After leaving Guasave I rode through the towns of Guamuchila and colonia agricola sinaloa. One day was particularly tough because I felt sick all day and it was hot with no water stops. I rode almost all day drinking hot water before I finally got to a town and had a cool drink. Problem was, it was nearing sunset and no place to camp. I rode around the town but there were just fields. No hotel as it was a small town. Just as it was getting dark I managed to find a bit of brush away from a road and set up my tent in the dark. I was so tired I could barely stand up. I had ridden eight hours with no real breaks, Slept good though. Then the next day I also had trouble. Again, open fields or towns. I like to camp where I am not visible from any road because in my experience if there is a road, 90% of the time a vehicle will pass by while I am there. But I managed to find a spot in heavy brush and sure enough a car came by as well as a cowboy and his cattle. But I was well hidden and not visible to them.
This area of Mexico is heavily farmed, growing everything from onions to corn. So I have had to plan my route to stay in hotels for a few days. As I’ve said before, finding good camping spots is the most stressful part of this bike tour.
Speaking of camping, with all the water around there were thousands of mosquitos and other biting flies, including the formidable noseeums, the barely visible flies that you don’t even notice until they have bitten you. I have a three pronged strategy against these beasts. First is simple spray on repellant, which I use on my arms and legs during my ride because when I stop for a water break, they invariably appear and try to bite me. Then, when I get to a camping site I put on my full mesh bug suit, which covers me completely while I get my camp set up. At the same time, I fire up my Thermocell repellant device, which uses butane to heat a pad soaked in repellant. When the pad heats up it releases a cloud of repellant 15 feet wide which kills any bugs nearby. It takes 15 minutes or so for the cloud to develop though so in the meantime I need my bug suit. Camping is so much fun. I don’t know how the indigenous people or even the locals manage but I can’t stand getting bitten by bugs. Maybe it’s just me. Here is one of my camp sites which I found on an old railroad grade.
A field of laborers picking something in the hot sun. Tough job.
I finally managed to get a hotel room and turned on the news. I usually don’t watch TV because there’s nothing on and I am too tired. But I did watch this time and was struck by how much violence and bad news was presented. I guess its the same in the US but I just don’t notice it. I took some photos of the screen to capture the summaries.
“Nine people injured from gas tank explosion” in Puebla.
“Woman killed after falling from a 20 meter structure”, in Merida
“Assault on a passenger transport vehicle.” in Mexico City
“Armed subjects assault a business in Central de Abasto”, in Puebla.
“Argument in Central de Abasto leaves one dead”, in Mexico City
“Man dies after argument between neighbors”, in Cuernavaca
“Two young men detained for a shooting”, in Mexico City
“Armed subjects rob a truck”
“Shooting on Acapulco Beach”
Even the bees are violent. This one says “People treated for bee attack”.
Back on the road, I continued south through Culiacan, Eldorado and Dimas. Here is an Irrigation canal just outside Culiacan.
A Weird Encounter
I was on a busy highway just outside of Culiacan. I had stopped on a bridge to take the above photo and after a couple minutes a guy on a motorcycle appeared next to me. This was not unusual, several people have stopped me and were curious about my trip. This guy asked the usual questions: where are you from? Where are you going? How many km do you ride in a day? He was also interested in my equipment and the trip in general. So as usual I answered and thought he was also a cyclist. But there was something a little odd about his behavior. Then he asked “traes dinero?”, do have any money? I said no, not much. I sleep in fields. Then he pulled a bunch of bills out of pocket and I thought he was going to give me some money, which happens. A couple days before a guy gave me 100 pesos, about $5 because he supported my trip.
I told the guy, it’s not necessary. Then he said a couple other things I did not understand. But then he said “dame tu dinero”, give me your money. I backed away and said no. He kept asking and I kept saying no or I don’t have any. Then suddenly he pulled up his shirt to display a pistol tucked into the front of his pants. He said, “quiere morir?” Do you want to die? Whoa, this turned ugly real quick. I actually don’t remember what I said but I walked my bike away a little trying to find my pepper spray. He kept saying “dame tu dinero” and I kept saying no, I have no money. Then I think he said “es un chiste”, its just a joke. I started to relax a little but still kept my eyes on his every move. Finally he rode away several feet but then came back. By this time I had dismounted my bike and retrieved my pepper spray and stun gun. I faced him as he stood on his motorcycle about 5 feet away. I made a point of clicking the safety switch on my pepper spray and he realized I had some kind of weapon in my hand. He said a few more words then buzzed off. A bit shaken, I reflected on the encounter.
I keep a fake wallet in my handlebar bag in case of just such an event. It has a few dollars and some expired credit cards in it so it looks like the real thing. I considered giving it to him but I was thinking that if you are going to rob me you’ll have to do more than just flash your piece at me. You have to work at it. If he had drawn his gun and pointed it at me, sure I would have given him the wallet. But just threatening me like that is not enough for me to give you my fake wallet. Besides he had a helmet on but the face shield was lifted so I had a clear shot to his face if I wanted to use the pepper spray. But I thought if I did and he ended up writhing on the ground in pain it would attract attention, and the last thing I wanted was to be interrogated by the Mexican police.
It was a dumb place for a robbery anyway. I could have dashed out into the highway in front of a semi and forced them to stop to get attention. This probably would have scared the thief away. So although I was a little intimidated by the encounter, as long as he did not drawn his gun I felt he was not really that serious. If it was a joke, it wasn’t very funny.
I don’t know. What would you have done?
As we are on the topic of security I thought I would say a few words. This was the first time on all my miles of cycling I’ve been threatened by an armed thief. I was robbed in Tanzania in 2009 but that was some unknown hotel housekeeper who rifled my bags while I was out and found my hidden stash. In Kyrgyzstan I had to karate chop a guy’s wrist when he tried to grab my bike. And again some drunk kid tried to attack me but I gave him a quick punch in the stomach and he withdrew.
Actually, the most serious I attacks I’ve had were kids throwing rocks at me while I was riding by. This happened several times but mostly in Turkey and Kenya. It’s tough to defend yourself against a flying rock. It could be dangerous if I had gotten hit in the head. Eventually my tactic was to stop riding, get off the bike, pick up some rocks and run at the kids, yelling and throwing rocks back at them. This caused then to scatter, but I felt uncomfortable doing it as I might have hit one and caused an injury to them.
But recognizing that some sort of self defense is helpful I arranged the following arsenal: First is my self defense training in the Israeli Haganah system, which trains you to defend yourself again hand to hand street attacks, knife threats and gun threats. It teaches you to attack a person’s weak points: eyes, ears, throat, joints, groin, etc.
Then I have two canisters of pepper spray which I use for dogs. But they work very well against humans too. There are you tube videos if you want to see. The advantage of these is that you can deploy them from a distance. The thief who accosted was 5 feet away, well within distance.
Them I have a stun gun, which shocks the victim with a high voltage charge. The problem with this is you have to be physically close to apply the gun directly to the victim’s body. My strategy is that if I had to I would first use the pepper spray from a distance to blind the attacker, then approach and stun them with the gun. From there I could plot my escape.
Then I have a short cane which, believe it or not I use to help me get up from the ground when I squat while camping—yes my knees are going. But I also think it is useful as a club for dogs or humans. Then I have my Swiss army knife which has all sorts of uses but it does have a 3 inch steel blade which could cause serious damage in a knife fight. Here is my arsenal.
I also have a backup cell phone which I can use as a GPS if my primary cell phone quits working. It’s an old phone with no SIM card but it still works. If I feel I am in sketchy area I hide my real wallet and phone in a secret compartment in my handlebar bag. That way if a thief manages to get to me and search my bag he’ll find just the fake wallet and my old phone. He may be satisfied with those and leave.
Moving on, here are a few more roadside memorials. It is so sad to see the ones who died young. Here, Jose Antonio Soto Bueno, known as “Chepe”, died July 17,2016, just 17 years old.
This one did not have any name or other info but it was very colorfully decorated, and also quite new.
I had dinner one day in one of those sidewalk restaurants in a small town. This mother and child were eating there too.
I stop at a lot of convenience stores to stock up on water and juice, They also serve Fud, whatever that is. I haven’t tried it.
One the Sinaloa back roads. Rough riding.
Out of the desert now, my camping spots are among thick brush. It’s great for cover but a little cramped at times.
A laborer contemplating the work ahead of him.
The road to Mazatlan. I had to take the superhighway for a couple days. It’s sort of safe because it has a shoulder. But cars and trucks zoom by constantly so it’s not very enjoyable. Luckily Pandora works here in Mexico.
I finally rolled into Mazatlan after a long hot 70 km day. On my last trip to Mexico in 2017-2018 I rode north up to Mazatlan then had to bus it to the US border. So now I have completed the trip, going from the border south to Mazatlan. But now, rather than retrace my steps, I will take a series of buses to get to Acapulco and beyond. I need to be in Merida by January 15 to meet family, and it’s a long way off.
Here is my current location. Stats as of now, 1554 km (971 miles) in 37 days. The good news? My tires are holding up!
One last thing: the guy who flashed his gun at me reminded me of a scene in Take the Money and Run, one of Woody Allen’s early films. He attempts a bank robbery, with hilarious results.