I've been admittedly sweating the blog backlog a little bit. Sorta stuck. And overwhelmed as too many things have happened (and keep happening) to stay sufficiently current. My tendency to meticulously organize anecdotes and overshare as much as possible is not sustainable. Thus, procrastination results, which is only compounded by the things happening/accruing while in a state of procrastination. Our noble intentions of reading and writing in the evenings are usually obliterated by one too many tacos, a shared ballena (32oz'er) and/or a conversation leaving our heads spinning, resulting in a frantic post chitchat SpanishDict translation session. Given all the variables, I'm usually not feeling particularly clever when my notebook finally opens onto my pillow..Zzzzz. As Aidan and I sat in front of a roadside gas pump the other morning though, plopped on dingy, plastic Corona-branded chairs, sipping Nescafé out of styrofoam cups, diligently convincing yet another dog of our ability to provide it a good life in Portland, only to be met with enthusiastic eyebrow motions directly mirroring the pastry moving around in my lap, having a good laugh about a misinterpreted cock fight flyer taped to the tienda window, it all just sorta made sense. Don't. Overthink. It. Just embrace it as it comes. And celebrate the seemingly unremarkable moments. Even if it means reporting back that cultural highlights include shitty coffee consumption out of irresponsible vessels and a misread flyer, initially leading you to believe that someone had taken the time to xerox an announcement for their L O S T C H I C K E N when, unfortunately, the adorable clucker pictured is actually ring bound. Fate sealed, either to earn someone some petty cash, or, more realistically, for a public dismemberment by way of pecking. And, at the very bottom, to CALL TRINI REGARDING ANY COCK INQUIRIES. All this before 10AM. Pedaling aside, we haven't got a clue what each day will bring. The unpredictable supporting details are the story. I'm slowly learning to curb my neurosis and surrender control to the fluctuating nature of it all.
You do have a vague idea of what to expect after reading other cyclists' accounts. Tales of seemingly bottomless generosity, cultural immersion and human connection are popular blog topics. And, of course, it all sounds so lovely. It's easy to project how those experiences unfold. Seems simple enough. Step 1: Initiate conversation. Step 2: Smile, a lot. Step 3: You get the idea. An admittedly gross oversimplification. And completely naive to how special these interactions would actually be. The warm n' fuzzy full-body high that results from a positive connection with another person is undeniable. Not to mention contagious. Caught daydreaming from the saddle about how we might pay it forward. Loose plans of a guesthouse for travelers in Portland, assuming we ever get our shit together enough to own a home. Or this idea, or that idea, or etc. Seeking a long-term solution for incorporating more of that warm feeling into our lives. When a complete stranger returns an ear-to-ear grin, or tosses you a driver-side peace sign amidst a brutal climb, or invites you to their table, or into their home, or trusts you with their entire restaurant, or in their daughter's bedroom, or with the keys to their house, it simply makes me want to be a better person. The exchanges do not get old, nor will we become desensitized. Each one is unique. And propels my body and mind to keep moving. Kindness is the new caffeine! The details surrounding each and every exchange are vivid, thus connecting the trip dots in a way that landscape alone simply cannot.
Certainly those unsuspecting gentlemen who graciously shared their shrimp platter will not go forgotten. They turned up at our roadside beverage break locale and, without hesitation, motioned for us to join their midday feast. They'd later legitimize their refusal to split the bill by stating that they were civil engineers. A profession that did not match their physical description, nor was in my Spanish vocabulary before an hour of muscling jumbo shrimp down the hatch. Or the woman at our roadside coffee stand wearing vibrant lipstick, a tiny bedazzled denim vest and a red lighter wedged strategically in her cleavage. Definitely won't forget her. Or that lighter, which dipped to meet my eye level with each and every unsolicited taco she stacked in front of us. She never asked if we were hungry, but just assumed. A little shocked at the generosity literally stacking up in front of us, she stared right at us as if to say "they-are-tacos-just-eat-them-you-frightened-gringos" all while motioning for us to dig in. Or the Fabioesque French surfer who invited us into his gorgeous boutique hotel for a few days of rest and surf. When that hair (and those muscles) sat down opposite Aidan and I at the fish taco stand, neither of us could have predicted the outcome. How quickly it becomes apparent that people simply cannot be categorized by appearance, or rather by your perception of them. There have been countless outpourings of generosity from unsuspecting characters. What a beautiful reminder to take the time to get know someone before assuming you have them figured out.
We've also learned pretty quickly to never say no. Do you want to try this thing that I said so fast in Spanish that there's no way you understood me? YES. Would you like more of the thing? YES. Would you like to get into the back of my truck? DEF YES. Would you like to sleep at my house? Or rather in my driveway? YES. Or maybe in my restaurant bathroom? YES. Would you fancy an intestine taco? NO. Fine, YES. Regardless of the offer, saying yes forces you into a vulnerable place and out of whatever sort of comfortable routine you may have established on the road. Aidan and I both get a bit squeamish when someone does something nice for us. We're working through it. Trying to get better at receiving unreciprocated generosity as the payoff of a glimpse into the inevitably dramatic cultural differences existing between a privileged city in the Pacific Northwest and poverty-stricken, rural Mexico are absolutely worth it. An entire country that we've barely scratched the surface of and it's already been humanized in a very powerful way. Kumbaya.
Honestly though, in the spirit of the full reveal, it's fucking exhausting at the end of a long day to keep the smiles and Spanish translations a' firing. We grab a cheap room sometimes. You would too. After cycling and interacting with people all day, day in and day out, there are times when the body and mind simply need a door to shut. We constantly remind ourselves that mustering the energy, when at all possible, to just put yourself out there, is worth it. Upon reflection over the past 70 or so days, these (authentic we'll call them) experiences are the ones that stick out as being a little (read a lot) awkward/uncomfortable/miserable in the moment, but are transformative, if not simply amusing after gaining some distance, and thus perspective. For the sake of context, one such account of hospitality as it were: Massive language barrier. The family was particularly difficult to understand due to their location in the country and heavy slang usage. Fast talkers too. We set up camp in the driveway of their roadside tienda, adjacent to the family truck's new engine and accompanying oil slick, just far enough from the bottomless bird cages to be out of bullseye range, but of course not too close to the hamburger food cart, which was taking the night off. Smelled of day-old indulgence. Mom sat on her bed and stared out the window at us for hours, seemingly unphased by prolonged eye contact as we set up the tent, read, changed, slept. How many times can I smile and say buenas tardes in an evening before it becomes obvious that I'm uncomfortable? Dad's contagious cackle rang throughout the property. He kept reenacting a big boxing match on TV, one pretend punch to his throat, then another to his side, then explosive laughter. Over and over again. At some point in the evening, wingmanless while Aidan was where "he belonged" in the driveway, with the men of course, helping to hoist the engine neighboring our tent, I found myself charading all cliches associated with the state of Alaska to an audience of six female family members. I'm not super outgoing so this went pretty much how you're picturing it. The experience in its entirety wasn't comfortable per say. One of the hottest nights yet, starfished on steaming concrete a stone's throw from the main highway. Given that Aidan sweat through his sleeping pad in the first ten minutes in the tent, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he'd agree with my use of bleak descriptors. As someone with a bladder the size of six-year-old, I consider myself a bit of a bathroom aficionado. It is with all the confidence of a well-traveled, frequent pee'er that I report the toilet this particular night to be one of the worst yet. A horror scene, especially when the harsh headlamp beam uncovered what the darkness was hiding; oversized cockroaches darting from inside the makeshift plywood hole, in every which direction. Up walls. On the ground. And on to me for all I knew. Another high knees "no fucking way" dance followed. In the end leaving me no choice but to get creative elsewhere. The perverse part of me wants to elaborate, but I am a lady and simply think some antecdotes are better left to one's imagination. Especially those involving a spare grocery bag. Yeah, pretty memorable evening.
We're always sorta searching for that happy medium, existing somewhere between fully immersed and just the right amount of miserable. Mostly just enjoying the inherent challenge of traveling through a country whose language we still know very little of and by a mode of transportation with very real (physical and mental) limitations. I can't remember the last time my body felt so taxed and my brain so stretched from scrambling to put it all together. The highs and lows of traveling are legitimately dramatic. My emotions have been, let's say varied. I blame PMS and Aidan, the mathematician, questions whether 10+ times in 2.5 months is actually possible. I say anything's possible. Mathematics be damned.
And now, tomorrow morning, we head south from Guadalajara after a few days of rest at the Casa de Cylistas, yet another place that goes above and beyond for bicycle travelers simply because they are good people. We're humbled and appreciative of all the generosity. Guadalajara is a place that would be easy to post up for a couple weeks. After an all-time jam session last night with some new friends/ talented musicians wherein Aidan somehow ended up solo'ing the vocals for George Gershwin's "Summertime", I feel that we've sufficiently left our mark and the road is calling. Just a couple a' gringos with no beat doing their best to contribute. I, armed with a rice-filled plastic egg, shaking it when I felt like it rather than in any sort of rhythmic fashion. So, with that, we're out. Enjoy a smattering of photos below. And since I've been hogging the iPad, Aidan's thoughts to follow soon.