing was really bad so I did some people watching instead. They were all watching the movie or grabbing a bite to eat, so nothing much of interest there either. Eventually there was an announcement over the loudspeaker, none of which I could understand, but in response to it everyone who could understand it hurried to the cafeteria and started getting, what looked to me like, free food. Is there a complimentary breakfast included? That would be a nice surprise after a night of eating nothing. I watched a little more, yes indeed it did look like a free breakfast if you show them your ticket. I went and got Kevin and we sat down to have our breakfast of I-can’t-remember-what (I think we missed a complimentary dinner the night before). As we were finishing up the guy that we met before boarding the ferry, the guy on the motorcycle, came in and sat down to have breakfast with us. Unfortunately he left his ticket with his motorbike and they wouldn’t let him back on the car deck to retrieve it (he said they were pretty adamant not letting him down there). However, he, like most smart travelers, brought his own food (unlike us). Over breakfast he told us that he started in San Francisco (or was it San Diego—he’s from San Diego, that’s for sure) and is travelling by motorcycle all the way to Argentina too (but he’s going through Brazil unlike us). He also mentioned that dogs like chasing motorcycles too (which was news to me, I thought it was just cyclists they liked chasing) and that it reached 42 degrees Celsius while we were in Baja. He also planned to skip Mazatlan and go straight to the next town as he’s heard people in Mazatlan rip you off if they get a chance. We were staying the night since we needed to find the bike shop.

After disembarking the ferry we head for the bicycle shop which is 8km north. We arrive, can’t find it, ask around, are told it has moved (this always happens), and it closes at 2:00pm. It is currently 1:20pm. 40 minutes to go 10km to some place that isn’t on my GPS map. We start getting a move on. We turn down this road and find that it doesn’t look right. We head back. We turn down that road and go way too far. We back track. Kevin asks someone who points us over there. We go over there. The bike shop is nowhere to be found. Kevin asks another person. They point us over there. The bike shop is nowhere to be found. Kevin asks yet another person and he says the shop is over on the next street. It turns out the first street we turned down was actually the right street; we just needed to go a little further and take a right. We finally make it to the shop at a little past 2:00pm. Their doors are closed but they’re still there (the hotel Kevin asked for directions at had called ahead to let the shop know we were coming). We stock up on parts (most importantly replacement chains as ours were long overdue for a replacement). With that mission complete we head back into downtown Mazatlan in search of a cheap hotel. It doesn’t take us long to find a cheap hotel (200 pesos [or a little under $20 US] for the both of us). It has free WiFi and it’s near a supermarket so we’re happy.

Now that we’re in the tropics the humidity is intense (what a difference a degree makes). I’m really reluctant to work on chaining the chains as I don’t want to work up a huge sweat before I try to go to sleep. However I find that in addition to the fan in the room we also have an air conditioner. I flip it on. Ahh, cold air. I hadn’t felt that in a really long time (okay we’ll not since I walked into the Ley supermarket 10 minutes before) and get to work on the chains. Being an avid cyclist you’d think that I’d know how to change a chain. However this was my first time changing a change ever. I like to learn things on the spot as I need them rather than come prepared with experience. Live life dangerously I always say J. Turns out it isn’t that hard to change a chain. I got mine changed in 10-20 minutes and Kevin’s in just 5 minutes. Much quicker than I had anticipated which gives me more time on the internet. Hooray! However I think the chains needed to be changed a little earlier since the chains “stretched” a little too much. We’ll see how it goes and if we need to replace the whole drive train sooner than later then so be it. It doesn’t matter now. We have new chains on our bikes, and are about to have the best night’s sleep we’ve had in quite some time.

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