A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Mayan Museums!

What were they like?

My normal companion and soul mate in travel is my wife Kim. While we both love to travel, we do it in different ways. I love to go to a new place and sit. Kim loves to move from town to town and from church to museum to castle to... you get the idea. Kim is about to retire, so we will have the challenge of seeing how best we can meld these two styles. In the end of August 2016 we are going to Banff, Jasper, Vancover, Victoria. The balance is that we will spend 2 days in each place. Hopefully that will give Kim a chance to race around and me a chance to sit.

Anyway, Kim is not in Cancun. But, I want to show that I am not an entire hedonist of bike and beer. There are two Mayan exhibits that I saw in Cancun. Both are on the hotel road. The first I went to is pretty far out at Kilometer 18?

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Posted by tompears 17:06 Comments (0)

The Airbnb Rooms?

Location Location Location

So, what did the rooms look like?

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There are 3 rooms, as you will see. This is the main room, where I sleep. There is an air conditioner on the wall to the right and you can see the black tower fan on the floor. I'm drying my cloths on chairs. I get back from riding at 8:40ish and start drying the cloths. Note the bike lives next to my bed.
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I use the cupbard doors for additional drying. You can also see the computer on the table. The first thing I do, after getting off the wet cloths, is to write an email to the family about the days ride. I sometimes include another note or two but mainly it is about the ride.
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Below, you are looking the other way. The door to the outside is on your left. The room to the left is the kitchen and the room to the right is the bathroom. Note the umbrella in its place of glory. I really used it a lot the first couple days but then things improved. And, I never had to skip a ride!
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You can see my big bottle of water on the counter.
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A riding shirt is on the door knob. I would move things as they got dryer. They started out on the chair next to the air conditioner and then moved to less important places as they got dryer, to make room for what was wetter!
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Then 3 pictures of the outside. The first shows the actual apartment. It is to the right of the Orange door and roof. My rooms are under the tree. Behind you is a little park and the next two pictures are of it.
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Below is the Palace Casino, the gambing operation. It is about 70 yards from my house. You just come out the door, turn left and it is the first building. Never had any problem with noise or people or anything. I could have been miles out in the country as far as I knew once I was inside.

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Down at the end of my street, the other way from the Casino, is a oXXo convenience store. Every morning there is a man selling an egg taco? Most evening this young lady is selling corn meal in a corn husk. I had to try one. I bought it and took it to eat at the Beer Box. One was enough. The morning egg item was actually quite good. My picture of it is in with the non-high-end eats post.

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Street food is all over Cancun. The taxi drivers seem to be big customers. But there are not enough taxis to keep all the vendors in business so lots of other people must be buying also.

Posted by tompears 17:08 Comments (0)

Where else did you eat?

I take a picture of most meals so I have to show them somewhere!

This post is still a work in progress, only parts are finished, coming soon!
So where else did you eat beside DU MEXIQUE, Peter's Restaurante and La Habichuela

Let me start with dinners. The first night I just went to anything that was close by. I had a rice chick and cheese in tin foil and, at another restaurant close to by Airbnb, a grilled onion plate.

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The second night I ate at Dublin Irish Pub that is right on top of the Beer Box. I have already told the story in my Beer Box post. I really enjoyed the chicken and chips! And, I had a second meal that same night at Beer Box.

In NH I am very careful about what I eat. My phrase is that if rabbits don't eat it, I probably should not either. Eating light, for me, is all about fighting the Diabetes. Normally when I am on the road, I don't fight the food fight. I eat what I want within reason. On a trip like this, where I was riding and walking so much, I ate as much and as often as I wanted. As far as weight, it worked out. I did not put on weight.

For lunches,

For breakfast, I mainly ate fruit at 5:30am. I started off with strawberries that I bought at Walmart. Once those were gone, I did grapes for a couple days. Then the last 3 days I did catelope. I never drank tap water. I washed my fruit in bottled water. I brushed my teeth with bottled water. I did consume some water of unknown origin as ice in martini or margarita etc. My guess is that Cancun has figured out the water issue. They know that if gringos get sick, it does not bode well for business. If someone knew the story, I bet it would turn out that at some point a US level water treatment plant was installed and the whole area, not just the Hotel Zone, works off of it. It would be interesting to know. I don't remember any stomic upset at all.

I bought water from the local 7/11 type store that is called oXXo. I bought a couple liter bottles but once they were gone I filled them from my 2 gal? wopper. I went through 2 of the woppers. I drink water when I get up to go to the bathroom at night so I always have a liter bottle full on the sink.

I did eat breakfast food "from away" twice. The first time was my first day, before I had gone to the Walmart. But after I had gone to the local bank machine and gotten some pesos. I had an egg and beans and even took a picture of the menu.

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I did have two breakfast items that were not just fruit.

8.9.10 show the bus station
14,15 shows the first dinner at Dublin Irish Pub

Posted by tompears 17:12 Comments (0)

Cost and Talk

How much did this cost and who did you talk to for 10 days!

Summary of Cost:

The details are at the bottom of this post but the headline in US Dollars is

air 462 +room 363 +bike 224 => 1050
cash 280 and credit card 800 => 1080
grand total of 2130

Talk

I talked to very few people during my 10 days in Cancun. I'm a somewhat gregarious person. I'm not a back slapper. I don't come up to you with a warm greeting. But, my wife is so put off by my talking to strangers that she prefers we sit apart on airplanes so she is not embarrassed by my constant drivel. I refer to my conversations as what I learned about the person on the bar stool next to me. Because, that is where I most often engage with strangers. I love finding out what other people are doing and thinking. I certainly love to talk about myself and I certainly put forward my own ideas. But usually I am must more interested in learning more about you.

Because I was traveling alone, I was probably more needy than regularly for some chance to flap my lips. Even though I rode by bicycle with the same group each day, only a few of them came forward and offered to speak English. I don't speak Spanish at all, other than ola, buenos días and mucho gracias. This alonenessss was exacerbated in that I was using Airbnb. I was not in a hotel or hostel with other foreigners. I talked to my landlord maybe 4 times in the course of the 10 days and it was all fairly functional conversations. I did telephone my wife nightly, but again it was mainly details without affect, just assuring ourselves that each was doing well.

As you can see in my food pictures, I read and do sudoku during meals. I certainly was open to finding people to share meals with but it never happened. I never figured out how to hang out at a bar in the Hotel Zone and meet other foreigners. A challenge for next time.

Isn't it always true that the first is the best? I'm always struck by how often people tell me that they met a life long friend during the first week of college. When we are thrown into a new unfamiliar situation, we are often more open to bonding, more in need, more willing to reach out.

My arrival in Cancun was not auspicious. The flight had been delayed. I was not at all sure that I could contact my Airbnb host. I had a plan to get me to his house that involved a bus from the airport and a 30 minute walk. But it was dark and raining.

The airport was the normal long passage through customs and immigration. I have no specific memory, so it must have gone fairly smoothly. I was selected for a baggage search and the woman opened everything and seemed to have never seen a c-pap (anti snore machine) before. But all in all, smooth. It was a fairly long walk to the bus area. Luckily I had the name of the company that ran the bus from the airport to Cancun so I could ask people about ADO.

It was raining. Not cats and dogs but enough so you got wet. I carry my life on my back. I have a suitcase and a back pack. I am caring a 3ft black umbrella. I am wear t shirt, dress shirt, fleece, wind breaker and heavy all weather sailing slicker, all to save room in the luggage I have timberline heavy duty dress shoes that also perform as boats. Totally waterproof, as long as the water does not come over the sides.

There is a cue. I go to the front to be sure it is the cue I want to be in, it is, I return to the back and slowly await my chance to get under the "roof" and then wait another 20 to 30 minutes to arrive at the front of the line where the woman accepts my 5 US dollars and gives me a slip for the 7:30 bus. I have talked to a couple of young men in the line. One is Asian, has a HUGH suitcase and is on his way back to Cancun. I say back, because he started the day in Cancun, came to the airport, missed his flight, spent the day trying to get on another and is now on his way back to town to repeat the process tomorrow, hopefully without repeating the missed flight part. Another is from the UK. He has just arrived on vacation. Once we have our tickets, we stand on the other side of the cue, in the small overhang of the roof though in fact the rain has diminished. There are a lot of people crammed under this roof with us and more coming. Occatioanally a bus pulls in, lots of the wrong people try to get on it, try to block the people from getting off, general disorganization. There is a very short woman standing with us. She is 50+. Her back pack is all wrong. Not wrong but wrong for her. It has only a slight internal frame. It is small for a backpack but substantial as a suitcase. Maybe 2 feet tall and one around. It just looks serious. Either this woman is mis-equipmented or has done some serious traveling. I'm a little reluctant to engage with her. Women her age can be needy. I make a couple of overtures. She engages but does not "latch on". It looks like I am safe to talk to her.

She is the highlight conversation of the Cancun trip. I'll remember her the rest of my life. She is totally out there. She lives in Birmingham or somewhere in the UK. She has just come in and is on her way to a remote island north of Cancun, probably Holbox but it could be one even further along. I have not familiarized myself with the area yet and so don't have passive knowledge of the island names people could throw at me. I never asked her about a husband or employment. She does not work. She travels. She is a little worried that her house in the UK sits vacant so much of the time and she may have to do something about that, but it is ok for now. She goes home in the summer and she home for the xmas holidays. It is Jan 13th, so she is just on her way out again. She also spends some time in the spring or summer in Greece. Her sister and husband have a 40 foot boat and she sails with them on that. She is not a sailor. She feels fairly guilty that she really can't pitch in when things go wrong. She has learned a lot, she can do what she is told, but she is not the asset that a real crew member would be. But, they tell her it is fine and she keeps going back.

She is on her way to a hostel in cancun for the night and will get a bus onto her island in the morning. She told me about all the other places she had been. Certainly Asia, Bankock, all over europe, etc. Oh, I asked her about a most remembered adventure and she nominated the 6 week Camino de Santiago. I knew about it. She told me that there was a biking contingent on the trail with her but they kept pretty much to themselves. Of course they would be moving at a mush faster pace and while they would see bikers, they would never see the same bikers twice.

We talked about needing friends and meeting strangers. Clearly she is happy or living with her balance. She has friends at home. She clearly is open to talking to strangers like me on the road. When our bus came, we sat next to each other and continued the conversation. There were a 100 people waiting for buses at the airport. Many of them, though not all, were going to Cancun. But, our bus left 2/3s empty. Lots of people tried to get on but their tickets were not for 7:30. The answer was provided once we were underway. We made at least 2 more stops and the bus was full by the time it left for Cancun. I have to assume the other stops were at non-international terminals at the airport but it really was too dark and rainy to be sure.

Once at Cancun, we got out and claimed our bags, NO TICKETS, from a scrum under the bus. Mine was not there. I had to calm myself into accepting disaster but a walk to the other side of the bus produced my loan suitcase. I said goodbye to my short friend. She was off to get information about the location of her hostel. She came by again in a few minutes. I had established communication with my Airbnb host and he was on his way to get me. I told my friend that I was sure he would know where her hostel was but she had been given directions which way to walk and was on her way.

How could I have extended the engagement or laid the ground work for continued connection? I could have given her a card. Even though neither of us had eatn, I just was not in the frame of mind to drop my quest and settle back into enjoying the moment. I was too nervous about arrival, moving the bags to the Airbnb etc. Often, I can just ease off and say "I'm going where you are going". But not this moment. Maybe in the future, since I know these arrival moments often produce the most interesting encounters, I can build in more "leeway" to take an hour out.

It even occurred to me that I should ride the bus out and back from the airport to meet interesting people but I guess that is too creepy and besides there was too much tequila to be consumed in town.

I did not have any particular conversations on the planes. I am ashamed to say I don't remember my seat partner Boston to Atlanta. We had an open seat between us and she slept?. Most interesting were the 3 people in front of me. A couple who were going to a craft store? convention in Atlanta. The single woman in the same row was going to the same convention as a manufacturer's representative or marketing person. She had a wonderful long story to tell about developing her own product and selling her company. I may remember more about the product later but it was something like a diaper bag. She stated out making it in her house. One of her tricks was to not sell it at a small margin but build in a large margin so that she could easily move to selling it in stores and have enough margin to share with the re-sellers.

Atlanta was more interesting. There were two wildly misbehaving children in the loading area. One even made a break for it at the last moment. The couple was Indian with mother-in-law along. I ended up with the man and son. The son was still causing trouble but would drift off occasionally. The man was a doctor in the mid-west. They had been there for years. He did his medical school in the US.

On the trip home Cancun Atlanta leg, I had two empty seats next to my isle. The wife from behind moved up and slept. On the final Atlanta Boston leg, we were 3 across, all seats taken but there were two seats across from us. A very large man was stuck with 2 other men crammed in a couple of isles ahead. The woman next to me was 45? and seemed an ideal conversation mate but was anxious to get into the two empty seats. Once the door was closed and I saw the large man starting to move, I suggested the lady next to me jump, to beat out the ladies behind us also locked into 3. She did. She sat on the inside and the large man on the outside. I was enough intrigued by her willingness to talk that I waited for her in the gang way and talked to her as we walked to ground transportation. She had a phd in clinical psychology, was teaching at a college I had not heard of and was just returning from speaking at an Atlanta conference. Her specialty was schizophrenia and other heavy duty physocies. She loved to travel. I knew she would think of Cancun as low class and indeed she did. She and her significant other, who is German?, are off to Paris this spring or summer. She lives down in Dover and was parked at Logan. She had a least a son but I forget his story right now.

Cost Details

Lets get to the meat. I flew on Delta from Boston Logan to Cancun airport through Atlanta. The total cost was 461.63. Everything is in US dollars,
Wed, January 13 from Boston, Massachusetts
DELTA 1701 9:45 am
arrive Atlanta, Georgia 12:35 pm
DELTA 385 1:50 pm from Atlanta
arrive Cancun, Mexico 4:40 pm

Sat, January 23 from Cancun, Mexico
DELTA 530 8:00 am
arrive Atlanta, Georgia 10:34 am
DELTA 2559 11:20 am from Atlanta
arrive Boston, Massachusetts 2:00 pm

My Airbnb apartment Wed, Jan 13, 2016 to Sat, Jan 23, 2016 cost 363.00

My wonderful bike from Elite Cyclery cost 223.93 from Thursday Jan 14 to Friday Jan 22.

I converted 280.00 to Pecos, some of that I brought home

I put 800 on my credit card
which includes
80 at the beer box (under reporting: I sometimes paid cash)
384 for dinner: (DU MEXIQUE 61.90 Hanaichi Suchi 58.94 PETER S RESTAURANTE 46.33 MR PAMPAS DO BRASIL 37.68 LA HABICHUELA 35.80 etc)
160 for lunch
42 to and from Logan airport on the bus
40 beer at Walmart
40 bike light
40 food, sun screen, etc

So air+room+bike => 1050
cash and credit card => 1080
grand total of 2130

Posted by tompears 17:12 Comments (0)

Isle Mujeres

Fast easy trip, definitely worth the effort

On Day 5, Tuesday Jan 19, I took the fast ferry out to Isle Mujeres. My main reason in going was to do a little reconnaissance around a bird trip I hoped to take. My one guide book, Cancun & Cozumel, published by Moon, recommended on page 72 a bird trip to Isle Contoy operated by Captain Tony Garcia. It leaves from Isle Mujeres. My plan was to show up at his office and scope out the situation. I knew that it was an all day adventure to Isle Contoy so I would have to give up biking and travel to Isle Mujeres early in the day.

Side note: Doesn't one always need an organizing principle? In some situations for some hours I can just drift. Just walk the streets. Ride the bus. But, in reality I have something on my mind. I am walking a certain area. Riding for a certain distance or time. Does it mater what the organizing principle is? Not really. I was worried that I might need some focus outside of biking. It could rain. I could be too tired. One idea I came up with back in New Hampshire was birding. I'm a mid level birder. I don't keep a life list but I sometimes write down all the birds I see at our summer home in Maine. I went out and bought my first pair of mid level binoculars. (Zeiss Terra Ed 8x42 $450 at Mass Audobon). I actually spent days back in NH talking to knowledgeable sales people about options for taking pictures of birds. In the end, I dropped the idea of a SLR digital camera and just took the iphone and these new binoculars. In any event, I had an idea to see some birds in Cancun.

So, I had to figure out how one got to Isle Mujeres. There are lots of ferrys from lots of places. One even leaves from the Hotel Zone very near my Playa Gaviota Azul beach? Online resources, which one exactly I can't find now, (I had wifi in my Airbnb rooms) directed me to UltraMar Service from Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez. This was the correct one. Puerto Juarez is north of Cancun. At first I went down to where I meet my bikers at the start of the hotel road and tried to find a bus to Puerto Juarez. I could not find one or anyone to help me. So, I just got on the normal R1 bus that goes out the Hotel Zone and to the bus station in Cancun. The driver was able to communicate to me that he did not go to Puerto Juarez but he could help me on my way.

I have not talked much about the R1 and R2 buses. They both pick up passengers at a point 10 minutes? from my Airbnb. The place they pick up is the "wrong" bike park that I went to the first day. They are almost "constant". As one pulls away, another arrives. R1 goes up to the Bus Terminal that is north of this point and the R2 takes a more southerly route to Walmart. The cost is 10.5 peco, about 50 cents or 1$ if you would like to use US money. I rode these buses every day, often 4-5 trips on one day.

So, back to Isle Mujeres. After we had veered right from the Bus Terminal, my R1 driver signaled that I should get off and take a small yellow decorated van labeled UltraMar Isle Mujeres. This was my first Cancun ride on what I had learned about in Albania. There they are called a Furgon. It is a van with benches in the back. The driver just packs the people in until there is no more room and then takes off and the next van pulls in. It is definitely not for your mother. I think the cost was the same 50 cents. It was a short ride to the Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez terminal. I bought my ticket, ($6 each way) got in line and boarded the boat.

This is what the boats look like:
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They are wonderful. 15 minute ride. I sat on top both too and from. This is the view before we left

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And here I am on the main street. This is honky tonk. Makes Oak Bluffs on Martha Vinyard look like a classie resort.

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Note the Golf carts. They are the main mode of transportation. The torists rent them and cruise the island. I just stayed in this main town.

When I got off the boat and understood the "environment" I had landed in, I looked around for someone who might have been here before. A 50 year old man was sitting on a flower bed near the boat egress. I approached him and asked where I should eat lunch. He directed me to walk to the end of the street where I would find Jax's. Here is what Jaxs looks like from the street.

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I had my normal chicken and beans with Mole sauce,

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I am on the balcony level but did not make the effort to get a table outside.
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The houses have some real color.
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You can see they have left room on the beach for the local fisherman.
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I found Captain Tony Garcia's office/house. It was not obviously open so I did not knock on the door. There was a sign saying to be here at 8:15 for the boat. I took a picture but don't have it now? I never got to take the bird boat ride. I called Tony regularly over the next few days and was more than willing to give up my morning ride and catch the boat to Isle Mujeres instead. But, Tony could not predict the weather and each evening said it did not look good for the next day. He did go one day without me. I had a plan B, in case I got out there and he did not go. My plan was to ride my bike up to the ferry, take the bike on the ferry and then have it to ride on the island, along with my beach operation. Maybe next time.

We are ready to go back
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This is what the Hotel Zone looks like from the water.
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On the ride out, I did have one of my rare opportunities to chat up a tourist couple. They were in medical residence at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. He in anesthesiology and she in psychiatry. I think he had been down with his parents or other guys years ago but this was her first time.

Posted by tompears 17:15 Comments (0)

Did you go to the Beach

What was it like?

Hector, my Airbnb host, suggested Playa Gaviota Azul when I asked about where I could go swimming. A major concern for me was that I was alone. How could I manage changing and protecting my iphone etc at the beach?

Hector said that at the end of Playa Gaviota Azul there was a break water made out of fake rocks. He puts his "valuables" in a pouch in a crack in the breakwater where it is above the waves but also where he can watch it from the water.

I was able to be looser. I just carried my swim suit, towel and valuables in a back pack. After lunch in an Hotel Zone restaurant near this beach, I would change into my bathing suit in their men's room and then just leave my back pack on the sand, but in an exposed area where I could keep an eye on it. Here are lots of pictures of Playa Gaviota Azul.

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These firsts two pictures show the entrance to the beach. It is at Kilometer 9 along the hotel road, right in a very busy commercial section. As one goes out the Hotel Road, the hotels are all on the left, Ocean side, of the road. At several points, especially kilometer 9 and 13, there are not just bunches of hotel but also many malls and restaurants.

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The above pictures give you an idea of what the beach looks like as you first come upon it after leaving the road, walking down an entrance and then emerging onto the sand.

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I always love features like the rock above. Gives the miles of sand a little character!

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Now I have walked to the left of the rock. In the pictures above you can see the break water. This part of the "public" beach is far enough from the entrance that only a limited number of people take the time to walk this far.

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Above is the view back, looking toward the entrance.

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So this is a public beach. I like to think that it is part of the Airbnb ethos. Hector recommends it because it is a place where he is comfortable and tourists are comfortable. You can see the hotel. In the pictures below you will see how they "own" the beach front by putting their "guest only" chairs out. But the rule in Mexico, UNLIKE the FREE US, is that the people own the beach, not the hotels.

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The man is digging a "stair" so the hotel guests can easily walk down from where the hotel chairs are to the beach were we common folk are.

Posted by tompears 17:17 Comments (0)

Beer Box

My home away from home

I'm a beer drinker. I love the variety that is provided by the US craft beer movement. In the fall of 2014, I spent 6 days drinking beer in Belgium. I visit Philadelphia and New York City high end beer establishments at least once a year. I drive to a wonderful 120 tap bar in Boston once a week. I'm trying to give myself a little CRED in this area.

One of my greatest misgivings, greatest fears about this Cancun trip was that I would be beerless or almost as bad, drinking commercial piss. I was somewhat encouraged to read about Walmart. Several beer sources online said that the Cancun outlets had a reasonable selection. One of the things I did on my first morning, even before I picked up my bike, was to walk to Walmart. They had a good selection that I purchased to stock my fridge.

In looking at bars online, Beer Box

https://www.facebook.com/beerboxcancun/?rf=112102208878662

stood out. BUT there were also signs that it was closed, gone. Now that I search the web, everything about Beer Box is positive, but back then I was worried. My first day, at noon, I walked to Dublin Irish Pub.

http://www.10best.com/destinations/mexico/cancun/downtown/nightlife/dublin-s-irish-pub/

It was closed. I ended up having a nice meal at

http://www.yelp.com/biz/marakame-caf%C3%A9-canc%C3%BAn

and coming back at 6pm to Dublin Irish pub. The staff was very friendly and did everything they could for me. But, the draft selection was poor, and they had very few interesting bottles. They did provide an excellent chicken and chips in the fish and chips style.

I went down stairs and found the Beer Box. I was soon in heaven. I spent the next 8 nights there.

Ah, the balance between beer and staff. One could have fabulous beers and an uncaring staff. The beer box has a fabulous staff and the best beer I found in Cancun. For some reason I have my own picture of Stephenie.
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but I had to photoshop a picture of Edwardo from the web (:-)
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Hard to imagine how that happened.

Edwardo had a very interesting IPA? on tap for the first nights, but eventually I drank it all. I spent a couple nights drinking a Mexican IPA and a Mexican Belgium and finished up the stay just drinking the Belgium.

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It is a hard job but someone has to do it.

Here are some more interior Beerbox shots

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You can see better ones on their facebook page,

Saturday we got to watch NFL football! Most nights I watched Australian Open Tennis on the large screen. Occasionally the mixed boxing wrestling was the offering. I really enjoyed the food, though generally I came after dinner. I can recommend the whole potato french fries.

Sometimes I was so over heated form the 30 minute walk from my dinner that I had to stand under the air conditioner or sit outside for a while. Some nights it was just so pleasant outside that I would choose that though normally I liked the back and forth of seeing what was going on inside.

I did get to talk to one very interesting couple Sunday night. They were on their way to Cuba. Flying from the US into Cuba is still a bit sticky. You need to be part of a culture group or some such. This couple had moved from Florida to Columbus Ohio as a good central location to see the middle of our country. They had a 4 year old daughter who they had just dropped off with grandparents in Florida and were off for a weeks travel. He was in commercial photography, had run iron man races. She had done Social Media stuff with a TV station but was full time with the daughter as the daughter adjusted to Columbus. They really were dedicated to travel. Had been lots of places, including many hours in Belgium Trapest monastery breweries. He had the same internet impression that I did, a worry that Beer Box might be closed. They also had a terrible story of their cab driver not being able to find it and driving around for an hour! They were meeting friends who also love to travel and had a general idea for poking around Cuba. Without my knowing it, until after they left, they paid my bar bill! After that, I kidded Stephenie that it was her job each night to find someone who wanted to pay my bill!

Edwardo, besides keeping me very happy with his wonderful beer selection, also provided a way to the airport. My problem was that I wanted to be the the airport at 6am for a 8am flight. The airport is about 30 minutes from downtown. And I knew from first hand experience that there were almost no taxis on the roads at that time. Edwardo had a regular driver. He called the driver, set up the place/time/price and then had me call the driver. The place was the one divergence. My Airbnb was next to a gambling casino called the Palace. The driver, Mario, was not "permitted" to pick up passengers at the Palace but he could at the Ambassador hotel next door. Edwardo gave me a script "Ola, Soy Tom de da de da" I don't have the paper. I called, said the lines, we said Gracias and hung up. Now, we both had the others number on our phones in case there was any trouble at 5:30. But, Mario was there and all went well.

Posted by tompears 17:20 Comments (0)

High End Dining

A guide for my friend

A close friend is going to Cancun soon. She is a super foodie. This is mainly written for her but you might get something out of it too.

Her hotel may be all inclusive, but just in case she is motivated to wonder out for a meal.

In order to get anywhere, you will probably use a taxi. I'm going to offer you three restaurants. They are all about the same distance form your Excellence Playa Mujeres, assuming it is on the mainland where I think it is and not on Isle Mujeres. You should negotiate a price with the driver before you leave the hotel. Google says the cab rides should take about 20 minutes. I would assume such would cost $200 peso or less. Do the same negotiation ahead when you flag a cab to return. The restaurant will get you a cab if you ask.

Lets take the strangest high end one first. It is called DU MEXIQUE By Sonya Grimond. Opens at 7pm Sonya will come to your table. This is high end french, with a Mexican twist. I believe that the chief will come out and present the menu to you and talk about each dish. Because the dollar is so strong, you should be able to get out for 100$ US or 150$ with wine. I had a Pinot Grigio glass of Grigio Terre that was one of the best Pinots I have ever had. Disclaimer: If I said that about a beer, you should pay attention. About a wine, not so much. I don't have the money to spend on real wine so my taste tends to Oaked Chardonnay.

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You get an idea of the smallness of the restaurant. That is all the tables there are! The first plate shows the peta they brought me gratis. The second is the appetizer I ordered. It is a cheese souffle. I loved the texture but was disappointed to not taste more of the particular cheese flavor, though I have forgotten what cheese it was. Lastly the main course, chicken with mushrooms. I was a little afraid of the vegetables on potatoes that came with it but they were excellent. I thought the food was excellent but the atmosphere was even better.

My next choice offers the same great personal touch. Peter's Restaurante Peter is the chef and is right there talking. Now, in order to avoid making a reservation, my trick is to show up right when they open. I did this with DU MEXIQUE also. The other trick here at Peter's, if you have any trouble, they allowed me to sit at the bar. It is not as romantic BUT Peter is right there asking about everything. You really get to see what is going on.

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Sorry I only have the one picture. The restaurant is not large but certainly 3 times the number of tables of DU MEXIQUE. I had a hard time choosing an entree and settled on the special. Clearly it had mushrooms but I admit to having forgotten what else. It was very good. I was disappointed to learn that the special cost almost twice as much as the normal entrees. Another general Cancun lesson was: forget my normal Gin Martini and just order a Margarita or a shot to Tequila. I'm sure some of the high end hotel bars can make a decent Martini but I never got one.

Lastly, but not last in any way, is La Habichuela. Old world Mexican. Service over the top. Wonderful selection. Again, the manager is right there to greet you and see to your every need.
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I had the black bean soup and another Mexican standard, chicken with Mole sauce. This restaurant prides it self on traditional food but also has a wide selection. The atmosphere was wonderful. Service was very attentive and I felt I could sit as long as I wanted.

I ate at this downtown location and at their "hotel" satellite, called La Habichuela Sunset out in the Hotel Zone. La Habichuela is right in the middle of the downtown action. It is a little hard to find on foot but your taxi driver should be going there regularly. A wonderful added attraction to this one is that it is right on Pargue Las Palapas. Now, if you were not adventurous, I might not be saying this. But you know about big lots and by the pound. You enjoy seeing how the other half lives. In Spain, every night everyone in the town shows up at the central plaza. That is what this is. Kids, street food, teenagers, tourists. Everyone is here. Great scene to see!

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And, it is totally safe. Cancun is super safe. I walked everywhere late at night and saw nothing!! One passed out fat 40 year old lady at my 7/11 (they call it oXXo) at 9pm. That was it! If you get out of your hotel, you will see the heavy police presence. They all ride with there flashers on, all the time. Stand on any street corner and in a few minutes you will see a police military pick up truck go by with 4 men in the back with body armor and machine guns. When I showed up for my daily 6am bike ride at the park, there was a motorcycle military person with body armor and a machine gun. He probably had been there all night. Anyway, I would enjoy Pargue Las Palapas and not worry at all. Of course one has to use common sense. Don't hold 100$ bills aloft!

Enjoy! I loved the food everywhere. I'll post another couple pages on my less expensive outings.

Posted by tompears 17:30 Comments (0)

Day 8: Friday Jan 22

The last day and the best!

The riders outdid themselves. even putting on a grand argument!

When I first arrived at 6 there was only one woman who I do not remember from before and she had a serious time trialing rig on her handlebars. It allows a rider to hold their hands far forward, almost like the prow of a ship and have the elbows on the handlebars. Not a good sign for someone like me who counts on slower women to slow the group down to where I can keep up.

By 6:30 we took off with 10+ people, 2 women. Some more people caught up. It is hard for me to tell where, but one slower woman in brown caught us and stayed with me at the back. About this time I realized we had a chase vehicle. I am not a good enough bike handler to look behind me but I could tell from headlights and noise that a car was staying right behind us. It honked loudly if anyone comes near us. I assumed it was protecting the lady and felt guilty about getting between it and her but what can I say. It is safer for everyone if I am alone at the back so I can dodge left or right.

Soon after, another chase truck with flashing lights comes around us and pulls off. Leads me to believe we had 2 chase vehicles. The pace is not bad. The brown woman who joined late has trouble on hills and I have to pass her at the 21k hill as I do not want to lose the group as I did yesterday. But 5-10 minutes later she catches up again. She is very powerful on the flat and makes back the lost hill time so now I feel comfortable staying with her and I believe she will always catch back up. Other people drop back, even behind me, but I stay with her.

At the normal 27K, we do not turn but continue on. I'm feeling ok but worried, glade it is not the first day. STEEP hill where she really drops back and I stay with the pack. Now the chase vehicle comes up to its "target", a man in green and they talk and he hangs on the van. I just stay back.

We turn at 34K. I am ok still. I usually stay with brown woman on the climb and then have to really push, breath hard, to keep up with her as she goes after and catches the group. The traffic is the normal crazy. The pace is fast but ok, I am hanging on, really trying hard to stay with the pack for the whole way for the first time. At 9k there is a taxi stopped in the road, in the wrong place, it is dangerous for us to get around at high speed. As always. police with war rifles are everywhere. Now the protected rider who had the van (it is gone now as it is daylight, shows himself to be the leader of the pack. If the pelaton has something to say to the race organizers, it is the leader or leaders who take the request forward.) yells at the police to get the dam taxi out of the way. The first officer does not react fast enough so the leader yells to the next officers we pass, all at 18mph

Anyway we ride on, at the 5k what I assume is the taxi sprints by with horn and stops and everyone is off their bikes for a fight. 6+ men are in the taxi driver's face. The leader stays completely out of it though I think his van reappeared and was taking video in case something went south.

I just move up to where the women are and after a while we are back up to a very fast clip and I finish for first time with the group. 68K at 32+kph, this is 42 miles at 20mph were as my Wednesday group ride I suffer 20 miles at 18mph.

I take the bike back this am and am in a taxi to the airport at 5:30 am tomorrow for my 8am flight.

Posted by tompears 17:44 Comments (0)

Day 7: Thursday Jan 21

Next to last day

I got dropped early on the ride today. Maybe at 16K. It was a larger group today than yesterday, 15? One woman. She wears blue. I have seen her ride at least once. She was in a group of 5? that was very protective of each other and when I ended up with one of their number, who was slowing, they all waited and picked us both up. Anyway, that was a previous day. Today, one guy dropped back fairly early and rode at the back with me. The lady came back. She got caught out, having trouble getting back up to speed after we had to stop for a stopped bus. Then a man I had not noticed before really dropped back and slowed. He tried to wave me around. But I like to be at the back with no one on my left so that gives me another "way out" in case of a sudden stop or fall. I can go left. And it has always worked out for me to stay with the slowest. This time the strategy failed. The guy really slowed and I had to pass him and I was way too far off the group by that time to catch.

So from 16K I rode out to 27, turned and came home. It is a little more dangerous in that buses and cars do not give me as much space when I am not 10 riders. I go slower as I am not huffing and puffing to keep up, but still lots of good exercise.

Posted by tompears 17:45 Comments (0)

Day5-6:TuWeJan19-20

I'm getting to be a pro at this.

I got to the park about 6 and there were a few riders. By 6:30. probably 20. A few of them did not seem to race off with us but I may just have missed them. I always ride at the back. When we were standing around, me off to myself, them speaking spanish, a 27 year old woman came up to me and starting talking. We switched over to English. She is not a regular rider, thus why she approached the safe old man. She is in art design. Her position is to design stores in the hotels. She is really into triathlon instead of just bike bike bike, She is disappointed that many of our riders love the bike too much and not the swim/run. She usually has to turn around early on this morning ride, as she has to be at work and it is not helpful that instead of leaving at 6 or 6:15, they finally get on the road at 6:30.

I stayed with the pack until 24K when I finally was huffing and puffing too much and dropped back. No sign of the "ride circles", this group seemed to be on its way out to airport, 27K. I road alone for a K or two, saw a rider in front and caught him. Then his friends, who were coming back on the other side of the divided Hotel Road called to him. He and I jumped the median and headed for home at about 27K. This group of 7 showed lots of concern for my partner and another rider who had a mechanical. We stopped and waited for him to catch up. Finally about 15K my partner and I dropped back and came in together. He does not speak English. This was the first time I have ever finished this hotel zone ride with anyone. It always takes more self discipline to speed up and slow down at another person's pattern. My legs are starting to object to this daily torture. I at least spent a moment stretching after this ride.

Here are a couple pictures of the actual bike. It is leaning against the wall of my Airbnb appartment.
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What in the world is the black bag? I use a normal plastic water bottle as a bike bottle. It is too lose in the bike bottle cage, so it lives in the felt bag meant to protect the binoculars, which to not get to go on 6am bike rides.

Gracias, hasta mañana
That is my goodby phrase. I usually get to say it at least twice. Once when I am getting ready to "drop off the back" of the group and once in the parking lot after I roll in 10? minutes after they got there. The group is still hanging around practicing their Spanish. They want to shake hands with me. At the parking lot, not while on the bike. Yesterday the man that pulled me home taught me the secret hand shake. It is a slap, knuckle bump and thumbs up sign. When they put out their hand, I of course am too slow and start extending my hand for the normal hand shake and they realize they are in trouble and just do the US shake.

I arrived at 6am. No one there but 4 individual men showed by 6:15 and took off right away. I held them out to 27K, at that point there was some talking and the slower man, who I had been following, said that the other 3 were going down to the bridge and come back so he would wait for them here. He had signaled that I should go with them but my general rule, as long as I am huffing and puffing, is to stay with the slowest guy. This guy had had trouble all along, sometimes trouble shifting gears, getting in and out of his peddle clips. It always helps me to have someone slowing down the group closer to my comfort speed. This is the man and the situation that you see on the overview page, the only picture of me on a ride!

While we waited, he got my story and said we had been averaging about 32-33K which is 20mph. About the best I do with my Wednesday Portsmouth group is 18mph so that is good news. With the rental bike, it is hard for me to judge speed.

The 3 fast riders returned from their "run to the bridge" and we took off for home. I managed to hold on to them until about 13k left, at which point I came up along side, said Gracias, hasta mañana and slowly dropped off the back. I almost always have the ability to "kick". As in the case above, I can move from last position to first and speak. My problem is that after a "kick" like that, it takes me a while to recover and get comfortable moving at just the normal pace again. I often have to "kick" hard to stay with the group going up the little hills over canals. Overall a good day. 41K at tempo and 54k total, though I did get a 4min rest 1/2 way out while I was having my picture taken.

Posted by tompears 17:47 Comments (0)

Day3-4:SunMon Jan 1718

First day with the regular 6:30 am riders and 1/2 way

Showed up at 5:30 even though the bike store lady had said 6. After my luck finding the triathletes with chase car left about 5:45 on Saturday, I sure did not want to take any chance of missing that freebe. It pored rain about 3am and everything was puddle and wet. These are conditions I would never ride in in NH but so few days to ride here and I can always turn back if I feel the road is too slick.

So I am on station at 5:30, no one by 6.
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You can just make out the big red digital clock that is in the "meetup" park. And here is a picture of the Kilometer signs that are all along the road. This is the start, Kilometer 0. Finally at 6:05 I spot 3 mountain bikers. I go over and stand with them just in case they are going on enough of a road for me to follow. I had gone to the bike store Saturday after my ride and bought the brightest fanciest lights, front and back. They cost me as much as 2 days of bike rental. Maybe I can bring them home.

Then at 6:15, a road bike rider pulls in. I unceremoniously dump the mountaineers and go over and say hello, I don't speak Spanish to the road rider. He speaks perfect english and says the riders will be here at 6:30. Riders start to appear. Lots of special hand shakes and they all kiss the woman. 9 men and 1 women take off about 6:35. I have spoken to no one other than buenos días.

Again, pace is more than OK. I just hang at the back. Pace picks up after 10K, I am hanging on fine, the woman and 1 man have dropped back but we are just off the main pack when they all turn at 14K and head back, faster, we 3 fall further behind. After 3K, the 2 I am with turn around again! and head the other way. We again turn back toward Cancun at 14K and again at 11K the woman and man turn around again. Not me, I'm dead, I head home with little bursts of speed. I stop for a stretch and drink at 9K about 8:05 and then am home at 8:40.

So now the routine is set. I probably show up at 6am Monday just in case they did 6:30 only because of Sunday. But if Monday 6 then Tuesday etc should be also. The stretch is that I eat breakfast (strawberries) at like 5:30 and then can't have lunch until 1pm when the real beer places open. That is 7 and 1/2 hungry hours. And on top of that I try to eat dinner starting at 6 to be ahead of reservations and get home for beers and bed.

Day 4

So this is half way. Wed and Saturday count as travel days. I'm here 9 days and have 5 left counting today, but who is counting.

I showed up at 5:50 just to be sure weekday ride did not go early. The first rider came about 6:05. A second came so I joined standing with the two of them. One spoke English and said Monday was a rest day so only he and 2 other crazy amigos were riding. Last one showed a little after 6:15 and we were off. No puddles on the road, same sane pace though I am huffing as we get further out. Instead of doing "circles" these guys went almost to the Cancun airport, over 27K. I came back with them about 4K and then told them that I would drop off. It is a lot of work to keep "pace". I don't go a lot slower on my own but it is so much more enjoyable when I can decided when to dog it and when to push. So, today I did 32k at pace and 54K overall, call it 33 miles. My normal NH coast run is 20. It is interesting to have all the work of the day done by 9am and I just coast until tomorrow 5:30 wake up.

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This is the Statue were we turned around. It is after the 27K sign.

Posted by tompears 17:49 Comments (0)

Day 1-2: Fri Sat Jan 15 16

Alone and some riders!

Friday morning I showed up at 6am and found no one. I showed up again at 7am. (My airbnb apartment was only a few minutes away). Again, no riders. I figured I might as well try the Hotel Road by myself. As I got closer to it, I realized I had been coming to the wrong park. One block further was a park with exercise stations, exactly the kind of place riders would congregate. I took a 5K run out on the hotel road sidewalk. There were curbs to cross. It has hard going, but better than being in the road. The hotel road traffic at 7am was murderous. At 5K I got up my nerve and road back in the actual road. I survived.

On the hotel road, I could get a little exercise (fast) ride. But I wanted to see what local non-Hotel Road riding was really like. I had done some poking around in the blocks near my apartment and had a little experience from riding the bike back from the rental pickup. I headed straight out, away from down town. I went about 30 minutes and then turned around and came back. It was just survival. The traffic was terrible. The traffic lights and speed bumps were constant. Pot holes were everywhere. I got totally drenched when a car rode past me as I was crossing a puddle.

I did get a little much needed experience with the bike. Stopping and starting. Getting in and out of the clips. Most road bikers "clip in" to the peddles with a clip on the bottom of a special set of shoes. The idea is that since you are attached to the peddle, you can pull up as well as push down. In the US, I do not clip in. I can. I have a bike that is set up that way. But I find that it is more dangerous and trouble than it is worth. I think I have a good enough peddling style that clipping in is not necessary. There is another alternative, It is called a cage. With a cage, each peddle, instead of connecting with a special shoe, has a plastic enclosure that the toe of your regular sneaker fits into. A cage often has a strap so you can lock your shoe into the cage. My Cancun rental came with cages. I took the straps off and just used the cage. In this first ride, I started to get used to getting in and out of the cages when I had to dismount for traffic lights. After the first days of riding, my feet had learned the little "moves" that allowed me to quickly flip the peddle and reenter the cage.

Start of day 2 and some riding success. I pulled up at the, correct this time, park. I did not look at the iphone but assume I was a little early, maybe 5:45. Three bikers are just leaving , two men and a women. I would say they are just 20 or maybe younger? I ask to join them, they do not speak english but I hop on the back, They have their own chase van!!!!!!! Yellow light flashing. Keeping cars from coming near us. He drives behind us and comes up to talk to them maybe 3 times. Their speed is fine, maybe even a little slow. I coast 50% of the time. Partly it is that the bike I am on is so much better than my normal. They are well trained and use hand signals and whistle to warn of hazards like speed bumps, water, pot holes etc. After 10? miles, the van and my three riding companions enter a pullout on the right. There is much conversation. I understand enough to see that they are trying to figure out which of them has enough english to talk to me. Finally one of the young men says: "now we run". Clearly they are training for a triathion, I make some hand singles suggesting I understand and maybe they will swim next. They put there bikes in the van, I have to ride back myself.

Hopefully the bike store opens today at 11 and I can buy/rent all kinds of flashing lights for the bike. As I rode back alone, I did see at least one small set of riders going the other way who may have been the actual 6am ride I was supposed to be on. There may have been more riders that I did not see. I had to focus on bike handling. But I do now have some confidence that I will be able to keep up.

It is hard for me to paint a clear picture of the hotel road at 6am. It is a good, well maintained, 2 lane road. There is a right side curb and a 15 foot grass median separating the north and south traffic. There are numerous pullouts where the buses and taxi go in to disgorge and collect passengers. Why a lot of traffic this early? The shifts are changing. There must be 50 hotels along the road and all of them need a new day shift and the night shift is on its way home. Not to mention all the restaurants and shops. The traffic does decrease as one gets further out on the 28 Kilomerter road but it is heaviest at the start though less dangerous in that there are no hotels and no pullouts. The pullouts and the occasional traffic lights and rumble strips are the killers. 18mph, our biking speed, may not seem that fast but we are not a car. Our breaks are not as good and, more importantly, we are independent entities. It is like having each of your 4 car tires entering emergency lockup and having them be independent so they can swerve in any direction. I'm not the best bike handler and I'm old so I always rode at the back. That gave me one more degree of freedom to avoid hitting another biker, There was no one on my left. I could swerve in that direction if I needed to.

This first day I was introduced to two other phenomena that I never would have guessed at. The bikers do not stop at red lights. They slow down, they have to be hyper aware of pedestrians, but they cruse on through on the inside of the traffic if there is room. Often there is a car in the right lane so the bikers have to stop. There are probably 6 traffic lights on the whole of the road. And, they whistle. There is a bird in Mexico that is not in New Hampshire and I never identified but it whistles, a single note like a cardinal, long and solid. The bikers make the same sound to signal danger and warn drivers of their presence. I honestly thought at first that I was hearing the birds. Then I thought they had an actual metal whistle in their mouths! But no, I was convinced over the 7 days of ridging that the bikers whistle. Bikers usually use hand signals to warn fellow bikers of pot holes, rumble strips, slowing. In an emergency stopping situation, it is better to keep both hands on the handlebars and use sound.

Posted by tompears 15:04 Archived in Mexico Tagged cancun roadbike Comments (0)

Overview

What was this all about

semi-overcast 70 °F

I'm a fairly active 70-year old man, and my doctors are trying to classify me as Type 2 Diabetes. I walk fast and bike a lot, and I like to drink beer. My main form of exercise is riding a road bike; I ride every other day in good months, but some months I ride only about 8 times. My normal route is 20 miles at 16+ MPH.

Last winter, 2015, was tough in New Hampshire. We got a lot of snow and I did not ride for months. Soooo, my idea for 2016 is to fight the Diabetes by riding 10 days each month. I hate riding on the stand in front of the TV, so I am going to travel to places where I can ride outside. This is the story of my first 10 day trip, Jan 13-23 to Cancun Mexico.

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This is the only known existent picture of me on an actual ride. No, I am not the handsome young dude taking the selfie. I am the geezer in the background. There is a good story around how I came into possession of this photo. I rented my road bike from Elite Cyclery in Cancun. I dealt through email with one of their representatives, Jonatan Bonilla. He was not at the shop when I picked up my bike on Thursday 1/14 or when I came in to buy flashers on 1/16, but he was there when I returned the bike on 1/22. Better than that, he was not in the shop but sitting on the bench outside, waiting for a co-worker to unlock it. When I rode up, he said, you must be Tom and of course I knew he must be Jonatan. Anyway, a couple hours later he emailed me and said, "I think I have seen you on a ride" and sent me this selfie that his friend had sent him!

I took two other pictures of people I rode with. These are from my last day, 1/22.
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Now for the actual story.

When I picked up my bike at Elite Cyclery, they warned me that the roads in Cancun were potholed, there were too many traffic lights and the traffic was confusing, non-stop and not rider friendly. The only nearby good road was the 28K stretch out to the hotels. I was told that a group goes at 6am most days from a park at the beginning of the Hotel Road. In the posts below, I'll tell the story of my daily rides and other adventures in Cancun.

I want to especially thank the 6am riders on the Hotel Road. They always made me feel welcome and not a burden. They are all such gentleman, and ladies! I have found that riders all over the world are wonderfully helpful. If I stop at the roadside, even to rest, most cyclers ask if I need assistance. With the Hotel Road group I never pulled my weight against the wind. I spoke like 3 words of Spanish. I had an obnoxious bright blinking gringo strobe light. No one ever made a comment. They let me ride my own pace at the back. I have told everyone that after this first 10-day winter riding trip, I'm afraid it will all be downhill disappointing from here!

Posted by tompears 05:37 Archived in Mexico Tagged cancun bicycle roadbike Comments (0)

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