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First, I know that many of you have been having trouble sending us email. I sure hate to hear this because email is our only communication now that we are south of the border. The phone cost about US$1/min to the US and is way out of our budget. Please keep trying to send us email if you are having trouble. Try using Contact us if you have not already done so. Also, I am not sure if anyone received our last email update. I had very few responses. Please check the web site in the LETTERS section or http://www.DownTheRoad.org\Letters\5GaunMex.htm to see if you did. I am still learning this "drag you computer around the world thing" and need help figuring out what is working and what is not. Please let me know about any problems you may be experiencing.
After a month in Guanajuato we are ready get back on the road. It is a funny thing. When we are on the road, in the country, and camping a lot we really look forward to the next extended stop in the city. When we get to the city it does not take long before we miss riding among the fields and seeing something new and unexpected every day. I think that this is the stuff that Rock or Blues songs are often based on. We stayed in Guanajuato a bit longer than we expected because of unforeseen events. It is a fun place because it is full of Mexican university students and foreign tourists but I much prefer the ways and customs of the people in the country. The salt of the earth. The real Mexico.
It was either something about Guanajuato or it was just our turn but we spent about half of our time being sick. You know, the kind of sick that makes you spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Even with drinking only purified water and following all of the standard rules of selecting and eating food we still got it. From what I read and understand travelers eventually build up a resistance to the different forms of bacteria and stop getting sick. It is not that Mexico is particularly unhygienic or dirty. As a culture I find Mexicans very clean and hygienic. The problem lies in the fact that there are just different bacteria down here than in the USA. When Mexicans travel to the USA they have to buy bottled water and still get sick. The US has different bugs than they are used to. I also read that when you spend long enough away from your home country that you will get sick when you return until you get used to it again.
Not only did Cindie and I battle sickness but our laptop caught a virus as well. The blame is mine. I had not downloaded the most current virus definitions for my anti-virus software and caught a bug when I opened an email attachment. The first thing the darn thing did was disable my anti virus software. I had to run around town looking for a new CD ROM. It took some doing but I finally found a disk and loaded the new software and killed it. It really took a lot more than that but I do not wish to bore you with the technical details. The good thing was that I spent several hours in a computer repair shop and now I know most of the Spanish words concerning computers. I gained some life long friends in that shop and promised that someday I would write to them in Spanish. I know that the virus I had uses your email program to send fake emails with malicious file attachments. I hope that I did not send any out but I know that I was online a few minutes before I realized I had it. I rarely send file attachments with my emails so if you get an email from me with a file attachment do not open it. Kill it and please let me know about it.
One of the reasons that we stayed so long in Guanajuato was that We were waiting for mail order packages to arrive from the USA. My bike had been making this terrible clicking sound every time my left foot came down during my pedal stroke. I was convinced that it was my bottom bracket and even wrote about it in the last email update. Besides pulling it apart in a small town plaza (and drawing a crowd of kids) I had not had the time to really look at it. Once in Guanajuato I could actually pull everything apart. I started experimenting. I had to buy a full size adjustable wrench for my bottom bracket tool in order to completely remove the bottom bracket. I switched bottom brackets with Cindie's bike and we went riding. To my amazement my bike still made the clicking noise. This ruled out the bottom bracket. Next, I switched the left crank arms with Cindie's bike and now Cindie's bike made the noise. I had a defective crank arm. How did that happen? I bought it new and had it installed in a bike shop just a few months ago. I use 180mm crank arms that are almost never carried in a US bike shop much less in Mexico. We did the only thing that we knew would work. We ordered it from Performance Bicycle, Inc It cost a bunch in international shipping. WOW!! Can I warrantee the old one?
Another piece of broken equipment was our ceramic water filter. This is totally my fault and falls under the category of STUFF happens. I was cleaning it and dropped it. oops!! The ceramic filter had a large gaping crack. It was rendered useless. Where do you find a fancy Swiss made water filter in Mexico? Actually I bet you could find it in Mexico City. The largest city in the world of 20 million has a store for everything but we are a good five hour bus ride away. I hate busses. This was another thing that had to be ordered. We got on the famous REI.com web page and got it in a couple days. This cost a bit more than the crank. Ouch!! I promise to be more careful in the future.
Ending on a positive note Guanajuato and the language school was a lot of fun despite our set backs. Cindie and I feel like we finally have enough base knowledge to pick up more Spanish in conversation while on the road. I am really understanding people and my vocabulary is finally large enough to get my point across. Cindie really worked hard at it and easily surpassed me. I was the guy who got D's in English so I was not surprised that learning Spanish will be slow for me. Cindie will catch me up. It is Mexican custom for the man to do most of the talking in restaurants, hotels, and all matters of money. This is especially true in the small country villages that we frequent. I am sure that I will learn more as we go. I hope that when we arrive in Chile, in two more years, that I will be fluent or at least be able to BS with the boys in the cantinas. Time will tell.
There is a more detailed description of our experience on the web site called "Learning Spanish at Casa Mexicana" if you are interested.
I have mixed feelings about Guanajuato, there are things I really like about it and things I did not like about it. First of all the city is beautiful, interesting and has a ton of places to explore. The Spanish class went well but I found myself speaking more English then Spanish outside of class. Oh well, I met some wonderful people. What I did not like was the buses flying passed me on the narrow streets.
Tim and I went to the city of Leon looking for bike parts, we rode our bikes to the bus station 5 km out of town. The road out of town did not have any tunnels however, the road back into town did. The ride through the tunnel was hair raising. First, I started to walk and then came across a dead puppy, I decided that I better get out of the tunnel before I ended up like the puppy. I finally get out and settled down and back into another tunnel we go. In hind sight, I think I will hitch a ride in truck the next time.
I happened to go shopping in San Miguel de Allende one day with four women I met from Spanish class. On the way back we lost our brakes in the car and bounced around until we stopped. Luckily no one was hurt, a little shocked but not hurt. Getting in an automobile accident in Mexico is something of a circus. You can read about the details on the web in an article called "Cindie's Car Crash: a Mexican Experience"
All is well and I am ready to get on the road again.
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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