Monday, March 31, 2008

Friday Mileage: 62

Saturday Mileage: 66

Sunday Mileage: 80

Not having the lap top is proving to be a real pain. I am having a lot of trouble finding places to get on line, especially out here in rural west Texas. I can't upload pictures today (which stinks, I have some awesome shots) I am considering buying another one even though it will screw up my budget. If it weren't for these incidental expenses, I would be way under my daily budget of $20 a day. As it stands now, I am slightly over because of these things that keep popping up. I am finding that I am spending an average of $12 a day, pretty much all on food. I am eating about 5000 to 6000 calories a day and still dropping weight slightly. I think I will level out at a certain weight though, once any remaining body fat melts away (and there isn't much left!).

Friday I rode out from Artesia with the intention of going to the Carlsbad Caverns, another natural wonder in New Mexico said to be just amazing. I had seen a special on it on the documentary Planet Earth, which is amazing if you ever get the chance to check it out. At any rate, I was told in Artesia that is was 35 miles to Carlsbad the city, then another 10 to the caverns. So i left about 6:45 in the morning and just cruised as i thought I had plenty of time. I got to Carlsbad around 11 and had lunch. I went to the tourist info building there and asked them about camping at the caverns and they told me i could camp in the back country for free which was great, but that the caverns were 27 miles away, not 10, and stopped letting people walk in at 2! Great, the terrain was rolling hills and it was a very windy day. So i had three hours to cover 27 miles in not the best conditions....legs, don't fail me now! I hauled butt and made it to the access road by 12:45, which turns uphill on a windy road to get to the cavern entrance. and the strong cross wind I had been fighting turned into a screaming headwind! Ouch, i gave it all i had, but I didn't get to the top of the hill until 2:30. So, I decided to camp out in the back country and then see the caves the next day. On a side note, if you ever want to see if you really want something in life, put it at the top of a steep hill going into a monster headwind, and you will find out really quickly how bad you want that thing!

I got up early and was the first one into the caverns and let me say, this is also one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. The caves are just enormous. You could fit a small town in side with multi story buildings and not touch the ceiling. It is seriously amazing. I walked through 2.5 miles of it and that is only a small fraction of the total 100+ miles of the caves! Just awesome, and only 6 bucks to get in. I wish I could put the pictures up, they turned out really great.

I got out of the caverns around noon and put down another 66 miles up and down hills fighting the wind and made it into Texas. This was a tough day. Every time I crawled up one hill, i saw another 5 going to the horizon. It was really challenging to keep fighting the wind and gravity all day. I was trying to get to a small town that showed up on my map as having a population of less that 25K. So i kept telling myself, one more hill, you will be able to see it after just one more hill. And i just kept forcing myself up and over them, imagining a nice cold chocolate milk once i got to the town (which is weird, i have been craving chocolate milk and drinking it by the bucket, even though i never drank it before!). Well, i finally got to the top of the last stinking hill and saw a little town, so i got a big smile on my face and raced to it....only to find that it was deserted!! Argh! There are lots of these deserted villages in west Texas...and not much else. It is pretty desolate out there. Not much to look at either but endless sage brush and oil derricks.

Well, luckily i had enough water to keep me going for another half day or i could have been in trouble. I got up early and put down another 80 miles yesterday and today made it to Odessa. Not much to say, the days were just riding through arid lands with a bunch of abandoned cars, buildings and trash to look at. I imagine that if there was a nuclear war, what was left of the world would resemble some of the places I have been riding through.

Also, some idiot threw an egg at me while he passed me on the road. Luckily he missed, but what an jerk! I wish I had a turbo button on my bike so I could have caught him and knocked his block off, but oh well. Probably some stupid high school punks with nothing better to do. I suppose things like that are bound to happen.

Well, i wish i could put up some pics, hope all is well back home!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An eventful few days!

Tuesday Mileage: 66

Wednesday Mileage: 35

Thursday Mileage: 75

Total: 1,052

Well, the past few days have been pretty eventful. First off, I am extremely happy with my decision to head north from las Cruces and stay in New Mexico as opposed to heading south into El Paso, Texas. The ride has been much more challenging, but much more rewarding.

Tuesday: Best day yet!

I left Las Cruces on Tuesday morning at about 8 am and started a long 12 mile climb over the mountains. I topped out at 5,716 feet, which is a new high altitude for me. I am really pleased with the progression of my fitness. Just two short weeks ago I climbed up to 4,900 feet and felt like i was going to have a heart attack. Today, I made the climb and felt great. It wasn't easy by any means, but I was not in any pain, I just kept chugging along right up to the top.

Once I made it over the pass it was a screaming descent down a straight road into the desert as I made my way to the White Sands national monument. Once I got there I paid 6 bucks to enter and camp and rode 7 miles back into the dunes. I did not know much about the white sands area of New mexico, other than the obvious, but I have to say, I was blown away. It is breathtaking. I have traveled to a fair number of places and seen some pretty incredible things, but I can easily say that this ranks among the top most amazing things I have seen in my life. It is miles of pure white dunes of gypsum sand. Just spectacular to look at. I camped out between two dunes about a mile away from most of the park goers and was treated to beautiful views in every direction. When the wind picked up giant plumes of sand would rise into the air and if you looked closely, little rivers of the white sand would be flowing over the dunes creating patterns on the dune surface. As the sun set and the wind died down and all the people left, it became even more awe inspiring. It got so quiet as night fell that I could hear my own heart beating. The stars came out and the moon was nearly full so I could see out over the dunes for a great distance. It was truly an unforgettable experience. If you are at all an outdoor enthusiast, then this is a must see.

It dropped below freezing at night, but I was well equipped and didn't notice the cold much at all until the morning.

This was easily the best day of the trip so far.

Wednesday: From horrible to great day.

Well, Wednesday was an emotional hump for me. It started out fine as I rode 20 miles into the town of Alamogordo. I stopped at a little mom and pop coffee shop to pick up a wifi signal. I felt bad just using their Internet without at least buying something, so I bought the cheapest thing on the menu: a cup of coffee. Anyone who knows me knows I don't drink coffee. But, it made me feel better about using their Internet and so i bought it. I loaded it up with cream and sugar as that is the only way I can stomach the stuff, and as I was setting the cup down, it bumped on the table and spilled all over the keyboard of my computer! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For those of you who don't know, sugary drinks absolutely destroy electronics. The damage was instant. Half the keyboard no longer functioned which makes the computer useless. I had just uploaded all the pictures from the previous day as well. I cursed myself for a complete idiot, ran over to the walmart and bought a usb flash drive and was able to save the pictures onto it. I then brought the little computer to a computer repair store in town and the guy wouldn't even buy the thing from me for parts.

So, I was in a horrible mood. One of my most useful tools was destroyed and it was totally my fault. Updating the site would be much harder now as before I only had to find a wifi signal which was easy anywhere there was even a decent sized town, but now I had to find a computer, which is more difficult and it means leaving my bike unattended for long periods of time.

So I left town just so angry with myself and my stupidity. At the edge of town as I was getting ready to turn onto the highway that would take me into the mountains, I saw a sign saying I would be climbing up to 8,760 feet over the next 16 miles. Holy Crap! I did not know the pass went so high, and that is over a relatively short distance. This would be 16 miles of pure climbing on a steep grade. Just great. Before this trip, the highest I had ever climbed on a bike was a few hundred feet. I have lived at sea level most of my life. Yesterday i was feeling good about cresting 5,716 over 12 miles!

So I started out up the hill just struggling along in a terrible mood. I was cursing myself, the hill and everything else I could think of. It was a windy mountain road the whole way up, with pretty much no shoulder.

About half way up, i stop at a view point to eat my second lunch of the day (its crazy how much you have to eat traveling this way). I'm sitting there, feeling sorry for myself when a grizzled old man pulls up next to me on a beat up motorcycle. This guy had a face like leather and an eye patch! I should have taken his picture. Anyway, he walks up to me and lights up a smoke and we start shooting the breeze about where we are going, where we came from and the usual stuff. Well he turned out to be a great guy and we end up talking for a good 45 minutes. He got to telling me about how he had buried his son who had died of cancer a few years back and how his wife had followed soon after. He had sold his business in Florida and just sort of cruised around on his bike trying to find something to keep him going.

After listening to that, I had a serious reality check. Here this guy had lost his son, wife and an eye, and I was crying over a stupid computer. Yes, it stinks that it is gone, it had proven to be a great tool. But I still have my health, my bike and am on the trip of a lifetime. My life is good.

We said our goodbyes and I tore up the second half of the mountain feeling like the luckiest guy on the planet. When I reached the top I felt like I had really accomplished something to be proud of. I know that I will climb higher peaks on this trip, and people out there have done much greater climbs, but here i was at 8,650 feet with a bike, trailer and 80 lbs of crap, and had gotten there powered by my own two legs. Life goes on without a stupid computer.

Let me tell you, it was also great to get out of the desert for a while and ride in the trees. It was a beautiful ride despite the screaming burn in my legs and lungs, but well worth it. I rode through Cloudcroft which is a really neat town, through the ski resorts and down one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen. If you are ever in New Mexico, take the 82 through the mountains, it is gorgeous. The ride is all down hill after Cloudcroft and you sail through tree lined roads out into a valley that is filled with all kinds of wildlife, trees, farms and pastures. Just beautiful.

I crashed while coming through this part too, but not bad. I was flying down a hill going about 25 mph riding the white line (there was no shoulder) when a really strong cross wind tossed me about 4 inches towards the banked edge of the road and I found myself going head first down a gravel embankment. I slammed on the brakes and stopped the bike (go disk brakes!) unfortunately the trailer is not so well equipped and that heavy SOB swung around me, and all of a sudden I found myself getting pulled backwards and off the bike. I took a tumble down the hill. I was fine though and just had to pick myself and my stuff back up.

I camped at a great free campsite along the highway about 3 miles before Mayhill if you are in that area. It got so cold at night that my water froze!


When I took off this morning, I was in some serious pain as I went down hill just freezing my rear off. I was hoping for a hill to warm me up!

Today was a beautiful ride but I didn't sleep much at all last night for some reason which is strange considering that I was so tried. It was almost all down hill through beautiful country, coming through the mountains back into the desert, but fatigue and lack of sleep made it a tough 75 miles to Artesia. I would have gone further as I made it to town by 3 pm, but I battled a headwind for the last 20 miles which just drained my batteries.

Tomorrow I will head to check out the carlsbad caverns which are meant to be beautiful.

Updates may be a little slower in coming now without my computer, so please bear with me!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rest Day in Las Cruces

Las cruces really is a cool town. Without fail every person i have met while here has been uncommonly friendly. The old town here is really cool as well with a lot of history.

Well, I am two weeks into my trip and I feel that I have gotten a lot of the kinks worked out and for the most part, have gotten through the learning curve of cycle touring. I am by no means an expert, but I do feel that I have the basics down and am comfortable with the process. From here forward, I feel that everything will be fine tuning.

The thing I find myself liking most about this type of adventure is the total freedom that i feel. I have no ties holding me back to anything. Every time i get on that bike with the open road ahead of me leading to a world of limitless possibilities knowing that each day is my own to do with as I please, it just puts a smile on my face. I really feel like i have cut loose from the rat race and am my own man now. It is a really good feeling.

Tomorrow I will be heading north i think to check out the white sands national monument and up to Alamogordo. I was going to head south through El Paso but i want to get a change of scenery and to go my own way. The mountains that I will pass through will be really cold, down to 20 degrees at night, but i think it will be worth it for the beautiful scenery. I will just have to make sure my water doesn't freeze!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 13 and 14, Las Cruces, NM

Friday Mileage: 75

Saturday Mileage: 89

Sunday Mileage: 49

Total so far: 851

I made it to Las Cruces, NM today and this is a cool little town with a university and a lot of very friendly people. Everyone I have met has been extremely nice and helpful. I am staying with great hosts from couch surfing and plan on taking a rest day tomorrow. Ramey and Ben are both into outdoors activities and have gone on 4 month hikes from Mexico to Canada, gone mountaineering in Argentina and are avid rock climbers! Very cool people who have given me some great advice on traveling too. So far couch surfing has proven to be an awesome resource.

Friday I made it to the border and just about 2 miles past the welcome sign when I found a great place to camp out. I was pretty fatigued at that point and i am sure that made the spot all the more appealing! I camped out in a dry river bed and had a good night's sleep even though I was essentially sleeping on a bunch of rocks. Riding a bike for 8 hours a day makes everything comfortable i guess! Before my trip I had a lot of trouble sleeping, not so anymore. The only drawback to the spot was a damned thorn bush that kept catching my clothes every time I went by it. I got up at 6 and was rolling at sunrise and made good time putting down 40 miles by lunch. I took a long break at a tourist information booth to get my game plan laid out for the next few days and the woman there was super helpful and gave me a New Mexico and Texas state driving map.

I was gaining elevation up to the high planes and after lunch I caught a nice tailwind and put down another 49 miles riding until I came to Deming, NM which is a pretty interesting little town. It was one of the bigger towns in the area, but it pretty much consisted of one long street with a few restaurants and a Walmart. It seemed to have a lot of character though with all of the old homes on the main street. There really aren't that many people out here in NM. However, that does make it really easy to find a nice quiet place to sleep. I put up my tent down a dirt road and laid out watching the stars which are beautiful out here because there are no other major light sources to obscure them. I couldn't see another human being in any direction, it was a cool feeling. Apart from the highway which was a good ways away from me, i was totally cut off from anyone. It is nice to lay out and stare at the sky with all the millions of stars up there and just listen to the wind. It is a calming experience and not something I ever found myself doing in my busy life before I left. It was a good day and a really nice night.....

Until mother nature decided to end my peaceful sleep by turning on the gale force winds! Holy cow, it started to blow like a tornado was going over head. I was camped out on a dirt road about two feet below ground level next to a little tree, so I had a bit of a wind break, but it still came tearing through my camp like nothing else. The wind just howled and it kept lifting my tent off the ground. I didn't sleep much because everything was flying around and it was so loud. In the morning I had to force myself to get out of my sleeping bag because it was so dang cold. As soon as I got out of the tent it blew away! I had to run and catch the thing.

I was up at 6 again and riding at 7. It was too windy to cook anything for breakfast so I only ate trail mix (which is all i had to eat until Las Cruces, there were no food stores or restaurants for 50 miles!). It was a tough day riding straight into a fierce, cold headwind. I had to use my buff for the first time (yes it has skulls on it, the only other one at the store was pink with little blue squares!) and it really helped to keep my face from going numb. It was slow going, it took my about 3 and a half hours to cover 20 miles! Ouch, and I had to go 50 to get to Las Cruces. Riding into a headwind is worse than climbing a steep hill. With a hill, you can see the top and you feel good when you get there. With a headwind, it is unending and you feel like you are just fighting for every inch of ground you cover. The road I was on was perfectly straight too, with unchanging scrub scenery and a slight incline. That adds up to a not fun day of riding. It took 7 hours of hard pedaling to cover 49 miles!

A funny thing happened though as I was having a tough time crawling at a snails pace down the road. I pulled over to one of the gas stations between Deming and Las Cruces and the guy at the counter asks me how I am dong and I say: "cold and windy!" and he says back to me: " Yeah it is cold, but this is more of a light breezy day. A windy day gets up to about 100 mph around here." My jaw just dropped! If this was a "light breezy day" I have no idea what i would have done on a real "windy" day.

Days like this are pretty tough, but they build character and make the trip a challenge. It wouldn't be right without tough days. Once I hit snow and driving rain in the mountains then I think i will know what a real tough day is.
=First Glimpse of the Rio Grande!=

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Made it to New Mexico!

Miles: 75

I made it to New Mexico today, and it felt good to cross another state line. I can't put up any pictures today because I am at a computer at a tourist information center. It was a nice ride yesterday mostly flat but with an 8 mile climb to cap the day. It has been pretty cold and I am going to gain elevation as I pass through the state, so it will most likely continue to cool off. I think i will hit Las Cruces tomorrow, and then head up to white sands and maybe to roswell, or just cut east to get to Texas.

Hope all is well back home!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 11, Tucson to near Dragoon, AZ

Miles: 60

Total Mileage: 618

Today was a tough day and night. I got a late start out of Tucson as I had to go and get my pedals switched out at a fantastic bike shop called Ajo Bikes. They helped me adjust the seat slightly too and threw on the BMX pedals I was looking for. It is too early to say for sure, but I think that that did the trick. The pedals are about twice the size of the previous set and as I ride I find myself constantly changing my foot position, sometimes pedaling with me toes, the balls of my feet, the instep, or moving my fight in to or away from the bike while i ride. The end result was a 60 mile ride up to an elevation of 4,974 feet with no knee pain until the very end where i pulled over to set up camp. I will keep the old set of pedals for a week and if these continue to preform I will give away the old ones. The only downside is that I definitely feel less "connected" to the bike. I notice a slight decrease in efficiency and my speed has very very slightly decreased. I think it is a fair trade.

The ride itself was tough today, along the freeway the entire time climbing all day. The view at the top of the hill was gorgeous though.

I tried out the Henessee Hamock for the first time last night and I have some mixed feelings about it. First off, it sets up and breaks down unbelievably easily. Literally two minutes total. With the snakeskin add ons that i got, it is even faster and you just roll up the hammock and it is ready to go. However, laying in it is a bit odd, i may have to play with it to get the feel just right. I kept finding my knees in an odd position. Also, it got cold last night, really really cold. I was freezing my rear off in that hammock. The wind blowing under it freezes my back and my toes and face went numb. I was wearing several layers too and in my bag, so i would have to say that the hammock will be reserved for warm weather where i think it will be awesome.

because i didn't sleep well last night i am pretty tired today but i think i will make it to new mexico fairly easily. I shouldn't be climbing any more so baring crazy headwinds it should be a straight shot.

A funny thing happened yesterday while I was riding up the mountain. I was chugging along when out of nowhere a man that could easily have been my grandfather on a bike older than me just dusted me. He had long white hair and a beard down to his stomach and he just burnt me going up a 10 percent grade! It was certainly humbling even when I was on a fully loaded bike. He looked like he was in great shape but still, it hurt my racers ego ever so slightly.

Further up the same hill though I passed a young guy on an unloaded bike! Ha! That soothed my fragile male ego a bit and I had a smile on my face to the top, as petty and pointless as that may be =)