Commence the biking.
14.7 miles have never been so difficult. We were just going from the Fajardo ferry terminal to the small fishermen’s town of Naguabo. How was it so hard? I blame the sun. I live in Chicago and appreciate a sunny day (especially during the gray months of winter) but this sun was too much. It sucked my life, my spirit, my SOUL out all day, every day; we literally (and luckily) did not have one rainy day.
After what somehow seemed like an eternity, we made it to our Air B&B. Air B&B is super useful and more flexible than it seems. Where we couldn’t find places to camp we contacted the Air B&Bs of the area and asked if we could camp on their property for $20/night. Most said no. Some said yes. One even let us use his entire house (normally $150/night) for $20 and told us to drink all the beer in the fridge (we only had a couple).
Back to Naguabo. Our Air B&B hostess was very chatty. She showed us to her deck which overlooked the bay and the cute little town. That’s where we would be setting up camp. She gave us towels and pointed us to the shower; showers are transformative. The nights when we had one available felt vastly different than when we did not. It was rejuvenating to my spirit. After the showers we were walking out to have what would turn out to be the most delicious meal of our trip (freshly caught red snapper with a side of tostones) when our hostess warned us to keep our things out of sight as her live-in mother-in-law has a penchant for stealing.
Some nights we didn’t lay down because we were tired but to escape the bombardment of mosquitos. This was one of those nights. We tried to wake up by 6AM to get on the road at first light at 6:45; this was to get as many miles done before the heat. Waking up in Naguabo was no problem. What was described on Air B&B as “the countryside sound of roosters” actually meant “the sound of 1000 roosters in our neighbor’s yard.” Contrary to popular belief, roosters do not just cock-a-doodle-doo at dawn. It is all day and all night. That coupled with the sound of the garbage man shoveling garbage out of the dumpster at 5AM allowed us to wake up early and get a headstart on packing. To that garbage man and that neighbor with roosters I would like to extend a cheerful YOU SUCK!
We headed to Patillas and died a slow and painful death on the way. What we thought was a hill was a mountain. A MOUNTAIN. We were low on water and had no snacks (foolish, we know). It was exhausting. We had to stop for breaks and push our 50+ pound bikes uphill. I wanted to hitchhike but the shoulder was too small for trucks to safely pull over. So onward and upward we went until we came to a restaurant. Our salvation. We filled up our water and ate three empanadas each. Not a super delicious food but it saved us.
Next thing we know we’re going through this really cool tunnel on highway 53. The shoulder was huge and the place was well-lit and, being a tunnel, it was shady. Hallelujah! 34.5 miles after we started for the day we rolled into what we refer to as the “scary beach” in Lamboglia. This was an unofficial campsite that someone on Air B&B told me, “People camp there but be gone by sunrise.” It was a city park with signs prohibiting camping in certain areas. The ocean was calm so we got in while we waited for nightfall to set up the tent. Needless to say, I woke up more than a few times that night: a couple having sex in the pavilion, three drunk guys talking and singing on the other side of some trees, and some early morning rain. Not a great sleep. Getting ready in the dark that morning I didn’t even realize I’d put my bike shorts on inside out. Whoops.
Throughout Puerto Rico we ran into cyclists. Sometimes one by himself and sometimes a herd of 40. They all thought we were crazy but shook our hands and wished us good luck.
Because shouting in a tunnel while on a bike is one of the coolest sounds, that’s why I love riding my bike.