Existence

Paradise is not where you go but how you feel for one moment of your life.
Anonymous

31 October 2014

Departed Mendoza with all happy as either liked the camp or liked their hotel. Written instructions were long and complicated and I figured I would be getting lost. All rode together to get out of city which went on for 40 kilometer. Rode a bit with Joost who convinced me city riding can be fun. Decisions and keeping an eye out for traffic makes it more technical. I could see that, but was happy to finally get out of city. Turns out I ended up leading the group as I had the Garmin GPS and it seemed to be correct with lots of turns, intersections, roundabouts, traffic, and such. At least I wasn’t following a wheel but did have to notify those behind of bumps, rails,grates, ditches, and stop lights.

Finally departed riding tree lined streets, roads with grape fields either side. Three people separately told me it was just like riding the Provence region of southern France. That happens to be where Jeanne and I were going for a short trip before this trip came up.

Then leave the trees and highway 40 and head back toward the mountains which were gorgous. Several said that one was Acancongua although that 6900 meter summit is northwest of Mendoza about 100 kilometers and we are south. Still beautiful. And the wineries and grape fields were magnificent.

The ride was 143 kilometer and generally fairly easy with one hill which wasn’t much. Totaled 1100 meters of climbing. Rode with Julia for afternoon discussing why we do this. No answers.

Nice camp here at a campground in town.

1 November San Carlos to bush camp

Well has been quite a day. Chilly when woke up and colder as we departed riding 21 k in group not for speed efficiency but to cut the wind and hopefully a bit warmer. But I was in the lead cruising at 24. Nice. Only shop of the day was gas station at 21 k where we turned off onto gravel rode to ride the remainder 90 k. Coffee and snacks then onward. Gravel road had been paved for 35 k and nice riding then gravel with accompanying washboard and occasional soft areas.

Lunch at 62 where construction was separating old and new road of route 40. Hot tea and food were a real pick me up as cold. Apparently temp between 5 & 8 degrees but felt colder and rain looked like it would hit at any moment. When I mentioned at least it was better than last weeks 45 degrees everyone whole heartily disagreed and thought I was crazy. I felt like I might be voted off the island. Several folks took the truck and when it passed after about 8 k and waiting for last rider to arrive at lunch I had to laugh as there were 10 people piled in the back and bikes were stacked on top. Cold weather is not this groups forte.

Caught Buck in about 10 k as it was just after summit and he does not like to go fast downhill. I can go fast downhill but today it was cold and hands numb from cold. Have frozen them too many times and circulation is bad when I am cold. We rode sort of together for next 15-20 k occasionally having to walk due to soft gravel and sand and it broke up the routine of cold muscles.

Came upon the lunch truck which was going back for Joost and Alfred as they had taken wrong turn at the lunch truck and were not in. Buck and I were only other ones out. Truck said distance was shortened by about 15 kilometer as they had found a building we could use off road. Go over dam, through tunnel, up hill, and turn right at gate then a kilometer off road. The tunnel was listed on guide paper as 500 meters and dark. I had brought my light.

The dam created a large reservoir which had house boats and such anchored. With the weather no one around. The dam was impressive and would have like to stop and explore but cold, getting wet, and wanted to get to camp. So through tunnel which you could see the other end and at start reflectors in middle of road. I had decided to not stop and get out light when I saw the light at end of tunnel. It was dark and the light at end was only thing to be seen and I tried to stay in middle hoping there were no rocks or holes as could not see squat. Thoughts of a tunnel on the death road came back. There was a tunnel which a bike rider hit a rock, fell and then was run over by a truck. They closed the tunnel to bikes after that and a trail around was created.

Ok, so things were progressing with Buck behind me a ways. Then I hear a car coming I yell to Buck I am moving to side and stopping. In the process of moving I realize I am totally blind and do not know where the rock wall is, but I feel sand at edge and stop then touching wall. I look back but hear Buck yell he has fallen. The car though has headlights and I see it stop. There is some conversation but too far away to understand. It takes a while and I started to move outside tunnel but decided to stay in tunnel due to weather. Soon the truck comes up with Buck and his bike inside. Turns out it is the police and he insists I put my bike in and he will give us a ride up hill. I think about wanting to finish ride but relent, pile in, throwing bike in back of pickup. He drives us up the biggest hill of day. We see the bike dreams flag at top marking camp and he drives us the kilometer to camp, where the police and dam crew have a storage shed which we are using.

Dinner, complaints about the cold, and the additional 15 k added to tomorrow’s normal 135 k tomorrow which is apparently usually windy, and now 150 kilometer. We shall see. Now 7:45 in tent trying to stay warm and waiting for dark. Interesting.

And thoughts of past days of rushing this trail. Would be nice to take more time and explore a bit. Like today, the only pictures were in gas station break. None of desert flowers which were quite stupendous, and the dam. But then I think I had same complaint about the great divide, rushing and not being able to stop and explore. Then I realize we did it in 71 days way more than usual which was a nice pace but still no time to explore.

2 November 2014 continuing journey of worlds slowest bike rider

interesting day. Slept great through night in my little tent, often raining but I was cozy, first time in sleeping bag in about two weeks as has been too hot. Awoke this am and it was cold. Berry came over and asked what I thought the day would bring, to which I responded with a few expletives. He agreed and 30 seconds later said his tire had gone flat overnight. Temp was about 2 degrees and it started snowing although only lasted a minute or two then turned to a drizzle. I have never figured out how to dress for temperatures between 0 and 10. I guess just too humid. Below freeing easy but above freezing and rain still gets me. Cycled in rain gear and sweated but needed the wind protection. No answers. I was wet and cold.

There have been two times on this trip where I have questioned my existence. Both times involved temperature extremes. First was road to Tocota where temps were 43-45, no shade, and I was running out of water with a long ways to go. Other time was today. Cycling in 4 degrees, drizzling rain, rough road and I was wet and cold. No fun.

One bright point when churning along bouncing all over the washboard. Up behind me comes Carroll who joined in Mendoza from Holland. He says “wow J. R. you make it look easy.” Yeah right, I was near dead.

But hit Tarmac at 40 kilometer although the weather same. Lunch was scheduled for 90 k as it was a long day, but Walter and Annalot at 55 kilometers which was a treat. Then off again and slowly began to warm up as drizzle decreased with an occasional clear patch. First the rain pants off then 10 k later the rain jacket and 5 k later the hood which was under helmet. Nice.

Then another break at a gas station where Annalot and Walter had set up a mini lunch. Another relief. And happens the kilometer post on route 40 was 3000. That is distance to Ushuaia so making progress. Started at at around 5120 at entry to Argentina. We will go farther than 3000 as going to Chili and several side loops into the mountains. Tomorrow I cross over 4000 kilometers on this trip. And have been on trip 6-7 weeks with 6 to go.

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Joost and Alfred arrived having gone back this morning to cover the distance the truck took them yesterday after their wrong turn. Today instead of the 153 k ride they did that plus about 35 on yesterday’s road. Alfred is second in standings now and used to be a professional cyclist and Joost is just good. I dared them to catch me which they did at about 10 k. I was cruising at about 25-30 with a tailwind and when I joined them our speed was 30-35. I told myself what the heck go for it, 45 k to camp and would be nice to tag along. It was a real treat with them, all alternating first in line. To slow down , no brakes just move outside line a bit and let head wind brake you. I was really enjoying myself and the mountains were out again as it had cleared significantly.

Then I saw some cowboys riding along fence line and was torn as to take pictures or ride in line. I opted for pictures and let Joost and Alfred know as they had been keeping an eye on me. I decided to go try and talk to the cowboys although their English was nonexistent and my Spanish very poor. Oh well I found out about their saddles and such which are basically thick blankets, no horn on saddle or a leather saddle as in U.S. But if they need to hold on a pole goes across blankets. And stirrups are cut outs in a thick piece of leather.

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Then on alone the 20’k into camp. Much different finish than the start. And busy as last one in again. Shower, laundry,(done in shower) bike cleaning, dry tent, charge GPS, iPad, phone batteries. Again tired how did that happen?

Went to bed wrote above the day then stomach felt weird. Well without going into details was glad we were in a campground with nice hot shower as that is where I spent most of night until about 4 am. Returned to tent hoping the eruptions were done. Awoke at 6:15 thinking wow 2 hours. But took the truck as wiped out. Clothes from yesterday’s laundry and the night in shower were frozen. Everyone biked today, seems a rarity. Did not eat breakfast as afraid of feeding the monster, which had completely taken dinner last night.

Before depart in truck had to go shopping as two days and tonight a bush camp. Although I stayed and slept in the truck Robert, Girdy, and Lucho came back with bags of fruit, onions, bread, meat, to sustain 40 people for 2 days. Then off and the wind had picked up blowing every which directions. The directions were 118 k and 900 meters of climbing. But as usual there was a catch, the wind. Going down the 5% grade people were peddling hard. But all in and camp is nice. Sort of a Pasteur although no grass for horses, goats, sheep. Thorns all over. But I ate some soup and life is good, again.

Interesting how the time of start is still in contention. For myself I prefer earlier but seems only about half the group feel that way, and they are not letting it go. To me we are a group and as with all groups and group dynamics compromises are necessary. But these are individuals and feel strongly. So why not just leave when you want which is what some are doing. But as I see it leaving together is a good “bonding experience as a group” even though we all are a variety of levels. But there is breakfast which would be very complicated to separate into various times, clean up and washing, tables and benches put away which has to done before packing the bags into trucks. For those that leave early puts more work on those staying behind. I agree leaving early avoids the heat of day, the increased wind etc but if all decide to leave later fine by me. To me early gives more time in camp to just relax. Thus 7 am breakfast with 8 am depart, but tomorrow 8 am breakfast and 9 depart. We shall see after that.

The wind is blowing and I have noticed all residences have tree windbreaks. Tomorrow we enter Patagonia.

4 November 2014 stage 74 -100 k – 50% pa

ved – 1022 meters climbing.

A good day with late start so enjoyed coffee before breakfast. Today’s lesson was a repeat in that stopping and taking pictures or a break slows you down. Started out with fast ones but within 3 kilometers had stopped to take pictures. Riding down the Rio Grande valley and it’s volcanic rocks was gorgeous. The river itself is fairly large for this area and actually appeared a nice float, the sections I saw.

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On route 40 still and kilometer markers going down, now about 2750 but road is not maintained as well south of Melargue, where we were last night. Actually not bad, but a gravel road with its ensuing washboard and the trials of finding a hard surface. Climb was somewhat long and hot, but that was only hot section. Pavement after the top and flew on down having crossed from the Rio Grande to the Rio Baranca drainage. Just before campground here in town of Baranca we entered the Patagonia region and left Mendoza. Our last region, except for Chili.

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Great dinner tonight, apparently another common winter Dutch meal. Rice with beef and carrots with red cabbage. Wonderful.

Now people deciding which route for tomorrow. 122 k all paved and not a lot of climbing or 94 k only 8% paved but goes up over top of volcano and views supposed to be good as well as flamingoes in lake. I will take the latter.
Bike doing great but needs some love and cleaning. Chain needs changing as well as rear cluster plus cleaning and grease overall. Needs that oil bath C3PO got in Star Wars. Rest day after tomorrow night and next day.

Chos Malal and a rest day tomorrow stage 75

Interesting day as a choice of routes and no timing meaning no racing. Either 120 kilometer of pavement but probable wind or 90 kilometer over the volcano unpaved. Of course I chose over the top and it was a good choice but not easy. Climbed 1400 meters walking some in first 45 kilometer of 1400 meter climb, getting closer to the old volcano which apparently last erupted about 1995. So lava fields about and road is lava rock. Very scenic and numerous photos.

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But bike front fork going clunk with every bump which is washboard so happened about every half second. New problem and I know next to nothing about forks. Walter the driver of lunch truck was riding his bike back to check on several of us slow ones, and had him check it. Too much air pressure. How come it works great for two months then today has too much pressure but when let out air it worked great again, and again I like my front suspension.

Lunch at 52 kilometer and I arrived at 2:30 having left at 8. First riders in at 11:30. Lunch and on ward to finish the next 40 k but had to detour down a kilometer or two to lake where flamingos were. Wanted some pix but they flew off as wildlife tends to do, but was a fun detour for me. Then another epic descent of 40 kilometers although wind still blowing sometimes headwinds sometimes sideway, bluntly had to peddle a couple times for short uphill or wind too strong to coast downhill. Pondering if need to remove frame bag as sail area created is a problem. Have never biked with crosswinds of 50 kph and more. Very interesting.

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Anyway a rest day tomorrow so prime goal is no biking and rest. But rest is problematic as much to do. Bike work, cleaning, change chain and cassette, check fork, wash clothes as not going to trust laundry as usually two days. Also find internet and see if possible to post this. Talk tonight at dinner was how 20 years ago when traveling no internet and relied on snail mail once every two or three months. Times have changed. At least when I hear it is dicey internet I now just go oh well, rather than get frustrated with slow and on and off. Always seems slow. Knut said he was in India just a few years ago and although a far poorer country than Argentina it had far superior internet connections everywhere. Priorities I guess.

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Sitting hotel restaurant drinking coffee using wifi hoping to get pictures in here but may have gone to far

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4 thoughts on “Existence

  1. I just finished reading this journal and just marvel at it all. Do not envy you but admire it. I hope when this is over and done you put the pictures along with the commentary in a book. Auntie Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2014 13:31:47 +0000 To: sr.meagher@hotmail.com

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