Two Wheels and a Taxi

  • 256 pages
  • Mountaineers Books
  • 978-0-89886-141-9
  • Dec 31, 1987

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Bicycling here and there around the world alone has never fazed Virginia Urrutia. She's been doing it for 30 years: over the Swiss Alps, beside the Norwegian fjords, along the roller-coaster pitches of New Zealand, through the snarl of London traffic, in and out of a weaving line of Sunday drunks in Yugoslavia. But when she wanted to tour the Andes of Ecuador, the prospect seemed dauntin -- not the hills and mountains; she had merely to go over them. However, there were friends' tales of robberies of tourists, and concerns over various lethal bugs and snakes that inhabited the highlands. More to the point, the available hotels were farther apart than she could pedal in a day.

So Urrutia hired a support vehicle: one Sr. Angel Godoy, a local taxi-driver-cum-guide, occasional translator and, should it be necessary, bodyguard. Thus began a freewheeling exploration of Ecuador where, from sea level to 14,000 feet, Sr. Godoy and his shiny yellow taxi bobbed along with Urrutia and her bicycle, like a balloon tied with an invisible string.

Purchasing her bicycle for the trip in Quito, Urrutia had to settle for a single-speed, fat-tired, heavy, men's' model whose from wheel persisted in wobbling off the straight and narrow. Sometimes faced with hills too steep to pedal up with the gearless bike, Urrutia would have to walk and push the bicycle, or wedge it into the taxi trunk from whence it would emerge when the grade leveled or the hills tilted the other way.

Urrutia and Godoy were an unlikely pair: at age 70, she was a footloose widow with a lifelong travel bug, at age 35, he was the sole support of a wife, five young sons and an extended family, and had always stayed close to his native Quito. Together they pedaled and taxied all over the Andes, sharing the experiences of navigating back roads with maps little better than someone's wild guesses, searching out the best foods in remote villages, taking part in local celebrations and political campaigns. All the while they also explored the similarities and differences in each other's countries, cultures and customs.

This is not a hard-pedaling, nose-to-the-handlebars cycle marathon. Rather, it's a tale about an unusual way of exploring, told with a good deal of charm and feeling by a skilled observer.


  • 256 pages
  • Mountaineers Books
  • 978-0-89886-141-9
  • Dec 31, 1987

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