Touching back down…

March 18, 2011

What took us 6 months to ride our bikes toward, we flew into in a matter of hours.  We were right back in Cancun, landing in an airport we had only visited once in order to try to extend our Meixco visas in their immigration department.  We stepped off the plane, tanless, carrying backpacks and wearing clean clothes.  The reactions we got were funny.

“Hey, backpackers!  Wanna ride? Wanna ride”  Wanna taxi?  Wanna go to the hotels?”

“We’re cyclists” we grumbled.  And then we started our walk out to the highway where we planned to hitch as far down to the Belize border as we could.

If you’ve ever cycled toured, you can probably relate to the feeling of pride you have when you arrive somewhere by bike, having rode there all by your own power and gumption.  Being without bike, we did not feel very whole.  Luckily, it only took us two rides to get all the way down to the border.  We arrived about 3 kilometers from the checkpoint and settled our tentless selves into a cheap motel for the night.  The next day, we walked across into Belize (not getting charged an exit fee this time, thank you Mexico).  We happened to catch a bus right there from Customs all the way to Ladyville, where the airport is, for $8 Belize each (total $8 US for both of us).

By early afternoon, we were unlocking the door that had safely kept our bikes from view in the semi-abandoned hotel next to the Belize Airport.  John and Judy, the missionary proprietors of the place, had kindly kept our bikes secure for the almost two months we were gone.  We can not thank them enough for this help.

We did unfortunately find, to all of our surprise, the room had not received enough ventilation, and most of our stuff was  molded over and the bikes pretty rusty.  It was a bit of a sock to the gut.  Based on the way the outside of our frames look, we shudder to think of all the deterioration there must be on the insides.  These last few months definitely took off some serious life from the bikes.  But… what are you gonna do?  We cleaned and fixed them best we could and washed our stuff, including our sleeping bags, which were very overdue for a washing anyway.

By the second evening in Belize, we were whole again, setting off in a direction untraveled by us.

 

From the air, back to the blue...

We spent the afternoon after landing getting to the border. Within two rides, we were there. One trucker gave us a ride all the way to Chetumal. I happily sat in the back singing along to the 90's power dance jams he put on especially for us. There's nothing like a little Ace of Base to get out those plane ride cobwebs. Overall the journey went like this. We hitched...

...we walked...

...we took a bus...

...and one more breezy ride...

...and we were back where we had left off,. the Ladyville airport...

The picture I know you have all been waiting for. That is where our bikes were stored for the time being, thanks to John and Judy, the owners of the joint...

Hello mold. I'm taking my pants back now, thanks...

And rust!...

Sheesh. Had we had more time and the circumstances been different, we would have definitely done a bit more research on a dryer place to store our stuff...

Some comedy for the day. Given the total house cleaning of the bikes and panniers, I was able to find this huge (the picture doesn't do it justice) rusty bolt Kurt had hidden in one of my pockets months ago, apparently. Go ahead, you can laugh. I did. And to think, I'm already a pretty slow buffalo...

What it looks like when our bags explode...

Both of our chains needed to be replaced. Luckily, we do carry extras that di not get rusted over. Kurt's is actually a chain and a half, given his bike's length...

And some new goodies were added, such as this little frame bag Kurt had made for me while we were in New Jersey...

It's perfect for holding all of those little bits that normally get lost in my handlebar bag...

And this great recycled bike pin, thanks to my cousin Toni...

 

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Via Bicycles…

March 14, 2011

Right off South Street, at the corner of 9th, you’ll find THE greatest, neatest, nicest, funnest (not a word, I know), most perfect vintage bicycle store I have ever experienced.  I had heard a lot about Via Bicycles from Kurt, as he had worked here a few times while staying in Philadelphia in-between past adventures.  I had even peered in the window during another visit to Philly a few years ago.  This was the first time I got to enter the wonderland of a shop that is Via Bicycles.

I must note that as wonderful and inspiring and eye-opening as the shop is, my most favorite part was the owner Curtis, who is a good friend of Kurt’s.  Curtis is without a doubt one of the most down to earth, genuine dudes I’ve had the chance of meeting in a long time.  His love and care for the people and things around him emanates from his Super Mario-like stature.  Thanks to Curtis, we got to explore not only the many levels of his historic bike shop, but also got to experience some nice spots in Philly we might not have had we not been guests/friends of Curtis‘s.  Curtis let us crash on his futon couch and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to chat the evening and morning away with him before it was back to business as usual.

24 hours was way too short of a time to spend in Philly, but it was all we has on this merry-go-round of a trip.  Thanks to our time in the shop and our time spent with Curtis, my mind now dreams deeper when I dive into thinking about bikes and the lives they have and continue to foster through time.

 

Used bicycles, ready to find new partners, or for their new partners to find them...

I would argue there is no need for advertising, everyone in Philly knows where the best place to find a classic gem or bring their loved one in for a tune up or part...

Parts, parts, parts for the bikes, bikes, bikes...

A classic Columbia, the first mass producers of America bicycles...

Via definitely has the well stocked library feel to it...

The Penny Farthing. I'd like to add this is a true high wheel bicycle, not a replica...

Bicycle paraphernalia everywhere...

Some of my favorites were the bicycle themed old postcards...

...especially this one with the raised lettering...

Nothing bicycle related seems to get denied from the collection...

 

...like the embroidery...

 

Springy seats, a comfy suspension system for your rear...

Beautiful scrolly lugs...

A massive skip tooth chain ring, hearts and all...

A skirt guard so you don't get caught yours caught in the wheel...

The coolest, cutest bike in the world. Note: every rim captured in this photo is made of wood!

Old, old, old school...

Kurt with my favorite, most respected part of Via Bicycles, owner Curtis...

 

 

Prolonging pedal life…

December 1, 2010

Slowly but surely, there was a little click that sprang up in my right pedal as it went round and round.  Rather than replace them, which I’m sure Shimano would have wanted me to do,  Kurt showed me how to remove the bearings, clean them of the old grease and put some fresh grease in there.   The pedals are Shimano M324 half clipless/half platforms.  I love tedious projects, and as this one was quite fun and rewarding to do, I thought I’d share it with you…

 

After taking off the pedal cage, we removed the old bearings to find them covered in dirty grease and grit, the cause of a repetitive clacking while I pedaled...

They were polished clean again and kept a good watch on so they wouldn't roll away...

Kurt packed new grease into one side and I carefully pressed the clean bearings into place...

The same was done on the pedal spindle. As one of the bearing cups was too deep in the pedal to reach by fingers and arrange them properly in place...

...the trick was to put the bearings in the grease first, before slowly sliding the spindle in to the other pedal side and tightening it down down. No more clacking...

Inevitably heading towards the larger city of Zacatecas, we again are keen to stay on the smaller, dirt (when possible) roads.  As we approached our second lake in hopes of more fishing, we were faced with yet another extremely crumbly and rocky descent.  Even going very slowly, I found myself slipping and sliding and forced to pitch my bike and bail at certain points.  As I was regaining my balance at one point, I heard a truck behind me and I decided to move over completely and wait until they passed before I continued.  The two guys in the truck slowed to ask if I was okay and if I wanted a ride down.

That is not a mountain bike” one of them said  “This road is very dangerous on a bike, even with suspension.

I insisted I was okay and they continued on.  Once the road started to level out, I caught up with Kurt, who was now stopped and talking to the men in the truck.  One of the dudes introduced himself as Fidel and invited us to his house that evening in the town of Canatlan.  We had not originally planned on heading in that direction, but it was easy to reroute ourselves and we took him up on the offer.  We put in another great half day of riding, including a lovely picnic by the lake, and moved on to meet Fidel in the plaza of Canatlan.  As we were about 8 kilometers outside the town, a jeep pulled up alongside us and slowed down.  It was Fidel and his wife Juanita, checking to see if we were okay and still coming.  So nice of them…

We spent the evening getting stuffed on Juanita’s cooking and learning all about the local Durango mountain biking scene, of which Fidel is a very active member of.  To my delight there was also a tiny tiny squeaky German Shepard puppy named Princessa just begging for attention.  Upon waking and having breakfast, Fidel, after finding out Kurt is a bike mechanic, asked if he wouldn’t mind looking at some of the local guys’ bikes and doing some tune ups.  We then spent the full day down at a nearby auto parts shop, with Kurt fixing bike after bike.  It allowed me some good time to work on some bike projects of my own that I’d been meaning to get too as well, such as shimming out all of my panniers so they hold snug to the racks again and sewing in some new padding to old, worn out riding gloves.  Everyone left with a smile and I am happy to report there are some smooth running bikes back on the streets of Canatlan.

Dinner with Fidel and Juanita...

Bike talk...

We got to see some great recent Mexico racing shirts, a rarity since we have been here...

It started with one bike...

...then the word got out and more started to show up...

...and some more...

...until the sidewalk was filled with bikes and local bikers. Here's the Canatlan Mountain Bike crew...

They were pretty adamant about me taking a photo of their URL, so here you go...

Funny thing was... there was a bike repair shop right around the corner. However, Fidel told us they didn't fix "competition bikes"...