Morale has been low this week, but something always comes along to stir up the embers. Last night over numerous beers and Cuban food, a newly made friend said (to the best of my understanding and paraphrasing): “When you die — and, I mean, not soon I hope, but some day — when you die, what will you take with you? That backpack? The sunglasses? Money? No. The memory. The experience. You must keep going.” A cousin to my own thoughts.
Apparently I have been very high up lately. After Guadalajara I kept making the mistake of thinking this country had to flatten out eventually. Four days later, pedaling out of Morelia, I noticed that the sky spent all day turning suspiciously deeper and deeper shades of blue. The sunlight got hotter while the shadows turned frigid. My ears kept popping on the downhill. I stayed last night in Toluca, about 8,000 feet up, and must have crossed the 10k line this afternoon on my way here.
The altitude has made everything surreally familiar. For days the land felt like it could have walked out of Washington state. Deciduous trees mixed with needled evergeens, big plains of dry grass, forested mountains with the same geometries of erosion as the ones I know so well.
When I finally crossed today’s high point, I shot downward for miles on roads just like the ones around Mt. Rainier. Finally some rooftops and back yards flew up to meet me and I rejoiced, thinking I was here… but from the narrow streets I looked out at where the horizon should have been, into a light blue abyss like a hazy ocean, and realized it was the sprawl of Cuernavaca still thousands of feet below. It occurred to me that in some ways an uphill is better than a downhill; when you climb you have control. Today’s last leg was like dropping from orbit. There weren’t even switchbacks. All I could do was blink the water out of my wind-peeled eye sockets, ignore the smell of my brake pads melting against rims too hot to touch, and inwardly hold onto my ass as the rushing air turned tangibly ever thicker and thicker around me.