Mexico/Guatemala Border

April 1, 2008

Oaxaca to Guatemalan border – 9,000 miles later!!!!!

Yes folks – you read it right! We have just completed the first ½ of our journey – we’ve knocked off an entire CONTINENT!!!! It doesn’t really hit us until we look at the map. That’s when Ralph says “Right On! Sweet ride!!!” and Pat says “What have I gotten myself into?”

We look back on the trip thus far (nearly 9,000 miles to date) and marvel at the incredible diversity a ¼ chunk of our planet has to offer (yes, we’ve ridden ¼ of the way around the globe – kinda). It has been the trip of extremes!


We started in sparsely inhabited Alaska, where there was very little population and pollution, where people thought we were crazy for filtering our water (just drink it straight from the creek like we do – we’ve never gotten sick”), and the big threat was getting eaten alive by a polar bear, to the mid-point of our journey in heavily populated Mexico, where most towns have a brown cloud over them and roadsides are littered with plastic bottles, dead animals and dirty pampers, where you would be crazy to even filter water out of the very septic-smelling streams and the big threat was black-masked Zapatista bandits robbing you just because you are an American. (We took the bus to the ruins at Palenque for this reason – the main area of Zapatista activity.)


This point in the journey also concludes our love-hate relationship with Mexico – the land of open and friendly people, most of whom will feed you and give you a place to stay, expecting no payment in return, to Sayulita, Cuernavaca and Mexico City bike enthusiasts that offered tons of information, help, bike stuff and encouragement, to people who take great pride and value in family and church, who would never think of taking anything from you, who don’t even know where Copper Canyon is let alone Alaska, who meticulously sweep the dirt from the street in front of their houses and stores, to people that have lived in Carbondale – YES Carbondale – for five years and know some of the same people we do, to the jail-cell like bars on all house and hotel room windows, to mountains of rotting, stinking trash along the roadside piled underneath and around signs that say “NO TRASH DUMPING HERE”, (the Mexican governments social-consciousness- to-littering campaign hasn’t really caught on yet!), to people who will charge you double, triple, quadruple just because you are a gringo, to hawkers, panhandlers and beggars who stick to you like flies and expect you to give them money or buy whatever they are trying to sell, just because you are a white tourist and must be loaded, to tour guides that sell you a trip to hot springs that are actually cold, to loud music (I mean LOUD!!) and fireworks at any time of day or night where usually the only quiet place is in the back of your mind. I’m sure every culture has these aspects and contrasts, but nowhere else have we seen it so dramatically.


Enough of that. After several days in Oaxaca filled with all different types of music and performances in the plazas, good food and an unplanned reunion with our Swiss friends Kathrin and Philip whom we met in Haines, Alaska and are riding a tandem to the tip of South America, we rode east toward the windy Istmo de Tehuatepec, the narrowest part of Mexico. We stopped at Mitla to see some ruins with amazing geometric rock mosaics as cornices, had some big uphills and incredibly long downhills thru mostly farmland, but also several pases where we were in Colorado-like Ponderosa forests. We crossed the Isthmus early in the morning to avoid the notorious winds, stopped to take a scenic boat ride thru Sumidero Canyon with crocodiles swimming near the boat (the sheer vertical walls were really impressive = the canyon is more than 5000′ deep), and climbed nearly 6000′ in a 25 mile stretch to lofty and cool San Cristobal, where colorfully dressed indigenous people from neighboring villages sold beautiful woven goods in the plazas, then south to the Guatamalan border including a big, long downhill! The whole way we kept leapfrogging with Katherin and Philip. From the border we bussed back north to Ocosingo and the amazing but little visited ruins of Tonina and on to hot, humid Palenque to see the incredible ruins there (visited by thousands of people daily). Here we had another unplanned reunion, this time with Damien from Argentina whom we had met in Lake Luise, Canada last summer and who is also riding to the tip of South America! We met his friend, Japhy, from Nepal, who is biking with him. From Palenque we took a 12 hour night bus ride to Cancun, where we met our daughters and will celebrate Pat’s 21st annual 29th birthday! We’ll then bus back to the border where we stopped biking and pedal south into Central America. After nearly 4 months and 3,000 miles in Mexico, we are looking forward to seeing new countries and what lies ahead!


Bikin’ On, Ralph & Pat



  1. I just found your website and I’m amazed! The trip sounds awesome! Good luck in South America!

  2. Great you made it thru Mexico (Despite of the little details, still is a great country. Don´t you think?) . I hope you keep having a great ride thru Central and South America and there is no doubt you will acomplish your goal. It has been a real pleasure to meet you both and I’m looking foward to see you in the future.

  3. Wow! By the way, 9000 miles is more than 1/3 of the way around the world as the crow flies on the equator.

  4. Hi again! It’s Bill from canada who you met on the Ferry. finally pulled out your business card and caught up on your travels. I can relate to it all of course. I only wish I could tell you it’s going to get easier. Mexico will seem “clean” compared to some of the places you’ll be visiting. More fireworks too.

    I’m now in Cancun, a warm place with beaches and the occasional tourist. I will have a corona in your honor tonight. Cheers!

  5. Hey Ralph & Pat – What a journey and thanks for taking us along on it!! It is always enjoyable to read of your adventures.

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