2/18/15 La Cruz to Fishing Hut
It’s strange how much more boring it is to be on the highway than side roads through the same scenery. Our next day was one big yawn fest filled with flat tires and not much else. Highways are also bad for tires because of all the tiny pieces of metal wire from truck tires laying around. We had ordered Brandy a new Armadillo badass tire, but the bike shop got the wrong one and, due to it arriving later than we were told it would, by the time we were picking it up, we didn’t have time to make any changes and have regretted that.
We GTFO of the campsite quickly to avoid our ant friends and started our boring highway day with Brandy stopping a hundred feet from camp to check a noise, forgetting she was clipped in and toppling over on the ground. We had a nice breakfast next to the highway in an SOS bench, woo! The shoulder alternated between silky smooth new pavement and stretches where they hadn’t bothered to put the final layer on because, hey, it’s Mexico, why the fuck not? These stretches were nice and bumpy and strewn with pebbles. The bridge joints had been built with the anticipation of completed pavement, several inches above the unfinished level, so there were stiff speed bumps on bridges, ya know, generally at the bottom of a downhill, right before going back up. For the beginner cyclist reader, this is the type of place where one might wish to conserve momentum as opposed to slowing to a near crawl to hump over some useless bump without your shit flying everywhere.
After the miles of farms, the highway goes through a large nature preserve that was kind of pretty, although it’s tough to enjoy the scenery with big rigs barreling past every few seconds. We are getting more and more out of the desert as the vegetation changes to small deciduous trees and shrubs with fewer cacti. We did quite a bit of climbing in the hot afternoon sun, passing several signs for a parking area that would presumably be at the top. Brandy was completely prepared to lay down in the shadow under a truck, but the rest area more matched my fantasy of a modern rest area with cold water faucets, bathrooms and shaded picnic tables with expansive views all the way to the ocean at which you could enjoy refrigerated beverages sold at the adjacent kiosk, complete with beads of condensation rolling down the side. Oh yeah, the picnic tables were also a great place to change yet another flat on, yup, the Flak Jacket tire (conveniently located on the rear). This was a great upgrade from the dusty, mosquito-infested strip between the highway and an irrigation canal where we changed one the day before.
The road continued to provide when I finally found a Guia Roji road map at an Oxxo. You’d think these things would be sold at all highway gas stations, but this is not the case. I have been chasing this map for about a thousand miles through Mexico. I finally got it, although nothing too comprehensive, just a folding country map.
It’s always amazing how the touring cyclist life is one of vast contrasts. You bounce around from amazing to horrific to boring to beautiful from day to day, hour to hour and sometimes even minute to minute. We have been fortunate enough to have almost every tough and/or lousy day end on an extremely high note. Today’s dullsville, puncture acres was no different. The road seemed to want to make up for throwing us so many flat tires and the lousy, bug-ridden camping spot the night before. Did I forget to mention that we had to climb over barbed wire to get to it? How about the fact that every single growing thing was spiky despite that we thought we’d left the desert behind. Yup, even the thick main trunks of the trees we were hanging our hammocks on had thick rows of thorns to puncture our poor flesh. Perhaps I also forgot to mention how we were positioning our bikes in the dark and Brandy said, “we should shine the lights down to make sure we don’t run over any loose barbed wire.” A good idea, I thought just before taking another step into a rusty strand of barbed wire that tore a gash in my calf. This was our camp the night before. What wonders would await us tonight?
I was picturing something along the lines of the crappy spot we had the night before, while Brandy was envisioning some easily-accessible covered place where we could have a fire, really, she wanted a miracle. Late afternoon found us riding through a large flood plain fed by several small rivers. As we crossed one we happened to notice a small hut just below the highway next to the bridge with a faint path to a fence gate. This is the dry period so this seasonal fishing hut was long vacant. It was perfect. We were hidden from the road, with a place for our hammocks, a fire ring and plenty of flood dragged driftwood, and we had arrived with plenty of time to explore the vast floodplain and watch the sunset. There were even baskets to hang the food! Never mind the spiders who were unhappy to make our acquaintance. Luckily for them, I do not squash their type.
The day had drastically turned around in our favor, much like the following day would.
Time just seemed to drip by in San Blas. The days went slowly, but at the end it seemed like it had gone so quickly. After our initial two weeks were up, we weren’t ready to go and kept adding one more day again and again until we’d been there almost three weeks. How did we end up spending so much time in this beautiful but buggy little fishing village on the Pacific?
It was time for a break. We’d been traveling pretty much non-stop for about ten months and decided we needed to find a spot to take it easy and work on some random projects that were in our heads and really to just have a place of our own for a bit. We’d heard much about the coast of the state of Nayarit from locals, and I’d read several cyclist blogs talking about San Blas. We figured we’d go there first and then decide if we’d stay or check out some more of the coast. But first we needed to hit the pedals and churn out a few miles from Culiacan. Despite our desire to get there quickly, our desire to avoid the doldrums of the toll highway was greater, so we took a couple scenic detours on the way.
2/17/15 Culiacán to La Cruz
The industrial, exhaust-belching highway out of Culiacán was still better than the hectic nightmare we’d ridden in on. The highway had auxiliary lanes where traffic was lighter and moved more slowly and most of the traffic was professional truck drivers rather than crazed commuters. I actually somewhat enjoy riding through industrial wastelands, provided the road is safe and air pollution levels are within a reasonable standard. Maybe it is the engineer in me, but I like to see the inner workings of a place, not just the showpieces. Shortly before we got out of this zone we passed a large crash that had involved a moped. There did not appear to be any ashen faces or gruesome material on the roadway, so hopefully the driver of that vehicle escaped unscathed.
This was a spur road that funnels traffic from the city to the Cuota national highway. As soon as we skipped over the Cuota everything was completely different. We were again on a beautiful two-lane road with lane-sized shoulders built for agricultural vehicles. Back into the veggie basket of Mexico with endless green fields, heaping produce trucks and friendly farmers. There were even people cleaning up trash from the road; all trash, not just returnables!
We blew past a roadside stand selling pan de mujer (lit. bread of woman) and I screeched to a halt in the dusty verge. This is typical Mexican sweet bread that comes in many different varieties. You may have seen it with the crumbly sugar topping in a checkerboard pattern. It was probably crappy. We were on a roll and I didn’t want to stop, but I am a sucker for roadside stands, so we went back. We have talked a lot about balancing the adventure and exploration with focused riding because there have been so many times where we were making time and did not take advantage of obvious opportunities to stop and talk to friendly people. We’re doing this trip to be able to make stops, taste the food and meet the people, but then it is so difficult to break out of a good rhythm, especially on days when we get started later than desired, i.e., every day.
Well, let me tell you, the bread was very good. She had the typical breads, and then some that were filled with pumpkin and others filled with cajeta (that caramel-like substance made from cane sugar). I had a very tough time understanding her accent, but I did make out that there had been another couple cycling through there a couple months back. She had first thought we were the same ones because of our apparent resemblance, but perhaps the resemblance goes no further than the overloaded cycles. Another benefit of the stop was that we finally figured out what the little dome ovens were that we’ve been seeing on the sides of the road.
We stopped for lunch at the El Huizchal restaurant in El Dorado, outdoors as usual. I tried the tostadas de pata. I was under the impression from my discussions with the waitress that pata was something to do with skin, but online searches come up with foot and/or tendon. Whatever it is, the texture was of the type that makes me want to hurl, so it was tough to finish. No problem. When you try new things, sometimes you get barfyville.
The family that owned the place was very friendly and had a good vibe. They offered Brandy a cot in the back to nap on because she was taking a power nap on the table. Before we left they took our photo with the bikes and when they sent the pics they said we were a huge inspiration to them, which helps inspire us to keep going.
We were planning to get in a few more miles of riding, but then Brandy got a flat and it was starting to get dark, so we climbed over the barbed wire fence and set up camp in some thorny, ant-ridden woods. The ants were so out of control that we skipped making dinner and just ate tortilla chips in the hammocks.