I want to write the blog that I wish I had found while preparing our trip around Puerto Rico.
Why Puerto Rico?
I initially became interested in Puerto Rico as a destination when I heard how inexpensive flights were, and that there was a direct flight via JetBlue from Chicago. Once I chose JetBlue as my carrier, I also learned that their fees for bicycles are somewhat cheap compared to other airlines ($50 vs $100 on many other airlines, even $200 COUGH COUGH UNITED depending on destination).
So, knowing I wanted to go to Puerto Rico, and I wanted to bring my bike I started doing some googling and came across La Vuelta Puerto Rico. This is a supported ride around the island in 3 days. They have a police escort, you never have to stop at red lights and they provide meals at rest stops. Unfortunately, it costs $600 and you can only stay at affiliated hotels, so it was cost prohibitive for me and my boyfriend. We decided to try to do the same route, but unsupported. We decided to break the trip into 6 days instead of 3 so we could enjoy ourselves a bit more. (My recommendation would be to take more days so you can stop more and take detours.)
Originally we were planning to camp, but I had trouble finding information on the internet about campgrounds. People there told us you can camp pretty much anywhere so that is something to try, but you’d have to carry more gear. We decided to book AirBnbs around the island. I tried to stick to ones around $50/night. If you did camp I think staying in an AirBnb every few days would be worth it because it is HOT and showers are awesome. I generally contact people with information about my trip and how I need to keep my bike indoors and many hosts said they would be honored to host us. We picked the same AirBnb for the first night, and last 2 nights and I got permission to keep our bike boxes there as we travelled around the island.
Things to know:
1. You can drink the water in Puerto Rico. I did the whole time and never got sick.
2. Your phone will work. I have AT&T and had service throughout the whole island.
3. Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory so they use the same currency.
4. Oh, bring bug spray. Like, so much. I had to coat myself with it at dusk and dawn. I forgot one day and got eaten alive. If you are pregnant you should wait to take this trip. (Zika Virus)
Things to know specifically pertaining to the ride around the island:
1. You will want to start early. In January, sunrise was around 6:45 and sunset was around 6:10 so we had about 11 hours of daylight to get each ride done.
2. Be sure you can hold a line. Many of the roads are pretty narrow. We would often pull off every once and a while to let cars pass, but it helped being able to stay on the white line so cars had room to pass.
3. You may have to BRIEFLY ride on highways. I took the La Vuelta route pretty directly. There may be a way around it, but with no knowledge of the island I wasn’t sure how to route around them.
4. People were generally really stoked on what we were doing. We got a lot of friendly honks and hang ten hand signals.
2 months before the trip
I broke my wrist during a bike race (distal radial fracture). When the doctor told me I needed to have a cast on for 6 weeks I immediately pulled up a calendar and started doing the math on how many days I would have without a cast before the trip. 2 days after the injury I was on my trainer doing rides as often as I could but it was pretty painful. About a week and a half later my boyfriend set up my single speed with riser bars and really big flat pedals so I could ride one handed to and from work with my cast. I managed to go to a few PWP classes with my team at BFF bikes and also did a New Years ride from Waukegan to Milwaukee. I was desperate to do everything I could to be in decent shape for the trip. I would still need to wear a wrist brace during the trip to prevent re-breaking my wrist if I fell (which I did).
24 hours before the trip
I got a message from our first AirBnb host that a pipe burst in her apartment. We could stay in a studio apartment she also rented for the first night, but on the last 2 nights of our trip we would need to stay elsewhere. This was unexpected. We had been planning on storing our bike boxes at her apartment as we circled the island. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do about it. I spent a stressful 3 hours working with Airbnb to find a replacement for the last two nights. They were pretty great and got us a coupon so we were actually able to stay in a nicer apartment than our original reservation for the same price. We decided to just wing it with the boxes because what else could we do?
The JetBlue counter at O’hare doesn’t open their checked baggage line until 5:15. This made it hard to get through security in time for our 6:30 flight but we did make it with about 10 minutes to spare. We arrived at the airport around 4:45 so we were at the front of a long line for checked baggage. Our flight arrived on time and we were at our first AirBnB around 2:30 pm. We got our stuff inside and grabbed a few things before heading to Tomate around the corner to meet our friend Brandon. He had planned a last minute trip to the island and had been there for about four days, and had to head to the airport around 6. We had some pretty stellar tacos and a few margaritas before hitting the beach. Brandon gave us some tips about the island and got us super pumped about the trip. It actually got dark a bit later than we thought. It would turn out we needed every minute of day light.
We got back to the AirBnb around 6:30 pm to set up our bikes. In retrospect we probably should have done this early and rode around a bit to make sure everything was working properly and gotten packed up and ready to go. I think we were a bit stressed and rushed and were up until almost 11:00 working on stuff. We decided to pack up one of the panniers with all the foam and packing materials, and then just ditch the bike boxes in the trash the next morning.