Day 411 – Cycling Juarez
Last night I stayed with, Lisa, my first Warmshowers host so far this second half of the trip.
I got responses from all 3 people I contacted in Las Cruces, which sure does make the town feel welcoming.
Lisa was waiting in her carport reading a book in the sun when I rode up to her house and I felt at ease within the first 10 words we exchanged.
After I took a nice warm shower, we got on our identical 2013 green Surly Disc Trucker bicycles and made for High Dessert Brewing, a local brewpub. Lisa bought me dinner and we shared a pitcher of porter. It was my kind of place. Good beer, good food and good service. The crowd was interesting and plenty of dogs were laying about the patio.
We ended the night with pie and I hit the bed like a dead man.
As Lisa and I were having coffee this morning, she brought up the idea of riding bicycles around Juárez and I jumped at the chance. I had thought about going into Mexico while staring at it across the Rio Grande for so many days, but didn’t want to go alone. Now I didn’t have to and Lisa has never cycled there before either.
Lisa’s ex Elliot brought his truck over and we loaded up the bicycles and headed for El Paso. We parked near the Amtrak train station in a historic area called Union Plaza that looks to be up and coming or at last up if it has been around for a while.
The most popular pedestrian crossing into Juárez is via South El Paso Street over the Santa Fe Bridge (also referred to as the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry). It cost 4 pesos (25¢) at a turnstile and we were in the crowd of people walking to or returning to Mexico.
Juárez got a bad name for all of the drug related violence that peaked in 2010. It is now much safer with crime contenuing to drop. They have also been fixing up the streets and infrastructure so it looks like they are working to attract more tourists.
We rode around the Catedral De Ciudad Juárez area and then I led us on a 15 mile ride in search of the big red X I saw from El Paso a few days ago. It’s named Monumento a la Mexicanidad but referred to as “La Equis.” It has stirred controversy and here is a story the night of the dedication in the El Paso Times.
My desire to see the X got us out of the usual tourist part of town and we got to ride through middle class neighborhoods, commercial areas, schools, etc. It was nice to get a better feel for the city and I felt safe the entire time. For those that would question my decision ride around Mexico with all the bad news we hear – do some research and see what an American tourist can expect, then go see it for yourself. The news always magnifies the bad, but seldom sells the good.
On the way back to Las Cruces we stopped at Garafa and I had some of the most amazing lamb chops ever. Yum, yum, yum.
Lisa is planning to do her first bicycle tour this summer and I have the feeling she will be doing a lot more after. Thanks so much for hosting me!