June 02, 2005

USA: finding Butch Cassidy's trail again

The last time we felt the legacy of the famous outlaw was in the high plateau on a dirt road on our way to Potosi in Bolivia. He had robbed the pay wagon for a mine. All we saw were two little graves on the side of a dusty road.

Now in Utah we saw the historical marker in the Price Canyon where Butch Cassidy and his gang robbed the mining store. The store is long gone, but coal mining is still a vital part of the region.

Later we stopped at an old gas station, with rusty pumps and a general store that looked unchanged in 70 years. This gas station is all that is left of the town of Coulton, which as many small towns close to the rail lines was a booming town.

Inside the store we found the decore had not changed either since the turn of the century. An old man named Dennis Finch came to the counter and asked us where we were from etc... It was not long before he had an old photo album in hand and was telling us the story of his family and Coulton.

His grandfather Horn Elmer apparently had been a school mate of Butch Cassidy (aka: LeRoy Parker) in Circleville. There is a picture in the album to prove it... although it is faded enough that in my eyes it did not really matter who was on the photo. His storytelling skills were excellent and he had my full attention.
As the story goes, LeRoy Parker under a new pseudonym returned to the US well after his reported death in Bolivia. Dennis' grandfather claimed to have received Butch Cassidy in the Coulton store in 1931 for a good chat between childhood friends.

Posted by gwendal at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

USA: Don't Worry, Be Hopi!

Like the three amigos, we peered into the window, peeking our noses over the dusty green curtains of a smoky café in Zacatecas, Mexico hoping to find our friend Patricia. And there she was, surrounded by her colleagues, Miriam and Olivia and a few Hopi people. Little did we know, this would be the beginning of our Hopi adventure.

Eric Poulingyama, Hopi Historian, Lance Poulingyama, Project Recorder Historian in training, Judge Delford Leslie, Chairman Wayne Taylor were traveling through northern Mexico with the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) Archeologists: Patricia and her colleagues. They were all on a research trip to view and compare the rock drawings of numerous indigenous tribes in northern Mexico with rock art and oral histories of the Hopi tribe. The Hopi Indians are settled in northern Arizona east of Keams valley. Above three spectacular plateaus are where several of the Hopi Villages exist.

The Hopi’s invited us to visit their reservation when we passed through that region of the US. We were elated! When we reached Phoenix, Arizona we spent a few days resting up at Lance’s apt. There we picked up our friend Brahm from the airport. Brahm has decided to join us until we get to Vancouver. With directions in hand, we headed out of the greater Phoenix area. For the first time, we were greeted with heckles… “Get on the sidewalk!” “ Get off the road!” “Your gunna cause an accident!”. I was infuriated.

The road to the Hopi reservation took us up to 7500ft where we would have our first 1degree Celsius evening. We had good fortune on our last day as the winds pushed us the last 100km right to the door of Eric and Jane Poulingyama’s home in Kykotsmovi on Second Mesa.

The Hopi Indians have occupied this area of Arizona since 500 A.D. The Hopi Indians are a Matriarchal Tribe. This meant that when a couple got married, the man would move to the woman’s reservation and be responsible for tending to the land. Currently there are 34 clans. Jane was a part of the Sun Clan and Eric the Bear Clan. Their children, Lance and Lynn were part of the Sun Clan.

After having a nice hot shower and a long overdue slumber, Eric guided us through the reservation. We visited Old Oraibi, the oldest inhabited village in the US. Our second day was jam packed with a lunch at the Cultural Centre with Judge Leslie and Chairman Taylor. Over lunch we were interviewed for the Tribal Newspaper. From lunch we were scurried off to the Hopi High School where we made a presentation to the journalism class.

From the High School we got a personal tour of Walpi Village the oldest village on First Mesa. It is perched on a cliff with a breathtaking view. At the edge of the village we were introduced to the matriarch of the flute clan. We understand that it is that place that the flute player, Lalenhoya, more commonly known as Kokopelli decided to stop his journey from the south. We do not have pictures to share with you as we have respected the Hopi people's wishes to not take photographs that will be published. "Recording of any type is strictly prohibited, especially during ceremonies, while in and around Hopi villages. This includes, but is not limited to: picture-taking, video recording, audio recording, sketching, and note-taking. Visiting Hopi is a wonderful time to use your mind and heart to record what you are privileged to see. "(Visitor Etiquette http://www.hopi.nsn.us) We were happy to have the time to experience Hopi with our generous friends.

Our jam packed weekend ended with our sad goodbyes outside of Eric and Jane's home. But as the t-shirt says "Don't worry, be Hopi"

Posted by tania at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

USA: The Curse Reversed

On my previous bicycle trip with Gwendal and Armel, they decided that I was cursed. We did a 10-day trip along the great ocean road. On day one, my derailleur broke limiting me to a single gear. On day two, brake cable snapped, and I had no rear brakes. Day three, my handlebar snapped in two while riding before being chased up a tree by a kangaroo. But on this trip, on the opposite side of the world from the last one, my fortune seems to have reversed into a string of good luck.

For starters, they had a friend in Phoenix who lent them a jeep to pick up me and my bike. It was nice not needing to assemble the bike at the airport. We stopped by a bike shop in Phoenix to get a few things I’d forgotten, and when the owner heard of our grand adventure, he decided to let us buy whatever we wanted at 60-70% off the normal prices, and gave us each a free water bottle. I got some clip-in peddles and a very high quality new bike chain. Finally, we got out of town with not a day to spare. Just after we left, a heat wave of 109° F (43°C) hit Phoenix, apparently a few weeks later this year than usual.

Not long after getting out of Phoenix, we passed a Casino offering free food between 5pm-8pm. We stopped by, and after signing up for a membership, snacked on nachos, bean dip, carrots and celery. We decided to each bet $1 and share any winnings. We won $10. Next one of the casino workers informed us that as new members, we could have a complimentary slots competition entry. The highest scorer of ten entrants would win dinner for two, but he told us that if one of us won, he’d give up one of the coupons awarded to staff so we could all eat together. With four of us playing, the odds of a free dinner looked good, so we all entered together.

I won! That evening we dined on steak, prawns, chicken, cake, ice cream, cookies and whatever else we wanted. Before heading off to set up our camp in a dried up creek several miles down the road, I was told that I had qualified for a later contest at 9:30pm. After setting up camp, I decided to bicycle back and enter the contest. After making it through two more rounds, I placed in second, winning $175. The next day, we went back to the casino again to pick up our returning member bonus $10 each, and played the slots again, winning even more. In total, we profited $227 and four $30 meals. Pooled together into a group fund that money lasted us for almost two weeks. We are very frugal.

Next we bicycled through Navajo land, to the Hopi reservation in the center. We had very generous hosts, Eric and Jane. Eric is the Hopi tribal historian. We were incredibly lucky and privileged to be their guests, but I’ll let Tania tell that story.

Only a few days ago, we got into Utah, and on our second day, we got talking with a delivery truck driver for Frito-Lays, Kevin, who loaded us up with all the free snack foods we could carry, as well as apples, ice cream and hot fudge. He showed us to a fantastic place to camp near a small lake, and even gave Tania a Navajo Indian blanket he’d picked up. He’s even told us that he’s going to leave us a care package at a post office at a town on our route.

It’s been an amazingly lucky trip, and through it all, my bike has not had a single technical problem yet. Still, better safe than sorry, so I’m about to go buy some spare spokes for my wheels, as they are prone to breaking on long tours. There are 5 bike shops here in Moab, Utah. It’s a major mountain biking Mecca famous for the natural stone arches and bridges in the area.

Posted by brahm at 01:09 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2005

USA: Reverse-Culture Shock!!!

Five, 8 and 15 months respectively on the road for myself (Armel), Tania and Gwendal. That’s a long time, especially when all that time was spent in latino countries. May 3rd we all crossed the border into New Mexico, a tiny – 2 car average – border post called Antilope Wells. “Are you American”, the patroller asked us. “No, Canadian!”, we replied in unison. “Same difference” he retorted and let us enter the United States of America without looking at one of our 10 panniers for produce or illegal substances or checking to see if our passports were updated or even existent. “We are not in Kansas anymore”, we all thought, apprehensively engaging in a new adventure into a totally different world. Culture shock happens to many people going to visit very different places, and to those coming home from long travels, and we are no exception. It seems more appropriate to call it Reverse Culture Shock in this case. What will Canada feel like?

Although feeling the American influence in Mexico, (el otro lado or the other side as the Mexicans refer to their neighbours) the contrast was so great we felt as though we simply left one style of living and entered another. No longer were we going to see people working or simply walking on or off the side of the road in all places in the countryside even in the most remote places in the northern deserts/canyons of Mexico. Since entering New Mexico and biking through most of Arizona and now in Utah, we have been surprised not to see very many farmers, wanderers along the stretches of land between settlements.

If that sounds too subtle, how about the language reversal. Adjusting from the different accents of Spanish from one state to the next to a hybrid South-Western English that would even have the thickest Newcastle accents doing double takes.

Latinos now make up the largest minority group in the USA, yet it is rare to hear Spanish heard anymore. It really seems like they have adopted the Anglophone ways and speak Spanish in more private situations. Regardless, we still approach people with our accented Spanish and reminisce of the Hispanic culture with them. Interestingly, we ran into many families and individuals that came to the USA to work. It only lasts a while before they realize they want to be back at home. Perhaps we will also meet the latinos that end up staying on the other side!? Statistically, Western Union transactions back to Mexico are its greatest monetary inflow. It seems likely as we witnessed the smallest pueblos (towns) having amongst its grocery stores and central plaza, a Western Union booth.

From a biking perspective, we are now dealing with some very big roads. Our first encounter with an Interstate was shocking. 9 out of 10 vehicles were trailer trucks (18 or more-wheelers) and all moving much faster than the southern counterparts. It seems like the combination of road engineering creating flatter highways and more powerful engines make it slightly less enjoyable to be on a bike. Hence our adamant desires to find secondary roads through this transport-heavy society. There have been many big hills yet no truck is slow enough up a hill for us to catch a temporary ride by holding on to its back end (see Colombian pictures for a photographed example).

As for the other vehicles, there are so many more of them in the USA. Phoenix was our first big city and we couldn’t believe how much paved surface area was present. Most people are riding single-occupancy as opposed to the standard of fitting as many bodies as possible in and on the communal vehicles south of the border. Apparently many Pick-ups are stolen in the US and make it to Mexico for resale. At least those trucks will carry more people in their life!

Which side of the border makes more noise? You might guess that with the technology they have access to and their buying power, they would be pumping their speakers that much louder, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Music is so very linked to the way of life, that not only does one only hear latino music, but it’s always cranked up to maximum volume, at any hour of the day/night, regardless of whether the speakers are blown. I don’t think it’s solely noise bylaws that are responsible for this change.

Waving: the simple act that acknowledges the common existence between two passers by. Easy and forthcoming to do and usually accompanied with a friendly honk for us cyclo-tourists. Instead of having our own abundance of bystanders cheering us on all along the way, we are now getting use to the not-so-friendly honks given by the minority of passing cars. Most passers are simply silent nowadays even with our constant cyclist waves.

Authentic Mexican food vs. Tex-Mex imitation food. Is there really a comparison to make? Something as simple as the tortilla, is made from scratch and toasted over a wood fire stove and tastes nothing like the store bought equivalent that is stale and more often wheat-based rather than corn. We have adjusted to this by cooking all meals instead of eating spicy inexpensive street food intermittently. Strange as it may be, Mexican fast food is as present as American fast food, perhaps even more so. We dare not try!

It is always sad to leave a place (south, central America) that you love, but surely we will live: without finding internet cafes in small towns, making it onto the state paper along with the Pope, with football and basketball games on instead of soccer on TV, meeting bobs, johns, marys instead of Joses, Marias, without the Virgin of Guadalupe on the fronts of cars protecting those traveling inside it, without having to treat some of the water sources to make it potable, without military checkpoints checking nothing in particular but more a way to get to talk to us, eating more snack food because that’s all you can find in some Food(Wal)Marts as opposed to Tiendas, Abbarotes, Pulperias, without a crowd of people gathering around us and asking us questions when they sometimes can’t comprehend our answers. Maybe we are going to have to accept that we are no longer as unique along our way as we tended to be, that we are infact closer to home and that the US is one of the main influences on home.

We will be sure to seek the Mexicans, Guatemaltecans, Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, Panamanians, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Brazilians, Uruguayans, Chileans and Argentinians living in Canada to make their influence felt!

Posted by armel at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)