Week 3 Bicycle Ride Across America

Day 13, April 15, Silver City, NM to Hillsboro, NM, 48 Miles

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Today we had a big hill climb and we were expecting 30 mph winds with 40 mph gusts. We started with a 10-mile drive to yesterday’s ending point, at the base of the first climb. We rode all day on Hwy 152.

We started with a tailwind as we cycled past the Santa Rita copper mine. This is a giant hole at the top of a mountain with lots of huge dump trucks moving ore. We could see it miles before we arrived.

The tailwind continued as we climbed the mountain. It was a bit colder today, not expecting to get above 62 degrees in our starting city. By the time we got to the top it was very cold. This marked the highest point of our journey, Emory Pass, 8,228 ft.

The wind was terrible at the top, and we started down with reduced speed being careful in the wind. The descent was so long we decided to have lunch in the middle and warm up in the car.

There was one more hill after Hillsboro that we conquered so we can ride all downhill tomorrow. Because of the long climb, we made this day shorter than usual.

Carolyn then picked us up and took us back to the Enchanted Villa B&B, the only place to stay for miles. This is a very isolated  location. There isn’t even cell service here. It was a very quiet place to stop for the night.

Day 14, April 16, Hillsboro, NM to Las Cruces, NM, 75 Miles

Since we were in a Bed & Breakfast, we had our first home cooked breakfast during the ride, a soufflé. We then loaded up the car and drove to our starting point. Nice temperature today, good roads, and a down hill course let us ride a very fast 19 mph 75-mile ride. I was very tired by the end. 

About 10 miles into our ride, we came over a hill to get our first glimpse of the Rio Grande, the fourth longest river in North America. The Rio Grande starts in Colorado, flows through New Mexico, then forms the border between Texas and Mexico before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. We will be following this river for several days. There are no cacti in our view anymore, they disappeared after the last mountain range.

As we rode up to our hotel Carolyn walked out with our keys. We got off our bikes and walked them right to our room. What service. After resting and showering we walked next door to eat dinner at the Cracker Barrel. 

We returned to our room after dinner just in time to watch the Golden State Warriors play, Keith’s favorite team. 

Day 15, April 17, Las Cruces, NM, Rest Day

We each slept until we were ready to get up without missing the free breakfast. We ate much lighter today as we were not riding. Carolyn and I went to a laundromat and did laundry. After that we did nothing all day. Everyone laid on their beds and either watched TV or surfed the net. This was truly a day of rest.

Day 16, April 18, Las Cruces, NM to El Paso, TX, 64 miles

Today was a great day of riding. The first day after we rest is always a nice day for the legs and backside. There was minimal wind and one small pass to go over. We also crossed into Texas today, our fourth state of the trip.

We decided to bypass the downtown El Paso area and took a route around the city. It was a little bit longer than the normal route but avoided the heavy traffic. We had great roads until about mile 58 when we encountered a construction zone that eliminated the shoulder of Hwy 375. (Between exit 32 and 35) There was not a safe place for us to ride our bicycles. We called Carolyn to come pick us up. She found us and pulled to the side of the highway and we loaded the bikes onto the bike rack. We then drove three miles through the construction zone to the spot where we were supposed to leave the highway.

Once we left the highway, all was well again. But we were now on the other side of El Paso and were starting to see the evening commute traffic pick up. When we hit our next major turn after 64 miles of riding, we called it a day. 

I felt very good at the end of the ride and my backside is feeling much better now as we enter the third week of riding. 

We checked into our hotel, showered, and walked to Whataburger which was next door. Another safe day on the road.

Day 17, April 19, El Paso, TX to Sierra Blanca, TX, 60 Miles

Today I woke up to a phone call from Specialized Bicycles. They want to get me a new battery cord to replace the one that broke a few days ago. This is the cord going from the Extra Battery to the bike. This battery boosts my range by an additional 50%. Since we are a moving target, it is hard to ship anything to us.  Since we will be meeting my high school classmate, Mike Arthur, for dinner in Austin, he agreed to have the part shipped to him. Specialized is treating it as a warrantee item and shipping a new one to Austin, TX free of charge. I will pick it up in about 10 days. 

Today was to be one of our best rides of the trip. The first 55 miles was flat. Unfortunately, we had a stiff, direct, headwind the entire day. Every flag we passed was standing straight out and pointing right at us. It was one of the hardest days so far. We were all very tired by the time we were picked up to drive to our hotel.

All day we rode through farmland as we followed the Rio Grande. We saw a road runner today, the state bird of New Mexico. I kept looking for the coyote but didn’t see him. The hills we saw on our right during the ride were in Mexico. As we turned away from the river near the end of the ride, we left the farmland, and the land became desolate. For the next few days, we will be riding in no mans land. Very little services. This would be a dangerous place to cross without our sag wagon.

When I went to check into the motel I found a doorbell, after ringing the bell the clerk came to a small window with a slot just big enough to present my ID and pay. Standing outside at the window she gave me a form to fill out and handed me the first real key of the trip. Until today every place we have stayed has used a card to open the doors. 

We went into our room which reminded me of the places my parents would take us when traveling as a kid. The L shaped motel building had just one story and all the doors open into the parking lot. It reminded me of the Bates Motel from the movie Psycho. Since the door to the room is always locked, we needed to have our key to get back in, but we were only given one key.

I asked the gal at the motel where she recommended we eat dinner. She gave me a name of a restaurant nearby. It was 6 pm on Friday night and the restaurant was closed. In fact, as we drove around the town, we found nothing open anywhere. Not a single business. It felt like a ghost town. As we came back to the motel, we discovered a restaurant close to the motel that looked open, so we stopped and had a good Mexican dinner. 

Time to shower and rest. Tomorrow is predicted to have higher winds than today.

Day 18, April 20, Sierra Blanco, TX to past Valentine, TX, 73 Miles

Another tough day in the saddle. Stiff headwinds about 20 mph made for a tough first ten miles on a flat unused frontage road. Our speed was about 11 mph. When we stopped for water, we realized we had not seen a single car in those ten miles. We decided to try motor pacing for the next ten miles on the frontage road. What a difference that made. 

Carolyn drove at a “steady” 15 mph, as we tucked in behind the car, allowing us to be out of that strong headwind. I made that 15 mph stretch easily with a heartrate of about 85. We were so grateful for the respite from the wind. The next segment was on I-10 so we could no longer motor pace. 

When we reached the town of Van Horn, where we had hotel reservations, we stopped to eat lunch at the 33-mile mark. The path took us to a 90-degree right hand turn which changed the wind to a side wind. Hwy 90 was all we saw from then on. It was not traveled much and was a very good road. Every few miles we rode by a lone house in this barren land. It was hard to tell if the house was occupied or not.

We saw one cattle ranch, but there wasn’t much for the cows to eat. The ground is covered with dirt and tumble weeds. 

There was one interesting point in the landscape. As we neared Valentine, a town of 73 people according to the sign, we saw an interesting piece of art. There was a small building that had a sign that read Prada Marfa. Prada is a very expensive shoe brand and Marfa was the next town after Valentine. The building was erected in 2005 and was filled with the 2005 Prada shoe and handbag collection. It looked so out of place out in the scrub brush.

Surrounding the building was a chain link fence.  On the fence were hundreds of padlocks. There are bridges in Europe where lovers put a lock on the railing of the bridge and throw the key into the river to signify they are bound together for life. Not sure where they would throw the keys here. Maybe they are all buried in the dust.

We are now seeing lots of very long trains, usually more than 100 cars long. The train tracks ran parallel to our path all day long. 

We finally finished riding after 73 miles. Both Paul and I were riding in limp mode as our battery packs were almost empty. Fighting the wind takes a lot of extra energy. We were all tired. Carolyn drove us back 40 miles to our hotel in Van Horn.

At dinner we went to the “best” restaurant in town, The Van Horn Cattle Company. I can’t believe there are a lot of cattle in this area. It was the first time we had to wait to be seated on this trip. I heard my first “Y’all” from our waitress. I guess we are truly entering the South. 

The highlight of today’s trip was crossing the 1,000-mile mark. We are now over 1/3 of the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  

Day 19, April 21, past Valentine, TX to Alpine, TX, 43 Miles

There is a big storm in central Texas that has brought this horrible wind we have been facing. Today it dropped the temperature about 20 degrees. We should be riding in the 50s all day today, so our cold weather gear was unpacked.

It is completely overcast. Before, when the temperature dropped a bit, we had clear skies and the sun kept us warm. Today we didn’t see the sun at all. 50-degree weather with 10-20 mph winds should make for an interesting ride.

After breakfast, we loaded the car for our 40-mile ride back to our starting point for today. In this country of “miles and miles of miles and miles,” our stopping place can be a long way from a hotel.

When we reached our starting point, it was a hallelujah moment. There was no wind! I was so happy. My exuberance only lasted eight miles and then the wind started and was just as bad as the prior two days. Three days in a row of head wind is getting old. 

We passed through the town of Marfa, where we stopped for lunch. This is the town where they filmed the movie Giant with James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. We drove by a great set of large pictures beside the road portraying this movie. 

We stopped riding at 43 miles after I cried uncle because the wind had finally finished me off. There was still energy left in my batteries, but not in me. This was the first day my quads actually hurt, instead of just being tired.

We relaxed a bit at the Holiday Inn Express before going out for a Thai dinner. After dinner, Keith put on a new back tire as the old one had a spot that was showing threads. We don’t want to blow out a tire on a fast downhill section. This is exactly why we brought extra tires with us. We should sleep well tonight at the end of our third week of riding.

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