My summer vacation to Guatemala, part one

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This in from our man Corey the Courier. He is harder than you. He rode from NYC to Philly to get a cheesesteak.

From: Corey the Courier
I began seriously training for the 18th CMWC (Cycle Messenger World Championships) after destroying everyone in Philly at this year’s Rocky 8 race. My thinking was that if I could whoop ass just being my normal badass self, I could annihilate the competition at the CMWC if I put some effort into my fitness.

The 6am morning swims, 7am runs, steam room/sauna sessions before work and the yoga classes in the evenings were all done in the quest for the biggest bragging rights on the bar stools around the world.

I naturally encountered some resistance along the way… My loving girlfriend complained about the amount of time spent at the gym rather than partying with her. One weekend I went with her and several friends to a party to gulp several jell-o shots. At 5:30 am, I tucked her in bed, jumped on my bike and rode from NYC to Philly. I slept not a wink that night. Winning in Guatemala was the only thing lurking in my mind. When the lady awoke she noticed my absence and called to inquire my whereabouts. I answered: “In Princeton, headed to Philly to get a cheesesteak” with the wind howling in the background as I rode southwest. After that ride, my dedication to the cause was never questioned.

I arrived in Guatemala a day after the worst and heaviest rainfall hit the country. I did not know this as I was busy packing the day before. There was no shuttle to pick me up at the airport. I was in Guatemala with weak Spanish speaking skills. Fortunately, I saw Jake, Jeff and Mike from Chicago at the airport. We combined forces to rent a shuttle van to Antigua. We never expected to be stranded there for a few days.

The storm Hermina devastated the country, sending massive chunks of mountains downhill in deadly landslides. Over a hundred people died and many of the highways were impassable due to erosion under road surfaces or tons of debris on it.

While the Chicago crew lit up the nights and days pouring back whiskey and Gallo (beer), I began to focus on my task, preparing the the big show. I did some yoga to limber my muscles after the long flight. I assembled my bike, fighting with the tiny headset bearings that wanted to individually explore the world away from all of the others.

I tested the bike on the rough cobbled roads of Antigua. That stuff you see in Paris-Roubaix is manicured blocks of uniform size. The stuff on the road in Guatemala was whatever they could find large or small. In several places there would be a hole where a large rock should have been, adding potential pinch flats to the party. The randomness of the stones made it difficult to get into a rhythm stomping on the pedals. I finished the ride by riding up the mountain on the north end of town. The altitude let me know immediately that there wasn’t enough oxygen for my sea-level lungs. Antigua and Panajachel are roughly the same 1500 meters above sea level. Both are surrounded by large volcanoes.

When I returned to the hostel. I told the Chicago crew that the cobbles were merciless and were the worst I had ever seen. They said nothing in response as they were still thinking about drinking or just drunk.

The next day the lovely owner of the hostel again informed us that the roads were still closed and we wouldn’t be able to get to Panajachel. I brainstormed an idea to take a shuttle to San Pedro where we could then take a boat across Lake Atitlan to Panajachel. The thinking was that however much rain fell, we’d still be able to reach our destination by boat.

Chicago Mike, the strongest Spanish speaker of the group went to a travel agency and arranged for our transport. When the shuttle arrived however, the driver balked about taking us because of four large bike boxes. Although Mike informed the agency of our enormous amount of luggage, we had to wait two hours for a special shuttle to carry us. We felt liberated as we left Hostel #5. We were making it despite our frail speaking abilities.

Then an hour into the ride, a mudslide on Central American Highway 1 put traffic to a halt. The mudslide happened an hour and a half before we arrived. We waited a few hours on the side of the road expecting the road to be cleared. Rain began to fall and the work crews stopped, fearing more earth to fall from the mountains. We turned the truck around to spent the night in Tecpan, a small pueblo that probably gets 50 tourists a decade. We had dinner and beer with the driver who spoke little English and the co-driver who spoke little Spanish, he spoke a dialect of the Mayan language.

Part two to follow…

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

One thought on “My summer vacation to Guatemala, part one

  1. Five years ago I passed into Guatemala by bus and I’ve been on a lot of the roads you describe. Antigua is, some say, the fireworks capitol of the world. Though it did not rain when I was there, I can picture the wet hell that it must have been. I rented a mountain bike in Antigua and after about 2 hours of that shit, said “Fuck this” and went back to walking. The cobbles are 300+ years old in places, and not well cared for. I don’t miss the trash burning stench in the air everywhere in Guatemala.