Warning: Buff3ysbicyclingblog prides itself on being a family-friendly blog. From feedback received, we understand that some readers like to gather the children after a nice roast dinner on a Sunday night in front of the fire with some cocoa and catch up on the latest postings from buff3ysbicyclingblog. This time, however, the subjects are a bit harsh. There are graphic depictions of dried out dead people and descriptions of gobbing, so appropriate caution is advised. Dog lovers and bus drivers might also like to give this one a miss.
“Fat kings and leans beggars alike eventually become food for maggots and worms” [Hamlet]
Today’s posting tackles three of the great moral and philosophical questions so central to touring cycling:
- Should all dogs be killed?
- Is it defensible to gob at people?
- When we are done cycling, are we food for worms?
To address these questions we need to delve into the murky depths of road rage induced violence, animal torture and mummification. In keeping with these themes, the amulet on the bicycle must here change from smiley to grimace (Comedia to its Tragedia) (refer photo).
23rd January (Aquascalientes – Leon) (125km)
24th January (Leon – Guanajuato) (56km)
25th January (Guanajuato)
I have just had a day off the bike to explore this truly marvelous town. Perhaps even more so than Zacatecas, Guanajuato is oozing colonial charm and grace from every cobble and flying-buttress of its being.
Among all of the hugely photogenic facades that typify the Colonial Heartland, this town also hosts a remarkable museum; The Museo de las Mumias (The Museum of Mummies). A more disturbing and confronting place you are not likely to see as it contains …well…lots of dead people in various stages of arrested semi-decomposition. These poor sods have been disinterred from the local cemetery (mostly in the early part of the 20th century) and put on display. The reason for this is, evidently, that payment was not kept up on crypt space. So out they go. (refer photos).
One of the most disturbing mummies is a female who was mistakenly buried alive, and from the position of the arm across the face, there is no real reason to doubt that this was actually the case. At the time, doctors were, on occasion, unable to distinguish between seizure/paralysis and death the tag explains, with very unhappy consequences for this woman. This really takes the local interest (nay infatuation) with matters of death to a new level. So what to take away from this? A few things:
- There is very good argument for cremation.
- If you are buried in Guanajuato, make sure someone keeps your rent up-to-date or you may find yourself part of an exhibition.
- Best ensure you get your kicks in this life for when its over, you are food for worms, and
- Ensure you hydrate properly as a body minus water is not a pretty sight.
During the previous afternoon’s bike ride into Guanajuato a bus driver made a silly mistake of pulling out on me and then, to compound the error a few moments later, deliberately attempted to run me off the road. Unfortunately, this driver ignored a few important rules:
1. Observe Rule 37.5.vii of the international road traffic code, (“Don’t piss off a touring cyclist”)
2. 37.5.viii If you ignore #1, don’t get caught at the next traffic light; and
3. 37.5.ix If you ignore #1 and #2, don’t leave your window open.
There are days when a cyclist can imagine inflicting all manner of pain on other road users. It was suggested to me some time ago by a Welsh cyclist that other road users would be shocked to learn how much ill-will is festering in the mind of a touring cyclist, particularly towards any who might break rule 37.5.vii.
Now, the art of gobbing at stupid people is a particular skill and needs to be practiced, perfected and then handled with care. Don’t try this at home without strict supervision. Should someone be silly enough to disrespect a touring cyclist the trick is to lob a gob, not directly at the idiot but in the general direction. I like an angle of approximately 20 to 25 degrees off target and a few yards short. The art is to lob the lung oyster in such a nonchalant way that it could conceivably have merely be a biker clearing his throat rather than a slight. The effect on your subject is a sudden and profound silence and a few seconds of uncertainty during which you can almost hear the mental cogs grinding: “Did that cyclist just gob at me?” “Was he just gobbing?” “Should I be angry?” “Did my friends see me get gobbed at?” While those cogs grind, you pedal away, claiming victory.
The bus driver? Well, he touched the bike in an aggressive manner so he just gets to wear a gob through his open window. Brave when surrounded by two tonnes of rusting steel, the much vaunted local machismo was a tad lacking once awarded a nice juicy gob to take home with him. On reflection, I feel this was an appropriate, if not even an overly tame response. The last time I resorted to such a tactic was over 15 years ago in Istanbul when some louts kicked a can at my bike. The launched oyster was mid-flight en route to its intended target while I hit 3rd gear and powered off to safety (discretion definitely being the better part of valor when dealing with Turkish football hooligans).
You may well ask, how can your usually mild-mannered solo adventure cyclist get so engaged? Part of the answer lies in the bond that builds up between bike and rider. It would be better to take my first-born off up a hill and dash its brains out against a rock (a la Lady Macbeth), than damage or disrespect my bike right now. An email that came in to buff3ysbicyclingblog asked if I would keep the bike after the trip. The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’. It would be impossible for me to sell a touring bicycle once we have shared all the trials of the road together. It has also been put to me that engaging in road side banter just encourages people to trouble cyclists. Balls! It’s great fun to get involved in the nip and tuck of verbal jousting regardless of the language. This, for me, is an integral part of the travel experience.
A dog on a road is the natural enemy of the cyclist. There are a number of ways to react to dogs. Some suggest just stopping – and the dog will stop. No fun, and if the dog is vicious, you get bitten. To my mind it is not good enough that a dog can threaten or inconvenience a cyclist. I favour a violent response.
An essential accessory for a touring cyclist is a weapon and mine is a walking cane, strong and light. This has numerous advantages over counter-measures such as bear spray/mace, electronic beepers etc. Importantly, you get the direct satisfaction of inflicting pain. This is helpful training for a dog as it discourages future pursuits. I’m not a dog-hater but I do take issue with dogs loose on the street. Giving the dog owner a good slap is also a worthy idea.
When caning dogs it is important not to show your hand/stick too early. A lot of dogs, (particularly in this part of the world), get the odd whacking. Therefore, if you brandish the stick too early they get the idea and back off, ruining your fun. Far better to keep the cane hidden on the far side of the bike and only raise it at the last moment, when it is too late for the dog and you can make good contact. Go for the snout, they yelp like banshees!
Now, I’m not anti-kick. Giving a dog a good kicking has much to recommend it. It is, however, more difficult to get close enough to get a good leg swing in but it can be done with practice. It’s all about lulling the dog into a false sense of security, teasing it in, as one would a fish, and then letting it have it. Tremendous fun.
Back at the Hostel of the Angels the wall sockets are hanging off frayed wires so at any moment your correspondent could be joining those same angels, or more likely the mummies up the road.
26th January (Guanajuato – San Miguel de Allende) (105km)
San Miguel de Allende is full of rapidly aging North Americans many of whom are reeling off shithouse poetry or planning another reading of something equally as mind-numbingly boring. It’s an odd amalgam of USA, Canada and Mexico (expats outnumbering the locals 4 to 1) The central cathedral is a marvelous church to see just when you think you might be getting churched out.
27th January (San Miguel de Allende – Queretaro) (75km)
Queretaro marks the southern border of The Colonial Heartland (which I’ve been riding across since Zacatecas). While the cities have been very beautiful, I feel I’ve probably had my fill of ornate charming cathedrals, ironwork balustrades and tree lined centro historicos etc.
In Queretaro the young rap dancers have taken over the central bandstand and are putting down the head spins and contortions in the prescribed manner replicated in every country with access to a beat box (this one cleverly constructed by mounting speakers in the side of a bucket and cutting the rear out). The music is curious in that they have gone for a mixture of Love Boat theme, Hot Chocolate and Michael Jackson. The 1980’s, of course, are best remembered by those in the popular music know as ‘The shit decade’. Had it not been for the obvious and timely intervention of K.C and the Sunshine Band, and Jimmy and the Boys, I would have to concur. The aqueduct here is the largest in Mexico and was built by a chap who fell in love with a nun and wanted her convent to have water (refer photo).
28th January (Queretaro – Tequisquiapan) (62km)
In keeping with the theme of hydration, the watermelons along the side of the road are lovely and a good photo opportunity (photo). The ride to the spa resort town of Tequisquiapan is what cycle touring should be: a short day on a secondary road with light traffic through pleasant countryside on a cool sunny day with energy in the legs and the bike rolling effortlessly along. Once in Tequisquiapan I regret to advise that your reportedly hard-core adventure cyclist took the soft option and checked into a ‘hotel/spa’ for two nights and some rest and recuperation. (Post Script – avoid hotel buffets at all cost as they will open up the slouches at both ends. Why do I keep forgetting this?)