It’s going on a week here in the Southern Caribbean, and I’m still alive. Somehow. Allow me to apologize for the lack of any sort of coherent photography, my apathy about existence began to take its toll on my shutter finger.
Day five in our temporary abode yielded happier times - perhaps akin to the Roman Republic before the ascension of Caesar. Or the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression. Or whatever historical-impending-doom-scenario you’d like to ascribe to, because we know the roller coaster will inevitably drop to the lowest point (or lower) that it hit before it crested the hill we’re presently enjoying. It’s like, in the laws of physics. Or Murphy. Or something.
We awoke after our hellish time in the jungle, groggy, pissed, and many of our compatriots visiting esteemed travel websites like “kayak.com”, “united.com”, “caribbeanair.com”, and “willstowinanalligatorcratetoleave.com”. Still, Cesar and I persevered. Others may crumble, others may break - but we will carry on in search of the ultimate automotive prize (as offered by the race organizers). Breakfast was unappetizing. The hotel sustenance notches at a slight step above what I ate in my elementary school cafeteria, until my mom went on a field trip with me one spring day in the second grade and sampled the mystery meat (following which I was packed a lunch until my freshman year of high school)…but I digress.
As we contemplated how the islands would try to kill us today, we did as little as possible, apathetic about our fates. The stage was slated to start at 1 PM. By now, though, we’d become smarter. Today, the race (and certain death) would wait for us. We left the hotel for the ten-minute pedal to the start approximately five minutes after the theoretical start time. We weren’t quite slow enough - the race was still a good twenty minutes from any semblance of organization upon our arrival. (I may have lied about us/smarter - Cesar was kitted up by 12:15. Silly Cesar.)
The stage for the day was listed at “110km” long, and the route would take us down another huge divided highway to San Fernando, where we’d flip a U-turn utilizing an overpass, then back to Port of Spain and up a short “5km” climb to the finish line overlooking the city. As if on cue, the rain started when the race did. However, today we were in for a treat, and it would only abuse us like a redheaded stepchild for twenty minutes or so. The highway drag was, as expected, windy and fast. There were a few harrowing moments in the crosswinds, a com car that refused to pass me so I could drop back for bottles for the team, and a team of Jamaican track riders who chased down my breakaway attempts for no logical reason. However, we didn’t have to dodge many cars, and I was never quite afraid for my life - a bonus in my book!
We hit the climb, and Cesar hit the throttle at the bottom. My lack of pure race intensity fitness showed, and I fell off the pace of the lead group as we hit the halfway mark. Not soon after (no, really, about ten seconds later) I saw…A SIGN. And not just any sign, mind you, this was a sign that read “1km”. It was bittersweet. Bitter because I was rolling back through the remnants of the group as my time-trial engine began to take over from the anaerobic spike of the start of the climb (and because the climb was rather obviously not 5km long), but sweet because I actually had an idea of where the finish was located today!
As I cruised through the line almost a minute off the pace of the winner, I quickly learned my other Colombian teammate Jaime Ramirez had taken the stage, with Cesar punching his ticket a few seconds back in fourth, putting Team Petrotrin in excellent GC position. Jaime sat ten seconds off yellow, and Cesar slightly farther back. This helped to elevate the mood with our little contingent, but true happiness that afternoon was derived from the blue skies, beautiful views, and delicious offerings of the vendors at the top of the climb (some kind of ginger-sugar-rock-hard pastry - DELICIOUS). I wasn’t even put out by the fact that my odometer read 101km - perhaps there’s a phenomena known as “Trinidistance” here to go along with “Trinitime”.
Cesar, Phil and I decided to swap the hotel’s food offering that night for something a little different. Try as I might, convincing them to go somewhere aside from the local TGI Friday’s was fruitless, but I joined in anyway. Visiting exported American generica like bad chain restaurants is a point of amusement here. There’s always something forced and awkward about the whole experience, even more so than in the States. Maybe it’s the staff attempting to replicate the fake (sic) dining experience of the original, or maybe it’s the hilarity of ordering something like an “Asian Fusion” chicken salad in what I’m discovering is a Caribbean culinary gem like Trinidad & Tobago, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
We returned home to discover the power out - so our manager took us out to a local nightclub where we saw the coverband I posted a video of below, and I learned that drinking establishments here have a lot more latitude with their marketing than they’d ever get away with in America. I mean, “Stumblin”? Obvious drunk dude with a bottle as your logo? Drink names like “Rum Shit on the Grass”? It doesn’t get better than this, people. Gyros from tents seem to reign supreme as edibles for the imbibed, but I remained stuffed from the faux-real American dining experience earlier.
The next cycle of the sun was scheduled as a rest day - slightly ironic, given that we’d been racing for a whole seven total hours up to this point, but no one was complaining. The mental break would be welcome, and the mood was greatly improved. Maybe we’ll live, after all.