After a day’s rest and a good night’s I’m not feeling 100%, but well enough to get back on the road, and to quote The Fugitive TV show: “Never in one place too long.”
(Thank you to Paulina Cabrera for the photo)
Back onto route 57 – I’ve been on it most of the way since crossing into Mexico at Piedras Negras. With each city, Monclova, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi the road became bigger and busier. But since Queretardo, its been a propper 3 lane motorway. But there was less than 5 miles before the junction to a quieter road.
On my way out of San Juan del Rio I stopped at a traffic light. A car pulled up beside me, passenger window down, driver and passenger with big smiles, enthusiasm and asking where was I going. With less than a minute before the lights changed, I told them in my best spanish where I’d been. Did I want anything? No – then I pointed to the green traffic light, said thank you and good bye, and started to move on. As they started to pass me, the passenger handed out a bottle of coke as if they were my official support car. I took it and said thanks. Shortly after this, they passed me going the other way, all smiles and waving. Yes, they had literaly gone out of their way to say hi and check I had everything I needed!
As I joined route 57, there was a “No Cycling” sign – the first one I’d seen in Mexico. I paused for a moment – but I didn’t have an alternative road, it was less than 5 miles, and it wasn’t like it was a policeman stopping me. So I carried on, riding on the hard shoulder, away from the traffic. This was fine until the road started to go up hill, then the hard shoulder became a 4th lane. With a crash barrier at the side. Not good. But the lane was only being used by occasional slow trucks – so I sprinted as hard as I could, uphill, in the gaps between the trucks from one gap in the barrier to the next. This was not the gentile half day ride I had in mind. Then in the next gap in the barrier there was a couple of cars parked by the side of the road – one of them was a police car. Just great. I’d no option but to cycle right past this car. Had they seen me? I didn’t look to check. But of course they had, and a couple of minutes later I saw in my rear view mirror, the police car approaching with lights flashing. I was now pushing as hard as I could, but my breathing was becomming increasingly laboured (being at 2100m above sea-level, higher than most alpine ski resorts, didn’t help). Then I realised that the police car wasn’t trying to overtake and pull me over. No, I was being given a police escort! I got to the next break in the barrier, pulled off the road and caught my breath. I waved at the police car as it passed, and got a beep of the horn in reply. It then carried on up the road as i got my breath back.
I was happy to turn off onto the smaller road, that was part way through being upgraded to a dual carridge way. But in a very piece-meal way – one minute it was a single carridge way with a nice big shoulder:
Then there was no shoulder – I had to move off the road several times to let rapidly approaching traffic past:
Then there was a section under construction that was traffic free and firm enough to ride on:
Then a huge wide expanse of lovely new tarmac that I had all to myself – the cars and trucks had to use a narrow strip on each side (between the pairs of white stones)
Even a section through a narrow gorge where I had to ride on the sloping concrete gutter to avoid the traffic. Not as difficult as it looks, but weird to be traversing a slope!
As I came up to a pickup truck parked at the side of the road, the driver got out and waved me to pull in. After a short chat with Rafael and Paulina, I was offered tacos, strawberries, water, beer, a lift for me and my bike past the next section of road and even money. I happily accepted the first two and politely declined the others.
After photos, swapping facebook details and farewell greatings I headed off. It was just then I noticed that they were going in the opposite direction. Yes, they had passed me going the other way, made a u-turn, overtook me, pulled in and waited for me to catch up. Yet again, people literaly going out of their way to be friendly and generous.
Shortly before getting to today’s destination, Huichapan, I got another “Mexican Wave”. Basically a line of vehicles passing the other way, one of drivers waves at me or gives be a peep. By the time I wave back, that vehicle has passed, and the driver of the next vehicle thinks I’m waving at them – so they wave back. I wave at them, and so on, usually for about 6 vehicles. Only in Mexico!
I crossed into my 6th Mexican State – Hidalgo, with fields of corn and pink flowers:
And alien plants waiting for the right moment to take over the world:
I got to Huichapan just in time to take this sunset photo with a silhouette of the large statue of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the initiator of the Mexican War of Independence and the person this state was named after.
Before enjoying the spoils of the day:
If this seems a lot for just half a day of cycling, most days in Mexico so far have been as varied as this in one way or another.
Finally, it it just me, or does this look like a happy skull and crossbones???