Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mexico: We’ve Loved You, but Goodbye…

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico (8,069 kilometers – 5,014 miles)

The Conbigotes mountain goats on bicycles became significantly more acquainted with our natural high elevation surroundings this week while trotting from Oaxaca to San Cristobal.  We have spent so much time up here that we have begun grazing on hillside pastures and feeding on small non-predatory mountain varmints.  Eating grass has really been a blessing to the budget.

A couple of hugs and high-fives had us on the road out of Oaxaca southeast bound back up and over the Sierra Madre Sur.  Once we got out of pseudo urban sprawl of traffic and roadside mezcal factories every 4 inches, we were firmly planted back into the windy mountain paths we have become used to.  Not having scrutinized the map, we were unsure if we would really have to do any climbing to get back down to the near the coast.  We quickly found out while atop the first crest with 360 degree views of peaks everywhere that this most likely wasn’t going to be a breeze.

Two 100 kilometer days of up and down had us firmly planted in the quaint pueblo of Tequisistlan, where saying the name of the town was just as daunting as getting there.  We were both gassed and sleep didn’t come easy under the overhang of the local covered basketball court/touring biker viewing area.  Sometimes I feel as if we should carry a mobile turnstile as to sell tickets to the folks who stand 5 feet from us and aggressively stare.  It can become mildy invasive at times, but I suppose two dorks like us on bagged bikes and unkempt facial hair raises the human interest quotient.

Once back down to sea level, we were greeted with the healthiest batch of headwinds experienced in mainland Mexico and somebody had also turned on the oven.  We have noted this before, but headwinds are the most frustrating thing out here.  It firmly beats the shit out you mentally which triggers your body to be the opposite of physically responsive.  Thankfully, we have friends like Morgan Kleiderlein (our USPS rep), who compassionately offer to put us up in a cheap hotel for the night in Ixtepec to ease the saddle soar and get some goddamn rest.

The second longest day in mainland Mexico followed after heavy early morning rains did what it could to bake the temperature to an almost unbearable degree.  Someone had apparently turned off the headwinds though the fields of monster roadside windmills wouldn’t have suggested it a frequent thing.  We called grassy park in Tapanatepec home for the evening and so did 20 local kids who sat and watched every move Ryan made while crafting dinner.  Apparently this earned them the opportunity to ask for our bike shoes in exchange for local girlfriends.

The elevator to Tuxla Gutierrez was on the schedule in the morning.  We arrived mid-afternoon to the biggest city in the state of Chiapas and the proud home to the Jaguares (Chiapas’ offering to the Mexican Primera Division soccer league).  Stocked up on food and water had us feeling like elephants as we tried to get a head start on the 75 kilometer, 7,000 foot climb up to San Cristobal de las Casas.  Ryan sniffed out a roadside campsite that seemed to have been made for us as the sun set and our legs were following the sun’s lead.  Up early as the rain subsided, we started the slow crawl up the fog drenched mountain slopes.  Pedaling at the speed of smell with a bike weighing that of a polar bear would seem like not so much fun, but we have come to love it.  Mentally, you go somewhere else and become almost drunk from the incredible views and high altitude not thinking about “jesus christ how much further is it?”

Finally coming into San Cristobal, we were treated to the coldest temps yet in Mexico and a heavy dose of almost freezing rain.  After 7 days and 650 kilometers on the bike, we could almost feel the hot shower and the first beer in over a week.  Much to our dismay and plummeting body temp, our warm showers host apparently had not yet returned from Mexico City and a plan B was necessary.  Plan B was walking around the corner to Hostal Tata Inti to un-soak ourselves and attempt to regain feeling in our fingers.

Here we sit, rambling on with cup of coffee and marginal mental fog from last night’s alcoholic gathering of other bike travelers who like everyone else seem to have gotten stuck here in San Cristobal by choice.  We are beginning to see why this place has an aura to it that if not careful, could force you to rent an apartment and look for work at the local French bakery (Zofia, we think its a great idea…really!).  Once we can peal ourselves from this place, the Guatemalan border looms much welcomed.  Mexico (pictured above as a piece of milanesa) has been unreal, but it is time to give it a pat on the ass and a see you later.  I am positive, much like every other locale we have lurked through, we will yearn for what Mexico offered for 2 and a half months…that is IF we can leave San Cristobal.

-Conbigotes

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Roadkill of the Week – Volume 3

After last week’s morgue photo, we dumbed it down a bit in this edition to make this whole deal a bit more family friendly.  That being said, this week’s champion hails from the weeds on either side of Mexico highway 185.  It was evident this giant lurked from the low lying semi-coastal marsh onto the road to tackle a passing 18-wheeler and lost.

This mishap was so fresh I thought I may have run the bastard over myself, but thank god I didn’t as he would have kicked my bike’s ass.  At least 7 feet long and gerthier than the sawing logs at one of those lumberjack competitions, i had to put on a protective haz-mat suit to snap this moment in time.  Though blood was evident and a car had just flung this dude loftily into the air as i doubled back, i still wasn’t 100% he wouldn’t take my left leg.

I think we can all agree i am lucky to be alive.

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Tales of Mountains and Pizza

Oaxaca, Mexico (7,410 kilometers – 4,604 miles)

The Conbigotes roaming and homeless travel correspondents are making some progress here folks.  It has been more than 2 weeks since our last confession and for that we say “shut up, there is a good reason.”

Enter the final stretch of seemingly endless goddamn coastline to be followed by some severely welcomed changes of scenery.  I can’t believe we are bitching about miles upon miles of endless Mexican Pacific beaches, but we will anyway.  The one thing we have come to realize is we like change.  One would think attempting to locate a 4×6 foot area of somewhere to sleep every night would offer enough newness, but no sir it does not.  Therefore, we were looking forward to the two last pushes of Highway 200 riding from Zihuatanejo to Acapulco and from Acapulco to Puerto Escondido.  Unfortunately, there is not much to report in the ways of items of severe interest along this stretch.  Ryan did however stumble upon a healthy batch of food related sickness from some mildly undercooked tacos al pastor (pork rotated on a spigot) in Zihuat.  Riding a 60 pound bike with absolutely no energy and even less desire to eat is no fun folks, so kudos to him for pulling through it and not falling off his bike.

With Ryan almost healthy, we lurked into the disgusting city limits of Acapulco after passing a challenger to this week’s roadkill of the week.  Let me start by saying the Mexican state of Guerrero had not lived up to its shitty name until we hit this bustling coastal landmass of cars, old hotels, VW bug taxis and prices San Franciscans would call expensive.  Plain and simple, it was awful.  We couldn’t leave town fast enough, but a pair of douchebag cops had some other things to add to the patheticness of this tourist trap.  We hate to give a locale a bad name because everybody clearly has their own experiences, but you couldn’t get me back to Acapulco unless you were going to cut a circle around my legs and pull the skin off like a pair of meat socks.

The five following days to Puerto Escondido proved to be a bit more interesting.  We finally bumped into the other biker we had seen previously along the way and shared a few days of passing each other back and forth.  “Memo” (see pictured) is a Mexican minimalist cyclist to say the absolute least, from Mexicali.  He rides all of Mexico once every couple of years and offered some healthy tid-bits on how to handle any bullshit we may encounter in his homeland.  “Memo” doesn’t eat more than a can of beans a day and gets most of his nourishment from liters of beer or tequila stops every hour or so.  This is a Herculean feat to say the least and damnit, we were envious.  A nice little hostel stay in Puerto Escondido for a day of rest, real kitchen access and the final round of the PGA Championship on ESPN deportes was as fabulous way to get the legs ready for the looming mountains leading finally toward Oaxaca.

Highway 131 would be our literal escalator for the 250 kilometer, 4 day climb up and over the Sierra Madre Sur mountains and jesus christ was it gorgeous.  Day 1 rained, then poured, then dumped bathtubs of water on us as we made our way three-quarters of the way up the first 7,000 ft. push.  Day 2 offered the first mile-high peak followed by an almost 30 kilometer descent that tickled our testicles.  It finished with the start of the second 7,200 ft. mountain ladder and the first use of our sleeping bags in 2 months.  The third day was possibly the most challenging as we had to finish the second skyscraper followed by two additional 2,000 ft. mini-killer climbs with out of gas legs.  The final day into Oaxaca was a flatter welcomed stretch with incredible valley views, but the slightest headwind made it seems almost as daunting as the previous days.  As we hit the city limits we both pooped our pants, which if you think about it, is quite a unique feat.

Sooooo, here we are in the lovely Oaxacan home of Damian and Gaby.  The rightful owners and proprietors of the GabyDely pizzeria who have met us with open arms and too much pizza and homemade breads to ram down our throats.  They have taken us in more than graciously and let us occupy an entire living space in their quaint home along with letting us print our own GabyDely/ConBigotes t-shirts.  Their nervous little dachshund, Pietro (see pictured), has even taken a liking to us and routinely rolls over for voluntary belly rubs.  Oaxaca in itself is a bustling combination of a tourist mecca and a Mexican heritage dripping faucet.  The local architecture could have you walking around lost for days and absolutely not give a shit.  The best bike shop we have seen outside of the states also provided reasonable prices and a Oaxacanian mechanic that was wearing a University of Wisconsin hat and didn’t know it.

As we previously stated, it feels damn good to be here and to have left the coast.  We can smell the border of Guatemala hanging like my visit to the bathroom this morning after last night’s beers.  We have successfully churned past the 3 month mark with only a few grumpy arguments here and there along with the realization this has fully become our life.  The only thing to routinely get in our way of continuing towards our goal southward is the mosquitos and more broken spokes.  The beards are looking fairly sexy (or the exact opposite) also.

-Conbigotes

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Roadkill of the Week – Volume 2

 

This week’s treat is dedicated to my father, Tim Watson, who made a few snyde remarks about the lacking intensity of the last installment of “Roadkill of the Week.”  Please do your  best to trust me when I say “this was even more horrifying than it looked.”  I could barely stand there long enough to snap this photo without passing out.

We are not even going to begin to try and identify what found this K-9 necessary to be made a road carpet for future passers-by.  We shouldn’t inform you, but of course we will, that her unborn pooch children were strewn along the side of this sceen next to her.  (They were politely left out of the photo to our reader´s benefit)  The stench that accompanied this unfortunate event was so unbareable you could taste it, adding to the already skyrocketing vomit sensation in my throat.

So here is to you Dad.  You killed a dog.  We hope you’re happy with yourself.

2nd place:  Full size dead and bloated horse on the side of the road near Acapulco

-Conbigotes

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Gracias To Our USPS Representative, Morgan Kleiderlein!

ConBigotes wanted to share our thanks and gratitude to Ms. Morgan Kleiderlein for successfully navigating the mail services and getting a much needed package down to us here in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Without too much bitching, she organized some necessary bike parts, tight little spandex shorts, 27 pounds of sunblock, an industrial size drill press, my highschool letter jacket and 3 cats.

For her efforts, she gets this phenominal photo of herself after completing the Silverado Death Race a few years back.  Here is to you, Morgan!

Side note:  The San Francisco Giants likely will miss this years’ playoffs while the local Milwaukee 9 look to be a goddamn lock.

-Conbigotes

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Anyone seen Andy Dufrense?

Zihuatanejo, Mexico (6,437 kilometers – almost 4,000 miles)

First and foremost, I am getting murdered by mosquitos in here so it may be brief.

The ConBigotes middle-management group finally made it to Zihauatanejo, Mexico to put an end to our quest of locating Andy Dufrense.  For those of you who are unaware of Mr. Dufrense´s history, he successfully crawled through a river of shit to make it out of Shawshank prison and headed to Zihuat to avoid any further incarceration and a little peace and quiet.  Though we are not sure if the movie was losely based on anything real or not, we looked for him on the beach today to absolutely no avail.  We did however locate a few 10 peso beers.  So that closes the book on that.

Speaking of books, we are gradually turning the pages on the south pacific coast of Mexico.  Leaving Puerto Vallarta wasn’t a walk in the park, both emotionally and physically.  Spending 4 days on a sailboat isn’t the easiest thing in the world to walk away from, nor was the continuous 235 degree forest climbing we did after leaving the absolutely gorgeous/non-touristy southern area of town.  We crawled at the speed of smell through the coastal jungle, which was much more pleasant than the ride into PV due to a significant decline in traffic related pants poopings.  It reminded us of the old rain infested forest days of Washington and Oregon, but add 97% humidity.  Heading to Manzanillo to meet up with yet another Warm Showers host, we rolled into a little coastal treat called Barra De Navidad.  Just before we decended into Barra, we were met with the above pictured road sign to let us know we´re not the only morons who were at one point or another riding a bicycle by choice, more vertically than not for an extended period of time.  Barra was bustling with Mexican tourists, cheap’ish hotels, pricey micheladas and quite possibly the best sunset of the trip.

A short day into Manzanillo to meet up with Yudith was made interesting by a lunch stop in an old abandoned house infested with bats and their fecies.  I peed my pants and Ryan cradled me as we ate tuna fish tortillas.  Once we navigated our way to downtown Manzanillo, Yudith showed us to her upstairs apartment and we relaxed there for a few days.  Enough to do laundry and spend time by the bigfoot sized blue marlin in the ocean-side port plaza.

The days southward towards Zihuatanejo proved to be absolutely goddamn glorious.  It always feels good to be back on the road and actually clip-off portions of the map that we stare at continuously.  Night 1 was spent at possibly my favorite sleepy beach town yet, San Juan de Alima.  The water was absolutely perfect with waves large enough to beat the hell out of you while simultaneously washing the dirt and sweat from the days bike push.  An even larger batch of seemingly perfect surfing waves followed the next night in Maruata.  Possibly the most quaint of our 4-day run of top-notch beach spots was Pichilinguillo, a little cove maybe 50 meters wide and 100 meters straight down off the highway, you’d only be able to find by accident.  Paying for a fresh pargo filet, a few sub-par tasting Victoria beers and asking for a place to plop the tent seems to be the way forward when there are wave-side restaurants with superb camping space.  The last night of the 4-day beach marathon was cautiously spent in Las Penas at Play Dorada, where if you’re not careful in the water, you could be lost and found 2 days later on the bluffs making your way back home.  This was absolutely the most horendous vacuum of ocean i’ve tiptoed in.  Even looking at it brought you closer to death so i closed my eyes most of the evening as Ryan, being the adventurer, seemed to swim laps like Michael Phelps. 

A day later we sadly left the state of Michoacan and its significantly above average coastline to cross over into the state of Guerrero, which folks have been warning us of as being quite unsafe.  Per usual, we keep our head down and put on our dipshit bike related clothing and pedal forward while seeming to have no problems at all.  (Finding wood to knock on)  Speaking of clothing, I must interject here and say that riding shirtless has revitalized our lives.  Not only does it let the important parts of your body get a bit of air to keep cool, but it gives the ladies a treat or two.  Or maybe they’re just laughing at the skinny white guy and the whale with beards biking topless.  God only knows.  What he also probably knows is the current total of dead gnats we’ve collected on our arms and chest while hurling down the Mexico 200 because I certainly can’t count that high.  It’s like wearing an insect shirt that you have to wash off nightly or scrape off into the rice.  Either or.

Okie doke fans, off to the beach of Zihuatanejo for a day of rest, relaxation and a cooler of  beer.  Staying in the bargained for, 150 peso hotel last night, treated us to shitty CSI crime dramas and a good air conditioned night of sleep.  We keep talking about getting down and then up to Oaxaca and eventually out of Mexico to feel like we’re actually making some progress here on the trip.  For some reason getting into Central America conceptually feels as if we can actually finish this thing at some point.  It’s difficult to take stock in, but last night i realized for a second that if you would have told me 2 years ago i would ride a bicycle from Vancouver, Canada to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, i would have told you to shut your damn mouth.  Ladies and gentleman, it is possible and there is much much more to go.  We’ll tell you about later.

-Conbigotes

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Roadkill of the Week

Conbigotes decided we would add a weekly tidbit to spice things up for everyone.  Please be warned, if you have a weak stomach, had too much whiskey, too many of Mom’s ham rolls or are just a pussy, don’t look.

All that being said, welcome to the first installment of ¨Roadkill of the Week!¨

This little guy, though he really was quite large – say size of a small house dog, clearly lacked the speed and agility to make it across Mexico Hwy 200.  We chose Omar (that was his name) mostly because we felt bad for the little bastard.  First, due to the photographic detail and lack of deathly stench, this was a fairly recent disaster.  Secondly, there was a young armadillo gal up the road 20 feet who had also perished that Omar was clearly trying to court.

We did the best we could.  Took his picture and gave him a place in Conbigotes roadkill immortality.

-Conbigotes

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