October 9, 2004 - Algambal 204k, 127m*** DC

NOTE: Dalton’s Story at the end of today’s update!!!!

Today, our third day heading WNW on Argentina Ruta 16, was a relatively rough day. Bad wind again in the morning, bad roads all day, perhaps the hottest day yet, Dalton cut his finger and I crashed. We tried but failed to make it to the end of this endless straight road.

Eduardo, Dalton and I were all glad to leave the unnamed hotel in Pampa de los Guanacos. It’s the worst place I’ve stayed since eastern Russia a year ago. There was no breakfast, so a little after 7am we downed a couple of Actimel’s (liquid yogurt), had some bananas, strawberries and chocolate, filled our water bottles with Gatorade and water, and headed out.

Nelson warned me about this stretch of Ruta 16 a couple of months ago, but given everything else that’s been going on, it didn’t pop back into my mind as a reality until we hit it yesterday afternoon.

As you can tell from the pictures above and yesterday, the road is in generally bad repair, some of it almost impassible for cars and trucks. Where there are shoulders, they have been created by the trucks choosing to drive off the side of the road rather than on it. Among the millions of potholes, a couple were filled with rocks and furniture (literally) to ward off complacent drivers. It was slow, tenuous going most of the day.

We stopped for breakfast 20 miles into the day. There is no distinction for us between breakfast, lunch or snacks. It’s meat, cheese, yogurt, water, Gatorade, bread, fruit, candy and juice any time of day. Dalton started slicing some bread and cut his finger. We bandaged it. I held up mine in sympathy.

It’s rural out here. You could stock a large ranch just driving by picking up animals wandering around the side of the road. Horses, donkeys, cows, ox, goats, sheep, chicken, pigs. If they are owned by anyone, it is hard to distinguish. They are not fenced in, tied up or marked. Many apparently die out here.

45 miles into the day, cruising fast in my aerobar tuck, I hit one of those potholes at 22 miles per hour. The jolt snapped off my left aerobar armrest and I went down, skidding on the pavement.

In all my riding I have never had a significant fall and always wondered what it was like. My gloves and jersey were ripped, my leg, arms, hip and shoulder scraped and my right shoulder hit the pavement hard. Bloody and bruised, we washed me up and I rode another 10 miles before deciding that some large bandages would help out.

We loaded the bikes up and drove 20km to Monte Quemodo. It means “burnt hill”. Other quaint local towns here in the Gran Chaco include “Pampa de los Infierno” (pampas of hell) and Rio Muerte (River of Death). If you were here, this would make more sense.

This town had a couple of paved roads and some shops, including a pharmacia where we got the medical supplies and an internet café, where Dalton checked his email. We bandaged up me with some salve, big gauze pads and duct tape. We bandaged up the bike (replaced the broken off aerobar) with Dalton’s camping towel and more duct tape. You really need to get into a tuck to ride reasonably fast in the wind here, and the bike bandage enabled me to continue to do so.

That’s Dalton not putting on his helmet just outside of Monte Quemodo right before we started to ride again. It’s kind of like the Australian desert here, very hot and dry, and the helmets are less comfortable than having the air blow freely through your hair.

Soon we were riding along happily. We succumbed to the Eduardo draft again for a few mile on a smooth stretch of road. Eduardo caught this picture of Dalton,with his trademark peace sign, and me riding inches behind the bumper of the Fiat at about 20 mph.

There’s only one rule for Eduardo in Eduardo Drafitng, but it is an exceptionally important one. It is, “No matter what, never, ever, ever touch the brakes.” Helmetless Dalton reminds him of this periodically. Here’s a couple more pictures of us via the Fiat’s side mirrors.

We were well baked by our last break at 5:30p, but rode another 10 km past this point.

Our plan was to camp out tonight. With the layers of bug repellant, sun screen, sweat and dust mingled in with my bloody scrapes, I told the guys we needed a place with showers. We drove another 40km to a town called Joquim V. Gonzalez, found a hotel, washed up, had dinner. I usually catch a picture of the hotel and the view, but wasn’t focusing properly. Here though is a picture of the Gringo Café where we were predestined to have dinner, taken the next morning as we drove back to our prior ending point.

It looks like we might be able to make Salta by Tuesday night…
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DALTON’S STORY by Dalton

Dalton Cox grew up in Charlotte, NC with his parents Tom and Millie, sister Liza, and brother Miles. Dalton is the youngest. He is 23. In 2003, Dalton managed to graduate from Duke University with decently good grades. He majored in Environmental Science and Economics. After graduating, Dalton decided to dedicate a year or two to travel the world and have adventures.

Since graduating college, I have lived at home, in New York City, and in San Diego, where I worked for brief while as a tuna fisherman. I love the ocean, but not the smell of fish. Unfortunately the two go hand in hand. So when I heard about Bob’s trip, I thought it sounded like a pretty cool idea. When I was 19 years old, I rode my bike across the US with my good college buddy.

It took fifty days for us to cover over 4000 miles, riding from Virginia to Oregon. It was a great experience that I look back on very often. Some mornings I wake up and very spontaneously will remember a stretch of road in the US that I haven’t thought about since first seeing it three years ago. It brings me great pleasure to remember the places I have been and the people I have met along the way.

At first I was a bit hesitant to come with Bob to South America. Was it safe??? Would I be kidnapped or run over by those crazy Brazilian drivers??? I’m not going to lie- before this trip I knew close to nothing about South America, and I think that is what scared me most. But immediately upon arriving in Sao Paulo, I began to fall in love with this place. I was impressed to find that the people here are so diverse, and are still friendly to each other. In Brazil there are Portugese, and Italians, and Germans, and Japanese, and Africans, and everyone is friends with everyone else like its no big deal. And everyone here wants to know what we are doing on our bikes, where we are going and whether or not we are completely out of our minds.

Brazilians love to flash the thumbs up sign to guys riding their bikes in flashy spandex. It seems like everyone in Brazil was waiting by the road just show us their thumb and cheer us on as we climbed those big hills. In Argentina, everyone loves to wave and to honk their horn. They must think it’s encouraging, but some of the horns on the big semis are so loud they can almost blow you off the road. But it’s better than being completely flattened. All in all, the people here have been very friendly.

For the first couple of days, I was worried I wasn’t going to keep up with Bob. Bob is a very fast rider and thinks he is even faster. Sometimes I pull ahead for awhile and then…wooosh. He blows right past me going mach 3. But by the end of the trip I was more in shape and able to keep up with him for the most part. Sometimes it seemed like we were literally flying across this continent. Still, I can’t believe it’s almost time to go home. I want to come back here and visit some places for longer, like the beaches in Brazil.

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