We’ve been through the rolling steep hills of Michoacan and plunged over halfway through the state of Guerrero, putting in around 700 kilometers from Manzanillo. We’ve been brought in along the whole way to great food and wonderful company. Here in the states that many have said avoid, we’ve met the kindest people, the most glorious beaches and towering landscapes.
We seem to on on track to be in Guatemala in the next few weeks. Hope everyone is well!
03/18/15 (Manzanillo to Cuyutlán)
There are hundreds of closed up sun umbrellas, tied down in a symbol of the off season. In the harsh late afternoon light, you see them for what they are. An empty beach and lonely umbrellas. In the night, they resemble hundreds of shawled, tall mother Mary’s staring out into the black rolling ocean. Standing so steadily and obstinate in the gusting wind, they must be dreaming or in prayer.
Did not get out of Manzanillo or actually leave until 11:45AM. Scrambled around to pack up and square away our things before getting back on the road again after a week or so hiatus (again, did I mention we are the slowest cyclists in the world?).
Peter and Rene showed up for the morning and saw us off. Rene has given a pink onesie jumpsuit that Augustine instantly became obsessed with. Because Rene called it a jumpsuit, every time she puts it on, she jumps. So literal. Along with the coloring book that Rene gave (all 40+ stickers have already been pasted) Rene has taken up the role of Canadian grandmother.
When you leave or try to do anything outside with noon quickly advancing you must accept the raw finality that will ensue: sweat. Streams of it, rivers that flow into your eyeballs and give a salty sting. If you find space to dry, the sodium crystallizes. You’re now a salt rubbed piece of meat ready to be oven baked by natures furnace. Somewhere in this downpour of perspiration, you manage to look out over the landscape, the cumoulous cloud looming distantly and the palm trees swaying in a breeze you can’t feel, and you smile. Daydreaming of dancing naked in an arctic breeze. Again.
Though we only took a week off for our bus tour into Guadalajara, it seems we haven’t touched the pedals in more than a few months. Stopped off side of road for lunch. Happy honking trucks all day. Man wearing a thick poncho in the blistering heat asked for some water. We topped that off with some peanuts and off he walked quietly into the blue harsh sunlight.
The whole of the day was a significant climb out of Manzanillo than a quick drop onto flats near the ocean all the way into Cuyutlán.
03/19/15 (Cuyutlán to Cerro de Ortega)
Took a splash into the huge rolling monsters this morning. Tortas for breakfast. Heading out at 8:30AM the heat already doing its blustery dance. Pulled into plaza in Tecomán around 11:30AM, after stopping into bike shop for some replacement treads for Augustine’s trailer. We have parts being shipped to Puerto Vallarta, hopefully to have Eva and Kris forward them onto us wherever we find a place to rest for a few days to get some mail.
Lunch in Tecomán plaza and a couple hour siesta out of the sun. Headed out and into the late afternoon light. Got into Cerro de Ortega towards 6PM. Went to church to inquire if we could camp near the grounds. We were told that the Padre would be free in an hour and we could ask then.
While waiting, Gabriel Gallo came up to us and said he had a place where we could stay.
Gabriel told of his family back in the States that he hasn’t seen for 12 years. Used to work at Sam’s Club in the bakery department. He got deported, as he said, “porque, no tengo papeles.” That was as far as that story went. Borders created in our minds by politicians and strength of arms, seems like a silly reason to separate father and son, mother and daughter.
03/20/15 (Cerro de Ortega to Ixtapilla, Mexico)
Though the climate to our Gringo blood seems exactly the same, we noticed a change in the trees and the plants. The pictures we snapped of the mountains and shores could be confused with Northern California or Southern Oregon. Landscapes are so much like people. Beautiful and varied up close and from a distance – pretty much the same. Enchanting, life giving and forgiving.
Set off from Gabriel’s place around 8:30AM due to a flat discovered, of course, after everything was loaded on the bicycles. Ate a breakfast of quesadillas with avocados and fried onions and one green pepper. Gabriel only joined in for one as he informed us he’d imbibed a few too many cervezas before bed last night. He works with his only remaining son in Mexico doing electrical and carpentry work. His son, Daniel, showed up before we departed. They had work in Michoacan.
Off we trucked for a good 15km of fairly flat terrain, crossing into the state of Michoacan over the Rio Coahuayana. We then set up a steep (12-15% grade) climb that runs the Punta La Playa Corrida de San Juan. Sweat poured like pilgrims into Jerusalem.
Pulled into a beach town just before the climb, San Juan. Took a swim and took in the cool ocean breeze to quiet the pulse of our veins. Summiting the small pass of Punta La Corrida de San Juan, we stopped for a break, ate some sandwiches of bread, white cheese, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. A thick healthy tree cast a cool shadow, catching the breeze off the water below.
Flew down steep drop into Placita. Picked up some water and made friends with police officers with exceptionally large guns. Headed off again to the end of the small valley we’d dropped into. Faced a grueling hour long slog up some impressive grades.
Sailed down an amazing diagonal cut in the mountain face into El Duito and continued into Ixtapilla. Great old lady gesturing us down to the beach. Its not free (100 pesos ~ 7 dollars) but it is beautiful with crashing sliding ripping waves the size of quaint houses beating the shore incessantly.
Hodge-podge of a dinner. Fried potatoes. Tuna spread. Popcorn. While writing this outside the tent, the breeze has somehow been strangled to death. As a consequence. I am slapping myself every few seconds. Must. Retreat.
03/21/15 (Ixtapilla to South of Cachan)
There are some days that heave their weight, beauty and glory on your shoulders and you’ve totally forgotten them for no damn good reason. I’ve only glimpses of what happened today.
Left big huge rolling waves of Ixtapilla beach. Road for two hours and 30 mins to get 30KM. Stopped in at a little town called Motecta, terrible super mini, not even pretending to be super, just mini in not only the size but spirit.
Headed off for beach. Beautiful spot where creek joined blue ocean. Awestruck. Headed off from this little paradise during the heat of the day. Stopped at a random middle-of-nowhere abborotes for lunch of pancakes. Continued on for another two hours in a mad sweat attack with doughnuts in our mouths chasing yankees up the wall of the Grand Canyon of Mexico. That’s what I am calling it anyway, big, tall, wondrous and slow by bicycle.
03/22/15 (South of Santa Cruz de Cachan to Manzanilla Playa)
Growing up and through high school, I’ve never been much of a small talker. Being in crowds of people, in places where people stare at you, wondering what the hell you are doing there, along with gobs of people milling about with smiles and loud music playing have never been my forte. Ance thrives here. In these places with open arms, places and people. Somehow she speaks and people speak back and it is peaceful, tranquil, glorious. Happy.
It’s not that I don’t love people. Its because of peoples’ love and need we all exist. Its just, if I don’t have a rehearsed line (which are hard to come by when you are learning a language) or if I can’t play the entertainer center stage in a controlled environment devoid of objects to be handily thrown at me, I make a pretty miserable chit-chatter.
We set off from our cliff campsite, breaking all the safety rules that supposedly apply to the dangerous state of Michoacan and began a two hour slog onto Tizupan. There we stopped in a little aborrotas for cold juice and a snack, hiding in the shade of the small concrete shop painted in the white, dark and light blue of the Modelo shops you’ll find throughout Mexico.
A Federal Police officer hung out in the shop, dangling his rifle from his shoulder, flirting with the girls in charge of running the shop. Set off for an hour hump of steep glorious hills to a little beach town where we enjoyed an afternoon siesta. Parked our bikes atop steep hill down to the beach and walked down for a swim.
Met an awesome woman (Yesenia) who invited us to stay at her home in Guacamayas near Lázaro Cárdenas. Penguin walked back up the hill and set off. Not, of course, before going 5FT and noticing a flat. Within the watchful eyes of local teenage boys, we got our flat all fixed up, we set off, for real reals this time.
Humped into probably the most difficult and hottest part of the day. Rolled through a beautiful little town with children screaming and laughing everywhere and the whole town seemingly sitting in the shade just off the highway, smiling their lives into eternity. Got into the tiny little town of Manzanilla. Locals pointed us towards the beach to camp. Astounding views, soft sand and a host of children and puppies for Augustine to chase around and love until dark.
03/23/15 (Manzanilla Playa to Las Peñas)
Woke at 6:30AM to a peach dawn. The mist of the incessant waves radiating a light fog over the coast. Cool morning breeze before the moist oven of the day.
Totally healthy breakfast of fried potatoes and onions along with NesCafe instant coffee and tea – we’ve given up buying coffee for our espresso maker as we’ve found nothing really worth the trouble. Set off for a 2 hour and 35 min slog on forgiving terrain, pulled into a little town’s placita and proceeded to slowly restock some food supplies.
Ance left to the store and internet cafe to send greetings to Omite for her Name’s day. Augustine and I soaked up the cool shade of the plaza, until daughter found some kids and I stitched up my tripod chair. I’ve managed to almost completely destroy my chair from Astoria, OR while Ance’s is in pristine condition. I explain this away by stating that I sit manly and therefore harder and therefore break thread of seat yeah. No seat is safe from my ass.
After hiding in the shade for nearly 3 hours, we trekked off for 3KM and found a beautiful beach with a man speaking a Spanish that was difficult for Ance and I to follow. Smile really big! Had a dip in the loco waves and Augustine in the tranquil lagoon. Off we went into Chuquiapan, where we found a gang of municipal police to ask where we might be able to camp. They indicated Las Peñas Playa, 5-6KM more. Those 5-6KM turned into 13-14KM more in reality.
Dinner of lentils. Augustine seems to have magically warmed to the idea of eating things that actually have other things in than, much to our rejoicing.
03/24-28/15 (Las Peñas to Las Guacamayas, La Union, Coyuquilla Norte, San Jeronimito)
Short 35KM+ into Las Guacamayas, just a super steep hill (which seems to be a tradition on our trip) to Yesenia and Guadalupe’s house. We had to ask about 15 people along the way when we got into Guacamayas to meander our way to their house, but we got there!
Washed bikes and oiled them up. Yesenia whipped up some tasty late lunch for us – bistec tacos that took some superhuman to stop eating. Guadalupe came home and we all went out to Lázaro Cárdenas to see the sites. Walked the Malecon and Augustine found two identical playgrounds at each end, both of which she found exhilarating. Lázaro Cárdenas is apparently the largest port in Mexico, just to let you know, when you find yourself on Jeopardy.
Returned back to the house for what was supposed to be an early evening of a couple of beers and a sip of some fine Mexican tequila. That turned into some sort of extravaganza that lasted waist deep into the morning with Guadalupe serenading us all with his grand voice in a night of karaoke and dance. Yesenia tried to teach me the different dance steps to various kinds of Mexican music. With my two left feet and slightly inebriated frontal lobes, this did not work out so well.
The 25th consisted of a day of total and complete rest, largely a recovery day from an over intake of fiesta. This might be called an over exertion on the joy lever the night before.
On the 26th, we set off from Las Guacamayas at a reasonable hour, bidding our farewells to Yesenia and family. They are quite the makeup. Yesenia sells athletic clothing while Guadalupe works huge mining equipment. Their kids, Evelyn and Alexis, are pretty amazing. Aside from loving on Augustine, Evelyn is going into studies to become a pharmacist while the younger Alexis is a swimmer and all around athletic man. We didn’t really want to leave, but the road calls, with the equator beckoning.
Guerrero opted to give us a downhill and flats after the punishment of Michoacan. Zippo to 70KM for the day. Stopped into a great little town called Los Llanos where we camped right in the center of town near the church and basketball court.
Breaking into the 27th, all is a blur. We found at the end of a long haul day another great little town called San Jeronimito where we camped right smack dab in the middle of the central plaza. I played some basketball, where I lost with my little Mexican friend badly. Ance played a little volleyball without any losing entailed.
During the evening we were able to meet Leticia and Jose. They invited us over for a shower in the morning (which we took up) and an awesome local guy who had been running laps in the plaza stopped to talk with us. That evening he brought us back and forth from the plaza so we could take showers – I really regret having totally lost his name in my scribbling notes. At any rate, thanks to him we slept like birds on the birth of the world.
The 28th itself, after some breakfast in the plaza and coffee at Leticia’s house, seems to be a complete blur. We’re now a bit inland and the only solace from the heat are the shadows of houses and the tired mighty trees of mangos.
03/29/15 (Coyuquilla Norte to Ramos)
Yesterday, Wilbur took us in at the Paleteria we had stopped in for some shade and refreshments. What we got was great company, too much ice cream and lunch gratis along with a place to say with one of those real bed things off the ground. Additionally, the Gringos via bici, got to figure out how to use an in room AC. Very exciting.
After Wilber got off work yesterday, we spent the evening talking and drinking coffee. Ance and I spoke to how so many people have told us that Michoacan and Guerrero are muy peligrosa, very dangerous, places to go, but what we’ve found are beautiful beaches with even more beautiful people.
I thought of several things that are unfair about the die that’s been cut for Michoacan and Guerrero and Mexico as a whole. One is that so many of us in Alaska and throughout the states have created our impressions mostly, if not entirely, from the negative things we’ve heard, largely from the media.
My simple question is this: what if all of America was defined by those who gun down school children in the midwest or kill people in the movie theaters at will? What if the opinion of America rested on the poverty stricken neighborhoods where gang violence murders people daily. Similarly, what if all of British Columbia, Canada was etched with the broad strokes cast by all the women abducted on the Yellowhead highway? Surely, these are part and parcel of the reality – but it is not all.
On another level, Guerrero has been roiled in the violence and political corruption wrought by drugs and abuse of power – i.e. the 40+ students abducted and executed by the behest of a local mayor. Should this, albeit terrible event, cast a shadow over everyone in Guerrero?
Let me ask this. Should the rape and violence against women rate in Alaska, one of the highest in the USA, be one of defining motifs of our state? Every place, society, culture has its blemishes and its plethora of problems. We would do well to recognize the union between humans that this symbolizes.
Wilbur took us to his Mother’s house for breakfast (after we’d already eaten ours). Tried to buy some things from her store, but she refused payment and gave us everything for free, under much protest from Ance. Wilbur and family have been great hosts, with wonderful big beautiful hearts.
Rode in a fog of heat in the late morning sun. Stopped in a town for lunch. Man invited us over to their house for lunch. He’s a fisherman – fresh fish for lunch. Another big wonderful family with a house teeming with children.
Rode onto Ramos before calling it a day. Found our way to the Plaza, where we again find ourselves camping in a place where people cannot stand the thought of NOT offering us dinner.
We ate with Mario and Yolanda a tasty dinner of tacos. I am not kidding. In the last few days, we’ve not eaten our own food. Each time we’ve sat down to make eggs or pasta, another open hand and breakfast, lunch dinner is offered.
It is holy week. A fair of sorts, with rides, games, and sweets can be heard by the screaming excitement of children for miles. Augustine got to give a whack at the double-decker trampoline. We are “camping” just across the street from the commotion, who know’s if Augustine will sleep.
03/30/15 (Ramos to Coyuca)
Woke at 5:30AM. The birds clatter and cackle happily with the slow blue light that morphs into the hues of pink then orange. The mornings are the only times where the air seems fresher, lighter.
Before writing last night, took a shallow bath in Rio Tecpan, with the lights of the city wobbling with the birth of night and the heat laying down to rest. The moscas attacked in force while departing to Rio’s wake.
Trying to put Augustine to sleep last night was like trying to put a drunk, only slightly inebriated to bed in a bar during happy hour. The rides of the plaza clanked along and a steady gleeful scream of children filtered through the trees. Oblivious to it all, Ance and I slipped into a coma around 9:30PM. Who knows when Augustine actually hit the snooze button. Staring out at the colorful lights of the rides and the stands of candy, wondering why here parents are not the least bit interested.
Sandwiches with avocados, onions, mayo and mustard on still warm bolillos bought near the plaza this morning. As we loaded the bicycles, the local guys and a few grandpas we hadn’t met last night, stood around asking questions about our trip.
The ride through Tecpan was filled with the haste and bustle of a Monday morning. Into San Jeronimo ride nearly all flat, numbing one’s butt while steadily cruising through the hazy green of the morning, The Sierra de Madra Sur looming sleepily in the distance.
After rest, flats extend time in your mind beyond the bend of the earth. All weight on your rear, the palms and grass and cars dreamily, hazily, pass by. You’re on a standstill cycle, watching a silent hazy green movie, listening to the rubber of your wheels and approaching cars. Sporadically waving at field workers, those shade dwellers and passing drivers who stare and smile.
Along the way to our next rest stop in Zacualpan, Mario slowed in his green Jeep and offered through the window a place to stay in Acapulco. At 12:30PM, its damp and heavily hot.
Met Arturo in Zacualpan. He was deported from the United States, having his papers taken away for drunk driving. If its true that your legal status can be taken away due to drunk driving and other offences, we’ve got some major problems in the States. He has four kids in the States and his babys’ mama, whom he calls and thinks of often. We caught him at a time where he now hauls 100 pieces of wood by wheelbarrow from a nearby field for 100 pesos – which is around 7 dollars.
All throughout lunch we had an inquisitive crowd buzzing around. One guy bought Augustine a juice and Arturo’s Mother brought us some fruit. A local boxer gave us a mango. We’ve met at least a quarter of the town and seem to be making off with all their fruit.
We rode on for another 25KM, putting in a big day around 75KM on mostly flats. Ance was the champ pulling the trailer. Opted to camp by the river with a slew of restaurant palapas littering the sandy shores. We asked one restaurant if we could camp near their palapas. No questions asked, they pulled out some tables for us, offered up their kitchen and made a mean and tasty michelada.
So many kids for Augustine to play with in the shallow river, I can’t even count.
03/31/15 (Coyuca Rest Day)
We decided to poke around Coyuca for a hotel to crash with internet and a shower – without invading people’s living rooms! While searching around, we asked for directions from a family taco stand. They ended up offering us a room for 150 pesos in what seems to be a place that’s been under construction for a quarter century. They’ve brought down a television from their own living room and put a table and chairs from their taco stand in the room.
For nine dollars, great people, rest and internet to update the website, we’ll take that over any plush hotel, any day. We’ll be heading through Acapulco tomorrow. Another two weeks or so down in Mexico, loving it.
Best wishes to everyone,