San Miguel Stopoff

Where I Rode:

Ciudad Guanajuato —> Presa de Mata —> Las Palomas —> Camino Real de las Chichimecas —> Dolores Hidalgo —> San Miguel de Allende

Various rides around SMA including an exploration ride up the volcano El Picacho South of town





The city of Guanajuato is amazing. Impossibly steep streets curving through variegated hillsides force all sorts of architectural creativity. Only by summiting one of the myriad hills can you actually gain reference points sufficiently so as to orient. I was lost. A lot. Despite this, it’s a fabulously beautiful city full of art, music and nightlife.



I’d walk around the corner from the hostel to see group jazzercise classes in the same square that hosted a death metal band the night before.



Roving guitarists wandered the squares, chanting sweet ballads in search of donations.


I even found a downhill mountain biking route with some pretty big clearance jumps!  (Though my rigid steel bike and I rode around features like this)


Despite such wide range of experiential opportunities, I felt it was not where I needed to be. I just couldn’t seem to find my place there, repeatedly wandering the streets in search of human connection, and falling short. No worries, nature calls. I packed up and began the long steep climb out of the valley to the East, toward the neighboring city of San Miguel de Allende.



I found a route online between the cities that included the “Camino Real de las Chichimencas.” Sounded just right. I guess this was the original trade route for the local indigenous population between Guanajuato and the neighboring settlement of Dolores Hidalgo.

The road was rough. VERY ROUGH. As in my tires rarely rolled over anything other than jagged rocks for about 20 kilometers.


It did however stretch through some beautiful desolate country filled with beautiful plants and geological formations.


Okay, the road did smooth out for like 100 yards here…


 After a long, very full day of rough riding, I landed in downtown San Miguel de Allende to stay with an old friend from Seattle. The huge pink church in the town’s center definitely contented for most interesting religious structure so far.


Wedding season I hear…


Tight windy streets seem to be the theme of this whole region of Mexico, but vibrant colors and painfully rough cobblestones kept me on my toes!

Having planned to stay in town at least 5 days (needed a dependable wifi connection to talk to Mom for her 70th birthday), I need to keep myself busy. Interesting to note the feeling of resistance to staying. I think having my momentum slowed in yet another colonial Mexican city, no matter how sweet it is, was getting to me. This town was curious. Beautiful colonial feel. But LOTS of english being spoken on the streets. Turns out San Miguel is one of Mainland Mexico’s ex-pat meccas. While I too am somewhat of an ex-pat at this point, I feel an odd repulsion from associating with my fellow Americans. Perhaps it’s the fact that in this city it seems the mean age of Americans living in town is around 70, but again, not my place.


Some internet sleuthing uncovered a mountain bike “route” up to the rim of a volcano to the South of town: El Picacho. Sustained climbs at 20% grade are tough, but add loose rocks the whole way and you have a grand old challenge! Once at the rim, I followed the gpx route right to it’s dead end, still 2000’ above town. Huh. So… I guess I’ll follow this random cattle trail that seems to cross the grassland in the direction I’m hoping to return? Sure! As always, worst case I either hit a cliff or some other insurmountable obstacle and have to retrace my route back the way I came.



The cattle trail did lead to some cliffy areas, but the odd scramble and tumble down the hillside eventually descended through lava fields and grasslands back into town. Pretty fun adventure, actually.


Back at my host’s home. My friend Mike has a curiously similar story to my own. He was a very successful chiropractor in Seattle until a number of years ago when he felt the call and shut down his life to ride the open road around the world by motorcycle. Over the course of 3 years, his travels led him through all the Americas and a good section of Africa before he was drawn to lay roots again, here in San Miguel. He and his wonderful new wife Alejandra were so deeply kind as to take me in and even offer their home for me to house sit while they returned to the Pacific Northwest for a visit. Hard to say no. Above is a collection of day of the dead artwork they’re collecting to begin selling at craft fairs back in the US. Really cool stuff!


Huge thanks to Mike and Alex for taking me into their lovely home and letting me play with their devil pup Pachito!

It was lovely to have a home to come home to for a few days, but somehow there was an emptiness to it that drew me to continue on. My heart longed for a sustained section of rough wilderness travel without so many breaks as I’d been taking since Mazatlan. Luckily that was exactly what I had in store: about 8-900 kilometers of rough roads and beautiful country before my next planned stopping point: Xalapa, Veracruz State.

Stay tuned!

One Response

  1. Dana VanVoo
    | Reply

    Ahh, the call of the wild. Yep, I get it. Lovely blog post. Your adventure is outstanding. Viva Mexico!

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