San Cristobal: Hometown Adventure

It has been decided. Sitting at my desk in the same hostel I’ve been in for a week-and-a-half, I selected a date. This journey ends the third week of April. My evac plan entails crossing six borders in six weeks. I will box my bike and fly out of Panama City, Panama in time for the annual Crush the Commonwealth bike race.

Kleen Kanteen on Table San Cristobal

Crush the Commonwealth, CTC for short, runs from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia alternating start/finish every year. This year it’s Pittsburgh to Philly. The length of the route is nearly 400 miles and is ridden nearly nonstop. Winners take between 30 and 40 hours, a very long time to sit on a bike.

Why do I want to end a ride across a continent to race across a state? Well, if I’m being honest, I’m tired and I’m ready to be home. Why the race though? Because it provides a firm deadline for one. The race will also keep me active when I return home. A concern is depression. If I do not stay active, very active, I will become depressed. It’s happened before. I’ll spend half the day in bed and the other half lost in ADD induced indulgences that waste my life. Becoming active in the local cycling scene will inspire me to stay active.

While I will be happy to return home, an odd sensation ripples through my body when I think of boarding an airplane. After so long on the road, it’s hard to imagine it ending. I’ve been traveling for over eight months with more than a month to go. What will I do when it’s over? Celebrate, that’s what (and plan another trip :-)). Celebrate the ending of one adventure and the beginning of the next; an adventure in my hometown.

The end of this journey begins another, one I am looking forward to after so long away. I used to think adventure was reserved for epic travels. I now know differently. Adventure is only a state of mind. Adventure is saying yes to new experience; maintaining an open mind; stepping outside ones comfort zone. Even the most mundane aspects of life can be adventurous with the right mindset. I look forward to leaving old behavior patterns behind and living life with this new frame of mind.

In daily life we get lost in routine. Even I, on what many consider an epic adventure, get lost in it. It’s funny. I didn’t write much for a while. Everything felt so normal. I’d sit down and begin to write,

I ate another taco today. It had meat and onions and cilantro. I rode my bike again, 100kms. I smell bad. It was hot in the tropical sun. I shit next to a cactus. It didn’t prick me this time. Spoke to some Mexicans. They gave me food, offered me beer and marijuana, and let me sleep in their house. You know, typical day.

My point is that I must look for adventure even while on this trip. Just like at home, I must choose whether I talk to that stranger. If I do, it may lead to an adventure; to an invitation of some sort. If I don’t my world stays the same. I can settle for my comfort zone and camp alone along the road or I can choose adventure and ask the well-dressed group standing in front of the church if I can camp there. The choice is ours no matter where we are or what we are doing. What will you choose?

Tomorrow I will leave San Cristobal and, in a few days, cross the Guatemalan border. I am afraid. Once I cross that border I enter a new world. I’ve become acclimated to Mexico and it’s people. Like a dog that thinks it’s human, I think I may be Mexican. I feel at home here. Continuing also marks the race to the finish line as I rush to go home. I estimate crossing a border a week as I ride through Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I can’t wait.

I say I am afraid but what I really feel is excitement. Fear and excitement are easy to confuse and you can’t have one without the other. If you choose to focus on excitement, fear is much easier to manage. In fact, focusing on the positive aspects, your hopes and dreams, makes fear disappear. You’ll grin and become giddy, both physical manifestations of excitement that counter symptoms of fear. You can’t cower under blankets in bed if you’re bouncing in anticipation.

Anyway, I still have a long way to go. Maybe some of these thoughts are premature, but the finish line is in sight. 1,500 miles may seem like a long way. When compared to the 6,000 I’ve already ridden, it will pass in the blink of an eye. Sorry if this post is a little weird. Just some thoughts and emotions I’ve been pondering.

Jump ropping on rooftop

In Oaxaca, I helped Jess go through his kit and decide what to keep and what to send home. He wasn’t using this jump rope so he gave it to me! Thanks Jess. Surprised I’m jumping rope after all that cycling? I find it helps to keep moving in the hostels, especially if I am there more than a day. I tighten up if I don’t. Another reason for the jump rope is I want to become Super Human, a term Jess coined. He’s on the same mission, which is why we were working out on that mountain when we foiled the Bungler.

Needle and thread lie on mesh of tent with holes

Ants ate my tent in Copper Canyon. I finally got around to repairing it. I purchased netting in a fabric store and doubled it up; one layer on the outside, one on the inside. I used extra needles as pins to hold the material in place then I stitched circles around the holes. The process took an entire day! There were a lot of holes… Thanks for the thread Stephi!

Tent zipper sewn together on bike tour

The zipper ripped out in a windstorm north of Queretaro. I fixed that as well. Luckily, the zipper ripped off the slider near the top leaving most of the zipper still functional. This journey has reached the stage where things are breaking and falling apart. My watch is made of super glue. Literally. It’s broken four times now. Go super glue! My shirt is completely destroyed. Silver dollar sized holes in the back left some really odd sunburns… I finally sewed em up. Luckily, everything that matters is going strong.

Pedestrian Street in San Cristobal

Kid Selling Stuffed Animals on Street

Walking the streets at night you’ll see children working. They sell at small stands like this one and they walk around pedaling goods such as jewelry and candy. It can be really sad. Especially when you must be mean. They often enter restaurants and ask you to buy what they are selling. You say no. They can be persistent, and insistent. NO! The markets can be worse. “DON’T TOUCH ME!” I almost yelled at the tenth person who poked me to get my attention. I nearly had a break down. It gets frustrating.

Jewelry in Mexican Market

I do love the markets though.

Protester in a pop-up tent in the San Cristobal Zocolo

Libertad message written on wall in San Cristobal

Protests are being held all over Mexico. It seems to be a crucial point in Mexico’s history as people tire of the corruption in the government. Protests here in San Cristobal go back to the mid 90’s and the rise of EZLN or Zapatistas. Indigenous farmers in the region took up arms to protest the signing of NAFTA. The revolution caught the attention of the global media when the government responded with military force destroying entire villages. Protest still take place as the people fight for their rights and the freedom of those held captive for speaking out against the government.

Palm tree glowing pink and green in San Cristobal

Trees and Sidewalk of zocolo under street lights at night in San Cristobal

Building in San Cristobal Zocolo with sunset

Zocolo seen at night with glowing clouds

The zocolo just after sunset.

Gazebo in San Cristobal Zocolo

Live music is played here nearly every night.

Glowing Building San Cristobal

Cathedral at night in San Cristobal

Sleeping dog in San Cristobal Mexico

Stray dog on the streets of San Cristobal

Homeless dogs are everywhere in Mexico. Most seem happy and content though.

Blue touring bike in dormitory

My bicycle received a make-over in Oaxaca. I replaced the chain, rear cassette, rear derailluer jockey wheels, and brake cables. I also added new handlebar tape and switched to a longer stem. I’ve wanted a new stem since I began this journey. I switched to a short one at home to make the bike more sporty. Touring, the short stem hurt my arms and shoulders as I could not stretch out and relax. I was being cheap before and refused to buy a new one. I’m glad I finally did. My bike feels so comfortable now!

Touring bike locked to a bedroom door

Always lock your bike anyway that you can.

Hostel Bedroom with Bicycle

Garbage Can Full of Tissue

My home for the last week-and-a-half. The place is VERY dusty. I filled the garbage can with tissue blowing my nose. Clean Dammit! Hard to complain too much though. I am paying $4 a night.

Hamburguesa Menu San Cristobal

Hamburger in San Cristobal Mexico with menu

My uncle treated me to a burger. Thanks Uncle Bill!!! It came with fries. I was really hungry, like always, and forgot to take the picture before chowing down…

Decrepit Artesenal Sink San Cristobal

Bottlecap Floor San Cristobal

You’ve got the give the place credit for trying. The name of the restaurant is Artesianal Hamburguesas.

Lasagne in a restaurant with candles

My dad treated me to food as well. Lasagna! I’ve been craving you for so long… Thanks Dad!


4 thoughts on “San Cristobal: Hometown Adventure

  1. I hope you don’t mind me reading your blog; I like the clarity and insight – it’s refreshing.

    “My point is that I must look for adventure even while on this trip. Just like at home, I must choose whether I talk to that stranger. If I do, it may lead to an adventure; to an invitation of some sort. If I don’t my world stays the same.” Ah, I know what you mean 🙂 It took me a long time to reach this realisation, and it feels important. At home, abroad; adventure, routine. It seems vital always to be open to new chances, otherwise we stop changing.

    I hope you have a great journey back, and enjoy the race 🙂

    Best wishes, Jon.

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