RIDING AROUND A SMOKIN’ VOLCANO / Taxco to Oaxaca 2/27 thru 3/7/08

March 10, 2008

Today marks nine months since we left our home in Carbondale, Colorado and stepped out into an adventure of biking 2 continents and 20,000 miles!  It was a very scary, but at the same time, exciting thing to do – pack up all our belongings, rent out our house and fly to the northernmost point in Alaska, not knowing if we would encounter snow, mud, wind, polar bears, or what would be in store for us!  We now know that the world is a very scary place when you are sitting at home and watching the news on TV, but when you are actually out there it is really an exciting adventure that always has a lesson to teach you, mostly about yourself and what you can live without.  We only have each other and our bikes and each day do not know where we will sleep, eat, or what we will see!  It is so amazing to think back and be able to remember every day of this trip (270 now) and wait in anticipation for the challenges the next day will bring!!!  It has truly been an adventure that we are now about 7500 miles in to!

Here is where we have been recently.

Taxco, the city of UUUUUUPPP and DOOOOOOWNNN, the city built by that guy with absolutely no fear of heights or brake failure!!!  The town has removed the word *flat* from its vocabulary.  Taxco is an old silver mining town, now known for its fine silver jewelry, and most certainly not known for level ground.  Most of the city streets, all rock cobblestone and 8 to 20 feet wide, are at least a 20 degree pitch, yes 20 degrees (boy Josh, would CDOT love that!) and choked with white VW bug taxis screaming up and down them.  All buildings, yes all, are white stucco colonial style.  It looks like someone smeared whipped cream onto the mountainside.  After a day in Taxco eating, sightseeing and silver mining, we caught the bus back to Cuernavaca, stayed a night, got Ralph’s wheel from the bike shop and headed out of town.  On the way out, we were stopped by a local who was an avid biker.  He told us about bike trips he had done in the US, Europe and an upcoming one in Cuba.  We rode a mile further, stopped at a bike shop where we ran into 2 of his friends Jorge and Juan Jose, whom the first man had phoned after talking with us and told them all about our trip!  It was great talking with them and seeing very enthusiastic bikers _ the world needs more!

We headed thru farmland to Tepoztlan, a cool little town surrounded by big brown cliffs of the surrounding mountains.  They had a market in the plaza with some very good food.  We had lunch and headed thru the valleys to Tlayacapan, where the townspeople where getting ready for yet another celebration (most towns have celebrations each night now getting ready for the Easter celebration).  They had made flower murals on the streets out of dyed sawdust.  They were very colorful and were very beautifully done.  We felt bad riding thru them!  The festival that night was very big, including carnival rides, a huge food court (great tacos!) a live 10 piece brass band (reeeeeally loud, like everything they do in Mexico!) and four 30 foot tall towers built out of sticks and rope that were completely strung with fireworks.  We left the celebration early (we wanted to keep our hearing intact!), but still were able to be lifted out of bed by the sound of the fireworks towers exploding somewhere in the depths of the night! 

The next day was a climbing day.  We rode on backroads that gradually, then intensely climbed the south flank of “Popo”, the 18,000 foot steaming volcano!  We found a campsite perched on a knoll (we were only about 40 miles away from 20 million people in Mexico City, but still in the wilderness).  Popo and it’s twin Isli were framed in perfect, close view by the ponderosas of the forest we were in!  The next day we climbed the Paseo de Cortez, the pass that Cortez came over to conquer the Mexico City area so long ago, up to a very windy and chilly 12,000 feet.  The volcanoes were impressively towering at about 18,000 feet on either side of us.  Popo is actively steaming, so it is off limits to travel (damn! there is a paved road winding up its flank above us!)  Popo is a perfectly shaped volcanic cone, while Isli supposedly resembles (with the help of some local mezcal maybe) a sleeping woman.  Whatever they looked like, it was far too cold to hang out and observe, so we dropped down the steep east side to stay in a cabin at a resort on the volcanoes flank.

From there we headed toward Oaxaca thru what we call travelling country, country that isn’t very interesting, so the ride is all about making miles, not about seeing sights.  We had a full day of steady gradual downhill (you gotta love it, but you know in the back of your mind you will pay for it later!).   We stayed a  night in Izucar de Matanoros  then the next 3 days were like being on an asphalt roller coaster, self propelled of course!  We seeemed to climb way more than we dropped as we rolled thru desert scrub country that had the biggest candelabra cactus we have ever seen.   They were 30 feet tall 30 feet in diameter and had 2 1/2 foot thick trunks at the base.   They were all in bloom with beautiful white flowers, like large daisies on top, and lots of bird holes in them.  We then rode thru country somewhat like Utah, then thru more scrubby semi desert, then an area of steep hills with red dirt cliffs, then finally into Oaxaca City. 

Upon arriving in Oaxaca we decided to go get a bite to eat and walked into a restaurant and to our pleasant SURPRISE, we ran into the 2 Tandem bikers, Kathryn and Phillip from Switzerland we had met in Alaska and camped with near the beginning of our trip!!!  It is still a small world out here!   So we spent a long time talking and comparing our journeys!  It is so fun to meet up with people on similar journeys!  We plan to ride the next leg of the trip with them!

Remember, even if it’s uphill with a 100 lb bike, past roadkill in the toxic Mexican heat, a day biking still beats a day of working!!!

Bike on!  Ralph & Pat



  1. Hi guys,

    The cactus sounds mystical. Yes, a day of biking still beats a day of working..hoping to retire soon..on what..don’t know yet!

    Great blog, Mark

  2. Hi guys, it´s nice to know you are OK and still riding. We met a couple of weeks a go at the Nevado de Toluca (I´m one of the bikers you met) and on behalf of my family and my self you are truly an inspiration for us. Our prayers are with you always. Hope hearing from you soon.

  3. It is soooo uplifting to hear of your adventures!
    I am looking forward to having those biking rather than working days soon!
    You paint a great picture of your sights in my mind, I can see that cactus towering above with the daiseys on top. Isn’t nature amazing. We can learn much about ourselves in it if we really just look.
    Peace and Love,

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