It is hard to get started again after being off the bikes for an extended period.
We were stalled in Panama City trying to arrange transportation across the Darien Gap. When we did start riding again, it was a whopping 4 mile pedal (6 km) from the airport in Cartagena, Colombia to our hotel in the old part of the city. After two days off in the city we set out again.
The time off in Panama City and Cartagena means our bicycle routine is broken. Normally we camp and we’re asleep not long after dark. In hotels we stay up later and correspondingly sleep past when the sun rises. With the bags unpacked and gear strewn about a hotel room, nothing ever seems to get put back in its proper place in the panniers.
Back on the road, the muscle memory kicks in but with what seems like a little less muscle. The tropical heat seems to sap the already waning motivation.
Hours in the saddle allows for prolonged internal monologues. These days the theme seems to be a version of a mid-trip crisis with a host of characters vying for attention. The toddler in my head is throwing tantrums and just wants some familiar comforts — the little brat goes as far as going completely limp on the floor, making him impossible to pick up. The TV Guide guy keeps reminding me that between the Discovery, History, Animal Planet, and ESPN 8 (“The Ocho!”) I could be seeing most of world from the comfort of a couch in a nice cool room. The banker guy keeps reminding me how much he misses the regular direct deposit paychecks. The bartender keeps asking why he hasn’t seen me around, pointing out that the rotating tap has my favorite beer. The picture guy is complaining of migraines and has taken the day off. The customer service phone robot cuts in to remind me that the current monologue is very important and that Scott is experiencing higher than normal monologue volumes, the expected wait time is …
I don’t feel like biking.
We take a break in the shade to eat, afterwards we fall asleep on the blanket. I wake up to a “Hello!” and see a fellow bicycle tourist.
Matt from England is on his way home, via Madrid, Spain. He’s flying out of Cartagena after being out on the road since August of 2011. For the past year, he’s been cycling solo. Suddenly, the pity party tantrum in my mind seems out of place.
After exchanging brief information about the road in both directions (water, good eats, places to stay, etc.) the conversation turns to other cyclists. He met Sean¹ from Taiwan, who we met in Guadalajara at the Casa Ciclista. This was before Sean’s unfortunate robbery in Peru (which all of us had heard about).
In Sean’s own words:
“Got robbed by 4 people with guns in the middle of dessert in Peru a few days ago. The belongings I had after I got robbed were a pair of shoes, a pair of socks, a pair of cycling gloves, cycling pants, and 3 soles(1 dollar).They even didn’t leave me a shirt. So I can do nothing but end my jurney here. It is not a happy memery but will be a memery that I can boast to my children and my grandchildren a few dacades later.
All cyclist fellows who are on your way to Peru please be careful if you want to pass the dessert on coast side of Peru. Don’t become the next victim like me.”
This is a sanitized version of what happened. Read the whole story on his site (unless you read Mandarin Chinese, use an inline translator).
Sean’s safely back in Taiwan, gearing up to get out on the road again. I’m not sure I’d be so brave after all the misfortune. Between Sean and meeting Matt, my pity party is over.
¹The first day Sean was in Guadalajara he had his bicycle lock cut and bike stolen at the grocery store. When we met him was working on getting another bicycle and continuing his journey.