The Big Valley  https://youtu.be/sa6ej4OqAIo - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 23, 2019

The Big Valley  https://youtu.be/sa6ej4OqAIo

Starring Jim and Sue Price - no Barbara Stanwick here!

You know, on a tour, sometimes things just get into your head and really mess you up.  That big hill a few days back, coming at the end of the day really made us wonder about our ability to get up big hills.  When we rode down the coast last year, we figured out how to get up hills of much greater height than that one and so it was a puzzle.  Why was it so darned hard?  Were we right to change our plans?  All these questions keep bubbling up.  As we were cycling out this morning from Pinar del Rio, we knew that we had a pretty good climb coming up and the question was there in our heads – was this going to be too hard as well?  

Our delightful Casa hosts!
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On the way out of town
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Nice valley views before we start climbing
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Thankfully we had a little bit of road to cover and some very small hills to get up before we really started up.  And up it was!  Not quite the extreme challenge of the other hill, but still a pretty stiff climb over 5km of winding roads with no shoulder.  We both geared down and just took it on, continuing around each curve slowly making our way until at last we reached the top.  It was actually surprising how well it went and we were both pretty pleased with ourselves.  Of course, we still had some work to do, but the major climb was out of the way and we were able to enjoy the rest of the morning as we worked our way towards the valley of Vinales.  

At the top. Now it's just some little ups and downs until get go down into The Big Valley!
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Just before we came around the corner to start the downhill, we saw another bike tourer approach.  Again we happily pulled off to have a roadside chat, somewhat to the annoyance of the cars coming down the road as they had to pull around us.  Oh well, there was not a lot of traffic and no shoulder, so everyone took it in stride.  Klaus was flying his Swiss flag off the back of his bike. He is on a two month tour of Cuba, hoping to cycle around the entire island in that time.  He had come from the north coast which was an unknown area for us, so we were happy to hear that he was able to find Casa Particulars along the way, although at one point he had to ride 100 km to get to one.  His normal day is similar to ours – keeping it to 50-60 kms and stopping early to enjoy whatever town he ended up in.  He has not done a whole lot of research into places and is pretty much just winging it but has been pretty successful with that strategy.  We talked travel and bikes for a while before saying “safe travels” with each of us heading their own way.  We were probably on the better end of that one as our day was almost done, we were heading mostly downhill and had the wind at our backs.  

Our buddy Klaus, heading into the wind but he will have a nice long downhill coming up!
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That's our destination up ahead!
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We are confused by the red "berries" - what are they?
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Bill ShaneyfeltI think it is royal palm. Matches well with images, anyway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roystonea_regia
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2 months ago
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Too far up the hill, otherwise we would have checked it out!
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A few wonderful kilometres of downhill (with a bit of uphill) later, we were in the small town of Vinales.  The fellows we had met in Pinar had arranged for a Casa for us, but upon talking to the owners of the Casa there this morning, we found out that they really were a couple of those infamous jinteros and not friends or neighbors of he Casa owners at all,  so we didn’t feel particularly obliged to find the Casa they had arranged.  As we came into town we turned up what we thought was the main road (turned out it wasn’t) and it was just one Casa after the other.  The entire town is Casas!!!  Crazy!!!  We rode down to the end and then decided to just pick one that looked nice.  We pulled up to one with a very pleasing looking porch complete with white rocking chairs, knocked on the door and asked if there was a room available.  The lady took us around to a little alley behind and knocked on another door.  The woman in this place took us further into the alley and showed us a very tiny but sweet little room.  It was not on the Main Street and it did not have white rocking chairs, but it seemed very quiet and the price was $15.00 per night!  Well, that pretty much did it for us!  We booked for two nights and two breakfasts (all for the princely sum of $50.00 CUC) with the thought that we might add a third night.  We brought the bikes back and found a great little spot to tuck them in and lock them up before unloading our gear into our room and having a nice warm shower (this Casa has that same weird shower head but it is set for warm already so we didn’t have to do anything and had a decent amount of warm water for our showers).  Cleaned up and refreshed, we set out to explore the town of Vinales.  This is quite the tourist hotspot and we saw people from all over, but oddly enough, it was not as obnoxious as we found Tulum, for example.  There is a nice relaxed vibe here that we are quite enjoying.  We noticed a restaurant near our place that had advertised free wifi (called “weefee” here), so decided to stop there for a bit of lunch and some Internet time.  We were very pleased that not only did their internet actually work but that the pizza we ordered was really really good!  We have heard back from various people who say the food in Cuba is horrible, but again, in our experience, it has been quite good – the only exception being hotel food which is, indeed, very bland.  I wanted to post another day up on the internet and we had a couple of wifi cards, so after lunch we went back to our room to grab the ipad and head to the park.  For the first time we actually had success using wifi at a park – yay!  We spent a pleasant hour posting and checking things on the internet before closing down.  The tricky part about using the internet cards here is keeping an eye on the clock. Several times I have posted something at the end of my time only to find that it didn’t quite make it before the clock ran out!  Oh well.  

As we had been sitting in the park people watching as well as internetting, Jim noticed a man wearing a maple leaf on his hat.  After meeting so many Mexicans wearing Canadian gear, I wasn’t convinced that it meant anything.  As we were walking away, the man had moved away, but his wife was still sitting there.  Jim noticed the tshirt she was wearing was green and yellow (Saskatchewan colours) and when we got closer he read the writing “Humbolt Strong”.  Every Canadian knows the heartbreaking story of the Humbolt hockey team last year.  They are a junior hockey team and were on their way to a playoff game when their bus was hit by a semi tractor trailer, killing many of the players and coaches and leaving so many more with life changing injuries.  As a country we all grieve with those families and so the sight of that tshirt was a sure signal that these were fellow Canadians.  Jim walked up to the woman and said “So, how Humbolt Strong are you?” at which she laughed, knowing that we were fellow countrymen.  What a funny occurrence to meet Canadians way out here in Vinales!  Laura was soon joined by her husband whose name is also Jim and we spent quite some time just chatting and getting to know each other.  Sometimes you just meet someone and are instantly friends and this was one of those occasions.  Of course, it didn’t’ hurt that they are both retired teachers!  We had a wonderful time and eventually decided to meet for dinner at a restaurant they recommended so that we could continue to visit.  

We stopped by the Casa for a quick nap before heading out to meet Jim and Laura at our chosen spot.  The name has something to do with Oliver and if you are ever in Vinales, we highly recommend it!  Great service and fantastic food!  They use vegetables grown at their own organic garden an so we were able to enjoy fantastic salads, not worrying about any hidden germs.  Oh!  It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a green salad like that!!!!  In addition, the company was just wonderful.  We talked on and on through dinner and then dessert.  The very polite waiter asked if we wanted our bill and finally had to ask us to leave as they had a lineup outside waiting for tables – oops!  We apologized (we knew this was a popular spot and usually had lineups) but honestly we were just having such a good time we had no idea of the time!  Walking back through town, we chatted until it was time to turn off to our own Casa.  We will hopefully run into Jim and Laura in town over the next day or two but will definitely see them in Havana as they will be there when we go down in a couple of days.  

Our new friends! This pic was from the next day (you can tell because Laura is not wearing the Humbolt tshirt)
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A little market to find more things I can't fit into the panniers!
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Is this what I think it is?
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Bill ShaneyfeltYes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poinsettia
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonIt depends. What do you think it is?
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2 months ago
Ron GrumbyTo Scott AndersonThat’s exactly what I was gonna write! Great minds think alike. Or, you are in the unenviable position of thinking like I do.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron GrumbyRachael would say it’s a guy thing, and please quit being such a wise-ass.
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1 month ago
Ron GrumbyTo Scott AndersonHaha! She's right.
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1 month ago
Sue PriceTo Ron GrumbyAbout you both! Hahaha! Hey Ron, when are you guys heading back on the road? We need some more Grumby adventures to read!
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1 month ago
Ron GrumbyTo Sue PriceNot sure at this point what our next touring advanture will be. We are living in suburban Denver for the time being so Jen can be close to her mom and help her out. Her mom is 87 and generally in ok health, but has issues related to her age.
We will probably do some shorter rides this summer, maybe the Colorado section of the Great Divide route.
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1 month ago
Sue PriceTo Ron GrumbyHow wonderful you are able to do that! The freedom to move to a different place for a while is a great thing, and I'm betting you will find tons of great places to cycle there.
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1 month ago
Local architecture here in Vinales
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Best restaurant in town, hands down!
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Hope they don't just go out the door and grab one from the street! Lol!
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After such a fun evening it was hard to settle down for the night.  We listened to a podcast and then read for a while before we were finally able to get some sleep.  What a fun and unexpectedly exciting day!

Today's ride: 29 km (18 miles)
Total: 1,293 km (803 miles)

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Scott AndersonCongrats on making it over the pass! Next year, the French Alps!
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2 months ago
Sue PriceTo Scott AndersonHahahahahahahaha!
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesI am still a bit confused about the CUCs and the PUPs. Lots of sites indicate that the conversion is 25 PUPS to a CUC. (So that would imply that you got shortchanged for your 20 CUCs Jan 21 - should have got 500 PUPs). What I am mainly wondering is whether prices are different if you have PUPs vs CUCS - like, do locals or those with local currency pay less? Some other sites say that $US are also commonly accepted. True? If yes, if a local takes a $US, what can they do with it? And if a local takes a CUC, will they spend it like that, or convert right away (somewhere) to PUPs.

Since your time and internet are limited right now, you could stop reading this here - I'll try to quiz you more at home - but if you are up for it --> more questions: CUCs have coins and paper. The smallest CUC coin is 5 centavos. A 5 centavo CUC is therefore about the same value as one PUP (one PUP is actually 4 CUC centavos). So could you have bought that coffee with a 5 centavo CUC?

And finally, I assume that 1 PUP is the smallest PUP value. Is it paper, or a coin?

Steve (the Economics guy)
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2 months ago