Mexico 2003 Trip Overview


Take a look at the Wonderful People list
and the Trip Log.

Photos from the trip are here.

Final Stats (March 13, 2003)
March 13, 2003 Barra de Coyuca R/T
Today's Mileage: 25 miles/40 km
Today's Elev Gain: 0
Distance: 807 mi/1298 km
Longest riding day:58 mi/93 km
Shortest riding day:8 mi/12 km
Wonderful People:15
Mean People:0
Mean Dogs:16
Days of no riding:2
Nights camped out:13
Nights in motel:12
Nights in people's homes:1

Guadalajara - Chapala


We´re here! We made it with no incident - flew into Guadalajara yesterday, took a taxi to the town of Chapala on the north shore of Lake Chapala. Wow, did we have stuff. Those 2 bike boxes, a huge box for the Bob trailer, and Nancy´s box full of panniers and stuff - and Mexicana handled our stuff wonderfully. It was all perfect.

We spent the evening assembling the bikes, and everything looks good. Today we took a little test ride along the lake to the village of Ajijic (Ah - hee - HEEK) and visited with some wonderful friends-of-friends Jim and Rhoda. They treated us to coffee in their beautiful home and explained why the lake is so shrivelled. Amazingly, Lake Chapala is at only 20% of its normal size. The pier at Chapala is possibly miles from the water. Reminds us of some of the water problems back home.

This afternoon was a bus trip down to the wonderful city of Guadalajara, wandering in the beautiful sunshine, sitting in cool green plazas, and exploring a huge market. Nancy´s eyes were as big as watermelons seeing how big that market was. And we found a wonderful bowl of posole (a soup of hominy and chicken) at one of the stores.

Tomorrow we start actually riding! We´ll ride along the shore toward Jocotepec, which is at the very east end of the lake, then come around on the north shore. Tomorrow´s a test-it-out day, so we don´t expect to get too far, and we hope to camp for the first time. That will have some challenges!  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

The kindness of strangers


We've had so many kind people already. We stopped to ask a lady named Benita who we'd ask about camping in the soccer field at Tepehuache - and she took us into the village and found the right people to ask and took us to the soccer field!

The next day, when we got to the village of Manzanillas, a boy named Manuel immediately asked us if we wanted him to escort us to the plaza. Later, he took me to a bike mechanic (who jammed my pedal into the stripped crank so it will probably stay for awhile) and took us to a hotel where we could get a shower. He was great!

Second day climbing mountain


The second day we climbed and climbed and climbed some more. We just did about 30 miles but it was steep, narrow and the hardest bike climbing I have done. I have a helmet mirror which helps figure out when I have to dive off the road. I actual slipped once on the gravel trying to move over for the traffic and slipped off my bike but I caught myself. My pannier came off. And this was all in front of a bus which was coming up the steep incline. But the driver was a very good driver and was watching out. He was a just barely moving when this happened. (I don't like these Mexican bus drivers -- they cut too close -- but for this one I'll make an exception. Thanks for your good driving!)

First night of camping


We ended our day in Mazamitla camping in a horse pasture with horses grazing
around us. As we ate our rice and vegetables for dinner watching the sun change the colors of the sky and the live music from the village festival drift past us, I knew we were in the heart of Mexico where people work hard and enjoy what life has to offer.

Third day on the peaceful back roads


FLASH! We got a couple of pictures uploaded - take a look

Today's ride was so peaceful, especially compared to the past two days. We took country roads where there is no paint delineating lanes or even shoulders. The few drivers and the farmers drove slowly and gave us lots of room. As we continue our travels, we will try to find back roads like what we had today
at every opportunity. I really enjoyed today's ride through simple villages where life is slow and easy. The food is fresh and the people are friendly and the towns are quiet, especially during siesta time (1:00 to 4:00) One town we went through was especially quiet. We found out why. All the men work in the USA. That would make for a peaceful place - nobody is home!

Camping and Agriculture


We continue to ride a modest amount of miles each day. (average 30) We have decided to take the backroads and stay off the primary and most secondary roads. The wonderful outcome of this is we are really being able to see wonderful country, small villages and culture we would not have dreamed of.

What we thought were roads with little traffic was not what I had anticipated. The first part of our trip has brought us through heavy argicultural area. We passed miles and miles of avocado orchards.

We actual camped in an avocado grove. It was so beautiful. The bottom part of the trees are painted with white paint as an insect control. The trees are have rich green waxy leaves and are about 30 feet tall and spaced about 50 apart. We found a grove where some women were working at the harvest and got permission. I was a wonderful peaceful evening. And in the morning we had all the avacados we could eat.

Big trucks go with heavy agricultural areas. In one part of our journey we biked along miles of sugar cane fields which are being harvested. Huge trucks overflowed with the stalks which reminded me of bamboo stalks. The roads and the shoulders and the side slopes where covered with the stalks that fell of the the trucks. Luckly we just rode over them with our tires and continued our journey. All morning the trucks passed us on the narrow country roads.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Paricutín Volcano and Village of Angahuán


On Friday we arrived at the "youngest volcano in the world", the Paricutín volcano near the village of Angahuán (Just northwest of Uruapan). Here´s what I read about Paricutín in my 4th grade Junior Scholastic magazine - maybe you remember the article too: "In 1943 Juan _____ was working in his cornfield when he saw a crack open in the earth. Lava eventually buried his field and grew into the word´s youngest volcano, Paricutín."

We took a horseback ride to the ruins of the nearby village and its 16th century church, which wrere completely buried. Just the church towers emerge from the lava flow. It makes you wonder what it was like to find the village buried in lava.

The village of Angahuán was possibly even more interesting than the ruins. It was by far the most indigenous place we´ve been -- most of the people are Purépecha and many speak exclusively Purépecha, no Spanish. It looked like a village in rural Guatemala or Peru, with women carrying their babies in their shawls and hauling firewood on their heads.

Nobody Home!


In village after village we´ve talked with young men who are home just for a month (for the holidays) from their work in the US. It seems everyone is working "on the other side," as they refer to it.

In Angahuan, the village of only 2000 people by the volcano Paricutín, 61-year-old Marcos told us about his 8-month work stint in Virginia, at a factory with 300 other folks from the same town. To enter the US he had to travel to Tijuana, walk a day and a night to cross over, then made his way to Madera, Californa, and got a cross-country ride to his minimum-wage job in Virginia. Of course he sent most of his $6.75/hour home to his wife and family. How´d he do that?

In small town Lázaro Cárdenas, Jalisco, 20-something Luis explained to us (in English) why the village was deserted and the roads were so pleasantly calm. Almost everyone had already left to go back to work after their holidays. A week earlier, he explained, the plaza, now empty, was filled with cars - there was no place to park.

In Cotija, a surprisingly upscale town in a very backcountry part of Michoacan, we were surprised to see lots and lots of nice, fancy newish cars cruising the plaza, many with those incredibly loud sound systems and hard rap music. We asked our host at the hotel: All the young men are home from working in the US. Then we started noticing the license plates: Georgia, NY, Florida, New Jersey.

We only have to ask the effects on both our culture and theirs of such wholesale transplantation of a generation to "the other side."

Changing Plans and Avoiding Traffic


A prime objective now is finding roads with modest traffic. Since most of the major roads have no shoulder, it can be pretty unnerving to ride along with big traffic. So we´ve been seeking out the smallest of the backcountry roads, which is good, but it means that we´re not tracking with our plans at all. Today we´re in Pátzcuaro (halfway between Uruapan and Morelia) and it´s one of the few times we´ve been on our planned route, and we won´t be on the planned route again for awhile. We´re going to go way north of the Pátcuaro lake and avoid Morelia, then come down to Ciudad Hidalgo and go to the Monarch Butterfly reserve.

We´re clearly not going to make it to Oaxaca! We´ll probably go over to the butterfly reserve, then go south to Taxco, then find our way to Acapulco.

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