October 10, 2004 - Metan 172k, 107m***

We actually ended the day on Argentina Ruta 9 about 25 miles north of Metan – the closest landmark around. Among the best benefits of riding with support (Eduardo!) is that we can end when we can’t go any further. Eduardo can take us to shelter in the Fiat, and back to the same place the next morning.

I had a crazy idea that Dalton and I could ride maybe the entire 160 miles into Salta today. It was quickly dashed. 12 miles into the day we came to the end of the long straightaway that comprises most of Ruta 16, and turned north into a brutal headwind,

Our pace became pathetic heading toward our first break in Jocquim V. Gonzales. Eduardo actually drove back to check on us. Upset at our slow progress, I completely skipped the break at 25 miles and keep riding another 20. Dalton got back on his bike and followed. Fortunately, a few miles further the road began slowly curving into the west and the headwind became a howling (really) cross wind. I stopped at this point to get a mileage sign and the trees blowing in the wind.

Over the next 20 miles the road kept curving to the west then south, and if it was in any kind of decent shape we could have averaged 25 mph for an hour or so. As it was, the road was crap and we had to keep going on and off the pavement, around potholes, and slow across very rough surfaces. I did take a picture of a fellow rider on this stretch.

Lots of people ride bikes around here for functional reasons, few for recreation.

At the planned 45 mile break, I paused for less than a minute, refilled the bottles and kept riding and did the same thing at 60 miles. Dalton wouldn’t take a break if I didn’t. We could see the foothills of the Andes in the distance, and the flat road turned into a fairly steady climb and we pressed on. My immediate goal was to get off Ruta 16, supposedly 75 miles into the day.

That’s it – the end of the road and the 707km marker. We rode basically the whole thing from the Parana River into the foothills. Unfortunately the intersection was 84 miles, not 75. Fortunately Eduardo was set up a couple hundred feet up our new road – Argentina Ruta 9.

Keep Dalton on a bike for a hard 6 hours straight without a break and he gets a little irritated, but he doesn’t stop. In any case, we were quickly distracted by 3 Brazilians that pull up in this extreme land Rover.

Way cool. Makes our little Fiat look like an absolute joke. We need tons more decals and shit, and maybe another 150 horsepower.

This guy gets out with a mega 10 mega-pixel camera (probably costs more than our friggin car) and starts taking all kinds of pictures. He gives me the Brazilian “thumbs up” as Dalton, still pissed and starving, mauls the food.

They speak some English and it turns out they heard of us a couple of days ago and were hoping to catch up. They’re cruising around taking pictures for www.inema.com.br , whatever that is. The videoed and photo’d us and chatted up Eduardo a bunch, and zoomed off, leaving us with an inema.com bumper sticker in an attempt to get us to be just a little cooler. (First thing tonight I contacted Melissa at Bravo Graphics www.bravographics.com ) to get us some cool custom decals.)

Discouraged and confused, after a half hour of refreshing, Dalton and I remounted and headed north into the still brutal headwinds, but now again on brutal hills.

Eduardo was able to get some great shots of us in the hills. My duct-tape wrapped towel arm support for using the aerobar works in a limited range. It’s not too stable, you can’t turn well nor hold on well when the wind gusts from the trucks blow you around, but without it we (I) wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the wind.

This is the first 4-lane highway we’ve seen since Asuncion a week ago. With the wind we stopped and took a couple of our own pictures. Dalton got the gaucho. I got the historical marker, perhaps the only one we’ve seen in 1,300 miles. (If one of you Spanish speakers will translate it for us, we’ll post the translation…)

We bailed out on the wind at the 107 mile point and took the Fiat to find a hotel. Tomorrow’s the last day of Part I.

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