The initiation

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

The initiation
February 16, 1997

There were football-size rocks everywhere in our path
After our "initiation" of Ruta 40, I am just recovering. This part of the trip was the most difficult riding. I never paid attention much when others would talk to Bill about Route 40. I thought we would deal with it — after all, we had dealt with Tierra del Fuego.

My first day was okay, not too bad. I was rested from Cerro Castillo and ready for the dirt road and pampas. It was the second day that I lost it after literally three to four hours of washboard roads.

Nothing but endless pampas
along the side of the road
I can't even say "road" — there were football-size rocks everywhere, and deep gravel that would suck our tires into the darkness. I fell four times. I couldn't handle it and started to cry. Bill was extremely far ahead, dealing with his own problems. What can we do but ride on? We are in the middle of Argentina, with pampas — endless pampas. I began to ride on the hard prickly features in the desert on the side of the road.

This was only the beginning of Ruta 40, and we were at Califate, our last stocking-up stop. For 12 days we would be riding the hardest, most insane road in South America, where even drivers can't believe how bad it is. All the cyclists have nightmare Ruta 40 stories about the condition of the so-called road and the dreaded side winds. I had a taste of it and I didn't like it.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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