Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview in The Bicycle Story

A friend of a friend of mine is writing a blog called the Bicycle Story, and he just interviewed me about Maya Pedal and my tour.  Please check it out here.  I think it is a great interview.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Photos Antigua to San Andres Itzapa

Photos of Antigua to San Andres Itzapa click here.

Maya Pedal

Greetings from Maya Pedal in San Andres Itzapa, Guatemala. The ride here yesterday from Antigua was great--it was fun to bike through small towns like Jocotenango, Botas, and Parrojas. Jocotenango has a beautiful church and a mixed-use basketball-soccer court that was being well used. Botas is a town that has upwards of 20 boot factories and storefronts--cowboy boots, that is. And Parrojas is a town up in the hills with a large, flat plaza complete with lots of recreational space, delicious food vendors, church, town hall, gazebo, bus stop, and stores. There, I met 4 of the 8 Peace Corps volunteers in training there; they will find out their placements in three weeks.
I finally made it to San Andres Itzapa and Maya Pedal. Some of the stretches of road between here and Antigua were quite steep, and using my not-so-low 30-34 gear (30 teeth on the smallest chainring in the front and 34 teeth on the largest cog in the back), it was quite a workout. I feel I am getting stronger in my legs and also in my heart and lungs (believe it or not, cycle touring rarely becomes an aerobic workout).
Maya Pedal is located quite high in the town; I recruited a local on a BMX bike to guide me to the location of Maya Pedal. Even though he wasn't going there, and probably wasn't going to venture anywhere near as high, he gladly led me up the hills with his single speed. We wound our way up narrow streets, passing men leading donkeys carrying firewood, past boys playing soccer in the streets, and past many a young couple sitting on the curbside benches making out.
When we arrived at Maya Pedal, finally, I beheld the building--a three story row-house with a couple of murals on the wall and with the name painted next to the mural. I took some photos and then knocked on the door. It was almost dusk. Matias opened the door. He is from Austria. He welcomed me in and said I could find a space on the third floor to sleep, put my belongings up there, and store the bike in a room on the first floor. Soon, I began to meet all of the current visitor-volunteers at Maya Pedal: there was Shelby from Minneapolis, Rylee from Oregon, David from Chicago, Cameron and Ryan from Colorado, Zippy from Chicago, Gavin from I don't remember, Anna from California/Arizona, Katie from not sure, Emily from various places; a healthy bunch, all but Matias from the States. Later on that evening, the director and engineer, Carlos Marroquin showed up. I met him at a BikeBike! conference in Pittsburgh and stayed in touch since. He welcomed me with a big hug, very glad I had finally arrived. I will get to work alongside him on Monday, learning welding and how to make and design bicimaquinas, or bicycle machines.
After Carlos left to be with family, we all shared a meal together, as sort of a Maya Pedal family. A group effort in obtaining the food, cooking it, serving it, cleaning up, etc. We spent lots of time around the table, and got to know each other better and bonded. The conversation turned toward a neighborhood party they had hosted the night before, on the street just outside the shop, complete with a large, hard-to-crack-open pinyata in the shape of an owl. We all went to bed around 11pm, with talk of crepes in the morning.
Many of the group are on bicycle tours or are going to start. Cameron and Ryan biked from Colorado and are headed to Panama; Rylee and Shelby are heading north to Palenque and Minnesota. Anna and Katie are thinking of taking a trip somewhere after they build their bikes; Zippy is working on a bike and wants to do a tour around Guatemala if she can get some company. She and I may ride together to Lago Atitlan.
The weather is beautiful here. High 60s and breezy. Hilly/mountainous terrain. The view from the shop is quite vast as we are on the top of the hill overlooking the town.
My plan is to stay here for about a week, help out and learn, and then move on, biking to Lago Atitlan. Photos of yesterday and this morning currently uploading on Facebook; link here.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

San Andres Itzapa - Maya Pedal, here I come

Hi all. I am in Antigua and about to bike to San Andres Itzapa, home of Maya Pedal, the great engineers of bicimaquinas, or bicycle machines. These use pedal power to accomplish any number of tasks from grinding corn, pumping water from the ground, blending ingredients to create shampoo, making smoothies, producing electricity, and more. I hope to learn to weld there, plus help them using my bicycle technician skills.
Antigua has been great, especially the campground, which is quite beautiful, on the grounds of a former hospital complex and administered by the tourist police, Asistur, provided free, though participation in maintenance and some sort of donation is expected. I donated English lessons (audio, recorded). The folks I met on the campground were quite interesting. Hailing from California, Switzerland, Brazil, France, Germany, England. Many were traveling in truck or RV to South America. A couple on motorcycle. I was the only one on bicycle there at the time, but I heard from several people that bicycle travelers are quite common passing through Antigua, as I would expect, since it is such a tourist magnet, and the channel of Central America funnels people through a relatively narrow strip; there are only a few tourist magnets at this latitude on this stretch of land.
Some notes: I started uploading my photos to Facebook on an Everyone can see them access basis, and link to them from here (my blog). It is easier to upload photos to Facebook, and more people see them there.
Bicycle: I love my bike. The best thing I did recently was change my handlebars to the touring/trekking bars--any back/shoulder pain has disappeared. The positions are perfect; the wide grip is perfect for the often bumpy roads I come across. If you are thinking about getting a big dummy, don't hesistate. They are awesome, absolutely lovely. Also, 26 inch wheels have been a super choice. I have replaced tires and tubes several times now, and the availability of the 26 inch size has been highly convenient; I think 700c stuff is almost nowwhere to be found except in places like Guatemala City.
Camera: I am using my 3.1 megapixel cellphone camera for photos and videos now! I know, they look better. I lost my camera in Mexico, but as I had it insured, the debt on it should be forgiven (papers are processing). But I am in the market for a replacement. I am now thinking the Panasonic Lumix TS2 which is super-durable and waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, freezeproof and takes good photos. But I am looking for someone who could transport it from the States, someone who is flying here anyway, because to send it by mail would incur a 100% technology import tax, and buying it here is twice as expensive, too. Any help or suggestions here is welcome.
Well, as I need to head out to San Andres Itzapa now in order to make it in before dark, I will sign off. Saludos!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Today I biked from San Cristobal (suburb of Guatemala City) to Antigua, Guatemala. The photos from today are here: San Cristobal to Antigua. Yesterday, I biked around Guatemala City and took the photos shown here: Guatemala City.

Finally, I moved on from Guatemala City. I accomplished there what I needed to accomplish, mostly obtaining bike parts, mailing some forms to the States, and receiving some replacement glasses in the mail. The last couple days I have had some great fun biking through and around Guatemala City.

I should be moving onto Maya Pedal pretty soon here, within the next couple days.