It’s Lucinda and my first year anniversary on the road. I was thinking about what to do on our special day. A new paint job? Go for a ride? So we just chilled and (mostly) caught up on the never-ending homework living on the road involves.
Total miles 26,114. Average per day: just under 70. Adam and Hans have similar numbers to each other (and both rode Africa), so I use them as a benchmark. Adam’s look like this:
Total RTW miles: 106,800
Total days (approx): 1650
Average miles per day: 65
My geographic progress is not as far south as it should be and it’s going to get worse for a month. I had planned to be in Ushuaia for Christmas and we’ll be late. I have a habit of doing loops off the main track, not pushing south consistently. This needs to change or I’ll be out here for a stupidly long time.
Some brief lighthearted personal opinion trivia after a year (I thought about excluding the negatives, but some of them are helpful):
Best country so far for this activity: El Salvador for being consistently great . Small like a jewel. Nice loops. Not everyone’s experience though. Mexico for the overall mosaic. Colombia for the warmth (when they’re not pissed off) and the hills. Guatemala for indigenous interest.
Best city/town: None of the cities stood out as a favorite. Medellin is beautiful and nicely sinful. Campeche is an aristocratic colonial beauty. For villages, tiny Alegria, El Salvador is nicely situated parked on a ledge up a volcano, and the paved road in and the dirt road out are both great rides.
Best riding: Highlights in every country. Sorry for the cop-out.
Best ride: Xinantecatl, Mexico. A great volcano, a fun ride, great views and most importantly great company. A day like this and you never want to do anything else. Runner-up, the Nicaragua improvised ‘water three ways’ day for having no idea where the hell I was going and being happily surprised at every turn. These were both easy rides with just enough of the ADV spirit to keep them honest.
Best landscape: The hills east of Medellin, Colombia. Surreal and sublime.
Best food: Consistently terrible since Mexico. But maybe the carrots in Guatemala, the pastries in Colombia and cerviche right here in Mancora. It seems to be a lack of caring – the ingredients are often plentiful.
Worst cops: Nicaragua. Shaken down 4 times, including a really bold shake down of five of us at once.
Best cops: Colombia. Hilariously, when you fly by at max twist they wave at you happily. And they’re always good for a nice long bike chat. This makes Colombia the fastest country to ride in. Although it seemed that you could also ride with abandon hassle free in Guatemala, but that might have been luck.
Worst town stayed in: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, hands down. An expensive and useless tourist trap is more depressing than a scary village.
Worst border: El Salvador/Honduras at Santa Clarita. Corrupt beyond belief. Seriously upset a friend of mine.
Best border: Mexico/Guatemala at La Mesilla. I couldn’t have gone through any faster and very friendly on both sides.
Flawless gear: Sidi Adventurer boots, Giant Loop tank bag, Rev’it thermal socks, OR stuff sacks, Ziplock freezer bags, Lumix DMC TS4, ROK straps, ITM paper maps, Visine.
I have no philosophical or cultural observations to share, and Lord knows zipping around on a bike doesn’t enlighten you on anything by default, despite some of the bike-travel books implying it does. So Deer Park is a ride report only.
I love the ride. The old cliché about the freedom is true. You feel it as soon as you leave, knowing the whole world is ahead. Occasionally I’m hit with a wave of exhilaration unlike anything I’ve ever felt. When I either think about the moment or the future sometimes it feels unreal. You feel very able as you move across landscapes. When things are threatening you don’t feel threatened. It’s like the very act of doing this protects you.
Your biggest fear is harm to the bike. You have to find secure parking for her every night and much of the time you don’t know for sure how that’s going to happen. Mostly you can’t let her out of your sight. I can’t even process the idea of her loss. I distinctly remember how she felt as we turned the key and left Ambleside Beach together – the bond is intense.
The second fear is of crashing. My trip has nearly ended twice. First, the broken valve in Mexico. Second was losing the front end on a sand patch rounding a curve and very nearly going under a bus in El Salvador had Lucinda not grabbed some road at the last second.
I have some specific goal issues that I’ve spoken to a couple of friends about. Perhaps more about that another time.
The look ahead: Putting plans-to-blog is a dangerous activity.