Day 79 (2016-11-13): ~82 miles from Albuquerque to just north of Socorro, NM. A mix of city streets, old two-line highway, a bit of interstate, and some frontage road.
Leaving this morning is so hard. I wake, get packed up, and eat breakfast. I carefully reinstall my pedals to avoid stripping what I’ve come to learn are very poor threads on my cheap SRAM cranks. I’m set to go but not mentally or emotionally wanting to leave. The past 36 hours have been a fantastic whirlwind of friends and fun, and I cannot help but feel a little bit like I am leaving home. I think this is one of the hardest aspects of this trip, having left Seattle not intending to return – I do not miss a specific place but rather rather the feeling of comfort, friends, and belonging. So whenever I come across a place where I get a taste of these desires, part of me wants to stay. Alas, I cannot.
As I leave the city behind I feel the emotions bubbling up inside me and, as I have often done since leaving LA, I turn to Passenger (one of my favorite artists) to embrace my emotions. I tear up as I ride down a country highway, finding my own struggles in Let Her Go and The Wrong Direction.
I think about home, about family and friends. About the people I love. I miss them and I miss the comforts and warmth of home, both physical and emotion. These days home is even harder to define. Seattle is no longer home, but it is the place I will fall back to if all else fails. Where I grew up will always be home, even more so as long as my mom lives there. But I wanted to leave so bad, never planning to return. Flagstaff and Santa Cruz, my two favorite cities on this trip, represent opportunity and future yet I have felt most at home in LA and Albuquerque, sprawling examples of poor planning and car-dependent society. Because it is all about the people, and in each of these places I have been made to feel at home.
Eventually I crest the hill and come out feeling wiser on the other side. New options enter my mind, like the possibility of staying with my mom for a little while. I could probably find some part-time work to replace the savings I have spent. I could help my mom, both with chores and bills but also just by being around to talk and share. I could reconnect with old friends from high school and college. As I see more of this country and learn about myself I wonder if I could not find a way to be happy in my hometown, despite its problems and all the things I dislike about it.
I ride all day, thinking about many of these things and covering 80 some miles to Escondida Lake, just north of Socorro. The final push is tough and I am excited to set up camp and birdie bath in the restrooms – clean, spacious, and while not heated the sun’s warmth keeps them comfortable well beyond sunset.
I discover a few 2×4’s near one of the fire rings and build my first campfire since a long time – I cannot even remember the last one, not counting backyard fire pits. Unfortunately camping this close to the lake, still at 4,000-5,000 feet of elevation means cold! Having arrived after dark my usual chores, fire, and a little fireside reading take me late into the night and I retire after 10:00. I’d like to get to camp earlier but 80+ miles is a long day and the chilly morning sets me back a bit. Tomorrow’s winds look to be 10-15mph from the north – let’s hope so! I could cover the next 80 miles in just over 5 riding hours!