Category Archives: tour

Mazatlan to Mexico City

After the craziness of riding into Guadalajara at night and in the rain, we decided it was safest to not ride into this city of 20 million people. It is not the riding in the city that is scary, both Justin and me are avid city riders; it is the interchanges outside of the city. Imagine riding your bike on 76 or 676 outside of Philly! It is like that, but with less light and way worse roads.

We are staying with some good friends of mine, Nallely and Edgar, that I met a year and a half ago at a WEF protest in Cancun. They helped me get out of jail and we have been close since.

The first day we were here we went to a market that only has metal-punk-artsy-hippie sorts of things. It was amazing. Veggie burgers for 50 cents! The anarcho-punks were in full force and there were plenty of zines, music, and info to gather up. The whole ambience of the place was amazing, very few cops or authorities and 100s and 100s of kids (you know, anyone under 30 or who still acts as such) who are not into the lifestyle being sold to them MTV or coca-cola. We mingled around for a while and then went to explore the rest of the city.

Hanging out with our ‘girlfriends’ from the boat hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped. I guess the whole energy of meeting on a boat and spending a night on a boat was lost. Maybe she thought that I would of changed my clothes or trimmed my beard since last time I saw her. ha. I ended up spending some time with her at the Zocolo where we saw a jazz concert, an art exhibit with all sorts of anti-Bush cartoons and anti-plan Colombia posters, bought some photographs from a vendor, ate some coconut treats, and took a ride on a bike taxi. Then we went to the Anthropology museum and to a section of the city called Coyocan. I had been there before but could not remember the dope restaurant I had eaten at. We got some expensive pasta at a chic hangout near the square.

We have spent a lot of time just wondering around the city, which is one of my favorite things to do. There is a market outside of Nallely and Edgar’s house, which isn’t in the best neighborhood, to buy all sorts of neat things. One morning we bought Nopales, a type of cacti, mixed with onions and peppers, some tortillas, and some salsa, for less than $2.50 for the 3 of us to eat. Lovely. Nallely needed a part for her blender, and there is a guy in the market who only sells parts for a blender. Amazing. In the USA you would probably have to buy a whole new one.

Our new addiction, which is much healthier and a little cheaper, is juice in a bag. For about 60 cents they fill a giant bag with the juice of your choice and give you a straw to drink it. Watermelon, Orange and Fresh Lemon have been the 3 most popular.

We have spent four days here, great to be off the bike. Our next stop will be in Oaxaca, where we want to see the Monte Albun ruins and eat lots of vegan chocolate and enfrijoladas. There is also a community center there named after the Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon.

We have some big climbs ahead and will return to the heat soon. But, we have a lot to see in the last 1600 kilometers of our journey. We are entering the jungle and new indigenous cultures. 2 more countries and places I have been to and already love….

Thanks to everyone who sends emails, I appreciate it so much!

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But what do you do about……?

Hello from Mexico City! I am going to answer some questions I have been getting.

Our Route
I guess I forgot that not everyone is familiar with the geography of Mexico.
We headed directly south from Los Angeles, about 1100 miles down the Baja Peninsula. From the city of La Paz we took a ferry to the city of Mazatlan. From there we headed southeast through Tepic and Guadalajara into Mexico City. From here we will head directly south through the city of Oaxaco and then into the state of Chiapas. From there we will head east through Guatemala, past the ruins of Tikal and then into Belize. We will only be in Belize for a couple of days before we fly out of the Belize airport on the east coast of Central America. I hope that clarifies a bit!

Bicycle Touring
Not all my friends and family are avid cyclists, eh? Bicycle touring is a way of traveling by bicycle where you carry with you everything you need. For example, we have a tent, two stoves (with fuel), sleeping bags, rain gear, clothes, dried food, water containers, tools, maps; everything we will need for the two month journey. Well, of course, we have to buy food and water everyday. The idea is to enjoy the process more than the goal. An American asked us why we ride so much and don’t spend more time sight seeing; I told him that we are sight seeing constantly. When you are in a car the environment is merely in the way of your destination, but when you are on a bike you become a part of that environment and appreciate all aspects of it. The other day we were climbing this mountain for about 2 hrs and then we entered a pine forest. You feel the air get colder, you are overwhelmed by the smell, the forest absorbs you, and you appreciate arriving there by bicycle.

Camping
We are yet to camp at a campsite. We just find a place hidden from the road and set up camp. It’s great, that little area of the world becomes our home for the next 10 hours. We set up the tent, unload what we need for the night and prepare dinner. Then we sit and relax, and maybe look at the stars or write in our journal. A lot of times our exhaustion decides that we should just go right to sleep! Camping has become more difficult in the mainland and will be even harder when we are in the humid jungles of the south.

Food
So how does a respectable vegan survive below the border? Lots of beans and tortillas. ha. When you spend months outside of the USA you realize how strict veganism is such a privilege, one that is only possible for the richest people in the world. No, I don’t have to eat quesadillas and scrambled eggs to survive, but sometimes you don’t have a choice about the ingredients in the only bread that is available or the type of cooking oil used. Veganism is completely unheard of down here; many vegetarian restaurants do not have vegan options. Despite all of this I am surviving well and trying all sorts of new vegan foods. There are these fried sweet breadstick things called Churros and these unnamed coconut candies that are unbelievable. Mushroom Quesadillas are very popular, and here the cheese goes on top, not on the inside, so it is very easy to order them sin queso. Panaderia, or bread shops, are an every day stop. We crush about 4-5 big pieces of sweet bread every morning. Most of the options for me aren’t as nice as those apple filled whole wheat pastries I had at a health food bakery in Mazatlan, but good nonetheless.

It is a misnomer that you need to eat all the local food to understand the culture. I am always walking extremely slow (to Justin and Nallely´s dismay) through markets so I can see what kinds of foods are available and their preparation method. Seeing the local ingredients and how they differ from a state 200 miles away interests me enough, I do not need to eat beef tripe to understand it any further. There is always something local and vegan for me to taste, and as my Spanish improves the amount of foods I can eat increases!

Bike Problems
So when you leave for a 3000-mile bike trip you want to have all the best parts, right? I am finding it doesn’t matter. My top of the line topeak road bike pump ($47) broke in the rain 500 miles ago. Two days later the one I bought in Mexico broke. My $1200 bike has probably had more problems than Justin’s $300 bike from EBay. But my $35 tires are about 10x better than the $15 crap tires Justin left with. You really just never know. I understand that if you buy something from walmart it is going to break sooner than later, but we are buying components from companies owned by the people who do these things. Why do they sell such crap? Is it all designed for yuppies that only use it during their two-week vacations? There has to be some companies out there that make stuff that can hold up to what we put it through. Here is a list of broken parts. (M) Means I broke it, (J) means Justin did.

7 broken spokes (M)

2 stripped stem bolt holes (M)

1 broken star washer (M)

1 broken topeak frame pump (M)

1 broken giant pump (M)

1 broken derailleur (J)

2 ripped tires (J)

1 leaking stove (J)

I also bought some tubes from a mountain bike distributor and they are the crappiest tubes ever. The valve ripped on 3 of them. I have had 5 flats, and Justin around 15. Not just the run over something type, but ones from the valve breaking, pinch flats from not being able to get enough air in our tires (cause my pump broke and Justin’s sucks), and ones from patches leaking (it is hard to patch a tube in the rain).

Despite all this I do have equipment I am proud of. My Sierra Designs tent has kept us dry (if we set it up right before we go to sleep!) during torrential downpours and my mountain hardwear jacket has kept me dry and cool during those long hours of pedaling through the rain. I hope to do a whole product review when we get a touring website going.

I hope I have made what we are doing and what we go through a little more clear. My next couple entries will include more specific stories and more about what our day-to-day lives are like.

peace, Matt!

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Mazatlan to Guadalajara

1450 miles pedaled, over half way to Belize. Internet places have been few and far between because we are taking the toll way. Its much more direct and has a huge, clean shoulder. I don’t have time to write much, but I will say that we have had gigantic climbs, rain every single day, and tons of bike problems. It’s been a great adventure.

We hope to be in Mexico City by the weekend and I will do more updates then. Back to riding in the rain!

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Guerrero Negro, Baja Sur to Mazatlan, Sinolia

Things have been so crazy; I don’t even know what to write about. So many little things happen every day, I can’t even remember them, let alone type them into an online journal. While we ride we laugh about so many things that have happened, its unbelievable. Most recently we met a Japanese kid on his way to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina from Los Angeles, California. He speaks very very little English and zero Spanish. It has been an adventure in itself just trying to communicate with him over the last couple of days. I am short on time, as always when I am on the computer, so I am going to type up some entries from my written journal verbatim.

Day 11, 71 miles

Today we got up relatively early and hammered out 33 miles to San Ignacio, where we spent the hot part of the day. In the desert it reaches about 110 between 12 and 4, the sun melts your skin if you’re not in the shade. There was a festival around the center square where we spent 5 hours in the shade people watching. We looked like vagrants, doing our dishes with the faucet in the park and eating peanut butter on tortillas, but most people stared at the drunken guy passed out on the ground next to us.

We left town around 430, but Justin hit another pothole on the way out of town and we had to fix his flat. We pushed on slowly, until the weather cooled. We had an amazing view of a 6,000 ft peak that towered above all the other mountains in the range. We climbed the small pass and hammered on for a while at a good speed. Just as it was getting dark we came upon a ‘downhill ahead’ sign and decided we would camp after it. Next thing we now we are flying down switchbacks at 35 mph + into a canyon. It was beautiful. We were able to look back and see the sun setting behind the giant peak that towered over the canyon. We had a short climb out of it and then we decided to camp across the street from a gas company. Dinner was delayed because some men showed up at the gas place and we had to hide from them for a while.

Day 17, La Paz to Mazatlan on the ferry

After our first night in a hotel, we got up early and crushed a giant breakfast at the local vegetarian restaurant. Post office, supermercado, and then a 10-mile ride to the ferry. I am stressing cause our ferry tickets cost 3x what lonely planet had them listed for. I paid $48US with student discount, but JC had to pay the full $60. Someone told us that bikes cost the same as motorcycles to put under the ferry, an additional $50 each. So basically when we bought the tickets we didn’t mention the bikes. Anyway, we get to the ferry terminal and look around to develop a plan to scam our bikes on. The first idea was to talk a truck driver into letting us put our bikes in the back. That didn’t work. The next idea was to carry them up where everyone else brings their luggage and simply ignore the fact that they are bikes with 50+ pounds of shit strapped to them. The security guy wasn’t having that. He told us to bring them to where the cars are. Damn. We walked down there like we knew what we were doing and were told to wait. We sat and sat, dreading being caught and having to pay an additional $50. It started to get late; people were beginning to board El Barco. Finally, a guy waived for the motorcyclists to drive in and for us to follow. We rode our bikes into the ferry and locked them where he pointed. We grabbed our plastic bag of stuff for the 18-hour journey and headed to the cabin. Success!

The boat was an adventure in itself. Within 3 to 4 hours people were drunk and sprawled out everywhere. It was like the beach! So much fun. We searched the boat for the two cute girls we were scoping earlier and we found them in the outside bar area on the second deck. So that’s where we chilled for the next couple of hours. We read, looked at the maps, and ate some tortillas with canned refried beans to the amusement of two drunken men behind us. They started asking us about the maps, we told them about our trip, and it just got nuts from there. I wish I had taken a class on understanding drunken Spanish cause most of the time I was clueless to what they were saying. So much fun. Ended with pictures being taken with the whole family. We were the coolest guys in the bar.

Back to the girls. Our pics were right near them, so they asked me to take a pic of them in front of the sunset. I take the pic, ask them where they are from…’Mexico City? Vamos a la ciudad de Mexico!’ Next thing we know we are hanging out with two 23 year old engineering students alone on the top deck of the ship. Nice. They can speak English, we try to use our Spanish to their amusement, and it was great. We talked about school, about life, about traveling, and about Mexico. I dropped some knowledge about Chiapas, it goes well.

Next they inform us that they are sleeping up there; it is too hot and crazy to sleep in the seat area inside. They ask us where our sleeping bags are, and we point to our plastic bag of items. They invite us to share their blanket. Score. They started to set it up and I went to rescue Masoyuki from the smelly sitting area, where he had returned to hours earlier after a lone beer did him in. We went back up to the top deck and Justin had secured a place next to the girl he was digging. Damn, I am stuck between Justin and Masoyuki. Needless to say I got a lot more sleep than Justin did. In the morning we all sat and talked, we got numbers and invites for Mexico City and all took pics in front of the boat. Goodbye kisses were exchanged in lovely Latin American style, we got our bikes, and road off into Mazatlan….First stop: vegan sweet bread from the whole grain bakery downtown….

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San Diego, California, USA to Guerrero Negro, Baja Sur

Even though Justin lost the entire print out for Baja California that we copied from Bicycling Mexico and woke me up the first night screaming (in Spanish and in English) at a person messing with our bikes while we were sleeping (it turned out to be the tarp blowing in the wind); he still has a lot of funny things to say.

630 miles down, we are pushing along pretty good. Climbing mountains under the blazing sun isn’t exactly the most fun thing ever, but everything else more than makes up for it. I am not all that excited about the Baja; I wish I had prepared more for it mentally. All I can think about is riding through Chiapas and Guatemala, but I guess we’ll be there soon enough. The most fun parts have been chillin out during lunch with the locals and our sketchy camping situations. It’s always an adventure looking for a flat place to camp off of the side of the road that is hidden out of sight. Then we get out our headlamps, set up camp and cook our gourmet meals.

No matter what we are doing it is better than sitting in some cubicle or in a stuffy classroom. How many more years can I get away with not working in the summer? Maybe I have to get my PHD so that I can be a college professor and do this every summer….
We ended day 6 with style, we camped right on the beach, not a person, house, or coca-cola sign in sight. It was beautiful; I have never slept on the beach before. Going for a walk along the beach first thing in the morning made me appreciate it more than I ever have in the past. Now I know why some people are so gung-ho about it. That’s what I love about bicycle touring; we are happy if we find some where to sleep where no one will mess with us, but sometimes you find yourself on a completely uninhabited beach. Even if you could plan something like that it wouldn’t be as fun. I did crash on the dirt/sand road we took back there (my shoes didn’t unclip out of my SPD pedals when I started to slide out) but I got over that quickly.

For the next couple of days we crossed the ultra hot disierto central, we had to each carry a gallon of water and we couldn’t ride between about 11am and 5pm cause the sun was so hot. We would scramble in these small towns to find shaded where we would sit and read or write. The environment is astounding, from huge rock formations to dizzying switch backs down huge mountains (top speed– 46 mph!). My appreciation of the desert continues. We did find a pool about a mile down a dirt road off the highway that was definitely worth the 15 pesos each.

We keep hearing rumors about two Swiss on bikes heading the same direction as us; two swiss backpackers tried to speak swiss-German to us cause they thought we were them. No luck finding them yet. Our friends from ‘World Bike Tour’ left San Diego on Saturday, so we are still days ahead of them. The other day we were sitting in front of a small tienda (like we do often) when a woman asked us in English where we were going. After a couple questions she asked, “Are you all with the special olympics?” We are still laughing about that one. Justin and I have found a way to pass the time that seems to never get old; passing stories about our mischief as young kids (and not so young kids). We might actually never run out of stories.

Overall, the biking is going well. We are hammering out about 75 miles a day and slowing disposing of the 25+ pounds of food that Justin brought with him. For lunch day we finally got some excellent bean tacos, I fired down 6 for a $1.50. Yum. We are still getting along wonderfully and excited about how the trip is materializing. There is so much more I want to write about, but it’s no fun typing it into a computer. I’ll save some stories for in person.

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San Diego

160 miles down, its been hectic. Justin cant find anything in his panniers, I keep having to work on my bike. Head winds all the way to the beach, I am sun burnt……

But is has been so exciting to be rolling on to a new adventure, I cant stop smiling. Am I really doing this again already? The coast was beautiful, we were on bike lanes/paths almost the whole time and the weather has been amazing. I am stoked that we are staying with friends our last night in the USA. I also had to go the grocery store and pick up some tofutti treats since I won’t be able to for the next two months….

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Belize trip start: San Bernardino, California

First off, I have to give a huge thanks to Ralph, Zephon, and Tim, my boys in Cali. Without them driving me around, picking things up for me, and doing other things I hate to ask of people Justin and me would still be trying to get out San Bernardino. Its great to know that I have made good friends in the short time I have lived in Cali.

We left two days late, on July 21st heading down the California coast towards Belize City, Belize. I was waiting for Bianchi to send my warranty forks and a friend of a friend (props to mike miller!) was doing all the work for me. I ended up having to call them and have them overnighted plus Saturday delivery (32.50!!). On top of that the local Bianchi dealer (acme bikes) decided they wanted to charge me $25 just to have the forks sent there. Nothing like that hometown inland empire feeling. Needless to say, I was bummed on the situation. I had to take the forks home, cut the top off with a hacksaw so they fit and rig my rack on (that fit my old forks) with some clamps from the hardware store. Its been hectic, but we rolled out successfully at 930am. It feels so awesome to be back on my bike and finally be on a trip like this again.

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Ways to be prepared for a 3000-mile bike trip

Know the route for the first two days.

Have a functioning bike, especially one that has forks.

Don’t expect Bianchi to warranty your bent forks within a month of needing them.

Don’t have a cold.

Have read all the guidebooks and bike books that you plan to photocopy.

Leave enough time so that your laundry actually dries before you pack it.

Don’t have 75% of your summer class assignments still due.

Don’t wait until the day before you leave to request an extension for the assignments.

Don’t make plans to go to a vegan restaurant, no matter how good it is, the night before you leave (cause you probably haven’t even started packing).

Know someone with a car who can take you to the 100 places you need to go to the day before you leave.

Don’t get a flat on the bike you borrowed and be stuck.

Don’t forget where you hid the key for your bike lock and end up having to cut the lock with bolt cutters.

Try to make it to the bike shop before it closes so you can actually buy the parts you need before you leave.

It’s unfortunate that we did everyone of these wrong. But really, how else would we do it?

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pre-trip hysteria

It’s 101 degrees in Loma Linda today. I have to pack for my Ecuador trip that leaves tomorrow, pack all of my stuff and move out of my room, and be prepared to leave for my bike trip when I return. I wish I at least had forks for my bike (I bent the pair that was on there), but I don’t think I will have my bike running before I leave. I also realized that my shifters might not be compatible with putting on a third chainring. Who designs this stuff? Some of these 8,000 ft passes may be difficult with only two front gears. I am not too concerned, because we don’t actually know if there are any 8,000 ft passes cause neither of us have elevation maps. I think we have enough regular maps, I guess we’ll see when Justin gets to California.

Now I just need to avoid getting sick in Ecuador. I guess that means no corn on the cob from street vendors or tamarindo Juice in a bag. Darn.

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2001 Cross Country Summary. First bike trip.

In the spring of 2001 I started a 3100 mile cross country bike trip in Huntington Beach, California that lasted two months and landed me in Easton, Pennsylvania.

It was an adventure before it began. I graduated college (PSU) in December 2000 and within two weeks I was heading to Austin, TX with Dave Vmaas for his new job as Art Director at Terrible One bikes. In Austin I was lucky enough to share a two bedroom apartment with 10 other BMXer’s, most of them from the FBM road trip that was put on hold thanks to the death of their shitty mini-van. Corrigan, Rob Doleki, Stew Johnson, Vmass, and I made use of our similar obsession with vegan food and stuffed our selves silly for the days preceding my flight to central america.

Two months in Belize with my girlfriend (at the time) was a mind boggling experience. That poor girl had to share a room with me for 8 weeks! We went camping at a jaguar reserve in the tropical rain forest, swam in rivers, traveled to Chiapas, Mexico (where we were nearly killed by an exploding restaurant), and survived the mess that is called Belize City. I even did a 125 mile bike trip and met a bunch of cyclists. They invited me to follow an illegal bike race that shut down the only paved highway in the country. Towards the end of my stay I went a World Economic Forum protest in Cancun, where the Federales were brought in and I ended up spending the night in jail. They stole my bag with all my belongings (and a bunch of other people’s!), but at least I wasn’t deported.

On that I returned to Austin where Vmass picked me up at the airport and couldn’t remember where he parked. Then he took me to IKEA to complete my culture shock. The next couple of weeks I spent hanging out in Texas and then in Tucson, Arizona with my boy Boaz Ramos. I worked day labor at a construction site for a ridiculous $5.15 an hour. I was told to “Get the f**k off the road” by a bunch of roadies when I would ride out to Gate’s pass. I learned quickly that roadies here are nothing like the friendly ones I met in Central America.

I went to look at a graduate school in Cali and then couldn’t find a place to stay on the coast. I ended up staying with some friends of friends, to their dismay as well as mine. We had some things in common (sxe), but they thought I was completely nuts. That was my situation BEFORE I left for my cross country journey. I had already been on the road for 3.5 months, I was exhausted and away from my friends and from usual comforts.

On April 12th I took a picture of my bike at the beach and started pedaling east towards Pennsylvania. Within 10 days I had climbed a 5000 ft pass, road through a 100 mile stretch of desert with no services in 100 degrees heat, crossed one state border, met another touring cyclist, road through a snow storm, and got hit head-on by a car going 55 miles per hour. It was a rough start.

Getting hit totaled my bike and put me in the hospital with a broken wrist. Luckily it was his fault and insurance would cover my bike and then some. I stayed with the brother of someone who stopped at the accident. He smoked a lot of pot, but he had numerous tapes of Simpson episodes which we watched in marathon lengths. I made the difficult calls to friends and family to tell them what happened and that I was continuing on nonetheless. After 10 days I left his house with a brand new Bianchi Axis and a broken wrist.

The rest of the journey is hard to convey; numerous days in a row without talking to anyone and then days where I met some extraordinary people. In Columbia, Missouri I finally came across some normal kids (not married with babies by 22) and we went to an indy film theatre, cooked up mad vegan food, and just chilled. We could all relate even though we didn’t know each other. Maybe there are some benefits to punk. Those kids will never know how stoked I was to see them.

Christian Kurpiel met me in Missouri, and we continued east. We did a 137 mile day into Indianapolis where Chris from Goshen let us into his Papa John’s at midnight to cook up some XL pies with veggie sausage (and then I ate the entire thing). We took a closed highway into pittsburgh and stayed at the peach pit with Justin Cummings. It was an appropriate place to receive an email from my girlfriend (now ex) telling me that she didn’t think I was right for her. Who could blame her? Add her to the list of bicycle related dumpings. The cycling didn’t get any easier when I got closer to my destination. Pennsylvania is one giant mountain. No, wait, it is 1000 giant mountains. After stopping off in the old stomping ground of state college and having reunions with close friends, I pedaled the final two days to Easton, Pennsylvania.

Despite some hardships, I knew this bike touring stuff was right for me.

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