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A good ride is from San Pedro Mixtepec to La Reforma (To read about the ride to San Pedro click here.). For some reason I was little apprehensive about it. I have driven the route a few times and in my memory it seemed like it would be a difficult ride on a bike. In my mind it was long up hills and down hills and up and down and up and down. Now that I have done it on a bike I was correct. Up and down and up and down and up and down. I wanted to get an early start because I know it can get brutally hot out there in the hills with no ocean breeze to cool things off. I had planned to leave at daylight but the day I did the ride it rained the night before and when I woke up there was still cloud cover so I didn’t rush it. I ended up getting to the take off point at about 8:00 AM. The ride is too long and far away to ride my bike to the intersection with the Puerto Escondido/Oaxaca road so I drove and parked and rode from there. Even though there was cloud cover it turned humid and muggy. The clouds went away in the middle of the ride. It didn’t seem to be a bother though. At least no more bother than it ever is when I’m riding my bike and it's sunny and it is about 90° and humidity is about 85%. In other words it was miserable. It was about 3° cooler when there was cloud cover so I almost brought a jacket (just kidding).
The ride starts out as an up hill for a while and from there goes down and up and down and up and down. My memory was correct in that regard. There was a little bit of flat in areas but it was mainly ups and downs which were not real severe in length but at times relatively steep. There were no real gravely spots either. Gravel on steep hills is a bummer. Gravel on any hill is a bummer. No real gravel on this road. That is good. I have an iPod that I ride with and for me it makes the hard parts go by faster. The iPod is pretty nice because besides music I can download podcasts of different things. I listen to all kinds of things. I have “Science Channel” podcasts and a couple different programs from NPR (“This American Life”, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”, “Car Talk”), sometimes 60 Minutes, all the Sunday morning talk shows, “Leo Laporte – The Tech Guy” and more. Its pretty cool… ah, warm? Whatever. When I’m listening to something it seems to make the hills go by faster. It gives me something else to think about besides the agony of dying a slow death and watching it drip off my face. I wonder if the brake cables will ever rust thru where sweat drips on them where they travel across the “top tube” of the frame. Ummmm. I’ll get back to you. There are not many houses along this route. Families are sprinkled here and there along the way but there are no clusters. No real communities. Dare I say no hamlets or villages until La Reforma? I did see some people walking along and a couple collectivos that travel from La Reforma to San Pedro. All in all though, it is a very lightly traveled road. At least on the day I rode it.
At about 15 kilometers there is a new bridge to the town of La Reforma. Just a couple years ago any car that went to La Reforma had to cross the river in the river. You never knew if it was ok and there were a lot of rocks to drive over and it was pretty lame. Now there is a bridge. It’s a nice bride too. It is a bridge that La Reforma really needed. The town of La Reforma is about ½ kilometer farther than the bridge. There is not much in La Reforma. A couple very small stores that have next to nothing and I think a small school and a church I think but I didn’t see it. I wanted to get back before it got too hot. Coming to La Reforma there is a kind of long down hill that comes to the bridge and that was on my mind as I was in the town and I couldn’t think about anything else. The sun had come out and it was warming right up so I pretty much just turned around and went back. If you go past La Reforma there is a waterfall that is especially nice. It is on the road that just goes past the town and it about 3.5 - 4 miles from the town. It is really a high big waterfall. It runs all year long but can be a little muddy in the rainy season. Not always but sometimes. Be aware; it is a bit of a hike to the falls from where you park. It’s not really that far but is a bit difficult. I’ve been to the waterfall a few times but the worst time was the first time. The road from La Reforma was horrible.
It was not much more than a donkey track. We drove and at a couple places it was almost impassable. We (there were three cars on that trip, all 4x4) made it but while we were there it started raining and we could not tell if it was going to last 3 minutes or three hours. We could not tell how hard it was going to rain either. I was worried about how the river was going to be if it started to fill up with water. Remember there was no bridge at that time. It turned out the worst part was the road itself. It got real slimy and if you put on the brakes on any kind of slope/hill the truck would just slide. It was really possible to slide right off the side of the hill and I’m not talking about landing in a ditch. I’m talking about landing in the river many feet below. We had toddlers with us as well so that was a consideration. It was all very scary. Needless to say we made it but one of the vehicles ended up with a hole in its oil pan. I guess it was a little bitty hole because I didn’t hear about it for a few days afterward. The truck didn’t get stuck on the road back without any oil. The river was completely passable where we had to drive through the river so we made it home to live another day. It really was quite an adventure. The times after that trip the road was never in the horrible condition it was in that first time. One time I rode a bike from La Reforma to the waterfall. That is an alright ride as well but it was slow going. It was a couple years ago and the trip is not fresh enough in my mind to describe it well. I guess you’re lucky. Haha. So with the sun out and he air warming up I started the ride back looking forward to that fairly long hill. This hill is nowhere near as long as the hill on the pavement going to San Pedro from El Centro but dirt hills are much more difficult so a dirt hill about 1/3 the length of a paved hill is about equivalent in difficulty. At least for me. Maybe ½ the length. I’m a big guy and I have a little pack on the back of my bike that ends up weighing a few pounds with the stuff I end up taking.
I take a camera and a lock and a cell phone and some money and a couple tools and an extra tube and a few more little tools and a hat and binoculars sometimes and it adds up to real weight. Also I carry two water bottles and on this trip I brought along an extra bottle of water that was the size of more than two of my bike bottles (Did you know that a large bottle of water costs 8 pesos in San Pedro Mixtepec whereas it cost 10-12 pesos in Puerto Escondido? That is ridiculous isn’t it? That’s 25%-50% difference.) So the load gets a little heavy and on those hills it can make me feel like I’m dying a little quicker.
Oh don’t forget about the little tire pump too. The little piece of dog manure tire pump. I was about two kilometers from my truck on the way back and I got a flat tire. At the time I was not too concerned because I have that tube and a tire pump and some patches and all the tools I need and life is good… Not so much. I got the tire off and the damaged tube out, which is no big deal at all. I put the other tube in and got the tire on the rim and went to pump it up with my trusty little tire pump. Of course the pump turns out to be a PIECE OF SHIT. A horrible terrible joke! A worthless piece of (probably) Chinese trash. The package it came in was probably worth more than this ridiculous hunk of trash two miles from my truck in the hotter than hell sun and as humid as being in a steam bath with not a soul on the road for hours and hours after I road my bike on a dirt ditch for 20 miles to hell and back over hill and dale in the middle of nowhere and I was pretty tired.
The damn thing fell apart in my hands as I was pumping. When I needed it the most. As far as I was concerned my life was on the line. The head of the pump came off the shaft and the attachment where it attaches to the tube would not tighten enough to keep it from leaking when I pumped and as it is the stupid thing only pumps about 1/300 of the amount of air for each stroke I would need to fill the tire with air. Maybe it was 1/200. How would I know? I never got the chance to actually fill the tire because the pump was such a piece of junk. I gingerly put the thing back together being careful to not tighten anything too tight as to have it explode in my hands again and gingerly attached it to the tire and sloooooowly pumped without moving or jiggling and holding my breath with each stroke… one… two… three… four… five… slowly, slowly, stopping to take a breath and finally getting enough air in the tire so that when I sat on the bike the rim would not be touching the ground as I rode, sweating a puddle on the ground from worry and heat and humidity. Oh man, why am I reliving this nightmare? I mean I almost had to walk a mile and a half to my truck. Am I being overly dramatic here? Just because everybody else in this neck of the woods walks for miles and miles and miles every day with bundles of wood and baskets and rocks and who knows what else on the their head doesn’t mean I can’t think of myself stranded in the middle of the Lancandonian jungle with a hike of thousands of meters to get out as being extremely inconvenienced. Did I mention it was hot? Ok, I’m blowing this incredibly out of proportion. It was really no big deal. In fact I was really not angry at all. I was actually chuckling to myself at the time. Here I thought that I was all set up for an emergency and was at ease with the thought of something like this happening and when the time came the pump was close to worthless. Well, a lot better than worthless but when that thing blew apart in my hand it was pretty comical. Also I was pretty close to the end of the road. The walk would have been nothing. Even if I was at the farthest distance I could have been, somebody would have come by. I had a flat on another ride and about 5 cars/trucks that came by asked if I needed help. There is really no worry of being stranded in these situations. Just for an instant though… I made it back to my truck on my crippled bike. When I got home I glued the pump together and hopefully it won’t let me down the next time I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere with wolves lying in wait and ants at the ready to carry away the detritus. In the end the ride from San Pedro to La Reforma is a good ride. I think it is a little more difficult than the others I have related but maybe it is only a little more difficult if you get a flat tire. My next ride was at least as long and on a dirt road and it was hot but it didn’t seem as difficult. You should get out there and try it so that you can be the judge.