Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Grab yer sombrero... it's time to party!
One thing I have learned from years of travel is don't expect too much. Just let things happen as they may. One should take time to smell the roses, or the donkeys, or the cactus but always remember to take it all in and don't come home and say, "I sure wish I would have tried one of those grasshoppers." It's time to throw caution to the wind and have some fun. Isn't that what adventures are for? What if some of the great explorers like Columbus, Cortez or Sir Walter Raleigh have not taken some risk... how boring would that history book be? I am really looking forward to meeting people from Mexico as well as other competitors from other countries but I am also looking forward to experiencing the total package. Civilization, food, culture, climate, customs and just living life to the fullest.
OAXACA: A SPECIAL PLACE
Oaxaca, the starting point for the race this year, is a special place. It is a Spanish colonial city, founded by Hernán Cortz, between two Indian civilizations represented by the spectacular ruins at Monte Albán and Mitla (Zapotec and Mixtec).
Everyone must take the time to visit and appreciate Monte Albán, which is only 5 miles out of the center of town. Mitla is about 20 miles east of town, but should be seen, too. These are among the best Indian ruins in the entire country.
Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico, with the highest percentage of Indians. It is also where a visitor can witness the synthesis of the Indian and Christian traditions, especially in their world famous Christmas celebrations.
Last year Oaxaca was the scene of a lengthy confrontation between the state teacher’s union, plus some “progressive” elements, and the state of Oaxaca’s controversial governor. This unrest forced the start of the race to be relocated to Veracruz. The city is much quieter today, although tensions remain high.
Oaxaca is a city to be explored on foot. Start in the main square, the Zócalo, which is now a pedestrian-only area. Tour the cathedral and other fine churches and squares in the “centro historíco,” like the Church of Santo Domingo and the cultural center next door in an old convent. Also find the Basilica of our Lady of Solitude and its complex of colonial buildings.
When dining out, try the “mole negro” sauce. The local cuisine is extraordinary. Grasshoppers are a big treat, too and Indian crafts dominated the shops and markets.
REVIEW OF THE ROUTE
The race will start in the city of Oaxaca and finish seven days later in Nuevo, Laredo. Here is the route from October 25 to November 1:
Day 0 -- Oaxaca to Oaxaca (qualifying stage)
Day 1 -- Oaxaca to Tehuacán
Day 2 -- Tehuacán to Puebla
Day 3 -- Puebla to Querétaro
Day 4 -- Querétaro to Morelia
Day 5 -- Morelia to Aguascalientes
Day 6 -- Aguascalientes to Zacatecas
Day 7 -- Zacatecas to Nuevo Laredo (border with Texas)
This the first time the event has started in Oaxaca, at least in the past decade. It was scheduled to start there last year, but domestic unrest forced the race to start in Veracruz.
For the first time, too, the race will stop for the night in Tehuacán. A big fiesta is planned in the city that night, so the Carreraistas should be well entertained.
On the second day, from Tehuacán to Puebla, the cars will actually race back toward Oaxaca before turning north to Puebla. In other words, they will run some of the first day’s speed stages in the other direction.
From Puebla the event will pass through Mexico City and head to Querétaro. This is the second year in this lovely city, about 3 hrs north of Mexico City. Last year the cars raced on some beautiful mountain roads east of Querétaro before entering town. They will also race on a new track in the city before moving on to Morelia.
Morelia is another lovely Spanish colonial city in a valley south of Querétaro. It has one of the grandest main squares in Mexico and perhaps the most beautiful cathedral. To enter the city, the race will run four speed stages on Mil Cumbres (“1000 peaks”)-- 330 curves in 22 kilometers.
From Morelia the event moves north to Aguascalientes, a city that was once the center of Mexican railroads. No racing on the local track is scheduled.
From Aguascalientes, the Carrera moves quickly a short distance to Zacatecas, the crown jewel of the event. For the Carrera veterans, “Zac” is the most popular city along the route. Once the site of one of the largest silver mines in Mexico, this hillside city is clean, friendly, quaint, and beautiful. The cars will race on a road called La Bufa, about 8500’ in altitude, a few miles outside of town.
On the last day, November 1, the cars and service vehicles will drive 426 miles from Zacatecas to Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas. There will be several speed stages along the way; maybe on the toll road from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo. It’s a long haul. Some cars will never make it, while others will limp proudly into town.
Just to finish this race is a victory!