Thursday, December 2, 2010

Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, December 2, 2010, Mile 707

Greetings from a place I did not plan to visit.  I am in Porto Alegre (population 1.5 million), the capital of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.  

Today started off very well, I left my hotel in Balneario Pinhal at about  9AM this morning, stopped for my usual Cokes and waters, and headed east on RS-040, at KM Post 94.  I was headed east 20 miles to a little town called Capivari do Sul, which was the crossroads with RS-101, which would take me south to the little town of Mostardas (which would have entailed a 100 mile ride today.) and then on to Sao Jose do Norte and the Ferry to Rio Grande tomorrow.  I had a favorable wind, and the day was very nice.

About ten miles out of town, I came to an are called ¨Distrito do Tunel Verde¨, or Green Tunnel.  For two miles, it was exactly like I was riding through a green tunnel.  The trees came out over the road, you could not see the sky, and the wind dropped to nothing.  It was like riding up 36th St. in Washington, DC in the summer time.  Very beautiful.

Exiting the green tunnel, I rode along a few more miles and came to Capivari do Sul where I made a left turn onto 101 and commenced to head south, past a sign informing me that Mostardas was 126 kilometers away.  I was not worried about the distance because I had a wind blowing out of the north and east, and I was going to be heading south and west.  Eight miles south of Capivari do Sul is a little town on my map called Palmares do Sul, where I thought to stock up on half a dozen bottles of water for what would probably be a long way between services.

I rode south happily for about three miles when a truck coming in the opposite direction blew my baseball cap off.  Disgusted, I slammed on the brakes to go back and get it and heard a ¨Snap" from my rear wheel.  I got the cap, and then stopped to inspect, and discovered the absolute worst possible thing that could have happened.  I had snapped off a spoke.

Those of you who read my writings about my 2006 trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway will remember my battles with broken spokes on that trip.  In 2006, the spokes kept breaking off near the axle of the wheel.  Today, it snapped off at the rim.  I used my cutting plyers and cut the loose spoke off, and debated what to do.

I have with me neither extra spokes nor the tools needed to install them and rebalance the wheel.  If I continued on, it was almost going to be 200 miles before I hit Rio Grande, which was the nearest possible place to find a competent bike store.  In 200 miles, I could break more spokes.  That would be very bad...

I decided that I would return to Capivari do Sul, which I had not even entered (I thought), having bypassed it to the east, get a hotel room, and then hunt up a bike mechanic, and continue on my way tomorrow.  Since the rear wheel, lacking a spoke, no longer spun true, it was hitting up against the brake pad (Such brake pad as was left, anyway) on each revolution.  So, I undid the rear brake, turned around, and rode the three miles back to Capivari.  At which point, I discovered that the road crossing I had taken south WAS Capivari.  One gas station, no hotel, no bike mechanic, no nothing.  I also discovered that I was now at KM post 62 out of Porto Alegre.

I was now presented with a bunch of bad options.  EIther ride back to Pinhal, into the wind, wait for a bus, or try to make it to Porto Alegre.  I decided to head to Porto Alegre, figuring that if the wheel broke bad on me, I could always pull over and catch a bus.  It was only 62 KMs (39 miles) after all...

I headed out through level farming country (Farming and cattle raising are the backbone of Rio Grande do Sul´s very prosperous economy.) and made good time.  When I had to stop or slow down, I used the front brake.  As I rode inland, it got progressively hotter and more humid.  Eventually, it started to rain, so I stopped, put on my windbreaker, and started to cook.  The rain did not last, so I pulled into a gas station for more Coke and took it off.  Some hours later, I rode through a toll plaza, and found myself at KM 13, on the outskirts of an armpit called Viamao.  Here the urban area began to build up, and I started hitting stop lights.  No problem, I told myself, it´s only eight miles to go.  Unfortunately, I eventually came to KM 0, and was still in Viamao.  How irritating.  RS-040 turned into Avenida Bento Gonçalves, and I had another ten mile ride into downtown Porto Alegre (Past the ¨Bourbon Shopping Center¨, I am not kidding.)  Once I got downtown, I rode around for another three or four miles before I found two hotels.  The first one rejected me because they did not want to deal with my bike, they said.  The fact that I looked like a pirate, with a very burned face, covered with sweat, including salt streaks all over my black T-Shirt, and with sun-screen smeared on my face, may have had something to do with it.  Idiots.  I went to the hotel 100 feet further down the street, and got a very nice (and cheaper) air conditioned room.

Using the internet at this place, I have found a place that claims to service Trek bicycles to take my bike tomorrow, and, if they appear competent, I am going to also have them replace the brakes and give the bike a tune up.  I paid my hotel until Saturday, hopefully they can fix things by then.

When my bike gets fixed, three options occur to me.  1.) I can take a bus back to Capivari do Sul, and continue my planned route.  2.) I can ride south from Porto Alegre to Pelotas on BR-116, and then continue on either to Chui/Chuy or Jaguarao/Rio Branco, both at different places on the Uruguayan border, or 3.) Take the bus to Santana do Livramento/Rivera, and ride down Route 5 325 miles through the center of Uruguay from Rivera to Montevideo.  I will mediate upon various weather forecasts and wind directions tomorrow before deciding what to do.

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