20 August 2002

But what do you do about......?

Hello from Mexico City! I am going to answer some questions I have been getting.

Our Route
I guess I forgot that not everyone is familiar with the geography of Mexico.
We headed directly south from Los Angeles, about 1100 miles down the Baja Peninsula. From the city of La Paz we took a ferry to the city of Mazatlan. From there we headed southeast through Tepic and Guadalajara into Mexico City. From here we will head directly south through the city of Oaxaco and then into the state of Chiapas. From there we will head east through Guatemala, past the ruins of Tikal and then into Belize. We will only be in Belize for a couple of days before we fly out of the Belize airport on the east coast of Central America. I hope that clarifies a bit!

Bicycle Touring
Not all my friends and family are avid cyclists, eh? Bicycle touring is a way of traveling by bicycle where you carry with you everything you need. For example, we have a tent, two stoves (with fuel), sleeping bags, rain gear, clothes, dried food, water containers, tools, maps; everything we will need for the two month journey. Well, of course, we have to buy food and water everyday. The idea is to enjoy the process more than the goal. An American asked us why we ride so much and don’t spend more time sight seeing; I told him that we are sight seeing constantly. When you are in a car the environment is merely in the way of your destination, but when you are on a bike you become a part of that environment and appreciate all aspects of it. The other day we were climbing this mountain for about 2 hrs and then we entered a pine forest. You feel the air get colder, you are overwhelmed by the smell, the forest absorbs you, and you appreciate arriving there by bicycle.

We are yet to camp at a campsite. We just find a place hidden from the road and set up camp. It’s great, that little area of the world becomes our home for the next 10 hours. We set up the tent, unload what we need for the night and prepare dinner. Then we sit and relax, and maybe look at the stars or write in our journal. A lot of times our exhaustion decides that we should just go right to sleep! Camping has become more difficult in the mainland and will be even harder when we are in the humid jungles of the south.

So how does a respectable vegan survive below the border? Lots of beans and tortillas. ha. When you spend months outside of the USA you realize how strict veganism is such a privilege, one that is only possible for the richest people in the world. No, I don’t have to eat quesadillas and scrambled eggs to survive, but sometimes you don’t have a choice about the ingredients in the only bread that is available or the type of cooking oil used. Veganism is completely unheard of down here; many vegetarian restaurants do not have vegan options. Despite all of this I am surviving well and trying all sorts of new vegan foods. There are these fried sweet breadstick things called Churros and these unnamed coconut candies that are unbelievable. Mushroom Quesadillas are very popular, and here the cheese goes on top, not on the inside, so it is very easy to order them sin queso. Panaderia, or bread shops, are an every day stop. We crush about 4-5 big pieces of sweet bread every morning. Most of the options for me aren’t as nice as those apple filled whole wheat pastries I had at a health food bakery in Mazatlan, but good nonetheless.

It is a misnomer that you need to eat all the local food to understand the culture. I am always walking extremely slow (to Justin and Nallely´s dismay) through markets so I can see what kinds of foods are available and their preparation method. Seeing the local ingredients and how they differ from a state 200 miles away interests me enough, I do not need to eat beef tripe to understand it any further. There is always something local and vegan for me to taste, and as my Spanish improves the amount of foods I can eat increases!

Bike Problems
So when you leave for a 3000-mile bike trip you want to have all the best parts, right? I am finding it doesn’t matter. My top of the line topeak road bike pump ($47) broke in the rain 500 miles ago. Two days later the one I bought in Mexico broke. My $1200 bike has probably had more problems than Justin's $300 bike from EBay. But my $35 tires are about 10x better than the $15 crap tires Justin left with. You really just never know. I understand that if you buy something from walmart it is going to break sooner than later, but we are buying components from companies owned by the people who do these things. Why do they sell such crap? Is it all designed for yuppies that only use it during their two-week vacations? There has to be some companies out there that make stuff that can hold up to what we put it through. Here is a list of broken parts. (M) Means I broke it, (J) means Justin did.

7 broken spokes (M)

2 stripped stem bolt holes (M)

1 broken star washer (M)

1 broken topeak frame pump (M)

1 broken giant pump (M)

1 broken derailleur (J)

2 ripped tires (J)

1 leaking stove (J)

I also bought some tubes from a mountain bike distributor and they are the crappiest tubes ever. The valve ripped on 3 of them. I have had 5 flats, and Justin around 15. Not just the run over something type, but ones from the valve breaking, pinch flats from not being able to get enough air in our tires (cause my pump broke and Justin's sucks), and ones from patches leaking (it is hard to patch a tube in the rain).

Despite all this I do have equipment I am proud of. My Sierra Designs tent has kept us dry (if we set it up right before we go to sleep!) during torrential downpours and my mountain hardwear jacket has kept me dry and cool during those long hours of pedaling through the rain. I hope to do a whole product review when we get a touring website going.

I hope I have made what we are doing and what we go through a little more clear. My next couple entries will include more specific stories and more about what our day-to-day lives are like.

peace, Matt!

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