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Dear Family and Friends:
Wow - we finally made it to Guanajuato, Mexico. We plan on staying here for at least three weeks while I fix up the bikes, clean everything, and attend a much needed Spanish immersion school.
The last time we were able to send out an email to the group was just before our epic train ride through the Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon in English (it is commonly known by both names). The Barranca del Cobre and the train ride that went with it was wonderful. Many readers of our email and web site had previously been there and were very excited about our being able to go. A full description can now be found on our web site.
At the canyon we met Jim from England who has traveled the world and had some very good advice that changed our plans a bit. He was not impressed with Mexico and told us that we would enjoy Central America and especially South America much more. He said that Mexico is at least twice as expensive as any country to the south. This made us think. We really like Mexico and even though it may cost more than other Latin American countries it is still within our daily budget. Originally we planned on spending nine months here but could only get a six month visa at the border. Extending our six month tourist visa would be a hassle and cost around $300 in transportation. It is a little crazy but to extend our visa we would have to take a 24 hour bus ride in order to leave the country. We would probably go from some where in south - central Mexico to either the USA or Guatemalan border and re-enter Mexico, like it was our first time in, and get a new six month visa. We would also have to re-pay the $22 per person fee that they charge Americans to visit the interior of Mexico. The problem is that there is no way to tour Mexico, at our leisurely pace, from top to bottom in six months. We knew that at least one bus ride, with bikes and gear, would be necessary to make up the difference. I hate buses because I get motion sick and I especially hate subjecting our bikes to this kind of torturer but the cost and hassle of extending our tourist visa just out weighed everything else. So Cindie got me some Dramamine.
We rode the bus for fourteen hours from Cuauhtemoc to Zacatecas approximately 650 miles. This cut off at least three weeks of desolate desert riding. There were lonely stretches of road, through the state of Durango, that would have required ten gallons of water to be strapped on. This is a mountainous region as well. So, the weight of that water would have been noticed. If there was ever a logical section to skip this was it. I hate to think of all the interesting people that we did not get to meet and the thousand kilometers or so of beautiful scenery that we missed as we slept on the bus but it is their country with their rules. The Mexican government's efforts to squeeze US$44 out of us cost the local people some US2,500 that we would have spent in their restaurants and shops. I guess it is just our first taste of Latin American bureaucracy.
Another problem is to get to the Guatemalan border before our six month visa expires we will probably have to take some more public transportation. There is one of the few remaining trains that runs from Puebla to Oaxaca that looks appealing but the rest will have to be worked out as we go. Man, do I hate buses.
We refused to ride the bus any further than Zacatecas because this part of Mexico should not be missed. This central part of Mexico is very high with the average base elevation of about 7000 ft (2100 meters) and the temperatures are very comfortable. There are also mountain peaks that tower several thousand feet about the valley floor. This is also the part of the country where a lot of history took place - including the war of independence. Before the war of independence the Spaniards found vast deposits of silver and built great cities on the wealth that it produced. Guanajuato is just such a city and is very impressive and unlike anything in the USA. Another difference between here and the northern part of Mexico is that their are now quiet back roads to cycle on. These roads are the stuff that cycle tourist dream of. There was more bikes and animal carts than motorized contraptions and we often overtook families in carts trotting to some unknown farm or village. We could chat for a bit and then move on. People down here never seem to be in a hurry and we are learning to follow suit. Changes in latitude for sure bring changes in attitude, not to mention altitude. One of the better pieces, that I have written, is called One Fine Day Down The Road and is now posted on our web site. It goes through one whole day and describes every detail.
Now that we are in Guanajuato I will really have time to work on the web site. It is hard to keep up with while on the move. I have to constantly transfer the pictures off our camera or the memory of the camera will fill up. I also try to write about things that interest me but there is only so much time. So, things get pretty sloppy in my haste. It is not the best web site that I have made but the important thing to us is that we are keeping a record for our families and something to look at in our old age. Maybe I can use it as notes to write a book some day. It is funny, but I originally thought that keeping the computer batteries charged would be the problem. As it turns out I always have lots of juice but do not always feel like working on the computer. Something about Mexico just makes you want to chill out.
I have heard from several people that they have been having trouble sending us email. I am not certain what the problem is. Many times people report that messages sent to us bounce when we actually get them. Other times we do not receive them at all. One source of the problem is the amount of filtering on our email. My brother generously hosts all of our sites and email accounts. He is on the cutting edge in the anti-SPAM war. He has all sorts of ways to filter out SPAM. One example is if a message is sent with "free" or "Viagra" in the subject line we will not get it and it will bounce back to the sender. Another problem is that some web based email operations are just covers for SPAMing operations. My brother's email server bounces back the worst of the lot. While we can accept Yahoo, Hotmail, and some others we can not receive email from mail.com and email.com accounts. These operations go through your address books and SPAM your friends and families on your address list. They ALL SPAM but some are so widely used that it is not particle to block them. The rest get bounced back. If everyone's email worked this way the SPAMers email box would be filled with tens of thousands of bounced email and they would not be able to continue to operate. Unfortunately, many of your non SPAM email might be getting bounced back to you this way. Please consider the above information and let me know if you are still having problems.
I am also interested in receiving feedback about the web site. Don't worry about hurting my feelings, I need constructive criticism to make improvements. The main way you can help is how it looks on your computer. I build the site off line and post it occasionally but rarely get to see it while on a different computer. I would like to know, does it work with your screen resolution, i.e. do you have to scroll left to right to view the entire page. Please review the updated site because I have made many changes in this area. What do you like best about the site? What do you think I should change? Thanks for your input.
On a sad note, it seems as though I (Tim) have already wore out my bottom bracket. It is making the tell tale clicking sound every time my left foot comes down. Darn thing only has about 1500 miles on it. I guess that cranking a 100 - 150 pound bike over several thousand feet mountains is hard on things. I will have to figure out how to buy one down here. I have the tools to put it in. I hate to do this to Ed of Southwest Sounds and Cyclery again but could one of you who knows him please ask him what the size and threading are so I can buy a new bottom bracket. It would also be helpful to know if he used Lock Tight when he put it in. Oh Yeah tell Ed to get an email account so he does not get several phone calls every time I have a bike question. I will buy the part from him if it is possible and affordable to get it down here. PS the wheels that he built are still holding up perfect and if you are looking for a wheel builder go to Ed. A good wheel builder is a rare find now a days.
Tim and I will be attending Spanish School for the next three weeks. I have decided to limit my use of English and plan on putting a summary together of our experience at school when we have completed our mini semester. Tim on the other hand welcomes your English or Spanish email.
Tim and Cindie Travis
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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