Sunday, February 17, 2008

Welcome to New Mexico

My carpet had dried somewhat; at least to the point that it didn’t splash with each footfall. I didn’t exactly get a jump on the day and as soon as I was leaving the motel, a guy pulled up on a bike. He was riding across from Florida. He and I had a different approach on gear. Whereas I am a minimalist, he had enough gear to make a summit bid of Everest. We had different riding styles as well. He had been riding for the previous three hours while I was REM sleep. We chatted for a few minutes and went our opposite ways.

Within a few miles I hit the New Mexico border and immediately the road surface change...for the worse. The road looked recently redone, but with chip seal as opposed to the standard asphalt that most people know. It was a screw loosening, bone-rattling ride. I wanted to step up the pace, but I had to keep it at 15 MPH for the most part so as not to hammer my bike. My bike really wasn’t made for this kind of riding. On my 2005 ride I had destroyed my back rim in San Francisco, but as the bike was new, the manufacturer replaced it under warranty. I just didn’t tell them that I put 4,000 miles on it in 2 months.
The road also made it difficult to get comfortable in the saddle. With that, it also fatigues the arms and shoulders quite quickly. My bigger problem was that my back was acting up with pounding it was taking. With a few exceptions, I had been really spoiled by the good conditions of the road upon which I had been riding. It had to end some time.
The landscape was changing to more of a high desert. There was dry yellow grass carpeting the ground. There were no Saguaro cacti to be seen, replaced by larger shrubs.
As I rolled into Lordsburg, the only real town I would see for the day, the road improved markedly. I was just hoping it continued that way. Lordsburg was a town founded in 1880 on the route of the Southern Pacific railroad. The town was a base for miners in the area.
At present day, Lordsburg is a town that is an exit of the all too familiar I-10. I found some roads on my map that might keep me off I-10 for the day, but it was also possible that they might be dirt roads. I didn’t want to take that chance.

The wind picked up a bit and was at my back again. I was thrilled and stepped on the gas. My pace went from 15 to 27 MPH. Five miles flew by. Then 10. Then 20. I kept my pace in the upper 20’s for the most part, but was able to keep it over 30 for five miles. At one point I was cruising along at 37, ran out my gears and was looking for a higher one.

At the Continental Divide there was a souvenir shop that also sold fireworks. I figured I would celebrate my crossing of the Continental Divide by blowing something up. The only problem was that the shop only had the aerial fireworks.

Where I had crossed the Continental Divide was at less than half the elevation than when I had crossed on my 2005 ride. My crossing of the Continental Divide in 2005 was dethroned as the worst outing on my bike by the events two days prior. In theory, my ride was all downhill from the Continental Divide.

I was making some serious time. The next town past where I had planned to stop was 60 miles down the road and I had three hours of daylight left. I thought about making the run, but in looking at the map it wouldn’t get me anything. It would only leave me with a short day somewhere in Texas, as the hotel/distance between towns just wouldn’t work out.

Riding 96 miles took me 2 ½ hours less than the same distance on that miserable day, two days prior. I just felt sorry for that other biker I met in the morning. I had been through it myself in 2005, so I didn’t feel all that bad.

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