Day 35: Manuel, MX to Tampico, MX

Well, here we are in the very posh and modern Hotel Inglaterra in Tampico, Mexico, arranged for us by the local folks from Sherwin-Williams. I had hoped to catch up on uploading photos and other blog information tonight, but the computadora here in the hotel’s business center does not seem to want to recognize the memory card from my camera. Rest assured, though, we’ve had an enjoyable and relatively uneventful few days of riding here in Mexico. Since our first evening in San Fernando, we’ve stayed in the towns of Soto La Marina and Manuel. Tampico is the first major city, and the first one in which we’ve seen modern chain stores, both Mexican and American (Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Applebee’s, TGIFriday’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King). After Ray and I walked around the city near out hotel a bit to try to find some good vegetarian options, we settled on the Subway just outside our hotel! To our dismay, the coffee in the small cafes that we’ve eaten is so far is usuall instant, but finally today, we had some good “real” coffee in an upscale cafe called Victoria, in the public square just across the street from the hotel.

Tampico is a large city, and the last 15 miles of our 50-mile ride today were spent dodging urban traffic. The roads so far, though, have been mostly very nice. Many of the highways in this part of the country have gone through the process of “modernizacion,” with a wide, smooth shoulder, which has made for fast and pleasant cycling. The only major exception was a couple of miles of in-progress construction that we had to ride through yesterday on the way to Manuel. It started out as a couple miles of rough chip-and-seal surface, followed by a mile or so of dirt, gravel, water, and mud. It has been relatively flat terrain so far, except for a few moderate rolling hills in the middle of yesterday’s route. We’ve also been fortunate that it’s been overcast and uncharacteristically cool in this region, as well as in our last couple of days in Texas.

A couple highlights of Mexico so far were our best meal, a lunch of fish stew at a small cantina about halfway between Soto La Marina and Manuel. The matronly proprietor explained that she used no frozen vegetables, and the fish was caught fresh from the nearby Laguna Verde. The other highlight was that night in Manuel, when we set out to find a place for dinner. We stopped in a small cantina that had a sign promising “pescada frita” (fried fish), but the kitchen was closed by then. By chance, two traveling salesmen from the Modelo Brewery (makers of Corona) were at the bar, and struck up a conversation. They insisted on buying us round after round despite our protests of “No mas!” until we finally politely exited and managed to find a hearty sandwich stand down the street.

While walking around the city today, we strolled through the very large open-air market, which looked like the place to be for any kind of fresh food, as well as goods of all kinds. We also scouted out a couple of local bike shops; these are usually very small places that just handle repairs for the very low-end Huffy-style bikes that most people use for transportation. We talked to an employee at one shop, and when we told him that we worked for a bike shop in Ohio, he said, “You probably see a lot of nice stuff there. We only get crap here.” We also found the local Sherwin-Williams store; they were closed at this time, but it was good to find where it was, since they are expecting us to stop by tomorrow morning for a photo session.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. The waiter told us about how he had worked as a painter and drywaller in the Columbus, Ohio area a few years ago.

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