THE LOCALS ARE PAINTING MY NAME ON THE ROADS

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Driving and cycling tend to occupy separate spheres of the time/space continuum in my mind, but in Caldas, they’re starting to meld. I was invited to a party at a finca (a country house) on Christmas Eve by some ever-hospitable Colombianos, who proceeded to treat the two lonely gringos like their own familia. I came away from the experience with two thoughts unaffected by the aguardiente and copious volumes of deep-fried deliciousness:

One, Utah Mormons (my upbringing, though no longer) and Colombian Catholics are not terribly different, save I might wager those that swing towards the Vatican vs. Salt Lake City know how to have a touch more fun. Remarkably strong family ties transcend culture, ethnicity, theology, and income. People are people, and tradition is tradition. It’s a comforting fact.

Two, and back to my original thoughts on driving; it’s impossible to get anywhere quickly in a vehicle in Caldas. As we rolled down the La Cabana climb to the finca in the two-door Landcruiser packed with seven adults, Christian and I were both cognizant that we could reach our destination twice as fast on a bicycle. In the US, distances become skewed by the vast interstate highway system, covering hundreds of kilometers in the space of a few short hours. It makes “huge” rides seem far less expeditionary and a bit more pedestrian. In Caldas, riding a mere 70km from home is considered a very long distance, even to those who own automobiles - many people I’ve met don’t know the pueblitas I ride to inside their own department. The social changes as one crosses from one cell of habitation to another 15km away are considerably vast, far more so than in the interconnected sprawl I call my home. It’s astonishing.

And on a total non-sequitur: Rare moments when the ubiquitous green box mode is the best mode - or maybe the algorithms that make the little Canon estimate sunny-16 solo are getting that good. In any case, I’d kill for a rest week with a motorcycle and my old Pentax 6x7 right about now. Or even a 5D with a 50mm, if I’m not being picky.  

Posted at 8:52am and tagged with: cycling, driving, caldas, colombia, photography, manizales, christmas,.

Not feeling very verdant today.

Posted at 8:09am and tagged with: full width, colombia, cycling, manizales, termales,.

Not feeling very verdant today.

I’m honored to have been interviewed by Cycling Inquisition (one of my favorite online cycling publications) about my winter adventure in Colombia. Klaus, author of the blog/native Colombian residing in the US and I share a common desire to scream to the whole world praises of this forgotten cycling paradise.

Colomiabano Evangelicos. 

Posted at 9:12am and tagged with: cycling inquisition, colombia, manizales, cycling,.

Give Letras an inch, and she’ll take a mile. Or just your saddlebag. 

Posted at 5:26pm and tagged with: cycling, manizales, colombia, full width, letras,.

Give Letras an inch, and she’ll take a mile. Or just your saddlebag. 

Bike riding in paradise is serious business. Flat tires are especially serious.

Posted at 7:51pm and tagged with: cycling, colombia, vittoria, pitstop, manizales, flat,.

A whirlwind tour of Colombian vice, thanks to new friends. An evening express fueled by $6 Red Bulls and the national beverage. Stops at the local house of ill-repute, an after-hours dance club drunkenly swaggering to the driving beat of the national bump & grind, a poorly-stocked after-after-hours speakeasy staffed by a man who sleeps in his shed-housed establishment, La Policia Nacional shuffling our ragtag band of aguardiente-wielding miscreants down the avenue like curling players sweeping the ice with assault rifles, sidewalk liberation of a compatriot bereft of his cell-phone by an enterprising candyman, with the line’s terminus at its origin, vistas of the rising sun shared with the fellow detritus of the evening.  

Four hours of slumber, and cobbled together is a short cockpit ditty, inspired by a day half-consumed by the brutality of an evening prior. 

Posted at 3:54pm and tagged with: aguardiente, caldas, caspian, colombia, cycling, manizales, reggaeton, video,.

Spiral staircases made of pavement from Pereira, the industrial, gritty yin to Manizales’ yang. Per knowledgeable sources in points north, if you ask females from Pereira to sit, they lie down and open their legs. Ironically, the city shares nomenclature with the winter bike.

It’s incredible that this is maybe the most boring, least visually stimulating ride possible. In need of a pinch.

Day Four in the Week of the Broken Washer: Resorting to wearing cold-weather gear on 85F rides. Dehydration-induced welterweight is in my future.

Posted at 4:58pm and tagged with: cycling, colombia, manizales, pereira,.

This is a morning for poring over Hemingway, demolishing a pastry, and responding to emails. Work is a cruel mistress.

Posted at 7:00am and tagged with: full width, cycling, pereira, colombia, manizales,.

This is a morning for poring over Hemingway, demolishing a pastry, and responding to emails. Work is a cruel mistress.

Priorities are disoriented if getting lost on a bike ride is a concern.

Posted at 8:55pm and tagged with: manizales, colombia, aguapanela, cycling, bikes, pereira,.

Risaralda sits 2,500ft above the valley below on a narrow ridge of earth, perilously looming in the viewfinder of anyone plodding the switchbacks to its setting on the escarpment. To the casual observer, this is a rather diametric location for the largest puebla within 15km - but it seems common within the Coffee Triangle of Colombia. The city of Manizales, home to roughly 500,000 denizens (and your author), occupies a series of peaks at 7,000ft of elevation. The resulting topography is nothing short of sheer brutality. “Flat” does not exist - for that, one can ride the velodrome. There are two choices in Caldas: Up, or down. And then up. 

A woman may not make an honest man, but a 20km Hors Categorie climb home every day will.  

image

Posted at 8:41pm and tagged with: colombia, manizales, caldas, cycling, climbing, full width,.

Risaralda sits 2,500ft above the valley below on a narrow ridge of earth, perilously looming in the viewfinder of anyone plodding the switchbacks to its setting on the escarpment. To the casual observer, this is a rather diametric location for the largest puebla within 15km - but it seems common within the Coffee Triangle of Colombia. The city of Manizales, home to roughly 500,000 denizens (and your author), occupies a series of peaks at 7,000ft of elevation. The resulting topography is nothing short of sheer brutality. “Flat” does not exist - for that, one can ride the velodrome. There are two choices in Caldas: Up, or down. And then up. 
A woman may not make an honest man, but a 20km Hors Categorie climb home every day will.  

Welcome to Colombia. 

Every place has its ups and downs, and this temporary Latin American home is no different. The terrain mirrors the trajectory of its history (like so many of the oft-exploited and neglected cast-off states shaped by failed Western policy), a permanent roller coaster of excruciating highs and lows, punctuated by the cerebral views from the alto de la montaña and the muggy swaddling of the fondo del rio. 

As negotiations in Havana (possibly) decide the fate of its long-running civil war, the people of the Cafetero are ambivalent at best. Instead, their attention is focused on things more immediate. This país, these people, they are the happiest encountered. A refreshing mentality, one driven not by a ravenous hunger for more, but motivated by an innate love of their compatriots. Happy to get by, to exist, to spend as much time with loved ones doing what they enjoy in life, and sharing it with anyone in shouting distance.

This isn’t to say this isn’t a hardworking place - but its people are hardworking because they care about each other, not because they’re trying to get ahead of one another.

Contenta.

Me gusta. 

Posted at 7:13pm and tagged with: colombia, cycling, manizales, philosophy, full width,.

Welcome to Colombia. 
Every place has its ups and downs, and this temporary Latin American home is no different. The terrain mirrors the trajectory of its history (like so many of the oft-exploited and neglected cast-off states shaped by failed Western policy), a permanent roller coaster of excruciating highs and lows, punctuated by the cerebral views from the alto de la montaña and the muggy swaddling of the fondo del rio. 
As negotiations in Havana (possibly) decide the fate of its long-running civil war, the people of the Cafetero are ambivalent at best. Instead, their attention is focused on things more immediate. This país, these people, they are the happiest encountered. A refreshing mentality, one driven not by a ravenous hunger for more, but motivated by an innate love of their compatriots. Happy to get by, to exist, to spend as much time with loved ones doing what they enjoy in life, and sharing it with anyone in shouting distance.
This isn’t to say this isn’t a hardworking place - but its people are hardworking because they care about each other, not because they’re trying to get ahead of one another.
Contenta.
Me gusta. 

Travel Advisory: Continental Swoon 

Bowing to caution, fear, or unrepentant nagging isn’t one of my strong suits. Travel advisories from the US Department of State are rapidly becoming akin to PanAm travel brochures from the 70s, mentally pinned to the aguapanela-sodden corkboard walls of my brain. The world is a terrifying place. Do not leave your country. Do not leave your home. There is no way of life but ours. 

The landscape is rippled like a crumpled newspaper without pause, and populated with denizens who put the vaunted hospitality of the American South to shame by great magnitudes. Cyclismo paraíso. Perfection? No, but Caldas, Colombia is rapidly carving itself a gaping cavern in my heart that will ache as soon as I depart.

Posted at 8:52pm and tagged with: cycling, colombia, manizales,.

Also, there’s a velodromo 1km away. Me gusta.

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: full-width, velodrome, pereira cycles, manizales, cycling, colombia,.

Also, there’s a velodromo 1km away. Me gusta.