Hello again, Friends and Family!
It’s been quite the ride since last we touched base from Silver City, New Mexico. Three things made a huge impression on me: first, the huge fields of chili peppers and the endless groves of pecan trees. I didn’t realize the US produces 85% of the world’s pecans.
Oh, my god. My son, Markus would think he had died and gone to heaven — hot, spicy Mexican food for dinner, pecan pie for dessert, washed down with a growler of local craft beer! Be warned, though. There were signs everywhere, warning illegal nut-pickers they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The second thing that really struck me was the ubiquitous presence of the border patrols. Helicopters and drones in the sky; trucks, trailers and ATVs on the ground; lights, cameras and check-stop stations on the highway to make sure everyone is legitimately in the country. I hope they’re not after me. The instructions on my map were clear: “all bicyclists MUST stop at the border patrol station.” At the time I saw the upcoming station, I was riding the Interstate frontage road opposite the flow of traffic on the highway. At the designated offramp, the map then plainly said, “turn right and go under I-10.” There was no going under. I think it should have said “over” but I guessed there must be another exit close by. I was wrong. By now I was long past the station, and the road I was on was ending. Should I chance running across 6 lanes of the interstate, where trucks were going 110 mph? Or double back and cross over the ramp? Ah! A third option presented itself. A tunnel appeared. I assume it was there to direct flood waters under the highway, but bats and illegal immigrants be damned, I hefted my bike and picked my way through the tunnel and up on the proper side of the Interstate! Problem solved.
Keeping company with trucks
And that’s the third thing — though riding the freeway was OK, it’s not just the speed and noise of the trucks one has to put up with. Those FedEx and Walmart trucks are constantly shedding their tires — and they’re not just rubber. Tiny bits of wire hide in the pavement, just waiting for an unsuspecting cyclist to come by. . . And so I got my first flat, just after exiting the interstate. There were three wire bits lodged in the tire. The one that did the damage was buried half an inch deep. I pulled the offending piece out, just as my support van rolled up. I pulled out a lawn chair, a cold beer and made myself comfortable in the shade of the van whilst doing the repair. Voila!
And since there wasn’t a campsite for another 60 miles, we just stayed drew the curtains and rough camped for the night! It was a fairly remote spot, so Myrna got out her pirate sword and we went through a drill of what we’d do if the banditos attacked. As I found out the next morning, there were very nice “lay-bys” every 20 or so miles up highway 118 that we could have used. Oh, well!
Fellow travelling companions
I have not run in to many other cyclists on this trip. The distances between towns are vast and maybe it’s still early.In any case, there is an Adventure Cycling group that I am leapfrogging.
We met in Alpine, California, again in Silver City, and then again in Marathon, Texas. There were 11 of them — 8 men and three women, plus there two leaders. I stopped to chat with Linda from Dunfermline, Scotland; Pam from Whitefish, Montana; and Andrea from Sacramento, California just as we passed the big open-pit copper mine at Santa Rita, New Mexico. Apparently, it is one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world. More interesting to me was the story of the mine workers in 1951-52 attempting to strike for better working conditions. Strikes were not legal, however, so the wives, daughters and sisters of the miners took up the picket line. Despite verbal abuse and physical threats, they held their ground, making national news at the time. The movie, “Salt of the Earth” tells their story. Strong, determined women seemed to be the theme of my day.
I crossed over Emory Pass that day, the highest point on the Southern Tier route, and fairly flew the 20 miles of rolling, swooping downhill. Awesome!
The next day the weather turned ugly. Lightning bursts and heavy rain continued through the night. The next morning I set out in the wind and cold, bound for Las Cruces. Myrna and I celebrated our arrival in this beautiful little city with a fabulous Mexican dinner and a couple of huge Margaritas. Mmmmm.
And Now . . . On to Texas!
Not a fan of big cities, we got through El Paso as quickly as possible and began our long journey through Texas. It’s big all right. A sign posted on a barbed wire fence, behind which was scrub desert as far as the eye could see, read: “For Sale. 8,290 Acres.” That’s bigger than some countries!
In Fort Davis, I cycled right in to the Hammerfest Race. Lycra-clad cyclists were everywhere in town and on the roads for miles around. I ran into Chris from Austin and Rick and Tracy from Dallas — all competing in the race. I must have looked goofy in my safety vest and riding sandals!
My Own Hammerfest
Yesterday morning, as the skies cleared from another night of heavy rain I left Marathon and rode like the wind, 186 km (115 miles) to Langtry, made famous by Judge Roy Bean, where we camped for the night. Today we are in Del Rio, home of the Laughlin Air Base and tomorrow we head out to Camp Wood, in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. I think we are about halfway through Texas.
The many lonely miles has given me lots of time to think, and there are always the songs of birds to accompany me, the sightings of desert critters; the colorful blossoms of the cacti; the feel of the sun in my face, the wind at my back and the smell of the soil. I am most definitely living the dream.
Til next time, keep safe and get me back on my bike!