Thursday, March 19, 2009

Out with the New and In with the Old. Or, Bike Repair, Mexican Style.

It´s been a rough couple of days. Phisically, mentally trying times interspersed with moments of extreme beauty and clarity.
It all started in Salulyta. Dreamed of a secluded surfers paradise and got a white washed fucking gringo tourist nightmare. Beaches overflowing with people, more American and Canadian license plates than I´ve seen since, well, California. Not a word of Spanish spoken in the streets. Looking for a cheap place to bed down for the night, another gringo overheard our queries and attempted to help.
"How much you looking to spend?"
"No more than three fifty, total."
"Pesos? You´re kidding." A smug smile spreading across his fleshy face. "You know you guys aren´t in Tijuana anymore."
"Really? Hmm...that´s weird. Well boys, it looks like we must´ve taken a wrong turn somewhere!"
I don´t think he shared our humor as we rode away, laughing.
Too tired and road-weary to care anymore, we ended up staying at one of these overpriced, youth-oriented campgrounds that feels more like a hip hostel than the beautiful palm grove that it´s set in.
And the young gringos are almost worse than their older Canadian counterparts. I for one, am sick of their puka shell jewelry, their unfortunate body piercings, their dreadlocks, drums, drugs and their whole fucking pseudo-alt-recycled-neo-hippy culture. Excuse my french.
Next day brought a short but beautiful ride through a luscious Jungle. Parker´s bike began acting up again and we decided to camp at Punta de Mita, just at the edge of the Urban sprawl that is Puerto Vallarta. Hoping to dash into the city in the morning, buy some bike parts and be well clear of the whole mess by nightfall the next day. Despite the huge timeshare condos taking up much of the water front, Punta de Mita had a gorgeous public beach. Enough privacy for skinny dipping in the clear, cool water. Camp stove lentil soup, homemade margaritas on the beach under the stars, just enough wind to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Finally feeling back at home, only us and the Mexican fishermen on the beach in the morning.
Puerto Vallarta is a sprawling mass of hotels and tourist industry. Billboards, all in english, line the highway for miles outside of town. Hotels, restaurants, strip clubs. Think Las Vegas on the edge of what would otherwise be an amazing Pacific coast bay. Rolled into town a little later than we had hoped. Had a hell of a time finding a bike shop. Tired and dirty and smog choked from the ride into town. Finally Jason cracked.
"We´re staying here," he said, pointing at a hotel, the first in sight. "I´m paying".
O.K. I know I just threw us in with the whole tourist culture that I´ve been cursing for paragraphs, but I´ll admit it: A warm shower, and a large, air contditioned room were exactly what i needed. A chance to sit down, take stock, and breathe for just a night felt oh so good.

My friend Jasmin once told me this saying that her mother used to console her in times of trial and sadness. She´d say,
"Todo en la vida tiennes solucion, menos la muerte."
Everything in life has a solution except for death.
It´s become a mantra of sorts these past few days.
Before leaving P.V. we found a small bike shop and bought the parts needed to fix Parker´s bike. Switched his ten speed integrated shifting system into a jury rigged 8 speed friction system by mounting a cheap plastic mountainbike thumb shifter to the bottom of his drop bars. (for those of you who aren´t getting this, don´t worry, pictures will come sooner or later). Basically took off all the newest, highest end bike technology and replaced it with something much older. Works 100 times better now.
Rode from P.V. on one of the longest, but most breathtakingly beautiful climbs I´ve ever ridden. Up and up through miles of thick jungle, a river raging through the valley below. Parrots streaking by over head. Dripping sweat in the midday heat. Pouring sweat by nightfall.
Camped in a small cut off the road and woke in the morning with a flat. By noon I´d patched the tube twice. By three, four times. By five I took the rear wheel off one last time and found that the rim I´d replaced only a month and a half ago in Ensenada had failed. Spokes starting to pull though the rim once more. Hairline cracks where each driveside spoke met the rim.
Next day, rode into a small, nameless town on a Mavic x517 laced to an XTR hub with an 8 speed 11-32 cassette and rolled out on a single walled wheel with a six speed freewheel and (as a nod to Bikesnob NYC) a big, bright pink pieplate spoke protector. It wiggles and it shakes and I can´t use my rear brake, but it´ll get me to Acapulco....I hope.
Now crossed over into estado Michihuacan. Amazing rocky shorelines and Banana fields forever. Climbing up a steep, steep headland, Jason turned to me.
"I think something´s wrong. My bike seems kind of squishy."
Reached the top of the hill to find that part of his extracycle (the kind of cargo carrying addition to the bike) had broken clean in half near the left drop-out (that´s where the wheel attaches to the frame). Descended into La Placita on a wing and a prayer. Hoping that the rear half of Jason´s bike wouldn´t snap clean off, sending him careening over the roadside and into the pacific. Praying to find a soldera, a muffler shop, someone with a welder and the know how to tack the thing back together. Found a blacksmith/welder, but at 5 o´clock on a Sunday it was no wonder that he was closed. The next morning he´d weld it back together with an antiquated migwelder in about thirty seconds, for 20 pesos (that´s a dollar fifty american). Made our way to the beach and ended up being invited to stay with two young guys from Mexico city, Gabriel and Santiago, and a gringo ex-pat, Randy, who are trying to set up a restaurant on the beach. Passed a peaceful night under their palapa, Drinking Cuygamas of Corona and watching the waves crash upon the shore.
Woke this morning and Jason had flat tires front and rear. Fixing his front flat, he discovered two broken spokes. Replaced those, no problem. Fixing his rear flat he noticed that his wheel had suffered the same fate as mine. After nearly 11,000 miles, the spokes had torn out through the rim, not all the way through, yet, but definitely failing. It´s only a matter of time. It´ll get him to Acapulco...I hope......

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Hi ya'll,
Sorry to hear about the bad luck you've been having of late. Hopefully it's not so bad that you can't laugh about it months later. It's an adventure eh.
I for one wish ya'll good health, tailwinds, no major bike repairs, and lots of fun. Andrew