But first, Café de Olla in Mexico
Like most mornings we woke up at the beginning of morning twilight and lazily packed up the camp. First, I dragged the sleeping pad and blanket out of the tent and had Koda lay down, out of the way. Then I stuffed the sleeping bag into the stuff sack and staged everything else out of the tent, next to the bike. I detached the tent fly from the footprint and quickly disassembled the poles, then slipped them into their own bag. Then I hastily folded the footprint into a square about the size of a personal pizza. Then I rolled the tent fly and slid that with the footprint and poles into the tent’s bag and tightened the straps to keep everything as slender as possible. The tent went first into the seat pack, followed by my sleeping bag in its stuff sack and my rain shell. I rolled up the end of the seat pack, buckled it shut, and tightened it evenly on both sides. Keeping it tight helps keep it from bouncing around while you ride.
Next, I washed my face and brushed my teeth, spraying the toothpaste-spit like a whale’s exhale. Apparently, that is the most environmentally friendly way to do that. It was a bit chilly and I wasn't going far, so I stayed in my "clean clothes" and packed my salty clothes on top so I could change into them before riding. I rolled the top of the bag up tight and secured it with the buckles on both sides, then secured the center of the roll with a Velcro strap. Sometimes if the bag was too full, the Velcro would come undone on rough terrain. Once everything was packed on the bike, I took the sleeping pad and blanket that Koda was laying on and placed them in his trailer. First, the pad, then the blanket. Lastly, I attached the trailer to its connection points on either side of the rear thru-axle. I was pretty good at packing everything up by this point in the trip and could do most of it without thinking. Of course, though, I’d usually feel like I was forgetting something – and it was usually Koda’s water bowl. After Baja California I accepted that the best thing for that was the bottom half of a water jug. Some roadside litter that could be reused. The goal was to knock out the first half of that day’s riding before 10 or 11, when the temperature started to rise to the point where both Koda and I would agree on a nap.
But first, Café de Olla. In Mexico, Café de Olla is the traditional “pot of coffee” brewed in a clay pot. In the rural areas of Mexico, it was easy to find – as long as you could find a restaurant… or a town. I rode a few kilometers out to the main road and south. The sign was usually painted directly on the building advertising the unique Mexican brew. Café de Olla is coffee, cinnamon, and unrefined sugar found in little bricks that look like frozen honey. It’s known as piloncillo in Mexico. At this location I left Koda tethered to a pillar next to the bike and walked through the fragile screen door. The concrete floor was recently swept, and I double-checked that I wasn’t tracking in dirt on my shoes. I sat down and asked for “huevos a la Mexicana y un café de olla, por favor.” The woman looked at me curiously and turned to the kitchen. She returned carrying a cup spilling a little with each step and placed it in front of me with her small, clean hands pushing the table sugar in my direction. I turned to planning and attempting to memorize my route for the day, so that I wouldn’t need to look at the phone too much and could conserve battery.
As I finished up, I placed the phone on a charger and started to read. At about the same time my breakfast arrived, and I put the book aside. I ate the eggs with tortillas de harina and sipped on the coffee. It was sweet, but good. I asked for a second cup, delaying the start of the ride so that I could finish the chapter I was reading. Before I could do that, a large truck pulled up out front and two men walked in. One older, one younger. They greeted me and asked if it was my bicycle outside. We chatted about my trip briefly and they were entertained that Koda rode in the trailer. I asked them about their truck routes and the distances they drive. You know, we had a similar schedule for the day. Early wake up, breakfast, ride. When I asked them what they were transporting the younger man held up a finger asking me to wait. He ran out to the truck and came back with a jicama. He handed it to me with a big smile and I took it thinking, “how much does this thing weigh?” I didn’t look forward to putting this bowling ball in my bag. We cut a few pieces off, so I could try it and found it was surprisingly fruit-like. We took a group photo holding up my new tuber and parted ways.
Here’s how you can make Café de Olla.
- Add 8 cups of water, 170 g (6 oz) piloncillo or 2/3 cup brown sugar, and a stick of Mexican cinnamon to a large saucepan – or even better a large clay pot.
- Bring it to a boil and add 40 g (1.41 oz) of dark roast coffee grounds.
- Turn the heat off and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Pour through a strainer/mesh filter and serve hot.