Day 1: Isla Verde to Ceiba

Distance: 52.4 miles
Elevation: 1,099 ft

I set my alarm for 6:00 am so we could get packed. We hit the road around 7:15. We left the AirBnb in Isla Verde and took 37 to 187. 37 was actually a bike route with signs saying to share the road (I think, my Spanish is not great). 187 was narrow at times but incredibly beautiful. We saw a road kill iguana within 4 km of being on 187. We passed a lot of beautiful beaches and stands that were closed. I saw a lot of signs for Coco Frio and definitely wanted one. I’m sure later in the day they are open.

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My Bike in front of our AirBnb in Isla Verde. I ride a Cannondale CADX from I think 2012 so it has rack mounts. Brian and I both have Ortlieb panniers. As the trip progressed Brian took more and more of my stuff since I was still recovering from my wrist being broken.

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Around Loiza my bike was being a bit weird and making noises but I thought I’d keep going until there was a decent place to stop. In my mind I was thinking I’d ask Brian to ride my bike around and see if he notices anything weird. But then I heard the most horrible noise I’ve ever heard come from my bike. A snapping noise followed by a few pops. My rear derailleur snapped along with 2 spokes and my chain was also messed up. I looked down at it just shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I had a feeling it wasn’t fixable but asked Brian anyway. He said no. No. He did not bring an extra rear derailleur. That is the one thing he didn’t expect to happen.

I just stood staring at my bike wondering if I had ruined the entire trip only 15 miles in. But then I started thinking about the field work I’ve done to the Sahara and Wyoming. Things never went according to plan. There were always problems but you don’t just give up. You find solutions. I remembered a bike shop I had looked up on the internet prior to the trip and thought it may be possible to hitch hike back to San Juan, and get the bike fixed. Then we could take a cab to the AirBnb and try to salvage as much of the trip as possible.

Just then a policia drives by and stops. They seemed worried and very kind. They spoke spanish at first but switched to english. They put my bike in the trunk and took us down the street to a fix it all kind of mechanic guy. He pointed at the rear derailleur and said no I don’t have that. We weren’t really surprised. The Policia called a guy and told us someone with at truck would come in 15 minutes and take us to San Juan.

When the guy arrived he didn’t speak more than a few words of English. At one pointed he typed a really long phrase into his phone to translate but what came out made absolutely no sense to us. He said he was going to take us to the police station in San Juan. I showed him the bike shop on a map and he said if I told him when to turn he would take us. So we piled our bikes into the bed of the truck and squeezed in the front. I had my google maps open and told him each time we needed to make a turn. He was very nice and I wished my Spanish was good enough to express to him just how thankful we were. He got us to the bike shop around 9:45 which was about 15 minutes after they opened. He only asked for $40. I gave him $50 and wanted to hug him but I didn’t want to freak him out.

The shop was called Bike Stop. They were really friendly and curious about what we were doing with so much gear. At first they weren’t sure if they had a 10 speed rear derailleur, but eventually decided they could take one off one of their bikes for sale and sell it to us, but they were backed up with work and could not work on my bike. Brian had to foresight to pack 2 spare derailleur hangers and luckily the derailleur hangers on both of our bikes were the same. Brian works at a bike shop in Chicago so he was able to communicate really well with them about what he needed and said it was ok and he could fix the bike himself. It was going to be hard without a stand, or a truing stand for the wheel, but he would try.

I think once they saw how desperate we were, and talked more to us about our plan they really wanted to help. They thought it was really cool that we were doing the La Vuelta route on our own. The mechanic said you know what, let me see your bike, I think I have time to fix it. Within an hour the spokes were fixed, a new deurailleur was on there, and a new chain and we were ready to go. They all said we could make it to Ceiba before dark.

The people at this shop saved our vacation. They went above and beyond what a bike shop needs to do. I highly recommend going to this shop if you take a bike trip to Puerto Rico. Seriously. Again, I wanted to hug everyone but I also didn’t want to freak anyone out.

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We started taking Route 17 back to get to 187. The guy in the truck had driven us along 17 and it was a major road but we wanted to take the most direct route. There was a toll at the bridge and they stopped us and said absolutely no bikes on the bridge, so we had to turn around. It was our only choice so we rode for a while and then checked the map. We were actually not very far from 3. On our previous route on 187 at Loiza we would have gone south to Rio Grande and got on 3 to get to Luquillo. So we decided hey, why not try to make up some time and take 3. We already saw 187 so its not like we will miss a whole lot. At times the road was sketchy but people were really nice. People stopped and offered to help us multiple times with directions or water etc. We stopped at a stand and I drank some coconut water.

At one point 3 turned into construction and we were boxed in by cement barriers on one lane so it was impossible to pass. We pulled over to let cars by when there was an opening. Brian went but I was kind of freaked and waited for an bigger gap. But then I heard barking and a pack of 20 some dogs came running out of a field. Normally I love dogs but many people told me the wild dogs in Puerto Rico can be very aggressive. So I made a frantic face at the next driver and jumped on and biked as hard as I could until the road opened back up.

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We stopped at a coffee shop around Hato Candal for a bathroom break and coffee. Then we made it to liquillo beach and had a late lunch at boardriders overlooking the ocean where we could watch the surfers. I had poke and fish tacos and it was margarita Monday.

005_Airbnb_Ceiba.JPGWe made it to our AirBnb in Ceiba just before it got dark. We had to cut off part of the route around the North Eastern tip of the island. This is where they do tours of the Bioluminescent Bay. I would have liked to do this, but at the time we were just thankful our entire trip was not derailed. Get it? By my derailleur?

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