Edgar (university friend of Lalo and Mierny)-Road bike
Sarah-Road bike (random client at People for Bikes where Lalo works)
Eduardo or Lalo-Touring Bike (employee at People for Bikes)
Manuel-urban bike (frequent client at People for Bikes)
Mierny-Urban bike (Lalo’s girlfriend)
I have many MANY fears. It may center around of not being in control. Yet one thing I am so grateful for is my fearlessness of letting other “fools” into my life. Those fools have only continued to expand my understanding of how limitless living can be. From artists, to cyclists, to yogis, to school teachers, travelers, writers, fighters, clowns, all share something in common: a passion for living and connecting others through their passion. It is hard to remember sometimes that even in the every day routine when other worries get in the way that passion exists. But sometimes you need a vacation to help you remember.
On Monday I rode from my house in DF to Cuernavaca, a city in the state of Morelos (known as the state of Eternal Springtime and for having more pools per square mile than any other place in…Mexico? North America?
Wanting to be ready for a six am departure from my house I woke up at 5, drank my coffee and a pot of oatmeal ready for adventure. At six am I walked Cannondale downstairs and waited for the other cyclists. Forgetting that I was in Mexico (being prompt has its downside) it was a good hour and fifteen minutes before my companions showed up at my door.
As we waited for the last rider, Manuel, a 60-ish year old doctor explained a little bit of the route to me…”when we get into the entrance of Cuernavaca,” he started, “it’s “pura bajada…’ ” (straight downhill)….greeaaat. “Oh but don’t worry, it’s not for awhile.” Okay, I won’t worry. Edgar, our last cyclist showed up fiiiinaaally. “Me choco!” he said excitedly, and showed us a fresh scratch on his hand from running into a truck on his way over. Oh yes. Urban riding.
Urban riding takes on a new meaning in DF…and it is super fun. I know this sounds weird, but there have been many times when I have been so envious of cyclists riding in the city, weaving through traffic–just the independence of getting around, the feeling that you get from really being in the city that you don’t get from being in a car. But it is quite the adventure and I was happy to have three expert urban DF riders with me.If you’re going to ride in DF always take a whistler and a signaler. We took the metrobus lane (public transportation) to the south of the city, someone now and then shouting “Metrobus!!” (geezus) and someone else constantly whistling at the drivers with the windows up (most drivers in Mexico City keep their windows rolled up for the fear of getting mugged. Sad, huh?). When we reached the edge of the city, Lalo called out, “7 kilometers!” Ay. Even on a bike there’s traffic.
As I was riding I was writing this blog post in my head (I wish there was a way to attach a tape recorder to my body to record all my amazing thoughts in the moment). when at one point Lalo shouted out “Las Tortugas de la Colonia Roma!” (The Turtles of the Neighborhood Roma), which then became the title of this blog. It was an appropriate name too, as we definitely took our time (fine with me).
“Are you going to ride on the highway?” a friend had asked the day before.
“Of course not!” I, the spoiled cyclist from San Francisco, answered.
Come to find Cannondale and I riding up the side of the mountain with about three feet of space-on one side the cars zooming by and the other, a side of a cliff.
At one point we stopped because of a bike mechanical issue. Three of us were on the side of the road chatting while we waited for the other two. Manuel, the 60-year old doctor began telling us about all the horrible accidents that had happened or could happen on this road. “Um, can we wait until we are at our destination to hear those stories, please?” including, “We should really stick together so that we have less chance of being assaulted.” Fabulous. “At any point, if we do get separated we’ll meet at the gas station right before the Tres Marias.” Perfect!
Well Cannondale and I floated up the side of the mountain. The only thing stopping me at several points was realizing that I was alone, with Edgar shooting ahead, and the others behind (I wish I could take credit, but Cannondale is an “avión” (airplane) as Manuel liked to point out. I was glad to have a reference point as every traffic signaler, cop, and truck driver stopped on the side of the road knew what gas station I was talking about. I pulled into the gasolinera, and Edgar greeted me with a huge smile, “You made it!!” and we sat in the Italian Coffee Company while we waited for the others (Manuel joined us shortly thereafter, and Mierny had had a flat tire).
We stopped again ten minutes later at Las Tres Marias for tacos (um, I had amazingly delicious guacamole) and beer which I did not drink right before facing my phobia.
I quizzed the table about the descent…”soooo is this pura bajada like the one we just did? Is it super fast?” Until finally Edgar said, “Just let it be.” Okay, I’m just gonna let it be. “I’ll stay with you. Don’t worry.” And so we began…the road bumpy, the cliff on the right and traffic on the left, the downhill constant. Which way would you like to die today? Was unfortunately the only thing going through my head. The first ten minutes I took deep breaths, thinking of happy things, and chanting yoga mantras. I will not lie, I was totally plotting an alternative route to meet the rest of the group in Cuernavaca…hitchhiking, perhaps?Edgar was patiently behind me patiently encouraging me to “let her go…” and “relax a little bit.” The rest, waiting at the first part of the descent. “Did you enjoy the downhill? Isn’t it pretty??” “No, I didn’t really enoy it. And I don’t know if it was pretty cause I was too busy focusing on the ground in front of me, thank you very much. “Why don’t you let her go a little bit? You know if you break too much you’re going to wear out the tires and then it could explode!” This is not a theory I was unfamiliar with…it’s just that an irrational fear means that it’s not explainable, and so I’m not letting go of the breaks. Telling me my tires are going to explode just encourage my fear, and makes me want to hold on tighter.
We took off again, and this time we rounded a corner in which I felt for sure I would fall over if I continued. I clipped out and told Edgar I was walking. He looked at me. “Sarah, solo 1 kilometro mas.” I stared at him. “Mmmm…tal vez dos.” It was the biggest piece of bullshit that I had heard that day, but I decided that I would believe it. I ended up walking much of the way and convinced Edgar to go ahead of me. I will tell you I definitely enjoyed a two hour pity party, always greeted by my companions with smiles and a kind of optimism that I could only appreciate afterwards.
Lalo’s family lives in Cuernavaca. The plan had originally been to ride to Cuernavaca, have lunch at his family’s house, and then return by bus the same day. As it was getting late however, we decided that we would spend the night in Cuernavaca and return early the next morning. When we finally turned off the highway and into Cuernavaca I immediately fell in love.
Cuernavaca is a beautiful city, and knock on wood, I have always had a wonderful experience there. Las estacas, the watering hole I wrote about in the last blog post is right outside of Cuernvaca. I was super curious about Lalo’s family, only because the degrees of wealth are so exaggerated in Mexico. You just never know if you are going to be greeted by someone’s butler or end up in a tiny little shack.
I knew we were getting close when all of the street vendors started shouting “Hola, Lalo!” and we pulled in front of a bright blue house, his mom in the window shouting, “Oye, Lalo! Que haces aqui?” (Lalo, hi! What are you doing here?) at which point two simultaneous thoughts were going through my head: one, WHAT??? YOU DIDN’T TELL YOUR MOM THAT SHE WAS GOING TO HAVE FOUR PEOPLE OVER FOR LUNCH???” and two, a breath-taking moment of oh my gosh, I am in Mexico now. I was twenty-two, wide-eyed and full of awe and absorbing the colors of the street, the house, and the sweet calls of family. Two very happy dogs greeted us as we entered the gate of a small compound. A beautiful mess of a garden surrounded us—cacti, mango and avocado trees. His aunt greeted her nephew with a hug as he gave us a tour. His grandmother, who had passed away just two weeks before, was Mayan. So his aunt and uncle had taken great care to decorate the house with a Mayan décor…brightly colored walls, and Mexican pottery hung tastefully around the kitchen. I really was in Mexico.
We entered his parents’ house next, Lalo’s mom scolding him for not telling her earlier as, how would she ever have enough food? (meanwhile putting out a spread of jicama with lime and chili, a plate of sliced oranges, mangos, tortillas and cheese with adobo sauce, and those who eat meat, chicken). Lalo gently explained to his mom that he hadn’t told her because he knew she would worry the whole time about them on the highway. Knowing she might be a little annoyed (but not too much because what Mexican mama or any other mama can be upset at the sight of seeing a visiting child), he had picked her up a bag of sweet bread from the Tres Marias (which we very happy accepted from her along with a cup of nestcafe-which I will tell you has never tasted so good as that moment).
We peeled out of our disgusting bike clothing and accepted clothing from Lalo’s sister, and never had I been so happy to step into a warm shower (really everything just was the best tasting, the best feeling, the best everything after such a long day) and eventually were released to go to sleep after everyone had showered.
Tuesday we returned early in the morning, and it was super fun riding back from the bus station as I started to recognize where we were and how the streets were connected in the city.
Dar Williams, a folk-singer has a song, “Oh What Do you Love More than Love,” of which I think of often when I’m surrounded by people who just love what they do for the pure love of it. And I think that was the best part: to just be surrounded by, yet one more group of fools, who just love to do what they do for “la pura amor de la bici.”