11 January 2011

General Alvear

I packed up my tent and left the campground early. The night before I had cleaned the chain and now re-oiled it hummed over the chainrings and sprockets. It was a sound that gave me much pleasure after the noisey riding of the previous 2 days. The dusty roads had made the chain very dry and dirty.

I rode 17km into Saladillo and into the centro and stopped at a bar and had a cafe con leche and 3 media lunas (croissants). After eating I walked the bike to a bikeshop a few blocks away and asked about a set of tire levers to replace the ones I had broken. I talked awhile with the 2 guys who operated the shop, telling them where I was going and where I had been and we talked about folding bikes. They were both serious riders and gave me the tire levers free of charge.

 Shrine to Gauchito Gil

Outside Saladillo I got off 205 and onto 51 which also did not have a shoulder but was a quieter, less trafficked  road than 205. It was hot but a cool cross breeze made the riding pleasant and I rode 45km to the turnoff for General Alvear. I had hoped there would be a petrol station where the road to General Alvear met 51, but there was only a small police station. I turned off towards General Alvear thinking I could pick up 226 there in the town, which I could ride all the way to near Azul.

I rode past a large municipal camground and into town looking for a super market. I found one along the main road but it was closed and continuing to the main square I stopped to have lunch at the only restaurant that was open. I had wanted a plate of pasta but they were only serving cold food. I had a sandwich and a beer and relaxed and waited for the supermercado to reopen.

After 4:30 the super market reopened and I bought the food I would need for the night. I planned to camp along 226 somwhere outside General Alvear before the next town Yerbas. On my way to 226 two old men waved me down from the road side. They were both old cyclists and we talked of Greg Lemond, who they considered a champion of champions. We talked awhile and then one of them brought out 2 green apples for me.

At the railroad tracks I turned left and then ahead was 226. It was a dirt road south as far as I could see. I started to ride down it but then the sand became very fine and the bike sunk into it. The sun was going down and I knew there was a long way to Yerbas and even further to Azul. I imagined myself pushing the bike there down this dirt road. I would have to go back. I would have to take the road back out of General Alvear back to 51.

A police truck pulled up alongside me and a young cop with a big grin greeted me in english. "Where you going, men?" I told him. His name was Alejandro and he had a quick smile and was a very funny cop. "I born to be wile, men! You like Steppenwolf, men?" It was a kick to talk to this guy and we spoke awhile and he and his partner offered to put my bike in the back of the truck and drive me to the campground I had ridden past into town.

I helped them lift the bike into the back of the truck and got into the cab with them and we drove back down the dusty road towards the center of town, Alejandro singing Zeppelin and Steppenwolf songs in broken english. At the campground I set up my tent and I talked awhile with the cops. Alejandro had a friend in Minnesota and he planned to go there in November.We talked awhile longer and then they left and said they would return later after they completed a patrol.

An hour later Alejandro pulled up in his truck with a different partner. He had 2 cans of cold beer with him and a small radio, all gifts for me, he said smiling. "We friends one day, forever now, men!" They couldn't have a beer with me because they were on duty until 8am. I thanked them for their help and we exchanged email addresses. Before they left Alejandro had his partner write a list of dirty words in Argentine Spanish so that I could study it.

I was laying in my tent almost asleep when Alejandro's truck pulled up and he called out for me. I had mentioned earlier that I had a cell phone but did not yet have a sim card for it. He had brought a sim card for my phone. "C'mon, men! C'mon! I friends!" He would do an asado for me if I stayed another day. But I had to get back on the road. He was a good guy and had been very generous and I hoped to be able to repay him one day.


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