Day 4: 103km to Hwy 281s
Day 5: 111km to Falfurrias
Day 6: 52km to Hwy 281 Rachel
Day 7: 94km to McAllen
Day 8: 40km to border crossing and into Reynosa, MX
Hola de Reynosa!
The last few days cycling in Texas were fairly uneventful. I decided to get off the road I had originally mapped because it was just a huge oil tanker route. Instead I opted for 281 a major north/south corridor… not ideal but it was actually quite safe because there was a big shoulder the whole time. I had some good stealth camps along the way, including an interesting one in Falfurrias. I rolled into town there after a grulling day… and immediately it felt different than the other small Texas towns I had been passing through. Hard to put a finger on it, but something to do with the way people look and react to you. Not as conservative, a lot more people on the streets and everyone was much more engaging. I asked a about a park I had looked up on google maps, Park Colonial, but was told very clearly by two different people that I did NOT want to go to that side of town… I was a bit on edge after this, but ended up hanging out in another big park right downtown for a few hours where I met Limbarro Perez…
He’s a young guy (17) from Falfurrias who spoke a strong…. perrro…. Spanish accent – it was hard to understand him at first and I’m sure I also spoke in a way he didn’t understand completely, but we ended up talking for at least two hours. He just got out of 3 months in “county” and wasn’t in school or working for the mean time, just trying to “do good” and get things together. He told me a lot about this place, his life, school, Moms, siblings, friends, being charged as an adult for the first time vs. his previous juvenile record, and his ambitions in life. He was really genuinely interested in me too, so I told him about my life, what I’ve done, University and figuring out what you want to do in life. He was remarkably open and self-accounting in talking to me about the choices he had made and how they effected his life and his world. I felt like he was working through some stuff in lots of ways, so I chatted with him like I would any other friend, not trying to offer advice but just being a sounding board. He had never really left this tiny gas stop town, and it was cool to relate topics from a the personal horizon to a broader picture. So I feel asleep feeling both incredibly privileged as I am to have what I have and to be on this trip, and wondering what it would be like to grow up in his environment, in a town that is built around a rest-stop with an overpass running over it.
I made it into McAllen after a few lighter riding days. My last day in the US included running around trying to get a few “last time in america” things like parts for my tent. I broke a tent pole which had some emotional impact, and I also messed up my ipod! So two important things to my life on the road, and interesting seeing how I react to loosing them for a bit. I have a temporary fix for my tent which isn’t perfect but hopefully will see me through, and the next big goal is to figure the ipod out!
I’m now in Reynosa, Mexico after crossing yesterday on Valentines day. It was incredibly exciting crossing the border, and I was sitting on jitters of excitement big time that lasted all day! I had some problems at the first border crossing because of the bicycle, and after arguing with the guy for ages, I finally had to cycle to another bigger crossing. So this was a small hick up and quite annoying, but I had no problems at customs and got the 180 day visa I needed. Once in downtown Reynosa I got immediately extremely lost. I had mapped out my route to my hosts house from the other border, and all I had was a useless google maps printout… but when there are no street names it’s pretty hard to navigate with a map anyway. I feel back in my environment, where the bicycle is simply king. There are no rules on the roads, but you honestly feel safer because everyone is paying more attention, is more aware, and if your just a little crazier than everyone else it seems to work perfect.
Last night we had a big birthday party for David, which was hilarious! Mexican karakoe, interesting conversations with Teach for America people, me trying to speak and learn more espanol, and hearing everyone’s stories. All life here seems to be related to America. People are mostly living here waiting to get status or moved here after NAFTA because all the jobs which got shipped to border towns. It is a bizarre part of the world… lots of superficial things everywhere, big americanized strip malls, and all the worst of american culture somehow distorted and Mexicanized to make it even more bizarre. My hosts here are Elizabeth, an American from Maine and David , Mexican from Acuopoco and his two kids Ethan and Presilia are also from here but now have permanent residency. And they are all trying to go to Canada, or are figured out how to get out of here which was pretty much the story of everyone at the party! Tomorrow… off again and who knows what waits.