“Durango to Zacatecas”
After one last good coffee in Durango we headed out of town towards Zacatecas (where we found more good coffee). I’m starting to feel like we’re riding bicycles and camping between coffee bars, and I like it.
[Leaving the coast, we road a lot of pavement, over the Espinazo del Diablo, into Durango, but from Durango on, we’ve stayed much more on dirt, following a gps track given to us by: highluxphoto.com]
The first day out of Durango had us on pavement into San Jose Mezquital, followed by a 1000 meter climb out of town and into the mountains.
Ominous clouds chased us into the mountains before they let loose their wet, cold, holdings. Then it started hailing. We turned onto a dirt road with a locked gate (the first of many). We took off our bags and front wheels, then squeezed the bikes under the gate.
Thankfully the rain had slowed to just a drizzle at this point, but the clouds were dark and full. Just a bit down the road a group of buildings came into view as thunder roared across the ridge top. We rode under a big porch of one of the buildings. We contemplated setting up camp under the porch; the building was locked and no one was around, but the porch was in full view of the dirt road we had been riding on. I checked the other buildings and the tiniest one was unlocked. It was clean, and empty, and had a full-sized bed frame inside. With some apprehension, we rolled our bikes inside the cabin, just as the skies opened up with one of those biblical-style rains.
We slept warm and dry, and rode down into the canyon the next morning to, thankfully, a shallow creek crossing.
[Neon untwisted and removed the top barbwire on the side of the gate so we could lift our bikes a short distance up and over the fence instead of the six-foot gate. After our bikes were over, he twisted the barbwire back into place.]
[There was no way around, or under, this gate so we had to lift our bikes up and over.]
We pushed our bikes up the other, muddy, side for most of the morning. We chased storm clouds through the afternoon with only a few drizzles here and there.
We found shelter, mostly camouflaged from the road, nestled in a few juniper bushes. The evening brought more rain, and I was happy to be checking out the view from under the vestibule of our little tent.
The next morning we had easy riding into Suchil. We chatted for a long time, about the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Mexico, with a family at their gordita stand before heading out of town.
We turned off the highway onto a dirt road that paralleled train tracks. The road was muddy, overgrown, and flooded from recent rains, so we decided to walk our bikes on the tracks.
We set up camp between ranches, below the tracks, nestled between bushes and cactus.
We woke to -3°C, bundled up, and walked along the tracks until the road got better.
[A graveyard in the rural ranching area we rode through…]
We turned from the tracks and rode between ranches, until reaching the small town of San Jose Mesillas.
We stopped at several stores in search of produce and frijoles, and finally the fourth, and last one before exiting town, had canned frijoles (with vegetable oil) and a nice selection of produce. While there, the owner offered to let us cook breakfast in his kitchen. He offered hot water for coffee and full use of his kitchen, and a place to camp if we wished. He said he’s met cyclists from all over the world.
I think this marks some shift in our travels on the mainland in Mexico, where we’ve met the friendliest folks, and not just in a helpful way, but where we’ve really starting making more real connections with locals. I’m sure a lot of it is also us, not just the area …perhaps we’re starting to soften up more, relax, be more receptive to our surroundings, or as the anthropological term would be maybe we’re “going native”. Whatever it is, it’s refreshing and welcome, and I’m very much enjoying this shift in our travels.
The landscape slowly changed as we rode away from San Jose de Mesillas. The flats and grasslands rose into the mountains. The pines grew thick between junipers, oaks, and cliff formations.
[This beautiful cobblestone road continued for several kilometers. I wondered how old it was… the towns out here are very, very small, and far apart. To the west of this area, maybe a days travel, is an archeological site called Alta Vista (or Chalchihuites). Perhaps this road was part of an ancient network of roads that connected to Alta Vista.]
It all started reminding me of New Mexico, and other places close to home (Arizona). We stopped for lunch high on the ridge, which I declared one of my “dream spots” (of which I have many).
We continued on, through a tiny town, and up another ridge where we set up to cowboy camp with a view of the sunset.
We woke to -2°C, with a lot of morning dew. We waited for the sun to shine through the trees before fully emerging from our sleeping bags, then made a second cup of cold Nescafé Classico, and hung our things in the trees to dry before packing up.
[Church & school-yard in the small town of Francisco Medero.]
The day brought a mix of small towns along dirt roads and intermittent pavement. The landscape was all fenced between ranches and agricultural fields, which made finding a suitable, hidden, camp difficult.
The day grew into early evening as we rode into the small town of Cabrales. We stopped at one of the first little stores as we rode into town to ask if there was a place to stay. The men outside the store all looked at each other, and then one stood up and said he had a second house that we could stay in. He walked us to the house, and then next-door to another store where we could get quesadillas (and for me with lettuce, tomato, chile, and onion).
We sat outside and chatted the night away. It was all very grounding. These big adventures we do, our thru-hikes, and most especially this bike trip, has renewed my faith in humanity …reminded me, that for all of our differences, we’re all connected on this earth, making our way through this journey called life. It’s not always easy, and it’s often messy, uncertain, and difficult, but when we help each other (and accept help from others), we can grow much more, and go much further than we can alone.
The next morning we had breakfast with the family next door before heading out of town. We rode pavement to a highway, then into the little town of Santa Rosa before getting back on dirt, and into more ranch land. Later in the afternoon we rode into a good size town that wasn’t named on our maps. We bought snacks and asked the name of the town: Comunidad Ermita de Los Correa.
[An old building on the outskirts of Comunidad de Los Ermita Correa.]
We had lunch at the edge of town where a passing motorist stopped to ask if we needed anything. We told him we had just stopped for lunch; he smiled and said “provecho” before driving away. Provecho is, I think, sort of like “cheers”, or good health; it is often said when someone is eating.
[A small church on the outskirts of the tiny town of Nueva Alianza.]
We continued on, through another very small town, before looking for a place to camp. It took a while to find an isolated spot, that wasn’t a fenced off ranch, but we finally found a beautiful spot high on the plateau that was sparsely dotted with joshua tree-like yuccas. The wind was blowing fiercely so we were happy to set up our tent and sleep peaceful away from the elements.
The next day we rode a mix of dirt roads and fast pavement into the city Zacatecas.
We spent an entire week with a wonderful “warm showers” host. It turned out that they had travel plans and were out of town for most of our stay, but we kept company with their adorable little “perritos”. It was heart warming to hang out with two, obviously loved, pups in Mexico.
We spent the week tearing down our bikes and building up new frames, taking care of health needs, and finally finding a replacement, even if temporary, puffy jacket for me. We visited the local markets …and of course, we found a nice coffee bar.
[tearing down our old frames, switching them out for larger sized frames.]
[The great folks at Bicipartes San Martin, in the neighboring city of Guadelupe, switched out all the bearings from our old frames onto our new frames.]
[A thing of beauty …and all back together again. I’ll be riding on a large frame now.]
…fresh juice and produce!
After a great week in Zacatecas we said goodbye to our warm showers host and headed out of town…
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