If you read this blog even occasionally, you know that we are huge bike lovers, so of course one of of our first tasks here in Playa del Carmen (here's our first post from here if you missed it) was to purchase inexpensive beach cruisers to ride during our time here. Even long-term rentals, assuming we could even find decent rental bikes, would not make financial sense. For the length of time we're staying (six months), it's much more cost-effective to buy.
There are quite a few local bike shops clustered within two blocks or so on Avenida 30 Norte, a busy commercial street a short walk from our rental. So on our third day in town, we headed up there, walked into one of the larger shops, BiciPlaya II, and hoped for the best.
As expected, the guy who helped us spoke no English. But of course he was anxious to make a sale. Fortunately, another customer in the shop with a flat tire spoke both English and Spanish and was able to serve as an impromptu translator for a few minutes as we started looking and explaining what we wanted. That was incredibly helpful.
All the beach cruisers were equipped with knobby mountain bike tires, and we wanted smoother tires as we'd be riding on pavement most, if not all of the time. In Belize even though we often rode on the beach path or unpaved dirt roads, we had smooth but wide tires, and they served us well. Our "translator" was able to explain this to the shop employee so he could swap out the tires for us.
We started with my bike. I picked a color I liked in a ladies' beach cruiser, Crema (a pale yellow), and the shop guy got to work changing out the knobby tires. I also picked out a basket, a different saddle (narrower than what it came with), and later, different hand grips and a rear-view mirror, all of which were installed over time. The shop got busy, so this all took awhile, but that was okay -- hanging out in a bike shop is not the worst place to spend a morning!
Barry's bike was next. By this time, the "translator" was long gone, but Barry was able to get his desires across pretty well with lots of pointing, nodding, and a few words of Spanish. He found a used red bike he liked that was actually made in the US. Although a single speed, it had hand brakes like we're used to (I am envious!), but he needed the tires, handlebars, and saddle changed out; and pedals, a water bottle cage, and a rear-view mirror installed.
Here he is going on his test ride on the side street outside the shop, a smile on his face!
When it came time to pay, I tried to bargain and ask for a descuento (discount) since we were buying two bikes plus accessories, but our little guy wouldn't budge much, especially once he discovered that we intended to pay with a credit card. Either our bargaining skills aren't very good, or this just wasn't the right shop to try them out in!
Our total price for both bikes was $4429 MX, which sounds like a huge amount but is only about $325 US. Compared to what we pay in the states for bikes and bike parts, it was a deal. And considering how much we'll certainly ride these bikes, they will prove to be worth every penny and much more, I am sure.
We've already had a blast on them and have found some excellent places to ride, but I'll save those for another post. In the meantime, here's a better look at my pretty new steed at our home base.
And Barry's red racer, out enjoying a ride!
Yes, it's true! Way back in the spring in Prairie Village, Kansas, we hatched a plan to spend the winter somewhere warm. Warmer than Tucson, warmer than Florida, warmer than southern California. We settled on Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, often referred to as "Playa"; however, playa is actually the generic term for beach in Spanish.
Although we'd never visited Playa del Carmen, we'd thoroughly enjoyed our time in this part of Mexico (Tulum and Mérida) when we visited in 2012, so we thought we'd give it a try. It would be a quicker trip from the US with Paisley (flight time to Cancun is only 2 hours, 6 minutes from Atlanta), and an air-conditioned van would drive us all down to our rental rather than having to take a second flight. It's all about Paisley, after all!
Here she is riding under the seat on our flight down on November 1. She is a great little traveler.
Since we are aware that lots of travelers do it, we challenged ourselves to travel light for this trip and bring only what we really needed. We'd not check baggage, and we'd buy inexpensive bikes once we got here. My personal item was my small pack (instead of a purse) with both our little travel laptops, plus our digital cameras, cords, and chargers. Barry's personal item was Paisley in her travel kennel.
I did wish I'd brought a rolling suitcase rather than a large backpack, though. My shoulders were killing me by the time we'd gone through immigration and Sargapa (the entity that approves pets for entry into Mexico). The lines for immigration and customs were long as throngs of travelers arrived in Cancun -- it was a Saturday, after all. But we made it, tired but happy.
I don't think Barry's bag was quite as full as mine -- or perhaps it just looks smaller because he's bigger than I am!
We knew that Playa del Carmen might be a bit busy and touristy for our tastes, but we found a rental outside the tourist district, since we do enjoy "the real Mexico" and experiencing the local culture.
Although we do miss the oceanfront living we enjoyed on Ambergris Caye, Belize, there is something special about the vibrancy of a city locale. There's a school across the street from us where we can hear the cheerful voices of children singing in the morning, and we can walk to multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses in a few block radius. There are people on the street at all times of day and into the evening: walking, riding bicycles, and talking. Vendors ride by on bicycles selling "agua" (drinking water) and other items. And there are children laughing and playing in the afternoons over at the school. Their voices filter through the screened windows and doors of our rental and remind us that we're not in the USA any longer!
There's a lovely fruit and veggie stand, DAC, just a couple of blocks down, along with the huge "Mega" grocery store -- we've been frequenting that a lot in our first few days here as we stock the kitchen with foods and beverages we enjoy. And we discovered a close by open-air restaurant serving incredibly healthy meals on our first night in the city.
Here we are having packed-with-veggie burritos and delicious freshly squeezed juices -- carrot for me and a blend of carrot, tomato, cucumber, celery, and lime for Barry. Prices in this part of town are much lower than on 5th Avenue, the main tourist "drag", so we can afford to eat out more often.
We haven't done much at the beach yet and aren't the "laying out" types, but we have walked down a couple of times to take a look. We're several blocks away, but it's a nice walk and lovely, of course, though it's not as wide and luscious as the beach in Tulum or else we have always hit it at high tide. Very possible.
We feel so incredibly lucky to be able to pass the winter in such an amazing place and to have a lifestyle that allows us to do so. It was cold and windy the morning we flew out of Atlanta, with temperatures in the 30s and a chilling northwest breeze, and that made landing here all the sweeter. We will try very hard not to take this place for granted, even when the inevitable difficulties and frustrations crop up.
Please stay tuned...we'll be bringing you a lot more from our new locale (for now)!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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