Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back on the Bike, South of the Border Style

For many years I made it a point to bring a bike along whenever we came down. Little by little though, that commitment dwindled. First it became too hot to ride on our regular trip in October and then the loss of my favorite road (to traffic and an ever degrading surface) made it less fun to ride during the more favorable climate of December and February. This time though I convinced myself that it was worth the effort to shoehorn a bike in the back of the car, and thus I arrived with plans of at least spending a little while trying to find a new place to explore on two wheels.
Riding in Mexico is more or less comparable to riding in the States. The loose dogs aren’t really interested and the drivers are largely respectful, as long as you avoid roads where it’s easy to drive a hundred miles an hour. That’s what really cost me my original route – a formerly little used shortcut from San Carlos to Guaymas that became a narrow two lane race track once it was discovered. Just too much risk from close pacing racers to make the ride enjoyable. This time around I thought I’d use the main road into town that has a nice wide service road as the approach to going off into the wilds north of town and leading out to one of our favorite birding spots – CaƱon de Nacapule. To meet that need the bike I chose was a single-speed, dirt-road bike that had served me well when I rode around Northern China.
The ride from the condos is an easy mile, slightly uphill on decent pavement. Getting across Beltrones Boulevard is another story as it requires crossing a big traffic circle paved with factory made cobblestones, in other words not pleasant for the forearms and shoulder sockets. Once out of that mess though, the service road is two lanes and smooth and one only gets buzzed a few times by fast cars, making you wonder why they’re not racing down the main part of the highway. Perhaps they merely want to check out my chiseled cyclists calves?
I got out three times on this trip, each time following the same route. On the first ride I went as far as a seep we’d found back in December that was loaded with birds just in time for our bird-count. On that day we’d encountered a big pack of horses – adults, yearlings and even pregnant mares – wandering around the platted but unoccupied lots of a snowbird housing development.  Following good form I stopped and talked to them, figuring they’d probably not seen a bicycle before. They really didn’t seem to care and I was able to ride out and back among them with not even a hint of discord. My turn around point was 7+ miles from our casita at a point where the punishment from riding on rock shards was just about enough. You see, the pavement had ended at about mile 5 and the Mexican version of a dirt road was not very conducive to a pleasurable ride. Even worse than the aforementioned cobbles.


I took an easy ride back, detouring through town and having the only car encounter of the trip when 3 women in a little Central American sedan made a sharp right turn in front of me, more intent on finding their turn that on watching out for me. Being in good spirits I let it go, foregoing the normal yelling, swearing and arm waving that greets a motorist that’s done me wrong.
When I got back, I loaded my data into Strava, the social-media-exercise-web-site I use to track my rides. In doing so I discovered that I had produced a “second best effort” on a Strava Segment. Segments are little routes that cyclists create to test themselves against other Strava Cyclists. They are all over the world and everyone’s goal is to be King of the Hill, attained by being the fastest rider on the route. I discovered that I had won a segment on a remote hill in Liaoning Province on one of the routes that my friend Dermot and I used to ride. Created by a Chinese rider years after I’d been there, he must have been amazed to find himself in 3rd place after a couple of laowei whom had ridden his track years before he created it. I was surprised to find myself on this Mexican route, certainly it was from the last time I rode there having accidentally jumped into an organized ride put on by some Guaymas cycling club. I made a commitment right then and there to go out and beat that time on my next ride. And I tried, riding like a rocket only to get home and discover that I had missed the actual start of the segment and in doing so, invalidated my attempt.
I went out on my last day, heading back to the same area for one last pass. When I turned off the main road, I saw several of the horses from the roving herd locked up in a stock trailer. I hoped that didn’t mean that they were heading off to some horrible auction and as it turned out, they weren’t. I saw them later in town in a parking lot waiting to be ridden by a group of tourists. Good news for me and them.
I spent a bit less time riding the rough roads as my arms had had enough of them. Heading back to town I passed 3 policemen in a pickup truck, something I sort of hate to do out in the empty countryside but they went on their way and I’m sure there was never any threat. But old ideas die hard when it comes to the Mexican police and I will admit to having a twinge whenever I find myself in such a circumstance.
Making sure that I began the ride back at the right place I hunkered down and put some effort into setting a new record on the segment I’d described. As I pulled off the main road into the service lane, another cop appeared riding one of those all-terrain ATV’s. He got in front of me and held his speed – he was actually motor-pacing me! I tucked in and put the hammer down, taking advantage of his draft and following his speed exactly. 18, 19, 20, 22 MPH as we roared along the seafront. Eventually he sped up a bit, perhaps coming to the end of his beat. As he pulled away he gave me brief wave which I returned.
I kept at for the remainder of the two mile course and ended up 5th on the all-time list having soundly broken my previous personal best. A good day in the saddle and a nice time on the road.

 

1 comment:

lalo said...

Nice read Terry... Always be careful