Sometimes places are just the way they are supposed to be.   I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

Fading from top to bottom, left to right, just blue blue blue blue...

Homemade crab dumplings, thanks to Jamie's wife...

Snooze pups facing up to the pace in Sarteneja...

Nighttime jive (around a bicycle, naturally)...

A Sunday stroll through town to check out the schools and building of a fishing boat...

...which knocked my socks off...

The precision and angling were truly captivating. When I grow up, I want to learn how to build a boat like this...

Ground cover of clovers...

Silke...

Evan and Sarah...

And our very gracious host Jamie, who had spotted us riding the day before as he headed home from work as a lobster diver. Once he reached his humble house, he loaded his kids on his bike and came to find us in town. We stretched out in the town's playground late into the night, listening to stories of his life growing up in Belize City to his present occupation, the special boats built in town and the way of life round those part. We also were let to camp on his yard and spend our Sunday with him and his family....

Days end…
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It was within minutes on our second day with Silke that I saw what appeared to be a group of… more cyclists?! ahead of us on the side of the road.  Yup.  We rolled up on 3 others, making it a giddy group of 6 standing on the side of the highway, straddling our bikes and swapping stories.  Evan and Sarah, from Alaska, had flown into Cancun about a week earlier and had been zig zagging down the coast heading for Belize.  The other rider was a man from Poland, heading north from Tierra del Fuego towards Alaska.  We shared hugs, high fives and took some photos, before the 5 of us heading south continued on together.

As much as the highway was pretty flat and boring, it was great to have such a nice group to travel with.  For the rest of the day, we took turns riding with each other and getting caught up on ideas of where we wanted to head and how long we might be able to travel in each others’ company, not to mention loads of stories about our past lives and life thoughts.

The five of us spent the next few days together, each one better than the last.  As much as Kurt and I have a good thing going, traveling day in and day out together, problem solving and making all decisions with only the two of us to consider, the opportunity and experience of traveling with others was/is really a highlight. We look forward to being able to do this a bunch along our journey.

And yes… after all this time in Mexico, we did eventually cross the border into Belize one beautiful, sunny morning by way of the Corozal crossing.  The instant changes were apparent… English was spoken, dollars (Belize) were once again used, miles (instead of kilometers) were printed on signs.  To communicate again! After our months in Mexico, our spanish has certainly improved, but is nowhere near conversational status (aside for answering the usual questions).  To be in Belize and able to converse and joke around was an incredible feeling.  We immediately made friends and were offered a place down the road to camp.  We spent our first afternoon traversing a dirt road heading out east, our destination of the small fishing village of Sarteneja but two days away.

The group converges on the highway side...

It wasn't long before the five of us stopped for a snack and ran into another man just finishing a loop around the Yucatan. Here my Bridgestone got to meet his nice Bridgestone and we all oogled at the gear he rode with, with him having collected it over a long lifetime spent bike touring...

So close. After having spent a full 6 months in Mexico, our impending border crossing was especially exciting...

And just like that, we entered the English speaking country of Belize...

...where signs were easily read and many business were Chinese owned...

The crossing was relatively simple and painless. There is a $20 exit tax for Mexico and a stamp (free) you must get from Belize, but other than that, not much. Knowing the price of fruits and vegetables were about to go up, I regretted not filling my panniers before heading across the border (in my case, they did not check my bags)...

Hurray for human power! A hand cranked water crossing as we head down one of the back roads toward Sarteneja...

Also along the way, we spotted this once in a lifetime viewing...

Ahhhh. This picture still gets me every time. So the moral of the story... never bite off more than you can chew. This python thought this full coati (thanks Josh! you had it correct.) dinner was a good idea. His mid section thought otherwise. This photo shows his belly, where he split in half as the farmers dragged his body from the field...

Just after crossing the border, we were graciously told where we could all camp for free down the road. We were able to set up on a secluded inlet front, stretching out with our hammocks and tents. We enjoyed both evening and morning fires, and I a chilly morning dip in the shallow inlet waters of Laguna Seca...

Silke and her layout. As a solo female traveler, she immediately gains my respect. She travels with not only four fully loaded panniers, but also a mountaineering backpack strapped over her back rack, containing mountaineering boots and the like. Silke is working on climbing some very high peaks on her way down to Tierra del Fuego. She has already completed the summit of Pico de Orizaba (and she's a grandma!!)...

Tulum

February 23, 2011

These next few posts will be going back in time a bit.  Quite a bit, so please bear with me.  I also don’t have many notes from this time, so I am trying to convey everything from my pea brain memory at this time.

Having left Isla Blanca and our dreamy existence there, we headed back to Cancun to deal first hand with the prospects of flying (yes flying! the one thing we said we really didn’t want to be part of this trip) to Cuba.  Days passed, and each time we visited the travel agent and discussed further the possibility of getting us and our bikes over there, our hearts dropped more and more with the mention of cost.  Things really started to add up.  Not only are there tickets to contend with, but bike boxing, storing stuff in the meantime, purchasing insurance to be covered while your over there (oh yes, that is now a reality of Americans looking to “sneak” into Cuba).  The list goes on and on.  I’d be happy to answer any specific questions one may have with bike travel to Cuba, as I did take notes the whole time.  To list them here would take up too much time and space.  If your curious, please email me directly.

In the long run, there was an ixne on Cuba-ey.  We sat in the travel agent office and I peered up at the world map on the wall. My eyes couldn’t stop looking at Mongolia.  Yup.  Mongolia.  So large, so far away.  And yet, a place I want to spend some serious time and effort bike traveling around.  Our funds only take us so far, so indeed every penny counts.  We will have to work long before reaching Mongolia, we both know and understand, but thinking about it so early in the trip does help us make certain decisions.   These helpful thoughts are what encouraged us to decide against a month in Cuba.  To read Kurt’s excellent (and much more detailed) account of this same experience, please click here.

So…. dear American embassy, let it be noted… Kelly and Kurt did not go to Cuba this time thanks to all the regulations put into place. (As I am writing this very much after the fact, I must add that it is a huge relief we did not go to Cuba.  As most of you know, Kurt and I needed to leave and head home very unexpectedly and as fast as possible from Belize a week or so later.  Had we been in Cuba, this all would have been an even bigger nightmare that it actually was.)

Instead we spent a few days with the amazing Gaspar and his cousin Michael, both Couchsurfer hosts living in a small Cancun apartment.  These two are Angels in true form.  When Gaspar agreed to meet us at 12:30 one night, he was taking us back to an apartment where 7 people where already sleeping, crashed out in hammocks, cots and on every inch of floor.  The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

From Cancun, we began our leg down the coast, heading for Tulum and further for the border of Belize.  Tulum was uneventful, as we did not go in to see the ruins.  We’ve had our share for a while.  We did however have the pleasure of meeting not just one, but several bike tourists.  After months of hardy running into any other traveling cyclists (our route and the current misconceptions of traveling in Mexico have a lot to do with that), there was a funneling effect of all those that were out there, now heading for Belize.  We initially met Silke, a solo-traveler from Germany, who we immediately decided to wait for and head south together with the next day.  Later on in the day we also met a French man who was finishing his 6 month trip down for Alaska in a few days.

After running errands around town, including falling headlong into the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, Kurt and I slept soundly next to the waves and under the cover of the coastal mist.  The next morning, we met Silke early and the three of us continued our journey south down the coast.

The coast close to Tulum is riddled with small bars, restaurants, guest houses and nicely designed eco-homes. We watched the sun disappear behind the clouds and rain, before watching it disappear behind the edge of the ocean, signaling the end of another day. We then nestled in the nearby mangrove and slept anticipating our ride with Silke the next morning...

One of my favorite cycling snacks. If looking at this picture makes you uncomfortable, I completely understand...

A 5 kilometer jaunt off the highway affords us this pleasant lake to post up at for the evening...

Lake Ocom....

The day starts with a beautiful sunrise...

The inevitable effects of our time spent on the coast...

Shane Patrick 1987-2011

February 3, 2011

Many of you may have noticed that there has been quite a delay in postings.  I am writing you now from the snowy depths on New Jersey where Kurt and I are currently residing.

In true sadness I must relay that we are home because of a tragic occurrence. A little over two weeks ago we received word that my brother had passed away.  Kurt and I were off the coast of Belize on a small caye.

There is nothing in the world that I can truly imagine that would be worse than this.  And yet, it is now our reality.  It has confirmed my largest nightmares, and even then, managed to go completely beyond.  The pain and sadness are immense.  My heart is broken. The same goes for everyone else affected by Shane’s passing.

My brother was true magic.  He has touched the life of every single person he came in contact with, from the day he was born until the untimely passing just short of his 24th birthday.  The love and support that has surrounded my family at this time is unbelievable and is only trumped by the love, support and honor that Shane has shown to each individual he has ever interacted with.

I could write you 1,000 pages on how amazing Shane was while he was here with us.  He was the greatest friend , son, brother and young man you could ever imagine.  He set the bar for how a person should be.  I greatly admired Shane and looked up to him, as I still do and will continue to.  I am sure I am not alone when I say that if you considered Shane to be on your side, nothing could go wrong.

With that said, I must convey how strongly that I feel Shane is still here with me and us every single minute of every single day.  Where he once before was this brother of mine who I cherished more than anything, living in Chicago, doing his thing, making his way in the working world, getting big in life and bringing joy to everyone he was interacting with each and everyday, he now is the brother who is with me with every thought, every word, every decision.  He is right there with everything I see, what I choose to say, how I choose to think.  He is with me and I know this.  I feel it.  Even with all of the love and support pouring from everyone around, the thoughts of Shane here with me now are the only things that truly help get me through these days.

I wish to encourage anyone else who is dealing with a similar occurrence, if it is pertaining to Shane or if it is pertaining to somebody else, try to feel this way.  Try and keep your loved one ever-present in your daily minds and actions.   One thing that I learned from our time in Mexico is that life is truly something to be celebrated.  This is the way that Shane lived his life, each and everyday.  I plan to honor him in this way and I encourage you to do the same.  Love your life, celebrate yourself and those around you, honor and respect each other and everyday and live your life to the max.

There are little pieces of Shane in all of us now.  I have seen them in others and I have felt them so strongly in myself.  They are the most pure goodness one could ever imagine.  Letting ourselves be guided by this, we are honoring Shane.

He always was and always will be my SP Ghost.  I love you Shane.

Kevin, Kelly and Shane, circa 1992 in Long Beach Island...

Shane, 2009, co-captain of the Lehigh Lacrosse Men's Team...

A memorial fund has been set up in Shane’s name for High Level Lacrosse, a company my other brother and some friends own and operate.  The company is soon to be renamed SPD Lacrosse in Shane’s honor and will continue to embody all that was and is the epic spirit of my brother.  If you are interested in donating or reading more, please click here.

Kurt and I will continue our journey in early March.  Back on the bikes continuing south, we will have Shane’s heart, determination, power and guidance with us stronger than ever.