Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ruta 40 is Dying

Day 149 (March 14, 2013)
Gobenador Gregores, Argentina to Chile Chico, Chile
Day's Ride: 265 Miles

Leaving "GG" (aka Gobenador Gregores) at around noon, Dylan and I sped north, hoping to make it to Chile Chico that evening and be poised to begin the Careterra Austral in the following days.

From what Dylan and others had told me, the remaining majority of Ruta 40 was paved. There were only a few short sections left that were still blessed with loose covering of ripio.

In reality, it wasn't long before we found them.

Just to give you an idea of what ripio roads can be like, take a look at the size of these rocks:

If you can't tell from the picture, a lot of these things are about the size of a baseball. It's really fun to hit a patch of this stuff at 60 MPH and have your front end bouncing around like a pogo stick while you clutch desperately to the handlebars and hope that you don't take a digger. Combine that with some really bad wasboards and gale force cross winds and you have for a really interesting ride. Hearing stories about what it was like a few years ago before they started paving it all makes me wonder just how many times my luggage rack would have broken while trying to ride this road. I'm actually surprised that it hasn't broken again already.

The road alternated between long stretches of pavement and short stretches of ripio all day.

We passed multiple road crews operating graders and tractors and paving equipment. It's kind of sad really. Ruta 40 seems like it has been this iconic right of passage for Trans America trips. With all of it getting paved, where are we going to get stories of people being blown into patches of ripio by the winds and being ripped off their bikes? On second thought, maybe it is a good thing that it's being paved.

While stopping for lunch we met some Argentinians on Honda 250's that were doing the entire stretch of Ruta 40 from South to North. They called their bikes "pizza bikes" as they were the same model that pizza shops in big cities use to deliver pizza on. They had a good 20 minute lead on us when we left, but we caught them up in no time. I got way out in front of them and pulled over to take a picture; Dylan decided that this would be a good time to thread the needle at 60 MPH and nearly clipped my elbow.

Eventually we reached the end of the ripio and cruised into the town of Perrito Moreno. After a brief stop to fill up on cheap Argentinian gas, we crossed the border into Chile Chico and found an awesome campground with wifi for 3,000 Pesos ($6).

I love Chile. Everything just seems so much easier here. We made a quick dash up to the nearest mercado and I bought a ton of food and cooked up a big pot of Carbonara. This trip is turning me into a total foodie. I look forward to dinner every day with an undisguised relish. I think Dylan is getting tired of hearing me talk about food.

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