Cycling in Puerto Rico is a whole different deal than anywhere else in the States.
If people are oblivious to the concept in Los Angeles, there is no word to describe the pathological nonchalance that Puerto Ricans have for something so conventional as a Bike Path! People sit on it, barbecue beside it, dry off over it, fly kites above it and ride suicidally six abreast across it. But the path that stretches East from San Juan is a true gem: it winds faithfully along the shore behind the silver beaches then climbs a headland, passing through dense foliage filled with lizards along the way, leaps over rivers and eventually guides you through a forest all the while keeping you off the road which is peopled by frantic families hunting for an elusive parking spot close to the waves. Much of the forest section is beautifully constructed from freshly hewn timber and takes you gliding a few feet above the forest floor; uniquely designed signs warn you of trees, encased in fencing like islands, on the road ahead.
That?s the good news. The bad is that the planking makes your bike shudder and shake as you ride – I wished I?d accepted the offer of the bike with the sprung front forks. Also there is no exit road when, as happened to me, a bunch of racing riders, six abreast, turned a corner and found a terrified Englishman in a blue Italia biking shirt coming towards them. My right sleeve brushed the heavy wooden railing, and I felt a breath of cold steel as a pedal missed my left ankle bone by a millimetre or two.
Presently a mini-roundabout appeared ahead with no exits – I was at the end of the bike path. I stopped and bought some Gatorade from an enterprising man who had backed his battered Toyota station wagon up to the railing and was selling drinks from an aging cooler. Having started work in my hotel room at 6am I marvelled at how lucky I was to have grabbed this brief respite and looked over the azure waves as they lapped ashore.
All too soon I had to turn for home – I needed to pack and make it to the airport in time to fly to Rio – my first visit to Brazil and a chance to finally visit the city where my father was born.