San Cristobal de las Casas proved to be everything and so much more than I had anticipated, launching it easily into one of my top 3 favorite places in Mexico thus far.  The energy and vibe of the city and its people, including the surrounding mountains and villages, did much to warm my heart, excite and inspire me over the week we decided to stay.

Though originally the state capital, the city has remained on the quainter side for many years.  The indigenous presence is still large.  During the colonization, the take over of the land left the people in slavery, sickened with diseases and unable to recuperate their incredible losses.   Over the course of history, many groups have fought for, and gained, the rights of the indigenous people back.  The most well-known, and still active, is that of the Zapatistas, an autonomous self governed group of Mexicans (both indigenous and non) who focus on land reform for the people, among other things.  Chiapas overall is well established with  Zapatista presence and as San Cristobal is the heart of the state, the leftist political energy can be felt all around.

We started with a settling into El Hostalito, where we were offered a night of free sleeping thanks to the incredible Joaquin and his Warmshower ways.  Originally from Spain, Joaquin did his own bike tour across the US and couldn’t get enough, so he continued down into Mexico and settled in San Cristobal.  He’s a fixed gear fanatic and has recently started a bike shop along with the hostal.  Along with his friend and business partner (and incredibly creative pants maker) Marie, they run a place that easily felt like home after only a few hours.  We unloaded our bags and explored the city and its awesome market of fresh produce, picking up supplies for our planned dinner feast.

The days flew by and were both super fun and very productive.  Marie let me use her sewing machine to remake a better fitting bug net for my hammock, getting it more ready for the approaching jungle country.  We shifted our stay over to our Turkish friend Cihan’s house, and together him and I visited the Traditional Mayan Medicine Museum and  the Amber Museum, while taking a massive walk around the streets of San Cristobal.  Kurt and I also got in some extra rides on unloaded bikes outside the city, which is always a huge highlight in a new place for us.

We’ve done quite a bit of research and route planning, and with our brains and imaginations spilling over with local advice and recommendations, we are both antsy and excited to get this next bit of travel under way.  I know for sure this is not the last time I will visit the city of San Cristobal.

 

The streets of San Cristobal, so colorful and festive...

One of the black fuzzy skirts so many of the ladies rock quite fabulously...

outside the bustling market we enjoyed scouring so much for fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, etc. ...

The market and individual produce stands throughout the city all have their products arranged in a careful and aesthetically pleasing manner, which adds to the whole experience...

 

Inside Pura Bici...

Outside Pura Bici, the usual question/answer session...

Many of the soft drinks in Mexico are still sold in these continuously recycled thick glass bottles...

These little stoves are a must have for the cold winters spent in a concrete room. Recycled out of different sized tins, they serve as a portable heater and run off charcoal or wood...

Sunday afternoon strolling...

A work in progress...

The Cathedral, which has been restored many times over the years due to destructive earthquakes...

The Palacio Municipal, one of the buildings overtaken by the Zapatistas during their 1994 defiance of the signing of the NAFTA agreement...

As it has been brought to my attention that people really like seeing pictures of Kurt and I doing things together, here is one of us helping prepare a big feast on the day of Thanks. Kurt ended up not chopping off of my hand and the beets turned out... (Photo: Ginger Roberts)

...just delicious...

The view from the steps of Cerro de Guadalupe...

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The warmth of Morelia…

November 3, 2010

As we zipped down out of the hills and descended into the valley that held Morelia and all of its outskirts, Kurt and I both looked at each other and smiled and said, “finally!”  We had had our Morelia plans for a while now and it felt great to actually reach the city that until then had merely been a big, yellow highlighted and bold typeface word on our map.  Located in the state of Michoacan, Morelia is a bustling colonial city, having earned its Unesco World Heritage site status in 1991.

We ended up staying for the better part of 6 days, the longest place in Mexico we had stayed thus far.  Recently we had signed up for Warmshowers.org, an online organization which helps put cycle tourist in touch with hospitable people all over the world.  Our first experience with it led us to Fausto’s rooftop terrace in Morelia and the experience was just the best.  We spent numerous days exploring the city and hanging out with Fausto and his friends, as we could just stash our stuff and take off on unloaded bikes.  There was even an extra road bike hanging around so Kurt could partake in some of Morelia’s weekly group rides.

Fausto had been kind enough to give us his address long before we arrived so we could work on having some things shipped to Morelia.  I am happy to report that one such package came from our good friend Viva who, after reading the post about our pilfered bottle of GSE, promptly got on it to send another one along with some other natural remedies.  Receiving mail on the road and the handwritten letters that come along with them are such a special treat.  We can’t thank you enough Viva!

There were many memorable highlights of our stay in Morelia, but the one I speak of the most is my trip to the open air Sunday market.  I literally got lost winding through the streets clamored with everything you can imagine.  Piles of shoes, ladies selling turtles and ferrets, clothes hanging from everywhere, electronic bits lumped on blankets, books, school supplies, handbags, men maneuvering wheel barrels overflowing with fresh honey.  I have visited other markets similar in Mexico and a few during my travels in Southeast Asia, but this one in Morelia had me the most in awe.  It felt so alive and vibrant.  And, having left my bike with Fausto at his shop,  I truly could get lost in the crowd, which really doesn’t get to happen too often in Mexico for several reasons.

Overall, Morelia was a great place to spend the better part of a week and we left knowing Fausto is a friend we will have for a very long time.

We miscommunicated on our initial meeting place with Fausto so our very first night in Morelia was spent in this luxurious suite for a mere $7 US...

Fausto Sr. and Fausto Jr. at their refaccionario shop downtown. This is place you go if your blender blades are no longer blending properly, or maybe, say, you need some little plastic bits to splint your tent poles with...

It's hard work I am sure, but someone has to majestically pour water into this fountain all day...

The boys as they head out for a road ride. Sadly, there was no lightweight bike small enough for me. And yes, Kurt is wearing sandals with socks...

Everyone's favorite revolutionary...

Looking down the length of Avenue Francisco Madero Oriente, Morelia's main street. A big college town, the presence of students and intellectual sorts can be easily felt, especially up and down this busy corridor. There is also the ever-present fauxhawk to remind you as well...

At the encouragement of Fausto's great roommate Angelica, we made a point to really visit all of the beautiful/historical spots in the city. Their architecture is impressive and many of their insides are decorated lavishly with murals highlighting much of Mexico's history. The main Cathedral in town took over a century to build and houses a working organ with 4600 pipes. This photo is of a building I forget the name of...

Angelica also took the time to drive us out to nearby Patzcuaro, agreeably one of the most beautiful Mexican towns we had been in thus far. Here all of the adobe buildings are painted in a similar cream and red fashion and the layout of the town around its many plazas gives off a very western feel. Patzcuaro is exploding with galleries, showing off some very impressive folk art and pottery...

...which we soaked up as we strolled along through the cobblestone streets. I can't write about Patzcuaro without mentioning its incredible natural ice cream which it is also famous for. They offer many traditional and recognizable flavors, including pasta, corn, tequila, and peanut butter, to name a few...

When religion turns into some beautiful art...

This was my favorite wall...

Enjoying some adult beverages on Fausto's rooftop, the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon...

Our buddy Chuckles, who took pleasure in snuggling into our tent each night...

Laguna Chapala…

October 16, 2010

It’s a big lake.  The biggest in Mexico.  And at one time you could see almost down to the bottom they say.  But not any more.  The agricultural mayhem that goes on for miles and miles around the lake has cause the lake, and coincidently the hovering atmosphere, to become a soft shade of taupe.  But it’s still a nice body of water to hang out by and you can even fish for some catfish and carp.  Just no swimming.  Well, you can swim if you want to, but we saw but 2 people taking a dip in our entire week of cruising around the lake’s shores.

The lake also, similar to San Miguel, has a few towns that invite the retiring x-pat communities to settle comfortably.  The presence of Americans, Canadians and Europeans can be felt along the lake’s shores in the towns of Chapala and Ajijic.  This of course led to a many conversations in English about our journey and even better, some very excellent invitations into beautiful lakeside homes for some rests and meals.  There is a road running just alongside the entire lake, which made for quaint days of riding and around the remainder of the lake it was business as usual.  Small Mexican towns, roadside tacos stands and the usual truck avoidance filled our days.

The largest fresh water lake in Mexico, Lago Chapala...

The heavenly glow of a late night taco stand...

Overlooking one of the towns on the north side of the lake...

Graffiti like this excites me to no end...

A sign outside a little bike shop in Ajijic...

Kurt whiled some hours away casting into the lake...

And for bait.... cheese and balled up tortillas...

Magnificent viewing as the sky...

...slowly fades...

...into night...

Marie and Duncan, two British Columbians, who not only offered us a comfy sleep in their beautiful home, but Marie also hooked it up with a bag of quinoa, something we will not be able to get until further along into South America...

And as luck would have it, we ran into Bob, another Canadian, for the second time as we were riding around the south side of the lake. He invited us to stay for the evening with him and his family (including the 2 crazy poodles) in their hacienda situated right on the lake's edge...

The property is seriously abound with fruit trees and other plants and flowers that Bob's wife, Soledad, has put much time and love into reviving...

 

Bob most recently has started a company which provides the byproducts of organic worm farming to local farmers and horticulture stores in the area...

Worms hard at work...

And I'll leave you with the goats. These little ones were but 2 weeks old...

 

We left Xilitla late in the afternoon and began snaking along the beautiful but tight and narrow Sierra Madre road.  It was but an hour before dusk started to descend and we found ourselves caught in quite a rainstorm.  After about 30 minutes of riding with no hope of turning off onto anything to camp, we came upon a small house gracing the entrance to what seemed to be a corral and pasture area.  Hoping to just get off the road, we approached the front door to ask the owner’s if we could pitch our tent in the plot of grass out front.  When we did ask the farmer, who was still dressed in his work garb, rain gear and some sweet gleaming white Air Nikes, without hesitation he showed us to a separate building in the back.  Not only were we now out of the rain and off the road, but we had our own cozy room complete with a bed and electricity, more than we could have ever asked for.  We spent a nice warm and dry night in the place and the next morning were invited to stay as long as we wanted before the farmer took off for work.  Talk about hospitality!

The ride over the next few days was up, up, up.  Climbing for full days without end.  The scenery in turn was unbeatable and looking back down after every twist and turn proved to be a reward each time.  After two more days we found ourselves with the long-awaited descent down out of the Sierra Gorda park and after another two full days we found ourselves facing the giant walls of a box canyon.  It was a pleasant ride up and out and before long we were camped listening to the late night whistles of passing trains and preparing ourselves for San Miguel De Allende which awaited some 30 kilometers away.

 

Our dry spot for the evening...

 

 

The Reserva de la Biosphera Sierra Gorda. Over 90% of the region is privately owned. Grassroots efforts by the locals led to the reserves establishment in 1997 and many of its communities are involved first hand in its sustainability...

 

 

Up at this altitude, the area was densely forested with much old growth...

 

 

Much of this area resides within a cloud forest for most of the day, covered in orchids and teeming with exotic birds...

 

 

Another excellent thing coinciding with our ride through the area... my reading of an ancient copy of White Fang. There was no actual publication date in the book, but there was a note scribbled by a gifter which was dated 1910. All the pages were still intact and it was as great of a read as all the times I've read it before...

 

 

One of our descents down into a high mountain valley, the town of Ahuacatlan de Guadalupe seen in the distance...

 

 

A good example of how sometimes when you've seen one, you've seen them all...

 

 

And then there was the grand descent down out of the range. From those clouds whence we came...

 

Brightly colored downtown San Miguel Palmas...

 

 

We eventually were able to pull ourselves away from all the pastries and modern conveniences of Zacatecas and, as usual, those first few pedal strokes out of the city filled us with such joy we rode on into the evening, putting more and more distance between us and the bright, glittering lights.  Our course of direction was more or less heading east, toward the Biosphera Sierra Gorda, a reserve located in the Sierra Madre Oriental, the of the other mountain ranges of Mexico.   En route we stuck to as many dirt roads as possible, getting to see and feel the impending fall season as we rode through open valleys and  worked over farmland.

Time to switch over to the other pair I think...

Goats, goats, goats. This one's for the homies. Maaaaaaa......

The heart warming sites of autumn on display...

All bound up in the desert flora...

I love the details of these...

These girls were too much. I was packing up and getting ready to push off into an afternoon of riding when I noticed their two little faces continuously peeking out from a nearby community computer lab. Eventually they came over to ask where I was from, where I was going, etc. Then they asked where I slept at night and when I told them we camped and I showed them the tent, they gasped and squealed "Campamiento!?!" Then the girl on the left very cutely, quietly and quite boldly asked me if I wanted to sleep over. The thought of this interaction brings a smile to my face every time I think about it...

Another great unhaunted, tentless sleep spot...

Our dirt road traversed beautiful open scenery such as this...

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"...

La Mina…

September 5, 2010

Not long after leaving our lakeside camp spot, we were back on dirt and the day was fantastic.  We began by cruising right along the edge of the lake, taking in how big it actually was.  The road then led us up and out of the lake valley and we streamed along in wide open ranch land and desert-y landscape.  The hills were present, but everything was fairly firm and graded relatively well, so it was a whole day on dirt where I didn’t have to push my bike once.  Man it was awesome!  I felt happy and strong and back in action.  I have also discovered the wonder of Tang and I am not ashamed to admit it.  Paired with a little salt, it’s a homemade Gatorade and I stay much more hydrated during the day.

After a good chunk of riding we dropped down into the small town of Casas Blancas.  Immediately we sought out some supplies for dinner and some water, planning to continue on our way.  We approached a group of men sitting outside a liquor/snack store and I asked if they might have a source of water we could use, adding “no tomar”, which indicates that we don’t plan to drink it and any hose or faucet water will be fine.  I was then taken around the back where the kind lady of the house interrupted her laundry routine to fill our 6 liter bladder to the max.  Thanking then, we moved around to the neighboring street and proceeded to filter the water into our water bottles, a process we have to do several times a day.

During this, we were approached by a man speaking excellent English asking the usual questions.  He warned us of cartels up ahead, but insisted they would want nothing to do with us  and proceeded to explain a bit about himself.  He had grown up in Chihuahua and started working in the mines around the age of 16.  Moving through the ranks over the years, he now is the head boss at a mine they were in the process of setting up a few kilometers away.  As with all mining operations, there was a camp being constructed nearby as well for workers, visiting geologists, drilling experts, etc., and Angel invited us to stay for the night.  We were pretty keen to keep going, but with the offer of a cold beer on the table, we decided to hang out for a bit.  The rest of the night is history.  We tied a good one on with the towns folk/mine employees and stayed in the camp for not one but two days.  With all meals being provided (unlimited cereal and milk!), beds and warm showers, we settled in pretty comfortably for a bit.

The following day I went with Angel to the location of the mine to check it out.  We drove out a ways, climbing effortlessly in the huge truck over hills and switchbacks that would have taken us the better part of a day to traverse on our bikes.  So far they have dug about 1,100 meters into the mountain, which is about 15% of the way they plan to go.  Slowly but surely, over the next 20 years, that mountain will be coming down layer by layer.

What happens after that?” I asked.

Then we plant some trees on it.  The Environmental Consultant came by and told us we’d have to plant pine trees.  They are going to import them from Afghanistan, a special kind that will grow well here.

I proceeded with more questions about the future of the town, grasping how much things were about to change in a big way for the people of Casas Blancas.  New schools, new roads, new funds pouring in.  For 20 years at least.  The mine is called La Pitarilla and is backed by the Canadian mining company Silver Standard.  Silver, copper, zinc and gold will be extracted through the calculated process.

After the mini mine tour, we went to go see some of Angel’s horses, some of which have serious papers to boast.  For all you horse fans out there, I got to see the grand-daughter pony of the 1979 world champion race horse, Dash for Cash.  What a day, let me tell you.

After a few more meals with the miners, and another good night’s rest, we packed up our things once again and headed south.

Heading out to the mine...

Just a hole in a rock wall, really. Of which they will extract some 20 million over the next 20 years...

This is the view from Angel's office. Not bad...

What every boss may or may not wish to have in their own office...

Just to remind you we are still in the desert...

Part of the newly constructed mine camp...

The man behind all the action and our gracious host, Angel...

If you are running for office this year, you may want to consider the seriousness a mustache brings to the situation...

Nueve Casas Grandes…

July 22, 2010

We awoke to our first sunny day in Mexico, reminiscing and swapping stories about the last time we had woken up in another country.  For me it had been about two years ago in Prague and for Kurt it had been Holland two years prior as well.  We headed back out onto the highway to take on the trucks.  To my surprise, it really wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  Granted the shoulder was nonexistent, the trucks were kind enough to move over to give us room or slow down to let other trucks pass before trying to come around us.  By mid afternoon we had reached Nueve Casas Grandes and our first agua frescas.

In our wandering around town looking for some good inexpensive tacos, we were befriended by Tony, who not only led us to a great place to eat, but also offered us a place to stay for the night a little ways out-of-town.  Wanting to get a few things done in town, we told him we’d think about his offer and perhaps meet him later on, at which point Tony drew us an excellent dirt map to follow.  A few hours into the night we decided to take Tony up on his offer and rode to his place of work, where he acted as night watchman for what was explained to be something of a lumber yard.

We arrived pretty late, but Tony was just as happy to see us, welcoming us in with a very enthusiastic “This is a special day!” and thanking us so much for coming.  He had already been preparing us a snack of tortillas, roasted jalapenos and hot dogs in his camper van, which he told us was a Volvo (Tony was crazy about all things Volvo) but was clearly a VW with all of the name plates switched.  We got right down to business talking about bikes and being shown his Cannondale (which he claimed was made by Volvo), complete with a homemade sheath hidden in the seat post.  This was eventually gifted to Kurt later on in the evening to use for protection in Mexico, which was very thoughtful of Tony.  Tony’s family came by later on as did his friend and we all took some photos with us and them and the bikes, before retiring on a covered patio.  We were woken up a mere 5 hours later to Tony’s “my friends…the sun is coming.”  (I still here Tony’s voice in my head most mornings when I arise, warning of the sun and a reminder to best get on with things.)  Tony very kindly brought us to his home where we shared breakfast and marveled over lots of family photos (“family is the most important thing in Mexico”) and the 12 copies of the Book of Mormon that Tony had in multiple languages.  After more photos of us and Tony and the bikes in front of the Volvo, we parted ways and headed for town.

Tony (right) and the family in front of "The Volvo"...

We are clearly not the only ones who get spoiled by Tony...

A practical use of some sturdy tire rubber...

"Family is the most important thing in Mexico"...

Silver City…

July 9, 2010

If we weren’t all packed up and ready to go…would we stay?  Silver City has been such a wonderful place to spend the last week, making final preparations before crossing the border.  Mexico lies some 126 miles away.  We will continue on the Continental Divide route from here and cross over the border at Antelope Wells, heading for Copper Canyon.  Again, the riding will be as much off road as possible, sticking high in the Sierra Madres.  I’ll let you know how Mexico deals with their immigration…

Silver City has an absolutely wonderful community, bikes being a huge part of that.  We have stayed the last week with William, a bike and overall life enthusiast and his fluffy orange basketball, Angel.  Again, everyone here is making it hard to leave.  We even have a bike escort out of town!  …after hitting up Dairy Queen one last time.  The next time I write will be from the international road!

Bike in Tree in Pinos Altos, a town a little ways outside of Silver City. Here the post office doubles as an ice cream palour, perhaps the most dream combination to me...

What dogs do in Silver City...

Downtown Silver City...

Mural outside Co-Op...

Bob Ross would be excited...

We got to experience the 4th of July parade...

Yankee St., which we learned is actually a flood route coming off of the divide...

Kurt helping William with his pedals at Bike Works, the community bike collective...

Mural in Bike Works. Once complete, it will show where all of the bike collectives are nationwide...

Spokes...

Bike Works and Bodhi...

Bike Work's organizer Dave's son Bodhi...

Kids building a bike for their brother. Here kids work through the earn-a-bike program, devoting time in order to learn how to build and fix bikes they will eventually get to call their own...

4th of July fireworks...

Angel...

Apricot tart cooking in the solar oven...

Our hangout spot for the week...

William, our very gracious host...

View out one of the Museum's Coppola windows...

Wall art...

Parts to an ancient jackhammer recovered from one of the mines...

Silver City was bike friendly even back in the day...

Old town bike race. So awesome...

Pie Town

July 9, 2010

How do you explain a place that is so special, that it just may be beyond any words in my vocabulary.  Yes, that is how I feel about Pie Town, NM.  After hearing so much about this place, I was very excited to finally see it.  The story goes…a Mr. Clyde Norman from Texas moved to the area in the 1920’s, seeking gold.  As he needed to pay for his operation, he started purchasing items from the nearby town of Magdelena to sell, including donuts.  The baker he was purchasing the donuts from eventually found out about Norman’s deal and told him to “make his own donuts.”   Since Norman wasn’t very good at donuts, he began making pies instead and the word got out how good they were.  People came from far and wide to taste the pies, prompting Norman to turn it into a proper town.  In 1927 he applied for a post office, but the USPS thought the name Pie Town was “beneath the dignity of the Postal Department.  Norman wouldn’t budge and eventually both the town name and post office were allowed.

Now the town sits humbly on the Continental Divide, offering a unique refuge for travelers of all sorts.  There are two pie shops in town, a park, the post office and a couple houses.  One of these being the Toaster House, one of the most amazing places I have visited in my life, and I think most people would agree.  The doors remain unlocked at all times, the sign by the entrance stating “Welcome travellers, make yourself at home.”  There is a share box with all sorts of gear and food people hiking or biking through Pie Town via the Divide will take from and add too.  The guest book boasts of folks from all over the world and offers a warm shower and even a washing machine.  The openness of the space is incredible and it is easy to feel relaxed and at home.  I felt very lucky that we got to meet Nita the next day, provider of the Toaster House.  She still lives in town, just not at the house, preferring a quieter space off the beaten track a bit.

Kurt and I ended up staying 2 days, prepping our gear more after receiving a box containing all sort of spares and replacements that Kurt had mailed ahead.  We are carrying 4 seasons of gear and enough stuff to get ourselves or anyone else out of a jam on the road, whether it be paved or dirt.  Some people choose to go ultra light, which certainly has its benefits.  We prefer to carry everything we need or may need instead, knowing bike shops will not be as accessible once we cross the border.  I also received a wonderful package from my friend Carina in NY which just made my day.  After adding some slime protector to our tubes, we spent the night at the house with Kent and his grandson Cyrus.  Kent had originally framed out the loft which sits above the house.  This was his first time returning in 17 years.  It was an honor to meet him and share all sorts of stories and opinions with both him and Cyrus.  The next morning we excitedly repacked all of our things and officially headed out on the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail, leaving right from the Toaster House’s doorstep.

Welcome to Pie Town, New Mexico...

Living and letting be...

Blueberry pie. Just one of the many amazing things made with love at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe...

Packages on the road are so extra special. Here I received my first one from my good friend Carina, complete with mini journals (after I was just remarking that morning how I wish I had one for my handlebar bag- amazing), wildflower seeds to spread around the world, a felt heart and a heart-felt note. Thanks a million Carina xxxo...

A baby rattler napping on the porch while it rained...

The ever luminous and kind Nita, provider of the Toaster House and great big hugs...

Morning wake up call...

You can't miss it. Just turn left and look for the...

You can't miss it. Just turn left and look for the...

Jersey pride...

The days were getting hotter and hotter as I made my way through Palmdale.  It was here that I got my first sight of some Joshua Trees and a very encouraging “Joshua Tree? Well, you’re almost there” from the electrical man I stopped to asked directions from after getting turned around a bit.  Joshua Tree had been on my mind since day 1 of planning this adventure.  I had heard so much about it and had always wanted to visit it.  It was also meant the first “leg” of my journey (in my mind) would be accomplished.  I planned to take a few days off to explore the park once I had arrived.

On my way, as I was planning my attack on a midday dirt nap, I was stopped by a man waving me down in a Hawaiian shirt.  He introduced himself as a cyclist with a guest house set up for travellers down the way.  As I was pretty set on making it to Joshua Tree that night, I declined his offer to stay but thought it might be nice to take my rest in the shade there for a while.  Upon arriving, I decided Joshua Tree could definitely wait (I also learned it was only 8 miles away) until the next day.  The set up was fantastic!  I enjoyed a shower, bed and all sorts of reading material left specifically for cyclists.  There was a guest book too, filled with travellers who had stayed before, some whose blogs I had read over and over throughout the course of this year and my research.  It was nice to get in some long overdue yoga as well.

As I was perusing the cabin, I came across some articles written about my host, Rev. Craig Walker.  He is quite a miracle!  After months and months of radiation from cancer, he vowed to start cycle touring when he was better.  He has travelled all over the world and has been an inspiration to many, including myself.  Thank you so much again Craig for the wonderfully relaxing place to stay!

Getting closer...

Sometimes...

Tony, another gifter of some fresh produce to keep me going...

Just in case...

Happy in the middle of a hot stretch...

Craig

View from the bungalow...

So cozy...

As I unexpectedly took this afternoon off, it allowed me great time to walk around as the sun went down and photo things on Craig's property.

Inanimate object number one...

Inanimate object number two...

Self portrait...

Desert flower (currently unidentified by me)...

Day's end...