The ruins at Ek Balam, near Valladolid, Yucatan


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Page 4: Merida, January 27 - 30

The ride from Izamal to Merida, another 40 miles, passed through some large villages and then, inevitably, took us onto Route 180, a heavily traveled road. On the right is Calchalchen, a busy market town.

There were safe shoulders on the busy stretch of 180, but also more litter than we've seen so far. The ride was eventful in only one way: Barbara had two blowouts, one while riding, the second as soon as I'd inflated the new tube. With some more searching, we found a small tear in the sidewall, the legacy of Barbara's mishap in Chichen Itza. I patched the tire as well as possible, and we continued into the city.

In Merida we stayed with Ken Scott, a Warm Showers host, and what a wonderful visit it was! Ken recently retired here and has renovated a beautiful home in the historic center of town. He has made us more comfortalbe than we could have dreamed. Also, perhaps because Ken's wife Erin has been visiting her mother in Florida, he has been able to devote a great deal of time to showing us around.

These photos inside Ken's home give only a rough idea of what a beautiful building it was. Above: the pool area; Right: a sitting area just outside our bedroom door.

When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, we had a simple meal at a good cocina economica across the street from Ken's house, and a walk in to the nearby town center (below). We took another walk with Ken after dark and saw that Merida is even more lively and beautiful. In the evening.

Friday from late morning to mid afternoon was devoted to tracking down bicycle parts. It took ages, but we managed to find a second spare tire, a few new tubes, more patches, extra spokes and more water bottle cages. Of course we already had some spares, but we've had such bad luck — a blown tire and four flats in just a few days — that we wanted more of everything! We cycled in the city to find these things, and in the heavy traffic we were riding in survival mode, so there aren't any more photos. (Merida, the biggest city on the Yucatan Peninsula, has about 1,000,000 residents in the metro area.)

On Saturday morning, we went with Ken and his soon-to-be neighbor Thomas to Merida's weekly Slow Food market (below). It's the same movement, started in Italy, that we're familiar with in the U.S. Here it's largely expatriates involved so far, but it was fun, and some of the food was fantastic. Below right, Barbara talks tomatoes with a woman who grows heirloom varieties.

In the afternoon we cycled a 35-mile loop south of Merida while Ken did some work, but it wasn't that great a ride. We visited a couple of pleasant places, photos below, but it took a long time to get out of the city, and just as long to fight our way back into it. Central Merida is wonderful, noteworthy for the wealth of public concerts and events that seem to go on every night. However, cycling through Merida's unending industrial areas and suburbs is not much fun.

         We love the whitewashed stone walls in many villages.

A flower vendor drives slowly through the village.                   

Our last day, Sunday, was the best. In the morning, Merida closes Paseo Montejo and some other streets for joggers and cyclists, so the three of us enjoyed an early outing on bikes. With Ken on a a Bike Friday and us on Cruzbikes, we were an unusual group! Below right, a mansion along Paseo Montejo.

Paseo Montejo is a beautiful boulevard, something like a scaled-down version of Mexico City's Paseo Reforma, with interesting art on the sidewalks, as on Reforma. When we were in Merida, bronze sculptures of strange and fanciful creatures were on display. Note the critter looking over the top of the face at left. Center, around the back you can see the rest of him. We love the hands on the deer-like creature at right.

After our ride on Paseo Montejo and around the Plaza Grande, Ken drove us to the Gulf Coast, where we had late breakfast with Mike Smith, a delightful man who has recently moved to the Yucatan. Mike told us a lot about a local non-profit with which he is involved, running programs to help young people in the community. We also met several other expatriates, including a couple who were working on their beautiful sailboat (below left). And we walked onto the beach. Ken and Barbara, below right.

On Monday morning, January 31, we finally met Ken's wife Erin, who had returned from Florida late at night. We also got photos at last of Alegre, one of the most ingratiating little dogs we've ever met. Incredibly, Alegre was a rescue. What a piece of luck! Below left: Ken, Alegre, and Erin.

We were leaving Merida for Ticul, a small city 48 miles to the south. At 7:00 a.m., Ken took a photo of us on the loaded bikes just before we rode away. You can see we're still fairly pale. That will change in time! Below left: Ken, Alegre, and Erin. Below right: us.

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