Day 80 (2016-11-14): ~65 miles from north of Socorro to somewhere north of Truth or Consequences, NM. Mostly NM-1 with poor pavement for the last 35 miles. My host gives me a ride when I fail to finish the last 15-20 miles.
I wake to a steady dripping on my face. The sun is out and the moisture from overnight is dripping from the rainfly, onto the tent, and eventually to my face. In fact, my sleeping bag is damp all over. I scramble out of the tent and struggle to disconnect a frozen rainfly from half the tent while the sunny side drips melt water all over my things. It does not even feel that cold in the sun, warm rays boosting the 40s to the 60s.
About 8 miles south I stop in Socorro at a small cafe for a hot beverage and a warm blueberry muffin.I swing by the beautiful Old San Miguel Mission and then break my years long Wal-mart Boycott for some cough drops and revel in the north wind pushing me south. For the first 20 miles out of town I cruise at a great pace, averaging 18-19mph on NM-1 into the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I stop to explore the visitor’s center and enjoy a lunch of salad and crackers. A nice man named Roy starts chatting with me and he and his wife graciously offer to host me in Las Cruces is I need a place to stay. I am feeling confident despite a long morning and a long lunch, with that tailwind pushing me along so quickly. At this rate I might cover the entire 80+ miles in under 6 hours!
Of course, all good things must end. South of the visitor center the road deteriorates in quality. There are no big potholes or cracks but the pavement is rough and it takes more energy to move at a slower place. The wind dies, the hills begin, and I suddenly find myself moving less than half of the 20mph I was rocking just a mile ago…
Exhausted. I am on NM-1 just south of NM-107, about 50 miles into my day. At 15:30 I find myself with 30+ miles to go and about two hours of daylight – a problem in even the best conditions. My energy is sapped. The unrelenting sun and terrible road are killing me and not exactly doing wonders for my butt. The wind is almost gone, with the occasional breeze seemingly from the south. I hope to flag down a driver for a ride but since passing the interchange of I-25 and NM-107 I have seen exactly 0 cars. I must continue, must make it to the next on-ramp. Maybe I can hitch-hike into town. I fail to stop the single pick-up that passes for 10 miles.
I try again at I-25 – traffic is low but a lot of the traffic is trucks and vans, so I am hopeful for a ride. Nope. Some make eye contact and seem sympathetic while most stare straight ahead (or at their phones). After about 20 minutes I put my arm down, call my host, and tell him I will be late. Luckily Monty comes to my rescue a few miles later as darkness descends on the interstate. Monty picks me up in his trucks and takes me to his home where we eat homemade pea soup, salad, and homemade pumpkin bread courtesy of his wife. So good! We chat for a while and we all turn in early.
Today I stared to question if I would ride all the way to NOLA. If I could ride 50 miles a day it would be fine, but these long days and cold nights are getting to me. They also leave me little time to experience or explore, sine 80 miles means about 6-10 hours of riding, depending on conditions. I am barely keeping up with my journal and falling behind on sharing it all through this blog (I am writing this a week later) Amtrak runs the whole way to NOLA but having checked baggage (bike) limits my stations to El Paso, Austin, Dallas, and NOLA. I will have to think on this.Also, I really hope this sore throat goes away…
Day 81 (2016-11-15): ~20 miles from Truth or Consequences to Caballo Lake State Park. A rest day, with just enough mileage to make tomorrow more pleasant.
This morning I wake to the sound of water dripping outside my window. I am surprised to hear rain, but after investigating I realize it is simply the frost melting and dripping off the roof. I inspect my surroundings in the daylight and realize the Rio Grande lies just beyond the edge of the property, small and brown as it is. It gives life to a green yard, large leafy trees, and a small garden. Rocky hills line the far shore and a crystal clear blue sky invites the sun to warm my skin despite the 40 degree morning air.
Monty makes a breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and pecans while I stretch my tight muscles. Mariam joins us at the table and she and Monty work on their morning crossword routine as we eat and sip our tea. They are so cute. They clearly have been together for a very long time, the years bringing all the changes in their relationship one would expect after decades together. Still, they are stuck on each other, an image of what we might all hope for when we are older. She leaves just before 9:00, imparting a cute little air-kiss from the doorway which he returns, promising to wait until their shared lunch to finish the crossword puzzle. I must admit, I am a bit envious.
I leave the house and wander into town where I settle in at the Passion Pie Cafe on Main St. I order the breakfast waffles, a plate of bacon-stuffed waffles topped with two eggs and maple syrup. I watch the varied clientele, a mix of regulars the barista knows by name and travelers coming for their first time. I remember I am in New Mexico when a tall, burly man walks in with a button down shirt, jeans, shiny boots, and a handgun strapped to his waist. A jazzy, bluesy selection of music plays as I swim through the memories of the last week and devour my delicious second breakfast. A short while later the barista comes out with a tray. “Excuse me sir, would you like a cookie? Chocolate chip, cranberry, oatmeal. They’re fresh out of the oven!” Perfect.
After ordering a slice of coconut cream pie and savoring every last bite, I finally leave and head south on NM-187 for about 20 miles to Caballo Lake State Park. I set up camp on a small bluff next to the lake. It’s great view but the camping sucks – I have to strategically choose a spot to minimize rocks and a small spidering vine plant with round, pointy thorn balls. Once camp is set I make for the lake and do a few of the yoga poses I learned in Albuquerque. I shower and make a simple dinner of couscous and dehydrated refried beans using my chipotle honey spice and sriracha for flavor. It’s decent and healthy compared to the potato packets with their long list of ingredients. I snack on the chili lime pistachios I’ve been carrying around since just before Needles, CA and realize how much I am embracing the southwestern spice 🙂