After a frosty night with - 2 degrees, I quickly get ready in the morning. With yesterdays mishap it is very uncertain how this day is going to enfold [kind of like everyday but just that tiny bit more today]. I try to reactivate the pump without success.
Without any major events but with constant worries that my front tire will get flat again I finish the remaining 25km of bumby gravel to Estacion Camacho, the first town in Zacatecas. It's a tiny settlement in the desert, obviously no bike shop... I ask around and find two guys with a bike pump. My enthusiasm quickly fades as we find out that they only work for car valves and the tubes of Klaus have French valves [he is fancy].
My initially planned route would go through another 100km stretch of remote gravel road. Thus it's is simply not an option anymore now. I have to massively detour, 120km on pavement to Rio Grande. As the guys here in Estacion Camacho also warn me about the current security situation, I am not very happy about the detour to the west on a paved but still tiny country road. But what can I do...
To not waste anymore time, I leave the two men behind and start to tackle the 120km to Rio Grande, one town in between, headwind, 1000m of climbing, half flat front tire. It is a very weird feeling. Physically it is doable in the remaining time of the day when I keep breaks short. Mentally it is incredibly challenging, though. I really struggle to distract my mind from the ever reoccurring question "What if I get a flat tire again?". Stuck in the middle of nowhere, no cell service, unsure about the security situation... With the half flat in the front and the daily flat tire of the last two days this is not a totally ungrounded question. But again, what can I do?
And so I push through, kilometer after kilometer passes by, a car every now and then, the "What if I get a flat tire again?"... It is mentally exhausting. Apparently the brain still has capacity for two conclusions during the ride.
1. It is not a black day! It's tiring but I am doing fine.
2. Objectively speaking it is probably always better to be not alone in an uncomfortable situation. However, I realize that when you travel alone, there is nobody to complain to or to share the responsibility with. Hence, I find it remarkable how quickly one gets into a "solution mode" without wasting any time or energy on absolutely unnecessary anger, disappointment or hopelessness. There is simply no benefit in doing that.
Interesting. Thanks brain!
Long story short: After almost 100km I reach the only considerable town, Nieves, of the route around 5PM. Phew, it's only 20km to go and even if things go wrong, it wouldn't be a big problem now to catch a bus. Phew! I made it, kind of.
The bike shops in Rio Grande will be closed anyway once I arrive, so it's time to finally have a decent break. As I chat with the woman of the little store I stopped at, she tells me that there are many cyclist on the the road from here to Rio Grande. That reassures me, that it will be a decent home stretch from here. And well, she didn't lie. On the road I meet many avid road cyclist, many pictures are taken and they direct me to the best bike shop in town for tomorrow. Turns out they all belong to the local cycling club Rio Evolution.
As I approach Rio Grande a few cyclists already await me on a bridge. The first guy, Juan Carlos, gifts me his bike pump! Wow! He greets me with, "Hola, Jan Ulrich!" [not sure if he knows about the reputation Jan made himself the last couple of years, but I guess he means it as a compliment]. Instantly I get hugs and am surrounded by a huge crowd of cyclists. What an incredible reception and turn of the day. As I cycle into town surrounded by a bubble of cyclist, I ask for a budget hotel. I get the almost slightly irritated answer "we will be your hotel for tonight!". I really don't know who is more excited about this encounter, me or them. Wow, again! I think it is the mental exhaustion of the day paired with this genuine act of kindness that makes me struggle not to cry! We arrive at the house of the parents of my host Joshy, who have an amazing garden with all sorts of birds and other animals. We enjoy a nice evening with food, beers and some members of the club before heading to Joshy house to end the incredible day! Welcome to Zacatecas, one of the more insecure states of Mexico at the moment. Wow, wow, wow!