Saturday, December 30, 2006


I am in Victoria now, and I found the Canadians after a couple hour long quest. All I knew was that they were staying with a group of mountain bikers who sometimes do professional cycling. It was like a treasure hunt, asking folks where I could find info about mountain biking groups, and whether a group of Canadian cycling tourists were staying with them. I got to tour the city while I was at it.

I am staying in the residential quarters of a Catholic Church, and another family has volunteered to feed me some meals. I did laundry today, played soccer, and tried to get a SIM card for my phone. And I hung out with the Canadians. Now I will go show my photos to the family that has been making gorditas--tortillas filled with frijoles--and other delicious food for me. They want my family to visit, and they think there is a chance I will never leave Mexico...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

San Fernando to Jimenez

I biked fifty miles today to Jimenez, half-way to the destination of Victoria. It was a fairly windy day, the first part the wind was against me. Towards the end of the day, the wind switched and pushed me along. I was cruising even uphill for a while. My average speed on the day, due to the wind, was 10.2mph. Odometer reads 2960. I will break 3000 tomorrow! And will meet up with the Canadians, and set up New Years plans. And I found a place to stay by running into a family that was coming back from Victoria where they had spent Christmas with the grandparents. So the grandparents will put me up, hopefully. Max speed today was 26.5mph--coming down a hill after a long, steady climb. It is starting to get a little mountainous--and beautiful! I biked for just over five hours today. Enjoy the pictures!

The peeps I stayed with in San Fernando (the Rodriguezes)--top quality folks.

Couple I met at a restaurant on the way to Jimenez, Tamaulipas. I am staying at their daughter and son-in-law's house, and plan to sleep in a hammock tonight under the moon.

Folks I met in San Fernando--they helped me find the Rodriguez' house.

Streetside grocery stand on Iturbide Street in San Fernando.

My lunch today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

San Fernando

I am in the town of San Fernando, 85 miles south of the border. I biked about 90 miles yesterday. So far this trip, I have biked about 2900 miles. I am staying with very nice family. In Matamoros at the bridge to the US, I met a couple of women, sisters whose parents live in San Fernando, and they gave me all the information to contact their family. I called them the day before arriving. It was a little tricky to find their house as their street had no sign and I had to continually ask people up and down the main street which street was ¨Iturbide.¨ When I finally got two answers in a row that were the same, I followed the directions and found the house.

The chickens out back of the Rodriguez house. They, and the ducks hatch eggs for the family. The rabbits, ducks and chickens eat the kitchen scraps and any food the Rodriguezes give them. And the Rodriguezes, in turn, eat any of the animals. Turning waste into product is a fundamental principle of environmental studies (my college major).

I´ve been told these flowers bring happiness to many.

Another cool plant out front on the Rodriguez property.

One of the many beautiful plants and flowers populating the yard of the Rodriguez residence, where I stayed at last night.

The family bicycle parked out front.

View of the house across the street from the house I stayed at. Those at the house consisted of Father (Margarito Rodriguez), Mother, with whom I talked most, single son in his forties or fifties, infirmed daughter in her forties--the other children had moved out and were married or living with one of their married siblings. Several live and work in the US--one works for a senior citizens home as a caretaker. The mother (well, really grandmother) commented on how seniors have many more benefits in the US compared to those in Mexico.

The house plate at the house I stayed at last night. Name of the family, house number, and ¨God is Love¨ at the bottom.

My lunch at the restaurant I stopped at. Eggs and potatoes, beans, salad, salsa, tortillas, grapefruit soda, salt. My cellphone, bike gloves, and napkins complete the picture.

Outside a restaurant at an intersection of highways where I had a nice vegetarian lunch. Here you can see the new arrangement of my handlebars. Feels a little more like a road bike now, faster and more comfortable.

A picnic table along the highway in the shade of some trees where I stopped for a snack and drink of water.

Keep the highway clean! With you it is possible.

One of the many horses, mules, donkeys and cows tied up to a fence post along the highway to graze. This one was quite striking. Other animals, such as goats, cows and bulls, walked to highway side, grazing loose! Obviously, they learned to not go out on the road!

¨Thank you for visting Matamoros, the great Gateway into Mexico!¨

I was expecting the distance between Matamoros and San Fernando to be 85 miles, so when I saw this sign, I was quite startled. I had a destination in San Fernando, a contact that could put me up. I simply could not make 124 miles before dark and I had no contacts in between. Could those I have talked to, and my maps, have been wrong in the distance? Was something amiss? And then I realized that the numbers were in kilometers. Whew!
An ornate-looking hotel on the way out of Matamoros. Some things are very beautiful; other things are very ugly--especially the air quality. Pollution from industry, autos, and just burning things for heat, cooking, get rid of trash, or simply for the sake of burning stuff causes the air to be chokey and sometimes foul. The emissions standards for cars must be much lower or non-existent. We are very lucky in the US for this reason, for relatively clean, breathable air. Greenhouse gases, on the other hand, are non-toxic, invisible, and odorless. They are emitted in direct proportion to the amount of fuel burned. And in the US, we consume more (electricity and gasoline), and hence we emit more GHG (greenhouse gases)/capita than just about any nation.
Mural on the wall of a Popeyes (pronounced ¨po-pay-ace¨) on the way out of Matamoros.

On the way out of Matamoros, I saw this car-washing clown with his rag. He would perform in front of the cars when the light turned red--flossing between his legs, etc. until he got a taker. Graciously, he posed for a photo.

This is a church in the town center of Matamoros, opposite the gazebo below. Also beautiful.

This is the gazebo in the town center plaza of Matamoros. Witness the Mexican flag above and the Christmas tree in the background. Beautiful.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Blast from the Past

I just got back in touch with someone I met on Bourbon Street in New Orleans--a Brazilian who was there for a Portuguese Translators Conference. He sent me a picture they took of some of the other Brazilians at the conference, him, and me. They guy with the bottle is him, and he lives in Rio--he encourages me to bike the extra 2600km to Rio after I arrive in Natal.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Matamoros, Mexico

I am in the border town of Matamoros, just across the border from Mexico. I met a Mexican woman who works in Brownsville, and lives in Matamoros, and she walked me across the bridge that night. On the way to her house, a bottle-rocket firework hit me in the back and made a popping noise that took our hearing in one ear for a bit. Could have been an accident or could have been on purpose--but no harm done. People like to use fireworks here just about every night.

The next day, we went through the town center. Everybody was out Christmas shopping. Very fun to watch all the people pass in the people-street (no cars) between the stores. Stores play music, vendors with hand-carts and bicycle-carts sell roasted corn on the cob, fruit cups, pancakes, nuts, nopales (edible cactus leaves), etc.

It has been overcast and/or rainy for the past couple of days. I went over to the house of the sister of the woman I met and I learned how to make tamales (some of the steps) and I actually got to spread the masa into the corn husks that they make them in. I also sorted beans, removing broken beans or severely deformed ones. Last night, I celebrated Christmas with her extended family. We ate together, exchanged gifts, laughter, hugs, and took a couple of photos. One of the uncles lives and works in Harlingen, a town I passed through on the way to Brownsville. He has lived in the US for over thirty years, and spoke English well, but we spoke in Spanish to keep our conversation open to everyone else.

I gave t-shirts of the undoit campaign to all and explained the campaign to them, and the Climate Stewardship Act.

I am working on following my leads of people who would join me. One such partner is in mid-Mexico and she has done some of her traveling by bus. She may be up for parting with two riders she is with to slow up a little for me to catch up. Another guy may join me from LA, taking a bus here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

When I tell people that I biked from Washington, DC to where I am now, and that I intend to cycle all the way to Brazil, there are a few things people ask me:

How are you going to get across the ocean?

Do you sleep?

Did you cycle here non-stop?

Where do you sleep?

How many flats have you had?

How many tires have you gone through/will you go through?

What is your ETA?

Do you ride at night?

Where do you get your food?

How do you plan to get across the Darian Gap?


I am in Brownsville, which is on the Mexican border at the southern-most tip of Texas. People have been very friendly here. I met a man named Len while I was eating at a Subway restaurant. He saw my bicycle--he is a cyclist--and asked if I was going to ride it all the way to Brazil. I told him that was my plan and he asked if he could help in anyway. I told him I was working on a lead for a place to stay but it wasn't coming through at the moment. I told him he could sign my petition on global warming and he immediately did. He also said if nothing turned up I was welcome to crash at his couch--he lived just a couple blocks away. And he left his phone. Nothing came up and I took him up on his offer. I have since met many nice folks in his RV community. Folks are here from Upstate New York, Iowa, and many other places.

On, a website for touring cyclist where I have another blog that I don't use as much, I posted a classified in search of other cyclists to join me. I have had several replies and one may work out. I am ready to cross the border anytime now, though.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Recent Pictures

In Rivera, I found a dead end road--it lead to a house--but I slept along the side of the road under a tree leading up to the house. Good places to sleep have little traffic, are quiet, and have little light. They are also on public property, usually, as was the case here in Rivera.

This little town of Sarita reminded me of my sister Sarah--in Spanish, as you probably know, the diminutive form of a word is formed by adding ito or ita--Sara becomes Sarita, meaning "little Sarah". So this pic is for you, sis! A town with your namesake! Thinking of you:) Hope wedding preparations are going well!

I had to take a picture of these pines to get that deep green beauty they possess. Pines/evergreens live at pretty much any latitude I am learning--They live in the tundra of Canada, the live in my backyard in Maryland, they are abundant in North Carolina, they are here in the tropics of Texas, and will be present throughout my journey, I posit (I like that word today).

A typical strech of road recently--a wide shoulder on a highway stretching for tens of miles. Plenty of time to think about things, people, things to do, etc. Farmland, and ranchland mostly on either side. I saw lots of cars towing cars, with the rear car painted with "IN TOW" on the rear window. I posit that they are people being hired to transport cars, perhaps to Mexico. Perhaps they are used cars, perhaps which have a big market in Mexico. I also saw lots of campers with car in tow, but that I think is a typical thing for Mexico vacationers to do--bring a car for jaunts out from their camper. But I just thought, "can you burn ANY more fuel? They must be getting 0.5 miles/gallon! Then I thought, well, I use zero gallons/mile, so I get infinity miles per gallon! I want to make a sticker with something like that on it!

A typical tree here--scraggly, low to the ground. Starting to remind me of the type of trees I saw in Brazil and Bolivia when I was there in 99 and 98 respectively, doing community service with Amigos de las Americas. Part of the idea of this trip is to get a sense of the gradual transition of culture and ecology as I head from my home to my destination.

Yeah, this is where we are, in the Texas tropics. Sometimes people plant palm trees in semi-tropical areas--like in South Carolina--where they wouldn't grow naturally, but because they want to FEEL or THINK that they are in a tropical location. Often these trees will wilt and brown in the winter. But here in southern-most, Gulf-Coast, "the Valley" Texas, in December, palm trees show they belong here.

A lunch stop at the side of the road going from Rivera to Raymondville. Trees for shade, and a small pond between the highway and the train tracks. I posited there may be alligators there, but seeing none, I reasoned that no food source could consistently safely reach this water source (like deer, I suppose) because of the highway and train tracks. Therefore, alligators could not live there. (Plus, it was probably too small and shallow, but the fact that I wondered if alligators were there shows that they were on my mind:))

A raptor sits at the top of this tree--one of dozens of raptors of varying species I have seen recently. Sometimes the raptor sets aflight as I approach and flies almost right above me at about the same speed allowing me a great view of its wings and gracefulness.

The future of 69. So this area wants the notoriety associated with "Highway 69?" Perhaps it is because this area has one of the more sultry climates in the United States--more humid and tropical. Perhaps it is because of the dirtiness and ambivalence they feel dealing with the border issue with Mexico. Perhaps it is the sultriness of the Latin influence. Well, if 69 gets built, hopefully it will be welcoming and accomodating of cycing tourists--or transcontinental cycing commuters.

Entering Willacy County, I was greeted by two rows of palm trees advertising the region's tropical location. They reminded me of the Palm Trees lining down the median strip on Canal Street in New Orleans.

Entering Raymondville after 57 miles on 77 from Rivera without much in the way of civilization or amenities. Finally a place to rest. I stopped at one little convenience store that adverised that it made tacos, but it turned out they weren't making food at that time of day, and they were too poor to offer me anything for my journey. They suggested I try other restaurants ahead. I wished them luck with their business.

A bridge in Raymondville, TX, where I am now. This is where Route 77 and 77 Business Split. The bridge has icons of Texas on either side--the shape of Texas, and the "Lone Star" representing Texas when it was its own country.

Me and this dude Jose who I met in Raymondville. He spoke just Spanish, I think, cuz we only spoke in Spanish. He had seen three girl-biker-tourists the week before pass through, have some coffee, and he gave them six oranges. I showed him a photo of a girl--one of the Canadians--Sasha--who I know passed through recently. Jose said he believed one of the girls was indeed Sasha. He said one of the girls spoke good Spanish and the other two did not. He also said the one girl who spoke Spanish just met the other two girls. All of these facts could describe Sasha, so perhaps it was her. Jose then gave me some fresh fruit he was selling. Thanks, Jose!

Joe of the San Antonio Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, myself, and some of the residents of the house, including Osita who is riding on my tent on the back of my bike! I took here up and down the street, and pretended like we were going to Mexico and Brazil. I think she really wanted to go with me on the trip! A cutie, but we had to part--I am sure her mommy would have sent someone after us if we actually took off!

I helped the Dorothy Day House prepare and serve a lunch to the local homeless.