The sun long set; the sky is dark, but buildings are aglow. I wander away from the hostel down the streets of Durango. I pass wondrous cathedrals towering overhead and row after row of storefront filled with holiday cheer. I can’t believe it is almost Christmas.

A bicycle on a building catches my attention. It’s a restaurant. I enter and sit down. From the menu, I choose three tacos at random: asada, arrechera, and Lengua. I have no idea what I am about to eat.

Tortilla chips and a cuatro of condiments in ceramic bowls are placed before me. The tacos arrive shortly after. Three miniature tortillas the size of a baseballs each topped with meat. I believe all to be beef. Lengua may be liver.

To these plain tacos I add the contents of the ceramic bowls. Diced onion with cilantro. Rojos with onion (pickled jalapeno and carrot). And salsa. Lots of salsa in many varieties. From experiments with chips, I found verde to be too spicy. Rojo and tomate are just right.

Now, totally overloaded and resembling an odd pizza more than the folded taco it should, I lift one to my mouth. Juices run down my hand then my face as I devour this taco that is unlike any I’ve had in the US. The one I believe to be liver is my favorite. The meat is tender and blends in my mouth with the tastes of toppings. I love Mexican food.

For the last few days this adventurer turned tourist. Camped in the cold each night I longed for the comfort of a bed. I intended to stay only one night; though the more I sleep indoors the I harder I find it to leave come morning. The goals of my trip are blurring. What is it I want? Why am I doing this? And why with monomaniacal determination do I seek to reach Panama?!? As I contemplate these questions I come to realize I have two options: Pedal hard for Panama stopping only when the fates demand or play the tourist thoroughly exploring each city and region of Mexico saving other countries for other trips. I cannot do both.

The countdown to Durango:

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This city has taught me the value of street food. Each day I roamed these roads a sample from each vendor I found. A hamburguesa from a chariot with a roof; a bacon-wrapped, red hot-dog from a covered cart; crazy crepas from tarped tables and tacos from a stand; I taste them all.

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I met Mario in Rodeo. As I pedaled past he asked if I was hungry. I, of course, am always hungry. He hooked me up with four varieties of gorditas and five more for the road.

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Rodeo is a small puebla between Parral and Durango.

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The mercados here in Mexico are fantastic. ANYTHING can be found here but beware. They are massive mazes and, if you’re not careful, you will need to be found!

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I found my new journal in one of these markets. It is not quite what I wanted and really isn’t all that practical. But, you must admit, it’s one of a kind. The covers are made of wood with decorative leather on the front surrounding the creature called an alacrán. We would call it a scorpion. Durango is crawling with them. Literally. And they are very proud of these deadly arachnids. The museums and shops all have terrariums creeping and crawling with live specimens.

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The city is very beautiful. Filled with old building and massive cathedrals with parks in between. Durango is a movie town. Famous for filming westerns, it is also known for many others. And, like Hollywood Boulevard, it too has a street lined with stars in the pavement.

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The name of this bridge (puente means bridge in spanish) made sense after arriving in Durango and learning of its movie status.

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Signs like these have plagued me for some time. Durango is due east of Mazatlan. Every mile pedaled past this point marks forward progress. Finally. Had I not taken my ridiculous detour into Copper Canyon, I would now be in Guatemala. Oh well. I definitely don’t regret it!

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While typing my last blog post in Parral I had the great pleasure of meeting this group of school children. They spoke english very well and I spent hours talking with them and others before I fled the city

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My fourth Mexican state! I’ve now ridden through Sinaloa, Sinora, Chihuahua, and Durango.

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People here care as much about the environment and the world as anywhere else. Street art like this is found all over.

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Dominik is from Germany and is circumnavigating Mexico. I met him going the other direction. Meeting other touring cyclists an instant connection is formed. Like seeing family. My spirits soared for days after this brief encounter. Just knowing others like me are out there who understand all I am going through… Good luck Dominik.

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Almost all land here is lined with barbed wire fences making camping difficult. The land is also pretty barren. Still, these are nights I will never forget. The stars in this part of the world… Wow, is all I can say. At night I sit in my “porch” cooking dinner staring at the vast expanse of space above.

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Unfortunately, it is VERY cold here at night. Each morning I dust off ice that has formed inside my tent.

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A freezing mornings ride. I did not expect to be riding in a down jacket.

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Winding roads descend small mountains.

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And around other mountains.

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This is cattle country.

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And the land of old Spanish churches. They found so much wealth in silver the only thing they knew to do was build grand cathedrals. This one is found in Palmitos on the el camino real. A world heritage site. I love riding through these tiny towns. People still live in the same houses the Spanish of old did. I imagine conquistadors clad in mail and plate striding through the streets.

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It is also a land of the most spectacular scenery I have ever witnessed. The world feels very big here.

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If the Earth feels big here, the sun feels, and looks, monstrous. As cold as it gets at night, the days are hot as hell.

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On a closing note, I have banned myself from purchasing these cookies. This 2.2 pound bag of deliciousness was consumed in three days. What is worse, is the last bag I bought was gone in two… Five pounds of cookies in five days… No mas!!!!

5 Comments

  • Good luck and God’s speed on your journey Ryan…your second cousin Ron Weber shared your experience with me…Cheri McKee

  • I’ll buy you a giant Pork Tenderloin if your return trip brings you through Indianapolis. If it helps you a coworker told me that Lengua is Tongue. If you want some contacts in Costa Rica I can get you some coworkers there.

  • Lengua is tongue, for sure. Cabeza is the one to watch out for, which means head parts of various kinds. Sesos are brains, which would be a real treat.

    That ridiculous detour to the Canyon is nothing compared to the ridiculous detour of riding to Panama, or further. Don’t forget, there’s no pot of gold at the end. Glad to see you are finding your own pace.

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