Day 394/ San Ignacio – Jaen, Ecuador / 70 miles (Total 9415)
Cartagena, Colombia was the last day that I was able to pedal a full day on a flat road. After Cartagena, it’s been 3 months straight of pedaling up hills. Everyday I have been averaging between 3000-6000 ft in elevation, and that can wear a man down after time. I needed some kind of spark to get me back into the game, and today didn’t give me a spark, it gave me a raging fire inside. Today was the definition of a perfect days ride. Today I was able to pedal 70 miles on a flat, beautiful road.
I left the hostal around 8:00, and the sun was already beating down on me. Right out of town the road turned into a rough, rocky dirt road and I was wondering if it was going to be like this the entire 70 miles to Jaen. A small hill started right away and signs of construction was up ahead.
The road smoothed out and it was like riding on glass through the construction site. I was able to actually ride fast downhill and not have to death grip my brakes, unlike Ecuador. Every few kilometers I would have to slow down for the parts of the road they were working on. They do road work here backwards compared to the states. They start one section of the road, tear up the next, skip a few km, then start all over again. Anyways, it was a great 9 mile descent even with the construction. I was a little excited going fast though. I ended up hitting a pothole at full speed, ripped my front right saddlebag strap off, and I must have lost my bag of bananas that was tied to the back somewhere on the road. By the time I hit the bottom of the hill, I was around 1,500 ft in elevation and it’s been a long time since I have been below 3,000 ft. And holy crap is it hot down here now.
There was a river waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, adding to the already beautiful background views. A few miles after the descent my road turned into a brand new paved road. The best part of it all….It was a flat road!!! I couldn’t believe it. Every element to making a perfect day was present. The road was smooth and flat, with no traffic. The views were amazing and a strong tailwind was behind me. Today was going to be fast.
By noon I already put on 35 miles without breaking a sweat. My legs felt brand new and powerful. After months of riding challenging roads my legs have built up some great muscles and today I was able to see the payoff. Shifting into my largest chainring and I was averaging 18 mph when I put my head down and charged it. Around 1:00 the sun was burning hot, but the tailwind kept me from burning out. Suns-out-guns-out. I took off my shirt for the first time in months and I was pasty white. It only took 20 minutes for the sun to give me a nice color of red and the shirt was back on.
Every hour or so I would stop at a small village to get out of the sun, and get something cold to drink. Seriously felt like a rock star pulling into these villages. Right away the locals would come to where I was sitting, grab me a chair, and a cool drink. Pictures were taken and lots of handshakes going around.
50 miles into today’s ride and I was still holding the same speed. Checking my gps and I climbed around 3,000 ft in elevation, and I didn’t even realize it. The road had a mellow incline compared to Ecuador and my legs couldn’t even notice. About 15 miles out from Jaen a man pulled aside me on his scooter and waved me over. We talked for awhile and he handed me his friends bushiness card. He told me Miguel owns a bike shop and has a place for bike tourist to spend the night if they were passing through town.
Today was 70 miles of bliss. I cranked it out in 7 hours and felt like I could do more. I pulled into town with more energy then I could imagine and found Miguel’s shop right away. After I got settled down, I went out and explored the town. Miguel told me the town was a little dangerous, but I didn’t get that feeling one bit. A little dirty and smelly in some parts, but overall everyone was nice as ever and I bounced from shop to shop checking things out in Jaen.
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