First Long Bike Ride!

(Post 210 of 263)

Yesterday was Independence Day, so most of the city was in Centro watching the parade. It was cloudy and only about 26 degrees, so the perfect time to try again to do a long bike ride. I did about 20KM in about 2 hours!

Honestly, that was almost more than I should have done, though, on my first outing out — the last kilometre or two were brutal and I was very stiff when I got in! It took me a good 15 minutes more than Google thought it would to reach the Paseo Verde, so before I attempt to ride the whole length of it, I am going to work at shortening the trip there.

There were three main segments to the trip, the ride west through my neighbourhood, the ride south down Avenida Mérida 2000, and then the ride west on Avenida Jacinto Canek.

My neighbourhood was quiet and easy to ride through. Lots of pot holes and obstacles, of course, but you just have to be vigilant.

There was a brief section on a busy road to be able to turn left on to Avenida Mérida 2000 that is going to require some practice. I could not figure out how to safely turn left on a bicycle to end up in the correct bike lane. I may have to walk that intersection. But a bike lane! Avenida 2000 is a fairly new road, so it was designed with bike lanes on either side. They are in depressions so I sometimes came across lakes, but, generally, the bike lanes were in good condition.

To my surprise, Jacinto Canek also has a bike lane, but it is faintly marked and doesn’t have little “bumpers” along it to remind drivers to stay in their lane. The stretch was fine with yesterday’s traffic, but I doubt I’d want to do it at rush hour. By this point, there were signs guiding us to the Paseo Verde, so where I had to turn left/south was a well designated pedestrian crosswalk that is like a very high tope. Had to walk that one. And then, I was in nature!

The Paseo Verde felt like another world, very lush and green after all the rain we’ve had. I was already tired and the path is quite hilly, plus there were a lot of muddy gravel sections, so I didn’t get very far, maybe a quarter of the way down it before turning back.

I made one stop on the way home, for a cold drink, and discovered that because I’m rarely going to encounter a proper bike rack, I need a much longer chain.

As I said, I was really tired on the way home, but it wasn’t a slog and I enjoyed seeing my part of the city in this way. It felt much smaller than it does on foot and much more accessible than it does by car. I can’t wait to go out again! Next trip, I think I’ll be a little less ambitious and stick to my quadrant, exploring the new bike lanes in Francisco de Montejo.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t come home this muddy, exhausted, sore, and happy since my trek to Wuthering Heights!

No Biking Adventures Yet

(Post 209 of 263)

I was so disappointed on Sunday morning that I had gotten up early, slapped on sunscreen, packed a bag, and was ready to head out for a ride around 7:30 only to discover I had a flat tire!!!

Monday, I knew I had to sort this out ASAP by finding myself a local bike repair place. Thankfully, there was one just around the corner from me, a 3-minute bike ride! I figured that I could pump my tire and it would stay inflated just long enough to get me there. Just!

When you arrive at a business in Mexico, you should greet everyone, which I did. A waiting customer said hi back, but the owner just looked up to acknowledge that he knew I was there and then ignored me while he finished what he was doing. Once the previous customer had been sent on his way, I finally got a pretty rough, “What do you want?” I explained (ineloquently) that I thought I had a flat tire. He said he could look at it right away, promptly flipped the bike over, and got to work!

I love seeing experts at work. He released and was checking the inner tube in no time, finding the leak quickly by running the inner tube through water and looking for bubbles. He said it was just a pinhole and he could patch it. As he worked, I started to engage him, knowing that he’d get warmer once I knew I was a pretty long-time resident of the neighbourhood and would be a repeat customer. It worked! Before long we were chatting and joking pleasantly.

He had me back on the road in 15 minutes for 30 pesos!

Queen Elizabeth II Has Died

(Post 208 of 263)

I’m surprised by how upset I was by the news that Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, died peacefully today at her beloved Balmoral Castle. It is not necessarily her I mourn, but what her death signifies, the true end of a world and way of life that has been in death throes for nearly two decades now.

I thought I would share my memory of the Queen. June 27th, 1998, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and about to climb Arthur’s Seat when I turned back to look at the commotion at Holyrood Palace only to see a tiny familiar person dressed in bright colours climb into a car! I changed my plans and ended up getting pretty lost following the royal procession.

(I can’t believe my journal doesn’t say what colour she was wearing. I was such a crappy journaller back then!)

Here is the Queen at Uxmal, Yucatán, in 1975 (I could not find a photo credit):

Back in the (Other) Saddle!

(Post 207 of 263)

I really miss biking. I gave it up 10 years ago because it was just too painful because of my bad leg and knees. I just wasn’t getting enough use out of a bike to make it worth lugging one around anymore.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I should try again now that Pilates has done miracles on said bad leg. Now that Bonita is gone and I don’t feel tied to the house anymore, plus we are getting into the cool season, it seemed like the perfect time to try biking again. The goal of this was not to start commuting around town on a bike — Mérida is not bike-friendly, no matter what the governor likes to brag about, and I don’t want to start showing up for appointments a sweaty mess. No, this is more for pleasure and to spend less of my free time sitting, to cycle the minimum amount of time on city streets needed to get to the dozens of kilometres of bike paths the city has to offer. That’s what the governor is actually bragging about, conflating having plenty of safe spaces to recreationally bike with having a bike-friendly city. The fact is that getting to these safe spaces is dangerous and there is almost never a place to park and lock a bike along the way if you want to run errands (I’ve already started telling my favourite businesses that it would be great if they could come up with a place to lock a bike).

Anyway, as it turns out, if I meander my way west through my neighbourhood for about 15 minutes, I will hit a series of bike paths that go from one end of the periférico to the other, north to south and back again, a total of nearly 20KM roundtrip. This is my most accessible and “bang for my buck” cycling destination. Other destinations, like the Paseo de Montejo, are too short to make the dangerous trip there worthwhile. My goal is to do a two-hour cycle trip one quiet morning a week, probably Sunday, as that’s when there will be the least traffic and the weather won’t be too hot. Forget evenings as it is getting dark very early already.

Now, I had to find a bike. I wanted a vintagey/retro city cruiser-type with handlebar brakes, a basket in the front, and a luggage rack in the back. I ideally needed 28″ wheels, but with women here being so small, that put me into men’s bike territory, so I compromised with a 26″ model. I finally found one that looked promising. A small local bike shop was selling it for $3,880 delivered (with a dent in the mud guard) and Coppel had it for $5,200 delivered! Sold! It’s not as retro as some of the models I was drooling over, but this one has much more comfortable handlebars, several speeds (a nice bonus!), and hand brakes. I’m thrilled with it.

Soon as I knew the bike was incoming on Monday, I put in an Amazon order for a helmet, lock, and bell. They arrived yesterday while I was at the dentist, so when I got back, I was able to head out to do a quick loop and get the tires pumped with air. I was rather amazed that it didn’t take long for my Watch to ask me if I wanted it to record a bike ride!

How was my first ride?

I can’t wait to head out again, but a few twinges this morning have reminded me I need to ease into long rides. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow late afternoon, like I did yesterday.

Llaves – Five Years Later

(Post 206 of 263)

Five years ago today, I got the keys to this house. That marks the longest time I have continuously lived in one home. I technically lived in the RV for just shy of eight years, from late August of 2008 to late June of 2016, but I spent about 18 months of that time away from it (six months in Lethbridge, a year total in Mazatlán, plus most of the summer of 2012 and all that travelling to and from Mexico), so while that does total about 6 years, they weren’t continuous.

I can barely remember those early days, they seem so far away. But I have the odd photo to remind me of just how big and cold and empty the house was at the beginning. Yet, inexplicably, I always knew it was going to be my home.

Making a home hasn’t just been about buying it and beginning to renovate it to my tastes. It’s also been about making a life here.  Because I’m such a homebody, I have been very slow to develop routines that will ground me in this part of Mérida, but I’m finally getting there, having settled on my favourite (or at least most convenient) stores and suppliers, having an activity (Pilates) that gets me out of the house regularly, and there’s now, finally, an independently owned coffeeshop on my regular route where they know my name and my order.

I’ve had a lot of milestones in this house — finding and losing Bonita, finding Alma, losing my best friend Bast, jumpstarting my career…

But the most important thing that happened to me in this home was the epiphany I had at the start of the pandemic about needing a home port and Mérida being by far the best place I’ve ever been to live through such a calamity. So while the city isn’t perfect, it has the things that matter, like security, good governance, and a stable, modern infrastructure. And so, I’m happy to be putting down real roots here.