Friday, March 5, 2010

Shedding the Southern Tier

Total distance: 5976.8 km

By Sundance:

Since approximately Kerrville, TX we've been inadvertently following something called the Southern Tier bicycle route - not because we wanted to but because the roads out here are a bit sparse, so we inevitably wound up on a course recommended by the American Adventure Cycling Association. When we left El Paso, departing from Charley and Kamala's place, we finally left it behind and started blazing our own path again.

Saturday saw us powering through the outskirts of El Paso. With a decent tailwind and Charley and Kamala's advice about what roads to take, we made it through in three hours. Much better than the hellish five hour ordeals some folks had warned us about. We toodled past the Mexican border, adjacent to Ciudad Juarez (the most dangerous city on Earth. Officially) and crossed into New Mexico in the town of Sunland Park, pausing to call my mum and wish her happy birthday (paying careful attention to timezone differences) as the evening encroached. Shortly after that we met an Italian fellow called Luca coming the other way. He was carrying very little gear and was clearly a fast-and-light style cyclist, heading from California across to New York. We turned into the locality (a name on a map, not an actual town) of Mastodon, and refilled our water bottles at a Border Patrol station. We also informed them that we'd be camping out by the roadside that night so please don't come checking to see if we're illegal Mexicans, then headed on another 16km west before setting up camp.

The following morning a rainstorm blew in just as we were about to head off. Fortunately, a fellow who'd been stopped mistakenly by the Border Patrol let us sit in his SUV to eat breakfast and wait out the bad weather. After thanking him we set off into a preposterous headwind, and another 20km later decided to give up, set up camp, and wait out the weather. We found a nice sheltered spot on an embankment by the road, between some mesquite bushes which wee prickly but did block the wind, set up the tent, gathered rocks and wood for a fireplace, and made a campfire while cooking dinner. I also got to do something I've been intending to for several months - it's no secret that I disliked living in Waterloo, Ontario, and all this time I've been carrying a map of Waterloo with me. That night, I had the pleasure of using it to start the campfire, and watching the town I despise symbolically burn to ashes. That made me feel better.

The next day we bumped into another couple, Dan and Mary, riding their bikes in the opposite direction to us, stopped to chat for a while and exchange estaurant recommendations, then pushed through to the town of Columbus, famous for being raided by Pancho Villa in 1916.  We met a delightful couple called Chris and  Larry, who let us turf-surf at their house, and were probably the last people we'd have expected to be fans of Japanese animation and manga. We really enjoyed chatting with them about our travels and shared a fine breakfast with them the following morning. We spent the whole day riding, paused to recharge our batteries at Hachita, where the owner of the grocery store apologised for not having anything in stock (he's just opening and doesn't have the water connected yet), but gave us some canned juice in any case, then pushed on to Animas. It as dark by the time we got there, but along the way we crossed the Continental Divide, the point where rivers start to flow to the west, so hopefully we'll have a more downhill run from now on. Animas proved to be a hard place to find somewhere to stay - nobody we spoke to owned their home, so they weren't willing to let us turf-surf in case the landlord got angry, ad the back of the Community Center was covered in hard gravel and broken glass - not ideal for a tent. Eventually we ran into the sheriff who recommended a disused paddock to the east of town.

From Animas, we headed through some pretty countryside towards the Arizona border. In the town of Rodeo we found a reptile-themed museum (which was mostly giftshop and art gallery) which had some snakes and lizards in glass cages, and a lot fof good stuff to look at. We pushed onwards, grabbed a delicious pizza for lunch (and while eating met a fellow called Armonda who poffered us a place to stay in Douglas, Arizona), then crossed into Arizona. Around nightfall we approached a house to try for a turf-surf. The owner, Bill, was amazed that we were Aussies, declaring that he'd never expected Mick Dundee to show up at his house on a bicycle! He and his wife Michelle were wonderfully welcoming, shared their dinner with us (while Yana contributed bean and rice stew with avocado), and told us a bit about the history of the area (quite close to where Geronimo surrendered to the US army.

On Thursday we pushed off from Bill and Michelle's place (which was adorned with many cool sculptures they'd acquired in Mexico) into a fierce headwind. A really fierce headwind. One of our worst ever. We had to make 67 km to reach Douglas that night, so we just stuck with it. We went past the monument erected where Geronimo didn't surrender (he actually surrendered in a canyon several kilometres from where the monument stands), and made it to Douglas before sunset. We found a bike shop, got anew chain for my bike (the old one was getting squeaky), rang Armondo, and the bike shop owner let me use his workshop to change the chain while we waited for Armondo to arrive, and take us to our accommodations (a house owned by his father).

Today has been a bit of a lazy day, eating big breakfasts to recover from our exertions, writing blog posts, and planning our next move towards Tucson.

No comments:

Post a Comment