Road to Oaxaca

Today was a much better day than yesterday, which I needed. However, I got a decent enough nights sleep, even though the hotel was right off the main road.

Travel Tip – Bring Earplugs.

When I woke up at 7:30 my bike was blocked in by several cars. Rather than fret about it, I went back to bed for an hour or so. When I woke, those cars were gone and I noticed I wasn’t naseous any more. Huzzah!!

Today I was to Journey into Oaxaca and meet the family I’m staying with. There were about 300 miles to cover, which can be short, if you’re on the Toll Roads (Cuota.) Mexican toll roads are great. They are fast, and hardly used, mainly because they are so damned expensive. There doesn’t appear to be a speed limit. I don’t say that because I don’t read Spanish, but because, going 85, I get passed a lot. I could go faster, and my bike has plenty of reserve power at that speed, but that’s the sweet spot. It’s right at 4000 RPM where she’s the strongest. Faster than that, and I think it starts to take too much concentration. Not that I’m daydreaming while I’m on the road, but as you go faster, the more attention you have to designate.

Today however, speed would have to wait. I was going to be back roads most of the time. This meant a potential 4 hour day has become something close to a 8 hour day. The roads were in OK shape, but curvy, curvy, curvy. And no speed limit – just cows to watch out for. I did have one old guy walk into the road without looking over his shoulder, but I saw him coming. How do you live that long without turning your head as you go into the road??? If you’ve ridden, you know that curvy roads are great, but frankly I think it gets tiring after a while. Going into a corner, slow down, as you hit the apex, accelerate out (my favorite part), upshift, lean into the next corner, repeat. It’s big fun, and I was glad to be on my GS. It corners well, and it’s got a lot of travel in its suspension, so dips, gullys and potholes don’t cause too much damage to either the bike or to me. Anyway, after about four hours throwing my bike around (and scraping my boots a few times) and using my full attention, I’m tired of it. But I had miles to go. It took about seven hours today to get where I was going. I didn’t stop very often – gas twice, once to put on my rain jacket, and once to drop my bike.

Yup, I did it again. I was pulling off the side of the road to adjust my headphones (Al Franken – Lies, Liars, and the Lying Liars who tell them.) I was almost at a dead stop when I hit a grapefruit sized rock and went down hard. As I mentioned, I was almost stopped, so there wasn’t any forward momentum, just sideways. I cursed for a few minutes, as this happened in one of the busier roads I was on. If you’re going to be a dumbass, it’s better to do it in private. This time I didn’t have any trouble getting the bike up. I just hit it like a tackling dummy. There is another way you are supposed to pick your bike up, but I’ve never done it that way. I know how, so maybe that will come in handy soon. No damage was done, except to my shin, so other than just a little embarrased, I’m golden.

I’d seen several neat things worth looking at, but didn’t want to stop since I knew I had a long day. As I was getting close to the end up my Libre (free) road experience, I saw this most amazing church. It was HUGE, and the only thing you could see from far away as you descended into this valley. It may have been the biggest church I’d seen yet in Mexico. It was in the middle of nowhere, and somewhat run down. I stopped and took a couple of pictures you can see here. You can also read more about it Here. Regretfully(?) it was being repaired, but it was simply amazing. Between the two huge doors you can catch a glimpse of the grandeur this church had. I think it was an old convent too, I think. According to the rough guide, it’s one of three Dominican Monasteries. It was the permanent seat of the vicarage of the Mixteca during the sixteenth century. Like many of these churches, it is build on a pre-hispanic platform. Imagine that before that church was built there was some pre-hispanic temple, or something, functioning there. The altar piece, which I spied through the doors dated from 1570. It’s humbling to stand before something like that. A lot of man hours went into that. Think if they would have built a University or hospital instead? Think of the good the church could have done had they spent their energy elsewhere.

Shortly after I left this church, I got on Oaxaca Cuota, which made the last hour into town much quicker. Going 85-90 on a great road was a nice change from going 30-40 on twisty roads for the last six hours. Not better, just different. The directions I was given for finding my host family said on the e-mail “Hotel Victoria.” Hotel Victoria is a five star resort about a three minute drive to the heart of Oaxaca. But that’s not where I’m staying. I’m still puzzled why it had that on the directions. I got the woman behind the desk to help me find where I was supposed to go, which I probably wouldn’t have found without her help. I will give them this – it was NEAR the Hotel Victoria.

After that, I found my host family easily. They don’t speak a word of english, but luckily they have a young kid staying here going to the same school, and he is from Pierre, S.D. And he can speak spanish fluently. And I suspect he can dunk a basketball. Is it wrong to hate a 16 year old? I hope he’s at least a virgin. I get a large room to myself, and two meals a day. I don’t know which ones, but that’s OK. I was hoping for Internet access, but didn’t expect it. Everybody is very nice (mi casa tu casa.) There is the Mother, a high school age son, a early 20 y.o. daughter, and the Grandmother. Dinner tonight was very good, and they have parking for my bike. I’m probably most excited about the nice pillow I get – you don’t always get nice pillows on the road. Maybe I’l invent a travel pillow when I get back. Something out of down that you can layer on top of a crappy pillow to get the comfort of down and the size of a regular pillow? Add a stuff sack so it’ll compress to a tiny size, and I’m a millionaire. I won’t forget the little people.

One thing I noticed today, as I left Cuernevaca was that it’s a different type of people that live here. In Northern Mexico, you would see the occasional person of pre-hispanic heritage. Leaving Cuernevaca, they are everywhere. The generally accepted explanation is that Southern Mexico didn’t have anything for the Spanish to exploit (other than souls), so they largely stayed away. But here in Oaxaca, I’ve seen more foreigners (tourist) than anywhere I’ve been. So more people unlike me, and more people just like me. It’s kind of odd.

After having dinner with my temporary family, I went out to buy a phone card and stroll around the city. Sundays are a wonderful time. I think it’s the most relaxed time of the week. I’m only about a 10 minute walk to the Zocalo, and you guys all know how I feel about walking. I found an internet cafe, and cruised the web for a few short minutes.

All in all, today was a much better day. Other than dropping my bike, everything went very well. And even that wasn’t that bad. The way things look, I think I’ll probably stay another week (uno mas semana) or two. I’ve got some things to attend to, and there are lots’ of sites worth seeing in the surrounding area. And it’s well under my budget, which I need to take into account since I have made some bad decisions in the last couple of days (expensive hotels, not hookers – get your minds out of the gutter.)

One Comment

  1. Greg
    I guess this isn’t really a post but a few questions if you don’t mind. First, did you buy health travel insurance? If so thru who? I am having a hard time finding us affordable coverage. Second, which school are you going to? We also want to study Spanish while in Mexico. Thanks for letting me benefit from your wisdom! Hope your trip continues to be great. We will be in Morelia in November this year. You will probably be in South America by then but if not we will have to find you.

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