Sunday, November 28, 2010

Torres, Rio Grande do Sul, Mile 541, November 28, 2010

Well, I made it out of Santa Catarina. 

Today finds me in the beach resort of Torres, Rio Grande do Sul, about five miles south and east of the RS/SC border.  Adding in today´s 45 miles, I have now ridden 541 miles on this trip, 160 in Parana, and 376 in Santa Catarina.  I still have all of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) and all of Uruguay to go, and RS is, by far, the biggest of the four jurisdictions I am visiting on this trip.

Speaking of Santa Catarina, I got on Google Earth and looked at the stretch of SC-438 where I burned up my brakes coming down the mountain.  It would appear from the satellite imagery that I dropped 3,000 feet while advancing only about a mile, as the crow flies.  The people who laid out and built this road must have been some very serious engineers.

Yesterday evening, in Arroio do Silva, I went out and had a quite good pizza for dinner.  Then, about 9PM, walking back to my hotel, I came upon a sort of bandstand set up in a park.  They had loudspeakers set up, playing Sertaneja music (Brazilian country music), and a bunch of couples aged anywhere from 20´s to 60´s were dancing the two step, like they were in Texas.  Most interesting.  I wandered back to my hotel, talked with the owner, who had worked in Connecticut years ago, for a while and eventually wandered off to sleep.  This morning, I retrieved my clothes, which I had had washed, drank about half a gallon of orange juice, and headed out about 9:30AM. 

The six miles out of town back to BR-101 was very narrow, with no shoulder, and I was a little worried that all the people who had been drinking all night (I heard them) would be on it.  Luckily, they were not, all the traffic was into town, not out.  I made my way out onto the main highway, stopped at an ESSO station for a Coke and a bottle of water, and proceeded south.  To my great happiness, a shoulder reappeared on the roadway, and the highway itself went from one lane each direction to two lanes each, divided, and then back with numbing repetitiveness.  For about half the mileage I pedalled today, I was able to use frontage roads, the rest was on the highway itself, but there was always at least a shoulder for me, so it was quite safe.  For me.

About 25 miles into my trip, just after the little town of Sombrio, I came upon a traffic back up.  Being on a bicycle, I simply road to the front of it.  What a disaster.  It would appear, from what was left of them, that a tank truck on the west side of BR-101 (which was one lane in each direction at this point) decided to turn left (North bound) out of a gas station onto the highway.  He was impacted at what must have been an EXTREMELY high rate of speed by a stake bed truck travelling south bound.  Luckily, whatever was in that tank was not explosive, as it was all over the road.  The stake bed truck that hit the tanker did so with such force that the cab completely disintegrated, went UNDER the tank trailer, and emerged from the other side.  I would estimate that this happened half an hour before I arrived on scene.  The Policia Rodoviaria Federal (PRF, federal highway patrol) was there, and I watched one of them look into what was left of the cab, and then walk over to the side of the road and vomit.  I assume they did not waste any time calling an ambulance.  Curiously, nothing at all happened to the cab or driver of the tank truck; like always, the morons who cause accidents never get hurt in them.

On that happy note, I continued along, stopped to drink my water, stopped again a bit later to have another Coke, pulled of the frontage road into an underpass under BR-101 and drank another water in the shade, continued on and passed the cutoff for Paso de Torres, which is the southernmost city in Santa Catarina.  A mile later, I crossed a bridge over a river and was in Rio Grande do Sul.  Crossing the border, I stopped and had one more Coke (a little one, I bought what looked like a 12 oz can on a diet, it was as tall, but significantly thinner, and held 9 oz.) and bought one more water.  Two miles south of the border, I came to a cut off for RS 345, rode around a VERY long cloverleaf, and headed east into Torres, stopping to drink the water en route.  It was blazing hot, and I was sweating like a race horse in July.

Torres is a very large resort town that serves as a sort of Ocean City, Maryland for Porto Alegre.  (It is about the same distance as OC is from DC.)  I would say Torres is larger than Punta del Este, although it is not serving such an up-market clientelle as PDE does.  I got a quite acceptable hotel for less than I thought I would pay (weekend is over...), took a shower, discovered to my GREAT pleasure that this area has NEXTEL radio coverage, and then went out to look over the town. 

When I rode into town, it was sunny and hot.  By the time I showered, talked on the radio to multiple people and came down from my room, it had clouded up, but was still warm.  I walked the two blocks to the beach and discovered a very agreeable walkway laid out along the beach.  This walkway is paved, and is 3,279 meters (two miles and a few hundred feet) long.  I know this because, every hundred feet or so, is a marker telling you how far you are from either end.  I got on about midway through, and decided to walk to both ends.  First I walked south, along the beach, and it was very nice.  Interestingly, EVERYBODY seemed to have a cooler or a car trunk full of beer, everyone had loud music playing, kids were running underfoot, people were having a good time.  There was not a police officer in sight.  To paraphrase Cyrus from ¨The Warriors¨, ¨Nobody was wasting nobody.¨ I wish the knuckleheads on the San Diego City Council, who seem intent on criminalizing all that is fun, especially if it involves the beach, could have witnessed this. 

Coming to meter zero (or meter 2,379, depending on which side of the sign you looked at), I turned around and headed back north.  I continued a bit past where I started, and found a section of a dozen or so fish restuarants and popcorn stands.  I ducked into one and had a Coke and popcorn, and then continued along.  I made it to about meter 3,000, at which point I felt large raindrops begin to fall upon me, so I turned around and ambled back to where I started, passed a BM (not PM, more on that in a minute) viatura which seemed to have shown up so the troopers inside could watch the girls, and made it to this internet place about five minutes before the skies absolutely opened.  It POURED down rain for a quarter hour or so, and then stopped.

Rio Grande do Sul is somewhat different from other Brazilian states.  Being close to Uruguay, the custom of drinking Yerba Mate (Erva Mate in Portuguese) is big here; everyone on the beach who was not drinking beer seemed to be drinking Mate.  This state is the home of Sertaneja music, and that is what is on the radio, not rock.  The State Police, which are called Policia Militar in every other state are, here, called the Brigada Militar.  Politically, this state was the first stronghold of President Lula´s Workers Party, yet it was also the state that voted down Lula´s idiotic gun ban iniative in 2004 with an 81% (highest in the country, although every state voted majority no) no vote.

I have been riding flat out for a number of days, and tomorrow thunderstorms are forecast.  I may well stay here a day, unless the weather changes radically.

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