16 Jan First few days of cycling Mexico mainland, are bicycles allowed? 175 miles to Tepic
Leaving Mazatlan, Finding our way to Escuinapa, 65 miles
Finding our way out of cities always seems to take for ever. Stopping at the Mazatlan city sign for pictures probably didn’t help. At least the sign is conveniently located at the malecon, along one of the bike paths and traffic is still light. We follow Allan’s directions out of town. For the next couple days we follow one of the Cuota roads, 15D, a toll road with a very nice wide shoulder.
As we come up to the toll booth we pass a sign that indicates no bicycles are allowed. However, we were told that we can cycle on the toll roads. We see a road official and he waves us through. He just doesn’t want us to go through the barrier, so we get off the bikes and push them past the tollbooth along the short piece of sidewalk.
The security people and policemen we encounter wish us a good morning and wave to us. Apparently “no bicycles “ signs are just a suggestion, not the law.
Although the road is perfect for cycling, the traffic noise can be a little bit much at times, so we decide to put our earbuds in and listen to music.
After an uneventful 65 mile ride, we stop for the night in Escuinapa. It is just a small town, located a little ways off the 15D cuota. As we approach our exit, we see a few cyclists roll onto the main road. They are the first cyclists we have seen since leaving Mazatlan and they seem thrilled to see us, as we are greeted with thumbs up and big smiles. After we merge on the small country road to town, we see more people. Some are walking others are jogging and as we pedal along, we encounter more and more people on bikes. This town must have the biggest cycling community we have encountered so far in Mexico. Not only does it seem like the whole town is out exercising, it also looks like people genuinely enjoy their rides and walks.
We find our way into town, along the busy Main Street and pass by the big church with its adjacent square and park. Eventually we turn left and find the small hotel, Nayesi, where we will spend the night.
In the Morning we head out to the square for breakfast. Right next to the market place, where we eat, we can see the colorful city letters. This city sign is special though. It also has a cool old bicycle perched atop the city sign. Cycling is truly special in this town.
Escuinapa to Ruiz, 80 miles
Although the ride to Ruiz is fairly flat, we decided to break the 80 mile ride up into two days. We figured after spending 3 weeks off the bikes we should ease back into riding instead of killing ourselves right away.
Since there are only a limited number of stores or eateries on the cuota, we stock up with drinks and snacks, before leaving town.
The terrain has definitely changed since leaving the dry hot Baja. Here, everything is lush and green, and almost jungle like. Our road has a few gentle climbs, but northing too steep nor too long.
We reach Tecuala fairly early and settle into our room.
In search for dinner, Google leads us over cobblestone streets, through some quiet neighborhood road to a small restaurant. Since we made it to town early, we just hung out around the square by the church and snack on a few delicious churros. The church in town is huge and features a very unique barrel roof. The square is nicely landscaped with bricks and plants. There are plenty of places to sit and relax and to people watch.
The road toward Ruiz continues to have a nice wide shoulder. Although, there is a sign before and after almost every toll station that bikes are not allowed on the cuota…..like the day before, nobody has a problem with us being on it. The police and military personnel as well as the toll plaza workers just greed us and wish us a good day or give us a thumbs up.
Although we really like the nice wide shoulder and the smooth surface of the toll road, we feel like we miss out on seeing the real Mexico. Since the cuota is designed for fast travel, it bypasses all the towns and villages. Also, resupply opportunities are far and few in between.
On the other hand, we were told that it is probably one of the safest roads to cycle on and to travel through Sinaloa and Jalisco. So we plan on following it at least until Tepec. That is when we will enter the high mountains of central Mexico.
For today though, we continue riding on the shoulder of 15D. A steady flow of traffic is accompanying us and we have more gentle climbs to do, before finding our way into Ruiz.
Starting the climb, Ruiz to Tepic, 40 miles
Although it is only a 40 mile ride today, it takes us much longer, than anticipated to reach our goal of today. Maybe, because we have an elevation gain of over 9000ft, where Tepic is located. Maybe the few extra rollers in between had a little to do with he delayed arrival as well.
As we ride along our wide shoulder we notice small rest areas with water barrels and SOS phones at regular intervals along our route. Sometimes they even come with a small concrete bench, which makes for a great break spot to enjoy a snack.
Part of the cuota fee goes to services such as bathroom services near toll stations, safety patrols, and mechanical help. Having water readily available for older water cooled engines, must be another service which most likely comes in handy where older cars have to climb long distances. We find they are great for tired cyclists as well to get a few yards away from the noisy traffic.
Although, we thought that there would be less climbing on the toll road, we do believe we were mistaken as we occasionally spot the libre 15 somewhere down in the valley as we tend to climb up and down some extra hills.
But at least we can see that the traffic is just as heavy on the libre, but without a shoulder to ride on. With that in mind, we are not too disappointed about extra climbing.
Eventually, we arrive in Tepic, where we spent a down day. After a few weeks off the bike, riding 175 miles can be a little bit tiring. We also know, that we still have a lot more climbing ahead of us.
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