[ Durango, Mexico ]
Greetings from Durango, the capital city of the Mexican state of…Durango. I arrived here one week ago after a rainy, challenging, three-day ride from El Salto. That challenge had less to do with road conditions and more to do with weather, altitude, and the lingering effects of my earlier chest cold.
Although my stay here has been eventful in its own right, the three-day transit gets its own post and set of photographs, to which, and to wit, we shall now segue awkwardly!
As mentioned, I suffered unpleasant after-effects of my chest cold during the ride. My departure from El Salto began with a steep climb out of town which should have been marked by the confident strength of a fit, well-rested touring cyclist. What happened instead was legs performing admirably while lungs whinged and whined, retorting with a shrill, debilitating “What the F*$K do you think you’re doing, son?!! Stop this nonsense immediately!!”
So I did. I stopped. A lot. Even in my easiest gear, on buttery-smooth pavement, a limping woman and her two infant children walked faster up that mile-long hill than I could ride. They played leapfrog with this would-be cycling He-Man, the children giggling at my gasping, red-faced performance each time they passed by (which was an embarrassingly large number of times). Vomit seemed imminent.
Somehow I did make it to the top of the hill…eventually. I kept telling myself I needn’t ride far, but that I needed to keep riding—to finally leave El Salto’s gravity. And ride I did, for a grand sum of twenty-five meager kilometers until I arrived at the small, faded, crossroads town of Llano Grande.
It was an interesting place to stop.
Llano Grande clearly used to be an industrial town of some promise. Unlike most small villages I encounter, this was clearly a planned community—built on a grid now littered with abandoned buildings, dead infrastructure, and overgrown yards. There was a small stadium and an out-sized, modern church which led me to a small gravel and dirt plaza lined with grocers, a laundry, closed restaurants, and a couple of street food vendors. I inquired about a campsite and was directed to the nearby home-slash-party office of a local government official, Jorge. After conferring with his wife, Jorge decided I should stay in the vacant headquarters of the Durango Municipal Board. The woman walked me to the building, unlocked a meeting room, and left me to camp inside. There were lights, functioning power outlets, and plenty of space: a nice dry oasis on an otherwise dreary night.
After pitching camp, I did my usual: explore, take note, and make friends—this time the street vendors (see photos for more info), and the heavily armed state police who were my next-door neighbors for the night. Everyone asked questions, then told stories; I answered, then listened.
For an abandoned town on a Saturday night, Llano Grande was hopping; teeming with guests in town for a large, private party thrown for “international couriers.” (The preceding quotes were drawn in the air by some of my new friends, as they advised me not to appear too curious about anyone’s occupation…should I find myself in conversation with one or more of the party-goers. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, though I’m disappointed I didn’t get the chance to converse with one of these visitors.)
So…where were we. Oh yes:
The next day was much-improved on the cardio-pulmonary front: stronger, easier, requiring fewer breaks and much less gasping—and capped by a late afternoon ride through cold drizzle. Come early evening I took shelter in El Rio Chico—basically a wide spot in the road at the bottom of a very steep ravine. There were a few homes on one side of the road, locked behind a gate, and an industrial parking lot on the other—littered with heavy machinery and guarded by junkyard dogs.
I took my chances with the dogs.
Nestled against the hill at the back of the lot, hidden amongst the machines, was the home of Eulalio Sanchez (photo attached)—a kindly grandfather who allowed me to camp for the night and wander his mechanical graveyard of junk and debris. In between bouts of rain I explored his demesne—happily reminded of my love for all things old & discarded. (Yes, those things are now things like me!)
Well, to wrap this up: my night was not peaceful—loudly punctuated by a regular stream of large trucks screeching their brakes on the way down, and straining their engines on the way up—both of which kept the dogs nervous and barking until dawn. I struck camp at first light and made the long ascent out of the valley. From there it was a relatively flat ride into Durango, ending with the kind of long, uninterrupted, miles-long descent that cyclists get all wet and gooey about—which means I arrived in Durango totes wet & gooey.
But that story will have to wait a few days.
Until then, amigos, take care of yourselves…and be kind to others. ALL of them, in fact.