December 29, 2011
I guess I've written a lot of stuff and during the day I always think about so many things I've left out of my journal.
Today was a bit of a climb to get close to 12,000 feet headwind the whole time. For several days I have had headwind, makes me wonder if the wind always blows north through here? Maybe I should have started south and cycled north. There is nothing quite like cycling uphill with a headwind! Not just any headwind but a strong headwind!
Cycling into the wind
After making it through the pass, I was greeted by a very nice downhill. I used to be very good at downhill mountain biking and could clock some very fast times, usually faster than anyone else. The only thing I could not do were the jumps over logs, I never did master that. I did well on the steep trails that did not require jumps, just avoid trees and making sharp turns at a moments notice. Today felt more like that kind of downhill as I was weaving in and out of traffic that was two lanes each direction. At one point as I was passing a dump truck on the left, he decided to pass a truck that was going slower than him. I was right beside his door passing him when he decided to speed up to go around this other truck. I yelled over and he knew I was there but continued over into my lane. We were now going the exact same speed downhill through the turns at 47mph and he pushed me over into the double yellow line as a large tour bus was headed straight at me passing a vehicle on the uphill side. It was not good enough for him to pass the other truck but he actually moved farther over in the lane until his wheels where on the double yellow pushing me right into the the line of that bus. Everything goes so quickly that I could not have slowed down and got behind him and he intentionally tried to push me into the other side. When the bus passed I had just under a foot on each side of me between the two very large vehicles. I am good at negotiating between cars, judging distance and squeezing my way through, but what concerned me was the wind/draft I was about to be hit with. Whenever I get passed by a fast moving truck I have to prepare myself for it because as it passes it can suck me right over into the lane. I did not know what was going to happen here as I was now drafting this other large truck. Fortunately my bicycle just got a little bit of a wobble, I continued on and passed the truck that pushed me into the next lane. I did not see him again until after the downhill. Big trucks really cannot take steep mountain curves very fast. Bicycles and motorcycles handles corners like that better than anything.
I wish I had put on my video camera to capture it, it was the most intense downhill so far and the first time ever I had to squeeze my way that close between to very large transport trucks.
The road turned into more of gently rolling hills and some relatively level areas. The kind of area that is ideal for cycling and enjoying it, only I had that awful headwind still. Even a gentle downhill that I could normally just sit and coast at 20mph, I was pedaling to keep my speed up to 15mph. I never had to pedal downhill before and I wondered why was I given this challenge. I would have loved to have a tail wind and just enjoyed it but no for some reason I was meant to have to work at it all day, even on the easy sections.
Overall, even with the wind, I felt like I could push myself harder now. I made my best time today and felt stronger today than I had. Although after I got checked into a hotel in Ambato, my legs struggled up the stairs to the room. The rest of the evening they felt really fatigued and weak, time to rest for a couple days!
I washed my face and hands to get cleaned up enough to go fing the ATM, after washing my face twice I wiped it off with a towel and blackness came off my face onto the towel. All that diesel smoke still on my skin after washing it. I decided to jump in the shower. The Pan American highway is filled with large diesel spewing trucks and tour buses, the trucks outnumber the cars. The exhaust is a thick black especially giong uphill. I do not think they have any type of emmision standards here. I wondered what was goign on with my lungs as I keep gasping for air and getting them filled with diesel exhaust. I hope the number of big trucks will diminish after Cuenca, I think most of the vehicles are traveling between the capitol, Quito to Cuenca and the port at Guayaquil.
During the evening I walked half a block away to a nice restaurant and made some attempts at conversation with the two young men working there and the older man who owned it. It was a good experience and I had a good meal. While I was sitting there waiting for me food, I realized that this really is slow food here. They cook it when it is ordered and everything is always fresh. The waiting time is when people engage in conversation and enjoy the time there. I thought about this nice little place I was sitting at with these friendly people and how great it is when experiences like this are shared with others. I do like the alone time out on the road but there is also a balance needed in life, sharing with others is part of it.
I have missed many great photo opportunities either because I am going downhill, too lazy to take the camera with me when I go for a walk or I just was not in the mood. One thing I had been seeing quite frequently are hearts. I saw it painted as graffiti on the road yesterday, I saw it as a pattern on a metal fence, and I saw one today painted on a large rock by the road. I like seeing the heart shapes because it just seems to be like some sort of message just for me.
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