09 January 2011


I awoke early and ready to hit the road. But the bike was strangely heavy to push out of my hotel room and I saw that the rear tire was flat. I supposed some glass from the auto pista had slowly worked its way through the protective sheathing inside the tire and punctured the tube. In a rush to get the tire changed I broke one of the tire levers and had to ask the hotel proprietor for a flathead screwdriver. The tire was very tight on the rim but I finally popped it off, changed the tire, and repacked the bike.

I left Mercedes towards Lobos on RP 41. In Lujan, Diego had told me about a lagoon campsite outside Lobos that was a fine place to camp. I had the wind in my face, but it was a cool wind from the south that lessened the heat coming off the road and the dry, golden fields.

There was one petrol station at the halfway point of the ride and I stopped there. I drank a 1.5 liter bottle of sparkling water, had a coffee, a bag of chips and a yogurt and the girl told me it was another 45km to Lobos. Google Maps had indicated 75 kms for the ride, but the distances I was seeing on the road added up to at least 100 km.

The headwind had picked up during my lunch and I rode away from the petrol station on a big sprocket on my second chainring, my head down, holding the white line of the shoulder with my front wheel as trucks passed me and the winds swirled. It would be hard riding from here until Lobos.

I concentrated on the white line of the side of the road and ignored the pain and got into a good rhythm eating kilometers. And then I was at Lobos. A couple sitting outside a gated resort gave me directions to the lagoon and past the petrol station I turned off down a side road that would connect me to it.

Some distance down this side road I rode up on old man on a bicycle who waved me to slow down and to speak with him. His name was Alejandro and he was a gynecologist in Lobos. We spoke of America and my family and his family and he asked me my religion and if my father was as fat as he. He was a pleasant, jovial man with a easy smile and he said he had hosted other touring cyclists from Ireland and Sweden and it would make him very happy to receive me at his family farm. I could see that he was a good man and I agreed to follow him to the farm.

We turned off 205 onto a dirt road that led back through fields of wheat and corn and soybeans. Alejandro told me this was some of the finest campo in Argentina. After World War II, Argentina had become the world’s second economic power because of its agricultural exports. There were cows and horses out to pasture and it was good country and I told Alejandro it reminded me of Wisconsin. We followed the rocky, dusty dirt road and road slowly on our bicycles talking the whole way and exhausted as I was my Spanish was going good. A truck pulled up beside us with two of his daughters and with a big smile Alejandro introduced me as his new friend from America. We would meet them and the rest of the family at the farm.

We met one of Alejandro’s sons and a grandson, both on bikes, and together passed under the arched gate of the property and followed the dirt path along a wall of trees and a long carefully cut field of grass. Beyond, as far as you could see, were fields of corn and pasture. The family was waiting outside the house and I got off the bike and met all the sons and daughters and grandsons.

Alejandro motioned me to come with him and we walked behind the house across the long cut-grass field to circular pool cut from a grain silo. Three of his grand daughters were waiting for us and I took off my sweat-soaked tshirt and hopped into the cold water in my cycling shorts.

The girls played with Alejandro and I floated in the waist-deep water watching the sun set across the pampas. The wind blew the windmill beside the pool and blew through the corn and in the pasture the cows were slowly walking back and in the far pastures the horses were grazing. I was exhausted and it was a beautiful dream to be floating in a pool in the middle of the corn fields and pasture with an old gynecologist chasing 3 young girls in the water, the wind blowing and the girls laughing and splashing as the fields turned golden orange.

We walked back from the pool and Alejandro showed me the guest quarters where I would stay the night. I cleaned up and changed and met the family at the fire pit beside the house for grilled chorizos and sweet blood sausage on pieces bread. We drank beer with the sausage and I spoke with Patricio who was a professional polo player.

The finest polo players and horses came from Argentina and the horses I had seen on the farm were being bred for polo and would be sold for $20,000 each. Patricio played in Europe and was back for the off season to train and to work with the horses. The long field of cut grass I had seen was in fact a polo field where he did his training. Far from being the effete sport of the wealthy, polo as it was played in Argentina was a rugged tough sport with frequent injuries. Patricio's wife Gabriella was a designer of leather goods and traveled with him on the European polo circuit. It was a good life they had and like the rest of the family they were good people and I was happy to have known them all.


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