USA and Mexico

Adios Mexico, I’m ruined!

And so my adventures in Mexico, my first country outside 'Merica, have come to an end. Three sweet long months in this magical place called Mexico have concluded with a tour of several breathtaking sites of ancient Mayan ruins. For those of you who are interested in Maya ruins, enjoy the photos that follow. For those of you who do not....maybe you should reconsider what is most important in life (family, friends, Mexican ruins...). I mean come on! These people made incrediblevstructures without the wheel or metal tools, they were astronomical geniuses, and they played sports instead of war! Maybe they weren't 100% accurate with the End of the World prediction, but we all get a couple wrong sometimes don't we?

IMG_3933The grand daddy of them all, El Castillo pyramid in Chichen Itza. The ruins here are named one of the new 7 wonders of the world

IMG_3768Inside El Palacio in the ruins of Palenque

IMG_3993This massive ball court, called El Gran Juego de Pelota, was used to settle disputes, an alternative to battle between Mayan Tribes. The best warriors would wear leather belts and attempt to move 10 pound balls through small stone circles some 20 feet in the air using only their hips. The losers were decapitated. This 135 meter court felt like a mix between a Harry Potter quidditch match and a scene out of the Never Ending Story.

IMG_4083Here is a better look at the stone rings of a smaller Juego de Pelota court at the ruins of Coba

IMG_3853First night camping on the Gulf of Mexico

IMG_4053Pedicab drivers strategically wait for tourists to finish climbing the Pyramids of Coba. Enervated, the tourists happily jump on board these Mexican styled Pedicabs to cruise back to the visitor center.

IMG_3723Waterfalls of Agua Azul in Chiapas, Mexico

IMG_4113Cool street art outside of Chetumal, Mexico

IMG_3806Temples abound at the ruins of Palenque

IMG_3937Another view of the Pyramid at Chichen Itza

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IMG_4055 Nohoch Mul, or Big Mound, Pyramid at the ruins of Coba. No one was injured while attempting to climb this one, but it was funny watching some people freak out on the way down.IMG_4102Ruins of Tulum along the crystal clear Carribean waters

IMG_3740Misol Ha waterfall in the jungles of Chaipas provided a wonderful misty afternoon breeze

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IMG_3716Little bit of road missing in the hills of Chiapas, no problema

Mexio Love Poem

Mexico, te amo. From your butt cracks to your roof top clothes dryers, to your trucks packed with machine gun waving military and little peregrinos alike. I don’t mind that you charge me for water, so long as I share mine too. How simple you are, how tough you are, always finding a way to survive. I can marvel in every corner of you, and learn about the stories behind each. Your people have a warmth that surprised me, and they took care of me and showed me the very best of Mexico, themselves. You are spiritual Mexico, and I still don’t understand you completely, but I thank you. Mexico you are mystical and wonderful, and you quench my thirst for such wonders. I will miss you Mexico, I will miss your tacos, whatever the price may have been. Maybe I will learn to make tortillas one day so I can feel close to you again, and learn to play San Jorocho on a little guitar to share your sounds. Hasta luego Mexico, que lo vaya bien.

Feliz Navidad, Naked New Year, and a Wind Farm

Mexicans celebrate Christmas with a big dinner late in the evening on Christmas Eve with everyone in the family. This video shows the family sharing hugs and kisses right after midnight on Christmas morning.

In southeastern Oaxaca you will find a very windy stretch of land between the towns of La Ventoas y La Venta. Mexicans have harnessed the incredible power of the wind with hundreds of wind turbines across several wind farms. I was warned that if I tried to cross this wind zone I would be blown off my bike. And I was, more than once.El Aguacero Waterfall in Chiapas Mexico

IMG_3650El Aguacero waterfall in Chiapas Mexico

A view from one of Mexico's fishing ports, Puerto Angel, as the fishermen come in from a day's work.

 

I took in the New Year on one of Mexico's nude beaches, Playa Zipolite. While I can't show pictures from during the day... here is a video from some of the evenings festivities! 

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IMG_3669El Aguacero #2

I arrived at a beach town in Oaxaca one night and met a family (the family in my boat) who was visiting from Mexico City. Within 4 minutes they offered me a cool beverage and invited me to join them on a boat tour looking for crocodiles. We didn't see many crocs but we did spend a pretty evening on the water, spotting iguanas, several species of birds, and enjoying a tasty Oaxacan dinner after. Mexican kindness at its finest.

 

A Pilgrimage to La Virgen de Juquila

I decided to take a detour and join the many Mexican pilgrims (peregrinos) on their journey to La Virgen de Juquila, a sacred site up in the mountains of La Sierra Madre del Sur. Along the way I biked and camped with hundreds of people who came from surrounding cities in Mexico, all making their way to pay tribute to La Virgen.

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A Oaxaca

Oxacans are known for their festive parades through the streets. This was La Calenda parade for La Virgen de la Soledada. The music, dancing, dresses, giant dolls, and religious figures made for the strongest display of culture I have seen so far.

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IMG_3153 Some of the members of the Oaxaca Night Runners Club after their night run up and down one of Oaxaca's hills

Oaxacans love to make tlayudas with big tortillas, local cheese, and occasionally crickets

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IMG_3080 View looking down into the Oaxacan valley from one of the taller pueblos, Benito Juarez, over 10k ft

IMG_3054The streets of El Pueblo de Amatlan were filled with signs with short sayings. These read "Only the wise discuss. The rest impose their ideas" and "The only value: respect; and everything would be perfect

IMG_3344Some of the many dancing doll figures in the parade

Los Mexicanos celebrate the 9 days leading up to Christmas with Posadas, big parties with song, prayer, tasty food and the distribution of sweets as shown in the video

IMG_3359View of the impressive Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman in Oaxaca city

IMG_3146Just outside of Oaxaca is one of only two beautiful petrified waterfalls in the world

IMG_3119Detailed designs inside the small ruins of Mitla

IMG_3103El Arbol de Tule has the world's largest tree trunk. They wouldn't let me climb it.

IMG_3027Thank you spring water of Sierra Juarez for being cool and delicious

IMG_3021View from the lovely Sierra Juarez mountains

 

Monte Alban ruins

David&I_MonteAlban My new great friend David and I had the Monte Alban ruins all to ourselves after we biked up the hill during sunriseIMG_3325 Monica, Angie and Tynia

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MonteAlbanMorningBikersSome members of the Oaxaca Night Runners joined for the morning ride

IMG_3203Some of the designs inside the ancient buildings

Mezcal, the Father of Tequila

IMG_3065 The Mezcal plant maguey takes from seven to 70 years to mature

IMG_3152Inside one of the Mezcal fabricas

IMG_3038These massive earth ovens sit on the mountain sides outside of Oaxaca, cooking the maguey plant's pina for several days before fermentation and distillation. Mexicans have a saying about Mezcal: "Para todo mal, Mezcal, Para todo bien, tambien." "When things are bad, mezcal, when things are good, mezcal also."

Veracruz

Edgar and Suzana give us a taste of Son Jarocho, music native to their state of Veracruz

IMG_2972 The streets were filled with these tractors pulling huge loads of sugar cane. A tractors destination is a big sugar processing plant in the background

IMG_2934 Taken on this foggy Saint Nicholas Day

IMG_2929 This kind family of farmers treated me to a delicious taco lunch on the road

IMG_2931Corn fields in high country near Perote, MexicoIMG_2962Many of the trees in Mexico are white washed at the trunks, especially in parks around the cities. I have heard this is to keep animals away and just for decoration. The people of Veracruz painted some of the trees extra specially.

Offering to the Sleeping Volcano

Volcan Iztaccihuatl is an Aztecan woman laying on her back. She lies to the East of Mexico City at over 17,000 ft (5230 meters). She took my glasses when I reached her pecho.

IMG_2875 (1)Volcan Iztaccihuatl

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IMG_2858 (1) Volcan Popocatepetl in the distance

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IMG_2822 (1)Alpinista #4 and gringo #2, we met David on the mountain finishing up his climb in order to get back to New York the next day for work. Good work David.

IMG_2799 (1)Julio, alpinista #1

IMG_2826Alejandro, alpinista #2

IMG_2832 (1)Alpinista #3

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The Center of the Universe

Mexico's flag depicts an eagle eating a snake while standing on a cactus. This was an image that the wandering tribe of Aztecs saw in 1325, and they interpreted it as a sign to stop and build their capital city, now Mexico City. They built a temple, the Templo Mayor, on the spot and believed it was the center of the universe. Today Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, and you can still feel the presence of the Aztecs.

IMG_2769Mexico City Monument

In the center of Mexico City I agreed to be interviewed by a student learning English. Immediately after I was approached by 8 other students who needed interviews for their class. Oh English.

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Paying tribute with Aztec dance in one of Mexico City's parks.

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Adios Baja, Hola Mexico

I left Baja California by taking a Ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. The time zone changed, the air grew more humid, and the food got tastier.

IMG_2655 (1)Ferry pulling into Mazatlan

IMG_2685 (1)The Sierra Madre mountain range is filled with dozens of bridges, tunnels, and cool mountain spring water that costs $0 pesos.

zacatecas20285729My Iphone broke when in the Northern Central Highlands, so I have to borrow this photo. Zacatecas is an enchanting silver mining town filled with culture and a rich history, playing a big role in Mexico's Revolution a couple centuries ago.

I took a Saturday off in Durango, passing the afternoon with some of the local cyclists. 2 points for Jahaziel.

Coconut tastes better when using a machete

IMG_2686 (1)This is the Baluarte Bridge in the Sierra Madre Mountain range between Mazatlan and Durango, Mexico. I learned after crossing it that it is the second highest bridge in the world. Yep, It seemed pretty tall when crossing it.

guanajuato-mexicoAnother borrowed picture, this of the streets of Guanajuato. The beautiful town is filled with colorful narrow streets, and a series of underground tunnels below allows pedestrians to rule the streets day and night.

Mike en Leon2Xochitl and Guillermo live in Leon, Mexico. They treated me to a fun night out on the town where I tried Guacamayas (fried pork skin and avocado sandwich), and listened to local music.

Baja California

Views from beautiful Baja California y Baja California Sur:

IMG_2479Potable water is precious in the desert states of Baja California, and we have been drinking roughly 6 liters each day.

IMG_2495 A shot from Coco's Corner. Coco lost both of his legs and decided to ride his wheelchair alone for 250 miles into the middle of the desert to find a place to live. He has had many visitors since, including us.

IMG_2515 Pascual, a global traveler from Switzerland (ptitb.net).

IMG_2511Most nights in Baja California mean sleeping next to big cacti. Mexico puts the United States to shame when it comes to size and variety of cactus. Come on Arizona, step your cactus game up.

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IMG_2472 Puertocitos, Baja California

IMG_6397 (1)Pascual, Melanie and Vincent, and I after celebrating Pascual's three year anniversary on the road. We celebrated with a tasty fish fry, a series of presents for Pascual, and a night sky filled with shooting stars. I taught them how to make smores for the first time, and I felt American.

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IMG_2581 I think Corona comes here to film their commercials.

IMG_2570Another Baja morning.

IMG_2547First night sleeping with Los Bomberos (firefighters). We woke up in the middle of the night to their fire alarm, and first thing in the morning to the sound of dance music from their neighbors.

IMG_2523Another Baja evening.

Dia de Los Muertos

On the 2nd of November, Mexicans celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, a time when families remember their loved ones who have passed away. I did not know what to expect regarding this holiday, but was pleased with what I found. Staying with a family in the small town of San Ignacio, I was invited to an exhibition of several Dia de Los Muertos memorials that the students at the local school arranged. I learned how they take this time to remember those who have passed, preparing memorials with the dead's favorite foods, memorabilia, flowers, and candles. What was particularly interesting was how this was a weaker tradition in Baja California, as Baja is a more touristy area with a greater American and European influence. I listened to the principal of the school encourage all of the students to embrace this great Mexican tradition. And what a great tradition it is. Do you know very much about your great grandparents? I don't. Dia de Los Muertos is a wonderful time to celebrate the life of the deceased in our families, and an opportunity to educate children on the life of their ancestors. Below are a few pictures of the Mexican holiday:

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French in Baja California

Crossing the border from the USA into Mexico is rather easy. 20$USD ( o $320 pesos mexicanos) and a weird look from a soldier carrying an assault rifle and you are in Mexico! I rode a couple of days on my own before I bumped into Vincent and Melanie, a French couple travelling through the Americas on their bicycles (lasellerit.com). We met at sundown, made small talk, and agreed to meet the following morning to discuss more important matters like biking together. Our formal business meeting lasted roughly 45 seconds when we agreed to bike together for a bit. Melanie just finished her studies in France and is now a Family Doctor, and Vincent is an electrical engineer with experience in both the private and non profit sectors. At the time of writing this, we have biked together over the mountain range of Baja California into San Felipe, Mexico. Our days have consisted of discussing politics, educating one another on Spanish vocabulary and French wine and cheese, and eating delicious tacos at the many taquerias on the penninsula.

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In case you wondered what crossing the USA-Mexico border looks like, just enough space for a bike and a greeting

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First sunset in Mexico on the beach of Las Playas de Tijuana

IMG_2430Hillside ranch inland Baja California

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Vincent

Bruce Willis, aka Vincent

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Vincent and I looked for alcohol for our stoves for three days before finally finding a solution in una farmacia.

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Vincent and Melanie checking the map after our taco lunch

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I think Vincent looks like Bruce Willis. He and Melanie think I look like the Frech singer Johnny Hallyday. You be the judge.

Southern Cali

I was happy to finally reach Southern California. Mainly to see some family and friends one last time in the States, but also to escape the rain and flat tires that plagued me in Arizona. I first crossed the Mojave Desert, more than 100 miles of absolutely nothing. I would share the poem I wrote about the Mojave, but l left it for lost travelers next to the Iron Mountain World War 2 military training camp. After surviving the desert, I rode along a massive wind farm near North Palm Springs, and through miles of stoplights on my way into Los Angeles. A restful weekend with my big brother in LA meant swimming in the Pacific along the beaches of Malibu, and jumping from a plane at more than 12,000 ft. I then made my way south towards Mexico, but not before seeing a friend who I biked across the country with 4 years ago. Our weekend of fun in San Diego was the perfect ending to a great trip across America.

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Some of the wind turbines near Palm Springs

 

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First family dinner in a while

 

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My bro gearing up for skydiving. No footage from the free fall, they would not let me jump out of the plane with my GoPro.

 

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Morning view along Highway 1

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Sunset view in San Diego

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Taking in the San Diego ocean view with my friend Kara from Bike and Build and her friend Celine

Arizona

Coming into Arizona I thought it was one big dry desert. Wrong. Arizona was windier than Kansas in some places, thornier than a blackberry bush, and rainier than any stretch of the States I had done. I traveled several days through Navajo Country. I learned a lot from these peaceful people about how Anglo Americans have mistreated them.

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I had the pleasure of sleeping next to a solar panel that provided all of the power that a Navajo family used in their home.

I had the pleasure of sleeping next to a solar panel that provided all of the power that a Navajo family used in their home.

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More Arizona Solar Panels

Colorado

Words don't describe Colorado very well, so I will let some of my photos try.

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Kansas

Kansas is one big, flat, windy state, with really nice people inside. Here are a couple jokes about Kansas:

What is the best part about Kansas? When you actually leave Kansas.

Why did the cookie crisp cross the road? Kansas.

Rane cooling offIMG_1867

Pretty standard view of KansasIMG_1866

Taking care of our brother and sister

One morning we were stopped by a couple of starving dogs on the side of the road. We got these little guys, who we named Choco and Peanut, to follow us for a mile into the next town. We bought them food and dug up some ribs and chicken from the grocery dumpster. They were well fed and ready for a home. None of the locals were interested in giving them a home, so we were ready to take them with us. Luckily just before we left, a lady who worked for the local humane society stopped by and offered to take them in. Great to know that we took care of these two, our little brother and sister.

Rane managed to rig together a doggy cart on the back of his trailer.

Choco and Peanut getting a much needed drink from our jelly jar

Choco and Peanut getting a much needed drink from our jelly jar

Missouri- Hot and Hilly

I decided to bike with the trashfreeway.com team for a while. As we made our way across the hot and hilly state of Missouri, we made it a point to jump in the bodies of water we crossed to cool down.

Jaime and Naomi (right to left) of trashfreeway.com after a dip in the water

Jaime and Naomi (right to left) of trashfreeway.com after a dip in the water

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Climbing the Missouri hills with the ladies

Climbing the Missouri hills with the ladies

Missouri Morning Sunrise from the tent

Missouri Morning Sunrise from the tent

I cook a mean beans and more beans over my pop can stove

I cook a mean beans and more beans over my pop can stove

More of Missouri

View from up high in one of the Missouri water towers View from up high in one of the Missouri water towers[/captio

Rane and I gathering food for dinner.

Watermelon Social Hour

Watermelon Social Hour

Watermelon Gone

Watermelon Gone

The Mississippi

I rolled into Chester IL on the edge of the Mississippi River. Fun fact, Popeye the sailor is from Chester. A couple local fishermen going out for Catfish offered me stinky rotten cheese bait and advised I camp on an embankment next to the river. I voted yes, and so did the sheriff in the local jail when I asked his permission amidst the yelling of inmates. I slept to the quiet sound of barges rolling by, and the noisy sound of dogs barking at me and sniffing my presence. Just as I was about to take off in the morning I saw a man canoeing down the river. Alan Palmer managed to hear me and came over for an hour long conversation. He had been canoeing from Montana since May and was headed towards New Orleans. Crazy to think, life on a canoe, with enough food an water in the boat for days at a time. Alan took off and so did I. After crossing the river I met another couple travellers Naomi and Jaime of trashfreeway.com had been travelling the TransAmerica bike route for almost 40 days from Virginia. They flagged me down as I passed a gas station, we exchanged food and started biking together. A day filled with questions, giggles and breaks led us to Farmington Missouri where they were going to stay at a Bike Hostel. There I met the third member of their team, Rane, a professional saxaphonist and exotic fruit grower from Miami. The evening was fun filled as yet another biker joined us at the hostel. Connor was coming from Washington solo on his way to Maine. We ate, sang, and talked everything life on the road.

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Alan Palmer canoeing down the Mississippi River

Alan Palmer canoeing down the Mississippi River

The great Mississippi River, bridge from Chester IL to Missouri

The great Mississippi River, bridge from Chester IL to Missouri

Kentucky

Enjoy some views of my two days in good ole Kentucky.

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A Monastery Visit

South of Louisville Kentucky in the middle of Bourbon country lies a little nugget of heaven: The Abbey of Gethsemani monastery. There is a popular monk there named Brother Paul Quenon. Paul is a published poet, photographer, friend of Thomas Merton, and appointed Uncle in our family. I rode into the monastery in time for Vespers, one of the times of prayer held before dinner. After prayer I ate a potluck dinner with Brother Paul and his local friend Finden Johnson, published author of several books. We ate on the front porch of Thomas Merton's old hermitage. The sun set in the hills of Kentucky as we ate, drank, and talked about the cultivation of marijuana in Kentucky and survival on international roads.

IMG_1564Entrance to Church at Abbey of Gethsemani Monastery

Fenton Johnson and I eating outside of Thomas Merton's hermitage

Fenton Johnson and I eating outside of Thomas Merton's hermitage

Paul sleeps under an open wood shed (shown below) 365 days a year. So I join him. He wakes up before me for the 3:15 am Vigils prayer. The evenings there in Bardstown Kentucky are filled with fog, intense moonlight, and the howling of dogs looking for late night conversation. Paul and I had a busy day as we hiked up and down the knobs of the Monastery property. In the heat of the afternoon we cooled off by swimming in one of the many small lakes. We felt at peace. After more prayer we ate toasted cheese sandwiches and drank wine overlooking the property. I have yet to find a more peaceful place in this world than the Monastery. Paul is my spiritual guide, and I thank him for his guidance and fun.

IMG_1586Brother Paul Quenon

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Boren Indiana

Shout out to Becky and Terry OConnor who fed me a great dinner and breakfast after bible study in Boren Indiana!

Shout out to Becky and Terry OConnor who fed me a great dinner and breakfast after meeting them at their bible study in Boren Indiana!

Hoosier Weekend in Indy

After the first two days of biking and 165 miles on the tires, it was time to hang out with my big sis Christine in Indianapolis. The weekend was fun filled with a trip to the Indiana State Fair, a walk along the Indy canal, and a night out in Broad Ripple to watch some stand up comedy. So great hanging out with my sis!

Walk along Indy Canal

Walk along Indy Canal