We Made It – Maybe (Machala, Ecuador)

I’ve been thinking all day about how happy I am that we made it to the border – with a few days to spare.  Yes, we are still 70 km away, but we should be able to make it with no problem.  But then, I patted myself on the back before – and then ended up with near disaster.  I really should learn to not count my chickens before they hatch…

Anyway, here is the story of that day on our Crazy Guy on a Bike journal from our last trip.  The story begins when I headed back to join my boys on the California coast after having spent a month in Boise taking care of Mom.  I’ve copied below for those of you who don’t want to click over there.


It was one of those moments. One of those d’oh moments. One of those times when you smack yourself upside the head and say, “I can’t believe I did that.” But that comes later in this story…

This story actually begins Friday morning when I rented a car, threw my bike in it, kissed Mom goodbye and headed south to find adventure. Fast forward 17 hours and I arrived into Monterey and knocked on Jim’s door (the guy John met and stayed with in Monterey). He willing (begrudgingly???) opened his door to a weary traveler and I collapsed onto his couch. Eight o’clock rolled around all too soon and I dragged my lazy bones off the couch, returned the rental car and hopped into Jim’s car to drive down to Big Sur.

It was wonderful to pop my head into the tent and I shed a few tears amidst all the hugs and kisses. (This is where you are supposed to say, “Ahh… ain’t that sweet!!”) Our joyful reunion was all too short as I still had much to do and many miles to go before the sun set.

I returned to Monterey, returned the car (thanks again, Jim!), jumped on my trusty steed, and headed to the laudromat to wash the boys’ clothes. Somewhere along the way I managed to get a flat tire, so I headed down (and I do mean down) to a bike store, then climbed all the way back up. It wasn’t long before I was cycling the beautiful California coast. Turquoise waters… stunning cliffs… and a strong tailwind. What more could I ask for?? I didn’t take any breaks at all because a) I was giddy with excitement about getting back to my boys and b) I needed to make sure I was at the campground by dark.

Now one would think I would have learned a thing or two from all my travels…. like not to claim victory until victory is won… or not to count my chickens before they hatch. But I obviously haven’t learned that lesson yet. I pulled into the town of Big Sur about an hour before dark and patted myself on my back in congratulations. I smugly called Mom and announced that I had done it! I had pulled it off! Yes! (Insert image of me pumping my fist in victory at this point…) I figured I only had 3 miles left (John later told me I only had 1.5 miles left), and I still had an hour or so of daylight. Yes, I had made it. I had pulled it off!

I climbed back on my bike and started pedaling through the forest toward the campground. I kept pedaling and pedaling and I was sure that the campground was just around the next corner… maybe the next…  And then suddenly I broke out of the valley and saw a lake on my left. A big lake. And I thought, “Hmmm… I don’t remember a lake on that side…” And then I noticed that the sun was setting over that lake. And then it dawned on me that there was no lake over on my left. That was a pond. THE pond. The Pacific pond.

Now I’ve learned a thing or two in my 46 years on this planet and one of them is that if you are pedaling south along the California coast, the ocean will be on right. But this ocean was very definitely on my left. As I saw it, there were only two possible explanations. Either a) I had been magically transported to the east coast of the USA and this ocean was not the Pacific at all, but the Atlantic or b) I was headed north. That’s when my hand came up and smacked myself upside the head and I realized that I had done something really stupid. Yep – that moment when I got turned around at the store was most definitely one of those moments of absolute, complete, total, unutterable dumbness.

I turned around and pedaled for all I was worth back toward the valley and the forest. At this point I did not have only three miles to go and an hour of daylight. Now I had 5 1/2 miles to go, and the sun was setting over the ocean. I pedaled as hard as I could along the twisty, winding road through the forest and I realized that I had absolutely no lights on my bike whatsoever. No way to alert oncoming drivers that I was there. Those visions of a grand reunion that I had been having all day turned into something not quite so grand… something involving images of my beloved kids scraping my guts off the highway.

I am happy to report that I arrived to the campground without incident. John had dinner cooked and ready to serve. And we all lived happily ever after (for the next few hours anyway!!)

Major kudos go to John for being mother and father, cook and nurse, cheerleader and referee, all at the same time. The kids are both healthy and happy. I wish I could add clean to that list, but Momma taught me not to lie….

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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3 Responses to We Made It – Maybe (Machala, Ecuador)

  1. Melynda February 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    If nothing else, travel mishaps make great stories (much) later. Hope there is no drama between here and Peru!

  2. John Pedroza February 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    Congrats on getting so close. I hope the rest goes easy for you.


  1. We Made It - Maybe (Machala, Ecuador) | Ecuador Today - February 23, 2010

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