Crushed Out 131 Miles First Day Back on the Pavement

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Some days everything just clicks. I left Humaita´ after downing a pineapple vitamina, or smoothie with milk and sugar, and headed down the longest paved straightaways I’ve laid eyes on since my days in Indiana. The heat never passed 98F and a headwind kept me cool. I pedaled like I would never get tired, and yesterday, I didn´t. After 131 miles I reached Porto Velho and felt exhilarated. As the ruthless commodities trader Mark Yost would exclaim…”TASTE IT!”

I passed from the state of Amazônas, to the state of Rondonia, back into Amazônas before returning to Rondonia and Porto Velho, this state’s capitol. I went through two check points insuring no cattle from Amazonia enters Rondonia where all the cattle are vaccinated. I didn´t ask what they are vaccinated for…I had already eaten my share of Amazonian beef.

I was straight into a headwind for the first 8 hours of riding. I haven´t faced much headwinds whatsoever to this point. Part of the reason I chose to ride from East to West was to travel with the prevailing weather patterns. I was averaging 10.4 mph until the headwind let up in late afternoon and I could put the hammer down.

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To be honest my intention was to get fairly close to Porto Velho and camp. I tried to find a suitable spot along the road but only succeeded in adding some painful lacerations to my legs from grass I waded through. I don´t know the name of this type of grass is but it reminded me of the elephant grass in Vietnam I have read about. I couldn’t really tell how bad it was until 10-15 minutes later when I started sweating again. Today they are sticky oozing messes! Anyway, there was only scrub and fazenda without a decent tree to hang my hammock by late afternoon.

A feature of the landscape I have passed since leaving Belem are these enormous and far reaching ant hills which are easily seen in cleared fazendas. I stopped to take a picture of a field with a typical group of these mounds which regularly reach heights taller than me. I’d like to take my machete to one but have images of ants exploding out of the hole and dragging me back into the earth. I’ll stick to taking pictures.

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As the sun set, and my hopes of finding a campsite faded, I began to focus on reaching Port Velho. I had only 18 km to go by the time I switched from sunglasses to clear lenses and donned the headlamp. My legs still felt strong so I said “Let those dogs hunt!” and cranked up the tempo. I pedaled through swarms of tiny bugs that got stuck in my beard, hair, and sweat with the beam of my headlamp bouncing all over the road.

After almost exactly 12 hours since leaving Humaita´ I reached the ferry to go back across the Rio Madeira and into Porto Velho. My pedaling time was just over 11 hours. The ferry was crammed with tractor trailers, dirt bikes, other bicycles, pedestrians, and a bulldozer. When I rode into the downtown region I realized this was a very major city.

I found a cheap hotel next to the bus terminal (Hotel Porto Rico, very classy at 20$ a night) and strolled to find some food. I quickly realized Porto Velho was indeed urban in every sense. On my block I passed 2 rather suspicious motels connected to rowdy bars. This morning I received some flattering words from two transvestites drinking beers at said motel. Always a nice ego boost first thing in the morning!

However, despite the fact the some street fighting experience may be a plus to those looking to visit Porto Velho, I was able to replace my completely shredded pedals with a decent pair of Shimanos (the bolts and bearings were no longer in existence in the old set, it’s been over 800 miles since the pedals started to fail). I also re-outfitted my rear tire which was worn thin and pieced back together a set of worn out bearings in my headset. However, these will need to be replaced as soon as possible.

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I meandered the streets trying to find the main nerve of the city when I found a side street bar packed with people dancing to a samba band. Everything was set up on the sidewalk under the canopy of two huge trees. There was beer drinking and dancing between the plastic tables. Of course I just watched, I couldn’t dance two steps without looking out of place next to these guys . Besides soccer, and pool (which is played more than soccer from what I’ve seen up here in the north), the Brazilians that I’ve observed can dance like it´s nobody´s business… just effortlessly. I stayed up until midnight watching them boogie before limping back to my room.

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The unloaded Dragon gets a tour of Centro P.V.

19 Responses to “Crushed Out 131 Miles First Day Back on the Pavement”
  1. Big town, eh? met a lot of strangers tonight at Sparhawk who knew about you and your travels. Kudos Ken!!

    sounds like you are doing great Doug. I’d say 75% of my conversations tonight were about you. inquiring minds want to know..

    by sara
    on 01. Nov, 2009

  2. Happy Halloween!

    by GD
    on 01. Nov, 2009

  3. Rugged day! Incredible distance with that rig. You are always one to take a compliment…no matter what the context. Keep the updates coming.

    by Pony
    on 01. Nov, 2009

  4. 131 miles! You’re an animal, Doug.

    by Nate A
    on 01. Nov, 2009

  5. I heard about you from my friend Carol! This is quite an adventure you have taken on!!! I look forward to reading your updates…. Kathleen

    by kathleen
    on 01. Nov, 2009

  6. Hey, I see that I’m not the only one who says you’re animal! Nate A shares my sentiments exactly.
    Keep on going, and keep the updates coming!

    by kathy
    on 02. Nov, 2009

  7. Jesus man, what a beast! Nice of you to mention a scrub like me – I feel famous now! Enjoy civilization for a bit and get some rest. Told all my friends in Houston about you this weekend. Take care bro.

    by Yost
    on 02. Nov, 2009

  8. Wow, I tell people who bike that you average 50-70 miles a day in the Amazon and you zip out 131 miles on pavement! Good to see you with the night riding gear and being able to take advantage of the paved surfaces to ride on after sunset.

    The bike seems to be holding up well, but didn’t consider that parts (pedals!)would be wearing out before breaking (panniers), so getting a tune up in civilization looks to have been a timely thing to do.

    Social contacts still seem to be a mix of the strange and sublime for you in Brazil, so am glad to hear that you are resisting the temptations of TransAmazonia while appreciating the sultry somba social.

    by Ken
    on 02. Nov, 2009

  9. Very impressive Doug! I can hear you in my head saying– “131 miles, NBD” :) Keep it up… I think you should try samba though — you can come back and impress us all with your new moves! Stay well!

    by jess
    on 02. Nov, 2009

  10. Doug, it is amazing this journey of your. As you heard from that Brazilian guy in that Brazilian bar in Somerville, ” It’s very hard to belief that someone can do such thing”, although, you are making it believable. Wow ! I am a lucky man to have met such a BRAVE & COURAGEOUS friend. Vai la meu, chama a mulher para dancar samba.

    by idario
    on 03. Nov, 2009

  11. Definitely enjoyed reading your posts. Sounds like the trek of a lifetime. Keep it up man. I’m also glad to hear the “ruthless commodities trader Mark Yost ” has at least one friend.

    by Jeff T.
    on 03. Nov, 2009

  12. That´s exactly what I was saying.

    by doug
    on 04. Nov, 2009

  13. I don’t know whats more amazing, your writing skills or your physical prowess. Keep up the good work ‘ol buddy! I’m proud of you. PS- More transvestite stories

    by PhilKierl
    on 04. Nov, 2009

  14. You the man Doug! Keep keepin’ on.

    by ESmith
    on 22. Nov, 2009

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