Day 18: Progreso to Merida - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

January 17, 2023

Day 18: Progreso to Merida

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We had enjoyed waking up yesterday in the well appointed Gran Marina, with views of tropical plants and out to the lagoon,  but today in the gorgeous Mayan Gypsy, with its colourful tile floors, decorated walls, and immaculate well equipped kitchen, it was something really memorable.

Out onto the malecon it was not deserted as expected, but had several fitness freaks, stretching and running. Of course we can not look on them as freaks, because what are we doing out here at 6 a.m.!

After about 1 km the malecon with its newly placed concrete paving takes a turn away from the water and heads on down to the city hall and the town lighthouse.

The malecon's new concrete paving continues down to the lighthouse, which is a bit inland, by the city hall. The lighthouse was built around 1890 and has survived hurricanes until today. It's range is 61 km.
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City Hall
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There was a possibly quieter route out east and back toward Merida, but we decided on the straight shot down the four (plus) lane highway. When dawn came we were pleased to see the sun, but not desperate. We had left a little later than usual anyway, and had started riding in a balmy 14 degrees.

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Some people had started riding before us, and we observed several peletons blasting on up to Progreso. In due course they turned around and blasted past us! Their ride was well organized, as they had several chase or guard cars, following and protecting the lane. This was despite signs that said cyclists stay out of the driving lanes.

Dodie is still ahead of some of them!
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Stay out of the driving lanes!
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Whereas at home when a small road intersects the highway it commonly travels on an overpass for some reason here it is the main highway that jumps up and over the small road. But a cyclist has the option of staying down and crossing the small road by looking left and right. In fact that is what the sign advises one to do.

Bicycles - do not take the overpass.
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Of course those racer cyclists both took the driving lane and the overpasses!

About 7 km out of Merida the road laid on a bike lane, often running down an access road. This tended to be well protected with white lines and red reflectors in the road. Perhaps understandably, this standard of cycling infrastructure could not be maintained all the way into town and at times the cycle lane downgraded to a lame "cyclists' priority" painted on the pavement. I do not feel much protected by paint, especially from the texting or inattentive or aggressive driver. 

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One of the most dangerous things is when (unavoidably) lanes enter and leave the main roadway. Then you have drivers crossing the bike lane from behind on the left, or from the front right, or both. The bus below is illustrating how to squash a cyclist who thinks they are carrying on with the green lane.

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The northern part of Merida looks exactly like an American or European  city, with spiffy high rise buildings, and even Costco and Decathlon.

So different from the dusty villages.
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Liverpool is a large Mexican chain of department stores.
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We increasingly had to jockey for position with dense traffic, as we got deeper in to Merida.
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The lane markings helped a bit, until they disappeared.
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Now we were clinging to sidewalks and crossing the street back and forth.
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Finally we got on to Montejo, the major boulevard into the central square. At a roundabout at one end is a large monument to the native people.
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The boulevard famously has sort of a bike lane seen on the left of the photo, a wide pedestrian walkway, and also is lined by large, ornate colonial era mansions.
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There are many buildings like this on Montejo.
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At the other end of the boulevard from the native monument are some Spanish explorers looking for stuff to rape and pillage.
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Now we were done with the "American city" veneer, and into a bustling, hectic city of 2 million Mexicans. Dodie had caught a cold somewhere, but was holding up. That was good, because there was still a lot of battling and jockeying to come.

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Dodie sets off to lead us to our hotel.
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Lots of action
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Lots of traffic
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We passed through the central square, where once we had stayed in a bit of a flophouse. But the square has the park component, the Catedral, and lots of ice cream shops. Our currently booked new digs seemed to be way out from the square, through lots more bustle and traffic. 

We finally fetched up at the Hotel HO Merida, which had a tranquil courtyard off the hot and bustling street. But things would soon heat up inside, for us and for them.  First off, they refused to put us into a room until their official check in time of 3 p.m. That is, not even 2:50, with the room ready or not. Sick Dodie was pretty darn tired by now, so we sat on a bench in the courtyard to consider our next move. Since it was only 11 am there were still hours until three!

As we sat there, a staff girl came over to say - get your bikes outta here - and anyway, no bikes in the rooms. Faithful readers know what Steve is going to do next. Yes, he is going ballistic!

What followed was a furious shouting match between their Google Translate and mine. It lasted about 1/2 hour. I was surprised to find that I failed to bully and move them one inch. (Dodie was not at all surprised.)We cancelled out Booking, made a last minute new one, and flounced off, casting offended emails to their management as we went. Of course they easily intercepted and deflected these as well.

Our next shot was the Hotel La Catedral, on the square, by the Cathedral, but up some narrow stairs and not nearly as nice as the HO Merida might have been, at least by appearances. They too tried on the 3 p.m. bit, but lasted only a minute in the resulting interchange.  And not only were the bikes in the room ok, but they helped carry them in!

Bikes in the room! We have a fridge, good A/C, and water for hot coffee here too.
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Grampies' crazy quest for pastries and the post office, not necessarily in that order.
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Sick or not, Dodie recovered quickly in the good A/C, and we sallied out into the streets on our favourite quest - post office to mail post cards.

More bustling streets
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Fancy costumes for kids
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Wow, a big sale on something!
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Then we (and the GPS) hit the jackpot - the rare, totally endangered item - a Correos de Mexico mailbox! Everybody watched the unique event of a letter going in, but they seemed to have their doubts!

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And then yes, back to the bustling, hot streets.
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W now turned to pur other common quest - the bakery. I knew exactly where to go, of course. Those are cinnamon buns and chocolate croissants on the tray!

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Marvin Paxmanwith raisins! That's important!
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1 week ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Marvin PaxmanOh oh I am not so sure there are raisins in them! But surely cinnamon - not found in France, for instance.
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1 week ago
This cream roll came out of a cooler. We (Steve) are going to have to eat it right away!
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Lots of items left for next time.
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Bill Shaneyfelt"Swines" sounds... interesting?
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Now we passed a bookstore, and dove in after something we had been talking about - a bird identification book, not a website. There it is below in the upper right! The Spanish version is lower left, but we got the English one.

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There are only 132 birds listed and illustrated in our new book. But since these are the common birds, it should be good for us. The book begins by claiming that Mexico is one of only eleven countries in the world where biodiversity is "megadiversity", and that in birds it is fourth, with 1080 species. Furthermore, it claims, Yucatan is special due to its relative isolation. This has produced a number of endemic species, of which the book mentions quite a few, beginning with the black-throated bobwhite and including the ocellated turkey, the Yucatan parrot, and the Yucatan woodpecker. Overall, it says, there are 546 species of resident and migratory birds in Yucatan.

The bookstore also had a volume by the much maligned Friar Diego de Landa. I had a peek inside, and it seemed more like an anthropology treatise than the ravings of a genocidal fanatic.  Dodie was unimpressed.

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Since we are now staying at the Hotel La Catedral, we stopped in at the Cathedral. Mainly we can say it was cool and dark, a big plus. The man in the photo was singing or chanting, but it was not clear if he was an officiant or a mere adherent. We soon abandoned this in favour of the 7-11, and are now stocked up with semi junk food to carry on with our trip!

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"Cool" cathedral.
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Today's ride: 46 km (29 miles)
Total: 801 km (497 miles)

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Leslie and Rob CookeGlad to see you made it to Mérida safely. Are you having a day off in Mérida playing tourist or carrying on with your tour?
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1 week ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Leslie and Rob CookeWe are heading straight for Uxmal, this time to hopefully visit the ruins, and hopefully to not revisit the Merida hospital like we did last year!
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1 week ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Leslie and Rob CookeOur guide book "Top Ten Cancun and the Yucatan" describes Merida as "languidly tropical" with "unhurried street life" and houses with "deliciously shady palm filled patios". But I found it hot and frantic, with heavy traffic in many spots and many shabby streets. Is this a case of the three blind men describing an elephant?
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1 week ago
Leslie and Rob CookeTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYou are right - parts of Merida (centro in particular) are chaotic and loud, and sometimes its hard to see beyond that when your senses are under assault. But in general we love the city for many reasons and we are willing to put up with the not so pleasant (we see it but don't focus on it) in order to experience the good. Kind of like bluecheese. It stinks but I love the taste.
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1 week ago