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!


Jeremy said...

Son of a ..... DOH!! right in the nads!! But hey you can always give life a swift kick back!! Good stuff buddy and I'm glad you're enjoying your trip and look forward to many more updates.

Zee said...

I wish you could see my face and hear my sighs and chuckles while I read your blogs!
The sand dunes look amazing! I can only imagine what they must look like in person. Your description of nightfall in all it's stillness, along with the picture of the moon, are breathtaking! Talk about an 'aha' moment! Maybe I don't need to travel to a Ashram in India to find my inner peace, I'll go to NM.
I let out a big "OH NO" when I read about the first thought was, how will I survive without reading your blog!! Then I turned my thoughts to what were YOU going to do without one! I'm glad you were able to save the pictures!
Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts Reece, you are wise beyond your years! I've only learned some of this stuff in the last few years, and I'm old(er)!

You are the epitome of perfection~
Stay safe! No more rolling down embankments!!

Brandon-Chad said...

I was beginning to get withdrawals from not being able to read any updates--LOL! Sorry to hear about your fall and your laptop. But I think meeting people on this journey (like that biker with the eye patch) will, like you said, help to realize that objects are just materials--stuff that can be replaced. The experience is not! And the fact that you still have the will, excellent health, a functional body, a sane mind and a freedom that's absolutely in your control, must be an awesome and unspeakable feeling!

As always, thanks for sharing. Take care and be safe! The best is yet to come...

Kevin Barron said...

Fantastic pics... keep it up.

Dickson Family said...

Bro you are a mad man!!!!!!! I am sorry to hear about your computer. Hopefully you will still find internet access from time to time to update your blog. It's awesome to follow along with your journey. I kind of feel like the kid reading the book in Never Ending Story and I keep asking myself how did I become the kid with the book and you turned into Atreyu of the plains people!!!! Sometimes we just have to live vicariously. You are the man. I hope you continue to have an amazing adventure.

Amy said...

I'm enjoying your blogs very much! Thank you, Reece, for sharing your incredible experiences! Take care, and know there are a lot of people thinking of you!

Steven Andrés said...

Fantastic blog covering your absolutely "ballsy" adventure -- I'm completely hooked! Was bummed to hear the laptop died. Hopefully you can get that situation fixed soon.