To South America and Back

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I was very excited at the prospect of heading south for the winter for many a reason. One being to scope out, or as teammate Hans would say "Recon" the bicycle situation there. I figured that, with the strong European heritage, especially where we are now, in Montevideo, that the cycling would be seeping out of every old brick that South America has to offer.

It is safe to say that a good majority of people from Montevideo are Italian in heritage. Pizza and Pasta are sold on literally every street corner, and as I understand it, Pizza and Pasta could be thought of as part of an "old country" Italian tradition. I was also under the impression that cycling was as well. However, I think that maybe the Italians, knowing there are more of themselves tucked away in this forgotten country than they could shake a bike pump at, all got together, in Italy, and decided to leave their South American cousins out of the mix, completely. How rude, and Italian of them.

From a distance it looked good, people of all shapes and sizes were darting in and out of trafic. Girls were riding to...well, wherever they were going with their long dark hair blowing in the breeze. But when I got up close I simply couldn´t believe what I was seeing. Broken down bicycles littered the streets, and the ones that were being ridden I´m sure are actually made by Huffy. Names like "Wonder, Winner, and Lyte" are about the only thing that I´ve seen so far, and believe you me, these bikes look anything but lite.

Wait, there was one nice lugged steel bicycle, but it was so lathered in yellow primer-headset, bb, cranks, pedals-included that I couldn´t tell what it was. Don´t get me wrong though, Uruguay has their Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay, and even a Silver metalist on the track at the 2000 Olympics. Milton Wynants. But that´s probably another story.


There was hope to be had about the state of cycling in Montevideo however. As we were riding a bus into the city for the second time (after our little excursion to Piriapolis) I caught a brief glimpse of a sign that read "Velodromo de Ciclismo." My heart did a little flip-flop, and all at once I had hope. I had purpose...find the velodrome, find the sweet bikes.

After wandering the city streets on three separate occasions, with no luck I tried a new tactic, asking directions. Sure, sure not a big deal, unless you don´t speak the language. Suddenly velodrome became Velodromo de Ciclismo, pronounced, with much more flair (Vhel-o-dhrrro-mo de Cee-hlis-mo) trust me, I dídn´t even understand myself the first few times that I said it. But after rolling it around on my tongue a few times I practiced it out on some locals.

What luck! They new where it was! I didn´t understand one word of what they said on getting there, but I had a nod of affirmation, and a point in a general direction. Two and a half more of these conversations (I say half, because I´m still under the impression that we left one old man while he was still yammering away) and the buildings parted to reveal the grass of Parque Batlle (pronounced Bah-jay).

The thrill of finding something after treking through an urban sprawl where you don´t speak the language, made it glimmer in the smog choked sunlight. ¿Se puede entrar? Was my nervous question to the two guards (guards??) smoking at the entrance. Another nod of affirmation, and the gates of heaven were opened to me. Ok, that might be too strong a metaphor, since the place was empty.

Still, the place had an air about it, the well used track, the even more worn seats surrounding it, they all had ghost fans, and I got to walk past every one of them, and out on to the track.

The whole walk home, which took about 30 minutes, compared to the 2 hours getting there, all I could think was, at least I know how to get there for the next time, and then I´ll definitely bring a bike.


At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Mom Dunn said...

I sounds like you were on quite an adventure here! It is good you are not shy or afraid to ask questions! Still no snow here and very mild weather. I went to DM for the weekend to Ellen. Dad stayed home, bought a new saw, and had fun putting it together. We're thinking about you!! Love, Mom

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous. are you guys still going to Costa Rica cause I may just meet you there if you do. Love you guys...take care.

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Jeremy, don't sleep, don't eat, just listen and repeat: find... the sweet.... bikes.... find... the sweet... bikes...

Get your track on!


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