Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page
"America": New Book by
Salva Rodriguez

Article ©2015 by J. Pint

Photos by Salva Rodriguez unless otherwise specified

Photo Gallery

Salva Rodríguez and Lorelí Padilla
World-class bicyclist Salva Rodríguez with his wife Lorelí Padilla, at the launching of his third book, "America." For his voyages through Africa and Asia, click here.

Salva Rodriguez at Arctic Circle
Salva Rodríguez in Alaska at the start of his journey through the Americas.

Route Map. Click for full size.
Salva Rodriguez's route through the Americas took him over 40 mountain passes above 4,000 meters and  5 above 5,000. CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE.

Salva Rodriguez in Utah
Cycling through Utah.

Salva Rodriguez at book signing
A surprised fan at the book signing: "Somebody told me you were a kid, but you're a man!"

Steep slope in Chihuahua Mexico
Salva pushing his bike up a steep slope in Chihuahua, Mexico: "I don't accept rides from passing trucks."

Salva Rodriguez reaches Ushuaia
April 1, 2014: Salva Rodriguez reaches Ushuaia, Argentina, "the southern most city in the world" ending his voyage across the Americas.


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A 42,000 kilometer Bicycle Ride

By John Pint

Salva Rodriguez camping in northern MexicoClose to 300 people gathered at  celebrated Casa Clavigero in Guadalajara, Mexico, the evening of April 23, 2015 for the first presentation of Salva Rodríguez's latest book on his tour of the world by bicycle. The Spanish cyclist set out from his home town of Granada in 2006 and since then has pedaled about 150,000 kilometers through Africa, Asia and most recently, America (the continent, of course). “I have only 4,000 kilometers more to go and I'll be back home,” he told his audience, perhaps a bit wistfully.

As the tall, thin bicycle rider described his experiences crossing America from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina (“The Southernmost city in the world”), it became clear to everyone in the house that the people he met along the way had affected him deeply. Perhaps the one who affected him most was the woman sitting next to him, his wife, tapatía Lorelí Padilla, also a cyclist, whom he met during his 42,000 kilometer ride through the Americas and to whom his new book, “America, Around the World on a Bicycle, a Storybook Voyage” is dedicated.

Launching of book "America" in Guadalajara, Mexico

I was impressed that the gangly Spaniard said relatively little during his talk about technical matters like kilometers per day, bicycle maintenance or the gear he uses for camping in the most outlandishly varied circumstances imaginable.

No, this was principally a talk about people. For example, there was Jack, one of several adventurers he met while shooting rapids in Montana. “This young man,” said Salva, “kept asking me questions: How do you do this? How do you do that? Finally, I said, 'Listen, Jack, you're wearing me out. Why don't you stop asking me all these questions and just come along with me for a while—you'll find all the answers yourself.'”

To Salva's surprise, Jack replied: “Give me one day.” And 24 hours later they were on the road together for over a week.

Then there was the time he found himself in the middle of a huge stretch of Colombia which is really isolated. “There are no cities,” he told his audience. “La Globalización has not yet reached the place. There are no roads marked on the map and you need a compass to get around. The only way to get food is to knock on someone's door. And if no one is home, you just have to wait.”

"America" by Salva Rodriguez

This is the lonesome place where, one day, Salva found himself with a broken wheel and no spare, “600 kilometers from the nearest paved road.” Here is where he knocked on the door of a man named William who had just come back from rescuing a cow. William took one look at Salva's bicycle and said, “My son's bike has the same size wheel—let me talk to him about this.” After a night of reflection, the father and son decided Salva's need was much greater than theirs. “You can take my son's wheel,” said the father.

“I will pay you for it,” said Salva.

“As for payment, we shall see,” replied the father.

At the moment of Salva's departure, however, the father absolutely refused to take money. “What is the price of a liter of water when you are dying of thirst in the desert?” asked Salva. “That wheel meant everything to me and I would have paid anything for it, but that man wouldn't take a centavo. He was so typical of the people I met in Latin America, especially Mexico, people with a special kind of spirit I could not find anywhere else in the world. Truly, they have greatness in their hearts.”

At the end of the talk, someone asked Salva if he had problems entering the USA by bicycle from Canada, noting many rumors about how difficult it is to cross this border.

“It was a snap,” said Salva with a broad smile. “The guard turned out to be a Hispanic, and a cyclist, to boot.” He added that he entered the USA with strong prejudices against Americans, expecting to be treated badly. “But when I actually cycled through the country, I found these things simply weren't true. I found people there kind, generous and helpful...and I was never once mugged.”

América Un Viaje de Cuento, is written in Spanish and has 325 pages plus 34 color photos. It describes Salva Rodriguez's adventures and reflections while passing through 18 countries of America. Below is a short excerpt which I have translated into English. This passage reminds me of an episode in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by another strong-willed adventurer, T.E. Lawrence. In order to deliver a gold payment to to a Bedouin chief, Lawrence had to get his heavily laden camel up a mountain covered with ice-encrusted snow. He did it by walking ahead of the camel and breaking the ice with his fists. Then he had to get behind the animal and push it uphill a few meters. When he reached the top, he looked back to see the trail he had forged: a red ribbon of blood from his own hands.

In the passage below, Salva is in Rarámuri territory in northern Mexico, which, these days, is also Narco territory. He is trying to get from Tubares, Chihuahua, located 440 kilometers north of Mazatlán, to a place called Piedras Verdes, site of a large gold mine called El Sauzal, and is faced with a sandy brecha up a very steep slope:

Excerpt from “America” by Salva Rodríguez:

At the foot of the hill, I try pedaling slowly to get traction on the sand while avoiding the rocks in the so-called road...

Impossible. It's simply too steep. So I walk. And it takes over two hours to do the next four kilometers. I only need the fingers of one hand to count how many times I've been in a situation like this, trying to climb a veritable toboggan slide with a loaded bicycle weighing sixty kilos and my feet slipping on the gravel. I grab the handlebars with bent elbows and knees and then suddenly unbend them while taking one step forward. And in this way I manage to advance 30 centimeters (a foot). Instantly, I clamp down on the brakes so I won't lose those precious centimeters I've gained. Then, knees and elbows bent again, I do another push and that's how it goes for four kilometers...

Despite my best efforts, the brake pads slip frequently. It's always the same pattern: one brake slips and then the other and then I fall and then the bicycle comes down on top of me. If I don't get a bruise on my knee, I get a cut. And the miners driving by no longer stop to offer me a ride. By now they know I'm so stubborn I will only get on a truck if my legs are cut off—something I'm beginning to suspect might just happen, considering how much this bicycle is beating me up.

I stop a few times to rest because I'm worn out and my right elbow and knee hurt like hell. There are sections of this slope which are so steep that advancing ten meters takes me ten minutes and leaves me gasping for air. So it's entirely thanks to fury and yells that I manage to push the bike a few more centimeters.

I could take longer rests—I am in no hurry and nobody is waiting for me—but to make things even worse than they are, it's in this lonely corner of Chihuahua that I make my first acquaintance with some delightful creatures with whom I am going to form a close relationship in Latin America. They are called jejenes here, gnats in English. They are very small black flies that leave a tiny bubble of blood on top of their bite and if they really sink their teeth into you, a little stream of blood flows out of it and if I scratch the bite, I can't stop scratching for three or four days.

Fortunately, the Mexican jejenes only land on my legs when I stop, but the ones I found in southern Peru are so aggressive that they manage to bite me even while I am pedaling. I notice that it takes these Mexican gnats three minutes to discover me, so I restrict my rest stops to two minutes maximum: just enough to avoid the gnats, but not enough to catch my breath.

Legs trembling, huffing and puffing, I reach the mining camp which I have been looking at from below for the last two hours. I greet the miners (at least I think I did) and sit down in the shade. The boss comes over and offers me a cold Coca-cola, but I say no, gracias. I haven't even the strength to drink—I just need to rest. After a while, I regain consciousness in a sense and drink some water. The boss, worried about me, asks if I want to take a shower. A real hot shower! There is absolutely nothing better than a hot shower, but today not even that brings me back. The town of Piedras Verdes is still six kilometers further up the mountain, but now that I've cooled down, I know I couldn't even do another 300 meters. I ask if I can stay the night. Of course you can, they say, and eat with us too: all the men at the Sauzal mine want to meet this idiot of a gachupín (disparaging term for Spaniard) who prefers to push his bike up a hellish hill instead of accepting a ride...”

Salva Rodríguez' website is unviajedecuento.weebly.com and you can order his books from salva2africa@yahoo.es.

Salva Rodriguez after giving presentation to Raramuri kids

Salva Rodríguez with Rarámuri children in northern Mexico, after giving them a talk.


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