Inuvik to Ushuaia

April 15 - Tax Time

Hi there all you folks working on your taxes at home! We know that it's tax weekend and wish you well. Some of you asked how we handle the tax event while we're on the road... Well we just do it electronically with Turbotax like we've done for years. We filed in February and got the refund in early March. Not to rub it in or anything.

But that brings to mind a story from the Oregon coast last fall. As you can imagine, not everybody we meet understands what we're up to or why - or can relate to it. We were talking to one fellow who was just flabbergasted at our trip and the informality and unplanned-ness of it. He said "so do you sleep under bridges?"... We said, "well, we have". He was horrified. But his next question was the most memorable indication of his disapproval: "But your taxes - how do you pay your taxes?". We explained that with little income you have little taxes. But we remain amazed that he was more taken with our disconnection from the tax system than with anything else about the trip.

We all make a choice in life. Stay within the lines or venture outside the box. He did not understand there are amazing things to experience outside the normal perimeters. We love to explore the life outside this box. And all you folks who are joining us, are also enjoying life outside this box. And for this we thank you for sharing life our trip.
We all have to pay taxes, we just do it online. Computers sure have changed our lives. Has the world become smaller or are we just more connected. What do you think?

Folkloric dancers in Zacatecas - Video

In Zacatecas we got to watch the most amazing folkloric dancers. We were late and were right up against the stage. Nancy turned our little tiny Sony camera into video mode and captured this action. We thought you'd like it. There are two different videos here. I love them both!

Riding to Guanajuato

Here it was the end of March in Mexico and we had been riding for two months. The weather was great: no rain, the temperature was perfect somewhere in the seventies, sunny. All the things a bicycle tourist would want. But the wind kicked up every day around 11:00, a couple of hours into our day and hearing traffic difficult to hear in windy conditions so we decided to take a quiet dirt road which someone had described as a beautiful ride and “a good training road”. Um.. sounded interesting. We headed down the road not knowing what it was going to be like but we did know it would get us to Guanajuato.

It was a wonderful road with all the things we love. It wound its way up through a forested canyon on a good dirt road. There was so little traffic that we could let our minds wander or put on our head phones and rock to music as we rode.

Guanajuato and the Valenciana Mine

As we came in to Guanajuato, we were 5 kilometers (2 miles) above the center of center of town with million dollar view. We stopped at the first of many famous old churches. “Templo La Valenciana” A church built by a miner who promised if he made it rich he would build a church. The miner found the mother lode which produced 20% of the world silver plus gold, nickel and lead. As a result of his promise he built “Temple La Valenciana” which contains gold and silver ornated altars, carvings and giant paintings.

Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel, Queretaro

During the next couple of weeks we visited three other colonial cities: San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo and Queretaro all which have important connections to the Mexican War of Independence back in 1810. All the cities benefited from the silver mines; Wonderful churches and other colonial buildings were built as a result of gold and silver mining in the area over 250 years. The cities all were places that fought the Spanish for the right to govern themselves.

San Miguel has the most active interesting plaza. I sat in the plaza and painted well into the night. While drawing I listened to various musical bands serenading the people hanging around the plaza. San Miguel has a large gringo population that has retired to this area and has influenced the culture of the area. As a result there is a huge library with wide selection of books in multiple languages, a very active art community and more old women beggars then any place else.

Teotihuacan, Toltecs, and Aztecs

We have now arrived in the land of phenomenal Meso-American cultures, and will find can't-pass-it-by ruins for the next few months. Our final approach to the north of Mexico City took us right up to two major archaeological sites, Tula and Teotihuacan. Then, smack in the middle of Mexico City are the ruins of the main temple of the Aztecs. We visited Tula first, then Teotihuacan and the Templo Mayor, but I'll describe them in their order, rather than ours.

Mexico City: Culture, Tacos, Demonstrations

Arriving in Teotihuacan a cyclist chased us down. Raymundo escorted us to the pyramids and invited us to his home and said we could leave our bikes at his place while we went into the city. Raymundo and his wife Rosa Norma hosted us for a night before and a night after we got back. More wonderful people!

We spent a week visiting incredible Mexico City, probably the world's largest city with close to 20 million inhabitants. Despite the warnings of everyone (as is common for any large city) we didn't have any trouble. No trouble in the streets, no trouble in the subway, no trouble on the buses. We felt comfortable walking and using the subway returning home the last night even though it was after 11pm.

Riding Between the Volcanoes

Nancy riding down from Popo
Originally uploaded by refay.
Knowing that bicycle touring as a couple is full of compromises, I finally decided to compromise and do the big climb that Randy wanted to do.

Popo (actually Popocatepetl) and Ixta (Iztaccíhuatl) are two of the three highest mountains in Mexico, at over 17,800 feet (5,400) meters, and the saddle between them is called the Paso de Cortes, and it's at 12,000 feet (3650 meters). Cortes came over this pass from Cholula (where we are tonight) to attack the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan (today's Mexico City). It's a direct route over the rim of the Valley of Mexico, but the 4,000 foot climb around a smoking volcano was a little threatening to us!

Randy's Trip to the Coast

Well, Nancy had the audacity to leave me for a week last week and fly to Las Vegas for a reunion with her dad, brother, and her son Kamm. She had a blast. (She didn't do a lot of bicycling in Las Vegas... But she did purchase some things we were hoping to get.)

So I had to ride for the week on my own. Since our plan was to miss the Veracruz coast, I decided to make a trip to Xalapa, Veracruz, and Tlacotalpan, all on the Gulf Coast, all beautiful places.

Gloria Hernandez: An interview with an entrepreneur

We've recently found out about, a website that arranges microloans (very small business loans) directly between first-world lenders and third-world borrowers. We've made our first loan (to farmer Samuel Amilla in Ecuador) and are pursuing an application to become "Kiva Fellows," essentially field communication volunteers for the organization. We're tremendously excited about the possibility and are filling out the application. We hope you'll take a look at their site and make your first loan too!

One part of the "Kiva Fellow" application calls for us to interview an small-business entrepreneur concerning their business and write a journal entry regarding it. Here's our interview with Gloria Hernandez Torres, who we met selling "molotes" at the door to the market in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico.
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