EMMANUELíS 60% REPORT
December 23, 1999
- Day 184 / 148
Route covered: El Bajo, Magdalena Colombia to Ventanas, Los RŪos, Ecuador.
I will act out an average conversation, which will help review my trip:
Bike it Solo enthusiast: Where are you coming from?
Bike it Solo rider (thatís me): Alaska.
E: where are you headed?
E: How long ago did you start?
R: Six months ago, today, thatís half a year!
E: How much longer Ďtil you get there?
R: A little over two months.
E: So you rode through the USA?
R: Yeah, I rode Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and now Ecuador. Iíve got Peru, Chile and Argentina left.
E: So you are traveling all over the world!
R: Something like that, just America. There is a lot more to travel and see.
The Colombian flats were fun and fast. I met a lot of nice people, most of them very surprised that I hadnít run into any "guerrilleros". The "militares" were even more surprised. I found out that the only visible difference between guerrilleros and militares is that guerrilleros wear rubber rather than leather boots. I told the militares that the guerrilleros must be like the bears in Alaska. "Iím sure they saw me, I just havenít seen them". The way I came to realize this: after getting bit by that not-too-bike-it-solo-enthusiastic dog in Mexico, Iíve been very careful with any barking, chasing dog. I now stop, and then wait for them to relax, then proceed. While waiting for one to relax, I heard a voice from above: "He doesnít bite". It was a pair of militares, some 10 meters upon a cliff, with some very fancy, pink tinted binoculars. These guys are everywhere; the guerrilleros must be as well.
I was now nearing the crossing of "La LŪnea", the main mountain range in Colombia. I had to endure some "false-flat" riding. This is when the road seems flat, but you are actually going uphill. You donít notice unless you look back. What you do notice is that you are doing 9 MPH instead of 14. This kind of riding tires me the most, I think itís mainly psychological. Iíd been hearing about "La LŪnea" for quite sometime. I met a Colombian bicycle team in Panama, here is what they said about "La LŪnea": "Oh man, la lŪnea, you start by barely going uphill, then steeper and steeper until you are going straight up. It continues to get steeper and eventually you are going upside down".
60% Report Physics Lesson #1 (60% RPL #1): I tried to explain that the force of gravity would disallow upside-down riding, but they insisted. They seemed very anti physics, so I let them be happy with their upside down lŪnea.
I had noticed a small crack on my rear rim. Dave and Joe at Sports Connection began to build me an "indestructible" wheel, as Joe put it. I would receive it, along with spare tires and yet more film, in Pasto, near the border with Ecuador. Would the wheel and tires hold out until reaching Pasto? Letís continue reading to hear of the two most adventuresome weeks our solo rider (thatís me again) went through.
I reached Ibaguť after a day of good false-flats. I stayed at a cyclistís home, who fed me a good lŪnea-crossing-day breakfast. I rode 25 hard miles that day. I stopped in Cajamarca. "Hard day" I told a local. "La LŪnea starts 5 miles up the road," he said. I began to believe in the defying of the laws of physics and the upside down lŪnea. It took me 3 and a half hours to cycle the next 17 miles. This is the steepest road Iíve had the entire trip. It was not, however, the most physically demanding. My 5 months of riding had made this climb easier than some 2 or 3 mile climbs near the beginning of my trip. In some 40 miles, I had reached an altitude of 3300 meters, equal to 10,876.77 feet. I found out that this is the highest pass in all of Colombia. Cool. I had seen other bikers going up. All of them were holding on to the back of semi-trucks. Then a real biker passed me. The shorts, the jersey, the helmet, and going up by leg power. 250 feet later I saw him grab the next semi. I couldnít believe it. "Weak", I yelled, and in English. Later I saw him going down. If I am going down, I like to know that Iíve earned it.
Going down La Linea was no fun though. It was raining, foggy, cold and I got a rear flat. The puncture surprised me. It was on the inside of the tube, next to the rim, and very difficult to patch. My glue-less patches had performed very well until now, but an inside flat seemed unpatchable. I changed the tube, continued down and got another flat. Same spot, same cut. I had no other spares, so I super glued a patch into place; it worked. It took me 2 and a half hours to make it down.
I bought a spare tube and got some nice downhill and flat for a couple of days. My rear rim was in such bad alignment, that I had to disconnect the rear brakes to roll smoothly. 60% RPL #2: You see, if the rubber of the brakes makes contact with the rim, thus causing friction, it slows you down. Not a good thing if going after a world record. One good thing was that I bought some new cycling shorts, with better padding. This reduced saddle sores significantly, and I donít have to wear diapers anymore. "Iím a big kid nowÖ" (If this doesnít make any sense, get a hold of my 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% reports)
Back into the mountain range for over 2 more weeks. Steep climbs and steep descents. I blew out my front tire. The spare I had was a used one, so I decided not to change it. I was using just my front brake to make it down these hills. Very slow. My BOB trailer weighs 12.5 lbs and carries about 50 lbs of gear. 60% RPL #3: Gravity speeds you up going downhill. Using just a front break with so much weight is not a good idea. I continued to get inside flats on my rear tire. I discovered a 6-inch inner crack on my rim. Would I make it to Pasto for the replacement? Going about 12 MPH downhill, with front brake power, I blew out my front tire again. Downhill, front brakes only, blown out tire, letís take a closer look at the composition of the asphalt. Left shoulder, left elbow, left hip, left ankle. I was quickly aided by locals, who helped me move my bike out of the road. Thanks to God, there were no trucks coming down at the time. 60% RPL #4: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion; objects at rest tend to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. I was in motion, the outside force was the road, and I came to rest. I was making little progress these days. The bad conditions of the bike, combined with the mountain range, were holding me back like a leash on an angry dog. My used spare tire saw some action.
The following day, after fixing my 5th flat of the day, and wishing I were going uphill the whole time, I decided to play it safe. I left my BOB trailer and most my gear at a tourist stop and hitched a ride to Pasto with my bike, 100 miles away. The new wheel and gear would be at the airport the following morning. I was picked up by a man with his young son. The 3 of us stayed at a hotel near the airport, 15 miles north of Pasto. The next morning I was told the package would be delivered in downtown Pasto. Once there, at the Avianca Express Office, the Colombianís airline package-sending service, I was told I had to wait a few hours. I met Jose Villareal and his bike shop, Total Xtreme. By 1:00 PM we got the box.
My bike seemed to smile as new tires, tubes, and a new wheel were put in place. The new rear wheel is ultra strong, made for the job. A Sun Rhino rim, donated in whole by Dave and Joe at Sports Connection. Thanks guys. Your continued support through the entire trip deserves admiration and many thanks. The rest of the day we tuned up the bike and my BOB wheel.
It took me 6 hours to get back the 100 miles the following day. No one wanted to pick me up. Eventually I got there in 3 stages. A local taxi service, 15 miles; a traveling family, 40 miles; and a long distance bus, 45 miles.
I got back to Pasto the following night, arriving at Joseís house. Sending stuff back home, fixing my BOB wheel again, washing clothes, and reading some e-mail, took up the rest of the following day. I also decided to paint BOB neon green. Nice. I had more time to talk with my new friend, Jose. Everyone in Colombia treated me well. A friend I made, Dario, even called my house in California a few days after I met him to see how I was doing. And that is not a cheap call. Only 2 teenagers were out of tune. They hit me with a belt as they drove by. I wonít let those two ruin Colombiaís entire image; that would be doing what the rest of the world does. Colombia was great overall.
Two more days put me into Ecuador. The border crossing was quite slow, but with no problems. Entering Ecuador was special. When my mom and dad got married nearly 24 years ago, they set out to travel by land and made it to Ipiales, the border city with Ecuador on the Colombian side. Since I was a kid, I had seen a picture of them at the International Crossing Rumichaca Bridge. Now, it was time for my picture, 24 years later.
The Ecuadorian monetary unit is highly devaluated. "This will be a party for you," told me an official. Minimum wage is about 50 dollars a month, so for 3 dollars I can get a hot shower with cable TV. Ecuador also has four seasons every day. Iíd always thought Ecuador was very hot the whole time, just like people think Alaska is cold the whole time. In Alaska I had 80 F weather, and here in Ecuador I got down to some 45 F. Four seasons every day. First mild, then hot, then rain, then cold wind, very strange. I planted an orange tree in my trailer in the morning. By 2:00 PM I was enjoying of its fruit, and when 5:00 PM came by, the tree lost its leaves. Winter was here.
Still riding through the mountain range I made it to Quito. I ended up having an extra rest day as an overall tune up was done to my bike. The rear wheel was just broken in, and my brakes pads were still the originals. I finally got my BOB wheel properly aligned. I also replaced the chain. Chain number three. Tires number four. Rear wheel number five. BOB tire number three. Mountain day riding numberÖabout three weeks. Finally Iím out of the range. I felt like someone in a cartoon who gets swallowed by a fish, tossed around, and finally thrown out. The mountains slowed me down, but they also made me stronger. Yesterday, my first day out of the mountains, I averaged 12.9 MPH for the day. Today 11.9 MPH. Iím back.
Iím back and still have my eyes set on February 27, 2000. Half a year of riding and I still do not feel like a cyclist. People donít understand what I mean when I said that Iím not a cyclist; Iím traveling by bicycle, a completely different thing. I saw a picture in a catalog at Joseís bike shop, which explained my reasoning. A full-page picture of road-bike racers, across the page the print read: "Win now. Thereíll be plenty of time for sightseeing later".
Many of you might say: " Emmanuel, you have ridden 60% in exactly 6 months. You want to ride 100% in 8 months. Are you a little behind?" The answer is that I am some 800 miles behind. Bike problems and mountain ranges slowed me down. Iím now in the southern hemisphere, itís all down hill from here!
The other day I gave my unleaded fuel, used for my stove, to a stranded car, which was out of gas. We poured it all. It wasnít enough. How would I cook now? I stayed at a restaurant, in the middle of the mountains, where God provided me with an industrial kitchen. He doesnít forget our needs.
I donít know what Iíll do for Christmas, but Iím planning something special for Y2K. I think it will be the highlight of my 70% report. Every day my body is able to store more energy. 60% RPL #5: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred. As more is stored in my body, more is transferred to my bike. Stronger and harder every day. I ride hard and it feels good. I remember a poster: " Donít hesitate. Accelerate". Sure, why not.
About my physics lessons: It seems I will be doing some studying of my own for a while. Last week I found out that I was denied admission to Stanford University. Iíll have more time to share my trip experiences with all of you. Iíve had some access to e-mail and want to thank all of those whoíve been writing. My ICQ number is 58544139, nicknamed bikeitsolo. If you have ICQ add me to your list. Whenever I can get online we could share some more experiences. My email is emmanuel.gentinetta at bikeitsolo.com if you are receiving this via hard mail, please let me know if you have e-mail available.
Thanks for all your support. Look forward to my 70% report; my plan for receiving the year 2000 is quite creative, I think. You will hear about me in the following millennium, while I continue to bike itÖsolo.
My bike is Y2K compatible. Bike it solo,
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