Archive for April, 2010

Day 36 (4/23): Midland, TX to Andrews, TX

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Wind direction has been inconsistent from day to day. Yesterday I was propelled. Today I am pushing a concrete block. Worst headwind I’ve ever seen! Oncoming trucks kick up dust, and the wind sandblasts me with it. Sand in eyes and on teeth. I stop to pee and my droplets land 3 meters away. A flag is flying half torn off the flag post. Just getting on the bike is treacherous; savage wind gusts shove it around.

It is not productive to ride any further, so I cut the day short in Andrews, TX and go to the library. Looking up the weather forecast: 40 mph winds out of the west continuing overnight. That’s it, I’m staying here and catching up on blogging, and will try to upload the latest set of trip photos.

Day 35: Midland, TX

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The route takes me through the Permian basin oil fields.  I breathe in the warm velvet that’s in the air. (However, it maybe hydrogen sulfide, in which case I shouldn’t be breathing that stuff in!)  At least 20 pump jacks can be seen around the countryside at any time.  They lower their heads slowly to feed on something in the grass.  Some are motionless, resting.  Wind carries the tired, irregular heartbeats of their motors.  Pah-pah… Pah-pah-pah…

The pavement’s color changes at each county line:  Caribbean-beach white, thundercloud gray, desert maroon, coal black.  But the quality of the pavement is invariably crappy.  It’s chip seal — nickel-sized gravel pressed half-way into a binding agent. Very rough.  Luckily, each lane has two shiny black tracks where millions of truck tires have left some of their rubber, smoothing the roughness a bit.  I’ve cycled in 23 U.S. states; Texas has the worst pavement.  Hoping that New Mexico’s roads use normal asphalt.

Very few sedans in TX, mostly trucks.

In the afternoon I have an incident:  I run out of water with 60 miles to go to the next town.  After lunch in Big Lake I saw a town on the map — Stiles — just 15 miles ahead, and rode on with just 300 ml of water in my bottles, thinking I’ll fill up in Stiles.  It turns out to be a ghost town!  But I’m not very worried:  there’s traffic and worst comes to worst I can flag someone down and ask for water.  Soon I see a house.  I pull up, walk around, knock on doors and windows — no response.  So I fill my bottles from the garden hose, but the water tastes salty.  Who knows whether it’s potable, so I drop some iodine in them and go on.  However, even that was not necessary, as I soon come across another house.  The owner is there and he gives me clean water.  The lesson?  In the West you can’t rely on the map alone; got to also ask the locals about the sizes of towns ahead.

Flying on strong south tailwind.  It lets me sustain 26 mph without breaking a sweat on flat ground — twice the normal speed.  With some effort I can do 30 mph!  As a result, today I cover 113 miles.

The evening in Midland is a stage for a huge storm.  The most vicious storm I’ve ever seen.  It continuously illuminates the sky with lightning and thunder, pummels the town with hail and a wall of water, and leaves behind rivers on the streets.  Though the storm passes quickly, the eastern and southern skies remain light as day for at least another hour.  But it’s much quieter now.  The TV shows a radar image of a 10-by-100-mile solid belt of storms moving east at 45 mph.

Day 34: Middle of nowhere, 37 miles west of Eldorado, TX.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I’ve invented a handy trick for memorizing stuff I want to put in this blog (in the past I would stop and write thoughts down, but it wasted riding time).  I turn thoughts into visual images and pile them up together.  For instance, I cycle and remember that I wanted to mention prickly pears when writing about roadside wildflowers.  Ok:  an image of a big cactus in the field of bluebonnets.  Then I realize that I’ve forgotten to include the story of my ruined chargers in my San Antonio entry.  No problem:  big cactus surrounded by bluebonnets, with phone chargers hanging off of it.  Later I remember that I had wanted to talk about the people back in Mexico.  I also want to thank my friend Vova for reprimanding my faint-hearted thoughts of not going through Mexico.  I end up with this final image of the day:  a field of bluebonnets with a big cactus in the middle, electrical chargers hanging on its spikes, and Vova engaged in lively conversation with a bunch of Mexicans sitting in a circle around the cactus.

The trick can hold together only so many unrelated concepts, but is sufficient for a day’s worth of thoughts.  Then I arrive at the destination and unload them onto paper or into a computer.


I ride for 50 miles through the last remnants of the Hill Country and the route finally rises to a 3,000-foot high plateau, where it will stay until well into New Mexico.  Past Eldorado, where I grab a late-afternoon lunch, I turn onto the remote west-bound highway 190 and all traffic disappears.  I’m finally alone, one-on-one with the silent plain.  The evening sun hangs directly ahead.  Very peaceful.

30 miles west I reach the trip’s 2,000-mile point just as the sun touches the horizon.  I’m satisfied and begin looking for a place to camp.  I don’t want to camp right next to the highway, but everything is fenced off.  Seven more miles and a range dirt road opens through a gate and cattle guard onto the highway.  Good enough!  That’s my place, just behind the gate, on the grass next to the dirt road.  I’m concerned about rattlers and scorpions, so am very deliberate and careful where I step.

The setup is comfy but I get only fitful, tossy-turny kind of sleep.  The southern wind has picked up and thrashes my tent about all night, threatening to tear or collapse it.  Plus I feel sticky from the day’s sweat.  The good thing is I’m turning north tomorrow, so the wind will push me forward.

I’m not truly in the middle of nowhere.  Just two miles south are several brightly lit oil rigs.  The sounds of around-the-clock oilfield work reach my tent.

New photo album: Northeast Mexico + Texas

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Day 33: Comfort, TX to Menard, TX

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The hills of the Hill Country are gradually straightening and I enter mostly flat, semi-forrested cattle country.  A few rocky buttes.  I enjoy this abundance of open space more than the pretty hills before.  But the last stretch of the day is a remote and empty westbound road that again up-and-downs through many low hills.

Amazing thick carpets of wild flowers along the road, very colorful.  There are Texas bluebonnets, black-eyed Suzies, Indian paintbrushes, and a few others.  Cows and cacti float on the waves of bluebonnets, the state flower.  I wonder whether the cows actually eat the flowers.

Ranches cover most of Texas.  I still have not seen any land that is not fenced.  (If you want to hunt, you buy a $2,000/year license from a land owner.  The average ranch size is 4 sq. mi.)

Deer jump from the ranches over the fence.  They cross the road in front of me in several leaps – hooves slipping on pavement – then pick up speed on the grass and soar over the fence on the other side.  One is not as agile.  It hits the fence hard and tumbles over into the bushes.

A lot of cattle grazing just behind the fence.  Cows, sheep, goats, horses, ostrich, lamas.  The strange red monster on two circular legs spooks the young and they dash for the trees.  Often the whole herd takes off and stampedes away.  I can’t help my instinct of pursuit, and loudly hoot and whistle at them.  I feel a pinch of remorse but hey, a little exercise can’t hurt them.  Horses are different:  my hooting gets them gallopping toward me! 

Soon I spy my first wild boar, which looks basically like a black pig with fangs.  Had only seen a dead one before.  I was removing the staple from my tire at a gas station when a pickup pulled up.  In its bed stood a cage full of wild-eyed hounds and strapped to the top lay a big black boar with a plastic bottle fastened in his jaws.

The first junipers begin showing up here and there.  These evergreen dwellers of badlands and high deserts are a welcome sight.  The fresh aroma of needles is faint the air.  The air is noticeably drier than before.  Last night it was so chilly I had to put on everything I had, including my fleece, rain jacket, and wool socks.  Even during the day it’s chilly in the shade.

The night sets in and the highway takes a big dip down to the San Saba River and the town of Menard, where I’ll spend the night.

Day 32 (4/19): San Antonio, TX to Comfort, TX

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Spent a very relaxing Sunday with Dan & Carla.  My uncle and aunt (Dan’s parents) came over and were completely surprised to see me in Texas.  Dinner, movies, beer, wine — a very pleasant day.

And the 7-day rainy streak is finally over!

Today we dropped Masha’s bike at a bike shop for packaging.  Masha needs to prepare an article for publication, so the plan is for her to have the bike shipped ahead to Roswell, NM and fly to NYC.  We meet up in Roswell in a week to continue the ride together.

I got an unpleasant rusprise:  the rains killed both my phone’s and my camera’s chargers, despite careful packing in plastic.  I took Dan’s camera chager (identical to mine!) and ordered one for him online.  Then went to a Best Buy and got a new phone (they didn’t have my type of charger) — and a pleasant surprise:   they gave me a 50% discount. 

It was an errand-filled morning, so I only got as far as Comfort, just 38 miles away.  It’s in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.  Somebody had told us that it’s ”amazingly beautiful”.  Pretty, yes, but amazing, no.

Camping, illegally, in the town park, nobody around to worry about.  Plus my olive tent blends in nicely. 

Texas has something I haven’t seen in other states:  frontage roads.  They are access roads that line both sides of major freeways and are safer for cycling than the freeway itself.  However they sometimes veer far from the main road or end altogether, and are not on my map, so their helpfulness is limited.

Day 30 (4/17): North-west edge of San Antonio, TX

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’ve realized that I’m really thankful to my friend Vova Kuperman.   When planning the trip and considering riding through Mexico, I was having my fears about the drug war and concerns about my lack of Spanish.  I finally decided to scratch Mexico and start the trip in Florida.  But when I mentioned it to Vova, he said I was lame.  Lame indeed!  Mexico turned out to be a much more enriching experience than touring the familiar U.S. states would have been.


Heading for my relatives’ house on the north-west outskirts of San Antonio, just outside the outer ring highway.  It was a long day (94 miles) and we got a little lost crossing San Antonio, so we finally reached the house around midnight.  A little nerve-wracking riding through the heavy traffic of the city.  We even got pulled over by a cop, who suggested a safer alternative route.  We took it gladly.

It was the 7th straight day of rain.  It poured hard, but luckily not all day long like yesterday.  We need a break.  We also could use some new scenery.  It’s just the same old rolling hills.  But the wildflowers give the eyes some rest.

I got my first real puncture; it turned out to be a staple.  (The other 2 flats had been caused by failure of the tube, not by a puncture through the tire.)

Day 29: Premont, TX to Three Rivers, TX

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Champion rain!  Heavy and un-endnig.  The whole sky is impenetrable.  Fields have become paddies; some are lakes.  It’s impressive to observe the highway drainage system stress-tested.  It seems on the brink of of overflowing, but the road has not become inundated.  All the ditches, normally dry, are now whitewater class I-II.

We need to be covering distance, so we reluctantly begin the long wet slog.  I’m not concerned about getting cold;  just annoyed at having to dry everything and lube the bikes — again!

My mind wanders and I have an epiphany.  It’s things like this deluge that make these bike trips so enjoyable.  They give you a full palette of emotions and sensations:  freezing cold, scalding heat, awe, profound calm, hunger and thirst, sometimes gnawing fear or moments of terror, annoyance, thankfulness, exhaustion to the point of nausea, and simple unadulterated happiness.  This stuff teaches you raw, direct appreciation of ilfe.

Alpinism is probably the only other sport where you get this range of extremes, except even more condensed in time.  I vividly recall our adventures on Mount Rainier last August, when we scaled the technical Kautz Glacier route.

In the evening we finally see a sharp border in the cloud cover ahead.  It’s yellowish-gray on on one side, orange on the other.  Still no brilliant blues and whites that had marked the passing of storms in the past few days.

Day 28: Edinburg, TX to Premont, TX

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Just 2 days into the U.S., and we already have had strangers offer us food, drink, shelter, and even cash.

Dogs in Texas are more annoying than those in Mexico.  Harder to shake them off.  But they understand, and are scared by, the same body language, e.g. pretending to be picking up or throwing a rock.

Flat landscape of grassy woodland with colorful wildflowers along the road (US-281 North).

Masha took a Greyhound bus.  I’m cycling.  Encountered a border checkpoint well into the U.S. interior.  I find it strange.  What if I was just cycling without carrying any ID?  Would they arrest me?

Day 27 (4/14): We’ve crossed into the U.S.!

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

We crossed the Rio Bravo / Rio Grande into the U.S. today!  We chose the crossing at the Puente Internacional Libre Comercio (at Los Indios, TX) to avoid the large towns, Matamoros and Reynosa, which are supposedly dangerous.  The Mexican portion of the trip came out to 1,480 miles / 2,381 km.  The border crossing was completely anticlimactic:  we were waved through on the Mexican side without having to stop or show anything.  Took a few minutes for photos on the bridge.  The Rio Grande is not at all grande.  The U.S. customs glanced at the passports and wished us a good day.  The whole thing took 5 minutes.

Sailed a powerful tailwind into Edinburg, TX and called it a day at a Motel 6.  All our clothes are soggy and stinky from four days of rain and no opportunity to properly dry things.  Looking forward to machine washing and drying everything.

Masha and I had wondered what would be different on this side of the border.  A few things.  Mowed lawns!  Also, everything is wider and bigger (streets, stores, malls).  But the roads are actually a little shoddier and muddier/dustier than in Mexico.  The fields are just as flat and endless, but unlike the last two days in Mexico, we see crops other than corn:  onions, cabbage, and other plants we can’t identify.  Everyone speaks Spanish, and some folks do not speak any English.   And there’s the comfortable feeling that we are home.  And road signs — they are in English.  Oh, yeah, and I can’t stop drinking water straight out of the faucet.  One cool way that Texas is like Mexico is that cycling is allowed on controlled-access highways.

I’ve enjoyed my Mexico experience a lot and definitely want to come back in the future.  The friendly, helpful, merry, kind, generous Mexicans were the main attribute of the trip.  The cuisine and natural beauty were of lesser importance.  Next time I’ll explore more mountainous regions of the country.  Just remembered something:  I would be riding shirtless through a town in my spandex shorts and it would get whole families giggling.  How adorable! 

As to bicycle touring.  Do it only if you know which roads have shoulder and not too much traffic.  Otherwise it’s too risky.  Generally the roads were good to excellent, but we had three dangerous sections (heavy traffic + no shoulder):  between Catemaco and Alvarado, between Jose Cardel and Monte Gordo, and between Naranjos and Tampico.  The possibility of encountering more such roads was one of the reasons we decided against the original plan to cross the border in Piedras Negras / Eagle Pass.

Day 26 (4/13): San Fernando to Valle Hermoso

Friday, April 16th, 2010

We have a new daily weather pattern now:  rain!  We go in and out of the rain all day and don’t even bother putting our jackets on anymore.  We get soaked, then the clothes almost dry out and we get soaked again.

The roads have been really excellent the past few days. 

It’s totally flat and corn fields stretch to the horizon.  66 miles of nothing but corn.  The stalks are still young, only 2-3 feet tall.  Each stretch of field is marked with plackards indicating the corn variety.  Dekalb D-47, DKS-60, D-2020Y, and so on.

We pass a disturbing number of roadside memorials.  I counted 27 crosses in 30 kilometers.  We have traveled almost 2,500 km on this highway. Some memorials have up to 5 crosses.

After last night’s brush with the Mexican drug war, naturally the first thing we ask about in Valle Hermoso is whether it’s dangerous in the streets at night.   People tell us that no, and as confirmation, the streets remain lively late into the night despite the rain.  Masha and I go to see Alicia en el pais de las marravillas, but end up leaving because the movie sucks

We cross the U.S./Mexico border tomorrow and are both curious how things will be different in the U.S.

Day 25: Soto la Marina to San Fernando

Friday, April 16th, 2010

We’re staying in San Fernando guest house for free – courtesy of the kind owner who took pity because of Masha’s sorry appearance after the rain.

The town is cursed.  Though it’s lively during the day, by 9 p.m. everyone hunkers down in fear.  Masha and I bought groceries at an Oxxo (a convenience store chain) and were about to leave when the workers literally grabbed us, pointing to the street, “You can’t go.  Look!”  Fifteen 4-door pickups full of armed men passed in a convoy along the main street.  Turns out, San Fernando is a seat of one of Mexico’s warring drug cartels. 

We rushed back to our room wondering whether things would stay like that, now that we were approaching the border.


Masha had been tired and took a bus here.  I biked.

It rained most of the day.  Massive black clouds moved across the sky, but my instinctive animal fear of being alone in the middle of  a stormy wide plain has dissolved.  I actually enjoyed riding in the warm rain.  The only thing that kept bugging me was the damn rear wheel splashing mud all over me.   At times the fountain reached over my head and landed on the map in front of me!

This is the most desolate stretch so far.  I did a count:  just 13 cars in 20 minutes in both directions.  No people.  Not even cows.

Cactuses are blooming.  Prickly pears in yellow, and tall ones (don’t know the name) in huge grape-like bunches of tender off-white color.  There are also some blue agaves.

As I approach San Fernando, the road spur gets hilly and even emptier than the road before.  I see the town from the top of one of the hills and an overwhelming wave of calm passes over me.  The rain picks up again, but I feel so good it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  I want to prolong this, so I get off the road, pull out the remainder of last night’s tequila, and savor the moment.

Day 24 (4/11): Manuel to Soto la Marina

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Whew, a 12-hour ride, 94 miles.  That´s a longish day, especially for Masha´s second day on the road.  And good thing we left early, 7:30, for we made it to la Marina as it was getting dark.

Some of best scenery of the entire trip.  Route 180 here is a shortcut in the Tampico-Victoria-San Fernando artery.  It cuts across a vast semi-arid plain.  Surrounded by distant hills and mesas, dry grasses, cactuses, desert-like shrubs and trees, but at the same time, not quite desert.  A lot of toy cows and sheep grazing on picturesque pastures.  The cows turn their heads and stare at us in mute bewilderment. 

Light traffic, very remote, only 3 villages in the 94-mile stretch.

We cross the Tropic of Cancer in late afternoon and I get another flat. 

What’s going on with my front wheel?  This time I have no spare, so I take the wheel off to patch the tube.  Once again it´s a failure of the tube, not the tire.  One of the seams in the tube has come apart.  I patch it and we ride on. 

Drivers are exceptionally friendly.  Every car passes with approving double-honks, arms stuck out with thumbs up, or waiving their hands.

Day 23: Tampico to Manuel

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Left late because had decided to postpone assembling Masha´s bike until morning.  Luckily it has survived the non-professional packaging and the trip in fine shape.

Got a flat, my first of this trip.  Put in a brand-new Kenda spare tube to save time and repair the flat tube tonight.  I had been hoping to completely avoid punctures because of my proven tires.  Well, such is life.

Masha is riding well.  Decided to end the day in Manuel, after just 51 miles because it was already 5:30 and the next town, Aldama, is 36 km away.  We feel strong, but may not make it there before dark.  Better ease Masha into the trip gradually anyway.

In the hotel at night inspected the tube.  Turns out, there is no puncture after all!  Instead, it´s the old tube that failed.  The air leaks next to the valve.  Push the valve sideways, the air leaks.  Let it spring back, the air stops leaking.  That explains why the wheel took long to deflate.

In any case, trust in my tires has been restored.

It´s night.  We drink tequila and swim naked in the hotel pool in the rain.

New photo album uploaded: Carmen to Tampico

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Don’t forget about our interactive map!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The map is updated every day (which is something I can’t say about this blog, unfortunately):

Day 22: Tampico

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Met Masha late at night at the airport.  She has gone through quite an adventure to get here.  Her bike had been in Carmen.  She flew JFK – Mexico – Carmen, carrying an empty bike box (you can’t easily find one in Mexico).  Disassembled and packed the bike in Carmen without having ever done that before.  Flew Carmen – MEX – Tampico.  Four flights in one day. There were no large taxis, so we stuffed the box in a tiny one by folding the rear seats and slamming the rear door.  Masha sat in the front and I squeezed sideways next to the bike in the rear.

I spent two nights and a day in Tampico’s downtown and found it unremarkable.  Everything closed early and streets were empty by 9 p.m.  Every other town or village visited so far had some level of festivity in the plaza at night.  But maybe I just wasn’t at the right place & time.   Tampico has two central plazas, which is cool.  Avenida Hidalgo is a long commercial strip like those typical in the U.S., with all the requisite car dealerships and fast food chains.  Haven’t seen anything like that anywhere in Mexico.

It’s late and we put off bike assembly till morning.  Fingers crossed that nothing is bent or damaged in transit.

Day 21: Naranjos to Tampico

Friday, April 9th, 2010

So much for regular weather patterns!  Direct headwind is blowing rain at a 30-degree angle to the ground.  Feels like thousands of nails are piercing my skin.  Head down to protect the eyes.  No point in trying to wait out the weather, for who knows when it´ll improve.

The rain stoped after 3 hours, but the headwind kept blowing just as hard all day.  I couldn´t go more than 7-8 miles an hour.

I had taken off my fenders for this trip to conserve weight.  (Hadn´t found them useful during last trip since we rarely rode in the rain.)  What was I thinking?  Just five minutes in, and my bike was covered in mud and the rear wheel had splattered a soggy layer of mud on my wet t-shirt.

It´s chilly.  The shirt eventually dries out and I put on my windbreaker.

Good pavement all day, but narrow shoulder and heavy traffic in both directions add to the ongoing misery.

At one point the wind began to carry a concentrated stench of boiled bone.  The source of the smell revealed itself in a few seconds:  hundreds of cow skeletons piled up two stories high next to the road.  Skulls, spines, ribs, patches of hide — all mixed together in one gruesome mess.  I didn´t stop to take a picture for I likely wouldn´t be able to stomach imersing myself in the smell and the sight.

I finally reached the modern Tampico Bridge over the Panuco, enjoyed the view of Tampico and Madera from the top, and descended into the downtown.  Rode straight to Hotel Plaza, the first of the hotels listed in my Lonely Planet pages, booked a rom, and began the tedious process of washing off the mud from all my clothes and gear.

I have no patience left to also wash my bike and oil the chain.  Will do so tomorrow, for I have a full day in Tampico.

Tampico is just over the border in my 6th Mexican state:  Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas.

Masha is flying in tomorow night.

Day 20: Tihuatlan to Naranjos

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Nothing to say except that I´m in a cyclist´s paradise!  The country road is so perfectly smooth, with the traffic so light and the shoulder so wide, that I forget that I´m in Mexico.  I´m magically teleported to Connecticut´s route 10 between New Haven and West Hartford.  Everything is precisely the same:  the scenery, the weather, everything.

Yep, I know, I´ve been drawing comparisons between Mexican and U.S. roads.  Such comparisons are inescapable whenever I see a memorable road or place.

By the way, I´ve noticed a daily weather pattern.  The day usually begins fully overcast, cool, and humid, sometimes with tangible droplets of moisture suspended in the air.  Around 10 a.m. the first ray of sun carefully tests the waters and hides again.  Two or three more rays over the next couple hours.  Then the sun comes out in full strength and never leaves until sunset.  The humidity subsides noticeably as the sun picks up and though the heat is not as comfortable as it would be in a desert, it´s bearable.  At 2 p.m. I feel a noticeable shift in the direction and intensity of the sun´s heat and the last 2-3 hours of riding are relaxing and enjoyable.

Contrary to what Jose from Carmen told Masha and me, the winds on this side of Mexico have been predominantly from the south, i.e. favorable to our riding.

Day 19 (4/6): Monte Gordo to Tihuatlan

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I´ve been struggling through vivid disturbing dreams lately.  The Mexican government must be secretly mixing something into all salsa, bottled water, beer, and masa as part of a conspiracy to control the citizens.

Five miles north or Monte Gordo, Route 180 leaves the riviera that is Costa Esmeralda and turns inland for a while.

I was eating a quick morning sandwich at a gas station when a wave of reluctance to ride overcame me.  What had I gotten myself into?  What was the point of all this cycling?  But I got myself back on track by reminding myself to take the trip one day at a time and just relax.  The rewards in the form of memorable experiences and people would continue to accumulate.

Everything around is very verdant.  First pastures, then a steep-walled, meandering canyon covered in dense jungle.  The road snakes along the wall, and luckily does not rise and fall too much.

One last curve, and the canyon openes up and spills into a wide (2-3 km) valley of a major river that carries its waters to the Gulf.

I cross the valley and the highway begins to rise into the next maze of narrow green canyons, except this time it doesn not follow their contours.  It is an engineering marvel, built via the “cut and fill” method.  The builders have blasted deep trenches straight through the hils and used the excavated rock and soil to fill valleys between them.  As a result, the road is straight and flat, never exceeding a 3-4% grade.   The U.S. Route 50 between Parkersburg and Clarksburg in West Virginia is another example of this type of road.

The magic number 1,000 (miles) on my trip odometer would have passed unnoticed today, except I noticed it and took a photo.

My map is a little outdated, but the signs have been decent and I have been asking directions a lot, so I haven´t gotten lost yet.  But today I find myself at an unexpected t-junction in a remote highway.  I stop to stare at the map for clues that are not there, and two seconds later an angel on a moped pulls up and points me in the right direction.

Eventuall I cross three big valles and countless smal ones.  The fertile floors of the big valleys are covered with corn fields and geometrically neat orange plantations.

The town of Tihuatlan boasts what looks like a replica of Rio de Janeiro´s Christ the Redeemer.  It stands in the high saddle betwen two hills overloking the town.  I find a hotel, go through my routine, and go for a tasty bite in the otherwise ordinary working Mexican small town.