Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thurs. 1/4/07 Benson to Lordsburg, NM 124 mi., 18.5 avg, 6:41 saddle time

Character-building day. Started out cold, clear and calm. Benson's at 3800' and it was in the 30's at 7:00 am. Started to climb out of the valley, including 1/2 mile of lowest-gear hill up out of a river bottom, but got a flat after only 8 miles. When I pulled the tube out, there was a piece of tire wire sticking out of it, so it was no problem to locate and fix the hole. As I was reinflating the tire, the threaded cap that holds the working end of the pump together split in two, rendering the pump useless. That was bad enough, but as I was pondering what to do next I noticed that the little bit of air I had put in the tire had leaked back out and the tire was flat again. I pulled the tire back off and found three more pieces of tire wire penetrating the tire carcass. After 1/2 hr. of waiting, I was able to flag down a Highway Patrol sargent. He gave me a ride back into Benson, to a new Wal Mart there. I bought two tubes, some more patches and a new pump. By the time I got back on the road, it was 10:30 and I still had 110 miles to go to get to Lordsburg before dark. Not only did I have to reclimb those first 8 miles of uphills, but the sargent had told me that it was uphill almost all the way to Willcox, 33 miles away. I'd already reserved a room in Lordsburg for that night, so I popped a couple of Ibuprofen and started pedalling. Sure enough, the road continued to climb for about 25 miles, cresting a pass at the head of Texas Canyon, a spectacular landscape 4900' above sea level at its highest point. This was the highest elevation I'd reached so far on the whole trip. The country around there is full of brown sandstone formations with wind-eroded boulders perched haphazardly on each other. Looks like the perfect western movie set. The next ten miles were a nice downhillrun into another high valley and I stopped and grabbed a burger in Willcox. I left there at 1:00 pm, still 73 miles from Lordsburg. Luckily, that tailwind I'd been seeking for the last couple of thousand miles kicked in and I was able to cruise at 20 - 25 mph for the next 50 miles. Only one bad stretch where, for about ten miles, they'd ground the breakdown lane in preparation for paving, although there were no signs or equipment in sight. That couduroy surface was tough to ride on, vibrating everything like mad and offering poor directional control. But it ended as randomly as it began and it was off to the races again. There was a climb of several miles up through a pass right at the New Mexico border, but I was there by 3:45 and Lordsburg was only 22 miles away so I figured I had it made. No sooner did I crest the pass than I had another flat, only a double this time. By the time I got that repaired it was almost 4:30 and the shadows were getting long. The sun set a little after 5 and I finally rolled into Lordsburg at 5:45, having lost my tailwind during that last repair.

A long day and a bit nerve-wracking, but I did set four records for the trip;
- Most miles traveled in a single day (124)
- Highest average speed for a day (18.5)
- Highest elevation reached (4920')
- Most flat tires in one day!

Friday 1/5/07 Lordsburg to Las Cruces, NM 119.7 mi., 20.1 avg., 5:55 saddle time.
Tailwind! Glorious, honkin' tailwind! Another clear, calm and cool day. Lordsburg is around 3800', too, so it was another chilly morning, in the 30's, for sure. Aerobars are handy in cold weather because when you're leaning down on them, you can alternate cupping one hand around the fingers of the other for warmth. The first 30 miles east from Lordsburg climb gradually up to the Continental Divide, 4985'. It's a bit strange because there's this big sign in the middle of what looks like a huge, flat plateau with no discernible slope in either direction. In fact, the next ten miles past that sign felt like I was still climbing gradually but that could've been because the wind hadn't woken up yet. The breakdown lane for the first 50 miles east of Lordsburg was smooth as silk. It felt like the bike was just gliding over it rather than rolling across it and when the tailwind started to become noticeable around 10:00, the combined effect was magical! I could cruise efforlessly from 25 - 28 mph. It felt like I could've gone 35 quite easily if I'd had a higher gear. By the time I stopped for lunch in Deming, 60 miles out, the wind was blowing around 15 mph, gusting to 20. I was soooo happy I wasn't heading west! The breakdown lane got a bit gnarly east of Deming and I had another flat, but it was pretty much a continuous, very gradual downhill run into Las Cruces, where I arrived just before 3:00 pm. Two new records today: Highest elevation - 4985', about 60' higher than the east end of Texas Canyon, and highest daily average of 20.1, thanks to that wonderful tailwind. Lazy day tomorrow. Only 46 mils to El Paso and the end of my journey. I have an appointment with a photographer for the Las Cruces Sun News at 10:00 am, so I should be in El Paso by early afternoon.

Today was a good penultimate day, great conditions and easy enough riding to allow time for reflection. The end of an adventure is always a poignant time. I'm excited to be so close to a successful conclusion but at the same time sad to be leaving the freedom of the open road, these gorgeous desert views and the pleasure of meeting new people and enjoying new experiences on a daily basis. Bt all things must end and it's been a wonderful and fascinating experience. I hope some of the folks I've spoken with along the way have been motivated to look into Friedreich's Ataxia, talk to others about it an make donations to help advance the research.

Saturday, 1/6/07 Las Cruces, NM to El Paso, TX 42.4 mi., 16.6 avg., 2:32

When I awoke and looked out the window at the motel this morning, I was greeted by a winter wonderland! It was snowing huge flakes and the trees and grass were covered in about an inch of new, wet snow. I wasn't too concerned because the road was still black and just wet; not cold enough to freeze. I hung around waiting for the photographer to show and then got a cancellation call at 9:45. I threw on my rain gear and headed out, riding in falling snow for the first time on the whole trip. It really wasn't too bad, except that my glasses needed wipers. More comfortable than riding in the rain and quite pretty. I figured it was a nice prep for the conditions I'd be facing when I got home. Easy ride to El Paso and the nice folks at Crazy Cat Cyclery were very helpful. They're going to ship my bike home for me and they gave me a ride all the way across town to the hotel near the airport. I DID IT! I'd wax more poetic, but I'm running out of computer time. I'll have to post my final reflections another time. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible and to everyone who helped me out along the way!


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