< Mexico City | Oaxaca >



I started back on the road a week ago. I had just come off of a month of sloth and sickness while taking Spanish lessons and I was unsure whether what level of fitness to expect, or whether I would be able to ride at all.

But when I got on the bike and started to ride, it was as if I had ridden yesterday. My legs burnt, my lungs felt as if they might burst, and my heart tried to escape my body through my chest, however, the mechanics and habit of it all came back.

That first day I rode 40 miles to Salamanca and called it quits. Along the way I sampled freshly pressed pineapple juice and generally enjoyed the rhythm of being on the bicycle again. I went to bed resolved to take it easy for the next few days as my body got back in shape.

Of course, the last time I resolved to take it easy, I wound up riding 125 miles from Glennallen to Valdez, and this time was no exception. It was only a fraction of the distance, but in the late afternoon I found myself in Morelia after being compelled further by increasingly beautiful country, including some spectacular lakes and marshes.

I arrived in Morelia hungry, filthly and exhausted, and took care of all three in that order. After evaluating my physical condition the next morning, I decided that I had over-extended myself the day before, and for once I would listen to my body and take a rest. I walked around town and pursued the various eating opportunities that Michoacán is famous for, marveled at the architecture and ducked into an internet café when it started to suddenly pour rain.

The next day was sunny and I felt great, so it was time to head up and out of town. The first 30 miles of the day were spent climbing up ever higher into the highlands, and along the way I had to put on a sweater to ward off the increasing cold. I finally ended the day near Ciudad de Hidalgo at Campestre Fogata (Bonfire Campground). It was the second campground I’d encountered on the mainland, and I was grateful for not having to spend the time and energy to find some hidden spot in a cow pasture or abandoned building.

The next day I climbed considerable more, and I think that when I crested the mountain at the border of Michoacán and México State I’d crossed 10,000ft for the first time on my trip. Luckily, the other side was a luxurious descent through a cool pine forest and I was able to bring my heart rate down into non-cardiac arrest levels. I ended that day at one of the most amazing secret campsites I’ve found on the trip: I was in a pine forest off the road surrounded my masonry of indeterminate age (possibly aztec ruins). The ground was soft and easy to drive stakes into, and the ruins provided convenient locations to set up my stove and cook.

I woke up very cold, having had to put on various articles of clothing throughout the night and wrap my head in a shirt as it became colder and colder. This made me thoughtful for what the Salar de Uyumi will be like when I get there some months from now.

I ate some granola, packed my things and battled trucks and homocidal drivers for the next 40km into Toluca, and called it quits. While in Toluca, I discovered a fruiteria which made a plate of fruit so large that I nearly thought I would be unable to eat it all. A recent binge on ice cream and pasteries called my ability even more into question… But in the end I triumphed and shuffled my way back to my flop hotel room, trying my best to limit the up and down motion in my step.

The next morning I set out early on what I thought would be a very easy and short day. According to the internet, my route would cover 51 miles and descend from 9000 ft at Toluca to 4500 ft at Cuernavaca.

Well, the internet is a lying bastard. Before I could descend down to 4500ft, I had to climb and descend repeatedly, with the final climb reaching 11,500 ft. All of this took 50 miles to accomplish. The final 10 miles into town were a rubber-burning, knucle-whitening, rim-heating plummet which I never hope to repeat. To add to it, the road was imperfectly paved, and in-between dodging traffic, I had to deal with loose gravel and potholes.

But I made it, damn it. And while I waited for my nerves to relax and my rims to cool down I contemplated my final approach into town. I made it, eventually found a place to stay and repeated my experience at Morelia.

Tomorrow I expect to finally reach the road to Oaxaca, and finally realize my months-long dream of arriving in that land fabulous food.

< Mexico City | Oaxaca >