Bicycling across the Yucatan is not a big expedition, but it seems that way. Keeping in mind such famous explorers as Thor Heyerdahl — who crossed the Pacific to Easter Island in a Greenland trawler with 130 tons of oil, 50 tons of water, and 3 archaeologists on a stretch of ocean more desolate than any other in the world — a jaunt across the Yucatan is a mean feat. And think of Roald Amundsen, the famous Antarctic explorer, who not only wintered through the bitter Antarctic July with 5 other Polar Party members, but also raced (and won) to the South Pole more than a hundred years ago in 1911, passing, as he sledded, chasms so deep and black that they appeared bottomless, and crossing through such areas as the Devil’s Ballroom.
No, biking across the Yucatan is a drop in the ocean compared to such magnificent explorations. Still, as the packing list grows longer, and the planning becomes more nuanced, the number of questions tends to mount rather than diminish. Furthermore, these questions seem to become ever more knotty and the answers more difficult to reach. To ship the bike across the Gulf, for instance, you must use a bike box. Well and good. But how to ship the bike home? Where to get a bike box, because if the bike shop in Cancun doesn’t have one, where can one be procured? Can one leave a bike box with the accommodations for a 3 week duration and, if so, what happens if it is accidentally thrown away or destroyed? How will the bike come home again? What if passport theft occurs? What if an injury occurs? Disease?
Preparation, preparation, preparation — toilet paper, tools, and photocopies of the passport go a long ways, but not all the way, and in the end one must wave goodbye with a cheery smile and begin the journey knowing that not all contingencies can ever be fully accounted for. Yet while there are circumstances which are as yet unforeseen, I am excited to move from the tedious planning stage, in which I was impatient, and onward to the ride itself. I wonder if the Yucatan will have, for instance, that same subtropical sickly sweet scent as is found in The Philippines and Malaysia. Or if the Yucatan is so thoroughly Americanized and Europeanized as to have lost its rough flavor. It’s nothing special, I suppose. It’s a stage that we all pass through, that is, moving from here to there. Moving from security to insecurity. Stepping knowingly, willfully, off the front porch and into the rain.
They say that the road makes a man wicked
That the wanderer warms his hands by hellfire
That his pockets are full of galleons and gold
But his heart with nought but desire.
They say that the road makes a man lonely
That is one whom the whores cannot sate
That such men cannot live on but bread alone
That he will starve on the meat on his plate.
But there’s a light in every horizon
That shines always anew from the east
And with every new day that comes dawning
The wanderer takes from the highway his feast.
I’ll hit the road with my feet a-moving
And scars on my elbow and shins
And leave to the God of this people so odd
The task of sorting my virtues and sins.