Monday, December 6, 2010

Pelotas, RS, Mile 879, December 5 and 6, 2010

Greetings from Brazil´s southernmost large city, Pelotas. After riding 162 miles over two days, I am almost out of the country.

On Sunday morning, I woke up in Porto Alegre and it was raining. So, I wandered up to the top floor of the hotel, looked at the internet for half an hour, ate something, and it stopped. At about 9:30, I headed out into a deserted downtown Porto Alegre. As I mentioned, Brazil shuts up tight on Sunday, which is the reason I wrote no report yesterday. I had to get across a rather large river, and to do that, I rode a mile or so north through downtown, and then got on an almost deserted freeway and rode several miles further north. This, eventually, brought me to the BR-290, heading west, and I rode around the interchange, past a ¨no bikes¨ sign, and immediately ran into a traffic jam. The drawbridge was up. I wormed my way half a mile to the front of the traffic, and waited. The bridge is a London Bridge type of draw bridge, where one span is lifted about 50 feet straight up into the air.After about 15 minutes, it finally came down, and I set off across the first of what would be about a half dozen bridges over an eight mile stretch, interspersed with little islands. When I finally got done with the bridges, I was in the charming metropolis of El Dorado do Sul. I proceeded west another few miles, and came to the cut off for my old friend from Santa Catarina, BR-116, heading south to Uruguay.

I headed, now, into an indirect headwind. No fun. It was not as bad as what I hit coming out of Torres last week, but it was no fun. I pounded along at about 10 MPH, and, after a few miles, and about 13 miles into my ride, I came abreast of downtown Porto Alegre, maybe two miles away. What an utter waste of time all that was, but, the bike does not swim, so what can you do.

I could tell this was going to be a long day, and was very glad for the three frozen bottles of water I had with me. Cold water is a gift from the gods on a hot day on the bike. A few miles further along, I got a good idea that I was getting closer to Uruguay; the toll plaza had a sign, in Spanish, saying ¨No foreign currency accepted.¨ I rode through it, continued, and passed little towns like Mariana Pimental, Guaiba, Sertao Santana, and, 50 miles into the ride, Sentinela do Sul. I had thought about stopping in Sentinela, but I felt good, and it looked like an armpit. I decided to continue on another 25 miles to Camaqua, which is midpoint between Porto Alegre and Pelotas. Past Sentinela, the wind shifted a bit in my favor, and things were looking up. I eventually came to the turn off for Camaqua, and got the pure joy of having to ride three miles into town over cobblestones. In the 21st century, I do not know what idiocy inspired them to pave streets with cobblestones, but there you are. Cobblestones are very bad, because the vibrations they cause can cause spokes to break, to say nothing of what they do to my posterior that has been in a bike seat for the previous 75 miles.

I got into town about 7PM, rode around a bit, and got a decent hotel, paying extra for a room with air conditioning. I had ridden 81 miles. It was not really warm enough to warrant AC, but the concept of ¨screens¨ seems lost on Brazil, and AC is a way to keep the flying creatures out. This town was absolutely jumping on a Sunday night, with the 15 to 25 set hanging out in front of the park drinking and playing their car stereos as loud as they could.

I found a good Italian joint, got a lasagna for two people, ate all of it, and went straight to bed. I had been riding for over nine hours and was dead tired. Total mileage for the trip at the end of yesterday was 798 miles.

This morning, I got up, rode over more cobblestones back out the southern entrance to the town, and stopped at a little bar and had a Pepsi and bought two bottles of water. Then I headed out, entering the BR-116 at KM 400. Today, the wind was my friend; it was either at my back or blowing at right angles to me. Two hours and 25 miles out of town, I passed the little town of Cristal, and a sign that said 86 Kilometers to Pelotas. In an unremarkable ride, I rode past Sao Laurenço do Sul and Turuçu, and, boogied along.

Towards the end of the ride, I noticed my left rear saddlebag was starting to swing in and rub against the rear tire. At the 500 KM post, I stopped to check it out, and discovered that I had lost a screw on my luggage rack, and it was no longer attached on that side. Luckily, I have a couple of extra screws built into the bike frame, so I took the saddle bags, tent, and everything else that was attached to the rack off, used my Allan Key to get a screw, and re-installed the rack. Problem solved. Riding on, I came to the turn off into Pelotas.

Pelotas is the second city of Rio Grande do Sul, and it took a few miles to ride into it. Once I got into the built up area, I encountered more stinking cobblestones. I turned this way and that, and finally found a paved street, which I followed towards downtown. Downtown was a ways off, and, once again, my odometer headed toward 80 miles for the day. When I finally got downtown, it took a while to find a hotel, where I chained the bike to a pipe in the parking garage. Once again, 81 miles ridden on the day.

Properly bathed (I sweat so much, I leave salt streaks in my T-shirt.), and with sun screen removed, I went down stairs and cleared up one of my doubts at reception. It turns out that the border town of Jaguarao does indeed have a Policia Federal presence, so I can get my exit stamp in my passport there, instead of doing it here in Pelotas. Since I have no idea where the PF is in Pelotas, that will save me some time.

Tomorrow I face my longest ride yet, 90 miles or so to the Uruguayan border at Jaguarao/Rio Branco. According to the weather forecast, I should have winds blowing out of the east, which will help me as I will be riding southwest.

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