Day 368-369 / Effortless afternoon

Day 368-369 / Machachi – Latacunga, Ecuador / 30 miles (Total 8770)

I woke up forgetting where I was and my laptop was off to the side of me. Last night I ended up writing three E-mails, posting a photo on Facebook and that’s the last thing I remember. I was out cold from the days tough ride. I slept till 8:00 and the thought of laying in bed all day was tempting. I’m not that old, I told myself. I was scared to get out of bed, thinking my body would be destroyed, but I felt great. Very surprised! I was craving a cup of coffee, so I packed up and was ready to head out. Before making it to the door, I was motioned over to the dining room.

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Santiago, introduced himself and we ended up talking or a while. Passionate about the fell of two wheels, he was curious about my ride. He ordered some coffee for the both of us and a plate full of food for me. By the end of the conversation he told me to stop by his hotel south of here, and stay for as long as I needed.

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Thanks Santiago! What a great way to start my morning.

After saying goodbye to Santiago and the owner of the hostel, I made my way out of the city and onto the Pan American highway. My goal today was to put on 30 short miles to Latacunga, but 30 short miles never means an easy 30 miles in the Andes mountains. I was feeling good behind the bars and an uphill climb was ahead of me. I slowly ground up the mountain side in my lowest gear. 15 miles and a couple of hours later I peaked on the summit at 11,400 ft in elevation. The headwind was stiff on top and the air had a bite.

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I pulled over on a side road to polish of the rest of my cheese and crackers and wouldn’t you know it…. No matter where I am, my four-legged friends know that I have goodies. He came out of nowhere and befriended me before the begging began. I’m a sucker for my K-9 friends. We sat and ate my snack together as I told him about yesterdays experience. Wow, only a few days alone and I’m already talking to the dogs.

It started to get cold at the peak, so I said goodbye to my fury little friend and gave a few cranks to start my descent. I had no clue how far the hill would take me, but I was in luck. For the next 15 miles the road carried me all the way to the city I was shooting for. An effortless afternoon.

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Cotopaxi playing shy today. Glad I got a chance to see the massive volcano on a clear day. considering myself lucky.

I pull into the large city and once again I see tourist all over. That just means more expensive accommodations. I should have just pushed on past the expensive city, but I wanted some time to relax and get caught up with the blog before I hit the road again. I will be testing my luck again and taking some more back roads west of where I am. Fingers crossed they are a little better than the previous roads.

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Two more German bike tourist. For the life of me I forgot their names, sorry ladies. They started south in Argentina and making their way to Quito. We grabbed some pizza last night and exchanged info on the road ahead. And for all you wondering if they have been safe on the road, the answer is yes. They have had a great experience in their 5 months of traveling. Enjoy your last few weeks ladies.

I decided to stay one extra day since I wasn’t caught up on the blog. I took some time and rearranged all my gear, trying to make everything fit a little better. I am struggling to get rid of my old air mattress. It’s perfectly good, not worth sending home, and it’s hard to leave it behind since I paid around $75 for it.  Also having the same problem with my old winter jacket and old tent poles. I feel like such a hoarder. Anyways, talk to you all in a couple of days.

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Walked around town at night and took a few random photo’s

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This Life Cream shop was only a half a block away from my hostel. It took some will power not to stop every time I passed it. Some of the best ice-cream I have ever had.


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Day 367 – I’m going to fight – for what I want to be

Day 367 / Ranch – Machachi, Ecuador / 15 miles (Total 8740)

I listened to the lyrics of the band Fugazi as my day was slowly heading into a downward spiral. “I’m going to fight – for what I want to be”, those lyrics rang in my head, over and over. My demon’s were taking over, insecurity pierced through my aching body. Today was a make or break day for me. I needed to push on and make it to Machachi before I slumped down to the ground. Today, I had to fight for what I wanted.

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Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in the country reaching 19,347 ft.With 86 known eruptions, Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes.

I slept for almost 10 hours straight, very rare for me. By 7:30 the sun was beating on my tent, telling me it was time to wake up. I crawled out of my sleeping quarters and stood up with a loud groan. I felt my age this morning with a few years added to it. Yesterday did a number on me and today was going to be no different. There was not a cloud in the sky, so I peaked around the house for a great morning surprise.

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Cotopaxi was in clear view this morning and that gave me the motivation to pack up quick. A perfect way to wake up.

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I wanted to get a better view of Cotopaxi, but there is no going fast on this road. Each rock would rattle anything that was loose on my bike. This section of road would be considered smooth today. What was ahead of me is a different story.

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The greater the view,the greater the challenge today. The large rocks became loose on the road and the pitch became steep. Every turn of the crank was effort, every turn of the handlebar was planned out to avoid large, sharp rocks.

Hours went by as I teeter-tottered from 10,000 ft to 11,000 ft. When I finally made it close to the summit the road smoothed out a bit. I could finally enjoy the view without having to concentrate on the road. I was smacked in the face with a breath-taking headwind after taking this corner. The wind stayed all day and made the riding even more difficult.

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Trying to keep my mind off the road

Clouds

I could have sat and watched this show all day. Clouds rolling in fast, then they would disappear in seconds. Everything felt perfect at this moment.

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I sat at the summit for an hour. I was all alone with nothing but silence around me. This is why I love touring.

The only traffic today

The only traffic today.

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I felt as free as they did

One more with the Mother Trucker

One more with the Mother Trucker

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Giving me the cold shoulder.

After my break at the summit I had the decision of riding south, or head west to the town of Machachi. I decided to go towards the city to get off the rough road. The thought of a smooth road only 8 miles away gave me a good feeling. I headed west and it may have been the worst decision I have made on this trip.

By noon the views were the only thing keeping me going. It’s amazing how much the mountain range has changed over the past week. This is how I pictured the Andes would be.

As I headed west the road turned into a nightmare and there was no turning back. There was nothing else around in any direction and Machachi was the closes town around. The rocks grew larger and loose, my speed slowed down to a crawl and I was starting to lose my patience and cool for the first time on this trip.

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Collecting my thoughts here.

The road was so rough that it was almost impossible to pedal on. Add a few steep hills and I ended up pushing the bike up every hill in front of me. Two miles = one hour on the road. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, life decided to rain on my parade. The rain made the rocks slick and I was pushing my bike, even on the flats. When trying to push up a hill, I was loosing my traction and ended up dumping my bike a few times from fatigue. My bike fell on some sharp rocks and ripped my front saddlebag and put a nice gash in the sidewall of my front tire.

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Hours of this

Back to pushing my bike up the step, wet hills. I had to push-off the large rock with each step for traction. This grew very tiring after hours of pushing the fully loaded bike. I was physically and mentally drained from the day. I have never wanted to give up so bad in my life. The thought of being home with family and friends overwhelmed my thoughts. My breath was short and rapid with the thinning oxygen. my mind was sloppy and my body had nothing more to give. There was no one around to talk to and I was alone at 10,000 ft. The rain came down hard making things worse. I saw Machachi far off in the distance and the next 3 miles was a steep, rough ride down. My rims were wet making it impossible to slow down and the thought of riding down the mountain was out of the question. I sat down to gather my thoughts. I asked myself, why am I doing this? And my answer was easy. To honor my father, to have an adventure of a life time, and to raise money for cancer research. That’s all I needed. Headphones on with one of my favorite bands, Fugazi. I listened closely to the lyrics and proceeded to walk the bike into the city. Hours went by and I finally got to the outskirt of town with a tired smile on my face.

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Falling from fatigue, I ripped another hole in my pannier.

Today was a challenge like no other. Even through tough times, this is what I’m after. To see how hard I can push myself mentally and physically. To tell the story and raise money for cancer research. Today, I fought for what I wanted. And it felt great not giving up.

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The end of the rough road. I jumped on my bike and enjoyed every pedal into town. I searched around town and found a cheap hostel. I laid down on the bed with my jacket and shoes still on. I was sleeping before I could even think of what I went through today.

 


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Day 366 – Heading towards Cotopaxi

Day 366 / Tumbaco – Ranch, Ecuador / 20 miles (Total 8725)

Woke up to a bowl of granola, fresh strawberries, bananas and cold milk. I think I miss having cold milk the most on this trip.

Woke up to a bowl of granola, fresh strawberries, bananas and cold milk. I think I miss having cold milk the most on this trip.

I always seem to have a tough day after a long break, and today seemed to be extra tough on me. I woke up around 5:30 in the morning and peaked my head outside. The first thing that grabbed my attention was my shiny, almost new bike. She looked good early in the morning with the sun just starting to rise over the horizon. Once again, I over packed with food. I was cramming all the food in any little opening and my bike was weighed down from all my extra goodies. I said goodbye to Santiago and thanked him again for all his help. I would not be rolling out today if it wasn’t for all his help. Thanks again Santiago!

Saying goodbye to my great host.

Saying goodbye to my great host.

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Cotopaxi, far off in the distance and looking massive.

Getting out of Tumbaco was easy enough, even leaving during morning rush hour. Thought I would be cursing all the way through the big city, but that came later. Marco and Anja left yesterday, so we said our goodbyes and maybe I will see them down the road. The way I keep running into them though, it just might be a day or two. We agreed to meet up for the border crossing into Peru if we by chance don’t see each other. I have ridden with them all through Colombia and a week into Ecuador. It’s time for a little solo riding for the soul I think.

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Isn’t that sweet

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I was slowly making my way towards some back roads when I took a nice long break in San Padro. It was perfect. The locals were friendly, I had some shade, and free WI-FI in the park.

After leaving my lengthy break I got back on the main highway and traffic was crazy. I started to even stress out with so many bad drivers on the road. I was wishing for my back road with no traffic. Traffic was gridlocked in some parts of San Rafael. Cars and trucks were using my shoulder to pass other vehicles. I just ended up walking my bike for a half hour so I didn’t have to deal with it.

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A mini semi. My shoulder came up to the top of the cab. That would be so fun to roll around in.

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This was as fun as it looks.

I finally made it to my back road and the thought of fast-moving traffic didn’t seem so bad now. The next 10 miles was a complete pile of rubbish. Ecuador loves to throw large rocks on their dirt roads. I am starting to realize that if it’s a dirt road in Ecuador, it’s going to be god-awful. I was already feeling beat down from the day, but wanted to keep pushing on. As the afternoon went on, I was going nowhere fast. The road turned worse and then steep. I ended up pushing my bike for almost two hours up steep grades from 10% to 13%. By 3:00 I was shot and looking for a place to crash. I am literally in the middle of no mans land, with no accommodations around.

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When the rocks were not present, deep sand took over. Almost took a few spills today with my weak legs.

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So many random side roads with no signs around.Good thing I downloaded a great offline map for my I-phone called Maps.me. It shows every road that I passed. One of the best offline maps I have used.

All the land was fenced off, so stealth camping was impossible. By 4:00 my legs were burning and I was ready for dinner. I stopped at a ranch and asked the owner if I could camp out and he had no problem with it. I set up the tent and made a huge bowl of noodles that seemed to solve all my problems. I watched the stars come out on a perfectly clear night with a cold beverage in my hand. I can always crack a smile at the end of a day, no matter how tough it was. Everyday I move from town to town, but I always seem to be at home wherever I am. Goodnight everyone.

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I think it’s been since Nicaragua since I have indulged in a cold one. It sounded good after today’s tough ride


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