Thursday, February 18, 2010

Van Horn to be w-i-i-i-i-i-l-d!

Total distance: 5568.3 km

By Sundance:

Tuesday was productive, and that's about all there is to say about it. While Yana wandered off to get groceries, post blog updates, and be useful in such fashion, I took care of my axle problems. It took all day, but I wound up buying a whole new rear wheel from the local hardware store, extracted the axle, extracted the old broken axle, sorted through the collection of old and new parts I now had, cleaned and quality-checked them, and built a new rear axle from the bits. In the midst of it all, I managed to discover that the store nearby where we'd had pizza for dinner the previous night also sold non-dairy, non-chocolate, carob-coated oatmeal cookie rice-milk icecream organic frozen sandwich thingies. Yummy. That night we made the rice and bean soup we'd had for lunch in Valentine again, and slept in Russ' motorbike shop once more.

The following day the new axle got a real workout. We headed out of Van Horn (after I sold the remains of the wheel I'd bought to the local second-hand dealer), looking for a road that would take us towards El Paso without following the Interstate. A border patrol officer, a worker at the local Ramada hotel, and a group of roadworkers all told us there was an access road beside the interstate, but they didn't agree about how far the entrance to the access road was. After about 8 km of riding on the shoulder of the I-10 we found the access road we wanted and leapt upon it. It proved to be an easy, flat, straight run almost all the way. In fact, we didn't really need to make any turns and could probably have ridden with our eyes closed for about 40 km. This would have meant missing the beautiful wide open scenery, though. We rode past the settlement of Allamore, which is basically a talc mine with a few residential buildings, and eventually stopped for lunch at a service station in Sierra Blanca. After stuffing sandwiches in our faces we pushed onwards, guided by advice from a local and the instructions from the Adventure Cycling Maps which Dani and Greg had let us photograph back in Brackettville. We came to a teepee-themed roadside picnic area, crossed under the I-10, and continued along the access road. After an abrupt uphill climb, we hit an extended downhill glide, and didn't really need to pedal for several kilometers. By the time we turned off onto a smaller road and ran through the arid countryside near the US-Mexican border we had given the new axle a thorough initiation. In fact, by the time the Sun sank behind the mountains, we were only about 1.5 km short of 100km for the day.
We pushed on in the dark, feeling accomplished but gradually more hungry. The local deputy sheriff pulled up to talk to us at one stage and said that we could camp at the Ft Hancock civic centre, so we pushed on into Ft Hancock. By this time I was really getting the hunger-grumps, and Yana was passing muesli bars to me in a bid to keep me from going psychotic with hunger. We found a Mexican grocery store, and eventually had dinner at the only restaurant in town, Angie's, where the service was slow but the orange juice was tasty. We even got to watch some of the Winter Olympics on the TV in the restaurant. Then we bedded down for the night in our tent.

This morning we set out, with a light tailwind. The sun was shining, the road was flat, but I was in a strangely upset mood. We rode along for about 30km, and met another pair of cyclists heading the other way from us. They are an older couple, Bruce and Dana, and this is also their first big bike tour. They'd started out in California, and had been going for almost three weeks. We talked for about an hour about what we'd seen where we were going, and what to expect on the way. Then we parted ways, and continued on to Tornillo where we made lunch. It was remarkable that Bruce and Dana had only been on the road for 19 days, as we'd been realising ourselves that we're getting very close to reaching the west coast. Depending on how much we dawdle and sight-see, we could be dipping our front wheels in the Pacific in under a month!

By the time we finished lunch the wind had swung around to a headwind, and we struggled into it the rest of the way to the outskirts of El Paso. We were only a few blocks from our warmshowers hosts' house when they found us, having come out to see if we had run into trouble (Nope, just conversation and headwinds). It did make a nice change to arrive at our intended destination before nightfall though, and after showering we were treated to a yummy dinner of Aloo Gobi.

Over the next few days we intend to rent a car and check out a few sights on our list that are a bit too far out of the way to access readily by bicycle.

1 comment:

  1. Great to meet you guys the other day. We made it out of the snow OK, and we're headed out of El Paso in the morning. Good luck on the rest of the trip, we'll be checking in on you!