Patagonia – the land of big wind. We have been experiencing the might of the westerly blows here in the pampas. Wide open spaces with rolling hills and mountains to cross. Today we had a long 161K trip to Las Lagas. That converts to just a little over 100 miles for you reading this in the States. We didn’t see a single village during the whole ride – I don’t even remember seeing any houses. We are in the pampas. Did see a few gauchos on horseback. Ruta 40 follows mostly a southerly route but on the last 35K of this day it turns westerly to the mountains. That was the section we were nervous about after a couple of big headwinds in our last cycling sections. Since the day was so long, ten of us formed a peloton early on and the morning just flew by. Temps were comfortable for cycling, about 60 degrees F. Taking turns leading in the group is really much more efficient than taking off in twos and threes. When we arrived at the lunch truck at 72K it felt like we had just been cruising all morning. We had a reasonably big climb and a couple of short stints to the west with wind after lunch but still an easy day until late when we turned west for good, but took turns leading and came into camp feeling really good about the day. It was my turn to join a group of five serving the meal and doing the dishes. It’s actually quite fun as we jabber away and work as a team. When it’s raining and cold a lot of the fun disappears. Tonight was pleasant and enjoyable. Up one hour earlier tomorrow as we are again heading west – we have a big climb in the morning and expect winds most of the day. This second day started so early we all had to use our headlamps to pack up our gear before breakfast at six. We are leaving this early because previous Bike Dream trips on this route have had terrible headwind problems. In 2008 only four people completed this section. Headwinds here usually build during the day – we had 131K to cover with 65K being unpaved. There was a big climb in the morning and the winds we encountered called for a peloton. Lunch would be at around 52k at the end of the mornings tarmac. The morning went better than most everyone expected despite the wind which took so much of our energy even working together as we were. Bike Dreams Rob had predicted that it would take four hours to complete the climb to lunch – we beat that prediction but only by ten minutes. We still had about 7K to climb on gravel but that proved to be a pleasant effort as the wind had abated – the scenery was reminiscent of the higher foothills and sporadic pines with cliffs, buttes and distant white capped mountains of much of the western US. We again felt good about our effort but plenty tired and happy to be in camp. We are camping every day now – that means that we have more chores to do when we arrive in camp. Our days have also been longer as we are pushing our way through the pampas and on to the lake district. It has been more difficult to find time to write. I find myself tired and having less creativity in my efforts. We also have had a much more difficult time finding internet to post our blogs and photos or even to check emails, etc. So if you are wondering why I’m not communicating better those are the complications. Our third day had a lot of gravel but the surface is good. We are biking past a couple of volcanoes and over a mountain pass today. The winds are treating us well and the day rushes by. We are seeing what are called “monkey” trees here which appear to be a type of pine tree which gets quite large – sort of a huge version of mugo pines which one finds as a landscaping option in Minnesota. One of the highlights of the day is that Michelle came in riding with Joost and Alfred tied for first in the day’s stage thus getting her second win of the trip. No woman has won a stage before Michelle and now she has a pair of victories. We are all very happy for her. These last two days we have finally really left the pampas and entered the land of lakes here in Argentina. It is like night and day – suddenly we find ourselves in pine and conifer forests surrounded by white capped mountains. We have been following the Alumine River which is famous for its trout fishing. It flows through the town of San Martin – a very impressive outdoor oriented location and the first really upscale town we have visited. It is surrounded by the high peaks which provide ski terrain, bicycle shops abound and camping stores share the avenue with great little restaurants and high fashion outdoor clothing stores. Fly fishing shops are on several corners. We stop for lunch and wish we had more time here to explore. We continue our ride . The forests soar up steeply from the deep long cold and dark lakes that we swing around on roads that curve and undulate through this terrain. We have now entered the Ruta de las 7 Lagos. I’ve read about this fantastic loop through the National Park that so resembles the mountain lake valleys of Switzerland or the mountain tarns of Scotland. It is an amazing drive. We spent the night in an old fashioned lakeside campground, just lovely for its timeless simplicity. The following morning we had a cold, drizzly cycle past a number of steeply forested deep lakes to the beautiful town of Villa Angostura. My short description of San Martin is also apt for this lovely mountain town. It is located across the lake from tomorrow’s destination, Bariloche, which is world renowned as a fabulous outdoor recreation locale. I missed the sun on this day since the mountain peaks were obscured by clouds and rainy mist. The road is wonderful as it twists, turns and swoops up and down following the lakes and just below the towering forests. What a great place to be on a bike. I rode with Team Norway (sisters Kristin and Hilde plus Knute) and Dutch cyclist Karel. We stopped at the lunch truck then found time to sit in an old time lodge complete with wood cookstoves and had pastry and coffee. With only 60 paved K’s and all day to ride it was a very relaxed trip to Angostura. This region as well as that south of here, is what really has drawn me back to South America. I so look forward to the weeks to come.