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Posts tagged ‘cities’

Trujillo

Feeling_at_home on the road is a rare thing.  We have certainly grown accustomed to the rhythm of riding and camping that we established since Alaska.  This is the life of a traveler, however, and it makes us thankful for spending time with a new family when we get the chance.  In Trujillo, the great northern coastal city of Peru, we were blessed with some time to rest with a new kind of family: the Casa de Ciclistas.

La Casa de Ciclistas en Trujillo

Vintage

Founded more than thirty years ago, the Casa de Ciclistas of Trujillo is one of the cycling world’s best-kept secrets.  Nestled just outside the Avenida España in Trujillo, it is a hostel for bicycle adventurers of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and adventures.  Come as you are and stay as you are for free.  Since its founding, over 2,000 cyclists have walked through its doors and rested here for a night or a few days; once many encounter the splendid comfort and community here, they are tempted to stay for weeks.  Lucho D’Angelo and his family take care of the Casa and the cyclists that pass through it.  Lucho, a famous Peruvian bicycle racer, was invited to the 2000 Tour de France as a guest of honor and is known the world over by bicyclists for his decades-long work at Trujillo’s Casa de Ciclistas.

Lucho

"The time is not important"

In the course of the past few days, we have met a remarkable Englishwoman named Judy who has bicycled from England to China and is now finishing her second Alaskan-Argentinan leg in July.  She is riding alone, tough as nails, and some of the best lunch company that one could ever ask for.  We have met another Italian named Matias who is taking an extended tour of the Americas for over four years; the duration of his travels perhaps explains the 70 kilos of gear that he is carrying on his bicycle; we suspect that his Italian supermodel girlfriend is hidden somewhere in the rear panniers.

Time to shave

Journal entries from other touring cyclists dated back to the 1980s.

Stories, photos, and so much more filled the journals - a true treasure.

I volunteered here in Trujillo two years ago as a volunteer teacher in a barrio outside the city called Delicias.  This time in Trujillo was a wonderful homecoming to me; many things have changed in this city in that short time, but the good things are the same.  The sparkling central Plaza de Armas, the spotless colonial architecture, the narrow streets of the Centro and Pizarro and the countless bakeries with the best tres leches we have had since leaving Alaska…all of it was as it was for me two years ago.  This was home for me then, and now for us for a few days as well.

Our ride to the beach

Beachside in Huanchaco

To the ocean!

Ouch.

We rolled in on our bicycles to little local fanfare, except for the usual shouts of gringo that emanate from every corner of the Peruvian towns and cities that we ride by.  We leave to the same chorus, a reminder that we are full-time travelers and students and strangers of the places and peoples that we visit along the way to Argentina.  But when we’re lucky, even gringos get to feel at home for a while.

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Citystates of Mind

Communities of the Pacific coast are tied together by the ribbon of road known as US Highway 1.  One grueling day took us across Los Angeles.  We found that many disparate communities were shockingly proximate to one another.  The limitations of bicycle travel did not prevent us from seeing spectacular beaches, hillside estates, beachfront mansions, and urban blight all within a few miles of one another.  Cities have always provoked the human spirit with their visible geographies of inequality; after all, it was the hellish and urban factories of Manchester that inspired Marx and Engels against capitalism.  The landscapes of pastoral agriculture rarely incite our passions in quite the same way.  Cities seem to bring out the worst in humanity and yet somehow provide the structure for all of those terrible little demons to coexist so productively.

Beach murals.

Cities are here to stay.  The world continues to urbanize.  Opportunities and human possibilities abound in cities and usually cannot be found outside of them.  The spectacular and unexpected means of progress within cities is what makes The Economy of Cities one of the most important books to my personal intellectual development.  The city has grit, romance, rubbish, flash, and jazz writ large across its complex landscape.  In this city of Los Angeles and every other great city I know, I am hopelessly intrigued but also troubled.  My roots in rural North Dakota have bred a fierce and rugged individualism rooted in a supportive, tight-knit community.  I’ve been blessed enough to travel to some other corners of the world, with college in a New England town and terms abroad in Peru and the Czech Republic.  I’ve never truly lived in a city but I’ve spent enough time in them.  I know only what I see and I do see a city in my future.  Which city – who knows?  Perhaps any one where I can ride my bicycle to work and to get groceries and to escape. There is something disconcerting about that inevitability, however.  Embedded in the city are decades of infrastructure and regulation and decisions and history upon which the matrix of modern life is negotiated, for better and for worse.  There are car commutes full of angry souls imprisoned in speeding vehicles, ossified social roles and city cultures, zoning codes and permits and endless asphalt and city lights that sparkle to dim the stars.  There is also the critical mass of diverse people and passions, boundless opportunity, and the promise of progress and new ways of doing.

What if we could dissolve the boundaries between the parallel urban universes we encountered by bicycle in Los Angeles?  Can one shrink social distance and eliminate the dehumanizing anonymity of the city?  And can it be done while preserving the urban diversity and freedom that produces ever more spectacular expressions of the human spirit for innovation and prosperity and joy?  These are just a few thoughts that occupied our minds and our conversation as we crossed the great cities of southern California.

Our last campsite before the string of cities.