Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ruta Rio Sonora

Waiting for the riders
After almost 6 years, Banámichi keeps coming up with surprises. This past weekend the 10th annual Ruta Rio Sonora Bicycle Race filled the town to capacity . With nearly 700 bicyclists participating, the hotels were bulging at the seams and people were camped out at Martin's taco place, and even in our friends Terri and Raphael's backyard.
The finish line

The event is organized yearly by the Coyotes Team, a bicycle club from Hermosillo. The riders come from all over Mexico, and some from the US as well. I saw teams from Hermosillo, Caborca, San Carlos and even the Pelicanos (Pelicans) Team from the ocean front resort town of Puerto Peñasco.

The ride started in Sinoquipe, about 10 miles as the crow flies north of Banámichi. From there, the route headed up into the hills, climbing for the first 20 kilometers on mostly dirt roads, and then up and down to Banámichi for a total of 33 kilometers( 20.6 miles). Rumor had it that the first riders would arrive in Banámichi between 9 and 9:30 Saturday morning.


We all headed over to the plaza with the big rock on Calle Independencia to watch them arrive. A crowd had gathered to watch. I settled down on the curb near the finish line. Next to me was a very pretty young woman eating a bag of fragrant, ripe strawberries. Turning to me, she smiled and offered me some. Her warmth and kindness to me, a total stranger and a Gringa at that, summed up the vibe of the whole event. Overall, there was a remarkable spirit of camaraderie and celebration from everyone who participated in the race. All who finished were celebrated with a blue ribbon with a medal. Truly, everyone who rode the race was a winner.

Happy Riders with completion medals
The first rider arrived after just 1 hour and 17 minutes, averaging 16 miles per hour on the mostly uphill dirt track. After a short time a few more riders arrived, followed by more and more spaced out over the next couple of hours. As the riders began to arrive, each one was cheered: "BRAVO!" Initially I found myself yelling "YEAH!" Ooops, cultural difference....yes, that's "BRAVO!"

Spectator in a hoodie*
Mishap! Washing away  blood and dust

The riders' reactions as they crossed the finish line were fun ...some pumped their fists, some crossed themselves, some stood up on the pedals and let out a whoop of joy. Each one was enthusiastically cheered. My favorite was the guy who sprinted his bike by foot across the finish line clutching a broken chain in his hand. The crowd went wild! What a great spirit!

At the finish line
The cheers were also louder than usual for the small number of women as they arrived. These women were especially moving because in spite of the strides women have made in the States since the 1960's, these bicyclists were still pioneers doing the unexpected in Mexico. If I were 30 years younger, I would have loved to be out there with them crossing that finish line!

Another striking thing about the riders were their beautifully fit, sleekly muscled bodies. Like the US, Mexico has a severe obesity problem, so it was refreshing to see so many fit, healthy people in spandex tights all congregated together. There were only one or two riders of all I saw who were even slightly chubby!

Girls Rule!*
In the afternoon we returned to the plaza to listen to music and watch the awards ceremony. The local people has set up a number of food booths. There were Sonoran hot dogs, carne asada tacos, sandwiches, fruit bowls and various snacks. For the awards, the first 7 winners for men and for women were announced, with the top 3 receiving beautiful plaques. Once again, there was that same spirit of camaraderie and celebration of everyone. Yes, people cheered loudly for their own teams, but they also cheered for all the winners. As each winner was called up to the front, he or she went down the line, hugging and high 5-ing all the other winners.

On Sunday morning, the race resumed from the main plaza in town. That course was another 35 kilometers from Banámichi to Baviácora, running through all the towns along the way. This was the easier, fun course in which families and children could participate. The weekend ended with a huge party in Baviácora.

First Place!*

I was surprised at the size of the event and the way the local townspeople came together to welcome and accommodate so many bicyclists and families. And, as so frequently happens, I was also touched by the warmth and generosity of spirit of the Mexican people.

* Photos courtesy of Tracy Williams

Monday, March 3, 2014

Local Warming

What a strange winter! While the east and mid west of the US have shivered in the icy blasts, the southwest US and northern Mexico have basked in balmy temperatures. Although I have not been able to find historical temperature records for Banamichi, in Tucson, it has been the second warmest winter on record...the warmest being back in 1957... that is 57 years ago. I was just 14 years old back then, and now I am nearly 71! That's almost a whole lifetime.

Banámichi has not had a freeze all least not in the microclimate of our back yard. Daytime temperatures have hovered in the 70's and 80's, approaching 90 some days. While this has made for great quality time outdoors, this is not normal, and nature has been pretty confused!

The natural world  has been about a month ahead of schedule....the brittle bush and globe mallow were blooming by the side of the highway in mid-February, and the citrus trees were beginning to bloom in our garden before we had even picked much of this year's fruit.
Grapefruit tree with last year's fruit and this year's blossoms

The bougainvilleas never froze back this year, going from being slightly subdued in the darkest days to erupting into their full springtime splendor. The doves have already been huffing and puffing around on the ground in their mating dance. In the vegetable garden the lettuce, broccoli and herbs have bolted.

Bougainvillea in full bloom in February
This is just wrong ... all wrong! In mid February last year we had 2 days of 24 degree weather which dealt a death blow to our papaya and lemon trees. Theoretically, that could still happen this year. All those blooming things could be doomed! George Brookbank (the guru of Sonoran desert gardening) said in his book Desert Gardening  that there are various natural signs that the danger of frost is past, for example, when the mesquite trees begin to bloom. He also mentions watching insect life and birds for signs. Well, the mesquites are still without flowers, although they never lost all their leaves this year.  But the birds are singing up a storm and the leaf cutter ants are marching one by one, so we have mixed messages. According to Accuweather there is no frost in the forecast, and realistically in Banámichi the danger is past. It is unlikely we will have much of a peach crop this year, since the trees need at least a shot of cold weather to produce well.

This all brings me back to my previous contemplations on climate change. Yes, there are normal variations in the earth's climate that occur naturally, however, most scientists now accept that climate change is real. Even the climate doubters in the general population are being convinced as they find themselves affected by  enormous climatological instabilities such as huge storms or this year's east coast winter.

Spring and summer flowers in February
Apparently the craziness that has been this winter has been largely due to a few degrees of warming in the arctic. This  has pushed the jet stream further south, where it has dipped into the midwest and swooshed up across the mid- Atlantic states producing such cold that in places the ground has literally exploded. Meanwhile, a high pressure area has stalled over the southwest and northern Mexico creating late spring weather in February.

My sense is that unless some widespread action is taken, we can expect more and more instabilities like this winter, more disasters and more wonky weather. And given our dysfunctional US government any action is very unlikely. How discouraging! I could really let this get me down!

But being a practical person, I always come back to what I as an individual can do. It is such a complex issue that anything I can contribute seems like a mere speck in the immensity of the universe. Still, in the ecology of our world, everything is interrelated and even my small efforts do affect the whole. And,  my tiny contributions allow me to feel better, more in control. What I can  offer is to live as consciously and simply as possible so as to use as few resources as I reasonably can. I say reasonably, because I suppose I could give up going to Banámichi to save gasoline and energy, but for me that is just not on the table. Spending time there is my  way of returning to sanity, to a simpler way of being. Bringing sanity, peace of mind and simplicity into the world is as valuable as conserving resources.

So I reuse and recycle plastic bags and just about everything else that it is possible to recycle. I re-purpose old items. I combine trips so as to not waste fuel or energy. We run our house temperature colder in the winter and warmer in the summer than I would prefer, and these days, I think carefully before contributing to the frenzy of consumption that is the United States norm. I also grow some of my own food and avoid supporting the mega food industry by preparing meals at home.
Meanwhile, the Christmas poinsettia is still in full bloom!

I study simplicity during my time in Banámichi. All I have to do is look around me. There is nothing much to buy, not many ways to spend money. There is nowhere much to go and not a lot to do except to potter around in the garden and cook good food. My whole being relaxes when I am there.

The local people set an example of reusing things in the most resourceful ways - a broken hot water heater will have a fire built under it to warm the water. A rock will prop up furniture with a broken leg. A cement block holds a loose roof in place. An old tire becomes a planter. People find joy in family and each other. Having  stuff is not necessary for happiness. Being there brings me to the joy and contentment that arises from within myself. You should come on down and see for yourself!

Oh, I just remembered... there is one other thing I can do for our planet: raise questions and encourage you all to consider what you can offer to help our planet to avoid the climate catastrophe that is coming. Even if it seems hopeless and inconsequential, even if it seems too little, too late, what will you do?