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Quiet Roads

Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro, San Juan del Rio, Santa Maria Amealco, Tula de Allende. It’s been a long few days of riding, with what seemed to be a lot of climbing. There have been some quiet roads and some not so quiet ones. If there has been one constant, other than the consistently overcast skies, it has been the friendliness and hospitality of the people that we’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with.

While typically not the case, when we left Guanajuato to head to San Miguel de Allende, we actually had a specific destination in mind. Some time ago, a blog reader of ours, Melissa, commented that should we pass through her town, we’d be welcome to stay at her home. A few weeks back we got in contact with her to verify that the offer was still on the table and hearing that it was, our plans were set.

Climbing into the clouds.

My Tumbleweed Prospector has learned how to stand on her own.

There’s always time to make friends with horses.

The ride out of Guanajuato was relatively painless. We managed to avoid the tunnels that gave us such strife when we first entered the city. As the pain of pushing our bike so much in the days leading up to our Guanajuato visit was still fresh in our minds, we opted to take a paved route to San Miguel rather than bushwhacking. The ride was pretty enough, and even though we had to climb a fair amount, we made excellent time to San Miguel, surprising our hosts a bit with our early arrival.

Spider plant? Halloween is coming.

There were fields and fields of these pink flowers. 

Canadian Virgins? Where?

Google gave us a little back-roads treat coming into San Miguel.

Melissa and her husband Jason are quite unlike any of the other families that we’ve stayed with in Mexico. They are Americans who only two months ago relocated to Mexico. Somewhat like we did when we moved onto our boat, they sold their house and most of their stuff and loaded what remained into a small trailer. Then, together with their two dogs, they headed south of the (US) border. Pretty adventurous!

The main church in San Miguel is made with pink limestone.

San Miguel. We drove up to this lookout for the photo but would ride our bikes past it the following day.

Love locks.

San Miguel de Allende is known for being a haven for many US and Canadian expats and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a beautiful town with a lot of history and a comfortable climate, and now it also has a lot of the conveniences that many of the expats are looking for.

Rebecca tries her hand at grinding corn, making masa. Harder than it looks.

The tortillas were stamped with a purple dye made from leaves.

Don’t you just want to get in there and roll around with him?

Both Jason and Melissa work remotely so while they were busy during the day, they scheduled a tour for us with one of their local friends. We, along with several other visitors to San Miguel, went to a small, nearby community where we learned how to make tortillas and salsa by hand. We also got to try our hand at stone carving and learned to speak a tiny bit of Otomi, one of the traditional languages of the region. I’m sure there was plenty more to see and do in the town, especially considering that their annual festival was scheduled to take place in just a few days time. We didn’t want to overstay our welcome though so after a two-night stay, we bid our gracious hosts farewell.

The blue sky was quite rare this past week.

Dona Maria, one of only three people in the region who could speak Otomi. 

Melissa and Jason were incredibly generous hosts. Thank you for treating us to dinner too!

Our destination the next day was Querétaro where we also unusually had a place arranged to stay. Rebecca had gotten in contact with a cyclist named Rodrigo through Warmshowers and had made arrangements for us to stay with him. We learned a lesson on this day of travel. We really need to search to find out how large a city is before committing ourselves to visit it. Querétaro is huge, far bigger than we had imagined. Fortunately for us, the city has excellent bike lanes which we took full advantage of making our way into the city.

Bike lanes make me happy!

Rodrigo was a gracious host, preparing us a nice vegetarian meal. He was also fluent in English, and we enjoyed speaking with him about his cycling trip through Mexico and Central America, discussing route options for our coming weeks’ travel.

Rodrigo and Tanya on their bike tour of Mexico and Central America.

From Querétaro, we followed a route that our friend Kodiak plotted for us. It also took full advantage of the bike lanes leading out of the city and it’s a good thing too as there was a lot of climbing to get out of the way. Many people likely believe that we’ve been enjoying tropical weather while traveling in Mexico. The truth is that since leaving the coast at Mazatlan, we’ve been in the mountains and it’s anything but warm at 8000′, especially when it’s raining, as it was on that day.

Red route by our friend Kodiak, blue route by Google.

Bike lanes leaving the city.

Querétaro is huge!

Our route led us to the small city of San Juan del Rio where after a bit of searching in the downtown area, we found ourselves a nice, 260 peso hotel for the night. The room was perfect for our needs and had I not been awoken at 4:00 AM by some overly jubilant men singing and laughing seemingly right outside our door, I would have left it perfectly happy. As it was, we continued our ride while still a bit sleepy. While making our way out of the city, I also had two separate incidents with cars, reinforcing once again why we try to ride on quiet roads whenever possible.

Clouds in the distance are below the mountains!

Mexico has rockets too!

I’d love to have a building like this!

The aforementioned auto incidents are what prompted us to take a chance on an unproven route that we had cobbled together on Google. When creating a track using Google’s auto-routing feature, you can select travel by car, bike, or by foot. The first two give almost the same output, typically directing the traveler onto highways. The walking option sometimes gives excellent back roads for cycling. At other times, as it did later that day, it leaves us pushing our bikes through fields, or lifting our bikes over fences. We’re here for the adventure though, right?

  • Read more about Navigation and Routefinding here.

One of several water crossings. 

The dirt road we followed on the right of the pic.

Cobblestone: I love how you look but hate to ride on you.

Brunch break.

Quiet Roads definitions:

  • Quiet Road: One where I can go pee on the side of the road without a car coming by.
  • Very Quiet Road: One where Rebecca can go pee on the side of the road without a car coming by.

A “very quiet road.”

This is what our nice dirt road turned into.

You know it’s bad when we go scouting ahead without the bikes.

Stream crossing after dealing with the barbed-wire fence.

This day also included a lot of climbing with surprisingly, miles and miles of it on cobblestone. While cobblestone is not the worst thing to ride on, it’s definitely close to the top of the list. The roads are beautiful, and it seems, almost indestructible. I find it hard to fathom how many man hours it must take to build these roads though.

The trail ended shortly after this, requiring us to lift our bikes over the stone wall.

This is going to require some cleaning. 

The fat tires do help when the terrain gets muddy.

This cobblestone went on for miles!

Not a fan of spiders but I couldn’t resist taking the photo.

After a very long day, one in which my knee was screaming at me “enough,” we found ourselves at another inexpensive hotel, this one in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, we arrived there fairly late with next to no food remaining in our panniers. This left us with only convenience store snack food for dinner. As you might imagine, we were particularly ravenous this morning so after 15 miles of riding in the rain and fog, we were extremely happy to find the one and only source of hot food in Sayula, a small town on our route. The two ladies working there served us hot coffee and tamales but when we went to pay, they wouldn’t accept any money from us. This is Mexico!

Our angels of the day.

Lo-tech waterproof iPhone case: ziplock bag and hair elastic. Tested for over 1000 miles!

We found the town where they grow all the flowers.

When we arrived in Tula de Allende, where we are now, we decided to call it quits for the day even though it was just after noon. The weather wasn’t the most pleasant for riding, and after all the climbing that we had done in the previous week, my body, especially my knee, was due a rest. Fortunately, Tula de Allende is a fairly large city so there were plenty of options available for accommodation.

Our plan from here is to head towards Teotihuacan, the pyramids just north of Mexico City, before making our way into the city itself. Have any tips for Mexico City? If so, feel free to share. We’re all ears!

Not a street sign you’d see in Canada.

They’re teaching people how to be friendly like Canadians!

7 Comments

  1. Love all the pictures! So glad you had fun — we loved having you.

  2. Amazing article! I’m inspired. Great photos and so much useful information.

  3. I like your quiet/very quiet roads definition. Thanks again for the effort to share your journey.

  4. Your photos are great and the writing is fun to read. You two are an inspiration for me.

    Thanks for taking the time to share. I definitely laughed at the idea of “Canadian virgins” It was hilarious.

    Continue enjoying through your whole trip.

    Thanks

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