Wonderful things happen when we open ourselves up to serendipity and chance.  Embracing the out-of-the-ordinary often lands us is the most amazing of situations.

That's Ruta 3. A highway we're starting to know very, very well.

And so it was last Friday evening on Argentina’s Ruta 3.  The windiest road on the planet.  A road that stretches 3,036 kilometers and cuts through 5 provinces on the lonely pampa, all the way from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

On our Reise Know-How Argentine map, Ruta 3 doesn’t look so lonely.  There are dots scattered every 80 kilometers or so.   Next to these cheerful red dots are names like El Empalme, Florentino, Ameghino, Uzcudun, Malaspina.   These dots indicate towns, or so one might imagine.

First sign we've seen for Ushuaia.
First sign we've seen for Ushuaia.

But no.  Many such dots are simply there to mark the point where a dusty road crosses the highway and runs deeper into the pampa.  Other dots denote the beginnings of large estancias or ranches.  Here you will find a large welcome sign, a cattle grate and a gravel road leading for miles and miles into Argentina’s heartland.  Many ranches being so remote that they are best reached by helicopter.

If you’re lucky, that little red dot denotes a gas station.  Here you might hope to find some fresh water and a little relief from the wind.

Our camping spot in Uzcudun. Arrived just around sunset, which is pretty late this time of year in the Southern Hemisphere--almost 9PM.

That’s the case of Uzcudun, where we pitched the tent last Thursday after a long ride from a place called Trelew.  It had been a long ride.  Not it the sense of distance.  We managed to pedal some 140 kilometers.  Not bad.  But not an epic riding day, either.

No, when I say it was a long ride, I mean a long day in the saddle. 9:56, to be exact.

And I don’t mean we started at 8:00 AM, stopped for breaks and a leisurely lunch, and finished cycling 9 hours and 56 minutes later at 5:56 PM.

No, I mean we were turning the bloody pedals for 9 hours and 56 minutes.

That’s way out of my comfort zone.  I don’t know about you, but 6 hours on the road cranking the pedals and I’m ready for a rest.

After that 9 hour 56 minute epic day in the saddle, we were feeling, well, slightly sluggish on Friday.

Got up late to howling winds.  Almost set the tent up in flames while firing up the stove for breakfast.  And was then subjected to what may have been the worst cup of coffee ever brewed.  Local water is heavy with salt and minerals and is best avoided, especially for brewing coffee.

Cooking in the tent. A highly dubious act when it comes to safety.

So there we were Friday afternoon.   4PM, 5 hours and 13 minutes fighting headwinds and a whopping 53 kilometers closer to Comodoro, our next stop on the Atlantic coast of Argentina.

A shiny white pick-up pulls up ahead, the driver jumps out and, you know it, we’re flying down the road 5 minutes later.  Our final step in the slow process of liberation from the This is what is means to be a Real Cyclist dogma.

Gustavo, our savior behind the wheel, invites us to his home.  I hear him on his mobile home chatting to his wife.  Yes, yes, two cyclists.  They were on the road near Garayalde. Can I invite them?

This normal, middle-class sales representative has picked up two smelly hitchhikers and is bringing them home to stay with his normal, middle class family.

Normal, middle-class people are not supposed to do things like that.  Hitchhikers are dangerous.

Dinner with Gustavo, family and new friends.

The thing is, Gustavo had just bought a brand new mountain bike two weeks earlier.  He had never, in all his life, seen cyclists on Ruta 3.  A new bike.  Two strangers fighting a headwind on a lonely road.  It must be fate.   Serendipity.  Chance.  Something that was meant to be.

It’s Monday now and we are still at Gustavo’s home.  Outside the wind continues to howl. I am happy to be surrounded by four sturdy walls, protected from the elements.

We’ve met the neighbors, looked at snapshots of the kids, traded stories over dinner.  It feels good to be surrounded by a family.

That's me. Learning the fine art of sand sailing.

Eric was pretty good at manoeuvering himself along the beach in spite of the high winds.
Eric was pretty good at manoeuvering himself along the beach in spite of the high winds.

Gustavo has loaded us up in his truck and we’ve gone off to admire viewpoints and check out the sea lions.  He’s taken us to the beach where we got to try our hand at sand sailing.  And we’ve even been on an excursion into the desert with the neighbors, Yves and Consuelo.  Turns out Yves comes from Besancon, just down the road from Eric’s home town, Obernai.

Strange isn’t it, this thing called serendipity.

Really wacky wind-sculpted formations.
No worries, this is not Ruta 3. Just a beautiful road running through the desert.

A fine place for a trek.

The serendipity of cycling

8 thoughts on “The serendipity of cycling

  • November 29, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Really proud of you, of what you do, and for making your dream become reality! Lots of courage, enjoy each moment, just keep going and never give up!!

  • November 30, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    It was a treat to see what the daughter of an old friend, Glen Williams, was up to on the international scene. Serendi[ity is something I experience with less adventure and physical effort, but I’m fascinated by the very well explained and illustrated on this site. The survival instincsts remind me of a verse which has wide application in other challenges presented in life as well. Here is the verse: Do all you can with what you’ve got, in the time you have, in the place you are.Thanks for sharing this impressive experience. I hope to have access to more of your impressive adventures. Bill

  • November 30, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    I couldnt agree more with the serendipity stuff. A year ago I decided to cycle the uk coast for charity and eversince then, things just happen to make that dream a reality. Following 6 years of mental health problems, the universe still talking and I’m all ears 🙂 I leave in May 2011 for my first big adventure.

  • December 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Hola! la verdad es que mi inglés es bastante básico como para responderte en ese idioma, así que me valgo del español para hacerlo. encantada los espero en Enero por Parral, me imagino que es difícil confirmar el día pero no tengo problemas en la hora de llegada ni en la fecha, si es cercana al 24, ya que saldré de vacaciones alrededor del 30 o 31 de Enero. Mi teléfono móvil es 98745027 y el de mi casa es 73-461289, me encuentro de lunes a viernes en ella entre las 13:00 y 15:00 sin duda.
    Saludos, espero su visita

  • December 7, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    When I first began to bicycle tour I mostly avoided getting to know people. I was just interested in being on the road enjoying landscapes and dealing with life in my own way.
    Lately I’ve met up with some fellow cyclists and it has changed touring. I’m not so lonely and am coming out of my shell. Meeting people can be good, but only at the right time, it shouldn’t be forced.

  • December 7, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    “It’s Monday now and we are still at Gustavo’s home. Outside the wind continues to howl. I am happy to be surrounded by four sturdy walls, protected from the elements.”

    That’s one of the great things about bicycle touring – you begin to be aware of and appreciate all of the “small comforts” in life.

    Well written – and I enjoyed reading it!

  • December 11, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Thanks for the comments, everybody!
    @Doug I completely agree that timing is everything when it comes to meeting people on the road. I go through phases when I just want to be alone with my thoughts and staying with couchsurfers or meeting up with other cyclists can feel like a burden.
    But when the timing is right, sharing can be such a rich expereince. It will always be the people that really make the bike tour so special.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *