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Biking through Mexico

Americans Lewis Thorwaldson and Brandy Davis quit their jobs in May 2014 for one big bicycling adventure. Without a specific destination in mind, they started at the northernmost point in British Columbia, Canada, and have been pedaling south ever since. The following is an excerpt from one of their travel days in Mexico. You can follow along with their adventures online at rudimentsofgruel.com

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2/19/15 Fishing Hut to Caimanero

63 miles

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The morning was beautiful, but as usual we got a slower start than we hoped.

We had more long rollers and boring highway on the approach to Mazatlán, and a solitary OXXO gas station for some snacks and coffee. We did not fill up our water.

Today’s lesson: Always get water.

This is one of my cardinal rules of world travel. It still astounds me that I would have failed to comply with such a simple and important edict.

Shortly after the OXXO, we came to the junction of the Libre and Cuota, with the Cuota peeling off on some beautiful brand new concrete straight up a less-than-beautiful hill. Alarm bells started going off as we climbed to the summit in temperatures that felt at 10:30 am to be matching yesterday’s scorching max, and the fingers of hunger began sliding around our ribs.

There was absolutely nothing, and very little traffic. The surface was great, but the terrain was challenging. We stopped under a bridge to assess the situation. Our water was down to less than one bottle per person, and the heat was sucking it out our pores in rivers. We were very hungry, so we ate the rest of our chips for a bit of energy and sodium. We ate a carrot for its water. 

The highway threw the hills out of perspective. We would mount a rise and feel the motivation drain from our hearts as we gazed upon some heartless mountain in front of us, only to have it contract in front of our eyes as we approached until it was barely greater than flat. I tipped up my water, and a cactus and some dust came out instead.

Like a beacon of light, or perhaps a splash of ice water on parched flesh, we rounded a corner and were back in civilization as we mounted the exit for Villa Union. We pushed into the first miserable roadside restaurant we saw, grabbed refreshments from the fridge and plopped into shaded chairs. Sugar water infused with artificial colors poured into our bodies like ambrosia while jewels of glistening condensation dripped from the bottles onto our bare legs. After a mediocre and overpriced lunch, we went into the OXXO to enjoy the A/C and while away some of the hottest part of day. 

This was a decision point. Our next known destination was Escuinapa, about 40 miles down the highway. We had plotted a route that would take us down along the beach, avoiding much of the highway doldrums. The problem was that the route on Google seemed to traverse a narrow isthmus of land between a giant lagoon and the ocean. However, the newly purchased Guia Roji showed this isthmus to actually be a peninsula, ending at the mouth of a large bay, with no crossing.

We asked around and the consensus was that the road did exist, but several people said that it was “muy peligroso” because it is a lonely, unused road and therefore we would have a great chance of being robbed. We finally asked who I’ve come to believe is the utmost authority on rural roadway conditions – a traveling representative of a large agribusiness firm. Francisco laughed in his white, logoed polo when questioned about the supposed dangers and said that not only did the road exist, but it was a very beautiful route. Sold!

We were beaten down from the lousy morning, but again, things would turn around completely. As soon as we got through town, we were on quiet roads through colorful farmlands. The farmers were even more friendly than usual, and we spent the next couple hours smiling and waving. 

The road finally came to within 500 feet of the beach before turning parallel through palm plantations and pepper fields. After wrestling the bikes down the long sandy track, we really hoped it would lead to a decent spot to camp and not some worthless dead end. Sure enough, there was a huge palapa right there with a table and stump stools. Someone had been there during the day, and we were able to revive their coals to cook dinner over one of the nicest fires yet.

The sand stretched out of sight in both directions, and the only person we saw all evening as we watched the sun set over the Pacific was some guy digging a massive hole just down the beach, presumably our graves. The stars came out bright over the deserted beach, and we fell asleep in our hammocks listening to the surf crashing 100 feet away. 

Lewis Thorwaldson’s Cardinal Rules of Travel

  • ALWAYS fill your water whenever you get a chance, even if you don’t need it;
  • ALWAYS eat when you can, even if you are not hungry;
  • ALWAYS do laundry when you have a chance, even if most of your clothes are clean; and last, but certainly not least
  • ALWAYS, always use the bathroom when one is available, even if you don’t feel the need, especially before getting on a bus. A caveat to this would be to not drink your usual four cups of morning joe when you have a ten-hour bus ride in front of you.

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