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Friday, November 26, 1999 - Day 157 / 124 ridden.
Miles completed: 8,497.10

Route covered: Zanatepec, Oaxaca, Mexico to El Bajo, Magdalena Colombia.


Summary. Iíve ridden Alaska, Canada, USA, and Mexico. Three countries completed before this report. Now Iím in Colombia. Here is what happened in betweenÖ

I finished my last stretch in Mexico. There I encountered very strong winds and one of the many dogs Iíve seen along the way. This one was tempted by my calves Iíve developed so far and decided to give them a taste. The bite was not deep at all, but enough to have to go to the hospital, have it cleaned, check to see if the dog had its shots, and keep the wound clean for a few days. I had neglected to acquire a tourist card in Mexico, and had to explain why in order to leave the country. They let me go, but did not stamp my passport.

Welcome to Guatemala

I entered Guatemala on October 29. Beautiful roads. Not just the pavement and shoulder, but also the green mountains I was riding through. My second day in Guatemala was full of surprises. Going down a hill about 30 MPH, I blew out my rear tire. The impact destroyed my rim. It created a crack all the way around on the inside. I was aided by police in less than 4 minutes. I had been able to control the bike, stopping after some 200 feet of thinking "something is wrong".

I spent 4 days in Retalhuleu, until a temporary wheel was built in a nearby city. I stayed at a cheap "hospedaje" for 2 dollars a night. I became good friends with my neighbor, Walter, from Colombia. We enjoyed many hours speaking of our adventures. He has traveled a lot through Central America. We even went to the beach one day with another friend of his, Sara, from Guatemala.

By the road in Guatemala

I rode 2 more days and went to visit some family friends in Guatemala City. This city was not on my road, so I took a truck to get there, and then was brought back to the intersection 2 days later to continue on. Since Guatemala City is in the mountains, I was refreshed by cool, even cold temperatures. Our friends, the Contreras, whom Iíd not seen since I was 5, treated me very well. Great food at their restaurant, Capistrano; if you go to Guatemala eat there and tell them I sent you. They are also in the newspaper business. I had 2 interviews for 3 papers. My rear wheel was rebuilt with a serious rim, not the 7 dollar one I was rolling. Ready to roll.

Guatemala City

On November 8 I entered El Salvador. On this day I made the decision to go after the record. Walter said that mathematically having the possibility, I should go for it. Here is the mathematics of it: 76 miles a day until February 27, 2000. No rest days. That will be day 250. The record now stands at 265 days. After some more calculations, it turns out my trip will be near the original 15,600 Iíd estimated. I will slowly "adjust" these reports to fit the correct amount of distance. Going for the record, today I should be at 8590 miles; Iím some 93 miles behind, but will catch up.

New friends in Guatemala.

Everywhere I go, I tell people to grab a bike and follow me. No one wanted to, until El Salvador. Vladimir and Enano, 26 and 21, traveled with me for a day and a half. The plan was to go about a week, but I was glad that they went at least that much. As a side note, they traveled more distance with me in that day and a half, than my original partner, who quit on the morning of day 3 in the Alaskan tundra. The flat Alaskan tundra. These guys made it over "El Cuco", one of the hardest climbs in the last 3 weeks. I give them credit for having the adventurous spirit to try something new.

I entered Honduras on November 11. Many volcanoes and noticeable damage by Mitch, over one year ago. Just one day later, November 12, I entered Nicaragua. I had to register my bike. The only proof of ownership I had was a letter written by Greg Lamb, Chief Inspector for the Building Department of Tuolumne County, where I live. The letter, which looked very official despite the blurry sections caused by rain, included my name, and the bike model plus serial number. A big thumbs up to Greg for the idea of giving me that letter. Many volcanoes here as well, also damage by Mitch. Many bridges were still temporary, and many of the rebuilt ones were donated by Japan.

I feel tall all through this area; Iím only 5í9". Pondering as I rode, I discovered at least one reason why people are short. Which brings me to my "50% report physics lesson": (drum roll) many people carry baskets on their head, or bags. They balance them very well, thus proving that they have placed the objectís center of gravity over their head and feet, their bodyís center of gravity. What they donít notice, is that these objects, pulled downward by gravity, block the upward motion of growth. End lesson. (Drum roll) (Exit lady and basket). Iím not sure this is a real reason but I think a closer study would show my hypothesis to be not very erroneous. In Honduras and Nicaragua, the word I heard the most was Gringo. Even little kids, who I wasnít sure could even speak yet, looked at me and said "gringo". "Gringo, gringo!" was all I heard as I rode. It was like I was setting off triggers. "Gringo, gringo!" Some times I couldnít even see the person. It only appeared as if a bush was yelling "Gringo, gringo!"

Costa Rica greeted me on November 15. Many green mountains to go through. I stayed on the coastline, and rode through some 70 miles of dirt, mud, rock, and water roads. Two feet of water across the entire road seemed like little after a while. The mud was like a gum under your shoe, sticking to every possible part of my bike. Staying on the main road was about 50 miles longer, but might have been shorter time wise had I taken it. The mud was fun.

November 20 I entered Panama. I arrived at a "pension" (hostel) where there were many bikers. It was the end of day 2 of the tour of Panama. Many bikers, many bikes, and a guy cleaning them. Three dollars was enough to get my bike to be white again, and get those gears and chains rolling smoothly. There exist a section in eastern Panama, the "Darien Gap" where there are no roads. It is the only section of the Pan American Hwy, from Alaska to Argentina, where there is no road. The only way to get across is by foot, with waist high swamp water through the jungle and much guerrilla warfare. The way to get to Colombia is by boat or plane. My original plan was to go to Puerto Buenaventura, on the Pacific in Southern Colombia. This way I would avoid the many problems going on in that country. Many problems? After speaking much with my Colombian friend Walter, I decided I could not miss out with Colombia. To the north, Cartagena, on the Caribbean, is where I will go.

Of the many teams at the pension, one was the Colombian team. They helped me with my itinerary through Colombia. The third day of the tour of Panama began in front of the "pension". These guys average 30MPH for two and a half hours every day for twelve days. I average 10 MPH for seven or eight hours every day for, well, so far 124 ridden days. You decide. I like to go somewhere. These guys had the start and finish at the same point. They are going nowhere. I am going to the end of the Pan American Hwy.

Panama City, Panama

To save time, since Iím going for the record, I flew across the Darien Gap, from Tocumen, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. Iíve seen no guerrilla action since I entered on November 24, but people are warning me. Many people during my trip have asked me if I carry a weapon. The answer is yes. I have a small, easily accessible handle bar bag where I keep it. It is small and black. It weights about a pound and is very powerful. When I have breakfast or eat somewhere, I bring it along. Itís my Bible. Nothing is more powerful than the word on it, and the name behind it, Jesus. With breakfast, my physical food, I read my Bible, spiritual food. Ezekiel warned the Israelis of Godís coming judgment. "Thatís not coming yet", they said. It came. And what a bad place to be caught, being away from God. He will return soon, letís not think, "Thatís not coming yet". I would hate to see any of you caught in a bad spot. Letís all be ready, it will give us much, much time, eternity actually, to spend together. This would be nice since I miss everyone a lot. Think about it. Will I see you there?

Think it solo. Iíll continue to Bike It Solo

Emmanuel Gentinetta


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