Story last updated at 3/27/2013 - 2:16 pm
Pace. How fast or how slow should we travel?
This basic idea has been referred to as "The Group Tension," and is often the subject of dreaded campfire meetings. Originally, I had envisioned a slow moving adventure dictated by the inherent speed limits of human powered travel. I was nażve. Instead, our pace is almost exclusively set by our desires to turn right or left, invitations to stay with friends (new and old), and the challenges of leaving the paradise of the week. In the heat of central Mexico, devoid of the coastal connections we had in the States, I have begun to take note of the ways in which we pace ourselves.
Clinging to the shade of a road side stand, we rest our sweat drenched bodies from the merciless sun. No one wants to initiate the move back into the heat. A tall Hispanic motor-cyclist, lined with leather and the insignia of his apparent biker brotherhood, pulls up and begins to question us. After our typical spiel, the when, where, and why of our adventure, he eagerly hands us his phone number and invites us to his home 200 km down the road.
We are always looking for a spark of spontaneity; something to travel towards.
The next morning, we pedal a short day to a surf spot suggested to us in prior weeks. We paddle out into clean, curling waves. Lying on my board, I watch as Kanaan and Max catch rides, finding their balance as they thrust forward towards the shore. We are all smiling; it seems that we are in the right place. The night brings with it a host of characters from all over the world. We exchange laughs, stories and funky dance moves late into the night. It seems we have found a worthy place to spend an extended period of time, yet the memory of our new biker friend from the south pulls us back onto the humid road.
The longer we stay, the harder it becomes to leave. We must fully embrace the spirit of travel and resist the comforts of familiarity.
The following day, after a difficult series of Spanish cell-phone conversations, we manage to find Braulio's (the motorcyclist from days before) home. There is no English spoken in this household, and we are quickly finding the limits of our Spanish vocabularies. We eat a meal together and have fun trying to convey stories and ideas from our travels with a combination of broken Spanish and charades. In the morning, Braulio's wife Debra invites us to visit the university where she is an Italian Professor. Upon arriving we are surrounded by Mexican students interested in our journey and our ever-growing beards. The afternoon is spent with some of the students explaining the education system here, and talking of their many aspirations for the future. Before retiring for the night, Braulio hands us the phone number of one of his biker friends down the road and tells us to call him in the coming days.
We strive to define our pace through the experiences that present themselves rather than the kilometer markers on the side of the highway.
The subsequent morning, we again pedal a short day to chase legends of a one-minute wave. We arrive to the shore, and it seems that there is very little swell. However, we decide to rent boards and check it out anyway. Immediately a set rolls through and we are awarded with long slow rides. Hoots and hollers echo across the water. Slow moving, smooth and consistent, this spot seems to be the ideal place to further advance our novice skills. But again, the pull of our potential friend to the south convinces us to depart. We pack up our bikes, say good-bye to the fellow surfers and pedal on.
The goal is to continue moving without allowing the movements to become routine.
We call Fidel (our new Zihuatanejo connection) before we begin the day. He tells us that he will meet us on his motorcycle and escort us the final 10 kilometers into the city. Sure enough, we run into him and his friend cruising on a three-wheeled motorcycle contraption that resembles a supped-up go-kart. Tailing us, they follow as we pedal up a long grueling hill. At the top, I try to get out of the way of a person taking a picture. I quickly realize that he is purposely taking photographs of us as we clamber up the last slope of the hill. He is not alone, there is a large group of reporters and on-lookers congregated atop the climb and they welcome us with applause and a welcoming tune that ends with "rah, rah, rah, ALASKA, ALASKA, ALASKA." No words are spoken; our eyes all reflect how wild this experience is.
I think that we have all resigned to the fact that we cannot see everything. This trip is simply too long and diverse to take every detour. When we have a destination for the days to come, the pace is set, decisions are already made. With something to look forward to, group conflicts seem to dissolve. Connections begin to lead to further connections; we start to flow rather than labor.
Continuously we yearn for excuses to turn, to surf, to speak Spanish, to gain insight into new cultures, and ultimately to put all of our things back onto our bicycles and pedal on into the unknown adventure ahead.
For more information about the journey south please visit www.atripsouth.com.