Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Two wheels, one smile.
One of the perks that the Hotel Colonia makes mention of in their lobby is the complimentary use of a bicycle for riding around town. I've heard this promotion before, only to discover the bike was broken or missing, and I was actually pretty surprised when a staff member showed me to one that I could use.
The bike was just barely on the side of functional, and hardly what I'd call safe and reliable—well, I suppose I could rely on it to probably strand me in the countryside some place. Only one of the two hand-breaks worked (partially at best), the tires were bald and somewhat flat, the seat awfully low for my leg length, and the rusted chain had but a single gear—but I was game for an adventure.
I can't remember the last time I rode a bike—I know it's been at least a good 10 years since I've even owned one. So I suppose I was truly testing the expressing "like riding a bike"—meaning some skills learned you remember again in no time (…assuming you call bike riding a skill).
Shirt off, peddling down sporadically populated roads, all five senses soaking in the surroundings—I was having a blast. Riding along the shoreline I discovered long stretches of beach, although the brown water was a little off putting (but surprisingly very warm).
I happened across a peaceful neighborhoods, a condemned bullring, and a horse track (an unexpected sight)—reminding me of an article I came across some time ago about how horse tracks were switching over to a special synthetic dirt (said to help reduce the number of animal injuries). I rode down dirt paths along a pair of abandoned train tracks, and found quite a few friendly, but curious, people living in poverty.
About the only sight that burst my bubble was when I came across Sheraton's sprawling "golf and spa resort." The complex and golf course felt totally out of place, but at least it's a good distance out of the way from everything.
The bike ride was great. I easily envision a tanned version of myself, living in a small beach-side town (with little or no elevation change), peddling an old Schwinn down the street. Dad tells me he's been doing these multi-day marathon rides—I can't imagine spending that much time on a bike.
…Maybe with a better cushion for my butt.